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Small Business Person of the Year

Christine McDannell

Cleanology Inc.

Christine McDannell, president and founder of Cleanology Inc., had known for years that she wanted to be a business owner. In 2003, at the age of 23, McDannell started her business, after five years working in property management and as a Realtor. She saw a need for a truly unique cleaning company that not only cares about making homes look good, but also making them healthy by properly sanitizing and disinfecting all surfaces and that demonstrates professionalism in the industry.

McDannell started out with a few pieces of equipment charged to a credit card and two employees who trained her how to clean. In just five years she has grown Cleanology into the largest cleaning company in downtown San Diego, with six crews, 15 employees and nearly a half million dollars in sales in a highly competitive market.

Cleanology is a "green" company using nontoxic supplies and equipment, creating a nontoxic environment for both clients and employees. The company also recycles everything possible, use micro-fiber towels instead of paper towels for dusting, mirrors and windows. It uses a shuttle van to transport their Cleanologists around downtown.

Cleanology is active in industry-related organizations whose goals are similar to theirs, such as ISSA (International Sanitary Supply Association) and ARCSI (Association of Residential Cleaning Services International), and is a member of the San Diego Better Business Bureau. In addition, McDannell is a member of the Cleaning for a Reason Foundation, so Cleanology cleans homes for cancer patients at no charge each month.

McDannell has worked hard to build her business, using passionate determination, an optimistic attitude and a willingness to learn to create a bright future for herself and her employees. She is a true entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurial Success Award

Hany Girgis


CEO Hany Girgis founded SGIS from his garage in June 2002, and successfully built a company that helps drive unprecedented advances on land, at sea and in space -- from ensuring the security of top-secret, government information and developing applications for the Intelligence and Defense communities to training some of our nation's top government officials. SGIS currently has more than 850 employees and 14 offices nationwide, with corporate headquarters located in San Diego.

Girgis forecasted an upsurge in defense, intelligence and homeland security spending after the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001. Organizations and federal agencies required more services to keep up with the war on terrorism and government budgets increased, providing an opportunity for a new, fresh company eager to participate in the fight to defend our nation. In turn, he turned the direction of the business to government contracting.

When Girgis began SGIS, he knew the company would compete with large, well-established competitors. He identified the opportunity to compete as a small business. SGIS soon became an 8(a) certified, Small Disadvantaged Business, which provided many business opportunities. This gave SGIS numerous chances to bid on a variety of government contracting opportunities and also enabled the company to increase and enhance its presence within the market. Due to the tremendous efforts of Girgis and his team, SGIS has transitioned from a small startup to a multimillion-dollar company poised to compete with other medium and large-sized defense contractors.

Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Swarna J. Srinivas


Twenty-six-year old Swarna Srinivas, president of KESDEE Inc., is a Harvard graduate. Her first-hand experience of the impact of technology on education as a Harvard student and fascination with forces of globalization have been instrumental in propelling KESDEE, a high-tech financial eLearning company, toward a high growth rate of 50 percent annually over the past three years.

KESDEE provides innovative and interactive eLearning solutions to global finance professionals. It's off-the-shelf eLearning solutions consist of 700 accredited courses (on key financial topics) spanning about 2,100 hours of eLearning. Global from day one, it is incorporated in California, headquartered in San Diego, has a state-of-the-art development centre in Bangalore, India, a hosting site in Santa Clara, Calif., and a Spanish and regionalization center in Mexico. KESDEE's clientele, among others, notably comprise the Federal Reserve Board, CitiGroup, Standard Chartered Bank, JP Morgan Chase, SunGard, Indian Bank, Maybank, and BearingPoint.

Small Business Exporter of the Year

Ken Kuang

Torrey Hills Technologies LLC

After a successful career as senior process manager at Kyocera America Inc., Ken Kuang followed his entrepreneurial dream and started his own company in 2004. Now president and founder of Torrey Hills Technologies LLC, Kuang has grown his business to be a competitive cost leader in the supply of quality microelectronics packaging components, such as copper tungsten heat sinks, to major U.S. and international manufactureres. Not satisfied with the limitation of a single and highly specialized market, Kuang also started the sale of large-scale furnace equipment for both electronics and the booming solar energy industry.

