Small Business Winners Announced for the 2011 Annual KOSBE Awards

December 09, 2011

KINGSPORT, Tenn. – The Kingsport Office of Small Business Development & Entrepreneurship (KOSBE) has named the winners of the 17th Annual KOSBE Awards last night at the celebration ceremony held at BANQ in downtown, Kingsport.

Tal’s Auto and Truck Repair (Tal Musick) took First Place in the category for the Young Entrepreneur Award (owner is under age 40). Tal Musick took a bad situation and turned it to the good. About two years ago, when the auto and truck repair company where Musick worked closed its doors. Musick and his co-workers decided to figure out a way they could stay where their roots were and keep the business in tact rather than hitting the pavement to look for a new job. Musick decided to start a new business of his own, Tal’s Auto and Truck Repair and retain jobs for his coworkers. Fortunately, the former customers stuck with him and now the business continues to grow. Babycakes Cupcakery (Natalie Shortridge) was named Runner-Up for the Young Entrepreneur Award. Natalie Shortridge opened Babycakes Cupcakery in Kingsport in July 2010. Babycakes employs two full-time and four part-time employees. Despite naysayers saying, “you can’t have a business focused on one item,” they have done exactly that. Babycakes has two operations: one here in downtown Kingsport and another in Abingdon, Virginia.

Rasnick Family Chiropractic (Ben Rasnick) took First Place in the category for the New Business Award (in operation for at least 12 months but not more than 36 months). Ben Rasnick a/k/a “The Running Doctor” opened his clinic in 2008, in the midst of a flagging economy. He didn’t have any real money to speak of and he had no interest in investors. He continues to deal with many more challenges amid numerous recent and forthcoming changes in Healthcare/Insurance. Since the owner is also an avid runner himself, he decided to focus his practice around running injuries. He has developed new approaches to treat the nagging complaints of runners with a faster recovery time and reduction in re-injury. He has also teamed up with a local running store to share information, promote a healthy lifestyle and get runners into the proper shoes. Salt Water Willy’s Bayou Cafe (Wayne Michelli) was named Runner-Up for the New Business Award. Owners, Wayne and Angela Michelli, opened Salt Water Willy’s Bayou Café on September 27th, 2010. They provide a livelihood for 20 full-time and 30 part-time employees. Wayne’s forte is Marketing Creativity and entrepreneurial flair. The best campaign to date started out as a joke for a billboard that featured a picture of one of his managers in speedos with the caption: “Real Men Eat Fish.” The owner took that idea and used Photoshop to superimpose his head on the body of Mr. Universe with the caption: “Fish ... It does a body good.” This led to an overwhelming Facebook reaction and people literally getting in their cars and leaving their offices to see the billboard. Even today, almost three years later, people are still talking about “The Billboard.” The Michelli’s now have two very unique restaurants in Kingsport that provide a dining alternative to chains.

The Village at Allandale (Dava Snyder) took First Place in the category for the Innovation Award. Don’t let the fact that The Village at Allandale is a charming assisted living community for seniors fool you. In 2003, the Village at Allandale opened its doors as Kingsport Senior House, a single home for 26 seniors. A 2010 expansion added two family-oriented homes with 26 elders residing in each. Today, The Village at Allandale is proud to be the only assisted living facility in the area to offer the innovative nationwide trend of smaller homes rather than a traditional, larger medical facility for elder housing. This concept has received interest from pioneers in elder care with leaders in the industry visiting from Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Illinois. Still Transfer Company (Chris Salyers) was named Runner-Up for the Innovation Award. Still Transfer, which specializes in packaging and local, domestic and international moving and storage, has been reinventing itself since for the past 83 years and they’re not about to stop now. Their story is truly about endurance, adaptation, strength and fearlessness. Still Transfer has been family-owned and operated since it was founded by Tome and Rachel Still in 1928. Recently they have adapted to the weakening storage market using an innovative marketing approach, by launching a new business division entering the file storage market.

Hillhouse Graphics Design (Jane Hillhouse) took First Place in the category for the Business Excellence Employing Under 10 Employees Award. Already an award-winning company, Hillhouse Graphic Design uses creative ideas, marketing and advertising experience, patience, good listening skills and excellent design to improve their clients' success and help them reach their goals. Hillhouse has been in business for over 25 years and has navigated many ups and downs. Hillhouse works extensively with nonprofits providing services, as well as by volunteering and through charitable giving. Like the company, their work has true staying power. Ken’s Hot Dog Hut (Ken Carrigan) was named Runner-Up for the Under 10 Employees Award. Ken Carrigan started his professional journey as a chemical salesman for more than 18 years touting cleaners, solvents, greases, lubricants, etc. He has always wanted to start a business for himself, so he saved money and kept his eyes open for the right opportunity. In 2004, he embarked on his first major entrepreneurial adventure—a state-of-the-art self-storage complex at the site of the former Paty Lumber Company on East Stone Drive, which had sat vacant for six years until that time. Over a two-year period, he took the business from zero dollars in revenue, to over $30,000 in revenue per month. He sold that business in 2007 for a profit, which put him in a position to acquire Hot Dog Hut in 2009. Since acquiring Hot Dog Hut, sales have steadily increased every year; and Ken has recently purchased a new building connected to the new parking garage in downtown Kingsport for a second new location which will be open in the first quarter of 2012.

