Today, March 16, 2017, the U.S. Small Business Administration announced this year's Small Business Person of the Year winners from the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The winners will attend ceremonies in Washington, D.C on April 30 – May 1 where they will be honored with their individual award along with recognition of the three runners-up and the naming of the 2017 National Small Business Person of the Year.

Among the winners this year are three bakery owners who have stood out in their communities. Lorena P. Cantarovici of Maria Empanada in Denver, Colorada, Leigh S. Kellis of The Holy Donut in Portland, Maine, and Mary J. Russell of Sugaree’s Bakery in New Albany, Mississippi won their respective states’ distinctions.

The Holy Donut owner Leigh S. Kellis – “The idea for The Holy Donut grew very organically out of a craving I was experiencing for some deeply satisfying yet healthy comfort food – specifically, a donut. I knew a chain version would just not cut it. I wanted a donut made with fresh ingredients that I could feel good about eating. Since I couldn’t find what I was looking for, I decided to create it myself.”

Maria Empanada owner Lorana P. Cantarovici – “Empanadas. A swirl of memories that overlapped one another: making the sirloin steak empanadas by mother’s side for countless family gatherings . . . That’s what I wanted. A place for people here in the U.S. to try empanadas. The ones of my childhood. I knew. I…just… knew… that if people would try them, once, just once, they would come back. That was the dream.”

Sugaree’s Bakery – “Sugaree’s Bakery is a small batch bakery in New Albany, Mississippi, dedicated to the preservation of our culinary heritage in the Deep South.  Since 1997, we have been recreating flavors of the past with our classic, Southern layer cakes.  Focusing on depth of flavor, our aim is to make the richest, moistest homemade cakes available.”