Our small business network 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, Zachary Davis, Lisa Goodbee, Jamal Lee, Ron Nelsen, Liz Parker, Mike Roach, Walt Rowen, Christine Chin Ryan, Jonathan Tobias, Arnulfo Gomez Ventura, Ken Weinstein, Chris Yura 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.
Zachary Davis is the co-owner of The Penny Ice Creamery in Santa Cruz, CA. The Penny Ice Creamery is an ice cream manufacturing and retail business dedicated to the use of organic, locally sourced and seasonal ingredients to produce ice cream in a sustainable manner.
The Penny opened in August of 2010 and was immediately embraced by the Santa Cruz community. The restaurant group now includes a presence at four area farmers markets, a catering division and an ice cream kiosk in downtown Santa Cruz. A fourth location is scheduled to open in fall 2013 in the neighboring city of Capitola. Zachary serves on the Santa Cruz Downtown Commission, 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.
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.
In 1981, Liz and her husband Steve opened the doors to Orange, California’s freshest rib joint and catering service—Tulsa Rib Company. Having been in business for over 30 years now, the restaurant is a go-to spot for locals and tourists alike who are in need of a rib fix. They also cater Disneyland events frequently: Liz and her employees have served crowds numbering greater than 8,000. To keep up with constant demand, the business has grown since 1981 to include 15 full time employees.
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 nine workers and sells a wide variety of women's apparel. To date, it has served approximately 24,000 customers. In addition to co-owing 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.
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.
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.
Arnulfo Ventura is a leading entrepreneur and innovator in the beverage industry. While pursuing his MBA at Stanford, Arnulfo pioneered the first line of ready-to-drink, all-natural aguas frescas. Today he serves as CEO of Cobá, a line of organic beverages that won top awards at the country’s largest organic food show in 2011. Arnulfo lost his grandfather to diabetes and grew up with a health conscious perspective to Mexican cuisine. In avoiding artificial ingredients and through the use of organic agave, Arnulfo is raising awareness around the diabetes epidemic plaguing the Latino community. Cobá can now be found in thousands of retailers, including Whole Foods Markets.
Since 1999, Ken Weinstein has owned Trolley Car Diner, an iconic business with two locations in Philadelphia. Between both locations, this restaurateur employs 100 workers. Ken makes every effort to buy local food and keep the diner energy-efficient: their newest location features electric heating, solar light and solar water heating, rain barrels for watering plants, and an innovative steam cooking method that helps minimize company’s use of energy.
Chris Yura is the founder of SustainU Clothing, a Morgantown, WV-based apparel and manufacturing company predicated on social, economic and environmental sustainability. SustainU manufactures apparel from 100% recycled materials in the U.S. Investing in partnered knitting and cut and sew facilities in the southern part of the country, SustainU has built a radius of production to support job growth while decreasing the time frame for product output. As CEO of SustainU, Chris is responsible for leading the company and overseeing all aspects of its business development. Chris has been a featured speaker at the Clinton School of Public Service, TEDx Asheville and Yale University, among others. He’s frequented the White House to participate in forums regarding young entrepreneurs and American job growth and met with President Obama and Vice President Biden to discuss small business.
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.