Category Archives: Success Story

2015 Micro Entrepreneur of the Year

Freedom Trail Tour, Inc.  


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Johnnie Brown, Owner and Operator of Freedom Trail Tours, Inc.

At this year’s Award Luncheon, the 2015 Micro Entrepreneur of the Year was awarded to the business Freedom Trail Tour, Inc. owned by Johnnie Brown.

Many of us know this stylish, well-dressed tour guide sporting a top hat and French cuffed shirt, but if you don’t, let us paint a picture of him for you. New York Times describes Johnnie Brown as one of Savannah’s precious few African-American tour guides whose popular tour is a refreshing detour from a stroll on River Street. Trip Advisor contributors strongly recommend him, stating “Johnnie Brown is passionate about delivering spot-on information and an interesting tour”.

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Johnnie Brown [center] received the 2015 Micro Entrepreneur Award from Stephen George [left]. Reverend Tillman [right] of the First African Baptist Church, Savannah, also pictured here.

As you can read in the most recent article on his business in the Savannah Now, Johnnie has come back again and again to SBAC for his business financing.  He first came to SBAC in 2011, and received a loan funded through the City of Savannah’s Housing and Urban Development Special Purpose Grant to refinance his tour bus at that time. He has since returned to SBAC every year since for a total of 5 loans to finance various projects including the purchase of a new bus. It has been a pleasure working with Johnnie Brown and watching his small business grow to what it is today.

SBAC was very pleased to honor Johnnie Brown of Freedom Trail Tour, Inc. with our award for Micro Entrepreneur of the Year 2015.

2015 Michael Bunn, Sr., Memorial Rising Star Award

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2015 Michael Bunn Sr., Rising Star Award Winner- Gil Straub of Bojangles

Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘N Biscuits


The Michael Bunn Senior Memorial Rising Star Award has been given every year since its inception to a small business that has shown to be a “Rising Star” in its community.

In this year’s Annual Luncheon at the Savannah Station, SBAC recognized and honored Gilbert Straub and Gilbo, LLC dba Bojangles’ Famous Chicken n’ Biscuits for their continuous involvement in our community.

SBAC-2015Luncheon-2157 AMBGil operates several restaurants who regularly host local charity nights and events to help organizations, athletic teams, and schools raise funds. Numerous times Gil and his partner Mike Curran, have stated that Bojangles’ is an avenue for them to help people in the community.

When Gil opened his first Bojangles’ in the community he told Savannah Business Journal:

“We define ourselves by the community in which we live because we have become so ingrained in it with every aspect of our lives. Bojangles’ has built its reputation on being active in the community it serves, so it fits very nicely with who we are as business owners and Savannah residents.”

In a past article, Business in Savannah commented that they’ve reinvented the Bojangles’ brand into one that not only provides quality fast food, but also has an impact on the Savannah community.

Since their start in 2009, Gil Straub and his Bojangles’ team have continuously shown how dedicated they are to our community. With the help from SBAC, and the Small Business Administration, and Ameris Bank, Gil has been able to open two additional Bojangles’ franchise locations; financing projects which total $4.29 Million Dollars.

Circa 1875

This month we visited Circa 1875, a taste of France in the heart of Savannah. The restaurant is described as the “Unpretentious French Cuisine and Gastro Pub”- so authentic, the owners actually traveled (and ate) through France for inspiration.


17hundred90 Inn & Restaurant

This month we’re profiling 17Hundred90, a legendary Inn and restaurant here in Savannah. Located in the heart of the Historic District,17Hundred90 gives locals and tourists alike an authentic taste of history.
A few years ago the Godleys decided to purchase and renovate the property utilizing the SBA 504 loan program. SBAC and Heritage Bank handled the loan, and the family did the heavy lifting; literally. The owners did much of the renovation work themselves.
Fun Fact— Named for the year of its inception, 1790 is Savannah’s oldest Inn and has been called one of the most haunted buildings in America.
Before we call the ghost busters, we have to marvel at the beauty and amazing story that has attracted visitors and even celebrities for centuries.
Not only does 17Hundred90 encompass a rich history in its own right, the building is a destination for many looking to make their own. Home to many proposals and first dates, 17Hundred90 will remain a fixture in the hearts and minds of the masses that chose to make it part of their journey.

2014 Michael Bunn, Sr., Memorial Rising Star Award

Savannah Global Solutions

Mark and Trudy Sauer of Savannah Global Solutions

The Michael Bunn, Sr. Memorial Rising Star Award has been given every year since its inception to a business that has shown to be a “Rising Star” in its community.

Mark and Trudy Sauer came to Savannah in the late 90’s with an interest in owning a small business. As they searched for a company that would be the right fit, Mark joined a Savannah company owned by an Australian manufacturer, who manufactured and sold equipment used in commercial forestry. Years later, the two run a successful local manufacturing company with international clients and a growing labor pool.

