Even though the last celebration of Longboat Key's small businesses was less than a year ago, the Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce will soon gather to celebrate the best of the best once again. President Gail Loefgren announced the Small Business Awards nominees on Oct. 15, and the winners of each category will be named at a luncheon on Nov. 4.
The categories are the same — one for the rookie of the year, two for best businesses with 10 or fewer employees or 11 or more and one for the most eco-friendly business on the Key — but the festivities surrounding the awards will look different. In years past, there have been business seminars leading up to the luncheon, but this year it will just be the luncheon.
"Some of the speakers that we wanted on some of the subjects were already booked, and I'm still concerned about COVID, and I think others are, too," Loefgren said.
The hope is to have an in-person luncheon, but Loefgren is ready to pivot if needed. At the last Small Business Awards luncheon, which was combined with the chamber's Annual Meeting in January, there were about 45 people in person, while the rest tuned in on Zoom.
"I think everybody thought 2021 would be the end of everything, and everything would totally go back to normal," Loefgren said. "But it hasn't yet, so you make these concessions and plans."
During the interviewing process, Loefgren and her Small Business Council have added more questions about how each business responded to COVID-19, how it affected them and how they managed their staff throughout. The council also follows the Small Business Administration's guidance that involvement in the community is important for small businesses, and added in questions about that.
"The question that has the heaviest weight in both written and interviewing is community involvement, and even the SBA considers that to be the most important question," Loefgren said. "I find that the most successful or small businesses are the ones who support the community at large."
Rookie Small Business Person of the Year
- Dr. Kelly Breese, Hearing Aids of Sarasota
- James Graves, Symphony Massage
- Dayana Westcott-Erickson, Concierge Home Watch and Management
- Tony and Daniela Cruz, Bahama Breeze Heating & Cooling
- Heather Gaus, Turtle Coffee Bar
- Ed Kolodzieski, Ultra-Yacht
- Paula Wright, Bradenton Magazine
- Ramin and Dee Dee Mesghali, Jack Dean Flooring
Small Business Person of the Year (10 or fewer employees)
- Melanie Dale, J. McLaughlin
- Celia Moore, Technology Solutions
- Kristin Fourie, CORE Marketing Solutions
- Charlie and Lisa Nichols, Backyard Bike Shop
- Lael Hazan, Gracious Getaways
- Joe and Cj Bader, Sarasota Trolley
- Mary Lou Johnson, Mary Lou Johnson Photography
- Dan Alderson & Michael Garey, Tyler's of Longboat
- Sandra Smith, Secur-All Insurance Agency
- Nicci Kobritz, Youthful Aging Home Care
- Guy Vincent, Wyland Galleries
Small Business Person of the Year (11 or more employees)
- Joe Rimer, Pesto Bistro and Wine Bar
- E.J. Ledesma, 360 Orthopedics
- David Rudsill, Pipe Restoration Solutions
- Cleon Dixon, Binjara Traders
- Glenn Souza and Danielle Beatt, Grant's Gardens
- Richard Cunningham, Cunningham Property Management
- Brain Wallace, Florida Southern Roofing
Good as Green Business of the Year
- Jaime DiDomenico, Cool Today, Plumbing Today, Energy Today
- Tim Holliday, Business World Promo Supply
- Willie McLaughlin, Publix Supermarket
- Angel Cruz, OrgreenX