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French Meadow president SBA’s person of year

Posted on March 23, 2005

Minneapolis, Minnesota — Slightly more than a year ago, federal law enforcement agents were trying to prevent Lynn Gordon, president of French Meadow Bakery in Minneapolis, from selling her popular bread made with hemp seed.

Now that the courts have said that hemp bread can be sold without violating drug laws, another federal agency has given Gordon its highest honor.

The Minneapolis office of the Small Business Administration (SBA) on Tuesday named Gordon its 2005 small-business person of the year.

“It’s a great, great honor,” Gordon said. “My visions for the future have often been challenged. It’s rather amazing, to say the least.”

The annual award recognizes a company that exhibits outstanding sales and employment growth, financial strength, innovation and contributions to the community. Gordon, who operates a bakery and cafe in south Minneapolis, will be honored in Washington, D.C., along with 49 other state winners during national Small Business Week, April 24-29.

Lynn Gordon, a macrobiotic cooking teacher, started her bread business in 1985 by making naturally leavened bread that contained no yeast. She began by selling her bread to natural food co-ops and eventually leased some production space in a Burnsville cheesecake factory. She now has revenue of $5 million and produces 2 million loaves annually that are distributed nationally to major food retailers from her Minneapolis facility.

Her hemp bread, which is made with whole-wheat flour, flaxseed, pumpkin seeds and other organic ingredients, attracted the attention of federal drug enforcement agents, which wanted to ban its distribution. In February 2004, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency was wrong to establish rules that defined certain natural hemp products as controlled substances when used to prepare food for human consumption. The court ruled that there is no danger to consumers from such products, even if they contain trace amounts of THC, the “psychoactive” element that makes marijuana an illegal drug.

Gordon’s business features many types of bread, including breads formulated to provide for the specific health needs of men and women.

“We’ve been certified organic for 20 years,” Gordon said. “We bake only yeast-free, naturally leavened bread and add no sweeteners.”

Others honored by the SBA were Kent Johnson, president of Plymouth Plumbing, St. Michael, for building a small business into a large company. Diane Buzzeo, president of Spicer-based Marketing Concepts, was named woman business owner of the year, and Sawbill Canoe Outfitters of Tofte was named family-owned small business of the year.

Robert, Ryan and Aaron Weber, founders of Freeze.com of Waite Park, were named young entrepreneurs of the year. Douglas and Janet McMillan, owners of Corner Coffee House, Little Canada, were named emerging entrepreneurs of the year. Tom Burke, national program director of Wells Fargo’s SBA Lending Division, was named financial services champion of the year.

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