Entrepreneur beats odds to take top business honorPublished: Thursday, May 21, 2009 7:00 am By: Debbie Blossom
A small-business owner from Oklahoma City who overcame personal and business challenges to lead her environmental remediation firm to success has been named the 2009 National Small Business Person of the Year.
Jeanne Sellmeyer and her firm, ASSET Group Inc., received the annual Small Business Administration honor from a pool of 53 state small-business winners, including representatives from the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam.
The announcement was made Tuesday evening during an awards dinner in Washington, part of National Small Business Week. Sellmeyer and Jennifer Fogg, ASSET's president and chief operating officer, were in Washington for the annual event.
Sellmeyer, 42, is Oklahoma's first small-business person of the year to snag the national honor since Rainbows and Halos founder Amelia McCoy, from Lamar, received the award in 1992.
"Jeanna Sellmeyer is a perfect example of the grit and determination it takes to become a highly successful entrepreneur in America today," SBA Administrator Karen Mills, who announced the winners, said in a statement. "Hers is a story of beating the odds and coming back on top, surviving daunting obstacles to lead her environmental remediation firm and its 100 employees to a leadership position in her industry.
"In doing so, Jeanna demonstrates the qualities that make small businesses such a powerful force in the American economy, and in their communities."
Sellmeyer, on her way home to Oklahoma City on Wednesday, said the win was quite unexpected.
"I was shocked, but it was great," she said. "When you looked at the competition, it was strong. There were a lot of great people who have done a lot of great things."
Climbing to the top
Sellmeyer's climb to business success came after surviving a brain tumor and struggling to get the business she founded in 1990 to continue after the 2001 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina.
The Oklahoma native relocated ASSET Group to Oklahoma City in 2002, and since has refocused the company to provide emergency services, including construction and remediation to FEMA and other federal agencies.
ASSET Group is now one of the region's most successful federal construction and remediation contractors with just less than 100 employees, more than $45 million in revenues, and project locations ranging from California to Florida.
Sellmeyer credits her team for ASSET's strength, and said the award doesn't really change her motivation to grow or the company's bottom line.
"Tomorrow we put our boots back on and hit the ground running," she said.