We Have a Winner: Praetorian Group
Praetorian Group was named the 2013 DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year Award at America's Small Business Summit.
Founded in 1999, the Praetorian Group provides online resources and cutting-edge information to first responders to help them stay safe and protect their communities. Praetorian owns and operates 25 websites focused on specific public safety markets, including firefighter rehabilitation, first responder grants, and volunteer firefighting. All told, its websites reach 3 million unique visitors each month. Led by co-founder and CEO Alex Ford, Praetorian has expanded from 2 employees to 59.
Praetorian was selected from a group of seven regional finalists. Applicants were judged on staff training and motivation, community involvement, customer service, and business strategies and goals. The other regional finalists are:
- Eastern: Pet$aver Healthy Pet Superstore, Rochester, NY
- Great Lakes: Berks Fire Water Restorations, Inc., Reading, PA
- Midwest: Superior Service Center, Eagan, MN
- Northwest: Rich Duncan Construction, Inc., Salem, OR
- Southeast: Rapoport’s Restaurant Group, Boca Raton, FL
- Southwest & South Central: Larsen Dye Associates, Irving, TX
Here's our conversation with Praetorian Group's Alex Ford after his company was named a regional finalist:
FreeEnterprise.com: Why and how did you start your business?
Ford: In 1999, I was working with a friend who owned a Web design business. One of his projects was developing graphics for a small law enforcement website. As we looked at his website and researched the public safety market, I realized that there were few online resources for first responders. We put together a business plan and began exploring the opportunity. We were living in Boston at the time but were lucky to find an angel investor in San Francisco who had several public safety-related investments. He immediately saw the value in our idea and offered us the money if we could be out in San Francisco within a week.
FreeEnterprise.com: You were a regional finalist for the DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year Award in 2011. What have you been doing since then?
Ford: In August 2012, the Praetorian Group made the decision to launch an online resource for military personnel, www.Military1.com. With 13 years of experience in the online public safety market, we knew that moving into the military space—while a significant challenge—could drive great success. The site officially launched on Veterans Day and now has 150,000 registered members and 24,000 Facebook fans.
FreeEnterprise.com: How has the recent recession and subsequent government budget cuts impacted your business?
Ford: We continue to see budgets at many state and local government agencies being compressed—if not cut—significantly. As a result, we’re seeing departments across the county cutting training budgets, which put first responders and their communities increasingly at risk. In response, we’re continuing to increase our online training and education for first responders—an underserved $300 million addressable market.
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Rapoport's Restaurant Group, the Southeast regional finalist for the DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year Award, won the Community Excellence Award. This award highlights a business that has found success in the eyes of its community. All seven regional finalists for the DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year Award and the 100 Blue Ribbon Award winners were eligible to receive the Community Excellence Award. Burt Rapoport (left) is pictured here with U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue after accepting the award.