Stonecipher started his business with one helicopter and no employees 15 years ago; he now has 16 helicopters, a handful of planes and 54 employees. Annual revenues in 2012 were just over $8 million. He expects to open a second flight school in Baton Rouge, La.
Stonecipher was also recognized for his generosity toward his community. Guidance Aviation has donated almost $500,000 to charity and public institutions and more than two dozen flights to various organizations. The school has donated a helicopter to the search-and-rescue team of the Yavapai County Sheriff: Three or four children went missing in the local region and the county did not have the money to buy a helicopter for rescue efforts, so Stonecipher gave it one.
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Stonecipher has also donated an airplane to an education-promotion effort called Think Global. The plane will fly around the world, making virtual command centers available for kids, getting them excited about science and math.
"When I was growing up, the shuttle program, NASA, was my big driving force to get me into aviation," he said. "That is what kept me extremely excited. Now that that has all been downsized, I feel it is my responsibility—being part of this industry—to give back to children."
Stonecipher was selected from the group of 53 state National Small Business Week honorees—one from each state and territory—from businesses ranging from beekeeper suppliers to nanoneedle manufacturers.
The first runner-up for the award is Noah Leask, president and CEO of Ishpi Information Technologies. The cyberdefense business in Mount Pleasant, S.C. does work for the Central Command and Department of Homeland Security. Leask, a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, is a service-disabled Navy veteran.
Kari Block, founder and CEO of Earth Kind Bismarck, N.D., is second runner-up. Block developed a biodegradable rodent repellent made with ingredients that include corn cobs and essential oils. Married to a farmer, Block wanted to make a repellent that was safe for use around children and pets. She hires employees with developmental disabilities to assemble and package the products.