Small Business is a Big Deal: Presenting our 2017 Small Business Award Recipients

Amanda Ellis

Skye Strategies, 1-20 Employees Category Recipient

After years working in grant writing and public relations and dreaming of a consulting career, Jennifer Hoff launched Skye Strategies in 2012, named after her daughter.

Skye Strategies offers grant development and capacity building services for nonprofit, education, healthcare, government and social enterprise organizations.

Skye Strategies has secured more than $27 million in funding for more than 35 organizations —impacting everything from education to arts and culture to workforce development across 16 counties.

“Five years ago, I never could have imagined launching a company, hiring three staff and nearly doubling my revenue in a single year (2016),” Hoff says. “Chattanooga gave me opportunities that I do not believe I would have had in another community. Anyone here with a good idea, passion and a willingness to work hard can succeed as an entrepreneur.”

Hoff launched her business in the Chamber-managed INCubator, and moved to the Edney Innovation Center’s Society of Work upon graduation, proof that Chattanooga’s holistic approach to encouraging startups works.

In addition to a myriad of resources for entrepreneurs, the Chattanooga region has one of the highest percentages of nonprofits per capita in the nation, ideal for Skye Strategies to build its client base of organizations that improve people’s lives.

“I’ll never forget the time and energy Jennifer dedicated to a large state grant application in 2013 that we found out about a week before the deadline,” says Elaine Swafford, Executive Director of the Chattanooga Girls’ Leadership Academy. “Jennifer and her team put in more than 100 hours in a week and worked through the weekend, and the application provided an infusion of $750,000 in funding that led to CGLA’s turnaround. It’s rare for us not to be awarded a grant application that Jennifer and her team develop, and I know other clients echo this success.”

Flywheel Brands, Inc.

Creswell Richardson, 21-50 Employees Category Recipient 

Bob Creswell worked as a regional manager for a bearing and industrial supply big box company in the 1960s. When the company decided to move his job to Ohio, he stayed in Chattanooga and founded Creswell Industrial Supply in his basement.

Now called Creswell Richardson after the acquisition of Richardson Electric, the company is a leading distributor of power transmission products, electrical components, automation control devices, pneumatics, hydraulics and kitting services as well as mechanical and electrical engineering solutions.

Creswell Richardson employs 28 people 46 years after its humble beginning, including Creswell family members President & CEO Rob Creswell and Vice President Greg Creswell, both Bob Creswell’s sons. They now boast additional offices in Knoxville, Tennessee, and warehouses in Indianapolis and Reno, Nevada. 

“We’ve understood from the beginning that Chattanooga has vision and understands that manufacturing is an important industry for our community,” Rob Creswell says. “With the city, county and Chamber working to bring in Volkswagen and other manufacturing plants, we gain an even broader local customer base.”

Creswell Industrial Supply struggled in 2009 alongside many other businesses during the recession. As automation replaced many manufacturing plants, Creswell’s acquisition of Richardson Electric provided an engineering and automation department as well as electrical expertise. Numbers demonstrated the wisdom of this decision one year later.

”To remain competitive in an industry dominated by large, national suppliers, we offer what they do while still offering the hometown service of a small family business,” Creswell says. “Our commitment to that service, as well as our commitment to innovation and our willingness to take on a healthy amount of risk — those qualities assure our success into the future.”

Creswell has continued to invest in its TechCraft Engineering division to offer custom control systems from design and startup stages to programming, implementation and training. Always in search of new ways to provide for their customers, Creswell has expanded their innovative approach to include storeroom management, solar vending solutions and OTIS, an On Time Inventory System.

Flying Squirrel

JHM Certified Public Accountants

Tranco, 51-200 Employees Category Recipient 

Brothers Bruce and Byron Trantham grew up in East Ridge and created Tranco Logistics in 1995 with 2,500 square feet of rented warehouse space and a pickup truck.

Bruce worked his day job, sharing this income with Byron as he focused on building Tranco. At night, the brothers and later other family members worked together to build the business, which began as paper product storage and delivery for local businesses.

Today Tranco Logistics is a rapidly growing full service third-party logistics company with 1.5 million square feet of warehouse space and more than 300 tractor-trailers traveling more than 170,000 miles each week.

Tranco’s 189 employees deliver transportation, warehousing, distribution and packaging services to more than 130 partner companies, and now offer international customs brokerage and freight forwarding services as well.

“We expect that our phenomenal growth will remove us from the small business category after this year,” says Joe Taylor, Tranco Vice President of Business Development.

In 1997 Tranco used its first full-size trailer to give back to the community, transporting a 100-year-old carousel to Ohio for three years of refurbishing. After that, Tranco transported the historic carousel to where it now operates in Coolidge Park.

In 2010, Volkswagen and its suppliers fueled Tranco’s growth, and Tranco is now VW’s preferred provider for deliveries from Tier 1 suppliers in a 250-mile radius.

Tranco now plans to launch a trade school to serve both manufacturers’ need for skilled tradesmen and young people looking for career direction.

“They won’t merely get a certificate and then we wish them well,” Bruce Trantham says. “The school will be actively interested in helping young people develop a career capable of supporting a family, even if they’re just out of high school.”

Tranco purchased a building late last year to begin training truck drivers and eventually pipe fitters, electricians, robotics, welding experts and more.

Kelly Auto Group


CADAS, Nonprofit Category Recipient 

The Council for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services (CADAS) offers a full continuum of care for treating drug and alcohol addiction in both adolescents and adults. Founded in 1964, CADAS now helps more than 2,200 people each year overcome addiction regardless of ability to pay.  CADAS serves still more of the community through outreach services such as drug screening, DUI programs and training seminars for substance abuse professionals.

Through its residential, outpatient and aftercare programs, CADAS focuses on a multidimensional treatment approach to the complex disease of addiction, designed to restore patients physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. 

Some of the most qualified staff in the state deliver treatment at CADAS, including physicians, masters level therapists and social workers and clinical psychologists to assist with mental health issues associated with addiction. Many of these professionals draw on personal addiction experiences to relate to CADAS clients. 

“CADAS gave me hope for my future and made me realize how good life really is,” says one CADAS patient. “CADAS has been a blessing for me, my kids, my mom and my sister because when I return home I’ll be the person I used to be.”

Regardless of a patient’s age, CADAS views family as a vital part of addiction recovery and recognizes the role of family issues in addiction behaviors, with various programs available for processing these issues and learning how to support a loved one’s recovery.

“CADAS is a primary referral source for our agency,” says Donna Maddox, Johnson Mental Health Center. “We refer clients to CADAS because we know they will be treated with respect while receiving treatment of the highest caliber.”

Next up for CADAS is a 24-unit NorthShore apartment building that will be the only sober housing complex in Chattanooga, offering low-income housing for people in recovery in one of the most popular areas of the city.

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Chattanooga

Siskin Children's Institute

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