2017 Annual Awards for Business Excellence honorees

Updated 4/12/2017 10:02 AM

Designstorms, Glen Ellyn

Amy Storm, founder and owner

Category: Architecture & Construction

With a new baby, Amy Storm made the tough decision to leave her dream job designing restaurants.

The very next day, an acquaintance called and asked Storm to help design their new home. Thus Designstorms, a full service interior design firm, was officially created in 2004 and has been growing ever since.

In the past four years, Designstorms has grown from just Storm to a staff of seven, including her husband who manages the marketing side of the business.

In December 2016, they opened Storm Inspired Showroom, adjacent to their new studio space. It's a furniture showroom that includes custom furniture, case goods, lighting, custom rugs, home accessories and Amy's own private label pieces.

In 2012, Designstorms annual income was just over $300,000. In 2016, it was over $2 million with an 82 percent growth.

Designstorms has been awarded Angie's List Super Service Award twice and repeatedly received the Best of Houzz (HOUSE) Design Award.

The Center for Gifted, Glenview

Mike Gorelick, associate director

Category: Educational Institution, Entity or Program

Since 1983, the Center for Gifted has offered families unique opportunities to enhance their intellect and explore new passions.

As a successful nonprofit run by just five employees, the Center for the Gifted prides itself on the its extensive curriculum and keeping children with keen interests in academics thriving by participating in interactive programs all year round.

Founded by Joan Smutny, who is the editor of the Illinois Association for Gifted Children Journal, the center embraces the arts and humanities, as well as science, technology, engineering and math through hands-on learning, discovery and invention.

Smutny received the 1996 NAGC Distinguished Service Award for her contributions to the field of gifted education and the 2012 NAGC Paul Torrance Award in Creativity.

The Center also conducts parent seminars, which focus on fostering curiosity, critical thinking and open-mindedness.

The Center works closely with other local organizations to ensure international students are offered the same opportunities to succeed.

Aurora Area Convention and Visitors Bureau

Cort Carlson, executive director

Category: Entertainment and Hospitality

Created in 1987, the Aurora Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and marketing the area as a visitors destination with the goal to increase the economic and environmental well-being of the region.

Since Cort Carlson took over as executive director in May 2015, AACVB has experienced record growth and reported an economic impact of $3.1 million in tourism dollars the bureau is directly responsible for generating.

The reason for success was based on Carlson's simple idea to focus specifically on amateur sports, which can generate over $100,000 in economic impact to an area in just one weekend.

With the focus on attracting and hosting amateur sporting events, the Aurora Area Sports Alliance was created to attract regional and national amateur sport competitions in Aurora to increasing hotel stays, restaurant visits, retail shoppers and more.

In 2016, AACVB landed two major softball tournaments and are in the process of finalizing deals for softball, soccer, volleyball and table tennis events. Aurora will also host the 2017 NCAA Division One Men and Women's Golf Championships.

This newfound success has been recognized by the AACVB being named one of Sports Events Media Group's 2017 Reader's Choice Award Winners.

Weber Grill Restaurants, Lombard

Lauren Rullo, Sales & Marketing Manager; Melissa Santiago, General Manager.

Category: Entertainment & Hospitality

Without George Stephen and his invention of the Weber Grill in 1952, the backyard barbecue wouldn't be what it is today. To showcase his grills and his love of entertaining, Stephen entered the restaurant business and opened the first Weber Grill Restaurant in 1989 in Wheeling.

Ten years later, the Lombard location opened and four new restaurants followed after that. Weber Grill Restaurants have become a staple in the community providing the highest quality dining experience.

Today five of George Stephen's 12 children serve on the board of directors for the Weber Grill Restaurant group and the family shares the same passion for the company as their patriarch did in 1952.

Being a part of the community has always been an important part of the company's mission.

Over the last three years, the Lombard location has worked to raise awareness and funds for Ronald McDonald House in Oak Brook, DuPage PADS, Northern Illinois Food Bank, DuPage Children's Museum, and Meals on Wheels.

Buck Services, Inc., West Chicago

John Buchholz, president

Category: Family Business

For the past 29 years, Buck Services has been cleaning and maintaining facilities throughout the Chicago area. Their goal is to create a clean, comfortable and safe environment in all their facilities.

