WEST MEAD TOWNSHIP — Melinda (Mindy) Nearhoof had planned on being a doctor, not a business owner.

Nearhoof, owner of Annie’s Flooring and Commercial Services of Meadville, isn’t just any business owner, though.

She has been named Pennsylvania’s 2023 Small Business Person of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

As a state winner, she is up for the SBA’s nationwide Small Business Person of the Year honors.

Nearhoof took over ownership of what was Annie’s Carpet Cleaning in March 2018.

The business actually had been closed for about a year. The original owners had sold it to another owner who operated it without success. The original ownership took back the business, but weren’t operating it, according to Nearhoof.

In five years, Nearhoof grew the business from zero employees to 21 today. She’s also expanded its offerings and services into commercial and residential flooring, commercial janitorial service and residential home management services.

Nearhoof credits her husband, Tony, who agreed with her buying the business. “He has his own 9-to-5 job,” she said with a laugh. “He’s my number one, but he’s not on the payroll.”

It was in January 2018, Nearhoof decided to purchase the business, but financing was needed.

With help from the Crawford County office of the Gannon University Small Business Development Center, Nearhoof wrote a successful business plan within a week in February which secured a loan through ErieBANK.

“I’m a highly driven personality, a workaholic,” she said. “It’s one of those things; I wanted to get it done, get it going and dive in.

“We were concerned as the doors had been closed and any reputation the business had was lessening every day it was closed,” she said.

For Nearhoof, it meant reclaiming the business by repositioning it with expanded services.

“We wanted to claim a different market so we made it into Annie’s Flooring and Commercial Services,” she said.

“When we bought it, it had been closed about a year and the building wasn’t in use,” she said. “It looked like a warehouse with no division between a showroom and shop. It didn’t look like we were open for business.”

Nearhoof said she’s driven because she had grown up in a do-it-yourself household.

“My dad had to work two jobs. My mother did all of the work around the house as well as working a job,” she said. “If she wanted any sort of home improvement, she did it herself.”

Nearhoof went to college planning to be a doctor, but ended up with a bachelor’s degree in religious studies and then a master’s in Jewish studies before later earning a degree in naturopathic medicine.

However, she got into business for herself cleaning homes in her early 20s which put her on the business path.

Nearhoof said when she and her husband bought a home 25 years ago, there wasn’t extra money.

“I knew I was going to do everything myself,” she said. “I learned how to do it.”

Winning the award was a surprise to Nearhoof. She had been nominated by the Gannon SBDC in November 2022 and received word she had won the Pennsylvania award on March 13.

“I was surprised as I thought my time had passed,” she said of getting the honor.

Nearhoof enjoys working with various community members and organizations, the people she meets, and her employees.

The business has been supportive of numerous charities either in materials, projects, or financial or time donations.

“There are people who need a second chance at life,” she said. “My sphere of influence is much larger than I expected it to be. This opportunity as a business owner has given me so much.”

Kelly Hunt, director of the SBA’s Western Pennsylvania District, said Nearhoof was deserving of the recognition.

“She truly exemplifies the traits of successful small business ownership,” Hunt said of Nearhoof. “From working with Gannon University’s Small Business Development Center, to pivoting and creating new revenue streams during the pandemic, to expanding both her employee base and benefits to increasing charitable donations locally and globally.”

Nearhoof and the other state winners will be recognized April 30 and May 1 during the National Small Business Week awards ceremony in Washington, where the national winner will be named.

Nearhoof isn’t first area resident to be named the SBA’s Small Business Person of the Year for Pennsylvania.

Eric Hoover of Excalibur Machine Co. Inc. of Conneaut Lake earned that state honor in 2006 and went on to be named the national U.S. Small Business Person of the Year the same year.

Keith Gushard can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.

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