La Divina Italian Café in Baton Rouge is one of 102 winners nationally of The American Small Business Championship hosted by SCORE, small business mentors.

The winners each receive a $1,000 Sam's Club gift card, an all-expense-paid trip to a training event, SCORE mentoring for one year, and promotion throughout the year to showcase each Champion’s story.

La Divina won for its answer to the question: What sacrifices have you made to help your business succeed?

Owner Lance LeBlanc's answer? “We took a second mortgage on our home and I left a well-paying job with benefits and security to run the cafe full time with no pay. Working countless unpaid hours at La Divina… I’ve never viewed as a sacrifice. It’s the time away from the family that has been the most difficult," LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc and his wife, Mary, signed their business loan on Aug. 30, 2013. That week Lance learned that his 83-year-old father needed emergency heart surgery. His father was in the hospital for four months and the LeBlancs had to deal with surgery complications and rehabilitation while preparing to open their new business.