Representatives from the Nebraska district office of the U.S. Small Business Administration presented 2014 awards to three people affiliated with Southeast Community College’s Entrepreneurship Center during a brief ceremony Thursday at the Center.
Argyle Octopus Press, a tenant in SCC’s Entrepreneurship Center business incubator, received the award for Congressional District I Small Business of the Year. Owner Jennifer Rosenblatt accepted the award.
Brooke Robbins, assistant director of the Center, accepted the award for Women in Business Champion of the Year for the State of Nebraska.
And Zack Zimmerman, associate director of the Nebraska Business Development Center located in the Entrepreneurship Center, accepted the NBDC Excellence and Innovation Award for the State of Nebraska and for Region VII.
Leon J. Milobar, district director, presented the awards. Barbara Foster, lead economic development specialist with the Nebraska District Office, also attended.
“It’s very exciting for me to get out into all of Nebraska to present these awards,” Milobar said. “It’s rewarding to see all of the hard work that these small businesses do and to see that resources available to them continue to support start-ups across the state.”
Steve Bors, director of the Center, said it was exciting to see Rosenblatt, Robbins and Zimmerman receive awards.
“The awards are well deserved,” Bors said. “These three have worked extremely hard, and it’s nice to see that they are being recognized. I’m very proud of all three.”
Rosenblatt and her business, Argyle Octopus Press, have been in the Entrepreneurship Center since Aug. 1, 2011. After three years of support services, including business coaching, many startups leave the Center to venture out on their own.
“I started another business called MusicSpoke,” Rosenblatt said. “It’s a tech-focused company, so I’m going to need the same support I’ve received for Argyle Octopus Press for my new venture.”
Rosenblatt praised SCC’s Entrepreneurship Center staff and the way the incubator is structured.
“This is an amazing program,” she said. “At first I didn’t take advantage of all that it offered. It wasn’t until I had my first crisis, hiring my first employee, that I utilized all of the Center’s services.”
Since her humble beginnings in a mini-van, Rosenblatt has hired two full-time employees for her business, which serves the growing multimedia needs of startups and small businesses.
“I probably would not be in business today without the Entrepreneurship Center,” Rosenblatt said. “As a small business, you don’t have access to the level of expertise, the support system and the business coaching and mentoring.”
Rosenblatt and her sister-in-law came up with the company name, Argyle Octopus.
“I’m from Florida and moved here eight years ago,” Rosenblatt said. “We would talk on the phone all the time. We used to always make fun of other multimedia company names, so we came up with an unusual one of our own, Argyle Octopus.”
Argyle Octopus Press was selected based on a set of criteria that included staying power, growth in the number of employees, increase in sales and/or unit volume, current and past financial performance, innovativeness of product or service offered, response to adversity, and contributions to community-oriented projects.
Robbins was shocked to learn she had won the Women in Business Champion of the Year award.
“There are so many people in the state who are advocates for women business owners who deserve this award,” said Robbins, who joined the SCC Entrepreneurship Center in 2007. “There are many ladies here today who I’ve had the opportunity to work with. It’s very fulfilling when you can say that I helped them come up with an idea.”
Criteria for the award includes active support for legislative or regulatory action designed to help small businesses, efforts to increase business and financial opportunities for women, advocacy of the women-owned business community as a whole, and improving the environment for the creation and expansion of businesses owned and operated by women.
“She works well with the Entrepreneurship Center staff and is doing some really good things,” Zimmerman said about Robbins.
Zimmerman’s role is to provide free support to small business owners.
“Small businesses and their service providers don’t get enough recognition for the work they do,” Zimmerman said. “I want to thank Southeast Community College, (president) Dr. (Jack) Huck and the Entrepreneurship Center staff for all of their support. We’re doing some great things, and it’s nice to receive some recognition for that work.”
Criteria for that award includes a look at whether the office meets or exceeds performance milestones, including long-term counseling of clients, new businesses started, capital infusion, and client satisfaction. Another evaluation is whether the NBDC helps build small businesses by creating and implementing innovative programs, events, publications, research materials, and online applications.
Robbins, who works closely with Zimmerman, said he “has breathed new life into the (Entrepreneurship) Center.”
Persons interested in learning how they can become part of SCC’s Entrepreneurship Center business startup can contact Bors at 402-437-2524 or firstname.lastname@example.org.