In 2014, Mike and Kathy Dawson purchased their first crane and Big Red Crane Company was born. Today, the Dawsons have a fleet of eight cranes, five trucks, trailers and equipment, along with 10 employees.

On Saturday, Jan. 25, the Dawsons will be honored with the Small Business of the Year award at the Carpinteria Chamber of Commerce’s Community Awards Banquet.

“Kathy and I were surprised and very humbled to learn of the award,” said Mike. “We both feel honored to even be considered for the award with so many wonderful small businesses in the Carpinteria community. Having said that, we are so proud of our ‘little’ Big Red Crane Company.”

A lot has changed for the couple in the last seven years. Before starting out on his own, Mike was vice president of another local crane company, Specialty Crane & Rigging, now out of business, and Kathy was a law firm administrator. The pair decided to go “all in” and start their own business. “When Big Red Crane Company was born, I was 53 years old—a little scary,” said Mike. “Since then, there has been no looking back and we have achieved phenomenal success.”

While the Dawsons have enjoyed success, they’ve also had to work very long hours and wear many hats at the company.  “We both work full-time for our company,” noted Mike. “Kathy and I continue to be the chief cooks and bottle washers, doing whatever needs to be done on a daily basis.”  

The Dawsons consider customer service the key to any successful business, including their own. When customers call the company, Mike or Kathy are the ones who answer the phone. Additionally, Big Red Crane has a team of loyal, talented and safe crane operators and employees.

“We believe our customer service, our can-do attitude and our safe and efficient operations sets us apart and we love that. We keep it personal,” said Mike.

When they are not working on their business, the Dawsons are volunteering for their community. They love to do it and call it “the gift you give to yourself.” Their volunteer work includes the Lions Club Festival of Trees (which Mike co-chairs), the Avofest, the Carpinteria Boys & Girls Club auction and Touch-a-Truck events where children can sit in and touch the cranes.

Near and dear to Mike’s heart is the Trade Arts Program with Santa Barbara County Schools where he makes presentations to high school students on employment opportunities in the trades, education, skills and salaries. For Mike, it’s vital that the many “kids who aren’t on the college track” have access to vocational and trade training.

On winning the Chamber’s Small Business of the Year award, Mike and Kathy noted that they were “extremely proud of what we have built together… We look forward to continuing our service to the community both with our crane company and our volunteerism.”

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