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Top Ariz. businesses honored as Spirit of Enterprise winners

September 23, 2010

At a time when many businesses are struggling and failing, Arizona boasts some great companies shining through the economic recovery, creating new jobs and contributing to our state. Sept. 23, the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University honored five of the best companies as Spirit of Enterprise Award winners. They were recognized for ethics, energy and excellence in entrepreneurship.

“Finding a niche and starting a business is a daunting task,” says Gary Naumann, director of the Spirit of Enterprise Center at the W. P. Carey School of Business. “Growing and sustaining that business -- and coming up with innovations to keep it competitive -- is an even greater challenge. The common thread among our 2010 winners is that they all had the tenacity to make the critical adjustments needed to power through to the next level.”

About 800 Valley business and community leaders were on hand when the winners were announced at a luncheon at the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa in Phoenix. The award recipients were noted for creating a positive culture both internally and in the community as a whole.

The 14th annual Spirit of Enterprise Award winners are:

• Arizona Air Boutique, Inc.Overcoming Adversity Award sponsored by the Arizona Lottery. Started as a home-based balloon bouquet business, this company diversified its offerings and became one of the largest helium distributors in Phoenix and one of the largest nonflammable gas distributors in Arizona. The company also sells balloon decorations and related promotional products, often donating balloons to charities.

• China Mist Brands, Inc.Emerging Entrepreneur Award sponsored by U.S. Bank. This is the first tea company to offer fresh-brewed iced green, flavored, Fair Trade, organic and herbal teas to food service companies. A co-founder is working toward a sustainability degree to influence all of the company’s products, and an innovative new line of bottled organic teas was recently launched.

• Elontec - Spirit of Enterprise Entrepreneurial Leadership Award. This company specializes in technology, telecommunications and commercial relocation. It has a 99-percent customer satisfaction rate, extensive community involvement and a track record that includes tripling its gross revenues in one year.

• International Cruise and Excursions, Inc.Spirit of Enterprise Survivor/Innovator Award. “ICE” changed the landscape of the travel industry with its “barter-for-travel” initiative offering cruises in exchange for timeshares, airline miles, credit card loyalty points and other alternative currencies. It is now among the top five cruise providers in the world.

• Maintenance MartGary L. Trujillo Minority Enterprise Award sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona. This is a family-owned janitorial and facility supply service with a heavy emphasis on recycling and the use of environmentally friendly products. The minority-owned business also has a very high employee retention rate and a focus on maintaining long-term customer relationships.

The other Spirit of Enterprise finalists this year are All About People, Inc.; David and Sam PR; Dircks Moving Services; Sanderson Ford, Inc. and Sunstate Equipment Co.

These awards are just one focus of the Spirit of Enterprise Center, which helps hundreds of businesses each year. The center offers companies the chance to recruit and meet with top student talent, while also allowing students to get hands-on business experience. One key program, Student Teams for Entrepreneurship Projects (STEP), matches W. P. Carey School of Business students with Valley companies to help tackle real-world challenges and opportunities for the businesses. Companies can also use the center to access other Arizona State University business resources.

The Spirit of Enterprise Center is self-funded and utilizes community sponsorships and volunteers to sustain its activities. For more information, go to