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Janska award continues winning streak for small Colorado Springs businesses

By: WAYNE HEILMAN wayneh@gazette.com
March 25, 2014 Updated: March 25, 2014 at 5:15 pm
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photo - Jan Erickson
Jan Erickson 

Jan Erickson, president of Colorado Springs-based clothing manufacturer Janska LLC, has been selected as Colorado's Small Business Person of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

It's the fourth time a Colorado Springs small business owner has been selected for the award in the past five years.

Erickson and winners of the SBA award from the 49 other states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam will compete for the national Small Business Person Award, which will be presented during a celebration May 15-16 in Washington, D.C.

"It is pretty humbling, but incredibly gratifying for us at Janska because of what we have done together," Erickson said Tuesday. "I am really excited that we have been able to add jobs, especially in manufacturing, and thrilled to keep building a company for Colorado."

Erickson started the apparel manufacturing company in 2003 with no experience in the industry, after designing a jacket for a friend who had limited mobility because of a stroke. The company later expanded to include a bigger line of fashionable, comfortable fleece pieces, such as scarves, coats and capes. It also acquired sewing equipment to bring some production in-house.

Janska sells its clothing in more than 900 specialty gift and clothing boutiques and 10 catalogs in the United States and Canada. It has 40 employees, and Erickson expects it will generate $2.9 million in revenue this year, up more than 20 percent from 2013.

Through the years, Janska has won other accolades. In 2012, it was named the Business of the Year by the local chapter of the Service Corps of Retired Executives. That same year, the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade named Janska one of several "Colorado Companies to Watch."

Erickson also was featured on the "Today" show in 2012 in a segment of "Your Life is Calling, which spotlights people older than 50 who have "reinvented" themselves.

Erickson's "commitment to providing jobs in the Colorado Springs community is unwavering," said Greg Lopez, the SBA's district director for Colorado. "I hope that other small businesses follow Jan's lead and utilize the services of our resource partners."

Erickson credits classes at the Colorado Springs Small Business Development Center and advice from mentors at SCORE with helping Janska succeed.

"I recall hearing (at the classes) there were two main reasons why new businesses fail - undercapitalization and not reaching out for help," Erickson said in an SBA news release. "It is because of the help we received from many sources that Janska has grown and prospered."

Jim Hurley of JE Hurley Construction Inc., won the state award in 2012. Kelly Terrian of Summit Technical Solutions, won in 2011 and Tony Colon of Combat Training Solutions won in 2010.

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