UPDATE: This post has been updated since it was first published. A comment from Susan Kaufman has been added.
The award, sponsored by the Women Business Owners, a Puget Sound organization for women entrepreneurs, judges finalists “based on their entrepreneurial spirit, ethics and community spirit, financial management skill, and the difficulty and risk they have endured to achieve their success,” according to the WBO website.
Kaufman, a native New Yorker, grew up eating Italian food. After creating two successful restaurants in Juneau, Alaska, she opened Serafina on Eastlake Avenue in 1991. The restaurant has won numerous accolades and awards. Last year, Kaufman purchased the building behind Serafina and turned it into her newest restaurant, Cicchetti.
Anne-Marie Faiola, CEO of Bramble Berry, 2009 Nellie winner and 2010 Nellie judge, said of Kaufman:
“With Susan, her commitment to financial management really stood out. It’s not easy to run a restaurant and start another one, all from existing capital. And to have a successful restaurant that is consistently profitable and full over two decades is a rare thing. Additionally, the fact that many of her staff are long-time members of her team speaks volumes about the type of company she runs. Her enthusiasm for creating community through her food and restaurants was obvious as was her can-do attitude and her grace and wit under pressure.”
“I am still reeling from last night,” Kaufman said in an e-mail. “It was the most amazing experience, being in the company of my incredibly talented co-finalists as well as a room full of accomplished, caring women. … I had no idea how much this would mean to me until I actually experienced the entire event. It is truly an amazing feeling to be recognized this way, and I will stay in the “glow” as long as possible.”
Kaufman is a long-time Eastlake resident and activist. She lives near her restaurants and is a believer in local and sustainable food. According to a press release, her kitchen garden supplies herbs and vegetables to the restaurants.
The Nellie honors Nellie Cashman, a pioneer businesswoman, entrepreneur, philanthropist and gold prospector.