Eleven companies have been named as finalists for five awards recognizing the perseverance of small business owners in Virginia.
The third annual Tayloe Murphy Resilience Awards will be presented by University of Virginia Darden School of Business on Sept. 5.
The awards honor companies that have been able to grow and remain committed to their communities in areas facing high unemployment, high poverty and low entrepreneurial activity. The competition is conducted by Darden’s Initiative for Business in Society.
“The goal of the Resilience Awards is to bring well-deserved attention to highly successful businesses in parts of Virginia that some might unwisely overlook,” said Greg Fairchild, the founder of the awards program who is associate professor of business administration at the Darden. “These finalists demonstrate the strength of Virginia’s main street businesses, even in the face of significant economic obstacles. In 2011, this group of businesses collectively employed almost 400 Virginians and had an aggregated sales total of nearly $200 million — these firms embody resilience.”
Fifty-nine Virginia companies entered this year’s competition. From that number, 21 semi-finalists were picked. Now the field has been narrowed to 11.
The Darden School listed the finalists in alphabetical order and provided the following edited description of each company:
A Bowl of Good Café Inc., Harrisonburg
When landlords raised the rent, the owners of A Bowl of Good Café, Katrina Didot and Rachael Rose, had to decide whether to pay more, or start over in a new location and risk losing customers. They gave up their storefront, took out a favorable loan and moved into a new, eco-friendly space to continue providing “slow food, served fast.” The new site succeeded, and now a second location is in the works. A Bowl of Good Café supports many local charities and has raised money for Haiti relief efforts — more than $4,000 in 2011.
Ballard Fish & Oyster Co. Inc., Cheriton
For more than a century, the Ballard family has run a seafood business on the Eastern Shore. Today Chad Ballard III represents the fifth generation in the family to run the business. He oversees a sustainable aquaculture operation that raises clams and six types of oysters. Since 2008, Ballard has ushered in a new era of growth, diversified the product mix and expanded into new markets. The company is the country’s leading producer of farm-raised, hard-shell clams, growing more than 75 million annually. It also is one of the largest employers in Northampton County, with more than 170 employees.
EXCEL Management Services Inc., Richmond
From 1999 to 2008, EXCEL Staffing Services Inc., a woman- and minority-owned temporary staffing agency, placed jobseekers in a variety of positions. During the recent recession, however, the company lost a fourth of its work force and was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Today, the company has reorganized as EXCEL Management Services, providing program management and staff augmentation services. EXCEL soon will move to a new location with its sister company, the nonprofit Another Chance to EXCEL, which provides vocational, social and life skills training to ex-offenders and disadvantaged youth.
Griffith Lumber Co., Woolwine
The Griffith family has run its Patrick County sawmill operation for four generations. It sells wholesale lumber and byproducts such as wood chips, sawdust, biomass fuel and bark mulch to customers around the world,. In 2009, Griffith Lumber faced difficult times. Furniture and forest product plants and textile mills had closed, shipping production and jobs overseas. A major fire damaged the company’s sawmill, putting 40 people out of work. The Griffiths leased two nearby sawmills to keep their employees working while rebuilding the burned-down mill. More than 100 jobs were created or saved.
Hubbard Peanut Co. Inc., Sedley
During its nearly 60 years in business, the Hubbard Peanut Co. has endured many setbacks, including a fire that destroyed a key part of its facility, the closure of the local paper mill and challenges beyond its control in the peanut industry. Despite these obstacles, the company has persevered. Dot and HJ Hubbard started the Sedley-based company in 1954 using a unique peanut cooking process, and their daughter, Lynne Rabil, continues to manage it with their values in mind. Company owners and managers lead many civic organizations and helped form a JROTC program at Franklin High School.
Where others saw an aging, run-down neighborhoods plagued by crime, dilapidated buildings and weed-choked properties, Thanos Polizos saw opportunity. In 1999, he began purchasing and renovating multi-family properties in Norfolk’s Lamberts Point and Highland Park neighborhoods adjacent to Old Dominion University (ODU). Thirteen years later, with more than 100 properties and 500 student tenants, ODUrent.com, has a 99 percent occupancy rate and is the ODU’s largest off-campus housing provider. The company’s portfolio of properties is valued at $25 million.
Office Plus Business Centre, Danville
Since its founding 75 years ago, the Haynsworth family-owned Office Plus Business Centre has endured four moves, a fire, the death of its founder and second-generation president, and renaming of the company five times. Its newest challenge: big-box retailers and their Internet sales. However, the business, now in its fourth generation, has adapted. It formed a key relationship with the nation’s largest office products buying group, added new product categories to supplement sales and refocused the business to the founder’s original business model. As chairman of the Danville Pittsylvania Chamber of Commerce, President Charles Haynsworth III has been working on a campaign encouraging support for locally owned businesses in the area.
Service Center Metals, Prince George
In the decade since its founding, aluminum extrusion manufacturer Service Center Metals (SCM) has become an industry leader in innovation and customer service. The company was formed by former Reynolds Metals Co. executives R. Scott Kelley, R. Randolph “Randy” Weis and Lloyd S. “Chip” Dollins Jr. SCM has the second-largest market share in the industry and employs 120 workers producing rod, bar, pipe, angles, channels, I-beams and custom shapes. The company has sold more than a half-billion pounds of extrusions to the service center industry.
Silver Gallery, Waynesboro
Stephen Dahl and Stacey Strawn founded Silver Gallery in 2002 as an online retailer of silver and pewter gifts,. The couple ran into problems after expanding the business from their living room to a location in downtown Waynesboro. Despite these challenges, Silver Gallery became the official provider of silver picture frames as celebrity gifts for the Screen Actors Guild Awards. The company has added the Tony Awards to its client list last year. The couple has purchased two more storefront buildings. They provide space at a reduced rate in one building to the Bindi Dog Yoga studio, which offers free or low-cost yoga classes.
Stuart Land & Cattle Co. of VA, Rosedale
The National Cattlemen’s Association has designated Stuart Land & Cattle Co. of VA, founded in 1774, as the oldest continuously run, family-managed beef cattle operation in the United States. The company continuously innovates to keep its products affordable for consumers. To underscore its commitment to humane treatment of livestock, company owners took employees to a talk by Temple Grandin, a renowned animal welfare expert. Most of the employees live on the farm with their families, and they’re often provided housing even after retirement.
Sunset Digital Communications Inc., Duffield
Sunset Digital Communications Inc. provides Internet connectivity to underserved areas of Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee. Founded in 2003, Sunset constructed a fiber-optic network providing broadband services aimed at bolstering economic development in the region. Under the leadership of CEO Paul Elswick, Sunset has laid fiber optic with water lines, cutting the cost of building regional fiber optic networks. The company’s annual revenue has risen to just under $3 million in nine years.
The Tayloe Murphy Resilience Awards are presented in part by sponsorship from Virginia Business.
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