Arawak Bay: The Inn at Salt River and Just Threads honored

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ST. THOMAS - The Virgin Islands Small Business Development Center named a St. Thomas clothing store and a St. Croix inn as the two small businesses of the year in the territory.

Arawak Bay: The Inn at Salt River, LLC received the honor as the small business of the year on St. Croix, and Just Threads received the same honor on St. Thomas.

The center announced the winners of the awards in June, calling them "examples of determination and success," according to the center's state director, Leonor Dottin.

"Business ownership is about taking risks and working towards minimizing these risks as you grow the businesses. The award winners are examples of the success of utilizing services like the V.I. SBDC to further their dreams and subsequently grow their businesses," Dottin said.

Arawak Bay opened in March 2007, when Jennifer Jackson and Lionel Jacobs were both new to the hospitality industry.

Jackson had been employed at the University of the Virgin Islands for 23 years prior, serving lastly as the chancellor for the St. Croix campus. Jacobs, a retired architect by trade, was previously the director of planning and construction at the Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority.

Jackson and Jacobs opened Arawak Bay confident that their life and career experiences uniquely qualified them for the construction and management of their business.

Arawak Bay, located on the north shore of St. Croix, was designed by Jacobs. It features balconies, landscaping and colors designed to emphasize the beauty and historic culture of St. Croix. Jackson, having spent the majority of her career managing academic administration, now runs the inn.

"We essentially tried to create a hotel with a difference," said Jackson. "It's just not a place where people stay while visiting the island. We try to make sure that their stay in St. Croix is enjoyable. Based on their interests, we help them plan what to do while on island so that they can enjoy the best features of the Virgin Islands."

They also work with groups, mostly from various mainland universities, and plan their activities to ensure that all guests have an excellent experience.

"When you start a small business in the Virgin Islands you're pretty much on your own," said Jackson, who noted that the SBDC was helpful throughout the process.

"The SBDC courses and their other offerings can be seen as a 101 in how you run a small business," she said.

The Arawak Bay Inn has received certificates of excellence from the popular Trip Advisor website in 2013 and 2014.

Cyril Thomas, of Just Threads, spoke highly of the SBDC as well.

"It shows all the hard work that we have been doing for the community and ourselves has actually made a difference," he said.

Thomas worked for the Footlocker Corporation for 10 years before partnering with his wife to open Just Threads in Tutu Park Mall in 2002. Thomas started his career at Footlocker as a full-time sales representative in 1992 and two years later was promoted to store manager of two Footlocker stores - one on St. Thomas and one on St. Croix.

Later he was promoted to market leader over all stores in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

His own store - which sells all kinds of clothing - now is located at the center of Tutu Park Mall and sells designer dresses, suits and pants. Among their inventory is a variety of caps as well.

"While I have years of business experience, the SBDC helped me to add to my knowledge and improve my business outlook," he said.

Thomas plans to continue to work with the center to find out how he can promote the business as he moves to diversify his inventory to include sporting goods.

"Small business owners must prepare themselves to strive and further grow their business," said Dottin. "Through the services offered at the V.I. SBDC, they can take advantage of counseling services that are of no-charge to them in areas such as financial management, accounting, marketing, sales, strategic planning, retail, merchandising, social media and other very important areas of business."

Other 2014 SBDC award recipients include:

St. Thomas Woman-Owned Business of the Year - Jill Farley, owner of Cool Signs

St. Croix Woman-Owned Business of the Year - Yoki K. Hanley, owner of Itiba, LLC

St. Croix Entrepreneurial Success Award - Marston Adams, owner of Kiki's Automotive, Inc. d/b/a Kiki's Alternators & Starters

St. Thomas/St. Croix Small Business Advocate of the Year - The Virgin Islands Daily News

The 2014 Small Business Administration award recipients:

SBA Entrepreneur of the Year for St. John - Curtis Penn, owner of Caribbean Seashells Vacation Villas

SBA Entrepreneur of the Year for St. Croix - Angel Diaz, owner of the La Reine Chicken Shack

SBA Entrepreneur of the Year for St. Thomas - Michael S. Barrows, DDS, Happy Teeth Dental Office

SBA Bank of the Year - Banco Popular de Puerto Rico

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email

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