Local entrepreneurs win SBA awards
LIBERTY — A young entrepreneur trying to break into the shoe, clothing and accessories business while still just a sophomore at Youngstown State University has received a top accolade from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
And so did a Fowler-based company that designs, manufactures and services live fire-training facilities and props — from airplanes to cars to helicopters and buildings — for customers coast to coast and in 20 locations across the globe.
The SBA, which recognized National Small Business Week last week, named Maeson Green of Austintown, owner of MBG Restoring, its Rookie of the Year for 2020 in the Cleveland District.
Winning the district’s Exporter of the Year award was Kirila Fire Training Facilities Inc. and its president Jerry Kirila.
“America’s small business owners exemplify the epitomy of persistence every day and have done so more than ever throughout this COVID-19 pandemic,” said SBA Great Lakes Regional Administrator Rob Scott.
The name of Green’s soon-to-open brick-and-mortar store in Liberty and his online business is an intentional, clever nod to what’s already is a large part of his business — tennis shoes.
Relaced will sell high-end, hard-to-find kicks, both new and previously owned, but restored, and perform restorations on all types of shoes, plus handbags, and do watch link removals. Also, the store will have streetwear and vintage clothing and eventually will carry local clothing brands.
Already, Green, who studies at YSU’s Williamson College of Business Administration, has restored more than 1,200 pairs of shoes since about 2015, when the idea started to grow after cleaning and restoring shoes for his classmates at Austintown Fitch High School.
Earlier this year, he was awarded the $2,400 Burgan Entrepreneurship prize, created to help students at the college with business ideas, to open the store.
Its 1,500 square feet at 3622 Belmont Ave., Suite 3. Green said he plans to open on Black Friday.
He also plans to have a significant social media presence with his @Relaced handle on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Online, he said, will enable him to link followers to local fashion-makers and clothing brands.
“We also want to sell local brands of clothing and get their clothes in the store, so ideally when we make those deals, our Relaced models or whatever will be rocking that merchandise and that’s going to up on the ‘gram (Instagram) and they’ll be able to buy that brand’s outfit with our sneakers as they are scrolling,” Green said.
Green was nominated for the award by Christina Vlosich, owner of Family First Adult Day Services in Austintown, who was a mentor of his in high school through the Community Connectors program.
The two were paired because of Vlosich’s experience in the small business world, which she’s been in for 20 years, and Green’s entrepreneurial spirit.
She noted his drive, having completed as a senior at Fitch an Emerging Leaders program, a six-month executive-level training course at Williamson for small to mid-size emerging companies to grow their business.
“That kid is going to do amazing things with his life,” Vlosich said. “Every time I see something about him I am so proud.”
Kirila Fire was born in 1997 from a Kirila Contractors runway build project. A lead for an aircraft fire trainer came from that and when it was a success, the U.S. Air Force, which had several trainers that were not in service, asked Jerry Kirila to do similar trainers at several other locations, according to Kirila Fire’s Marketing Coordinator, Lenna Boggs.
The first trainer project was of a C-130 Hercules for the Youngstown Air Reserve Station.
“Once Jerry had successfully gotten the U.S. Air Force aircraft fire trainers functioning properly, he realized they would need to be serviced and maintained so he walked away from the construction industry and started Kirila Fire Training Facilities, Inc.” Boggs wrote in an email.
Kirila Fire incorporated in 2007. It has grown to have customers in nearly every state and in 17 locations across the globe.
Boggs said the early military contracts fueled the domestic growth as word of mouth spread and also helped open the door to international connections.
“Our firefighters would often relocate (get assigned) to bases across the country and around the world,” Boggs wrote. “Once Jerry developed relationships with them, they would call on him with opportunities to work wherever they went. Word of mouth is huge in the U.S. military network.”
In addition, the company moved ahead with a global sales representative and sought help from the export assistance program at the Ohio Small Development Center at Youngstown State University and became involved with the NATO crash, firefighting and rescue panel.
“The Kirila Fire team made this happen, including Mousa Kassis, director of the Ohio SBDC Export Assistance Network, who nominated Kirila Fire for this award, and is always a tremendous support,” Boggs wrote. “The company’s success is absolutely due to a team effort.”
The SBA last week celebrated National Small Business Week to highlight the nation’s small businesses, which total more than 30 million. Typically held in May with an in-person award ceremony in Washington, D.C., the viral outbreak pushed this year’s events back to September.
On Thursday, there was a virtual awards ceremony for the winners.
“We are proud to present Small Business Week Awards to these deserving entrepreneurs and champions of the small business community,” said Gil Goldberg, Cleveland District Director. “Because of their efforts and acumen, our economy has grown. They have created jobs, and continue to persevere through the pandemic. Congratulations and thanks to all the winners.”