NDC’s Annual Entrepreneur Awards: celebrating long hours, sweat, tears, and accomplishments


In welcoming a very large crowd to its 2015 Entrepreneur Awards ceremony, held Saturday, April 18, at the Nicollet Island Pavilion in Minneapolis, Neighborhood Development Center (NDC) founder and CEO, Mihailo “Mike” Temali, described the evening as an opportunity to celebrate Twin Cities area entrepreneurs and the long hours, sweat, tears, sacrifices, and accomplishments that they seldom get credit for. Over the course of the evening, 14 businesses and the 19 entrepreneurs who started and run them were recognized. 

The winner of The Senator Paul Wellstone and Sheila Wellstone Twin Cities Small Business of the Year Award, a cash prize of $5,000, was Frank Dogbe of S.O.S. Building Services, Inc., which cleans commercial and office buildings. A native of the West African country, Togo, and now a North Minneapolis resident, Dogbe prides himself on mentoring West African immigrant employees. He reportedly gives new hires one year to show that they are learning English and/or making progress working toward their GED. Dogbe’s first job, after arriving in the United States, was with a cleaning team at a Target store in St. Louis Park. It was 10 years later, in 2009, after he’d earned a Bachelor’s degree in accounting from Metro State University, that Dogbe started his own company, S.O.S. Building Services. 

Others given special recognition, and $1,000 cash prizes, were:

Ryan Pitman

  • East Lake Craft Brewery’s Ryan Pitman, New Business of the Year Award. Pitman opened the taproom, which serves a rotating menu of handcrafted tap beers, kombucha, and root beer, in Midtown Global Market in 2014.
  • Chad and Bee Her, Community Impact Award for their St. Paul-based Hmong Elders Center, Inc., which serves the physical, cultural, and emotional needs of Hmong senior citizens, while also providing full-time employment for members of the Hmong community.
  • Hassan Ali, Employment Impact Awardfor Millineum Health Services, Inc., offering services in multiple languages—English, Somali, Amharic, Oromo, and Arabic—for people with disabilities, chronic illnesses and injuries, since 2012.
  • Murabek Lolo and Ramaden Adem, Growth in Business Revenue Award, for Awash Market, located in St. Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood. Exceeding all expectations, Awash Market has generated a six-figure revenue in just one year. 
  • Dona Enriqueta Cruz, Longevity and Sustained Impact Award, for Reyna de los Jugos, which has been offering customers fresh juices and smoothies, and serving as an anchor at Mercado Central on Lake Street in Minneapolis since its opening in 1999.

Enriqueta Cruz

Eight additional finalists were recognized for their accomplishments:

  • Aileen Erler, Alpha Appliance Repair, who, according to NDC, has proven, “that with persistence and hard work a woman can be successful in a male-dominated field. With NDC’s assistance, Aileen hopes to hire and train other women, expand the presence of women in the field and grow the business to serve many more customers.”
  • Ahmed Hassan, Ahmed Hassan, LLC, for increasing his company’s net profits by 423% and working toward a goal of delivering goods to customers across 48 states in the future.
  • Saquana Scott, Hair Trinity of New Brighton, who in 2014, as an NDC loan client, moved her salon to a much larger business space to accommodate the soaring number of clients.
  • Pam and Larry Tucker, of Kente Circle, a 10-year-old, South Minneapolis-based mental health agency, which specializes in working with children experiencing emotional and behavioral problems. Kente Circle’s racially diverse staff works with an equally diverse clientele of individuals, couples, and families, and is in the process of expanding, with assistance from NDC.
  • Hiruth Letta, of Mimi’s Beauty Salon, who reopened her business in 2014, in a new, larger, improved space, with an abundance of parking. As an employer, Letta’s St. Paul shop provides a space for other stylists from Ethiopia to gain experience. 
  • Rebecca Polston, Roots Midwifery, the only African American midwife providing out-of-hospital services in in Minnesota, primarily to women of color in the Twin Cities.
  • Leonard Anderson, Ashleigh Newman, and Ryan Huseby, of Tongue in Cheek, which opened on St. Paul’s East Side in 2014, in the heart of the Payne Avenue Commercial District, and has been receiving accolades from the start.
  • Winnipeg Grocery’s Jawad Al-Maliki, an Iraqi immigrant whose penchant for providing exceptional customer service and responding to community needs, has, along with a new deli, resulted in a 669% increased net profit from 2013 to 2014.
In addition to the awards and dinner, attendees had ample opportunities to mix and mingle and were entertained by singer-guitarist, Reynaldo Moreno, a Taiko Drumming performance by Mu Daiko, and a performance by Master Storyteller, Nothando Zulu, director of the Black Storytellers Alliance

Mu Daiko Taiko drumming

Mu Daiko Taiko drummers

Nothando Zulu (l) with Lissa Jones, MN African American History Museum & Cultural Center