2023 SBA Award Winners

Champion! Celebrate! Inspire!

Join us in congratulating the winners of the 2023 SBA Awards for the San Diego & Imperial Counties.

2023 SBA  Award Winners

Small Business Person(s) of the Year – Team

Small Business Persons of the Year - Drew Simpson, President; Keith Arnold, Vice President; and Ryan Tisinger, Director of Business Development Amerivet Contracting

Drew Simpson, President;
Keith Arnold, Vice President;

Ryan Tisinger, Director of Business Development

Career Marine veteran Drew Simpson entered the construction industry serving as a foreman, estimator, operator, and manager before founding Amerivet in 2017. Drew Simpson, President, and his partners Keith Arnold, Vice President; and Ryan Tisinger, Director of Business Development successfully operate Amerivet, an all-inclusive commercial and industrial construction firm which became fully operational in October of 2019. It now has 75 employees, 50 full-time and the balance are Project Labor Agreement employees. They increased revenues by 4,000% and anticipate doubling again in the next year or two.

The Amerivet team received guidance and assistance from various SBA programs and resource partners to help them start and grow, such as SBA’s Boots to Business Reboot, Monterey PTAC, California SBDCs, including the North San Diego SBDC, and most recently they received an SBA 7A Loan to purchase Amerivet’s main office, in National City, CA. Additional California offices are in Ridgecrest, and Yreka, and their California storage yards are located in Bakersfield, Riverside, Paso Robles, and Lindsay.

As Amerivet Contracting continues to grow, Drew is dedicated to giving back to the community in several ways. As a veteran, he is focused on hiring other veterans as they transition to the private sector by offering training and professional development. The company also contributes to a variety of causes such as Toys for Tots, Christmas Meals for veterans, sponsors sports teams, and school events, as well as donating time and equipment for disaster recovery situations, and more.

Amerivet Contracting has demonstrated tremendous growth, job creation, ability to overcome adversity, expand services, and a commitment to the community they service; both directly and indirectly.

Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year (Team)

Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year (Team) Jaime Mautz, President & Alex Mautz, COO Pacific Ink, Inc. - Team

Jaime Mautz,
President & Alex Mautz, COO


Jaime Mautz wrote her company’s business plan as part of her MSBA Degree in Entrepreneurship at San Diego State University and launched Pacific Ink, with her brother, on student loans and credit cards, in 2000, just before graduating. They started by selling ink and toner, from their garage. Jaime’s brother has since left the business, and her husband, Alex, joined it in June of 2001. The business grew fast and when faced with inventory management and funding challenges, Jaime regrouped, restructured, and pivoted to a more economical business model. Since then, Jaime has led the way to establish a government contracting division in the business and negotiated their GSA contract which, has proven to be widely profitable. Pacific Ink is now a global provider of office, janitorial, safety, and industrial supplies to the federal government and other large corporations.

Jaime, a client of the Small Business Development Center since 2001, seeks guidance, as needed to help overcome issues, and grow the business. The Procurement Technical Assistance Center and SCORE have also assisted over the years. Pacific Ink has utilized several SBA loan programs to get established and grow. The most recent being a $950,000.00 7(a) loan from Bank United, in 2018, and two Paycheck Protection Program loans during the pandemic, all of which are paid in full.

The Pacific Ink team, Jaime, and Alex all contribute money, time, and resources to many charitable and community organizations, as well as local schools. Save the Children, Feeding America, 4Community Care, and Westview High School are just a few.

Veteran-Owned Small Business of the Year

Veteran-Owned Small Business of the Year Francisco Rivera, President Wepa Commercial Cleaning

Francisco Rivera,


Francisco Rivera, a combat-disabled veteran minority, proudly served our country with the Department of the Navy for over 15 years. During that time, he also pursued his MBA and honed his natural abilities in marketing by supporting various soccer teams. Rivera enlisted assistance from the SBDCs in 2017 to start his business and leverage his veteran and minority status. In 2018, he launched Wepa Commercial Cleaning (Wepa), a janitorial services company focused on cleaning and disinfecting services. Rivera has since received advising in the areas of government contracting, strategic planning, and funding.

