Top suburban entrepreneurs honored at Business Ledger event

It was an evening dedicated to risk taking and overcoming failure as 19 local entrepreneurs were honored during the 17th Annual Entrepreneurial Excellence Awards, hosted by the Business Ledger and its sponsoring partners.

More than 120 people celebrated with the honorees during the event Thursday at the Hilton Hotel Lisle/ Naperville.

The annual awards recognize outstanding suburban entrepreneurship and honorees who have demonstrated excellence in areas such as willingness to take risk, drive, perseverance, and business creativity. Nominations are made by members of the community and the honorees are selected by the Daily Herald Business Ledger editorial staff.

This year's honorees were selected for seven categories: Early Stage (in business fewer than 5 years), Growth, Innovation, Young Entrepreneur (under age 40), Outstanding Service to Entrepreneurs, Regional Spirit and Lifetime Achievement.

Keynote speaker Dennis Barsema, social entrepreneur, impact investor and instructor at Northern Illinois University, highlighted some take-aways he picked up during his years developing a number of start ups companies. He noted what makes an entrepreneur stand out is the ability to take and accept risks.

“There's no secret to success,” Barsema said. “But the secret is to mitigate your risks.

“You build a great team around you with great customers and a great product in a great market and you do that to lessen your risk.”

In addition to managing risk, Barsema said other traits of a successful entrepreneur include the ability to run fast and stay ahead of the competition, overcome fear in making decisions, fail fast and move on, listen instead of talk, and celebrate success no matter how small.

The honorees echoed those reflections as they accepted their awards.

“Sometimes we take a chance because we want to, and then there are other times we take a chance because we have to,” said Quint Thompson, owner of QT3 Systems in Aurora, who started his business with an idea but no start up money. Thompson was honored in the Early Stage category.

Others agreed

“As entrepreneurs, we live on the shaky branches of life,” said Kathleen Caldwell, Caldwell Consulting Group, Woodstock, who was honored for outstanding service to entrepreneurs.

“We put ourselves out there day after day in an attempt to make a positive difference,” she added. “We want to create a successful business and a meaningful life.”

Detailed profiles of the honorees will be featured in the Oct. 17 issue of the Daily Herald Business Ledger.

Presenting sponsors for this year's program are Focus Capital Advisors, Northern Illinois University School of Business and B. Gunther & Company.

Paul Michna/pmichna@dailyherald.comKathy Steele of Red Caffeine Marketing+Technology, Lombard talks during the Daily Herald Business Ledger annual EEA Awards event Thursday.
Paul Michna/pmichna@dailyherald.comHonorees wait for the awards to be announced at the Daily Herald Business Ledger annual EEA Awards event Thursday.

2016 Entrepreneurial Excellence Award honorees

Early Stage

• Jill Foucre, Mache, Glen Ellyn

• Kathy Steele, Red Caffeine Marketing & Technology, Lombard

• Quint Thompson, QT3 Systems, Aurora

• Kelly Yearwood, Pits for Patriots, Bensenville


• Lynn Day, Bottle & Botega, Glen Ellyn

• Chad Holstead, Business Knowledge Systems, Plainfield

• Marc LeBlanc, Gages Lake Auto & Light Truck, Gages Lake


• Padmini Sriman, EmotiPlush, Naperville

• Denise Smith, Smith Physical Therapy & Running Academy, Crystal Lake

Lifetime Achievement

• Mike Justice, Grid Connect, Naperville

Outstanding Service to Entrepreneurs

• Kathleen Caldwell, Caldwell Consulting Group, Woodstock

• Mike Cavanaugh, Small Business Advocacy Council, Chicago

• Leslee Cohen, Hershman-Cohen, Chicago/Deerfield

• Joe Micallef, Grow Up Sales, Libertyville

Regional Spirit

• Sue Cain, Corporate Learning Institute, Wheaton

• Claude Gendreau, La Banque Hotel, Homewood

Young Entrepreneur

• Gina Hines, Alder Grove Counseling, Downers Grove

• Andre Janus, Cristaux International, Elk Grove Village

• Chris Lesner, Project World Impact, LLC, Wheaton

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