Buck Services is family owned and operated company. Four brothers spearhead different aspects of the company and over 12 second-generation family members also work in the business.

The company started in 1988 with a special interest in maintaining schools and churches, but has now expanded to commercial, medical, retail and events marketplaces. They are still servicing their very first client.

Buck Services continues to grow through difficult economic times. In 2010, they achieved their dream of purchasing a building of their own that was triple the size of their former space.

From starting in a high school janitor's office and the basement of their family home, Buck Services has come a long way in the past three decades.


Ridgeworth Roofing Company, Inc., Frankfort

Rod Petrick, president and owner

Category: Family Business

Since 1974, Ridgeworth Roofing has been a family-owned and operated business that provides high-quality, personalized service and unparalleled expertise throughout the Chicago area.

They are a full-service commercial, industrial, condominium and institutional roofing contractor that prides themselves on their skill, work ethic and commitment to quality.

In 2003, Rod Petrick took over the company that his father Robert started. Rod continues to instill their family values of hard work, honesty and integrity.

Since Petrick took over, the company has increased revenues by over 40 percent in a 12-year time frame.

In 2013, Petrick was awarded the James Q. McCawley Award from the Midwest Roofing Contractors Association for outstanding dedication to the roofing industry.

He is currently in the process of preparing his son, Ryan, to take over the family business and continue its legacy. Ryan will be graduating from the National Roofing Contractor's Association program in March.

Ridgeworth Roofing is passionate about giving back to the local community through various charitable roofing projects each year.

Iyka Enterprises, Wheaton

Poonam Krishnan, president & CEO.

Category: Innovation

Iyka Enterprises is a big data management and analytics solution provider. Iyka focuses on providing comprehensive and direct data solutions and services to meet the needs of next generation businesses.

Founder Poonam Gupta-Krishnan built the organization with a focus on constantly looking to provide simple technology solutions and enhance the quality of service.

At the heart of their business is a knowledge platform called Iyka data Spryng. The platform is able to interpret all data types and spoken languages so that users can rapidly apply important context to their advanced analytic queries.

One of the world's leading data analysts called this platform game changing for the insurance, financial and health care industries.

This award-winning woman-owned business is on the forefront of big data and are setting the standard in this developing industry.

Krishnan has deep roots in the Chicago area educational community and generously donates her time to mentor college students in both the city and suburbs.

CASA Lake County, Vernon Hills

Category: Notable-Not-For-Profit Organizations

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Lake County is a unique, volunteer-based child advocacy nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of abused and neglected children in Lake County foster care.

Celebrating its 22nd year of advocating on behalf of children and youth, CASA gives a face to each child in court. They have proved how one qualified, caring adult can change everything in the lives of these children.

There are more than 1,300 children in the juvenile dependency or DCFS foster care system in Lake County.

CASA has over 300 highly trained adult volunteers that advocate and speak up for children in the foster care and child welfare system.

In 2016 alone, these volunteers served over 1,000 children and donated over 33,000 hours of service.

On average, it costs $2,000 a year to provide advocacy services for a child. Currently, CASA provides advocacy for 95 percent of its cases, which makes their organization one of the best of the national chapters.

They recently launched the "I Am For The Child" campaign to appeal to local foundations, corporations and individuals who care about supporting every single child in need of CASA.

Family Bridges, Oakbrook Terrace

Dr. Alicia La Hoz, founder and CEO

Category: Notable-Not-For-Profit Organizations

Family Bridges, also know as Lazos de Familia, is a nonprofit organization that promotes thriving communities by delivering services to strengthen family relationships while embracing their cultural and spiritual values.

Through workshops and counseling, Family Bridges empowers individuals with practical relationship skills such as communication, conflict resolution and problem solving.

Dr. Alicia La Hoz, licensed clinical psychologist, founder and CEO, is the guiding force behind Family Bridges because she saw the need for culturally appropriate prevention programs for Latino families.

Since 2006, Family Bridges has served over 100,000 individuals via workshops, conferences, retreats and special events. Their programs extend to eight Illinois counties.

