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SBA honors role models in the world of small business
Each year, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) celebrates National Small Business Week. As part of the annual celebration, the Baltimore District Office spotlights area success stories by recognizing entrepreneurs and those who help them prosper. The selection criteria includes staying power, growth in employees, sales and financial position, innovative products or services, response to adversity and contributions to community projects. Here's the Business Journal's look at this year's Baltimore-area award winners.
* Small Business Person of the Year
Winner: Richard O. Huffman III, Enchanted Child Care Learning Centers / Towson
Runner-Up: William Glazer, Gage World Class Menswear / Baltimore
Some might call Richard O. Huffman III a natural. He's one of those people who cannot seem to take a wrong step when he treads the entrepreneurial path. Luck? Skill? The man himself prefers to think of it as a blessing.
"I have made a commitment to God, and I think this is what he wants me to do. There is no other reason I can think of to explain why we have been so blessed in being able to achieve what we have achieved," said Huffman, owner of Enchanted Childcare Learning Centers and the SBA's Small Business Person of the Year.
Huffman wrapped his hands around the business world early on. He bought a bakery delivery service fresh out of high school, grew it from 30 to 70 accounts and sold it for 400 times its purchase price. He grew a tanning and nail salon from zero to 520 steady clients in five years and sold it for a profit. He also oversees 13 rental properties through his property management business, ROH Management.
All that success was not quite enough, however. "Richard will acknowledge that success is great and money is nice, but he is also the type of person who felt something was missing" explained Stan Karwacki, a business development specialist with the SBA in Baltimore. "He wanted to make a positive impact on his community."
So it was that Huffman opened his-first childcare center in Ellicott City in 1994, following the example of his father and mother, Richard and Betty, who have successfully operated their White Marsh Childcare Center since 1984.
Today the 32-year-old Huffman runs seven daycare centers, where his 190-person staff cares for more than 700 children. He said he plans to open four more centers this year.
The SBA singled out Huffman last year as its Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Karwacki said Huffman has earned these repeated accolades not just for his entrepreneurial success, but also for his exemplary citizenship.
Huffman has helped the Seven Courts Community Association build a new playground. In celebration of his center's one-year anniversary in Harford County he presented the community with a thank-you carnival. He is involved with a number of health care charities and sponsors Boy and Girl Scout troops.
"His commitment to the community and to children does not remain within the walls of his centers," Karwacki said.
In building his daycare business, Huffman has worked aggressively to understand and anticipate the needs of area parents. His were among the first facilities to install security doors and close-circuit TV surveillance cameras. He offers extended morning and evening hours and will even drive kids back and forth from school.
He isn't one to sing his own praises, however. Beyond acknowledging the influence of his guiding Deity, Huffman shrugged off most questions about his business goals and strategies. He said he has succeeded by trying to put centers where they are needed most, by giving parents what they want and by surrounding himself with top-notch help.
* Accountant Advocate of the Year
Winner: Thomas K. Bowman, Bowman & Co. / Columbia
Runner-Up: B. Jennine Anderson, Peacock, Condron, Anderson & Co. / Columbia
Thomas K. Bowman, a CPA and principal of Bowman and Co., knows about starting a small business. More than 13 years ago, he abandoned a comfortable position with a large accounting company to begin his eight-person firm. With no clients or formal advertising, Bowman grew his company from zero into one that enjoys about $500,000 per year in revenue.
But Bowman wasn't content to merely create his own successful firm. Through volunteer work with the Howard County Chamber of Commerce, he has helped many struggling business owners regain their confidence and security. By serving as a mentor and counsel for others in the chamber, Bowman has a hand in the growth and success of other companies, often acting as a resource for …