Akron-based EarthQuaker Devices, which has garnered worldwide attention for its handcrafted guitar pedals, will be honored next month as the U.S. Small Business Administration's Exporter of the Year.
EarthQuaker, founded in 2004 by Jamie Stillman in his West Akron basement, employs about 50 people at its 15,000-square-foot Bowery Street facility and exports guitar pedals to 47 countries, the Ohio Development Services Agency and the SBA said in a news release.
Stillman, the company's president, has been invited to a May 6 ceremony in Washington to receive the award as part of National Small Business Week. EarthQuaker Devices are used by major acts including Paul Simon, Coldplay and The Black Keys. Last summer, the company hosted its third annual EarthQuaker Day music festival.
"I think people around here are now aware of what we do," Stillman said in a Beacon Journal/Ohio.com interview. "We get calls all the time to see if we have a shop that people can come and check out."
The SBA will also honor the Ohio Small Business Development Center at Youngstown State University with the Excellence in Innovation award on May 5. The Northeast Ohio center won the award in a competition with nearly 1,000 other small business development centers across the country.
The news release noted that EarthQuaker has successfully made use of the SBDC Export Assistance Network, which provides free, confidential counseling to exporters and has offices throughout Ohio. The network assists small- and medium-sized businesses with international business planning, market research, export documentation, local product requirements and logistics.
The company was assisted through an Ohio International Market Access Grant for Exporters (IMAGE) to develop an international marketing strategy, funded through SBA’s State Trade Expansion Program (STEP). The company also made use of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Gold Key Service, which provides U.S. companies with matchmaking appointments with interested partners in a foreign market. Through this service, administered through the U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC), where officials of the Department of Commerce and SBA are co-located, EarthQuaker LLC met with potential partners in Australia. This resulted in a signed contract with an Australian firm and an opening order of $41,000.
The Ohio SBDC at Youngstown State University is a partnership supported by the U.S. SBA, the Ohio Development Services Agency and Youngstown State. Through its programs and services, the center provides entrepreneurial development assistance, training programs and high-end business consulting to existing businesses and startup ventures.
In 2018, the SBDC at Youngstown State devoted 7,035 counseling hours to assisting 279 clients, helping small businesses generate more than $96.87 million in new sales, creating 491 jobs and retaining 1,496 jobs. The center connected companies to $17.51 million in capital infusion.