Savannah Global Solutions, LLC markets and manufactures mechanical and chemical site preparation equipment used to forest and reforest commercial timber plantations, prepares sites for bio-fuel crops such as sugar cane and converts native land and cut-over timberland back to crop land. The use of this highly sophisticated soil preparation equipment results in better survival and growth of trees and crops in very rugged soil conditions.

Savannah Global Solutions is known for its ability to bridge strong products and manufacturing with the biological needs of forestry and bio-crops.  Savannah Global Solutions supports sustainable environmental conscience developments in Forestry, Bio-fuel Crops/ Energy, Agriculture, Constructions and Recycle Markets worldwide.

Savannah Global Solutions secured a loan to provide permanent financing for the purchase and improvement to an existing commercial building. SBAC Partnered with Gabe Thomas of SunTrust Bank for a total project of $1.7 Million dollars.

Mark and Trudy Sauer give the term “family owned business” a whole new meaning. The husband and wife “dream team” handle all the management of the local company with an international reach. Mark, the chief operator with over 25 years of experience in the engineering field, is responsible for sales, marketing, overseeing manufacturing and new product development. Trudy, the business manager, supervises accounting and HR and assists in marketing and business development. She has over 28 years of management and administrative experience.

Savannah Global Solutions is an innovator in the field of manufacturing and engineering. The company continues to make a positive impact on the local, national and international economy.  Along with the award being presented here today, Savannah Global Solutions has been selected as 2014 Exporter of the year by the Georgia Small Business Administration.

From Pastry Chef to Micro Entrepreneur of the Year

Adam Turoni

Adam Turoni

“It all started in my grandmother’s kitchen…”

Adam Turoni recalls fond memories of watching his grandmother in the kitchen when he was just a kid in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He was mesmerized by the scents and flavors and combinations that became masterpieces. Although he neither of them knew it at the time, Adam’s passion for food would go far beyond that of necessity. His passion would take time to new places; reserved for innovators and risk takers. His passion would take him from Head Pastry Chef (as a senior in high school) to Master Chocolatier and successful entrepreneur.

Adam now cooks in his own kitchen; a commercial kitchen in Downtown Savannah, where he creates perfection in the form of chocolate. Adam opened his own business and quickly received attention from local and national media outlets.

Adam & SBAC

In 2013, Adam received a loan from SBAC to buy a chocolate tempering machine which kept the chocolate at a liquid state for long periods of time, increasing the chocolate that could be produced.  This was needed as the business began to grow rapidly as the retail, catering, and the internet sales began to increase.

It was only a year later that Adam received an opportunity to purchase his retail location and he approached SBAC again.  Leaping at the opportunity to help, SBAC approached Adam’s bank, First Chatham Bank, with an opportunity to partner on the project that funded the loan for Adam to purchase his space.

SBAC was pleased to present Adam Turoni of Chocolat by Adam with SBAC’s award for Micro Entrepreneur of the Year 2014.

Sucess as Sweet as Honey: Savannah Bee Company

Ted Dennard of Savannah Bee Company on how he started his business and his experience with the Small Business Assistance Corporation in Savannah, GA



Wedding Planning/ Bridal Shop Owners on Starting a Small Business and Getting a Loan from SBAC

Ivory and Beau is a unique boutique that combines wedding planning with bridal gowns. Owners Nicole Schwalge and Adrienna McDermott joined forces to realize their dream of bringing unique bridal designs to the area.





Owl About Kids Featured in SBAC City Span TV Segment

SBAC  films a monthly segment to be featured on City Span. In our first segment, we featured Owl About Kids, a Downtown Savannah shop that boasts funky finds for trendy tots!



La Bella Nails

Jessica Pham

Jessica Pham

La Bella Nails was opened in 2009 by Jessica Pham when she began leasing a space in the Crawford Square shopping center, minutes from the heart of downtown Savannah.

When the building that Ms. Pham was leasing came up for sale, she had the choice to shut down and relocate her business or purchase her current location. Jessica had acquired a longstanding and loyal customer base, and she knew that if she moved, she would face the challenge of rebuilding her clientele and would be unable to retain her staff. Ms. Pham chose to stay in her building.

She sought financing from her local bank, First Chatham Bank. They collaborated with SBAC to finance a portion of the deal and she was able to secure long-term financing on favorable term from both lenders. SBAC utilized the SSBCI loan program, and the partnership with the bank enabled Jessica to buy her building and begin building equity in her business. The results are the best kind of promotion— satisfied customers.

Since opening, La Bella Nails has grown to over $300,000 in annual sales with nine employees.

La Bella Nails offers a variety of personal care services including manicures, pedicures, waxing, eyebrow threading and placement of eyelash extensions. Jessica Pham provides a lush salon experience for newcomers and repeat customers alike.