For many of the 18 suburban businesses honored at the Daily Herald Business Ledger's Enterpreneurial Excellence Awards Thursday, success is indeed a family affair.

Husband and wife teams accounted for five of the businesses showcased at the Business Ledger's 18th annual event, held at the Oak Brook Hills Resort/Hilton in Oak Brook.

The awards recognize outstanding entrepreneurship in the six-county suburban Chicago region. The honorees, selected by Business Ledger staff members, demonstrate the best traits of entrepreneurship, including willingness to take risk, drive, perseverance and business creativity.

More than 100 people heard keynote speaker Alex Bratton relate some lessons he learned in his 25 years of experience with starting 12 technology companies.

Bratton, who is CEO and "chief geek" of app developer Lextech in Downers Grove, said entrepreneurs need to pay attention to changes in the marketplace and what their customers and employees want, so they can adapt their business to maximize the experience. He used a quote from hockey great Wayne Gretzky, who said "I'm not skating where the puck is, I'm skating to where it's going."

"That's exactly what we have to do as entrepreneurs and business owners," Bratton said, "What's changing in the world, because we want to be over there."

Those that do evolve need to know how to keep customers and employees engaged "from an experience perspective," he continued.

"What do our customers think of us? It's much broader than just the service that we offer to them," Bratton added. "It's the experience of everything, and that's what really drives it."

Many of the honorees credited their success to the help and support of their employees and family members, who they said were vital.

"You can build a beautiful hotel, but at the end of the day, it's people that make people happy," said Jim Nagle, who with his wife, Tely, own The Drake Oak Brook Hotel in Oak Brook.

Liz Bolash, who with husband, Jim, own Woodcrafters DIY Studio in Arlington Heights, was grateful for their family and staff for the support of their business from the outset.

"When you mix a psychologist, carpenter, three kids and two dogs, you need a lot of help," Bolash said. "We are very blessed with the family and friends that have gotten us to this point."

Detailed profiles of the 2017 honorees will be published in the Oct. 16 issue of the Daily Herald Business Ledger and online at

Sponsors and marketing partners of the event were Northern Illinois University MBA Program, Focus Capital Advisors, B. Gunther & Co., MRA -- The Management Association, and the Small Business Advocacy Council.