The mission Kuang set for his company is to help a fast-growing number of customers achieve higher profitability by the provision of innovative products and services. The company is now shipping worldwide to more than 30 countries.

Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year

Judith L. Seid

Blue Summit Financial Group Inc.

In 1994, founder Judith Seid launched her business as Seid Financial after training with Jack Brill, a leading innovator in the socially responsible investment industry. In the early years, Seid relied solely on referrals to grow the business. She gained a reputation for offering a holistic approach to financial and life-planning and excellent customer service. In 2005, Seid changed the business name to Blue Summit Financial Group Inc. to better reflect its addition of junior advisers, staff and client services.

Blue Summit is the leading firm offering socially responsible investing in San Diego. A full-service investing and financial planning group, it offers traditional wealth management services, as well as values-based, sustainable investment portfolios. Its mission is to "provide peace of mind through disciplined financial planning and socially responsible investment management." Blue Summit's clients enjoy clarity and confidence knowing they have a sound financial strategy and an experienced team working to ensure their life goals are being met while helping to create a better world.

Minority-Owned Small Business of the Year

Gale L. Walker

Children of the Rainbow Inc.

Children of the Rainbow is a creativity-based, state-of-the-art early care and education company founded in 1991 by Gale Walker. She created Children of the Rainbow to address the chronic need in her community for affordable early care and education while providing a safe and enriching environment. Her facilities are especially unique because they are located in San Diego's oldest, most culturally diverse and economically disadvantaged areas throughout San Diego (Logan Heights, Stockton and Grant Hill neighborhoods). Walker and Children of the Rainbow have received numerous awards for excellence during the past decade for business and community service in these areas.

Today, Children of the Rainbow serves 1,400 children across 13 sites. Two sites are programs with the Department of Education, while 11 sites are Head Start programs.

Walker is committed to creating opportunities for success and to sharing with others the lessons she's learned about hope, optimism and hard work. In addition to running her business, she has recently mobilized her community and formed the Bronze Triangle Community Development Corp., capturing the attention and imagination of San Diego's building and development industry and bringing in developers, builders and funders to work with residents to restore and link the Bronze Triangle to San Diego's bright shining future.

Veteran-Owned Small Business of the Year

Michael Patton

Pothos Inc.

Michael Patton, president and CEO, started Pothos Inc., a full-service, strategic meeting management, incentive and corporate travel company, in 2002. Patton is a U.S. Navy veteran who was twice decorated with earned achievements: Military Order of World Wars and Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist. Patton is also a more than 25-year veteran of hospitality and travel services and has a CMM (Certification in Meeting Management), which places him in the top 1,000 meeting and travel professionals in the world. Patton has selected a small, very experienced team that feels as passionately as he does about providing exceptional service to their customers. Combined, the team speaks seven languages and has been to 42 countries, on six continents.

Headquartered in San Diego, Pothos provides an extraordinary level of service. By using cutting-edge technology and resources, it competes with much larger companies. Over the years, Pothos has experienced constant growth and has been able to stablize and consolidate its position in a very competitive market. The company has done this by establishing a strong network of strategic affiliations throughout the United States and many countries across the globe. These relationships allow Pothos to manage and operate corporate events, travel and logistics worldwide.

Customers range from state and federal government agencies to exclusive VIP clients and corporate businesses including SciQuest Inc., Scientific Games, Oracle, Department of Veterans Affairs and California Motorcycle Safety Program, to name a few.

Family-Owned Small Business of the Year

Eric and Joseph Barajas

NEI Contracting & Engineering Inc.

Joseph Barajas started Nova Electric Inc. (now NEI Contracting & Engineering Inc.) in 1992, as an electrical contracting company primarily providing services to government entities on prime bonded electrical construction work. In 1993, his son Eric joined him, initially serving as the company's secretary/vice president and chief estimator. When Joseph retired in 2004, Eric took over full ownership and management of the business.

