Cary, NC — In celebration of Small Business Month, the Cary Chamber hosted the Small Business Excellence Awards last week to recognize the Business of the Year and others who stood out for innovation, impact, community service and more.
In his opening remarks, Chamber President, Howard Johnson underscored the importance of small businesses and in particular, the resilience they’ve shown in a year marked with challenges.
“This last year effected so many businesses and they have struggled. We’d like to ask you today to go visit a small business,” said Johnson.
Chamber Chairman Steve Zaytoun added that the award ceremony is a reminder of all of the good things that these small to mid-size businesses contribute to Cary and our local economy.
“We honor all these businesses today for their dedication to our community,” said Zaytoun.
The awards were separated into for-profit and nonprofit categories. The for-profit businesses were judged in the areas of innovation, impact, community service and work environment. From the applicants the chamber received, the nominees in the for-profit sector were:
- Big Frog Custom T-Shirts, Durham
- Cotton House Craft Brewers, Cary
- Emerge Pediatric Therapy, Cary & Durham
- KinderVillage Music Studio, Cary
- Preston Dental Loft, Cary
- Salvio’s Pizzeria, Cary
Innovation Award Winner: Cotton House Brewers
Each of the six nominees for the Innovation Award made remarks about their business and how it used innovation as a key tool in its operations within the last year. For the winning business, Cotton House Craft Brewers, this included restructuring their services, delivery model and installing new technology to provide for a safer environment for customers and staff.
In addition, the brewing company at just 40% of its typical revenue, increased employment by 10% in 2020 and purchased Jordan Lake Brewing Company. Cotton House’s Head Brewer, Lance Furer accepted the award on behalf of the business.
“This last year was challenging for everyone and to be recognized for all the hard work we’ve put in, we are just extremely grateful,” said Furer.
Impact Award Winner: Salvio’s Pizzeria
The impact award, according to presenter Christie Moser, goes to a business that kept the community fed and full.
Moser, the Chamber’s VP of Member Business Services, said, “This business consistently volunteers and donates to those in need and those impacted by COVID.”
The winner, Salvio’s Pizzeria, has been a staple in Cary since its opening in 2005. Particularly in the last year, Salvio’s has taken steps to keep first responders, teachers and health care workers fed.
In accepting the award alongside his brother and business partner, Dustin, owner Tony Ambrosecchia said, “We’ve been honored to grow with the community and see such support from the community. We can’t thank you enough for the last 16 years and many more to come.
Community Service Award Winner: Preston Dental Loft
Preston Dental Loft took home the Community Service Award for their numerous kind acts of service they provided at no charge to the community such as hosting a “free day of dentistry” in 2020 for Cary and surrounding area residents who fell on hard times during the pandemic.
In 2019, before the COVID pandemic even came to the forefront of the business landscape, the team offered $75,000 worth of free dental services to community members in need. In 2020, they gave their own masks and gloves to local hospitals when PPE was in short supply.
“We, as a practice, want to make a big impact and we believe we have, but we are not done yet,” said Dr. Meenal Patel, the Founder & Owner of Preston Dental Loft.
Work Environment Award Winner: KinderVillage Music Studio
The core of the winning business, KinderVillage Music Studio, was shaken when the pandemic hit. Their day-to-day offerings of music and movement classes are for groups of about 10 caregivers and their children.
With some assistance from government programs, the business was able to stay open, but their teachers faced the challenge of being unable to interact and teach the young children. In adapting to the times, the teaching staff diverted their efforts to online classes for children with unique and special needs.
“We rose to the challenge and it was an exciting year. We had many silver linings and quickly pivoted to online learning without missing a beat — and for musicians, that’s very important,” said Julia Cobley, founder of the studio.
In the nonprofit category, two nonprofit organizations were recognized with Charitable Partners Awards. The awards were designated for a small nonprofit (operating on a yearly budget below $500,000) and a large nonprofit.
“Our nonprofit organizations are also of great importance to our community. The role that they play in helping create a quality of life in our area and making a positive impact on our citizens is second to none,” said Zaytoun.
Small Nonprofit: The Center for Volunteer Caregiving
With a mission since 1992 to improve the lives of seniors, caregivers and adults with disabilities, the winner of the Small Nonprofit Award was Cary’s Center for Volunteer Caregiving.
The Center helps older adults and adults with disabilities in Wake County live independently for as long as possible. For clients that find themselves aging without family members who can provide help, trained volunteers provide friendly visits along with several helpful services. These include light housekeeping, escorted transportation to appointments and stores, shopping services for people who cannot leave their homes, telephone check-ins, and more.
Last year, volunteers provided more than 10,000 hours of services at entirely no cost to their clients.
“It’s been a long 15 months with the pandemic and we have never stopped and our doors have never closed for both the residents of Cary and of Wake County,” said Executive Director, Elaine Whitford.
Large Nonprofit: Note in the Pocket
“Clothing Children with Dignity and Love,” is the mantra of the Raleigh-based nonprofit called, Note in the Pocket, which was awarded the Charitable Partners Award for Large Nonprofit. This nonprofit was especially noted for its dedication to addressing the clothing insecurity issue in the Wake County community.
Moser, in presenting the award, said, “Of the 160,000 students in Wake County Public Schools, over 50,000 students are identified as living in poverty.” Annually, Note in the Pocket clothes about 5,000 individuals annually and has their goal for 2021 set at 6,000.
Small Business of the Year: Emerge Pediatric Therapy
Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht closed out the ceremony, announcing the winner of the 2021 Small Business of the Year.
The business that best exemplified all the major criteria for the awards was chosen by judges to be Emerge Pediatric Therapy of Cary and Durham.
“This business demonstrated innovation, success, community service and an exemplary work environment. We are very proud to have this local business in our community,” said Weinbrecht.
Serving Durham since 2001, the business expanded to Cary in 2019 and is looking at even further growth to come.
Owner and Executive Director, Brittni Winslow accepted the award saying, “We are so excited to accept this award today and be acknowledged by the Cary Chamber of Commerce.”
Story by Ashley Kairis. Photos screen captured from the video award ceremony.
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