Message from the President | May 2019

President/CEO A.J. Baynes
President/CEO A.J. Baynes

It’s National Small Business Week, a more than 50-year tradition of recognizing the entrepreneurs and small businesses in America for their large contribution to our economy. It’s our small businesses that employ more than half of the workforce in this country, and they are responsible for generating the most work, creating two out of every three new jobs in the U.S.

That kind of impact is vital and worth the special attention. Every year, the Chamber chooses this month to highlight standout small businesses in our community at our Small Business Awards Luncheon and Showcase to be held on May 17th.  While it is never easy whittling down the list of honorees, we feel we have come up with another group of top-notch small businesses that are the pride of our community.

It didn’t take long to settle on Oxford Pennant as the Small Business of the Year. The Buffalo store that designs and makes wool felt pennants, flags and banners is a young company with fewer than 10 workers, but it put Buffalo in the national spotlight with its clever idea to raffle off a free trip to the Queen City during the winter. The idea took off and was featured by media outlets all over the country. Persistence and hard work also landed Oxford Pennant a major contract with clothing giant J.Crew to make t-shirts with its unique designs. In this ever-changing global economy, it shows how successful a small business can be when it thinks big.

We are grateful to our event sponsor, KeyBank, that chose The Bflo Store as its award winner this year. With four locations, this small business is the largest Buffalo-themed gift retailer in WNY! Whether it is home and office décor, jewelry, apparel or gifts, all its products exude Buffalo love. The business mission is to build pride in our great city and the Chamber agrees that is worth celebrating.

Our Woman-Owned Business Enterprise Award goes to Lisa Coppola, founder of The Coppola Firm, a law office that focuses on employment law, business and entrepreneurship. Lisa has developed a keen business sense throughout her more than 25-year law career. She understands what her clients need because she has started several of her own businesses, including The English Gardener, a garden design and construction company created out of her love of gardening.

Our New Small Business Award goes to Fresh Catch Poke Co., an Amherst restaurant that opened last year featuring the Hawaiian delicacy of raw fish. The Chamber added this new award category to recognize small businesses that have showed great promise right out of the gate. Fresh Catch Poke Co., founded by Mike Tobin stood out from the crowd with its creative branding and marketing, unique, tasty fare and its commitment to use only sustainable, eco-friendly fish partners.

The Chamber has so many wonderful supporters, but this year’s Friend of the Chamber Award winner has gone above and beyond year after year to make The Event, our October celebration of business excellence, a spectacular night. Katherine Lucas and her talented team at Buffalo Video Production have worked tirelessly creating videos of our award winners.  We appreciate all the hard work that goes into each story, beautifully capturing the essence of The Event.

The business receiving the Family-Owned Business Award is a household name in Buffalo, but less known is Chrusciki Bakery’s rise to success. Founders Tadeusz and Hania Robieniek came to America from their native Poland in 1984 with $100 and a dream.  Their hard work at a Buffalo bakery paid off when they were able to take over the business. Since then, Chrusciki Bakery has expanded rapidly with all kinds of delicious baked goods and recently created a second company, Simply Pierogi.

The Chamber had an unprecedented turnout of 400 business people last year for our Luncheon and Showcase, generating a synergy among the small business community replicated nowhere else. If you want to be a part of this celebration of small business, register here for a showcase table or to join us for our Awards Luncheon.

The Chamber remains committed to offering members quality programming as evidenced by the great turnout at our marketing Member Education Series last week. Melanie McGovern from the Better Business Bureau, Jessica Andrews from National Fuel and Neil Carroll from Nickel City Graphics gave great insight on how to boost your business’s online presence.  Our top rate programming continues next month when we bring in Evans Bank President/CEO David Nasca as part of our West Herr Driven to Success series. Register here soon because attendance is limited. Also, the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge, the biggest event in the local business community, is coming up, and the Chamber will again be offering our members a chance to be part of it. Run, walk or just join us at the tent! We have several companies onboard this year, so don’t miss out. More info here.

It’s a new season and the Chamber is diving into all the region has to offer. We hope you’ll come along for the ride, and remember, my door is always open.