PUNA – State Senator Russell Ruderman was recently honored by the U.S. Small Business Association as Business Person of the Year by the Hawaii Region of the Small Business Association. The senator from Puna just returned from Washington, D.C. where he took the above photo with SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet at the White House.
According to a media release from the State Senate:
The award was given to Sen. Ruderman as President and Founder of Island Naturals, a group of natural and organic food stores on Hawaii Island. Established in 1997, Island Naturals now employs 150 people at three locations in Kona, Hilo and Pahoa. Those who nominated Ruderman for the Business Person of the Year award, described him as someone “willing to listen to people with different worldviews,” and “very humble and unassuming.”
I’m truly humbled by this honor. I feel lucky to be able to combine my passion to support local people and local products with my love for business and entrepreneurship.”Sen. Russell Ruderman
The news release quoted Island Naturals employee Sarah Naleimaile, who works in the Hilo store. She said that early on Ruderman told her how he always wanted to work at a place where you can have fun, “and that’s the kind of place it is. I’m actually excited to come to work every day.”
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is an independent agency of the federal government founded in 1953 with the purpose of helping small business interests. The SBA awards recognize the special impact made by outstanding entrepreneurs and small business owners. “The winner is selected by a panel of judges comprised of both SBA employees and non-Federal employees,” the senate media release says. “The criteria for the Business Person of the Year award includes number of years in business, growth in number of employees and increase in sales and /or unit volume, innovativeness of product or service offered and contributions to community-oriented projects.”