Saige Nicole's owner to receive national award

While recognition by the U.S. Small Business Administration as a national champion is nothing to sneeze about, the honor isn't what made Wendy Navarro tear up Monday.

The Costa Mesa store owner got misty-eyed when talking about her 17-year-old daughter, Saige Nicole, whose name was used for Navarro's baby and toddler boutique in 2006.

"It's so wonderful when she comes to me after she's seen an article on the store and says, 'Mom, I'm so proud of you,'" Navarro said.

Navarro, alongside other business leaders, will be honored June 5 at the SBA's 49th annual Small Business Week Awards Celebration in Anaheim.

She is being recognized with the Home-Based Business Champion of the Year Award, which she won at the district, state and national levels, according to an SBA news release.

"[Saige Nicole's] is an incredible example of a successful home-based business," SBA Regional Administrator Elizabeth Echols said. "[Navarro] went from online to a brick-and-mortar shop, involved her whole family and is a real inspiration to other small businesses."

The SBA-affiliated Institute for Women Entrepreneurs was instrumental in helping Navarro create a business plan, Echols said.

That same spirit of mentorship is now paid forward by Navarro, who is an active voice in the small-business community, Echols said.

About 90% of the brands and labels carried by Saige Nicole's are created by mothers — most of whom are small, independent designers, including Right Bank Babies, Liliputians-NYC, Wendy Anne Moses Baskets, Cape Clogs, Knuckleheads and PlanetJill.

"I just wanted to create a place where I could bring together all these independent designers under one roof," Navarro said. "It's been really cool to watch the brands grow and give them exposure. And, of course, as they grow, Saige Nicole's gets exposure too."

The boutique opened its physical store in Costa Mesa at the OC Mart Mix less than a year ago. Navarro said her plan for Saige Nicole's includes growing the brand name and opening additional locations.

However, the best part of the plan may be the one she never anticipated: the store's impact on her daughter.

"I think that it's impacted her in a very positive way," Navarro said. "She knows that when you put your mind to something, you can make it happen. You have to, at the very least, just go for it."

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