Maryland Black Owned Clothing Line Among Sam’s Club Small Business Award Winners

Some 102 companies in 48 states to receive expert training, resources and networking opportunities

Eager to make their long-held dream of owning a women’s clothing boutique a reality, co-founders Constance Troutman and Tamil Harris each invested $3,000 of their personal savings to launch Peach Apple Brands in 2014. The line of on-trend pieces at affordable prices is an outgrowth of their love of fashion and the belief that every woman has the right to express her personal style, unique aesthetic and to present her best self to the world.

Peach Apple Brands is one of 102 companies that were the winners of The American Small Business Championship, a program supported by Sam’s Club and SCORE, providing expert training, resources and networking opportunities to small business owners. Winners from 48 states were chosen based on written, video and photo entries that detailed the sacrifices each had made to achieve small business success. Winners were determined by online voting and a panel of judges comprised of small business experts.

Thanks to a $700,000 grant from Sam’s Club, the membership club for the small business community, Champions will each receive a $1,000 Sam’s Club gift card, an all-expense-paid trip to one of five SCORE training events, SCORE mentoring for one year.

Peach Apple Brands intends to use the $1,000 award towards a Sam’s Club Business membership and Sam’s Club legal services (provided by LegalZoom).  They will also apply any remaining value toward office supplies. The entrepreneurs admit they need SCORE’s mentoring to refine their business and marketing plans, establish formal bookkeeping practices, and help with accessing other forms of capital to ensure long-term profitability and business growth.

Despite their both working full-time jobs and living 1600 miles apart, the enterprising duo have managed to keep Peach Apple Brands open by sacrificing evenings and weekend to manage operations and host countless meeting, reinvesting 100% of revenues back into the business, making monthly personal investments, and using personal funds to acquire inventory. “We make these sacrifices with full confidence in our brand ,” says Troutman,” but we know we cannot sustain this approach. We have the passion, now we need the resources and a refined business model.

The stories of sacrifices made by each winner tell the story of what it means to really pursue the American dream.  Other winners include California-based Sweet Mission Cookie Company, a dessert catering company that offers Award winning cookies (vegan and gluten free options) that are homemade and fresh baked to order.

Jason Lamont Mercado started the company while he was homeless on the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania due to loss of employment. I have sacrificed being with my family in order to make my dream of inspiring others and helping change lives of (ex addicts, ex felons, and homeless).  As cookies are round and a sign of completion, Sweet Mission Cookie Company wants to teach people how to be complete in live and to live out their dreams.”  He intends to use the  $1,000 award from Sam’s Club to buy more inventory/goods.

The 102 American Small Business Champions will attend business training events in five cities across the country from March through July 2015. One full day of each training event will also be open to the public.

“From restaurant owners and inventors to non-profits and consultants, every entrepreneur has a powerful story of sacrifice and perseverance,” states Don Frieson, executive vice president for operations at Sam’s Club. “Our clubs and buyers are dedicated to providing business owners with the resources they need to overcome the challenges of managing a small business. Together with SCORE, we look forward to growing with these Champions, saving them money and time and helping them achieve their goals.”