Small businesses honored for the courage to think big

Four of six state award recipients are from Bedford or Bloomington

By Michael Schroeder, Herald-Times Staff Writer

June 7, 2004

Gwendolyn Jones of Sheer Elegance is one of the small business owners who will be honored by the Small Business Association of Indiana at a luncheon today.
Staff photo by Monty Howell.

As a child, the notion of owning a small business never crossd Gwen Jones' mind.

"For me, growing up as a young African-American, being a business owner was not part of the conversation," said Jones, the 46-year-old founder and owner of Sheer Elegance Draperies, Blinds, and More! in Bloomington.

Today, with her husband, Kenneth, and a family friend, Joanne Lovrinic, by her side, she will accept a Minority Small Business Advocate award from the Small Business Administration of Indiana. Including hers, an unprecedented four of six total awards this year will go to businesses and business owners in Bloomington and Bedford.

Jones was also a founder and first president of the Bloomington Black Business Association beginning in 2003 — which has served in a mentoring and support role and became a marketing arm for African-American business owners.

In 1998, as a member of the Bloomington Human Rights Commission, Jones also kickstarted the Bloomington Study Circles Project, which along with other community organizations, engaged nearly 400 community members in discussions on race relations in the winter of 1999.

Success in and out of business has much to do with a healthy support system, Jones said. A premium slice of that strong local small business network will be showcased at the 11:30 a.m. awards luncheon in Carmel today.

"It does show what a strong business community we have here," Victoria Temple said of the high percentage of local award recipients. The owner and president of Bloomington Hardware Co. Inc. will accept the inaugural Family-Owned Small Business of the Year award.

As the owner, Temple works about 60-75 hours a week, according to her own estimations. In 1991, she took full ownership of the company, which now employs 32 people, including about a dozen full-time workers. During the most recent fiscal year, it recorded $2 million in sales.

Temple said having a substantial full-time staff (instead of putting the workload more squarely on part-timers) is something her company makes a priority. This, she says, helps put the focus on families — providing medical benefits and paid vacation — and helps increase employee longevity.

Other winners include twins Andy and Chad Baker, who won the 2004 SBA Young Entrepreneur Award, typically given to small business owners under the age of 30.

The Bakers operate Indoor Signs LLC in Bloomington, which manufactures and distributes products aimed predominately at the restaurant and bar industries. The company has a wide-ranging customer base in almost every state, as well as in El Salvador, Ireland, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Russia.

Priya Wharton, owner of Tri Star Engineering in Bedford, will receive the award for Small Business Person of the Year.
Under Wharton's leadership, Tri Star's revenues reached $12.7 million in 2003.

SBA awards

Among the awards to be presented today by the Small Business Administration of Indiana:
Minority Small Business Advocate — Gwen Jones, Sheer Elegance Draperies, Blinds, and More! in Bloomington
Family-Owned Small Business of the Year — Victoria Temple, Bloomington Hardware
Young Entrepreneur Award — Andy and Chad Baker, Indoor Signs LLC in Bloomington
Small Business Person of the Year — Priya Wharton, Tri Star Engineering in Bedford

Reporter Michael Schroeder can be reached at 331-4371 or at