2 Bluffton companies win chamber's small-business awards

bheffernan@islandpacket.comMay 23, 2013 

Leah and Ryan McCarthy of Downtown Catering Company were all smiles after being awarded the Small Business of the Year award during the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year awards luncheon on Thursday.

JAY KARR — Staff photo Buy Photo

The Downtown Deli and Downtown Catering Co. was named the 2012 Small Business of the Year by the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, and Mindstream Academy was the first recipient of an award for businesses less than five years old.

Mindstream, a boarding school that helps students lose weight, was named the 2012 Successful Start-Up of the Year.

The winners were selected by local business leaders, according to chamber spokeswoman Charlie Clark.

After 11 years of long hours in the kitchen and skipping weekend outings to cater weddings, the recognition that husband and wife Ryan and Leah McCarthy received for their culinary business was "pay-back for all the hard work," said Ryan McCarthy.

Leah McCarthy called the recognition "a true, true honor" that has taken perseverance "and, of course, learning from every single, solitary mistake -- and we've made a lot of them."

It was the second time that Mindstream Academy owner Ray Travaglione has been recognized by the chamber. He also received the 2000 Small Business of the Year award for the Golf Academy of Hilton Head, of which he was founder and CEO.

Mindstream, which opened in 2010, offers classes on nutrition, regular workouts, gardening and other activities to help students lose weight. The school has received national attention from the likes of Katie Couric, "The Today Show" and "Good Morning America" for its results.

"We've identified a huge, huge problem that could ultimately bring this country to its knees, and in our small way, we're trying to do something about it -- one kid at a time," Travaglione said.

He said he hopes the award will help make local residents more aware of the school.

The event's keynote address was delivered by James Wordsworth, chairman of the Small Business Council for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He spoke on how businesses add value to their communities and urged the audience to advocate for less government regulation and taxation.

The awards luncheon marked the close of the chamber's Small Business Week, which began with a cookout Monday for the chamber's nearly 1,600 members, most of which are small businesses, according to Clark.

The chamber also offered seminars throughout the week on topics such as social media and employee leadership. The latter was a favorite of Pino Gelato manager Martin Tiongson, who attended the luncheon Thursday.

"It's invaluable for small-business owners and managers to have that kind of education available," Tiongson said.

Follow reporter Brian Heffernan at twitter.com/IPBG_Brian

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