MANSFIELD — Bill Schmidt knows it takes time and dedication to build a small business. The former police detective founded Schmidt Security Pro in 1976.
Today, the company is a full-service provider of security and fire services employing a total of 70 people.
“We have a great community and it’s always been a privilege to be a part of it,” he reflected.
Both companies were selected from a list of nominees and a pool of six finalists. The Phoenix won the award for companies with 14 or fewer employees, Schmidt Security received the designation for companies with 15 employees or more.
“The spirit of small business is impossible to extinguish,” Chamber President Jodie Perry said. “Small businesses are the heartbeat of our community and we’re extremely honored to put the spotlight on you today.”
In its early days, Schmidt Security Pro focused on investigation, polygraph and security officer services. In the late 1980s, it began to offer electronic security systems.
Schmidt went on to become one of the first companies in Ohio to offer commercial grade wireless security systems. It has also found innovative ways to recognize standout employees and make a difference in the community.
The company also allows its employees to nominate each other for a monthly “Make a Difference” award. Its 12 Months of Giving program invites employees to identify a local nonprofit, cause or family with a financial need to help each month.
“If you’re a small business and you’re here today, you’re a winner,” Schmidt advised the crowd. “Keep that in mind. It took us 45 years to get here and I’m sure many of you will be here as well.”
The Phoenix Brewery opened in 2014 inside the former Schroer Funeral and Mortuary Home. Its small batch, locally-inspired handcrafted beers are served in the pub and distributed to other institutions across north central Ohio.
“The Phoenix developed out of a desire to see downtown Mansfield fully revitalized and a neighborhood brewery return to the area,” Perry said. “The hope was to become a part of the revitalization efforts already happening.”
The Phoenix taproom features 16 taps, including six Phoenix flagship beers and rotating seasonal and high gravity beers. The pub also hosts other Ohio craft brews, Ohio ciders, a selection of fine wines from local winery Cypress Hill and spirits from Ohio distilleries.
Since its founding, the Phoenix expanded with a 20-barrel production brewery and canning line.
This summer, The Phoenix made the bold and unconventional choice to implement a no-tipping policy and donate any tips to local non profits. The business chose instead to pay a flat hourly wage based on an employee’s time with the brewery, providing workers with more stable wages.
“They have a strong workplace culture with strong employee retention, along with benefits and other creative ways to reward their employees,” Perry said.
To be eligible for the Small Business of the Year Award, applicants must be headquartered in Richland County, employ 250 or fewer full-time equivalent employees, have been in operation for at least three years, have an annual sales revenue of less than $20 million and demonstrate an active concern for the community.
Small businesses are evaluated on business history and performance, staff training and motivation, community impact and involvement, customer service and business strategies and goals.
The Visual Bucket List was formed in 2016 by Stephen and Christine Myers, whose daughter Elizabeth was diagnosed with Usher syndrome, an extremely rare condition that can lead to gradual vision loss.
“We’re very honored,” Steven said. “With all the non profits that we have in Richland County and all the good work that we do, I think it was absolutely amazing that we were able to win this award.”
The Myers created a “visual bucket list” soon after their daughter’s diagnosis, determined that she see incredible sights and make memories that would last a lifetime.
Now their non-profit makes the same possible for other children. The Visual Bucket List has provided experiences for nine individual children with a visual impairment diagnosis.
Each experience is individualized based on the child’s personal visual bucket list and capabilities.
“They create the plan, they fund it, they personalize the experience for the children based on their list as well as their abilities,” award presenter Brady Groves said.
While accepting the award, Christine thanked the board and community for their support.
“Our foundation is completely volunteer and we survive on donations and generosity of others,” Myers said. “So thank you Richland County for always showing up and helping our vision come alive.”
The Phoenix was honored in the 14-or-fewer employee category, edging fellow finalists Sluss Realty Co. and The Boot Life.
In addition to honoring the work of small businesses, the event also provided a chance for the region’s entrepreneurial community to get together — something that’s been rare since the onset of COVID-19.
Finalists including Sluss Realty Co., The Boot Life, ES Consulting and Terra Valley Excavating were also recognized during the presentation.
While receiving their finalist award, Boot Life co-owners Chris and Holly Troupe thanked their fellow business owners for their support.
“In February of this year, Chris and I were called unexpected to an international stage at the growth conference in Miami,” Holly said “I have to say, this is much more special because I’m looking at my neighbors. I’m looking at people who come to our store.
“We’re just really honored to be in the company of you.”
Chris praised the small business community for sticking together during a particularly difficult two years.
“It’s been a rough road,” he said. “There’s some of the business owners and friends who have come in at odd times, when you shouldn’t have been in the store, and you just came in to spend money downtown, to support a small business.
“We recognize that. I just want to say thank you.”