One thing is for certain: If you want to hold an awards ceremony with some class, hold it at the Homewood Center in Montford.
Over 50 people gathered in the elegant castle-like edifice on Sept. 11 for the Minority Enterprise Development (MED) Week Recognition Reception; the MED board handed out several awards for excellence in minority business and community growth.
“It really puts the spotlight on minority businesses and let’s people see that they are here in Asheville,” said MED Vice Chair Sharon Oxendine, who has been on the board for nine years. “These awards are going to job creators, which is really important for the economy. We want to continue to give them the support they need.”
Award winners needed onto to either be an emerging business, or have been two years or more in business and shown community investment.
“[For the established businesses] we really look at thing like community service and job creation,” says Oxendine.
The night began with copious conversation and catered food, before moving into the reception hall for the ceremony, which had nine awards in total. After each winner in a business category was announced, a small video played, showing highlights about their business. Each business owner then said a few words.
“Honestly I was so focused on what I was doing I never thought about it as ‘oh, I’m a minority business owner,’” said Jonathan Scales of the Asheville Fourchestra, a steel drum/jazz band, which won the award for Outstanding Minority Business: Artist. “But I hope one day that this can be just the ‘business development award.’ Hopefully people will be inspired to do whatever they want to do, whether minority, majority, or whatever they are.”
“When I started this, I didn’t understand what workforce development or economic development was all about,” said Sephanie Swepson-Twitty of Eagle-Market Street Block by Block Industries, which does both those things. “Through the generosity of this community and these wonderful folk we have here tonight, I’ve been able to participate in this work.” Swepson-Twitty took home the award for Best Emerging Business.
“I wouldn’t change Asheville for the world,” said Hector Romero of Sanesco International, a biotech company that took home the award for Minority Business Person of the Year. “This city has been excellent to me. No matter how much I would give to Asheville, it is only a fraction of what Asheville has given me.”
In addition, Clarence Robinson of Cooking with Comedy Catering won Outstanding Minority Business: Restaurant; Fred and Jackie Baker of NC Brookhaven Behavioral Health took home Outstanding Minority Business: Service; and Victor Palomino, Sarah Nuñez and Carolina McCready of Chiva won the second Emerging Business award. Deborah Miles of the UNCA Center for Diversity Education won the Community Advocate Award, and The Support Center, a nonprofit lending firm, won the Lender’s Award.