Award-winning leaders Featured

8:00pm EDT April 28, 2003
Tomorrow's cutting-edge businesses almost always have humble beginnings, starting out in garages and family homes.

It's the goal of the Small Business Administration to foster the development and growth of small businesses. Not all will become multimillion dollar firms, but with support such as that provided by the SBA, they can become a vital part of the business community.

Each year, the SBA Columbus District Office, as well as the other 69 district offices around the country, solicits nominations for the best small business owners, as well as small business advocates and special award categories. In states where there is more than one district office, like Ohio, a state winner is selected for each category.

Those winners are then judged against all other state winners to determine national winners. Each state Small Business Person of the Year and national advocate and special award winners are invited to Washington D.C.

This year's Columbus District SBA honorees are professionals who have worked hard to build up their businesses or encouraged others to succeed. They represent industries from real estate to graphic design, but the common characteristic is a drive to succeed.

Here are the 2003 SBA honorees.

Small Business Person of the Year
David C. Bianconi, president and CEO of Progressive Medical Inc.

Read our Who to Know feature on David Bianconi.

Small Business Person of the Year Runner-Up
Joyce Fender, owner, Classic Real Estate Co., Hillsboro

Fender entered the business world in 1978 when her marriage of 23 years ended and she needed to earn money to support her four children.

Her sales career began at a Wilmington radio station, and she then obtained her real estate license. After selling real estate for five years, she purchased a real estate company, which is now Classic Real Estate.

Fender has been recognized by the Association of American University Women and the Ohio Association of Realtors. She also received OAR's President's Sales Club Award of Achievement for sales exceeding $1 million in eight of the last 12 years. In fact, Classic Real Estate, now with 18 agents, has produced 42 recipients of the President's Sales Club Award.

Fender's company is the first in her area to join the Greater Cincinnati Multiple Listing Service, providing sellers and buyers access to listings via the Internet.


Small Business Person of the Year, Honorable Mention
Joe Vesco, president Information Works, Columbus

Vesco recognized the potential of information technology in 1980.

He started his first company when he was 25. That evolved into Information Works, which manages output technology for clients that rely heavily on paper, such as legal, insurance and banking firms. Information Works' clients include Limited Brands, State Auto Insurance and the Ohio EPA.

Vesco says his business's potential market is $50 million in Central Ohio alone, and he is developing business in Cleveland and Minneapolis. Since 1997, the company's revenue has increased 50 percent each year, and it maintains a 20 percent net profit margin.


Small Business Journalist of the Year
Laura D. Newpoff, Business First, Columbus

Newpoff's experience as a business reporter includes articles for The Columbus Dispatch and full-time reporting with Columbus Daily Reporter.

She joined Business First in 1999 and today covers technology, venture capital, manufacturing, telecommunications, labor unions and restaurants.

Newpoff has received the Bronze Quill award for feature newswriting from the International Association of Business Communicators.

Michael Bowers, vice president with the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce, says it is through Newpoff's efforts that the community is increasingly becoming aware of the key role small businesses play in the area's economy.


Veteran Small Business Advocate of the Year
Dennis DeMolet, president, DeMolet Consulting, Kettering

Dennis DeMolet served in both government and private sector markets for more than 30 years. A retired U.S. Marine who served two tours in Vietnam, he spends a great deal of time and effort in support of veterans.

He founded the Sinclair Veterans Club at Sinclair Community College in Dayton and serves on the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee. He is an active member of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, and his company works with Fortune 100 companies including Digital Equipment Corporation and Raytheon Systems.

DeMolet's company mentors small businesses in responding to government opportunities.


Women in Business Advocate of the Year
Linda Steward, executive director, Ohio Women's Business Resource Network, Columbus


Linda Steward has been championing women in business for years. A former vice president of small business for the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce, she created the Central Ohio Women's Business Development Center, which provided counseling, training and networking opportunities to women business owners.

As executive director of OWBRN, Steward has devoted more than a decade to the development and assistance of women business ownership.

She also serves as president of the Ohio Women's Business Development Council and has received numerous awards for her support of small and women-owned businesses, including an Ohio Innovation Award for Excellence in Women's Business Development.


Financial Services Advocate of the Year
Dianne Allen, executive director, Ohio Statewide Development Corp.

Allen's interest in community and business development began after she received her master's in city and regional planning at The Ohio State University. She then worked for the Ohio Department of Development for six years, administering the Economic Development program.

Allen then worked for the city of Columbus Development Department as its manager of financing. As a loan officer with Community Capital Development Corp., she helped more than 200 Central Ohio small businesses receive financing.

In 2000, she signed on as executive director with Ohio Statewide, where she offers businesses loans to purchase equipment, buy buildings and grow operations. The organization has had a fivefold increase in loan approvals since 1999 and is recognized as one of the top three certified development companies in the state.


Home-based Business Advocate of the Year
Tamala Lynne Longaberger, president and CEO, The Longaberger Co., Newark


Nearly 70,000 women have home-based businesses, thanks to Tami Longaberger and The Longaberger Co. The company's handcrafted baskets and home decorative accessories are sold exclusively through these independent sales associates.

Tami's father, Dave, started this nearly $1 billion business in 1973. Today, it is one of the 500 largest privately held companies and the 18th largest woman-owned company in the country.

Longaberger is a firm believer in the opportunity that direct selling provides home-based businesses and lobbies for favorable federal and state legislation in this area. She feels her company offers others the ability to build financial security and success through a home-based business enterprise.


Young Entrepreneur of the Year
Jennifer Bible, owner, JB Design Solutions, Lima

Motivated by her desire to own her own home-based business and be home with her children, Jennifer Bible started her graphic design business in 2000. It has already found a niche with clients including the local chamber of commerce and St. Rita's Medical Center in Lima.

Bible's clients say her overwhelming desire to please and her ability to produce quality work have led to her success. This year, she plans to expand her services as well as her marketing efforts.