Daily CSR
Daily CSR

Daily CSR
Daily news about corporate social responsibility, ethics and sustainability

Thriving Business Expands with New Retail Space and Top Talent Acquisition


During National Small Business Week, four U.S. Bank clients had a special reason to celebrate. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) recognized them as the Businesspeople of the Year, acknowledging their exceptional contributions as entrepreneurs and small business owners. These individuals are not only creating thriving businesses but also making a positive impact on their communities.
The National Small Business Week, held in Washington, D.C., honors award winners from various states and territories for their outstanding achievements.
One of the recipients of this prestigious recognition is Abdirahman Kahin, the owner of Afro Deli & Grill located in St. Paul, Minnesota. Being named the National Small Businessperson of the Year by the SBA was a remarkable achievement for him. In May, he had the opportunity to meet with prominent figures such as President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and SBA Administrator Isabella Guzman during the ceremony in Washington, D.C.
For Kahin, this recognition serves as validation for the vital role that small businesses play in the country's economy. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1996, and through years of hard work and sacrifice, he transformed Afro Deli & Grill into a successful fast-casual restaurant, serving delicious African cuisine.
Since opening his first Afro Deli & Grill in 2011, Kahin has expanded to operate four brick-and-mortar locations. Moreover, he provides grab-and-go products at over a dozen other spots in the Twin Cities area. With a team of more than 70 employees, he also collaborates with Meals on Wheels and Kitchen Collision to deliver meals to vulnerable community members.
Reflecting on the early days of his business, Kahin shared that it was initially a challenge to convince non-Africans to try African food. However, his passion and dedication paid off, as more and more people came to appreciate his delicious offerings.
When asked about his relationship with U.S. Bank, Kahin expressed gratitude for their support. He described them as helpful neighbors and spoke highly of the partnership he has with the bank.
Taveesak "Dang" Chanthasuthisombut, the owner of Dang Thai Cuisine and Mr. Dee Sushi Bar located in Hailey, Idaho, has been recognized as the Idaho Small Businessperson of the Year by the SBA Idaho. Benjamin Mitchum, the SBA business development officer for U.S. Bank, nominated him for this esteemed honor.
Mitchum commended Dang for embodying the spirit of pursuing dreams and demonstrating unwavering determination in achieving personal and professional goals. As a first-generation immigrant to the United States, Dang arrived with hopes and aspirations for his new life. Within five years of his arrival, he fulfilled his goal of owning his own restaurant, and his rich food culture brings something special to his customers' dining experience every time.
During the pandemic, Dang also showed tremendous support for his employees, earning admiration from Mitchum for his caring and responsible approach to managing his business during challenging times.
Having immigrated to the U.S. from Thailand in 2000, Dang has not only established two successful restaurants in Hailey but also forged strong bonds within the community. Despite his modest expectations, he was pleasantly surprised by the nomination and expressed his happiness about being recognized for his contributions to Hailey's community.
Regarding his relationship with U.S. Bank, Dang spoke highly of the bank, stating that they treat him like family, demonstrating a strong and supportive partnership.
“Everyone has been really nice, and when I have a question, they always try to find an answer,” he said.
Kenny Blakeslee, a former United States Navy avionics technician, and his wife and business partner, Brooke Blakeslee, were honored by the SBA Sacramento District Office as the Veteran-owned Small Business of the Year for their company, APEX Site Solutions, based in Elk Grove, California. Since its founding, the company has experienced significant growth and now employs over 100 people.
APEX Site Solutions specializes in wireless telecommunications services, catering to carriers, tower owners, building owners, and public safety radio users. Their range of services includes tower construction, coverage testing, troubleshooting network issues, and enhancing cellular and two-way radio coverage within buildings.
The Blakeslees prioritize their employees, offering on-the-job training and career development opportunities to empower them to succeed. Their community-focused approach extends beyond their business endeavors, as they are actively involved in a local nonprofit dedicated to combating human trafficking. After a child trafficking incident deeply impacted their tight-knit community, the Blakeslees joined forces with the 3Strands Global Foundation, working together to develop initiatives, provide free training, and certification courses to prevent human trafficking and aid in the reintegration of survivors.
Recognizing Kenny Blakeslee's dedication and passion, Louis Lane, a U.S. Bank SBA business development officer, nominated him for this prestigious recognition. In appreciation of their community involvement and business achievements, Brooke Blakeslee and U.S. Bank colleagues attended a special recognition event during the Capital Region Small Business Week in Sacramento.
"We appreciate U.S. Bank for their scale and scope because it allows us to live our value of ‘better every day,’ said Kenny Blakeslee. “Having access to world-class banking products, infrastructure and experts for a business of our size has really helped us improve our financial processes and risk management."
Denise Cotter and Michelle Marino, the dynamic duo behind Houndstooth House, have been named the South Dakota Small Business of the Year. Fate brought these two talented individuals together, despite their hometowns being hundreds of miles apart, to establish their flourishing interior design and retail store in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Interestingly, Denise Cotter and Michelle Marino grew up just a short 90-minute drive from each other in Kansas but had never crossed paths until they both found themselves working at a mall in Sioux Falls. After becoming friends, they each started their families, and when it was time to return to work, they decided to launch a business that would prioritize their families while pursuing their passion.
Over the past two decades, Marino and Cotter have nurtured Houndstooth House, transforming it from a standalone interior design firm into a thriving enterprise with a remarkable 10,000-square-foot building housing both retail space and their design services. The growth of their business has allowed them to employ eight dedicated individuals who contribute to the success of Houndstooth House.
“Really, the changes happened fast these last five years when we were selected as the preferred designers for a four-story, multi-use development downtown,” said Cotter and added “both Houndstooth House and her family have business and personal banking accounts with U.S. Bank”.
“We built out 17 $1-million condos on top of keeping our day-to-day business going with other clients.”
Over the past half-year, they successfully launched their new retail space. As they envision the future of their enterprise, their primary focus is on expanding this aspect of their business and recruiting top-notch talent to bolster their flourishing operations.
“A couple of years ago, we told people we were the up-and-coming interior designers in Sioux Falls,” said Cotter. “I feel like we put it out into the universe and now look at where we are today.”