Small Business Development Center Honors 2020 Award Winners

Vera Hall and T'Keyah Williams take top honors; SBDC recognized as Resource Partner of the Year

T’Keyah Williams (right), works at an event with business partner Michael McElroy. Williams has been named the Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the Mississippi Small Business Development Center. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Although the Mississippi Small Business Development Center had to postpone its Small Business Award Week because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has honored two business owners with statewide awards.

Vera Hall, owner of Innovative Performance Construction Company LLC, of Jackson, was named the Mississippi Small Business Person of the Year, and T’Keyah Williams, co-owner of Mama Nature’s Juice Bar, of Ridgeland, was named Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

Both winners are clients of James Bennett, SBDC counselor at the Rankin campus of Hinds County Community College. He helped William with her business plan and financials, and assisted Hall in setting up an LLC and gave her some contacts to help with international trade.

“They both have a strong will to succeed,” Bennett said. “T’Keyah has gone out and been industrious with what she wants to do. She has now opened up a second location.

Vera Hall has been named the Mississippi Small Business Person of the Year by the Mississippi Small Business Development Center. Submitted photo

“Vera also has a lot of drive. She’s gone in and not only has started her own business but also figured out how to get government contracts. They’re both top-notch people, and an asset to the community.”

The award event was scheduled for May 7 at the Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson before the pandemic forced a shutdown of public events.

“Ms. Hall consistently demonstrates the spirit of entrepreneurship, staying ahead of the curve and taking advantage of every single program and opportunity that presents itself,” said Juanita R. Stewart, district director for the U.S. Small Business Administration in Mississippi. “She is a participant in good standing in SBA’s highly sought-after 8(a) Business Development Program.”

Stewart praised the SBDC for the exceptional quality of the nomination package submitted for Williams.

“Ms. Williams has a motivational story to share and is establishing a solid track record for business success at a young age,” she said. “She is an excellent example of youth entrepreneurship and when rescheduled, we look forward to spotlighting her during National Small Business Week.”

Mississippi SBDC, headquartered at the University of Mississippi, was also recognized by the Small Business Administration as the 2020 Resource Partner of the Year.

“During FFY 2019, the network of SBDCs here addressed and overcame challenges, made significant strides in supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs throughout Mississippi, and demonstrated true partnership and collaboration with our office,” Stewart said.

The center’s staff is honored to be recognized for its efforts to serve the Mississippi business community, said Sharon Nichols, Mississippi SBDC state director.

“I am so excited for our Mississippi SBDC award winners,” Nichols said. “I am also incredibly proud of our team and honored by the SBA’s announcement to name Mississippi SBDC as Resource Partner of the Year. We are continuing to serve Mississippi small business owners throughout these unprecedented times.”