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May 07

SBA Announces 2018 Iowa Small Business Champion Award Winners

DES MOINES – In recognition of the small business community’s contributions to the American economy and society, the President of the United States designates one week each year as National Small Business Week to honor the more than 26 million small businesses in America.

Since its establishment in 1963, the highlight of this annual tradition is the presentation of awards which focus on the outstanding contributions of small business persons and champions at the district, state and national levels. The U.S. Small Business Administration has announced the following winners of its 2018 Iowa Small Business Champion of the Year awards.

Iowa SBA Women in Business Champion of the Year – Lori Day, President – FocusFirst – Windsor Heights, IA

Lori Day started FocusFirst in 2002 to provide coaching, consulting and training solutions for executives, leaders, and entrepreneurs at both the organizational and individual level. In addition to being a successful entrepreneur, Day has been a dedicated advocate for other woman-owned businesses throughout the state. She is active in several organizations that support women business owners and provide mentoring to women entrepreneurs. For the last five years, Day has been the co-president of the Iowa Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO). She was instrumental in expanding NAWBO in Iowa from a focus on just central Iowa to more of a state wide focus through the creation of several satellite chapters in the state. She also helped launch NAWBO Iowa’s “Celebration of Excellence” awards to recognize the achievements of women-owned businesses and their advocates in Iowa. In 2011 she was named the Iowa NAWBO Business Owner of the Year.

In addition to her service through NAWBO Iowa, Day has been a champion for women in business through her work with other organizations that support entrepreneurship in Iowa, including: the Rotary Club of Des Moines AM, the Greater Des Moines Partnership, EntreFest, SCORE, and the Immigrant Entrepreneur Summit, among others. Day was nominated by FocusFirst.

Iowa SBA Veterans Small Business Champion of the Year – Mike Olson, Vice President – Lincoln Savings Bank – Grinnell, IA

Mike Olson has been in the banking industry for over 25 years serving in several roles at various banks, from teller to market president. As a vice president at Lincoln Saving Bank in Grinnell, Olson works on the commercial lending side with a focus on small businesses. Through his professional and personal interests, Olson has made a specific commitment to working with veterans and military families as they start, grow and build their small businesses.

Olson has volunteered his time to conduct several training modules throughout Iowa for the SBA’s Boots to Business: Reboot entrepreneurship program for veterans, their spouses and other members of the military community. Olson not only volunteers his financial expertise to this program, but his military experience as well. As a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard, Olsen is familiar with the structure of service and the challenges that many individuals and their families face when returning from service. His ability to make those connections as military personnel and their family’s transition and consider small business ownership makes him an excellent champion for veteran business owners in Iowa. Olson was nominated by Darcella Craven, President of the Veterans Business Resource Center in St. Louis, MO (the Veterans Business Outreach Center that serves Iowa).

Iowa SBA Minority Small Business Champion of the Year – Denita Gadson, Owner – 4C’s Consulting and iGus Marketing – Waterloo, IA

As a small business owner, Denita Gadson knows what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. Marketing and communication are key elements for any business, and Gadson, with her Master’s degree in Journalism from Iowa State University and her PhD in Mass Communication/Media Studies from the University of Iowa, has taken what she’s learned in the classroom and used it to achieve real-world results for herself and her customers. As the owner of Waterloo-based 4C’s Consulting (communication, connection, catalyst, change) Gadson assists other entrepreneurs in building and growing their own businesses. Gadson also owns iGus Marketing, an indoor digital billboard company.

As a small business champion, Gadson shares her time and talents to improve the climate for small businesses in Waterloo and across Iowa, especially for minority-owned small businesses. Over the years Gadson has participated in a number of initiatives to benefit minorities and minority entrepreneurs in Iowa, including the Iowa Black Business Summit, the African-American Professionals Network, EntreFest, 1 Million Cups Cedar Valley and the Minority Health Initiative Partnership with the University of Iowa Clinics. She was also a former program manager for Iowans for Social and Economic Development (now the Iowa Center for Economic Success) where she was a strong advocate for women and minority owned businesses. Currently, Gadson serves on the board of directors for the Waterloo Neighborhood Economic Development Corporation, Main Street Waterloo – Economic Vitality Council, and Renew Waterloo. Gadson was nominated by Terrance Thames, owner of the Cocoa Creative Agency in Des Moines.

“I can’t think of three better people for SBA to honor as outstanding advocates of small business,” said Jayne Armstrong, district director of SBA’s Iowa District Office. “Iowa small businesses are lucky to have Denita Gadson, Lori Day and Mike Olson in their corner fighting the good fight on their behalf.”

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