Innovation on the local level was celebrated Wednesday evening as 20 business owners were honored at the 14th Annual Entrepreneurial Excellence Awards sponsored by the Daily Herald Business Ledger. The honorees represented 18 companies that were feted at the event held at Northern Illinois University's Naperville campus, with about 160 people cheering on their successes.
The EEAs recognize outstanding entrepreneurship in suburban Chicago. Honorees demonstrate the best traits of entrepreneurship, including willingness to take risk, drive, perseverance and business creativity. In order to qualify, the nominee's company or organization must be based in, have been founded in, or have a significant presence in the suburban Chicago area. The seven categories for awards were early stage, growth, innovation, outstanding service to entrepreneurs, young entrepreneur (under age 40), regional spirit and lifetime achievement.
2013 Entrepreneural Excellence Award honoreesEarly Stage
Jennifer Schuler and Dana Burke, ABC Moms, Naperville
Monique Wallace, Moveable Feast, Geneva
Tom Gimbel, LaSalle Network, Chicago
Scott Rosenbach and Tom Barzantny, BCI Acrylic Bath Systems/Bath Planet, Palatine.
Rona Borre, Instant Technology, Chicago
John Gavilan, BridgePoint Technologies, Oak Brook
Jackie Muhammad, Solutions Associates Consulting, Inc., Chicago
Peggy Finley, K40 Electronics, Elgin
Al Olieh, Small Business Accounting & Tax Service, Aurora
Alan Rose, Rose Paving Co., Bridgeview
Outstanding Service to Entrepreneurs
Donna Callen, Intelligent Office of Schaumburg
DaVetta Collins, Dunamis Woman, Inc., Schaumburg
Elizabeth Colon, Metaphrasis Language & Cultural Solutions, LLC, Chicago
Gregory Osko, Trust Company of Illinois, Downers Grove
Todd Berger, Transportation Solutions Enterprises, Chicago
Darren Fox, Idea Marketing Group, Inc., Plainfield
Anthony Turano, Turano Baking Co., Berwyn
Vadim Vladimirskiy, ADAR-IT, Lincolnwood
Keynote speaker Howard Tullman, founder and chairman of Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy in Chicago, highlighted a number of key steps to being a successful entrepreneur. Tullman, who himself has started 12 companies in his career and continues to be involved with start-up companies, told the honorees that their success is keyed on the ability to be innovative.
"Innovators are people moving the level a bit higher and doing a bit more," he said. "It's that little movement that makes the success of companies.
"It's not who's first, it's who's best," he added.
Tullman said true entrepreneurs must have a clear vision of what they want to accomplish, then make their business the biggest priority. That, he noted, can lead to some difficult decisions involving employees or investors.
He also noted that an entrepreneur cannot build a business without support from family.,
"Home is the only place where an entrepreneur can be honest," he said, "and that's not easy on the people you live with.
"But a lot of what you do can't be done without the support and sacrifice of your families."
Many of the honorees highlighted that support from families, co-workers and customers as they told their stories to the audience.
"Our clients are like family members," said Gregory Osko of Downers Grove-based Trust Company of Illinois, who was honored in the regional spirit category. "We have a large and extended family."
Many of the honorees noted they started their businesses from humble beginnings -- from working long hours for little wages to emigrating to the U.S. for the opportunity to fulfill their visions. Some used the moment to encourage others to use their success to help in other areas.
"No matter what you do, you cannot do it for yourself," said Al Ohieh, owner of Small Business Accounting in Aurora and an honoree for lifetime achievement. "Do anything you can to help the underprivileged."
Alan Rose, president of Rose Paving in Bridgeview who was also honored for lifetime achievement, gave one practical tip to the group.
"Hire people smarter than you. I've done that," he said. "Trust them to do as good or a better job than you."
Detailed information on all EEA honorees will be published in the Oct. 14 edition of the Daily Herald Business Ledger.
Presenting sponsors for the event were B. Gunther & Co., NIU College of Business, and Focus Capital Advisors Inc.