Los Angeles transplants Jeffrey Manley and Jusak Bernhard were no strangers to accolades even before they moved to Savannah and opened a retail pet store in 2007.
An actor and producer, Bernhard won coveted guest roles on such popular television shows as Grey’s Anatomy and CSI.
Manley, an editor, earned a prestigious Peabody Award for a Channel One video on the Sudan.
Together, as owners of TailsSpin, they have continued their winning ways.
The business, which was named New and Emerging Business of the Year in 2009 by the Savannah Small Business Chamber and received a Blue Ribbon Small Business Award from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2011, has recently earned Manley and Bernhard the title of first runners-up for Georgia’s Small Business Persons of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
On Monday, SBA district director Terri Denison was in town to deliver the news in person.
“Each year we sponsor this awards program to honor and recognize the achievement, spirit and commitment of Georgia’s small business community,” Denison said.
“Being named the Small Business Persons of the Year exemplifies Jeff and Jusak’s business acumen, hard work and innovative ideas.”
Bernhard called the award “humbling.”
“It’s really a great honor, especially coming from the SBA,” he said. “Hopefully, it will help open doors for us to do more in the community.”
From the beginning, we didn’t want to be just a storefront,” he said. “We want to be an asset to the community.”
Fittingly, the two chose community partner Jacob G. Smith Elementary as the setting for their meeting with Denison.
“This is an honor for the community as well,” Bernhard said.
Bernhard and Manley opened TailsSpin at the corner of Whitaker and Duffy streets in October 2007 with only 800 square feet of retail space and one employee, later moving to larger quarters in the Habersham village shopping center.
Today the business has grown to three locations — Savannah, Pooler and Macon — with combined retail space of over 8,000 square feet and 24 employees.
In addition to offering customers a healthy and organic variety of natural pet foods and a wide selection of pet accessories, TailsSpin raises funds for local pet rescues and other nonprofit groups and works with local leaders on such pet-related projects as the creation of dog parks.
TailsSpin also offers low-cost vaccine clinics each month at all three locations.
The criteria for this latest award includes, but is not limited to, staying power, a substantiated history as an established business, growth in number of employees, innovation in product/service offered, response to adversity and contributions to community-oriented projects.
TailsSpin was nominated by Kyle Hensel and Connie Edwards, area director and business consultant, respectively, for the University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center in Savannah.
“Jeff and Jusak epitomize the entrepreneurial spirit and community involvement of small business owners in America,” Edwards said. “They have combined their love for animals with their marketing and media skills to start and grow, with great success, an outstanding small business that helps pet owners lovingly and effectively provide care for their treasured pets, who they consider to be part of their family.
“Jusak and Jeff work tirelessly to serve and develop close relationships with their customers while generously giving of their time, talents and money to support the pet community and other local small businesses,” said Hensel.
The pair will be honored May 23 at the annual Small Business Week recognition awards luncheon in Atlanta.