Small Business Award Recipients Announced
Posted February 20, 2008
CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee -- The Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce presented awards to three small businesses and one non-profit agency during the 2008 Small Business Awards Luncheon on February 20 at the Convention Center.
The recipients are Chattanooga Coffee Company and Chattz Coffeehouse (1-20 employees); Mike Collins & Associates, Inc. (21-50 employees); and Northwest Georgia Bank (51-100). First Things First, Inc. is the non-profit honoree.
“Small businesses employ about half of all private sector employees and generate between 60% to 80% of the new jobs that have been added to our economy over the last year,” said Chamber President and CEO Tom Edd Wilson. “These big picture numbers clearly illustrate how important small businesses are but they rarely get the respect they deserve.”
Wilson said the Chamber supports small business through networking events and training programs. He said the Chamber’s public policy department has helped small businesses in many ways, including successfully advocating against property taxes on software, while successfully advocating for a fairer share of state funds for Hamilton County schools.
Ronelle Sellers of Henderson Hutcherson & McCullough emceed the awards luncheon and chaired the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee that coordinated the awards program.
“This event calls attention to people who work hard and long hours, who meet unending challenges, who make it possible for their employees to earn a living for their families, who produce goods and services that we depend on,” Sellers said.
SBA Award Recipients
Eileen Mason and Evelyn Wheeler, former partners in a custom tour business to the Middle East and Europe, joined forces in a new enterprise in 2002 by opening the Chattanooga Coffee Company and Chattz Coffeehouse.
Their goal was to bring the quality and ambiance of the great coffeehouses of Europe to Chattanooga, to offer quality coffee roasted in-house and to support downtown revitalization.
The partners created atmosphere in their 900-square-foot space at 1010 Market Street by removing the interior walls and resurrecting the intricate tray ceiling, decorative tile floor and handsome brick pillars. They acquired coffee roasting skills from an expert roast master who enjoyed a successful coffee venture on the West Coast.
Opening both a retail and wholesale business took tremendous effort. At the same time, Mason and Wheeler struggled to overcome the disappointment of having to abandon a successful tour business because of violence overseas.
Two years later Chattz Coffeehouse was nominated for the BBB Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics and received an Honorable Mention in the Small Business Category. The same year Minorities and Women in Business magazine spotlighted Chattz to illustrate Chattanooga’s spirit of entrepreneurism.
Chattz aficionados praise its tasty brews, professional service, friendly staff and pleasing atmosphere. In addition to its retail customers, the company services over 20 wholesale accounts, including The St. John’s Restaurant, CapitalMark Bank, Easy Seafood Restaurant and The Lodge at Buckberry Creek in Knoxville.
The company’s philanthropic beneficiaries include the Community Kitchen, Chattanooga Area Food Bank and Chattanooga-Hamilton County Bicentennial Library, among others.
In 1987 Mike and Karen Collins opened Mike Collins & Associates, Inc. (MCA) to provide IT equipment to Chattanooga businesses at a competitive price and with high quality service. They started the business with one employee in an 800-square-foot office.
After purchasing their first free-standing building in Bonny Oaks Industrial Park in 1995, the owners added a maintenance division. This risky venture, requiring a large capital investment and increased staff, turned into a springboard for growth that doubled the size of the MCA building and staff.
Another milestone was the addition of an in-house leasing division, giving MCA another avenue for offering IT solutions to customers.
Over the years MCA built partnerships with Hewlett Packard, Dell Computers, IBM and other leaders in the industry.
By 2006 MCA had again outgrown its space and opened the doors to a new building on Century Oaks Drive with over 23,000 square feet of office and warehouse space.
Today MCA has 42 full-time employees with offices in Chattanooga and Nashville and the ability to service more than 500 customers nationwide through its Depot Maintenance division.
“Over the years MCA has undergone many of the challenges other small businesses face – including taking out second mortgages, cash flow issues and growing pains,” Mike Collins says. “But we have continued to stay ahead by changing the business to adapt to the ever-changing IT industry.”
