Our Small Business Council consists of small business owners from various industries across the nation. Council members volunteer their time and entrepreneurial expertise at board meetings, public events and in the media to help Small Business Majority identify and address the biggest issues facing small businesses today. Our current council members include Eric Blinderman, Betsy Burton, Mike Brey, Nancy Clark, Zachary Davis, Lisa Goodbee, Matt Grove, Kris Kleindienst, Jamal Lee, Ron Nelsen, Mike Roach, Walt Rowen, LaJuanna Russell, Christine Chin Ryan, Jarek Steele, Jonathan Tobias and Anne Zimmerman.
Eric Blinderman co-founded Mas (farmhouse) after a friend approached him with the idea of opening a restaurant in 2001. He'd been working toward a legal career and had no restaurant experience. However, he did have a few successful business endeavors under his belt from early on, and decided to try his hand at being a restaurateur. After facing several obstacles to get his New American eatery off the ground, the doors to Mas (farmhouse) in Greenwich Village opened in March 2004. It was a hit, leading Eric and his partner to open a second location, Mas (la grillade), in October 2011. In total, they employ 65 people.
Betsy Burton founded The King's English Bookshop in 1977. Since then, it has grown into a well-established small business and the city’s preeminent bookstore, situated in a Salt Lake neighborhood known for great shops and restaurants. Betsy has 22 employees and about half of them work part time. She is a board member of the American Booksellers Association and is active in a number of other small business organizations, as well. Betsy began her work with Small Business Majority in 2009 on a Utah press conference, where she gave valuable entrepreneurial insight on opinion research we had just released.
In 1992, after working for large retailers throughout college, small business owner Mike Brey knew he understood the ins and outs of professionalizing the retail workforce. Mike believes a successful retail business takes employees who know the product, are happy with their job and provide excellent customer service. This combination proved to be a recipe for success. Since his small business Hobby Works opened in 1992, it has expanded to five locations throughout Maryland and Virginia, with 48 employees total.
Nancy Clark has owned Drive Brand Studio, a branding and advertising agency since 1997. Her firm's clients include medium-size and small businesses from Maine to Colorado, as well as nonprofits and government agencies. A committed community activist, Nancy was a founding member and President of the White Mountain Community Health Center Board of Trustees, a nine-year member and three-term President of The Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees in North Conway, NH; and was appointed by New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan to serve on the state's Health Exchange Advisory Board. She has served on the board of the NH Business and Industry Association, and currently serves on the board of directors of the Mt. Washington Valley Economic Council and the Book Love Foundation.
Zachary Davis is the co-owner of The Glass Jar, a farm to table restaurant group based in Santa Cruz, California, with a focus on the nexus between sustainable food and community. The group formed in 2010 with the opening of The Penny Ice Creamery, an ice cream manufacturing and retail business dedicated to the use of organic, locally sourced and seasonal ingredients.
Carrying forward this philosophy, the restaurant group now includes two additional Penny Ice Cream retail outlets, as well as The Picnic Basket Cafe, and most recently Assembly Restaurant which opened alongside the POPUP annex in March of 2014. Zachary serves on the Santa Cruz Downtown Commission, the Board of Directors for the Santa Cruz Downtown Management Corporation, and the Board of Directors for the Santa Cruz County Conference and Visitors Council.
Since her company got off the ground in 1994 as a two-person operation, Goodbee & Associates has grown to become one of Colorado’s most successful woman-owned engineering firms. The full-service technical consulting firm, made up of 14 employees, some of whom are longtime engineers, has been involved in nearly every major transportation project in the Denver and Front Range region. Lisa began her work with Small Business Majority in 2012 when she joined us in Washington, D.C. to discuss some of the biggest issues facing small business today with legislators and officials on Capitol Hill and at the White House. Recently, she returned to D.C. to meet with President Obama, Vice President Biden and a handful of other entrepreneurs to discuss the country's fiscal problems.
When Matt Grove and his wife decided to move back to Utica, NY after college and take over the family bagel business, little did he know how much he would enjoy the freedom and responsibility that comes with small business ownership. Matt and his wife purchased the business in 2005. They are proud to offer health insurance, paid time off, and other benefits to their 20 employees. Their bakery, Bagel Grove, produces over a million authentic old-fashioned bagels annually and distributes them at their retail store and throughout the region.
Kris Kleindienst is the co-owner of Left Bank Books--a full-line, independently-owned bookstore in St. Louis, MO. They have two locations in the city.
Left Bank hosts hundreds of author events a year and donates a percent of sales to numerous local organizations. In 2011, they formed the Left Bank Books Foundation, a nonprofit organization through which they operate the River City Readers program, a project that puts new books in the hands of St. Louis Public School children.
