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Two Northwest Indiana small businesses honored for achievements
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Two Northwest Indiana small businesses honored for achievements

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SPEEDWAY, Ind. — Two Northwest Indiana small businesses were recognized Wednesday as outstanding examples of what can be accomplished with the assistance of state and federal business support agencies.

Karma Cigar Bar, of Merrillville, was presented a Small Business Impact Award by the Indiana Small Business Development Center, or SBDC, during a ceremony at the Dallara Indycar Factory located just blocks from the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The cigar business, founded in 2004 by Dhiren Shah and his wife, Arpita Shah, reached out to the Northwest Indiana SBDC in 2014 for help finding a new building for its growing customer base.

A $1.3 million loan enabled the cigar bar in 2016 to open a larger facility at 850 81st Ave., develop a marketing plan, hire six employees and obtain an alcohol sales permit.

Karma now draws customers from across the Midwest and offers the largest cigar selection in the state of Indiana.

"It's a great feeling getting this award. It's recognizing my sweat equity and recognizing me and my wife's endless hours," Dhiren Shah said. "Our dream is coming true."

Shah was accompanied at the ceremony by Lorri Feldt, regional director of the Northwest Indiana SBDC, and Cindy Bertram, SBDC business adviser.

During the event, officials with the U.S. Small Business Administration separately honored LaPorte-based Filtration and Separation Technology (FAST) International, Inc., as the SBA Indiana District small business exporter of the year.

CEO Scott Yaeger used SBA capital, export and consulting services to significantly grow his business that produces filtration products for numerous industries at home and abroad, including equipment used by auto manufacturers that prevents particles from marring a vehicle as it is painted.

Elaine Bedel, president of the Indiana Economic Development Corp., said the awards presented to both companies appropriately recognize the hard work of each entrepreneur as well as the good they've contributed to the state's economy.

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