It might look like all fun and games as employees play foosball, but workers at Draker Laboratories in Burlington are getting down to business. Draker makes technology to monitor and fix problems at renewable energy projects, from smaller developments like a Ferrisburgh solar farm to bigger projects in Japan.
"We help them manage their performance of solar projects around the world," Charles "Chach" Curtis said.
Curtis has been the CEO at Draker for three years. What once was a scrappy startup Curtis turned into a powerhouse, from eight employees to 55 and growing; one of the many reasons why he is the 2012 Vermont Small Business Person of the Year.
"It's actually one of the more challenging things to win," said Darcy Carter of the Small Business Administration.
The criteria to win: increasing of sales, employees, staying power and giving back to the community.
"That felt awesome, not so much for me, but for the team of 50 people here that have worked their tails off to achieve some pretty phenomenal growth over the years," Curtis said.
Among the dozens of other nominees, Curtis' achievements stood out. He brought in new customers, took Draker global and expanded the services it offers.
"He really had to fine tune what the market needed," Carter said.
One of the most impressive feats is the 250 percent revenue growth the past two years.
Reporter Gina Bullard: 250 percent-- that's a flabbergasting number to me.
Chach Curtis: Particularly in this economy, but we've been fortunate. The solar market has been growing pretty rapidly. It's been doubling over the last two years.
And even though the solar energy field is hot now, with tax credits Curtis describes it as a "solarcoaster"-- always changing. Even so, this year the business is expected to grow by triple digits thanks to Curtis' vision.
"He was able to take a diamond in the rough, bring it to be a major contender. So, it's very impressive," Carter said.
"For me, personally, it's recognition of hard work that I and the rest of the team have put into the company recognized," Curtis said.
An award putting a spotlight on Curtis that he hopes will lead to more growth of green jobs in the Green Mountains.
FULL LIST OF WINNERS:
Vermont's 2012 Small Business Person of the Year, Chach Curtis, CEO of Draker and Champion Award recipients will receive local honors at a gala event sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration and Vermont Business Magazine.
Additional award recipients will include:
Small Business Exporter, Joel Melnick, President of Nathaniel Group, Inc., Vergennes;
Vermont Microenterprise, Andrew Boutin, General Manager of Pellergy, LLC, Montpelier;
Family-Owned Small Business, James Mount and Karen Mount, Owners of Westaff, Burlington;
Financial Services Champion, Vermont Economic Development Authority, Montpelier;
Community/Rural Lender of the Year, Passumpsic Savings Bank, St. Johnsbury;
Special Award for Disaster Assistance, Linda Rossi, Associate State Director of the Vermont Small Business Development Center, Randolph Center;
Women in Business Champion, Sarah Spencer, Founder/President of Got Clicks? Richmond;
Volunteer Perseverance Award, Laura Sibilia, East Dover;
Business Perseverance Award, William Mattewson, Owner of Heatech, Inc., White River Junction;
and Home-Based Business Champion of the Year, Simeon Geigel of Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity, Micro Business Development Program, Burlington.
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