Lewis Blakeney, a certified business adviser with the Washington Small Business Development Center, was named the network’s 2018 Star Performer for his work with small business owners in North Central Washington.
Blakeney, who lives in Winthrop, joined the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) as an adviser in Omak in 2000, where his work is supported by The Economic Alliance of Okanogan County, after having been a small business owner for more than a dozen years. Prior to that, Blakeney had held executive positions in large corporations for more than 15 years.
The award was announced May 3 at the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) annual gala at the Renaissance Hotel in Seattle. Blakeney and the Star Performers from each of the 63 SBDC networks across the country will be honored at the America’s SBDC conference in Washington, D.C., in September.
The Washington SBDC is a network of more than two dozen business advisers working in communities across the state to help small business owners start, grow or transition a business. The Washington SBDC is hosted by Washington State University and receives support from the U.S. Small Business Administration and other institutions of higher education and economic development.
“Lew has assisted many of the local businesses within our communities from the ground up,” said Roni Holder-Diefenbach. “He is committed to every client that he works with and goes above and beyond to see them succeed. We are lucky to have Lew as our SBDC officer serving Okanogan County.”
Blakeney assisted more than 100 SBDC small business clients in 2017. Those clients credited him with helping them raise more than $1 million in capital. Blakeney’s career total for helping SBDC clients secure financing exceeds $34 million.
Blakeney earned an engineering degree from the University of Cincinnati and then an MBA from Stanford University. He went to work for IBM and then spent more than 15 years working in executive positions in large corporations. In 1985, after six months of research, he purchased an injection-molded plastic manufacturing company with 10 employees. Over the next dozen years, he increased sales tenfold and added 30 new jobs.
“I had 40 people who depended on me for a job,” he said, and that was both satisfying and daunting. After selling his business in 1998, he decided he wanted to help other small business owners succeed.
Jennifer Tate, owner of Earth and Sky Studios in Twisp, has been working with Blakeney for more than 15 years. In 2016 she bought a real estate website design business in rural Central Washington, preserving more than 20 well-paying jobs that might well have disappeared. She says that it wouldn’t have happened without Blakeney’s help.
“There were so many things that I needed to do and he helped me with every single one,” she said. “He’s just such an incredible resource.”