In May, Michigan Celebrates Small Business, a non-profit organization founded in 2004 to commemorate the accomplishments of small companies across the state, will honor five local firms at their annual awards dinner. The firms were chosen through an application, screening, and assessment process of the businesses’ innovation, development, competitive advantage, and business strategy, according to Joshua Marko, special projects coordinator for the Michigan Small Business Development Center and managing partner of MCSB.
“For the small business community, it’s simply a very unique, high-energy, and relevant program,” Marko added.
MCSB’s largest category, 50 Companies to Watch, had around 540 nominations, according to Marko. Only 150 of the 540 selected businesses completed the lengthy application procedure. Five of the 50 firms chosen are based in Ann Arbor.
MCSB’s goal, according to Marko, is to “recognize high-growth Michigan enterprises.” According to him, the majority of the enterprises chosen are in their second stage of development, on their way to becoming a well-established, productive company.
“They’ve passed the early survival stage of beginning a firm and are now experiencing growth and breaking out to become a bigger, stronger organization,” Marko added.
MCSB, according to Marko, selects prize recipients from colleges all around the state.
“It’s extremely unusual,” Marko explained, “because it’s done as a cooperation amongst all of Michigan’s major, statewide small business assistance groups.”
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the Michigan Small Business Development Center, the Michigan Business Network, the Small Business Association of Michigan, the Small Business Administration, and the Edward Lowe Foundation, according to Marko, have all made significant contributions to the awards’ existence.
“Those groups may be considered rivals because they provide comparable services and have similar missions,” Marko explained, “but they’ve truly joined together as partners to build a synergy for assistance in Michigan small business.”
Sherif Farghal, president and CEO of Ann Arbor small business Pyramid Consulting International, attributes a big portion of his company’s recognition as a top 50 Company to Watch in the 2019 Michigan Celebrates Small Business Awards to the financial help he received from state agencies.
“The state of Michigan as a whole provides incredible assistance to small enterprises like ours,” Farghal added.
Farghal was the sole employee when he founded his consulting firm in 2007. Since then, it has grown to approximately 50 staff and two sites. Pyramid Consulting International’s main office is in Ann Arbor, but it also has a branch in Akron, Ohio. Farghal claims that the state of Michigan provides his company with a lot of help.
“I believe Michigan goes above and beyond any other state I’ve worked in when it comes to supporting small companies,” Farghal said.
At the annual awards ceremony, the state government presents all awardee firms with a letter of congratulations from the governor. The advantages of such acknowledgment, according to Marko, go beyond the obvious privileges.
“The day these prizes are given, there is a considerable amount of press,” Marko remarked. “… There’s certainly a lot of attention and buzz surrounding these firms.”
Mike Pedersen, co-founder, and CEO of Ann Arbor digital marketing small business AdAdapted, feels that being named one of MCSB’s 50 Companies to Watch has had a positive impact on his firm.
“Getting featured in that category alongside a lot of really amazing, fast-growing firms has absolutely been wonderful press so far,” Pedersen said. “There are a few people we know very well here in Ann Arbor, so it’s great to be associated with them and acknowledged with that group.”
Both Farghal and Pedersen stated they felt their success was aided by their location in Ann Arbor. Pedersen emphasized the importance of the assistance he got from Ann Arbor SPARK, a local entrepreneurial advising organization. Farghal, who is a graduate of the University of Michigan, mentioned his work with the university’s Economic Growth Institute. Both firm owners stated a desire to hire graduates from universities.
“In the end, when you compare lifestyles and cost of living in Ann Arbor to other cities, Ann Arbor is a terrific community,” Pedersen said. “Ann Arbor strikes the perfect blend of excellent city, enough to do, and a low cost of living.”
Farghal expressed how important it is for him and his team to be recognized by MCSB.
“It means everything to me because it’s so lovely to be a part of this community, and I’m pleased to be recognized by Michigan Celebrates Small Business as one of the 50 Companies to Watch,” Farghal said. “It’s a testament to my team’s strength.” I believe this is more for the benefit of my team than for me. It’s a reflection of how much our clients love working with us and the value we deliver. I truly appreciate it.”
All of the MCSB-recognized businesses are still in the early phases of growth. As a result, several companies, such as Pyramid Consulting International and AdAdapted, have yet to gain such recognition.
“Our clients frequently identify us… “But this is the first time we’ve gotten something like this at the state level,” Farghal remarked. “That’s why it’s so unique.”
MCSB’s endorsement has practical applications in addition to the sentiment. MCSB provides firms with support services in addition to publicity and visibility, according to Marko.
“Michigan Celebrates Small Business has established itself as an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and is presently in the process of extending the services it provides to awardee firms,” Marko added. “In the future, as a value-add and a method to continue to assist the growth of the firms who are going through the program, there will be some particular and unique support services given.”
Many firms, according to Marko, advertise their prize on loan applications or other expansion initiatives.
“The award has some weight to it since it shows that these firms have gone through a rigorous vetting procedure,” Marko added. “It gives them a lot more weight in terms of how they represent themselves in their communities or marketplaces.”
AdAdapted, according to Pedersen, has competed in lesser events but has never won anything of this magnitude.
“This is definitely one of the more significant honors we’ve ever gotten,” Pedersen said. “It’s obviously something we’ll pitch to potential investors across the board.” This is something that our customers will notice. When it comes to recruitment, it’ll also be something to talk about when we talk about the company and culture. It’s just another achievement for the firm that has piqued people’s interest and made them want to learn more about us.”