In 2016, Dr. La Hoz was awarded the Professional Latina of the Year by Chicago Latino Network.

Beyond her significant work within the Latino community in Chicago, Dr. La Hoz and Family Bridges is committed to helping build strong families with purpose-driven children.

Each year, Family Bridges provides family-strengthening services to over 4,000 couples and singles. In 2015, they educated over 2,000 high school students on how to make positive choices and become involved in their communities.

Family Bridges is currently experiencing rapid growth with expansion to Arizona, Wisconsin, Puerto Rico and Costa Rica.

Little City, Palatine

Shawn Jeffers, executive director.

Category: Notable-Not-For-Profit Organizations

Established in 1959, Little City was founded by a group of parents who dreamed of a unique and revolutionary environment for their children who some at the time thought should be institutionalized.

Today, Little City is a vital and vibrant community offering a comprehensive scope of services and amenities to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Little City has developed and personalized programs to assist and empower children and adults with autism and other disabilities. They serve over 1,160 people in northern Cook County.

For the past 55 years, Little City's mission has been to provide options and opportunities to live safely, learn continuously, explore creatively and work productively. They create hope, happiness and optimism for those with disabilities and their families.

In 2012, the Human Rights Campaign recognized Little City as the first foster care and adoption agency in Illinois to obtain cultural competence in serving the LGBT community.

They also pride themselves on connecting with the community and giving residents opportunities to integrate. More than 40 local businesses offer Little City residents hourly wage jobs.

alligatortek, Oakbrook Terrace

Sid Bala, President and CEO.

Category: Excellence in Business

Since 1993, alligatortek has been a prominent force in the Chicago area as a custom software development company.

Alligatortek has received local, national and worldwide recognition for the products it develops for its clients, all with the mission to help organizations unleash their potential through software that fuels business growth. They were recognized as a 2015 Microsoft Partner of the Year.

They pride themselves on delivering projects that are game changers through their process of discovering, results and delivery.

One success story is when alligatortek partnered with Feeding America, a national hunger-relief nonprofit. The new cloud-based web portal developed by alligatortek took a process that used to take up to a week and reduced it to just a few minutes and helped increase donations by 9 percent.

Over the last 25 years, alligatortek has grown revenue steadily at an average rate of 26 percent year over year. The company doubled its employment from 2014 to 2016 and plans to double again in size over the next five years.

It's an award-winning company when it comes to innovation and culture having been a two-time winner of the Chicago Innovation Awards and listed as One of the Top 50 Employers for Gen Y Emerging Talent in 2013. They also received elite recognition for three consecutive years by the Best and Brightest Companies to Work For.

Apex CPAs and Consultants, Inc., St. Charles

James Chakires, President & CEO.

Category: Excellence in Business

Apex was founded in 1998 by James Chakires, with the mission of helping clients achieve their life's goals through the success of their business.

Apex is an accounting firm unlike its competitors because of their innovative branding, culture and forward thinking. Their entrepreneurial approach to understanding the business aspect of things and going beyond the numbers sets them apart.

Apex finished 2016 with a record high revenue. While the industry average is 3 to 5 percent revenue growth, Apex grew at a whopping 34 percent. The company is also on track for double-digit growth in 2017.

Apex is dedicated to giving back to the community, especially through two initiatives created by their own president.

James Chakires was instrumental in the founding of Shave the Nation, an initiative that has raised over $50,000 with 100 percent of the proceeds going directly to the United States servicemen and women fighting overseas.

Apex is also actively involved with Luggage of Love, a program for foster children in Kane County. Apex has raised over $20,000 in cash and suitcases filled with personal care items for the Kane County Foster Care System.

HRBoost LLC, Libertyville

Nicole Martin, CEO

Category: Excellence in Business

Nicole Martin founded HRBoost in 2010 and had the vision to fit a niche market to offer quality human resource services to small and mid-size businesses and offer solutions based on best practices and the latest thinking in the H R industry.

Today, HRBoost offers over 170 services with a team of 11 professionals who provide clients with proven, measurable results.

Martin is an internationally renowned speaker, author and consultative leader in the field.

