The Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands district office of the U.S. Small Business Administration presented the “Small Business Person of the Year Award” to Víctor M. Rivera-Solanas and María Paula Rivera-Solanas, president and vice president, respectively, of Atención Atención Inc.
Atención Atención Inc. is a children’s entertainment and educational company founded in 1999. The business combines games and dance to teach values through the art of music. Its television show has received 36 nominations to the Emmy Award Suncoast Chapter and is the winner of ten statues in various categories. Also nominated to the Latin Grammy Awards, Atención Atención employs 67 people.
“The contributions Víctor and María Paula have made as small business owners have not only resulted in job creation and their community’s economic expansion,” said SBA District Director Yvette T. Collazo.
“Their work has had a strong educational impact on thousands of children and their parents, in Puerto Rico, in the U.S. and Latin-American countries like Panama, Colombia, Mexico and Chile,” she said. “The SBA encourages social responsibility as much as small business ownership, and this winning team has combined both successfully.”
At the event co-hosted by the Puerto Rico Bankers Association in Isla Verde, the SBA also honored the following small businesses and entrepreneurs:
Husband and Wife Business Team of the Year
Sergio Fernández & Marian Ortiz – FVO Enterprises Group, LLC
Established in 2009 doing business as Bientesabe Gourmet, and currently operating as BTS Foods/CUPS, the company offers a full line of dessert products for food industry customers throughout the island. The company serves the retail industry through CUPS, 5-oz desserts prepared and sold in plastic cups with lids; these are available at the factory in Bayamón, or at kiosks in various shopping centers. The business employs 10 people.
Service Provider of the Year
Carlos N. Castillo Piazza – La Cuisine Catering Service Inc.
Established in 1984, the business provides catering services throughout the island for events of between 25 and 3,000 guests. In 2001, Castillo and his wife Olga purchased a property in Trujillo Alto, which they named Jardines del Castillo, and which has become a favorite for weddings and anniversary parties, due to its lush gardens and castle-like structure. The business employs four people full-time and hires additional staff under professional services per event.
Manufacturer of the Year
Dan Bigman – Gascó Industrial
Established in 2004 by José Gascó, the Gurabo-based company provides manufacturing solutions that help retailers and distributors offer quality products that meet strict regulatory requirements. With a food division that manufactures seasonings and spices, and an industrial division that produces cleaners and disinfectants, Gascó Industrial also produces private labels and employs 23 people.
Small Business Start-Up of the Year
Annette Mattei – SEVE Inc. dba Do the Math
Operating since November 2015, Do the Math is a tutoring and supervised studies center for students in grades sixth through twelfth, and focuses on the following subjects: pre-algebra, algebra, geometric, pre-calculus, and others. The business has created fours jobs.
Woman Entrepreneur of the Year
Iris Vincent – Prime Air Corp.
Founded in 2001, Prime Air is an Economically Disadvantaged Woman-Owned business dedicated to offering logistics, transportation and warehousing services to the federal government and private sector. Located in Carolina, the company focuses on customized services and employs 22 people.
“All small business owners honored today represent the true spirit of entrepreneurship,” Collazo added. “The SBA commends their tenacity, dedication and efforts to create jobs and help foster our island’s economy.”
The SBA also bestowed the following awards to participating lenders that during fiscal year 2016 provided over $95.5 million in financing under the agency’s 7(a) Loan Guaranty program: Gold Award to Banco Popular de Puerto Rico; Silver Award to Economic Development Bank for Puerto Rico; and Bronze Award to Banco Santander Puerto Rico; FirstBank de Puerto Rico received the Star Award for delivering the first SBA CAPLine on the island; and “Corporación para el Fomento Empresarial del Comercio y de las Comunidades” (COFECC) received the Certified Development Company of the Year Award.
The District Director’s Special Award went to Rafael Contreras, transition services officer of Fort Buchanan’s Transition Assistance Program, for his support to veteran-owned small businesses through use of SBA programs and services.