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Associate Regional Director of the Central California SBDC, Mysty Rusk, gives the award for Woman Owned Business of the Year to Natalie Mata, owner of Visalia Insurance Services on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2017. Photo by Edward Smith

published on October 19, 2017 - 8:10 AM
Written by Edward Smith

In a room of nearly 200 business owners, educators, students and politicians, the Central California Small Business Development Center Network presented the award for the Woman Owned Business of the Year to Virtual Insurance Service in Visalia on Wednesday.

The network, comprised of consultants in colleges and universities, connects small businesses with business experts and students who conduct research and help develop business plans for clients throughout the Central Valley and Central Coast.

In Tornino’s banquet hall in Fresno, representatives from the network and their clients celebrated the work the group does making small businesses successful in their communities.

Virtual Insurance Service has been providing support to insurance agents in California, and with the help of the Fresno State SBDC, the company was connected with its first five clients, according to owner Natalie Mata.

They’ve been working with the agency ever since.

The award is decided by scoring businesses along several criteria, including entrepreneurial achievement, employee retention and growth and capital investment.

Consultants within the area nominate clients and the winners are picked by California legislators.

Other categories for nomination were

— Rising Star of the Year: Southern California Medical College in Bakersfield

— Family Owned Business of the Year: Hibernation Hearth & Home in Sonora

— Veteran Owned Business of the Year: Marty Pay/Farmers Insurance in Tehachapi

— Innovation and Technology Business of the Year: Thermal Energy Solutions in Bakersfield

The Central California SBDC is run through UC Merced, with CSU Bakersfield, Monterey, Fresno State, Cal Poly and Valley Sierra, a business management consultant, managing the 13 counties within the network.

Keynote speaker David Darmstandler pointed out the distinction small businesses get in the Central Valley, where he said the community takes pride in its startups.

“This area has networks and relationships that want you to see you successful far more than any other region I’ve ever seen.”

The network is, as keynote speak David Darmstandler put it, a great way for businesses to “get from A to B.”


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