The partnership of the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) and the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama (CCAA) has unveiled the 2021 Small Business of the Year Award winners.
Award announcements and presentations were made when finalists assembled at a ceremony held in conjunction with The Partnership’s annual meeting at the Harbert Center in downtown Birmingham.
The Small Business of the Year Awards annually recognize Alabama’s preeminent small businesses and the widespread positive impacts they have on their local communities.
Small businesses make up 99.4 percent of businesses in the state and give back to their locales year-round. Today’s awards ceremony came less than a week after Small Business Saturday was held nationwide.
“Occasions like Small Business Saturday and today’s award ceremony might only come one day each year, but Alabama’s exemplary small businesses act as economic engines and community cornerstones every single day of the year,” said Robin Stone, interim executive director of the Business Council of Alabama. “BCA is proud to recognize and honor some of our state’s best small businesses for the work they do creating good-paying jobs and helping hardworking families thrive.”
Nominations for the 2021 Small Business of the Year Awards were made by local chambers of commerce across the state.
“Small businesses drive job creation, sustain livelihoods, and are the glue that hold communities together in every corner of our state,” said Paige Hutto, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama. “The Partnership is excited to once again highlight the resiliency, excellence, and heart exemplified by small businesses every day. During a uniquely challenging year in 2021, job creators and local chamber members have once again stepped up to support their communities in remarkable ways.”
This year, 45 businesses were chosen as finalists for these prestigious awards. The finalists were reviewed by a panel of out-of-state judges in areas including community involvement, chamber participation, business success, and overall deservedness. There were four award categories with a respective gold, silver and bronze winner in each category: Emerging Small Business for those in business for less than five years; 1-10 Employees; 11-50 Employees; and 51-100 Employees.
Emerging Small Business of the Year: Wheelhouse – Opp
When life-long friends Merrill Culverhouse and Jon Gibson opened a downtown restaurant in their tiny south Alabama hometown of Opp they did more than provide another dining option for citizens.
Since opening in December 2019, Wheelhouse-Opp and the team of Gibson, Culverhouse, and his wife, Susan, have embraced their hometown. They have created a destination restaurant focusing on “coastal comfort cuisine” while becoming firmly entrenched in the civic fabric of their community. Each week the restaurant welcomes the Rotary Club of Opp. Additionally, they provide fundraising opportunities, special events for the community, and donate countless gift cards and meals.
During COVID19, while many longer tenured restaurants and businesses struggled to survive, the Wheelhouse-Opp team were determined to keep their fledgling restaurant afloat and created take out friendly meals which are now featured as “Blue Collar Plate” lunches. Expansion has already come in the form of a food truck that travels throughout Opp and Andalusia with plans to expand further.
Hometown pride and the belief that all things are possible runs deep in the team that created this year’s Emerging Small Business of the Year.
The other businesses recognized in this category were The Shoppes at Coldwater in Tuscumbia, winning the Silver Award, and Frozen Rooster in Leeds, taking home the Bronze Award. The remaining finalists were Acclinate, Birmingham; Backstreet BBQ, Clanton; Galore and Moore, Calera; Farmers Insurance- Philip Hall Agency, Gadsden; Hunters Run Bar and Grill, Monroeville; McClendon Bridals, Sylacauga; Mo’Bay Beignet, Auburn; Tankr, Tuscaloosa; and The Southern Refinery, Prattville.
1-10 Employee Small Business of the Year: TVW Electrical Supplies, Inc. – Decatur
In 1996, Kent Lawrence and his wife, Mamie, purchased TVW Electrical Supplies, a regional distributor of electrical supplies in Morgan County area that supplies lighting products, controls, and power distribution products for a mix of residential, commercial, and industrial customers.
The TVW team excels in customer service and problem solving because they are empowered to succeed. TVW’s investment in nurturing employee’s personal and professional growth far exceeds the norm because of the overall business philosophy and desire for every decision to be a “win-win” for customers and the business. Kent also encourages his employees to be involved in the community.
Whether it is service to the community through the Decatur Planning Commission, Greater Morgan County Homebuilders Association, Decatur-Morgan County Entrepreneurial Center, Kiwanis Club, or Decatur-Morgan County Chamber, or a dozen other organizations, Kent and the TVW team are a part of the solution and always looking for ways to improve their local area.
Kent’s support and encouragement of the community extends to his local chamber, as well. He is known as a strong, vocal supporter of the chamber, encouraging other area small business owners to not only join but to participate as much as possible. He has chaired successful membership and total resource campaigns and motivates through creativity and a desire to have fun while reaching a goal.
