2006 Joseph G.E. Knight Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence

            Marion Filippi took over ownership of Ballard’s Inn on Block Island, after her husband Paul passed away in 1992.  She has successfully carried on the tradition of great food, great entertainment, and warm hospitality that her husband started when he purchased Ballard’s in 1956.

            It would have been easy for Marion to just sell the business after her husband’s death and concentrate on raising her three teenage boys. However, she recognized the importance of carrying on Paul’s legacy, and giving her children an opportunity to follow in their father’s footsteps.  Despite what must have been a very difficult time, Marion never wavered in her commitment to the business or her family. 

            Marion operates Ballard’s Inn with her three sons—Paul, Steven, and Blake.  While operating any business is challenging enough, making a profit in a business whose season is approximately eight weeks is nearly impossible.  But that is exactly what Marion Filippi has accomplished at Ballard’s Inn.

            The success of a hospitality business on Block Island is significantly controlled by weather.  Recognizing the need to provide a buffer against the extreme seasonality, Ballard’s began maximizing the so-called “shoulder season,” a time when the weather may be beautiful, but the crowds have yet to arrive.  During the past five years, Ballard’s has enjoyed a 50 percent increase in off season weddings and corporate events during the summer months.

            Ballard’s also has capitalized on the increasing access to the island via high-speed ferries from New London and Galilee, opening the island to a stream of visitors.

            Marion’s employees, who are an extension of the Filippi family, are one of the keys to Ballard’s success.  At the height of the summer season, the Inn has 100 full-time employees who enjoy a competitive hourly pay rate, subsidized employee housing, an employee meal plan, and professional training courses.  A good percentage of employees return each summer providing stability and continuity to the workforce.

            Recent renovations include an improved indoor bar, which is the largest on Block Island, the addition of a sushi bar, and new and improved beach front café.

            An updated soundstage provides the opportunity to continue the tradition of Ballard’s world-class entertainment with such national acts as Jimmy Buffett, U2, and Elvis cover bands.

            New additions made over the off-season include an eight-slip transient dock to accommodate the increasing number of patrons who arrive on boats. The kitchen has been upgraded to handle the demand of more than 6,000 guests served by Ballard’s each day in July and August.

            While it is easy to see what makes Ballard’s so great from the outside, it is what goes on behind the scene that sets it apart from the rest. Each day Marion and her son Paul can be seen greeting customers at the door, helping out in the kitchen, and have even been known to offer a tour of the island to new visitors. 

            Marion and her family appreciate the support that Ballard’s Inn has received over the years and they give back to the community whenever they can.  Last summer, Ballard’s hosted a Military Appreciation Day, during which thousands of military members and their families gathered for a day of fun in the sun.

            The U.S. Small Business Administration is honored to present the first Joseph G.E. Knight Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence to Marion C. Filippi, chief executive officer of Ballard’s Inn on Block Island.

            The Joseph G.E. Knight Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence was created to honor the memory of Joseph G.E. Knight, who passed away in October 2005 at the age of 96.  Mr. Knight was one of the founders of SCORE: Counselors to America’s Small Business in 1964.  He served as the association’s national chair in 1977 and 1978.  The Joseph G.E. Knight SCORE Chapter 13 in Providence is the only SCORE chapter in the nation named in honor of an individual.   

           Mr. Knight dedicated more than 35 years to helping countless entrepreneurs realize their dream of business ownership through his sage mentoring and expert advice.  This award will be presented annually to an entrepreneur who has exemplified the highest ideals of business achievement.