Hmong Village is NDC’s “Small Business of the Year”; 14 others honored


A family-owned and operated waste disposal provider (since 1981), a private chef and catering service specializing in made-from-scratch soul fusion and comfort foods (since 2013), and a boxing and fitness gym that provides a community for at-risk youth (since 2011), were among the 15 recipients of the 2014 Neighborhood Development Center Entrepreneur Awards, announced at a celebration at Neighborhood House in St. Paul, on Saturday, May 17.

This year’s Senator Paul Wellstone and Sheila Wellstone Twin Cities Small Business of the Year Award went to Hmong Village‘s Shongleng Yang. Yang played a key role in transforming a former machine shop on St. Paul’s East Side into a 105,000 square foot urban market, housing 186 businesses, representing 315 entrepreneurs. He calls it the largest such market in Hmong history.

Brotherhood Coffee was one of the vendors

Recipient Juliet Mitchell with one of the vendors, Brotherhood, Inc. (above); attendees scope out silent auction items (below)


In addition to Shongleng Yang, Outstanding Achievement Awards were given to entrepreneurs in four categories:

Attended by 280 people, the event featured a silent auction and social hour, with food and drink from several Neighborhood Development Center (NDC) food service clients, including Brotherhood, Inc., El Burrito Mercado, Pham’s Deli, and Chelles’ Kitchen, followed by the main attraction, a program emceed by Robin Hickman, of SoulTouch Productions, and former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.

Mayor Rybak with Mike Temail's son and Manny Gonzalez

R.T. Rybak with Mihailo Temali’s son, Joey, and Manny Gonazalez of Manny’s Tortas

Current Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges was in attendance, too, along with her husband, Gary Cunningham, father of one of the recipients. Spoken word artist Kevin Yang (check out two videos, “Sam I Am” and “Srirachapocalypse”) and a group from the Walker West Music Academy performed.

Walker West Music Academy Kevin Yang

Performers from Walker West Music Academy and spoken word artist Kevin Yang

NDC, boosting up entrepreneurs for over 20 years

Founded by CEO Mihailo Temali in 1993, NDC “works with entrepreneurs and community organizations to concentrate the power of micro-enterprise development around dynamic ‘hubs’ of community revitalization, linking the energy of people to the vitality of places.” To do that, it assists entrepreneurs in eight ethnic communities in 25 low-income neighborhoods, helping them to start, sustain, and grow their businesses.

Over 80 percent of the entrepreneurs that NDC works with are from communities of color, and many are recent immigrants. More than 450 NDC-assisted businesses are now in operation. Each year, NDC invites its community partners, program trainers, consultants, staff, and entrepreneurs to nominate business owners, “who exemplify positive leadership through their small business,” for special recognition.

Trung Pham of Pham's Deli

Awardee Trung Pham of Pham’s Deli (left) serving food during the social hour

Golden Thyme owners with Mihailo Temali at NDC awards

Mihailo Temali, NDC founder and CEO (right), celebrates with Golden Thyme owners, Stephanie and Mychael Wright, and daughter, Andreesa (left)

Element Boxing & Fitness owners

Dalton Outlaw and Cerresso Fort from Element Boxing & Fitness

Alejandro Castillion (right) of Sonora Grill

Alejandro Castillon (right) of Sonora Grill

Annee Sengmavong and David Simoukdalay of Family Lao Thai

Annee Sengamavong and David Simoukdalay of Family Lao Thai restaurant

Here’s the full list of 2014 NDC Neighborhood Entrepreneur of the Year Awardees:

