Monday, May 13, 2013
The U.S. Small Business Administration has named Mount Pleasant businessman Noah Leask the 2013 South Carolina Small Business Person of the Year. Leask is president and chief executive officer of Ishpi Information Technologies, a cyber-defense business that provides counterterrorism and cyber warfare services to the U.S. intelligence, security and military communities.
Leask, a service-disabled U.S. Navy veteran, and his wife and fellow Navy veteran Lisa started the company out of their home in September 2006. A member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, Leask called the business Ishpi (stylized ISHPI), a Chippewa word that means “move forward.” The name proved prophetic. Over the next six years, ISHPI would experience more growth and push through more adversity than most small businesses can expect in an entire lifecycle.
Within its first year, ISHPI had obtained a federal top secret facility clearance and been accepted into the SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program, which helps small disadvantaged businesses compete in the federal marketplace. By 2008, the company had landed several multi-year defense contracts and closed the year with just under $2 million in revenue.
Late 2009, however, brought major wartime funding cuts that jettisoned ISHPI’s two major contracts, which were to generate around 70 percent of the company’s planned 2010 revenue. Suddenly struggling just to stay in business, ISHPI initially had to lay off a number of employees. Leask responded by enlisting a new management team to diversify ISHPI’s client base and secure new contracts. The renewed sales focus helped ISHPI win enough work in 2010 to finish out the year with a five percent increase in revenue. By 2011, revenues had increased substantially, and ISHPI opened a 31,000 square foot facility in Suffolk, Va.
By the end of 2012, ISHPI had doubled its revenues and garnered multiple business honors, including Inc. magazine’s 2012 Hire Power Award, the Washington Technology Fast 50 award honoring the year’s 50 fastest growing federal contractors, and the South Carolina Biz News Roaring Twenties award honoring South Carolina’s 20 best performing small businesses of the year.
ISHPI currently has 109 employees and facilities in Suffolk and Alexandria, Va. and in San Antonio, in addition to its Mount Pleasant headquarters. Notable clients include the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, U.S. Central Command and the Joint IED Defeat Organization.
Under Leask, ISHPI is not only business-focused, it’s also community-focused. The company has four major community service programs: the ISHPI Exceptional People Program, supporting programs for the developmentally disabled; the ISHPI Warrior Program, providing mentorship services to veterans and active duty service members; the ISHPI Native American Pride Program, offering undergraduate scholarships to members of the Sault Ste. Marie tribe; and the ISHPI Save Second Base Program, supporting the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
Leask is executive vice president and past president of the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of South Carolina; chairman of the board of Tri-County Autism Puzzle Place Academy, and treasurer of the Special Olympics South Carolina board of directors. He was nominated for the Small Business Person of the Year award by Linda Blanton, consultant with the Small Business Development Center in North Charleston.
The SBA will recognize all award winners during the annual Salute to Small Business event on Thursday, May 23, in Columbia. For more information on the Salute to Small Business, visit http://scsalutetosmallbiz.com.