The U.S. Small Business Administration announced on April 5 that it had named Matthew D. Ames, of Burnsville, Minnesota, as the 2012 Minnesota Young Entrepreneur of the Year for his work as CEO and president of Pro Paintball, Inc.

Ames, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurship in 2007, started MN Pro Paintball in 2002. His operation currently consists of a 200-acre outdoor paintball park in Lakeville, retail stores in Burnsville and Minnetonka and an online store. Based in Burnsville, the business has grown from a one-man operation to eight full-time and as many as 50 part-time employees during the peak season, and has  grown to nearly $1 million in annual sales.

Rich Rexelsen, a professor of marketing at St. Thomas who served as Ames’ mentor and academic advisor, commented, “Matt has shown remarkable tenacity for his willingness to meet people and do the market development that is necessary for this business.”  Pro Paintball’s numbers reflect this, averaging 15% sales growth during the past three years.

Ames is also notable for his company’s charitable contributions. MN Pro Paintball has contributed more than $50,000 to the cardiac unit at Children’s Hospitals through the Challenge for Children’s charity paintball event.

Ames was nominated for the award by Michael Ryan, Director of the Twin Cities Small Business Development Center at the University of St. Thomas.

The Young Entrepreneur of the Year is selected annually based on success as measured by sales and profits, increased employment opportunities created by the business, development or utilization of innovative or creative business methods and demonstrated entrepreneurial potential necessary for long-term business success and economic growth.  These accomplishments must be achieved before the young entrepreneur reaches the age of thirty.