During National Small Business Week, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) recognizes the staying power of America’s small businesses to create 21st century jobs, drive innovation, and increase America’s global competitiveness.

But it’s not easy. According to the SBA, approximately half of all businesses fail by their fifth year.

We interviewed Interise alumni business owners chosen by the SBA as 2019 Small Business Person of the Year to get insights on how their company avoided becoming part of this statistic.

  1. Develop a culture of continuous learning.  
    Stay sharp and always look for an opportunity to learn.

“It’s very inspiring to find how generous successful business owners can be with each other in sharing their discoveries, business processes, and administrative systems that have helped them with long-term staying power.” – Emilie Gonzales, CEO of g2i Construction, 2019 New Mexico Small Business Person of the Year.

“At each stage in your company’s growth, discover exactly how much you have to learn to remain an effective company operator. This requires you to step outside your comfort zone.” – Ross Black, Simple Storage Containers, 2019 Washington Small Business Person of the Year.

Bonus Streetwise MBA Instructor Advice: “Working with other businesses can help solve your problems,” says C. Adam Callery, Interise instructor in Chicago and Managing Director of Sagesse Lumiere Chicago. “A cross-functional advisory group will give you the knowledge and confidence you need to take on new challenges.”

  1. Set goals in your company and measure progress.
    Have a clear vision for the future of your business.

“Our goal is to disrupt the franchise industry by making franchises affordable, especially for women, young people, and minorities – and dramatically increase success rates for franchises.” – Elena Ledoux, Superb Maids, 2019 Las Vegas Small Business Person of the Year

“While a company needs to evolve and change in response to market conditions, too often, companies trade in the quantities that have made them successful to become something else. Remain disciplined and focused on the core of your business; resist urge to chase every perceived opportunity. ” – Rick Schmidt, Tipping Point Solutions, 2019 Denver Small Business Person of the Year

Bonus Streetwise MBA Instructor Advice: “Workers have to know that the firm has a purpose, and intends on achieving success,” says Mary Marshall, Interise instructor in Seattle and Amazon best-selling author of The Great Culture [Dis]Connect. “Create a plan for the future of the business, with reasonable goals. Check on your goals every quarter to see how it’s going, and adjust where it’s off.”

  1. Focus on employees and how your company can help them grow.
    Invest in the people who will help your business grow.

“I think it is incredibly important to identify the strengths of an employee, and encourage those strengths in them. Don’t try to make a round peg fit in a square hole. When the job scope of work feels natural to an employee, they will naturally excel in that work.” – Emile Gonzales, g2i Construction

“We believe it’s our job to help each staff member reach their goals, empower them to be in control of their success, and make sure they believe in the culture of our company. We respect our staff, support them, but also challenge them to create a better tomorrow.’ – Troy Derhem, Derheim Inc., 2019 Minnesota Small Business Person of the Year

Bonus Streetwise MBA Instructor Advice:“Understand your unique calling and gifts as a leader, and practice leveraging them until you are utilizing them 75-80% of your workday. Meanwhile,” says Marty Shea, Interise instructor in Los Angeles, and Founder & Principal of K2 Business Coaching. “Build your team by selecting qualified leaders to assist you. Give your leaders responsibility and authority.”


As we celebrate Small Business Week, we want to thank Interise business owners and instructors who shared insights on what fuels the staying power of established small businesses. And congratulations to all Interise business owners recognized during Small Business Week, with top honors, as 2019 Small Business Person of the Year!

Interise business owners chosen by the SBA as 2019 Small Business Person of the Year:

  • April Broderick, A&A Fire and Safety Company, Arkansas
  • Jeff Perry, All Industrial Tool Supply, California
  • Rick Schmidt, Tipping Point Solutions, Colorado
  • Christine Latinen, Maud Borup, Minnesota
  • Cornelius Griggs, GMA Construction, Illinois
  • Swati Elavia, Monsoon Kitchens, Massachusetts
  • Elena Ledoux, Superb Maids, Nevada
  • Kristen Bailey, Sweets & Meats BBQ, Ohio
  • Ross Black, getSimpleBox, Washington
  • Michael Mills, Mills Group, West Virginia