In 2019 Wepa expanded into the government sector to create a virtually recession proof business model and increased gross revenues by more than 200% in three years. Since 2019 Wepa has won and performed on several government contracts and recently added another for over $1 million. In 2020, they pivoted to include disinfecting services and added supplies to their current services to offset COVID-19 shutdowns. By 2022 Wepa had created nine jobs and plans to hire another ten in 2023.

Francisco Rivera assists kids and veterans with entrepreneurship. He and the Wepa team contribute to Toys for Tots. Wepa Commercial Cleaning also disinfected over 50 homes free of charge when family members tested positive for Covid.

Family-Owned Small Business of the Year

Family-Owned Small Business of the Year Raland Camara, Owner Highland Barber Shop

Raland Camara,

Highland Barber Shop is a multi-generational family business that celebrated it’s 50 year anniversary in 2022!

Antonio “Tony” Camara opened the shop in 1972 to provide a great haircut at a great price. This core value is still at the heart of the barber shop. After Antonio’s passing in 2018 his wife Betty took over until she got cancer. Then Raland, her son, started running the business. Transitioning from being an engineer at Northrop Grumman, Raland needed help, so he sought and received a wealth of guidance from the SBDC in several areas, which helped the business weather the storm and emerge better than ever! It is the longest running barber shop in National City!

During the forced closures in the early stages of the pandemic, Raland took advantage of that time to remodel the shop. He also expanded the shop’s digital presence and clientele and hired more barbers during a tumultuous time for the industry. His team and loved one’s 50th anniversary efforts also produced a bump in business that has continued.

Highland Barber Shop, and Raland Camara, prove that a small business can thrive as well as persist in challenging times. They are true entrepreneurs and small business owners, thus part of the backbone of America.

Rural-Owned Small Business of the Year

Rural Small Business of the Year Tudor Arriquippa Montague, Founder & Head Roaster Spirit Mountain Roasting Co.

Tudor Arriquippa Montague,
Founder & Head Roaster


Tudor Montague, a graduate of Haskell Indian Nations University and the University of Kansas, started Spirit Mountain Roasting Company, a small batch specialty coffee roaster located on the Fort Yuma Quechan Reservation, in 2015, after extensive coffee roasting training. Spirit Mountain sells online and to wholesale accounts locally, including on the reservation, nationwide, and in Canada.

In 2020, the pandemic shutdowns caused all their wholesale accounts to close. Their online sales kept the business afloat, along with an SBA EIDL loan and counseling from SCORE. Tudor’s social media campaigns generate online sales and he has regained his wholesale customers and acquired several new wholesale accounts. Now a business expansion is needed to keep up with demand. Tudor plans to build a full scale roastery and open a small café on the reservation, which will create full-time jobs for up to 15 workers once it’s running.

Tudor strongly believes in developing and supporting his local community. He serves on the boards of two non-profit organizations, the Native America Humane Society (NAHS) and Native SEEDS/S.E.A.R.C.H. (NSS). He is an advisor for the 2022-2023 James Beard Legacy Network providing mentorship to aspiring black and indigenous chefs and others in the culinary industry. In addition, he donates coffee and merchandise to several native organizations and college groups/clubs to help them generate funds.

Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Young Entrepreneur of the Year Charlotte Reininger Smith, Owner, Soaper Soaps by a Chemist

Charlotte Reininger Smith,
Owner, Soaper


Soaps by a Chemist owner and mother of three children, Charlotte Reininger Smith has been an avid chemist since early childhood. She founded her business, to share her love of chemistry and to use her chemistry knowledge as a full-time mom. It all started as a hobby in 2019, after, Charlotte stumbled on the chemical reaction of soap, while teaching her children chemistry. She began by selling her soaps from her dining room table doing in-person pop-up parties and posting on local social media pages. In 2020, during the pandemic shutdowns, Charlotte designed her own website, taught herself social media organic marketing and binged on business podcasts. She now offers soaps, and other personal care products such as lotions, lip balms and more on her own website.

Charlotte meets monthly with San Diego & Imperial Women’s Business Center (WBC) advisors to improve her business management skills, which has helped her increase revenue, while finding solutions that allow her to run her business and life more smoothly.

Sharing her business journey through social media, Charlotte, inspires other moms to pursue their business dreams at any stage in life. She is proud to be a stay-at-home mom while pursuing her business dreams during nap times and after bedtime.