Under Eric's management, Nova Electric was approved as an SBA 8(a) contractor. To accommodate operational growth, the company took steps to expand to other fields of construction -- particularly building repairs and improvements. As a result of this expansion, Eric changed the company's name to NEI Contracting and Engineering Inc.

During the past several years, NEI has been granted and has completed projects for the Department of the Navy and the Department of the Army, and is currently working on projects for the Department of the Airforce, the Coast Guard and Department of the Navy Camp Pendleton. Additionally, NEI has grown from 10 employees in 2004 to 30 permanent employees, with supplemental temporary workers on an as-needed basis.

The company has reaped unprecedented success since its establishment as a result of father and son working together to create a firm foundation for the growth of the business.

Financial Services Small Business Champion of the Year

Steven C. Leibold

San Diego Business Advisors

Steven Leibold is president of San Diego Business Advisors, a full-service bookkeeping and tax service that provides individuals and small business owners with the necessary tax guidance and expertise to help them best navigate complex tax laws and accounting rules. He is an active member of the National Association of Enrolled Agents, the California Society of Enrolled Agents, the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers, and the National Society of Accountants.

Organizations such as SCORE, the Small Business Development Centers, the Women's Business Center and more rely on Leibold's contacts, expertise and advocacy to assist their clients. Recently, he and his professional colleagues developed the content for a SCORE workshop that offers insightful business tips to deal with these rough financial times. He also conducts workshops through the educational outreach programs offered by the IRS. Leibold has shown his commitment to small and emerging businesses and has proven himself a talented business development expert.

Minority Small Business Champion of the Year

Mark R. Oakes

Transformation Quest

Mark Oakes is the founder and president of Transformation Quest, which specializes in T.I.M.E. management: Target, Implement, Monitor and Enjoy life, offering expert programming and training in group, Web class, and one-on-one coaching to help business owners get more time for life away from business by helping them "replace themselves with a system."

Oakes is also a core business consultant for Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) in Chula Vista and Oceanside. He has assisted and advised more than 1,000 small to medium-sized businesses with everything from startup to heavy production overload resolution, through 1-on-1 and small group business counseling. He follows up to ensure clients follow through with their plans, and teaches regular monthly accounting and QuickBooks workshops to SBDC clients.

Additionally, Oakes acts as a farm and business adviser for agricultural and rural-based businesses. He assists ACCION San Diego small and minority businesses create and maintain a budget to aid in the repayment of their micro loans and succeed in their business ventures. During the past several years he has volunteered and served as a committee member and board member of several local agricultural organizations.

Oakes demonstrates a commitment to improving the lives of business owners through his own business, as well as his work with the SBDCs and other community and business organizations.

Veteran Small Business Champion of the Year

Corrina B. Brennan

Family Member Employment Assistance Program, Marine & Family Services Camp Pendleton

Corrina Brennan is responsible for promoting and coordinating the efforts that provide assistance to military personnel on Camp Pendleton. She is passionate about bringing community resources on base that offer employment and business opportunities to veterans and active duty personnel. Brennan coordinates job and resource fairs at least twice a year and works with Small Business Development Center consultants to provide monthly training seminars on a wide range of business topics to veterans and active duty personnel.

Additionally, Brennan has been involved in many programs geared toward assisting the Marine Corps military spouse and the service member through leadership and training development. She has acted as a military spouse mentor, key volunteer and military service member sponsor. She advocates for such programs as the Exceptional Family Member Program, which provides military families who have special needs children with information, resources and referrals to organizations that can best meet their needs. Brennan also has been the facilitator of a federal grant offered to military spouses to increase their career development with the objective to become gainfully employed. Brennan is dedicated to enriching the quality of life and smoothing the transition of military service members and their families as they embark on employment in the civilian sector.