Aldebaran Financial (Peter Raber) took First Place in the category for the Veteran-Owned Business Award (a business that is at least 51% or more veteran-owned, managed, and controlled). Aldebran’s story really began in 1960 when their founder Donald R. Raber joined the United States Navy. The bulk of Don's time in the Navy was spent aboard the USS Aldebaran AF-10, a supply ship that participated in the Cuban Missile Crisis blockade (hence the name). Don left the Navy in 1966, completed his education and began working on Wall Street in 1968 as an options trader for Henry Blair & Company. Don worked on Wall-Street until 1973 when as an employee of Bache and Company he transferred to their Charleston, West Virginia office to avoid the commute and winters of New York. After working for several more financial institutions, Don’s desire to continue to serve his clients in the best possible manner led to the creation of Aldebaran Financial, Inc. in 1987. Aldebran Financial is deeply committed to community service demonstrated by consistent and frequent participation by staff in various volunteer and leadership opportunities. There was no runner-up in this category.

F & L Limo & Livery (Sherrie Monroe) took First Place in the category for the Woman-Owned Business Award (a business that is at least 51% or more woman-owned, managed, and controlled). Sherrie Monroe and her husband Rodney started their business in 2000, when they bought a horse-drawn carriage as a weekend hobby offering historic rides through downtown Kingsport. Today F & L is an 81% woman-owned business that operates black town car sedans, a mini-van, a line of SUV’s, an old-fashioned trolley, the most up-to-date stretch limos, a 15-passenger minibus and more. Under Sherri’s leadership, the company has grown to become the premier and most-preferred transportation company in the area for VIP’s, CEO’s, dignitaries, entertainers, athletes and other celebrities visiting the area. Sherrie Monroe has been featured in Business Journal of Tri-Cities in their 40 Under 40 Recognition Program; she is a recipient of the “Caught in the Act or Hospitality Above and Beyond” award from the Kingsport Convention and Visitors Bureau, and she and her husband Rodney Monroe, who recently ran for The Board of Mayor and Aldermen of the City of Kingsport, have both completed the Leadership Kingsport Program. Back to Basics Massage Therapies (Margaret Helms) was named Runner-Up for Woman-Owned Business Award. At Back to Basics they focus on their individual client's needs and expectations. If you need to relax from a stressful week, or if you've overdone it at the gym, they have the right massage for you. Rather than portray their services as a luxury for pampered women (and men), and as a way of giving back to those who protect our community, Back to Basics offers a lifetime discount to veterans, active military, police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians. In 2009 Back to Basics instituted a policy that allows each therapist to conduct two free massages per month on customer premises using customer equipment and supplies, to help those who could not otherwise afford their services. Margaret Helms was forced to give up a lucrative career which she had no plans to leave when the company she worked for was sold in 2008. She decided to do the one thing her father never did and went into business for herself full-time. She hasn’t looked back since.

Lake Pointe (Larry Burris) took First Place in the category for the Business Excellence Employing 10 Employees and Up Award. Lake Pointe’s number one goal is “Excellence in Customer Service Always.” Now a two-time winner of the prestigious KOSBE “Business Excellence Award,” the company was recently among 28 organizations across the state to be recognized this year by the Tennessee Center for Performance Excellence (TNCPE) for outstanding achievement. This program is not easy. According to the TNCPE, award recipients are examples of high-performance organizations exhibiting continuous improvement and best practice processes that serve as role models for other organizations. Organizations apply to the TNCPE program at one of four levels; Lake Pointe is a recipient of the Level II Commitment Award. Before submitting their application, Lake Pointe sent four employees to a two-day training class, “Achieving World Class Results” at Pal’s Business Excellence Institute. Each attendee brought back best practices and something they could implement in the business to make it better. Lake Pointe is a family-owned small business employing 27 full-time and 2 part-time associates. Lake Pointe supports the three major communities of our Tri-Cities area including Kingsport, Bristol and Johnson City. The company has recently expanded adding Lake Pointe Gifts and Awards at 1567 North Eastman Road in Kingsport. Dykes Trucking (Kim Dykes) was named Runner-Up for the 10 Employees and Up Award. When Kim Dykes started her trucking company in 2009, she had two customers that she hauled for. Now, she has 31! This work area is dominated by men, but Kim has been successful working in this arena, because she doesn’t expect anyone to take it easy on her because she’s a woman. She has learned that mutual respect, honesty and determination goes a long way. She respects her competitors and peers and they treat her with respect also. Two years ago she applied to get her business certified as a TDOT Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, but her application was denied. She had to wait two years before she could reapply. Rather than just sit around waiting, she thought about ways she could strengthen her application. She decided to study to be a bona fide contractor and this year obtained her own license. In October with her contractor’s license in hand, she reapplied for DBE status. She learned last week that she was approved.

