Small Business Empowerment Awards

South Florida ranks as one of the top metro areas in the country for entrepreneurial activity. Small businesses are the backbone of our local economy.

The organizations and individuals behind the small business owners are often critical to the success of the business; and they often go unrecognized. These organizations – and their leaders – are champions of small businesses and provide them with important business education, individual assistance and mentorship.

The Small Business Empowerment Award was created to  recognize these unsung heroes and the work they do to nurture and grow the dreams of small business owners.

Congratulations to our 2016 Awardees.

Sponsored by:


2016 Awardees

Rafael Cruz photoRafael Cruz | SBDC Fort Lauderdale

Rafael is the Regional Director in charge of all operations for the Florida Small Business Development Center serving Greater Fort Lauderdale. The SBDC has the distinct honor of being designated by the legislature as the State of Florida’s “Principle Provider of Small Business Assistance”.

Rafael leads a team of Certified Business Consultants who work one on one with entrepreneurs and business owners in all critical aspects of starting, running and growing a successful business.

Under his leadership, the SBDC Fort Lauderdale specializes in international trade, government contracting, creative economy, financing, strategic planning and execution and entrepreneurship.

He has held various leadership positions in Fortune 500 service companies and privately held companies that are global leaders in their industries. Rafael is a community leader, who is fully integrated into key economic development circles. He and the SBDC Fort Lauderdale team are well-known throughout Broward’s 31 municipalities and 35 Chambers of Commerce.

Rafael frequently speaks at conferences and meetings and spreads the important mission of the SBDC and is often a part of distinguished panels on Entrepreneurship, Small Business Development and Economic Development. He has participated in The Miami Herald’s annual Business Plan Challenge nine times and has appeared on television, radio and in print to share information with entrepreneurs and business owners on how to succeed in business.

Rafael Cruz holds a MBA from Nova Southeastern University and professional certifications from Cornell University, the National Development Council, the American Society for Quality and the National Association of Small Business International Trade Educators.

His list of recognitions and commendations for community contributions range from: the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists, various Chambers of Commerce, Leadership Broward, the Urban League, and municipalities including Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Pembroke Pines and Miramar.

george gremse George Gremse | Broward SCORE

Mr. Gremse has held senior management positions in both Fortune 500 companies and start- ups. He is President of Jolizmo Consulting and Investments, Inc., Chairman of Broward SCORE, Board Director of Metro Broward Economic Development Corporation and is on the Board of Advisors for the University of Phoenix in Florida. He was Division President at Velocity Express; CEO of Advantage Rent A Car; President and COO of the Far&Wide Travel Corporation, a global travel provider and tour operator with offices in the U.S., Europe, and Asia; President and COO of Alamo Rent a Car, President of Adia (Adecco) Staffing North America with 325 branches in the U.S. and Canada; Vice President at National Car Rental; Division Vice President of the Southeastern U.S., Panama, and the Caribbean at Hertz; and Vice President at Citibank’s New York Retail Bank.

Since 2012 George has led Broward SCORE as its Chapter Chairman. He leads a group of more than 70+ volunteer business consultants who provide hundreds of small business owners guidance in everything from managing their accounting systems to creating a website.

Broward SCORE  and Hispanic Unity of Florida partnered more than five years ago to make small business workshops available in Spanish.  Broward SCORE is credited with being the first SCORE chapter in the nation to provide the “Five Simple Steps” small business workshop series in Spanish. These Saturday workshops draw more than 100+ attendees. Broward SCORE now offers workshops for both emerging entrepreneurs as well as, existing business owners at Hispanic Unity.

His career encompasses significant strategic and tactical operational experience within mergers and roll ups. Additionally, he has developed strong skills in P&L management, developing enterprise strategies, acquisition management, and master franchise development and management. Mr. Gremse served in South America in the Peace Corps and holds a B.S. from Cornell University and an MBA from Baruch College of the City University of New York.

Thank you to our sponsors:

Presented By

  JMFE_SET_Stacked Logos(1)        NOVA Stacked - NEW        MHS Linear logo 2871        wsvn7logo

         Cleveland Clinic             Templeton & Co with tag      Tripp Scott, May 2016

 Wells_Fargo_4c         Ambit_BusinessCards_v3  TD BANK, 2016  FCBlogo (NEW) 08.14.15 

BankUnited Logo     Regions_Bank_684574_i0     bbt_logo        

mastec  MBAF Certified Accountants & Advisors