Flower farmer Rita Jo Shoultz of Alaska Perfect Peony has been recognized before for her efforts to improve her industry and community. In 2014, she was a nominee for Champions of Change for the Future of Agriculture, earning her a trip to the White House. But she was still surprised by the most recent honor her Certified American Grown farm earned – being named a winner of the 2018 Small Business Championship. Rita Jo has also been a powerful force at our annual Washington DC Fly-In, advocating on behalf of America’s Flower Farmers. Photo by Nony Park of Ken Pak Photography. Shoultz, a member of the Certified American Grown Council, competed with a pool of more than 1,100 applicants and was selected as a champion through a combination of online voting and judging by a panel of small-business experts. The application asked each entrepreneur to describe the unique aspects of their small business that have contributed to their success, their positive impact on the community and their plans to use the prizes to grow their business operations or revenue. Rita Jo Shoultz in one of her favorite places “We were really surprised and very honored,” Shoultz says of the win. “Cut flowers don’t always get a lot of recognition.” That recognition is well-deserved. After all, in addition to running the farm, Shoultz has worked to have the Homer declared the “City of Peonies” and started Main Street Homer, a task force working to revitalize downtown Homer through economic and cultural development, historic preservation and advancement of the arts. The “champion” designation nets Shoultz an all-expense-paid trip to a training and networking event and the chance to win one of three $15,000 grand prizes. Should she win, Shoultz says she’d use the funding for marketing efforts and to look into selling her peonies in Hong Kong and Singapore. The Championship is hosted by SCORE, a network of volunteer expert business mentors, and is supported by Sam’s Club.