Despite the dark clouds that continue to cast shadows over the suburban business scene, 28 area entrepreneurs had reason to celebrate Thursday evening.
The business leaders were honored for their ability to persevere and grow during the 12th annual Entrepreneurial Excellence Awards, presented by The Daily Herald Business Ledger and its sponsoring partners.
The Daily Herald Business Ledger's Entrepreneurial Excellence Awards are given to individuals that demonstrate the best traits of entrepreneurship, including willingness to take risk, drive, perseverance and business creativity.
While most of the honorees admitted that the past several years have been challenging, they all agreed that their ventures would not have survived if it had not been for a positive culture and optimism that exists among their respective staffs.
"You are all psychologically resilient. You are survivors," said Tom Walter, CEO of Tasty Catering in Elk Grove Village, who gave the keynote remarks. Walter noted effective leaders are not managers, but provide the vision and culture that permeates among their employees.
"An effective leader doesn't care about the leadership," Walter said, "an effective leader cares about his employees."
That theme was echoed by many of the honorees as they accepted their awards.
"A business is all about people and investing in people," said Benjie Hughes, owner of Backthird Audio in Aurora who was honored in the regional spirit category.
Scott Sinclair, CEO of Xclutel Communications in Westchester, summed it up best when he received his award for young entrepreneur.
"I'm the quarterback. But as we well know in Chicago, the quarterback is nothing without a good offensive line and receivers," Sinclair said.
The EEA awards were presented in seven categories: Early Stage Development, Growth, Innovation, Lifetime Achievement, Outstanding Service, Regional Spirit and Young Entrepreneur.
The 2011 honorees are:
Early stage: Gerald Cassioppi & Ronald Nyberg, Nyberg & Cassioppi LLC, Naperville; Paul Feith, Paul Gregory Media, Naperville; Lauren Young, Freshly Baked Communications, Schaumburg.
Growth: David Berens, Dynamic Sales Innovations, Naperville; Bill Hubly, Corbett, Duncan & Hubly PC, Itasca; Douglas McAllister, Douglas Automotive, Crystal Lake; Kevin Nemetz, tix4cause, Naperville; Scott Rediger, Access Media 3, Oak Brook; Michael Sanfratello, Advanced Wiring Solutions, Alsip; Warren Young, Acme Industries, Elk Grove Village.
Innovation: Joshua Bletzinger, Performance Chiropractic & Sports Medicine, Batavia; Philip Coffey, OMI Industries Inc., Long Grove; Lasse Ingebretsen, Elgin Technology Center; Jeffrey Sebert, Sebert Landscaping, Bartlett.
Lifetime Achievement: Brian Burke, Links Technology Solutions, Inc., Schaumburg; Jill Hebert, Matrex Exhibits, Addison; Richard Kostopoulos, NewGen Business Solutions, Warrenville; Don Roth, AmpliVox Sound Systems, Northbrook; Carmen Velasquez, Alivio Medical Center, Chicago.
Outstanding Service to Entrepreneurs: Amy Sanders, Virtual Admin Concepts, Bolingbrook; Jeff Williams, Bizstarters.com LLC, Arlington Heights.
Regional Spirit: Doug Cook, FELDCO, Des Plaines; Benjie Hughes, Backthird Audio, Aurora; and Renee Valasquez Togher, Azteca Foods, Inc., Chicago.
Young Entrepreneur: Jeff Shea, Payline Data, LLC, Chicago; Scott Sinclair, Xclutel Communications, Westchester; and Jason Speer, Quality Float Works Inc., Schaumburg.
Sponsors for this year's EEA awards are Selden & Fox, an Oak Brook-based accounting and consulting firm; Tasty Catering; B. Gunther & Co. of Lisle; Batavia Enterprises, a property management and development company; WIND 560-AM, and Leaderboard of Chicago.