Colorado's Small Business Week winners announced

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SBA Colorado District Office

SBA names Colorado Small Business Week winners

SBA Administrator Linda McMahon has announced this year’s Small Business Person of the Year winners from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The state Small Business Person of the Year winner will now compete for 2017 National Small Business Person of the Year honors.  All awardees have been invited to Washington, D.C. to participate in events and ceremonies on April 30-May 1.

In addition, awardees for 16 different categories ranging from exporting, outreach, contracting, lending, disaster recovery to manufacturing and research and development were named. 

“It is my honor and distinct pleasure to announce the 54 winners from across the U.S. and its territories,” McMahon said. “These small business owners define entrepreneurial spirit and best represent the 28 million small businesses that are the backbone and economic engine for today’s economy. I look forward to welcoming the winners to Washington next month when they are officially honored for their achievements.”

This year, Denver’s Mi Casa Resource Center was named the national Women’s Business Center of the Year winner by Administrator McMahon.

The Colorado Small Business Week award winners include:

Small Business Person of the Year

Lorena Cantarovici, owner

Maria Empanada

1298 South Broadway Avenue

Denver, CO  80210

Lorena Cantarovici has grown Maria Empanada from a start-up out of her converted garage into a restaurant empire with three stores located in Denver, Aurora, and the Denver Tech Center. Her empanada business now employs 25 people, and has increased empanada production from 160 pieces a month to over 60,000 per month. Maria Empanada has become the nation’s leading artisanal empanada restaurant concept with Argentine empanadas, tartas and specialty desserts. During her business growth phase Cantarovici utilized various programs and services of the U.S. Small Business Administration including the statewide SBDC network for counseling and technical assistance, SBA’s microloan program through Colorado Enterprise Fund, and a SBA 7(a) Loan Program made by Citywide Banks. Lorena’s newest location is expected open this year at the Stanley Marketplace in Aurora, Colorado.

Small Business Exporter of the Year

Avtech International, LLC won both State of Colorado and Region VIII awards.

Avtech International, LLC

Yonas Solomon Giyohanes, co-owner/manager

Feleg Haile, co-owner

1685 South Colorado Blvd, Suite 212

Denver, Colorado  80220

Avtech International, LLC is a supplier of US-made aircraft parts to customers throughout the world. The company's headquarter is in Denver and the company has its main warehouse in Aurora, CO. The business is co-owned by Feleg Haile and Yonas Solomon. Soloman started Avtech International, LLC in 2012 and has been exporting equipment and parts to the African marketplace for four years. When Avtech's owners decided to start pursuing larger sales contracts, they knew that the company would need a loan to fund some of the short-term working capital costs. Avtech reached out to the SBA International Trade Office and the US Department of Commerce for guidance.  With their assistance, in 2016 Avtech International, LLC received an SBA Export Working Capital Program loan to support sales of US goods to clients in Ethiopia.

National Women’s Business Center of Excellence Award

Mi Casa won national, Region VIII, and State of Colorado awards

The Women’s Business Center at Mi Casa Resource Center

Monique Lovato, CEO/Executive Director

Elena Vasconez, Director of the Women’s Business Center at Mi Casa Resource Center

360 Acoma Street

Denver, Colorado 80223

Mi Casa Resource Center (Mi Casa) has served the Denver community for over 40 years, working to advance the economic success of families with limited opportunities. Mi Casa helps people start their career, continue their education, and launch or grow their business through an integrated program strategy of Business, Career, and Youth & Family Development. Mi Casa has successfully hosted Colorado’s only Women’s Business Center since its inception in 1989, providing exceptional services to small businesses – especially those owned by women and minorities. The Women’s Business Center at Mi Casa Resource Center is also one of only two organizations in the state that offers fully bilingual business development services.  In 2016, according to SBA year-end data, Mi Casa Women’s Business Center was number-one in total capital infusion by a large margin; number-two in number of clients counseled; and, second also in total new business starts.  Mi Casa receives annual funding from the SBA for its women’s business center.

The Small Business Development Center’s Excellence and Innovation Award

North Metro Denver SBDC won State of Colorado and Region VIII awards.

North Metro Denver Small Business Development Center

Glenn Plagens, Senior Director

3645 West 112th Avenue

Westminster, Colorado  80031

The North Metro Denver SBDC, hosted by Front Range Community College in Westminster since 1989, received its award based on the center’s efforts to effectively assist small business owners, and its innovative approach to serving small manufacturers throughout Colorado. Since becoming senior director in 2011, Glenn Plagens has grown consulting over 500% during his tenure. The center has satellite offices in Brighton, Broomfield and Commerce City. Last year, the center provided over 2,600 hours of consulting for over 560 clients, $9,184,276.00 of capital formation, 25 business starts and 126 jobs created. Currently the center has over 30 consultants and trainers working with clients to provide the best possible experience. In an effort to better serve the state’s small manufacturing clients, Plagens created a “Beta Manufacturing” program, working intensively with four small businesses of a 2.5 year period, which led to the creation of 23 jobs, $5,200,000 in capital formation and $4,002,000 increased sales.

Subcontractor of the Year Award

Red Canyon Software, Inc. won the Regional Government Contracting Area 5 Office award.

Red Canyon Software, Inc.

Barry Hamilton, CEO

1200 Pennsylvania Street, Suite 100

Denver, Colorado 80203

Red Canyon Software, Inc. develops software and technology to help humankind explore space, other planets and renewable resources on Earth. The Subcontractor of the Year award honors small businesses that have provided the government and industry with outstanding goods and services as subcontractors. Red Canyon Software, Inc. were nominated for this award by a prime contractor, Lockheed Martin.

Colorado Lender Awards

7(a) Large Lender of the Year: Wells Fargo National Association

7(a) Small Lender of the Year: CoBiz Bank

Large 504 Certified Development Company of the Year: Colorado Lending Source

Small 504 Certified Development Company of the Year: Denver Urban Economic Development Company dba Preferred Lending Partners

the Colorado Community Lender of the Year: Colorado Enterprise Fund


“I congratulate Lorena Cantarovici, Mi Casa Resource Center, and the other awardees for being named Colorado’s Small Business Week winners,” said Frances Padilla, SBA’s Colorado District Director. “Colorado has a rich history of entrepreneurship and innovation, and having one of the national winners based here in Denver is a reason for all of us to celebrate. During national Small Business Week communities statewide will celebrate the spirit of entrepreneurship and their positive impact on creating new jobs and opportunities.” 

Each year since 1963, the president has issued a proclamation calling for the celebration of National Small Business Week.  National Small Business Week is set as the first week in May, and this year the dates are April 30 – May 6 with national events planned in Washington, D.C., New York City, Indianapolis, Dallas and Fresno, Calif.

For more information about National Small Business Week visit: www.sba.gov/nsbw. Workshops, events and celebrations of Colorado’s entrepreneurs and small business owners will occur throughout the state during National Small Business Week (April 30-May 6, 2017). Starting in April, a calendar of events for the week and participating organizations will be shared at coloradosmallbizweek.com