MCA receives praise for its competitiveness, competence and responsiveness – qualities that allow it to often win business over larger regional or national service providers.
MCA supports many civic organizations, including the Forgotten Child Fund, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the NAACP and others.
Founded in 1904 as the Bank of Ringgold with $25,000 in capital, Northwest Georgia Bank today is Chattanooga’s largest community bank, with nine branches and more than $620 million in assets.
Northwest opened branches in Hixson and Ooltewah-Collegedale in 2007, and groundbreakings are in the works for three more branches in Tennessee. In February the bank will break ground on a very “green” North Shore branch on Manufacturers Road. Branches are also planned for East Brainerd Road and Highway 58.
The Northwest Way, the bank’s unique approach to doing business, evolved from the bank’s history of service. At the core of the Northwest Way are the bank’s shared values encircled by a common commitment to customers and the success of the Northwest family. These values are nurtured during weekly Performance Excellence Program (PEP) Practices and tri-annual organization-wide PEP Rallies.
The Tennessee Center for Performance Excellence awarded Northwest its Commitment Award, signifying the bank’s dedication to creating an extraordinary organization. The award reflects the leadership of Northwest Chairman & CEO Wes Smith, who serves on the board of the American Bankers Association.
Northwest Georgia was recently named the 2008 Outstanding Large Business of the Year by the Catoosa County Chamber of Commerce.
“Through strong civic leadership, community-focused lending and large charitable donations, Northwest’s influence is and has been inestimable,” Smith says. “Our relationships with both customers and vendors are solid and built on service, trust and fairness. Our mission is to serve the community while generating location growth and economic well-being.”
In 2007 Northwest Georgia and its foundation donated more than $721,000 and more than 4,000 community service hours to over 80 local non-profit, civic, and trade organizations, including the T.C. Thompson Children’s Hospital, the Chattanooga Downtown Partnership and the Riverbend Festival.
First Things First, Inc. (FTF) is a community-based nonprofit initiative dedicated to strengthening families through education, collaboration and mobilization. Goals are to lower the divorce rate and the rate of out-of-wedlock pregnancies and to increase father involvement in the lives of Hamilton County children.
FTF provides skill building workshops for couples, parents, singles and fathers and a resource library. Through mass media FTF educates the public about how to have strong marriages and families. The organization also offers cutting edge training of professionals who work with families.
Formed in 1997, FTF partners with community and religious organizations, foundations, governments, schools and others to help change attitudes and behaviors about the importance of family.
Over the years thousands of people have attended FTF classes and enrichment opportunities, and more than 300 communities across the country have requested training from FTF to start their own healthy marriage and family initiatives.
Last fall FTF received a grant from the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services for development of new programs, services and resources aimed at helping individuals and couples interested in or preparing for marriage, as well as those already in marriages.
FTF has been cited for its “tremendous impact” on the community and described as “the kind of grassroots organization we need to replicate throughout the U.S. to instill the importance of family values in the fabric of our next generation.”
Julie Baumgardner, president and executive director of FTF, spoke at the White House Conference on Helping America’s Youth, testified before a U.S. Senate subcommittee about the benefits of marriage and has presented at the Brookings Institute.
Other SBA Award finalists were:
- 1-20 Employees: Chattanooga Closet Company and Niedlov’s Breadworks;
- 21-50 Employees: East Tech Company, Inc. and Pointe General Contractors LLC;
- 51-200 Employees: Aerisyn LLC and Custom Custodial, Inc.
The Small Business Awards Luncheon was held in conjunction with the Chamber’s Chattanooga Business EXPO, the city’s largest business trade show.
Small Business Award sponsors were EPB, Jones Printing Company, SRC Technology Consultants, Unum, Northwest Georgia Bank, Henderson Hutcherson and McCullough, Regions, Cohutta Banking Company, McKee Foods Corp., Chattem and Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union.