Small Business Journalist of the Year

Ditas D. Yamane

National City Times, FilipinoTimes and D.R. Marketing & Promotions

Ditas Yamane, president of D.R. Marketing and Promotions and pulisher of National City Times and Filipino Times utilizes her editorial skills to inform and support her commitment to the National City and the Filipino communities she represents. Couple this with her community service and volunteerism, and you will find a woman recognized as a community leader, entrepreneur, advocate and promoter.

In addition to running her business and duties as a publisher of two local newspapers, Yamane is a member of the National City Chamber of Commerce (NC-CoC) Economic Development Committee. She provided leadership in the chamber's search for a new executive director and filled in as a volunteer CEO for the NC-CoC for most of 2008 during the search.

She also performed duties as secretary for the Morgan Square Business Improvement District, a historical preservation and economic development project. She founded the Filipino-American Chamber of Commerce and has hosted the president of the Philippines on multiple occasions, encouraging trade and investment in our economy. Furthermore, Yamane was instrumental in the founding of San Diego's newest community bank, Vibra Bank, established in Chula Vista in summer 2008. Yamane has shown her commitment to small and emerging businesses and has proven herself a talented business development expert.

SBA Community Service Award

ACCION San Diego

This award recognizes ACCION San Diego for exemplary service and extraordinary assistance as a micro-lender, instrumental in the growth and success of San Diego small business and economic development.

George Chandler Leadership Award

This award recognizes an individual or organization for leadership and commitment to excellence in small business development and success. This year's award goes to:

CDC Small Business Finance

SBA Small Business Lenders of the Year

SBA Lenders achieve outstanding results year after year. These two SBA lenders are recognized by the San Diego district office for producing the most 504 and 7a loans last year. These lenders were most effective in lending to small businesses, not only locally, but nationwide. They also excelled in loans to women and minority businesses. They are role models among SBA lenders. SBA's loan programs help businesses that cannot obtain needed financing through conventional means.

Kurt Chilcott

President & CEO

CDC Small Business Finance Corp.

Under Kurt Chilcott's leadership, CDC Small Business Finance has led the nation in SBA-504 lending for more than a decade, providing access to capital through distinctive and innovative products and services. CDC has been recognized with the SBA's National Lender of Excellence award three times. In fiscal year 2008, CDC made 639 SBA-504 loans for more than $1.2 billion. In San Diego, CDC provided $221 million in total project financing.

Chilcott's leadership has resulted in the growth of hundreds of diverse small businesses, much to the community's benefit. Chilcott has long advocated investing in other organizations and programs. In 2008, CDC invested $500,000 in a nonprofit, venture capital fund development organization managed by Pacific Community Ventures.

Chilcott is not only head of the nation's leading CDC, but a recognized economic development leader nationally. He has developed and managed numerous new economic development initiatives at the state and local levels for more than 26 years. His expertise ranges from regional planning to technology-based economic development to small business finance.

SBA Division

U.S. Bank

Through its San Diego-based SBA Division, U.S. Bank was once again San Diego's No. 1 SBA lender in 2008, as well as one of America's top SBA lenders.

SBA Division is headquartered in the Scripps Ranch Community and employs approximately 175 SBA loan experts, mostly loan processors, underwriters and loan service specialists.

In SBA fiscal 2008, U.S. Bank provided a record 3,955 long-term SBA loans to small businesses nationwide, according to SBA information. In San Diego and Imperial counties, U.S. Bank provided 90 SBA loans totaling $11.4 million.

Nationally, U.S. Bank operates 25 specially designated SBA Business Centers, spanning an area stretching from Pennsylvania to Washington state and from San Diego to Tennessee.

"U.S. Bank is committed to providing products and services designed to help our small business customers be successful, and our SBA Division focuses daily on providing exactly the right SBA product small businesses need," said Erik Daniels, president of U.S. Bank's SBA Division.

2009 National SCORE Chapter of the Year

San Diego SCORE Chapter 140

The San Diego chapter received SCORE's National Chapter of the Year award for its exceptional service growth, public outreach and excellent client satisfaction in 2008. Nationwide, SCORE chapters serve as SBA resource partners and provide expert advice and valuable resources for entrepreneurs to start and grow their own small businesses.

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