Minority-Owned Small Business of the Year

Minority-Owned Small Business of the Year Venus Jenkins, CEO and Co-founder ChargeNet Stations

Venus Jenkins,
CEO and Co-founder


ChargeNet Stations was co-founded by a trio of energy and engineering experts. CEO Venus Jenkins has extensive experience in various energy and water industry start-ups and scale-ups and is enthusiastic about power generation strategic initiatives. She previously led the largest fiber infrastructure deployment in Orange County, California.

ChargeNet is a “CleanTech” AI driven software company that integrates solar and energy storage to reduce utility costs and increase renewable energy usage along with being at the forefront of increasing access and adoption of electric vehicles, particularly in lower-income areas with medically vulnerable populations.

Their software platform creates a seamless opportunity for Quick Serve Restaurants to offer customers a superior EV charging experience in mere minutes. Their hardware-agnostic SaaS platform, ChargeOpt, optimizes EV chargers and renewable energy to transform parking lots into profit centers.

As a start-up company, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, ChargeNet used two SBA Paycheck Protection Program loans to help pay employees in 2020 and 2021.

In addition, former CEO and co-founder Tosh Dutt received over 150 hours of business counseling through The Brink SBDC in the past two years, which has helped him raise over $54M in funding for ChargeNet, increase sales from to $47M under contract for 2023; and grow from three employees to 40, with an anticipated sixty three in 2023.

ChargeNet is making the State of California (and ultimately the entire United States) a better place to live.

Financial Services Champion of the Year

Financial Services Champion of the Year Miriam Torres Baltys, Senior Small Business Loan Officer CDC Small Business Finance (CDC SBF)

Miriam Torres Baltys,
Senior Small Business Loan Officer


Miriam Torres Baltys has over 20 years of experience in the finance industry. She is an expert in SBA lending and credit and has worked in capacities such as underwriter, business relationship manager, and marketing & public relations director. Prior to joining the CDC SBF, Miriam had an eight-year career with JP Morgan Chase bank.

In her role at CDC SBF, Miriam regularly presents at small business events throughout San Diego County and is a go-to referral for SBA’s resource partners with small business clients in need of microloans and small dollar amount financing. She works closely with potential borrowers, many of which are start-ups or early-stage companies, to educate them and if possible, connect them with the funding they need.

Miriam is committed to supporting small businesses and contributing to economic development in San Diego County. She is a Finance Committee Member with the South County Economic Development Council, is on the boards of other community support organizations and contributes money, and resources to charitable causes such as Shyne San Diego, and more.

Miriam Torres Baltys is a true champion for small businesses. She has the compassion, strength in knowledge and unyielding determination to help people start, maintain, and grow their businesses to their fullest potential.

Minority Small Business Champion of the Year

Minority Small Business Champion of the Year Jason Paguio, President and CEO Asian Business Association of San Diego

Jason Paguio,
President and CEO


Since Jason Paguio took the helm at the Asian Business Association of San Diego (ABASD), in 2019, it has grown exponentially and represents over 30,000 Asian Pacific Islander (API) owned businesses throughout San Diego County. Jason and the ABASD believe in building sustainable communities through inclusive economic development and a qualified diverse workforce.

In a historic effort, Jason established the Strategic Alliance, comprised of the region’s three largest ethnic chambers of commerce: the San Diego County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the County of San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce, and the ABASD, now known as the Alliance Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Alliance SBDC provides an array of services to help minorityowned small businesses succeed. Focusing on economic equity for the region’s underserved communities, Jason and Alliance SBDC assisted thousands of minorityowned small businesses, get nocost technical assistance and tensofmillions of dollars in COVID19 disaster relief capital.

Jason also serves as Commissioner on the California Commission on Asian & Pacific Islander American Affairs, appointed by Governor Newsom in early 2022. He is a tireless champion for minority owned businesses not only in the San Diego region, but throughout California and the country. Jason speaks out on policy to ensure small business owners of color and their unique situations are always taken into consideration.

Small Business Journalist of the Year

Small Business Journalist of the Year Natallie Rocha, Small Business Reporter The San Diego Union-Tribune

Natallie Rocha,
Small Business Reporter