Success Stories

Sonia Taboada and Juan Cafarelli

Jacksonville, FL – Sonia Taboada, Owner of Sentinel Insurance Specialists, Inc., is not only a successful small business owner, but also her own client. Taboada sold nearly 300 health insurance policies, including one to herself, under the self-employed provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) within a few months of launching her own business.

Taboada is originally from Puerto Rico, but lived in New Jersey for most of her life where she gained an appreciation and passion for healthcare due mostly to her personal experience with her son. Her son was born deaf, but was misdiagnosed as having cerebral palsy. Eventually, after the diagnosis was corrected, Taboada faced additional challenges related to her son’s education. Taboada hoped her son could continue in a school that offered “total communication services for the deaf” as he did in middle school; however a lack of programmatic support for deaf students in the district meant her son would have to attend a mainstream... Read More

Picture of District Director Gonzalez and Carlton Smith of HERO, FL

JACKSONVILLE, FL. – Carlton Smith, Vice President of Heavy Equipment Resources of Florida, Inc. (HERO FL) was recently named the SBA District, State, and Regional Small Business Exporter of the Year. The company is based out of Jacksonville, FL, and obtains 100% of its revenue from exporting equipment related to the construction and mining industries overseas to more than ten Countries.

HERO FL was co-founded by Carlton Smith and his father Leslie Smith in 2008 after they participated in an international trade certification program sponsored through the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at the University of North Florida. The SBDC is an SBA resource partner that provides technical assistance, counseling, and training to small businesses, and is partially funded through the SBA. For more information about programs and services available through the SBDC, visit

HERO FL has grown from a two person business to an international operation with... Read More

Jacksonville, FL – Dr. Amir Varshovi, President of Green Technologies, LLC (GreenTechnologies), was selected as the 2014 North Florida District and State of Florida Small Business Person of the Year. GreenTechnologies was started by Dr. Amir A Varshovi in his garage in 1999, and he has since grown the business to a 25-acre manufacturing facility in Jacksonville, Florida, and is in the process of building a 23-acre facility in Lakeland, Florida. GreenTechnologies’ core focus is extracting and recycling nutrients from the water treatment process for the development of sustainable slow release fertilizers that are environmentally conscious. 

Dr. Varshovi emigrated from Iran when he was 18 years old, and set out to accomplish the American dream by working several jobs to pay for college and support his family. Dr. Varshovi received his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from the University of South Florida, and then his Masters and PhD degrees from the University of Florida.... Read More

Orlando, FL – Barbara Stankowski, President and Chief Executive Officer of AMTIS, Inc. served in the U.S. Navy for 28 years before she decided to pursue her passion as an entrepreneur.  Captain Stankowski was the leader of a major command based out of Pensacola, FL and specialized in technology, education, and training. The same core competencies would later become the basis of a business model for AMTIS, Inc. The company provides services in four areas including Leadership and Development/Executive Coaching, Training and Evaluation, Professional Services, and Business Process Services.

After she retired from the U.S. Navy in 1998, Captain Stankowski worked for several small businesses; in 2007, she felt inspired to embrace a new challenge in her life, and launched her own company at the age of 58. “I felt I could do more. I wanted to set up a business model that engaged the whole team. As a lifelong student of leadership, I was enthusiastic about trying something different... Read More