It's been a banner year for Morningstar Electric.
On Oct. 18, owners Tammy and Ken Morningstar of Brandon were named Small Business Leaders of the Year for best home-based business at the annual Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce Small Business Awards Gala.
The award comes on the heels of several other honors for the 6-year-old family-owned business.
On Sept. 11, the Greater Seffner Chamber of Commerce named Morningstar Electric its Business of the Year. In addition, Morningstar Electric was named Best of Brandon and Best of Southshore in the annual contest sponsored by the Tampa Tribune.
"It was a big surprise," said Tammy Morningstar. "I just kind of sat there stunned when they announced we'd won. You're up against the best of the best, all winners already. We just weren’t expecting it. We’re very humbled."
The Brandon chamber awards are based not only on the success of the business but on its community involvement.
And community involvement is high on the Morningstars' list of priorities.
The Morningstars are big supporters of RVR Horse Rescue in Riverview, rcently donating $2,000 worth of services to the horse rescue.
"I was raised on a farm so the horse rescue is near and dear to my heart," said Tammy Morningstar.
The Morningstars also support the Brandon Emergency Care Help Organization, the YMCA, New Horizons Group Homes and Rotary's Camp Florida, donating the lighting for the camp.
"Where there's a need, we try to fulfill it," said Tammy Morningstar. "If we don't have the funds to help, we give services. Nonprofits are the backbone of our community and they need us especially now when times are so tough."
The Morningstars encourage other small businesses to give back as well.
"We try to lead by example," Tammy Morningstar said. "I encourage all businesses owners to do something to help people, to give back to your community with an open heart. It's not all about money; it's about giving what you can."
Tammy Morningstar noted that they are setting an example for their three children as well.
"We don't do it for recognition," she said. "We do it for the satisfaction of knowing we've helped."
Nevertheless, Tammy Morningstar admits it's nice to be recognized for their work.
"It makes it all worthwhile," she said. "We've been truly blessed."
But giving back is just one key to operating a successful business, said Morningstar.
"You’ve got to take pride in your work and what you do," she said. "You have to provide exemplary customer service -- make sure it’s done right before you take payment."
Morningstar also recommends that small businesses get involved in chambers of commerce, (the Morningstars are members of the Brandon, Seffner and Riverview chambers), networking groups and service organizations in the community.
She added that they are big advocates for the community's small businesses, taking time to show support for other businesses whenever possible.
"We're big believers in shopping local," said Tammy Morningstar.
Four other small businesses also accepted Small Business Leader of the Year awards at the Oct. 18 gala.
The Tutoring Club, 4385 Lynx Paw Trail, Valrico, under the direction of Susan Prestridge, received the award for for minority and woman-owned business.
Claiming the award for businesses with one to five employees was Ivey Carpet and Flooring at 333 N. Falkenberg Rd., Tampa, operated by Rick and Tina Ivey and Tom Hughes.
Longtime Seffner resident and community activist Larry Cox of Cox Electric, 11611 E. Old Hillsborough Ave., Seffner, took home the award for six to 15 employees.
And Ed Morse Cadillac Brandon garnered the award for 16-plus employees.