Lorneth Peters, director of Austin Peay State University’s Small Business Development Center, hosted an event inside downtown Clarksville’s “The Press” Wednesday morning, to present local entrepreneurs Leo and Lillie Millan with SBDC’s Rising Star Award.
The Millans started Millan Enterprises in 1999, elevating it to a successful residential and commercial real estate company, based in Clarksville.
Peters talked about SBDC and the Millans before the presentation ceremony began:
“On average, SBDC helps between 300 and 400 entrepreneurs and small businesses every year,” Peters said. “We have offices at APSU and here at The Press. We can help with anything from start-up to development, to selling your business. We’re available to our clients throughout the entire process.
“Today, we’re honoring rising stars Leo and Lillie Millan. This award is about businesses that are making a difference in the community. The Millans are all about community involvement and innovation, which is how The Press came about. They’re also about making sure that money stays in the community. The economic impact they are making is second to none,” Peters said.
The Rising Star Award is an annual award, but has not been presented in the past two years due to COVID-19 concerns. Peters said, in a first, Wednesday’s ceremony would be a surprise to the Millans as they were not told of the honor in advance.
She said a number of things are considered when choosing each year’s Rising Star award recipient(s), among them; working relationship with the local Tennessee SBDC, community involvement, economic impact, jobs created, and jobs retained.
The short but memorable program began with a five-minute video, where friends and colleagues offered congratulations to the Millans. That was followed by Pastor Mike Burnett’s invocation, then brief comments from APSU President Michael Licari, Montgomery County Mayor Jim Durrett, and Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts.
“Congratulations and thanks for the innovative spirit you bring to our community, and for your connection to the university,” Licari told the Millans. “APSU is at the heart of this community. We are intimately connected to this town and county. Your help furthers those connections. What you bring to this awesome community makes everybody better off. Thank you for the opportunities you create.”
The Millans sat at the front of the room, surrounded by dozens of their friends, family members, colleagues and supporters.
“Leo and Lillie, congratulations,” Durrett began. “Leo, I know you don’t like surprises, but what a great honor this is. You’re more than rising stars in my eyes. You’re truly stars – of your family, this community, your church, everything you get involved in. And you do it without wanting the light shined upon you. This award could not go to a better couple. I know you’re sitting here thinking. ‘it’s not about us, it’s about our team’, and that is why we love you.”
Pitts offered his congratulations and talked about the secret of their success.
“It’s no secret at all, really, it’s about three things; faith, family and the future,” Pitts said. “What they are doing is building a future for their family, but also, for families across this community, so thank you.
“When the history of our city is written, in coming years, there will be names that we’re all very familiar with, but there will also be Leo and Lillie Millan, and the Millan Enterprises family. People will point to their accomplishments and say, they changed our community. To you both, I say thank you for all you do, and God bless you,” Pitts said.
Peters then talked about the Millans ‘walk in faith’ and invited Pastors Mike Burnett and Tommy Vallejos to the podium, where they shared some of their thoughts. Each of the day’s speakers took time to embrace the Millans as they left the podium.
Peters then presented the Rising Star Award plaque to the couple, in honor of all they have done for the community.
Leo Millan was overtaken with emotion. He began by saying, “There is no way we could have done any of this without our team.” He then called each of them by name. “This has been an incredible journey and it’s just the beginning. We’re going to help a lot of young business people who are struggling.”
Lillie Millan was the last to speak, offering words of thanks and appreciation to everyone involved in their success over the last twenty-three years.
This article originally appeared on Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle: Millans receive Rising Star Award from Small Business Development Center