She has been named a 2014 Influential Women in Business by the Daily Herald Business Ledger, a 2015 Women of Distinction by the Lake County Magazine, and a 2016 Enterprising Women of the Year Champion by Enterprising Women Magazine.

In addition to authoring two books, Martin is the host of "HR in the Fast Lane" on Advisor TV, where she meets with leaders who understand and share insights on HR topics.

She also serves on the advisory board for the 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For.

JAK Creative Design, Darien

Jill A. Kerrigan, president and owner

Category: Excellence in Business

JAK Creative Design is an independent marketing agency that specializes in brand identity, packaging, and print and digital design.

Jill Kerrigan founded the company in 1995 out of her basement. It has since grown to 18 employees in a vibrant office space.

JAK's first major client was American Express. They have added notable clients such as ComEd, the Principal Financial Group and ACT, among others.

Over the last 22 years, JAK has added significantly to their client base, grown revenue and been recognized by their industry for many awards in design and communications. Kerrigan will also soon be accepting this year's Enterprising Women of the Year Champion Award from Enterprising Women magazine.

JAK has taken steps to become a bigger part of the region's economic engine and support local suburban businesses. JAK gained membership in the Chicago Anchors for a Strong Economy program via World Business Chicago.

Kerrigan is committed to the Women's Business Development Center and advocating for women-owned businesses and certification.

Linea di Liara, Addison

Purav Kapadia, president.

Category: Excellence in Business

Linea di Liara is a privately held business that has grown by offering innovative, unique lighting options. It focuses on a direct to consumer e-commerce model, making their products available nationwide, at low cost with fast delivery.

In 2014, Purav Kapadia was renovating his home and struggled to find lighting that was contemporary and not incredibly expensive. He decided to design his own and installed two in his home and listed another 198 on Amazon.

When they sold out in less than two weeks, Linea di Liara was born. Since its first production batch of 200 Effimero lights, Linea di Liara has sold more than 40,000 Effimero lights.

In just three years, the product line has grown to more than 300 items including pendants, ceiling lights, wall lamps and scones. They are available on Amazon, Wayfair, Allmodern, Houzz, and eBay.

Linea di Liara is one of the fastest growing companies in the home furnishing space. From 2014 to 2016, its growth has exceeded 1,200 percent and they expect revenues in 2017 to exceed $8 million.

They were founded with the goal of giving back to their community and have been able to do just that. They donate a significant portion of the year's proceeds to the charities Cradles to Crayons and Shoes that Fit.

Linea di Liara has also donated nearly $100,000 in returned goods to Habitat for Humanity's Restore.

Paul Gregory Media, Naperville

Paul Feith, president

Category: Excellence in Business

Founded in 2006, Paul Gregory Media is a branding boutique agency that helps businesses of all sizes and in all industries, connect with their customers and tell unique stories.

Their creative consultancy specializes in translating brand strategy into brand activation, bringing a brand to life and growing a business.

They have seen significant growth every year and have tackled all mediums in the marketing field, including print, digital, web, and video.

What really set Paul Gregory Media apart is the culture of community involvement that is displayed by its leader, Paul Feith.

In 2016, Paul Gregory Media became a Benefits Corporation, or a B-Corporation, which requires a strict set of guidelines for transparency, community involvement, and making it a company's primary directive to benefit the community in which they serve.

They serve organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, Habitat for Humanity, school foundations, rotary clubs and their very own Giving DuPage organization.

Between 2011 and 2012 the agency grew over 100 percent. Paul Gregory Media has earned over 100 international branding and marketing awards from over 13 different organizations.

They were awarded the Small Business of the Year in the Business-to-Business category by the Naperville Chamber of Commerce and an Entrepreneurial Excellence Award by the Business Ledger.

Pro Home 1, Wood Dale

Peter Pawelko, owner

Category: Excellence in Business

Pro Home 1 is a small construction company that specializes in roofing, siding, windows and all the exterior and interior remodeling needs.

Founded in 2006 by Peter Pawelko and Chris Swiech, Pro Home 1's mission is to provide straight talk about products and information and to educate and problem solve for their customers.