  • Boone Container (1516 Marshall Street NE, Minneapolis): Gerald Boone. This family-owned construction and demolition waste removal business has been in business since 1983; its customer accounts have nearly doubled and business revenue has grown by 65% since 2011.
  • Chelles’ Kitchen (Kitchen in the Market, 920 E. Lake Street, Minneapolis): Lachelle Cunningham. Chelles’ Kitchen’s owner starts every catering job with a checklist in her head: “What’s fresh and available? What’s different? What ethnic cuisine would work here?”
  • Eagles Wings (909 Selby Ave., St. Paul): Juliet Mitchell. Eagles Wings, LLC, is a career and personal development company that teaches skills and respect for self and for others, skills that Juliet Mitchell has learned can transform the social abilities and lives of children, teens, adults and inmates.
  • Element Boxing & Fitness (655 Fairview Ave. N., St. Paul): Dalton Outlaw and Cerresso Fort. The mission of the two owners, childhood friends, is to identify at-risk kids at an early age—including by reaching out to St. Paul Police Department and the Ramsey County Juvenile Detention Center—to give them an opportunity and venue where they can learn respect, self-esteem and discipline.
  • Family Lao Thai (501 University Ave. W., St. Paul): Annee Sengmavong and David Simoukdalay. Since 1996, this community-oriented restaurant in St. Paul’s Little Mekong District has been serving fresh and traditional Thai and Lao cuisine; it’s been handed down to Annee and her fiancee by Annee’s father, Saykham Sengmavong.
  • Golden Thyme Coffee Café (921 Selby Ave., St. Paul): Mychael and Stephanie Wright. Since 2001, Golden Thyme Coffee has been a Selby Avenue anchor, offering a gathering spot for the community, providing space for meetings and clothing drives, and serving as the epicenter of the annual Selby Avenue JazzFest.
  • Hmong Village, (1001 Johnson Parkway, St. Paul): Shongleng Yang. Yang was a central figure among a group of early investors who helped raise the $3.2 million necessary to transform an old St. Paul school district office and machine shop into a dynamic, bustling marketplace. Today, Hmong Village houses more than 300 small businesses that sell fresh produce, gifts, and prepared foods, and employ hundreds of community residents.
  • Mobilize Design & Architecture (1108 W. Broadway, Ave., Minneapolis): Jamil Ford. Revitalizing North Minneapolis by bringing beauty, dignity and economic growth through architecture and design to his neighborhood, is Jamil Ford’s goal, and something he gets to do as he designs The Commons at Penn Avenue, a mixed-income rental and commercial space at Golden Valley Road.
  • New Image Construction (3816 Columbus Ave., Minneapolis), Dwayne Etheridge. The Chicago native has been active in improving North Minneapolis neighborhoods since he started New Image Construction and Remodeling in 2004.
  • Oromiya Transportation Services (6916 91st Trail N., Brooklyn Park): Omer Kissi and Sara Tibesso. With 10 vans, OTS carries the sick and the elderly to doctor’s appointments and clinics, and students to school, through a contract with the St. Paul School District.
  • Pham’s Deli (920 E. Lake Street, Minneapolis): Trung and Katie Pham. Inspired by the success and energy of Seattle’s Pike Place, the couple opened their restaurant, which features Chinese and Vietnamese foods, in Midtown Global Market eight years ago. They have since established themselves as leaders in the MGM business community, volunteering their time and organizing market events like Chinese New Year.
  • Sonora Grill (3300 E. Lake Street and 920 E. Lake Street, Minneapolis): Alejandro Castillon and Conrado Badilla. Chef Alejandro Castillon’s passion for cooking combines with manager Conrado Badilla’s enjoyment of the business side to bring a remarkable fusion of cuisines. The formula has proven a success, first at Midtown Global Market and now with a full sit-down restaurant on Minneapolis’s Lake Street, that’s brought new life and vibrancy into a long-vacant site.
  • SugaRush (712 University Ave. W., St. Paul): Keoni Nguyen and Susie Path. A true neighborhood bakery that serves community events, caters to local businesses, churches and nonprofits, and each day donates unsold product to the Dorothy Day Center. Read more about SugaRush in our series, Along the Corridor.
  • Twin City Mobility (9882 Upper 173rd Court W., Lakeville): Firaoli Usha. Firaoli Usha started his business with only one van; now there are seven, equipped with wheelchair lifts, operating seven days a week, providing a lifeline for vulnerable adults and children who needed transportation to and from hospitals, clinics and other medical facilities.
  • Xtravagant Events (275 4th Street E., St. Paul): Tiffany Davis. This full-service wedding, women’s networking and event planning business has found a facility on St. Paul’s East Side for events.

Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.