The Safari Collective in New Milford has been named a winner of the 2018 American Small Business Championship by SCORE, the nation’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors.

The championship awarded this title to 102 entrepreneurs for their dedication to the success of their small businesses. The winners were awarded an all-expense-paid trip to a training and networking event, SCORE mentoring and publicity throughout the year, and a chance to win one of three $15,000 grand prizes, made possible with the support of Sam’s Club.

The Safari Collective earned the title of American Small Business Champion by submitting an online application describing what makes the business one of the best small businesses in their community, and how they plan to use the prizes to grow their venture.

Nominations that garnered at least 100 votes were then presented to a judging panel of small business experts that determined 102 winners including The Safari Collective.

Two years ago, New Milford resident Sarah Lopes opened the business at 28 Railroad St. in downtown New Milford, with her husband, Hobson Lopes.

Sarah said her dream was to bring a bit of conscious consumerism to her hometown, with ethically and sustainably made home goods, clothing, jewelry, apothecary, paper goods, baby items and more.

All of the products carried at The Safari Collective are handcrafted in America by the hands of hardworking artisans.

“It’s not every day that your hard work is nationally recognized, so this is an extreme honor,” Sarah said.

“Being a small business owner in a small town is no easy task, but we are so grateful to the community for accepting us and continuing to support us. It is a joy every day to see people making positive choices in their practice of consumerism,” she said.

“Shopping is an even more rewarding experience when you know that what you are buying is supporting someone’s dream, and that it was crafted ethically and sustainably,” the owner said.

“We are proud to reward these passionate and hardworking entrepreneurs with business mentoring, publicity and additional networking and training opportunities, and we look forward to watching them utilize these tools to further grow their business success,” said SCORE CEO Ken Yancey.

“Supporting entrepreneurs has been a part of who we are for nearly 35 years,” said Tracey D. Brown, senior vice president of Operations and Chief Experience Officer at Sam's Club.

“Many of our members own a small business, and we appreciate having the opportunity to help them as they find creative solutions to problems they face on a day to day basis,” Brown said. “The 102 winners celebrated through the American Small Business Championship are excellent examples of how innovation, persistence and knowing your customers can help an entrepreneur overcome obstacles and we congratulate them on their accomplishments.”

The Safari Collective is also eligible to win one of three additional $15,000 grand prizes by being named Grand Champion.

A judging panel of small business experts will select three grand champions from the group of small business champions this summer.