Small Business Profiles
Ramona Thomas, a trained mathematician with a Ph.D. in education, gave up an 18-year career and position as vice president of a venture philanthropy firm to strike out on her own and open what is now Chicago’s premiere artisan chocolate boutique—My Chocolate Soul.
Sweet Action Ice Cream is a socially conscious Denver ice cream shop that serves unique sweet treats and has an even sweeter mission of giving a helping hand to the community.
Originally from New York City, Sweet Action Ice Cream owners Chia and Sam Basinger are no strangers to the foodservice industry. Both have backgrounds working in restaurants, and when they decided to make their move to Denver in 2007, those experiences helped them to build what is now today a very successful ice cream shop.
When Chris Petrella found himself in the dark, he had a bright idea.
While camping with his son in 2012 he realized he didn’t have a way to power his electronics. After that trip, Petrella went to a camping supplies store and inquired about such a device.
“I sketched it out for him [the store clerk]” and he told me it didn’t exist. I did a Google search, and it wasn’t found,” Petrella said. “I thought to myself this is so bizarre because I can picture this thing clearly in my mind.”
Tracy duCharme does not fit the traditional profile an entrepreneur. Tracy’s background is in the arts, and her experience with illustration and graphic design inspired her to open a branch of Color Me Mine, the world's leading paint-it-yourself ceramics franchise studio chain, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
After finding little success with traditional medical treatments for her struggle with ulcerative colitis, an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the colon, Michelle Retik of Short Hills, New Jersey, discovered that adjusting her nutrition was the key to a happier and healthier life. However, Michelle had trouble finding snack foods that accommodated her dietary restrictions. As a professional pastry chef, Michelle took it upon herself to fill this void, and her passion project quickly became a successful business venture.
Alfredo Zendejas co-owns Accesorios Zendejas along with his wife, Leticia Sanchez, in Los Angeles, California. A true mom-and-pop enterprise, Alfredo and Leticia work together to design, create and deliver custom decorative pieces for quinceñeras, baptisms, weddings and other special occasions.
To say that Columbus entrepreneur Victoria Calderon wears many hats is an understatement. In addition to co-owning two successful businesses with her sister, Virginia Nunes Gutierrez, Victoria is a marketing expert, policy advocate and published author with more than 10 years of experience in the media, corporate, non-profit and small business sectors. Victoria is also a first-generation immigrant from Venezuela who is fluent in Spanish, English and Brazilian Portuguese.
As a small business that specializes in healthcare benefits, Benefit Management, Inc. (BMI), a third party insurance payer located in Joplin, Missouri, is quick to recognize the importance of employee wellness. That’s why they were so excited to participate in our Healthy Business, Healthy Community Workplace Wellness Challenge this summer.
Around the country, small business owners are struggling to find qualified employees. In fact, some 40% of American employers cite lack of skills as the No. 1 reason for entry-level job vacancies, especially among young job candidates. Meanwhile, the youth unemployment rate in our country remains considerably high after the aftermath of the Great Recession. Though some small businesses may want to help address this problem while identifying potential talent, they often don’t have the resources to sponsor an internship or mentoring program.
Alex Code, founder and co-owner of Line 45, a mapping and software solutions company in Gaylord, Michigan, says that becoming an entrepreneur has been his dream since he was fourteen years old. But when he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, an autoimmune disorder, as a college student, Alex was sure his dream would never become a reality.