Kleindienst has more than 20 years of background in writing, including being the editor of an award-winning book and authoring columns for several St. Louis-based LGBT publications, an issue she’s been very active around. Kleindienst is married to her business partner Jarek Steele. They joined Small Business Majority's Small Business Council in 2013.
Jamal Lee started his career by working lighting on various movie sets and concerts, eventually becoming the audio producer for the Washington Nationals. He has also worked the Technical Emmys featuring Oprah. In 2005, Jamal's strong entrepreneurial spirit led him to create his own recording and production studio. He knew the 9 to 5 life wasn’t for him, and after getting his feet wet in sound production, Jamal set up Breasia Studios in his mother’s Baltimore, Maryland basement. Despite humble beginnings, the studio grew quickly. It wasn’t long before Jamal moved to a space in Laurel that could accommodate new equipment and added employees—who were becoming a necessary part of his business. With a growing number of clients based in Washington, D.C., Breasia Studios continues to flourish.
A small business owner residing in Las Vegas, Nevada, Ron Nelsen took full ownership of his family’s small company, Pioneer Overhead Door, in 1998. He employs five workers full time. Ron began his career in the family business at their Nebraska branch, which opened in the mid 1960s. Since the Las Vegas Valley location opened in 1978, Pioneer Overhead Door has been well known for its commitment to running an honest business, and offering quality garage doors and accessories.
Mike Roach is a seasoned entrepreneur who has co-owned Paloma Clothing in Portland, Oregon since 1975. The 1,500-square-foot retail store employs 15 workers and sells a wide variety of women's apparel. To date, it has served approximately 24,000 customers. In addition to co-owning his business, Mike has been president of the Hillsdale Business and Professional Association for 20 years and sits on the board of the Alliance of Portland Neighborhood Business Associations.
Small business owner Walt Rowen comes from a long line of talented glass decorators. So long, in fact, that his Columbia, Penn., business has been around since 1910. Since his grandfather opened Susquehanna Glass Co., the staff has grown to 35 full-time employees. Walt and his employees provide personalized decorative products for wholesale and retail customers, including monogrammed barware, logoed wine glasses, wedding gifts and more. As the third-generation owner of Susquehanna, Walt knows what it takes to make a small business thrive.
LaJuanna Russell is founder and president of Business Management Associates, Inc (BMA), a business process and human capital management firm. Ms. Russell possesses more than 20 years of experience in all aspects of business operations and government contracting, serving federal and state governments and international entities. She has broad and deep knowledge of the IT industry, business operations, and human resource management. Ms. Russell founded BMA in 2006 to continue the initial software life cycle development work she began during her consulting career, but with an emphasis on the integration of people and process. She has developed BMA from the ground up, establishing the technical and operational infrastructure, and the employee and client-focused culture her firm is known for.
Founded in 1988, Synergy Consulting, Inc. has its roots in Portland, Oregon with President Christine Chin Ryan. The Information Technology consulting firm provides comprehensive IT software solutions to Federal, commercial, and not for profit enterprises. Synergy’s featured web-based software application, the eConservation Management System is a planning, tracking and reporting tool for conservation and energy efficiency programs. The employees at Synergy develop customized state-of-the-art tools that help entities manage conservation programs. As a forward-thinking small business owner who wants to help guide our way into a more efficient economy, Christine is building on nearly 20 years of experience in the energy sector to deliver topnotch systems for managing energy conservation.
Jarek Steele is the co-owner of Left Bank Books--a full-line, independently-owned bookstore in St. Louis, MO. They have two locations in the city.
Left Bank hosts hundreds of author events a year, and donates a percent of sales to numerous local organizations. In 2011, they formed the Left Bank Books Foundation, a nonprofit organization through which they operate the River City Readers program, a project that puts new books in the hands of St. Louis Public School children to keep for themselves and arranges events with the authors of those books.
Steele is an active proponent of main street fairness issues and shop local initiatives. Steel is married to his business partner Kris Kleindienst, and they have two sons together. They joined Small Business Majority's Small Business Council in 2013.
In 2008, Jonathan Tobias started Michigan Green Cabs, a fuel-efficient taxi service in Wixom, Michigan. In the early days, Michigan Green Cabs operated just two cars. Now, the business has a fully hybrid fleet of 21 cars achieving an average of 51 miles per gallon and Jonathan never stops making the company more efficient. He has arranged for online booking, installed global vehicle positioning software and more.
As the owner of two businesses, Zimmerman & Co CPAs and Zimcom Internet Solutions, a regional provider of Internet and hosting solutions, Anne Zimmerman has a lot invested in her community. She has served as president of her chamber of commerce, is the team leader of an effort to bring financial literacy to students in her community and her firm donates its services to a number of non-profit organizations. Anne works as CFO for her client businesses, has won a number of prestigious awards and understands the intricacies of small businesses across the country.