The Southwest Business Association strives to enhance community through the power of our small businesses. Strong healthy businesses provide our community with stable job opportunities, lively community connection venues, and greatly impact the identity of our neighborhoods. With this in mind, the Southwest Business Association is proud to announce that we have put together an awards program to recognize business leaders in our community who are focused on these goals and are actively improving our communities.
Business owners, their employees, members of the community and business patrons were invited to nominate business owners for Minority Business Owner of the Year, Woman Business Owner of the Year and Business Owner of the Year for businesses within the boundaries of the Southwest Business Association (South of 31st Street and West of 35W within Minneapolis city limits). Businesses must operate for a minimum of 3 years for eligibility. Criteria includes demonstration of business strength and growth, and examples of an owners ability to navigate and succeed in the face of adversity. In addition, applicants must demonstrate commitment to community service.
2019 Minority Business Owner of the Year:
Fredrico Navarro, George & the Dragon
When the building at 50th & Bryant went up in smoke, a little piece of Lynnhurst died – losing two great restaurants. Fred knew just what the neighborhood needed though, and together with his wife, he brought a perfect neighborhood gathering spot with staying power to the neighborhood. Never one to brag, you won’t hear Fred boasting about his charitable activities, but the Navarros always have some program in the works, from supporting local food shelters to encouraging local elementary kids to read with generous gift certificate donations to every child who meets their reading goal. George & the Dragon stands out from the crowd with its consistently good food and service, and that Cheers feel with Fred and his staff able to greet most guests by name. Long after the buzz of being the new restaurant on the block has worn off, George and the Dragon has remained a favorite gathering place for the community – remaining full during the lunch and dinner rushes any day of the week. The Navarros demonstrate great leadership with knowledgeable, friendly, timely and long-term staff, and smart accessible food choices that continue to bring customers in. Their success anchors the corner of 50th and Bryant and keeps it a busy corner for their neighboring businesses.
2019 Woman Business Owner of the Year:
Naomi Strom, Lake Harriet Florist
Taking on the little flower shop at 50th & Penn was a second career for owner Naomi Strom. In just a few short years, she has taken a business that was barely recognized to one that is growing exponentially and receiving recognition around the country. While they are a full-service shop, growing traffic from the wedding market has been a huge component to the shop’s new success. Under Naomi’s leadership, the shop has been recognized as “The Best of the Knot” for the past three consecutive years. The shop also took full advantage of the Super Bowl being in town to build relationships with visiting celebrities, leading to continued contracts for appearances and performances in the Twin Cities. Growing from a mom and daughter operation, the shop now employs an additional 3 staff and has a host of contract workers to help in the busy seasons. Naomi regularly supports local educational and religious organizations through in-kind donations for their events and activities. Anyone who knows Naomi can tell you that a large part of the Lake Harriet Florist success is her strong ability to quickly build meaningful relationships with a wide range of personalities from within our community and beyond.
2019 Business Owner of the Year:
Sarah Longacre, Blooma
Sarah Longacre set out to create a business that meets community at the start – with expectant and new moms. These members of our community are at a point in life where they are experiencing major life changes, and it can often be a time of isolation from regular routines and interactions with a large learning curve. Blooma entered the world to provide these critical members of our community a place to gather, learn together and build a tight-knit community of mentally and physically fit families. Her passion to help mothers doesn’t end with interactions at Blooma. Sarah uses her skills and success in business to regularly support organizations with similar missions at home and around the world. Stop by the Boulevard building as a class is wrapping up, and you’ll see the large success this format is. Under Sarah’s vision and leadership in just over a decade, Blooma has grown from one location and a staff of 15 to 3 metro locations and a staff of 65 with a franchise in Nashville and another in Mexico City!
SWBA works to strengthen the relationship between businesses and the local community, serves as an advocate for business owners, and has the ultimate goal of creating a strong and healthy Southwest Minneapolis. We commend these business owners for their leadership and commitment to strong community in Minneapolis. We look forward to recognizing businesses in expanded categories as this new awards program recognition grows.