A Few Days As The Connecticut Small Business Person of 2017!
Not sure if you heard, but I was selected as my state’s 2017 Small Business Person of the Year. That was quite an unexpected honor, so I travelled back to Connecticut last week to attend the award ceremonies. My husband, Rodolfo, stayed behind in Italy with my daughters, who are now in high school. After a day at the office and a day in New York doing a deskside media tour to talk about einkorn and our new gluten free flours with a few publications, I headed to Washington, D.C. with my brother for the two-day ceremony.
On April 30th, the events began with dinner at the United States Institute of Peace. I was actually invited to sit at the Administrator Linda McMahon’s table for dinner, as she is also from Connecticut. At the start of the evening, a Marine with an amazing voice, sang the National Anthem. I couldn’t help but shed a tear. Linda McMahon then told the story of her struggles to start her own small business, and how she practically lost everything, declared bankruptcy, and watched her car get repossessed from her driveway. She said, “When you are starting a small business, it’s not how hard you fall, but it’s how quickly you get up.” She shared a desk with her husband in the beginning, which reminded me of the desk my husband and I shared that he had made out of old pallets because we didn’t have the money to spend on a desk at that time! When she sat down at the table to join me and three other winners, the first thing she did was turn to me and say, “So Carla, tell me, just how did you discover einkorn anyway, that is such and incredible story!”
On the first night, the SBA presented awards to a private citizen, government officials and a business that were honored for their role in Disaster Recovery. I didn’t realize that the man that was sitting across from me at the table that night would be receiving the Phoenix Award for Outstanding Small Business Disaster Recovery 2017. We had been chatting, and he struck me as being so soft-spoken and kind. When a video started about his story, I turned to look at him and he and his wife were crying. It didn’t take more than a few seconds of listening to his story, before my eyes welled with tears for the second time that night. If you’re interested, here’s that video.
The next day, a luncheon was held and the award winners from each state were honored. There was a panel discussion with Ivanka Trump and then the group was addressed by the Vice President. The winners had time to meet each other and talk about their businesses. It was clear to me how many of them had struggled to get started, but how now were very proud to be on the other side and running successful businesses, doing what they loved. Did you know that there are 28 million small business in the U.S. and they account for 65% of all new jobs? Small businesses really do help to drive our nation’s economy.
The following day at noon, an awards ceremony was also held in Connecticut. I spoke about how I started the company with a small loan from my brother and how I worked very hard to get to where I am today. I thanked my bank, Savings Institute Bank and Trust, for nominating me for the award and helping me to secure an SBA 504 Loan that enabled us to construct a new warehouse and office that will allow our company to nearly double sales in the future. The loan also helped me to save one of the most historic buildings in Connecticut, the 1685 John Randall home, listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and once part of the Freedom Trail.
So, to everyone reading this article, I would like to thank you for purchasing our products and supporting our mission. I knew that organic foods would be popular someday, and I also knew that I could make a few products that would make a difference in the lives of others. I also found a deep satisfaction in knowing that by employing others, I was supporting their families, and I always pushed my company to be successful because I wanted to do well for them. Without your support, this achievement would not have been possible.
For all of you who are thinking about starting or already have a small business, I also want to give you some words of encouragement. If I can make it to where I am today, so can you! After losing my parents to cancer by my mid-twenties, I turned to my brother for a loan to start my first business, with a promise that someday I would hire him to run the warehouse. He was working as a bricklayer then and was ready for a change. At that time, my husband and I couldn’t take a paycheck. We lived with my brother and he would leave money on the kitchen table for the groceries and bills. After the first year in business, I realized I had lost almost all of the money my brother had loaned me. One day, I laid down on the floor of my office, I was overwhelmed, my heart hurt. In that moment, I made a promise to myself that if I was to succeed, I would always be considerate and honest about every business decision I made and I would never be greedy, I would share my success with my employees. Magically, from that day forward, things started to fall into place, and our first products finally got into distribution and sales started to flow. It wasn’t easy, but look how far we’ve come! I thank you again for the opportunity, for this great momentum you have helped to create here at jovial, and I look forward to continuing to work hard and hopefully, achieving so much more for you in the years to come!
With much gratitude,