Barry Levin, chairman and chief executive officer of Snak King Corp., was selected as the 2011 California State Small Business Person of the Year by the Small Business Administration. Mr. Levin was also one of 18 Small Business 'Champions of Change' who met with representatives from President Obama's office while being honored at the White House last week.
Levin, Snak King Corp. and the other CEOs were given this recognition as part of National Small Business Week 2011, the 48th annual celebration of the important role of small business in building the American economy.
"It is very rewarding for me and all of our Snak King employees to be recognized for the success of our company and our ability to provide good products for our customers and good jobs for our people," Levin said in a prepared statement. "I share President Obama's belief that America can 'out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world' thanks to the entrepreneurial genius of the small business community."
Just out of college, Levin joined Snak King in 1979, when it was a struggling snack company producing pork rinds in a cramped facility with two employees. As head of the tiny firm, he made sales calls, ran the fryer, operated the forklift and kept the books. He continually sought ways to grow the company and run the small plant more efficiently.
Over the years Snak King grew from its original 1,200 square-foot plant to its current 177,000 square-foot facility. In 2004, Levin received a call that part of the roof of the plant had collapsed. Debris crashed down onto $13 million worth of equipment in the company's production area. Friends advised him to take the insurance money and walk away.
Instead, Levin and his employees worked 24-hour days to get the plant back into operation. It took three years and more than $30 million to get back to full production. Today, Snak King has more than 400 employees and has doubled its capacity.
Levin believes Snak King's success in a market dominated by larger companies is due to its superior products. He follows the mantra, "If it doesn't look good, the consumer won't buy it; if it doesn't taste great, they won't buy it again."
In the meeting at the White House recently, Levin and the other honorees met with administration officials and discussed their experiences and their challenges with SBA and White House policymakers.
Levin's accomplishments at growing Snak King and guiding its recovery from disaster were recognized earlier when he was named Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Greater Los Angeles in 2007.