Hardy, VA - Robbin Martinelli created her own business and now beat out 400,000 entrepreneurs across the nation to get the title "Woman of the Year."
The Hardy woman got the award from the National Association of Professional Women. She sells pillows, blankets, and other goods made from Alpaca fibers.
The award came as a shock for Martinelli. She says she did not even know the organization was considering her for this award because she was not nominated nor did she apply.
"I was totally surprised by the award," said Martinelli, Owner of Smith Mountain Lake Farm, Alpacas
Martinelli plays mom to Cocoa Chanel, Giovanni, and a host of nearly 60 other Alpacas.
"They are a very unusual animal and what's happening with them in the United States is very exciting," said Martinelli.
The lovable animals are soft. Their fibers are hypoallergenic and fire resistant . They are extremely rare, too.
"There are only 3 million Alpacas in the whole world and 94% of those are still in South America," said Martinelli.
Martinelli says there are only 200,000 living in the United States.
Martinelli's story has an interesting twist. She is a former university professor from Connecticut who initially got into the business as a tax incentive. It was not long before she found her passion.
"I am a mom. I have children and when I started seeing all of these things that were going on behind the scenes, it really alarmed me," said Martinelli.
Her research soon led her to find that many store pillows have a petroleum based chemical known as a Polystyrene.
"These Polystyrenes are not anything to fool around with. They're actually causing major health concerns for us in the United States," said Martinelli.
And hence, the pillow idea was born.
"We realized, this was something we had to do. We knew we had the answer," said Martinelli.
This is not her first big award. Just last year she was one of 50 companies selected across the nation to be a part of Glenn Beck's marketplace. And the company is taking off. Even Boston Red Sox player Jackie Bradley Jr. owns one of her pillows.