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Chamber Nominates Outstanding Members For Small Business Week Awards

Dylan Roche
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May 3, 2017

It might not be among the traditionally recognized rites of spring, such as Easter or graduation day, but Small Business Week — this year, April 30 through May 6 — is always an exciting time for Severna Park, especially considering that it’s a precursor to the Maryland Small Business Week Awards presented by the U.S. Small Business Administration. This year, the Greater Severna Park and Arnold Chamber of Commerce nominated 10 of its members, three of whom — George Hepburn of Dynasplint Systems, Jessica Zaleskiwicz of Coco Couture and Matt Lehmann of Moran Insurance — will move on to the state level.

“The chamber is proud of the caliber of business people in our membership, and happy to be able to showcase them whenever possible,” said CEO Linda Zahn. “This awards program provides a great opportunity to recognize some of our proven community businesses and bring them the recognition and visibility they deserve.”

George Hepburn, Dynasplint Systems

Small Business Exporter Of The Year

George Hepburn sees his greatest accomplishment with his Severna Park-based company, Dynasplint Systems — which designs, manufactures and sells dynamic splints used for range-of-motion rehabilitation — as helping others. “The biggest highlight is the innovative product line that has been developed at Dynasplint that has helped hundreds of thousands of people’s lives over the years and saved millions of dollars in health care over the years,” he said. On top of that, he’s proud that he’s been able to employ many people and provide good incomes for them. As for the secret to his success, he credits his heart for the patients, his integrity, his perseverance and his strong faith. “I still enjoy what I’m doing. I love working with people; I love seeing people grow, and I love building a business,” he said. “Without the support of my family, and especially my wife, Karen, none of this would have been possible.”

Jessica Zaleskiwicz, Coco Couture

Young Entrepreneur Of The Year

Since opening Coco Coture in 2015, Jessica Zaleskiwicz has gained attention beyond Severna Park, including a nod from Best Things Maryland in its top-nine list of candy shops statewide. She’s also shown herself to be a philanthropist by holding a food drive for SPAN, collecting toys for Arden House and selling puzzle pieces for Rise For Autism. “I've really enjoyed giving back to the community,” she said. In that same spirit, she added, “The people are great too! Our customers are very supportive, and we love when they bring in their friends.”

Embracing her distinction as a young entrepreneur, she believes her biggest accomplishments are yet to come. “I think a strength of mine is being young,” she said. “It makes me more open to trying different methods of promoting the business and creating exciting things for people to try.”

John Barranco, Barranco & Sons Funeral Home

Family Owned Small Business Of The Year

For 57 years, the Barranco family and their staff have provided funeral services for families from Severna Park and beyond. “Each person we care for has had a unique life, and we help their family and friends with our services,” said John Barranco, who runs the business with his brother James and sister Carolyn.

A community-minded person, Barranco is the current president of the Greater Severna Park and Arnold Chamber of Commerce, through which he enjoys getting to know other people in business and being involved in events that benefit the community. He also volunteers with the Anne Arundel County Police, Hospice of the Chesapeake, SPAN, Green Hornets and other organizations.

Suzanne Marshall, Whale Works Design & Illustration

Home-Based Small Business Of The Year

If you ask Suzanne Marshall what projects she’s most proud of working on through her graphic design company, Whale Works Design & Illustration, she’ll tell you it’s the volunteer ones — the Annapolis Film Festival event program, the wall mural at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, and the typographic treatment and invitation design for the Annapolis Rotary’s Black Tie and Diamonds event. One of the 11 percent of art/creative directors who are female nationwide, Marshall has worked with the American Institute of Graphic Design and other industry leaders. She lists her SBA nomination among such career accomplishments as an executive citation from the county executive in 2007 for her design work, national awards for advertising copywriting, and invitations to speak about design to business groups.

Michael and Julianne Brown, Cakes & Confections

Minority Owned Small Business Of The Year

Three years ago, after 12 years of business in Annapolis, Michael and Julianne Brown had the opportunity to bring Cakes & Confections Bakery Café to expand in Severna Park. “We are excited to say it has been a success,” Julianne said.

The greatest strength the Browns have as business owners is their flexibility. “We receive many requests for cake designs and desserts that are challenging or unique,” Julianne explained. “We are really good with meeting these challenges in a way that our customers can get the cake that they want but at a reasonable price.”

Although they weren’t sure what to expect when they moved their bakery to Severna Park, they found the community welcomed them with open arms. “It’s really a close-knit, friendly area … and we really enjoy being a part of it,” Julianne said. “It didn’t take long for us to get many regular customers who come by several times a week for breakfast and lunch, as well as repeat customers for our desserts and pastries. We are thrilled to be a part of this community.”

Sharon Smith, QBACIT

Accountant Advocate Of The Year

It’s never easy to hear the words “I’m sorry, your job has been eliminated,” but after more than 24 years with her last job in corporate America, Sharon Smith knew when one door closes, another door opens — she just had to find the door.

A friend introduced her to QuickBooks, and Smith decided to combine her IT experience with her finance/investment knowledge to form her niche company, QBACIT LLC, which shares QuickBooks advice and provides consulting services.

Smith acknowledged that forming and running a small business has challenges, but it has rewards too. “Every challenge also brings highlights and accomplishments,” she said. “The most rewarding is the look in a client’s eyes when they are saying thank you for helping them out of their situation or problem.”

She credited the Greater Severna Park and Arnold Chamber for helping her market herself, promote her skills and find customers. “Without the support, coaching, encouragement and pushing of the chamber members, this path would have been a lot harder,” she said.

Mike Wilsman

Attorney Advocate Of The Year

“Many people don't think of lawyers as being small-business persons, but many of us are,” explained Mike Wilsman. “I've had my own firm for nearly half of the 40 years I've been in practice, and I can empathize with many of my small-business clients who work hard to provide jobs, grow the economy and contribute to the community in many other ways.”

As a former president of the Greater Severna Park and Arnold Chamber of Commerce, Wilsman has seen the sacrifices that many small-business owners make to operate their businesses, and he appreciates the time and effort they put in. “I also enjoy celebrating the success of businesses that I assisted in forming many years ago,” he said.

Being a part of the Severna Park community as both a businessman and a resident has been a bonus. “I've been able to participate in both social and business activities in the community, and been fortunate to be a member of the chamber, a director on several local community organizations, and for many years when my children were growing up, their softball coach,” he said.

Matt Lehman, Moran Insurance

Insurance Advocate Of The Year

There’s no question what Matt Lehmann’s greatest professional accomplishment has been — at age 29, he purchased Moran Insurance out of bankruptcy and took it to more than 3,500 clients.

Throughout his years as a business leader, he has been attentive to the needs of his staff because he knows they are the key to his success. “Since I used to be an employee of the agency prior to owning it, I know some of the hardships and struggles that our employees have,” he said, “so I understand that the agency is only as good as the great employees we have, and they are the ones who keep the agency going with a retention rates of over 92 percent.”

As a Severna Park native, he understands the importance of getting involved in the community where he lives and works. “It is a small-town feel but is perfectly located between Baltimore, Annapolis and D.C., so the opportunities are endless.”

Also nominated were Bonnie Thompson with M&T Bank, who was nominated for Financial Services Champion Of The Year, and Pam Roberts with Title Excellence, who was nominated for Women In Business Champion Of The Year. Thompson and Roberts were unavailable for comment.

Pam Roberts

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