There were no applicants for the Small Manufacturer (or fabricator) or Minority-Owned business awards this year.

Selections for the above categories were made based on customer relationship strategy, story of success overcoming adversity, community involvement, marketing creativity and presented strategies for growth. Applications were reviewed by a panel of seven judges who collectively made their selections based on information provided in the application and private interviews.

The recipient of the Impact Award for an outstanding individual and small business advocate was presented to Kathy Richards (AdviCoach). Kathy Richards is a Business Coach, CPA, Quickbooks Guru and Problem-Solver. Earlier this year, Kathy was named AdviCoach Franchisee of the Year. She has served as a member of the KOSBE Volunteer Council for the past two years. According to Mary-Beth Morgan, owner of Korner-Copia, “Kathy has always offered suggestions and honest opinions. She has offered marketing ideas and has been a huge referral source for me and my business.”

Each winner and runner-up received a KOSBE award on stage, will receive recognition during Kingsport Chamber and KOSBE events, digital award emblem to display on their company literature and website, spotlight on Kingsport Chamber and KOSBE websites, social media channels and recognition in the Kingsport Times-News. Past winners are often first in line for free marketing opportunities, special interviews and public relations exposure.

In addition, a Judge’s Choice Award, The Caped Crusader Award, was presented to KOSBE Executive Director, Aundrea Wilcox for her dedication and commitment to the Kingsport small business community. “Every year the judging is more difficult than the previous year simply because of the number of applicants who demonstrate a high degree of customer focus and insistence on quality,” said Larry Maston, Lead Judge and Individual Certified Public Accountant. “Aundrea has been a key contributor towards building these businesses,” he continued. “Because Aundrea offers quiet leadership and wise counseling often at a high personal cost, the judges felt that special recognition of her contribution was long overdue.”

Also during the ceremony, Kingsport Chamber of Commerce President and CEO, Miles Burdine and KOSBE Chair Steve Swinney of First Bank and Trust presented Bill Gatton, owner and general manager of Bill Gatton Chevrolet-Cadillac and Bill Gatton Honda, with an appreciation gift in recognition of his dedication to small business and future commitment to local community development. Gatton’s interactive discussion at the event, which was moderated by Jim Bailey, television personality and former news anchor, was centered around five key areas of focus: Innovation, Perseverance, Sticking to Gut Instincts, Stamina/Staying Power and Adaptability.

2011 Annual KOSBE Award sponsors included:

Title Sponsor: SunTrust Bank

Top-Tier Sponsors: Brock Services, Pathway Lending, Wilson Worley Moore Gamble & Stout, KNETIC Young Professionals and American Airlines

Media Sponsors: Kingsport Times-News and Holston Valley Broadcasting

Award Sponsors: Eastman Chemical Company, WorkSpace Interiors, Triten Insurance, Thompson Metal Services, Food City and Dixie Pen Communications

Event Partners: Lake Pointe Advertising & Awards, Divine Catering & Café, Flowers By CopperCreek, Pristine Springs, Express Signs, Urban Synergy, Café eXcellence, Holston Distributing and Action Rentals and Sales.

Entertainment Sponsor: East Tennessee Eye Care

Red Carpet Sponsor: VIPSeen Tri-Cities

The awards ceremony was recorded by Times Digital Group, a web design media marketing group in Tri-Cities, and will be shown on YouTube, and the City of Kingsport's government access channel, MyTown Channel 16 TV, in the coming months.

It is the intent of KOSBE to be the go-to organization in the Tri-Cities for small business owners and entrepreneurs who want to start or grow their businesses, by creating and developing the right tools and resources and cultivating the right partnerships. In partnership with Tennessee Small Business Development Centers (TSBDC) at ETSU, KOSBE can more effectively serve the needs of entrepreneurs and small businesses. For a complete listing of services, tools and resources, visit

The cooperative agreement between KOSBE and East Tennessee State University is partially funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). SBA’s funding is not an endorsement of any products, opinions or services. SBA funded programs are extended to the public on a non-discriminatory basis. Additional funding is provided by the Tennessee Board of Regents and the state of Tennessee.

To schedule your free confidential counseling appointment in a private setting by TSBDC-certified counselors in person, online by phone or e-mail call Marybeth McLain at (423) 392.8825 or e-mail,

For more information about the Tennessee Small Business Development Center (TSBDC) at ETSU Kingsport Affiliate Office and your Kingsport Office of Small Business Development & Entrepreneurship (KOSBE), visit and or call (423) 392.8825. We’re social too; follow us on Facebook, Kosbe – The Small Business Connection, Twitter, @KOSBEConnection, LinkedIn group, KOSBE — The Small Business Connection and our YouTube Channel, KOSBEConnection.