Despite having only 15 employees, Pro Home 1 is not afraid of the challenges of large projects and contracts. From working on Oakbrook Towers to the Street Scape Development in Skokie, Pro Home 1 always delivers quality work.

The company grew by over 150 percent in the last five years. They expect sales to exceed $4 million in 2017.

Pro Home 1 has received awards from Angie's List, Better Business Bureau, Guilt Quality, Certified Contactors Network and the Vinyl Siding Institute.

They believe in being generous with their time and expertise and give back to their community by sponsoring local ventures and projects.

They are a partner and co-sponsor of Swapadventure, a social recycling company that makes recycling a fun sharing experience and to see exactly where recycled goods are going without being resold.

Sebold Capital Management, Naperville

Sean Sebold, president

Category: Excellence in Business

Sebold Capital Management is a wealth management firm that creates maximum value for high net-worth clients. With an approach that gives straight, unbiased advice, they apply their deep expertise and put the client's needs first.

Because they are an independent firm and not owned by a bank, brokerage firm or insurance company, they only answer to clients and eliminate any conflict of interest.

Founded in 1998 by Sean Sebold, the firm has grown from a one-man company to a thriving office of five full-time staff plus seasonal interns to assist more than 100 client households.

In the last five years, Sebold's capital assets under management have grown over 75 percent.

Sebold is a respected leader in the industry with over 15 years of experience in the financial planning and investment management industries.

Sebold Capital and Sean Sebold have been recognized with the 2016 Gold Winner for Business Owner Campaign Invitation by Hermes Creative Awards and 2016 Chicago Five Star Wealth Managers by Chicago Magazine.

Sebold is actively involved as a member of the Rotary Club of Batavia and sits on the board of trustees at Hesed House, the second largest homeless shelter in Illinois.

Spotted Paw Salon, Wheaton

Michael Zloza, owner

Category: Excellence in Business

Michael and Cristyn Zloza had the vision to create a salon where the safety and comfort of pets and clients came first, while offering products and services that help pets look good and be healthy.

Thus they created Spotted Paw Salon in November 2011. Within the first year at Spotted Paw, their standard for quality and reputation quickly grew, establishing it as one of the leaders for pet grooming in the Wheaton area.

After starting with just a handful of clients, the salon grew to cater over 5,000 clients and they realized the need for a new facility to help accommodate the increased client load. In November 2016, Spotted Paw moved to their new 3,400 square foot facility located in the Shops of Wheaton.

Cristyn, who is both the co-owner and head groomer, is a national award-winning groomer. She has received a total of 33 top three placements and a two-time national ranking in the top 25 groomers in the United States.

Spotted Paw is also the home to the American Kennel Club Grand Champion, Cashinova the Bichon Frise, who is owned by Michael and Cristyn.

Since the beginning of the salon, Spotted Paw has been involved with organizations within the area, from supporting sports at Wheaton-Warrenville South High School to the DuPage County Animal Care and Rescue.

Starship Travel Inc., Arlington Heights

Linda Schreiber, owner and president

Category: Excellence in Business

Starship Travel is a woman-owned business that was started in 1986 by Linda Schreiber due to her love of travel.

Now celebrating over 30 years, Starship Travel is an award-winning, first class agency serving clients from all over the world. There are three full-time employees, three part-time employees and 20 independently contracted travel agents working under the Starship Travel umbrella.

After the travel industry took a major hit post the 9/11 disaster, 30 percent of travel agencies went out of business. Schreiber dug in and kept Starship Travel afloat. She shifted the focus to include travel for the millennial generation for honeymoons and destination weddings.

In 2016, Starship's current gross annual sales were about $5.5 million.

Starship Travel is among 200 travel agencies at the MAST Network Award Ceremony and is a 7-time recipient of the All-Star Award for the highest sales. Schreiber was also awarded the 2012 President's Award for being the MAST member who has given time and dedication to the overall success of the organization.

Starship has earned the distinguished honor of a Better Business Bureau A-rating each year since 2007, including the 2014 Better Business Bureau Torch Award.

Starship has always given back to their local community through organizations like Rainbows for All Children and Rachel's Walk of Love. They were awarded the Magellan Award for Community Involvement in 2014.

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