Through challenges such as the 2007-2008 financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, TVW has met each head on with an eye towards continued support of their employees and community. With a philosophy of uncompromised integrity, support for community organizations and other small businesses, attention to detail, consistent customer service, unrelenting focus on the market, and a collaborative culture that encourages non-stop learning and the freedom to make mistakes, TVW Electrical Services shines as an example of an Alabama business doing good.
The other businesses recognized in this category were Sawyer Solutions of Pelham, earning the Silver Award, and Ellis Counseling, LLC of Prattville, winning the Bronze Award. The remaining finalists were Bama Pest Control, Mobile; The Blueroot Company, Birmingham; Donahoo Physical Therapy, Sylacauga; Monroe Drugs, Monroeville; Outdoor Addition, Bay Minette; River Rocks Landing, Gadsden; Seed Creative, Tuscaloosa; Stacey’s Style Studio, LLC, Irondale; T. Fox SalonSpa, Hoover; and Tanology, Auburn.
11-50 Employee Small Business of the Year: Vivian Mora State Farm Agency – Hoover
Born out of personal resilience, faith and determination, the Vivian Mora State Farm Agency gives testimony to being open to new opportunity when faced with challenge and adversity. Following the financial crisis of 2007-2008, Vivian and her husband reinvented, adjusted, and diversified their career opportunities.
Vivian had met a State Farm recruiter at a Birmingham Chamber of Commerce six months prior to the collapse of their business. One year later, she contacted the recruiter, and the journey of Vivian Mora Sate Farm Agency began.
Opening her first agency in 2009 in Hoover, Vivian Mora was the first of its kind to have an all-minority staff serving a mostly non-English speaking population. A native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, Vivian prides herself in attracting talent to best serve underserved populations within the community.
In 2020, Vivian opened a second office, located in Irondale, with the same goals for providing State Farm Insurance products and financial services and becoming a pioneer in the New American and Hispanic Insurance Markets in Central Alabama. Vivian Mora is the first State Farm agent in our state with an additional location and able to assist customers in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Arabic.
Not only is Vivian and her team passionate about supporting and providing benefit to their clients, but they are actively involved in the communities they serve. They are donors and sponsors for several local community nonprofits including Girls Inc, Aids Alabama, United Way of Greater Birmingham, Hispanic Coalition of Central Alabama, September 11th with First Responders celebration, and many more. Vivian has also served on numerous boards and committees. The past two years alone, the Vivian Mora State Farm Agency has sponsored almost 50 events throughout the Greater Birmingham area.
Through their commitment to service, the office has achieved State Farm President’s Club in Bank, Health and Life as the Top 50 out of 19,000 agents nationwide.
The other businesses recognized in this category were Singin’ River Brewery Co. of Florence, taking home the Silver Award, and Tug and Barge Solutions of Daphne, earning the Bronze Award. The remaining finalists were Cox Pools Service Inc., Irondale; Hamilton’s on Magnolia, Auburn; Harvey’s on Noble, Sylacauga; Heritage House, Tuscaloosa; Marx Brothers, Inc., Birmingham; Montevallo Family Dentistry/ Dr. Bobby Shunnarah, DMD, Montevallo; Silver Ships, Inc, Theodore; Super Bee Pharmacy, Rainbow City; Trustmark National Bank, Prattville; and Ziebach and Webb Timber Company, Peterman.
51-100 Employee Small Business of the Year: Fras-le North America – Prattville
Fras-le North America joined the Prattville business community with the purchase of its Autauga County facility in 2008. Since then, they have worked continuously to improve the location with respect to machinery, technology, work environment and many more innovative initiatives.
Fras-le also considers the Prattville Chamber part of their journey. From opening through expansion, the chamber has been an active partner during the best moments in the company’s history.
Community support runs deep for Fras-le, as well. Whether it is financial donations or donations of furniture and scholastic supplies to Autaugaville School, partnering with the Prattville YMCA, supporting the athletic boosters program at Prattville High School, or sponsoring the Coach-A-Child Scholarship Fund, Fras-le believes in giving back to the community. Recently, the Fras-le property has even become an e-learning location for the public school system.
Never one to rest on their laurels, Fras-le plans to invest $6 million dollars in new equipment, infrastructure, and enhancements to their Prattville facility over the next three years focusing even more on environmentally friendly operations, bringing new jobs to the community, and improving the overall work conditions for their current and future employees.
The other businesses recognized in this category were Jalapenos of Tuscaloosa, winning the Silver Award, and SPOC Automation of Trussville, taking home the Bronze Award. The remaining finalists were Charles Dixon Industries, Inc., Pelham; Chick-fil-A Eastwood Village, Irondale; Osborn Foodservice, Gadsden; and The Hound, Auburn.