State Sen. Russell Ruderman has been named the Hawaii Small Business Person of the Year.

He returned this week from Washington, D.C., where he was honored by the U.S. Small Business Association, according to a Senate news release Friday.

“I’m truly humbled by this honor,” Ruderman said in the release. “I feel lucky to be able to combine my passion to support local people and local products with my love for business and entrepreneurship.”

Senator Russell Ruderman during ways and means meeting. 3 march 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Sen. Russell Ruderman listens during a Ways and Means meeting March 3.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Ruderman is president and founder of Island Naturals, a group of natural and organic food stores on the Big Island. The company now employs 150 people at locations in Kona, Hilo and Pahoa.

Those who nominated Ruderman for the Business Person of the Year award, described him as someone “willing to listen to people with different worldviews,” and “very humble and unassuming,” the release says.

“When we had our orientation for new employees, he said he always wanted to work at a place where you can have fun,” says Sarah Naleimaile, who works in the Hilo store. “And that’s the kind of place it is. I’m actually excited to come to work every day.”

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