TRAVERSE CITY — Leslie Winkle's makeover of Studio 415 Salon earned the shop the title 2016 Hagerty Small Business of the Year.
"We just feel like we've grown so much," Winkle said after receiving the award.
Judges and past winners at the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce's Small Business Celebration Award Ceremony on Wednesday said the contest process may be even more valuable to a business than the win itself. The year-long process forces business owners to look closely at their operation.
Marguerite Cotto, representing Northwestern Michigan College, said the application, interview and site tours allow managers to take stock of their business and think more deeply about how it could grow.
"It really catapulted us to where we are today," said judge Kevin Schlueter, representing past winner Kalkaska Screw Products.
Winkle received the award Wednesday during the ceremony at NMC's Hagerty Center.
Studio 415 launched in 2011. Winkle purchased the business at 415 Cass St. in 2014.
Judges cited the salon's rapid growth, community involvement, employee training, customer service and technological savvy among reasons it won. The studio developed its own app for customer use. They said the business doubled sales under Winkle's management, and added employees.
The nine other finalists were: All Seasons Hotel & Resort, City Mac, Ella’s, Epic Powersports, GFA Inc., Krause Realty Solutions, Northern Lighting Wash, Traverse Dental Associates and Williams & Bay Pumping Service.
The chamber launched its annual Small Business Celebration in 2005 to highlight the role small business plays in anchoring the region's economy. The award is named for Hagerty insurance, a classic car and boat insurance company based in Traverse City. Each year's recipient receives up to a $5,000 match from Hagerty for community giving efforts, plus 40 hours of executive team consulting services from Hagerty.
Studio 415 will also receive eight hours of consulting from the training services program at Northwestern Michigan College.