A person in a chef's hat is holding a cake.

Meet the winners of Intuit QuickBooks + Mailchimp Small Business Hero Day 2023

Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, the strength of our local communities, and the unsung heroes of the business landscape. But consumers agree it’s high time to sing their small business praises. According to recent QuickBooks data, more than 3 in 5 consumers say small businesses are the heroes of their communities. Another 70% think small business owners should get more recognition. 

This Small Business Success Month, we’re celebrating the second-ever Small Business Hero Day on May 16 and awarding three small business heroes with $20,000 each for their unwavering commitment to serving their communities. These are their stories.

No Fear Cafe educates, engages, and empowers inner-city youth

No Fear Cafe is an interactive STEM-based learning center for the inner-city youth of Detroit, Michigan. They offer group events, birthday parties, and academic coaching and tutoring for students of all ages. They believe learning is easier with an excellent instructor and engaging lessons. That’s where Alicia McKay comes in.

When Alicia was a little girl, her mom found a chalkboard in the trash. She pulled it out, cleaned it up, and Alicia gathered all the kids in the neighborhood. Together, they used the old chalkboard to play hangman, matching games, and teach simple academic lessons. Alicia loved watching her friends’ faces go from confused to getting it, and she knew at that moment that she wanted to help others learn. 

Alicia started tutoring in a real way when she was in college. And she knew by then that putting pencil to paper wasn’t always the best way to learn. “I always wanted to find a different or unique way to work through a lesson,” she said. “I knew there had to be something more engaging.” 

As you might expect, Alicia eventually got her Master's degree in education and started teaching. But you might not expect that she didn’t like it. “I love tutoring,” she said, “but I hated teaching.” The red tape and constraints often placed on teachers left Alicia feeling limited, like she couldn’t provide the best possible teaching experience to her students. “There are amazing teachers who constantly work around that,” she said. But for her, tutoring offered more flexibility. 

quote image
I always wanted to find a different or unique way to work through a lesson, I knew there had to be something more engaging.

For a while, Alicia took her tutoring business (a side gig at that time, as she had a full-time job at a law firm) to coffee shops around the city, meeting students before and after work. Her husband found an available space and encouraged her to check it out. Skeptical, Alicia decided to tour the space — and fell in love. She knew she could transform the space into the learning center of her dreams. 

No Fear Cafe had its grand opening on February 1, 2020. And we all know what happened next. “COVID hit,” Alicia said, “and the building shut down.” At the same time, the attorney Alicia worked for retired, and Alicia had to pivot. “The biggest pivot ever,” she said. She started offering virtual tutoring lessons, birthday parties, and school preparation full-time. As restrictions started to lift, schools asked her to lead their summer schools, teaching math and science, and other STEM-based lessons to students in summer programming. 

Today, Alicia and the educators at No Fear Cafe are dedicated to finding creative ways for kids to learn. “I have found there are lots of ways to make learning fun for kids,” she says. And for that, her community is grateful. “No Fear Cafe is a community gem,” said the parent who nominated Alicia for this award. “They support inner city youths by providing after-school programming at no cost to parents — so their children have every opportunity to learn and grow… [with these funds] they can continue to support and build programming for children in marginalized communities.”

MASS Collective brings artistry and craftsmanship to the masses

MASS Collective is an inclusive community maker space in the heart of Atlanta, Georgia. It was conceptualized over ten years ago, in 2012, to fill a specific gap for the makers of Atlanta. The team behind MASS Collective dreamed of building a functional workshop that was accessible to all.

Today, MASS Collective offers an apprenticeship program, which provides hands-on training and real-world experience in manufacturing; an education program, which brings in expert craftspeople to share their experiences and knowledge; and a membership program, which provides the makers of Atlanta with access to tools and training that might otherwise be prohibitively expensive. 

Gabriella Mooney, founder and executive director of MASS Collective, joined early on as a volunteer. She grew up in a 100-year-old house, so she was no stranger to working with her hands — and she felt that everyone deserved the opportunity to learn those valuable skills. As her dedication to the mission of MASS Collective grew, so did her rank within the business.

It was important to Gabriella, and the whole team, that MASS Collective serve as an inclusive and safe space for individuals to share their craft. “Being inclusive is our first priority,” she says, “everything else is secondary.” In the world of woodworking and manufacturing, “there aren’t a lot of opportunities or spaces for people who are non-white and non-male,” she says. “I wanted to give women, people of color, and the queer community a safe space to learn these skills and find opportunities.” 

quote image
Being inclusive is our first priority, everything else is secondary.

MASS Collective is currently the only major maker space in the city of Atlanta. “All the others have moved due to commercial costs,” says Gabriella, “which we are struggling with as well.” But that didn’t stop MASS Collective from keeping its doors open for artists and businesses during the pandemic. “We stayed open for the individuals who needed the space to keep their businesses running,” she says, turning to crowdfunding and their community when the going got tough. “We’ve only survived because of our community,” said Gabrielle, “the community has been very supportive, that’s why we’re able to keep going.”

Fortunately, their community was more than happy to help. “Atlanta has a rich culture of art and design,” said their nominator, “losing MASS Collective would be a detriment to the city and culture as a whole.” 

Family Faith Transportation, LLC, is a small business with tremendous heart

Family Faith Transportation, LLC, provides reliable transportation for the elderly residents of La Place, Louisiana. “We make sure they get the proper transportation they need to get to and from the doctor’s office and to pick up medications,” says Carlton Morris, owner of Family Faith Transportation. 

The idea came to him as an act of faith. “My mom was ill,” he said, “and she wasn’t getting the proper care.” Carlton had been in the transportation industry all his life, but he had recently been laid off. He suddenly found himself in a position to make a real difference for elderly and ailing people like his mom. “I got the vision for Family Faith Transportation,” he said. With the help of his sister and his wife, Carlton and his family made Family Faith Transportation a reality. 

quote image
He is a man who is making a difference in so many ways. His business is small, but his heart is tremendous.

But, for Carlton, it wasn’t enough to just transport people to and fro. “There are lots of different transportation providers,” he said. “People want to ride with my company because they don’t get the same service from those other companies.” Carlton and his drivers go above and beyond to accommodate their passengers, fulfilling special requests and picking them up within 30 minutes to get them back home.

And his efforts have not gone unnoticed by the community. “Carlton gives the elderly in our community wings,” said the person who nominated him. “He brings dignity and mobility to those who would otherwise be homebound or in a facility. And he loves and respects his staff in a way we could all learn from.” 

“He is a man who is making a difference in so many ways,” they continue. “His business is small, but his heart is tremendous.”

Recommended for you

Mail icon
Get the latest to your inbox
No Thanks

Get the latest to your inbox

Relevant resources to help start, run, and grow your business.

By clicking “Submit,” you agree to permit Intuit to contact you regarding QuickBooks and have read and acknowledge our Privacy Statement.

Thanks for subscribing.

Fresh business resources are headed your way!

Looking for something else?


From big jobs to small tasks, we've got your business covered.

Firm of the Future

Topical articles and news from top pros and Intuit product experts.

QuickBooks Support

Get help with QuickBooks. Find articles, video tutorials, and more.