2017 Entrepreneurial Excellence Award honorees

Updated 9/28/2017 4:13 PM

Joseph Tota, left, and Jim Pacente
Joseph Tota, left, and Jim Pacente -
Early Stage

Jim Pacente and Joseph Tota

Red Arrow Tap Room, Elmhurst

Nominated by Beth Marchetti, DuPage Convention and Visitor's Bureau

Jim and Joseph originally got the name for Red Arrow Tap Room from their favorite Red Arrow Road in Michigan. They loved the area where they would visit their families at their lake house and wanted to bring that feeling of family and craft beer to the area. They quickly became excellent partners with the DuPage CVB months before opening, displaying their desire to be both a local favorite and visitor hot spot.

Red Arrow opened with amazing success and even broke the DuPage CVB's social media records on Facebook and Instagram for "likes" on a single post. The Tap Room has also raised over $17,000 for local charities in Elmhurst community. In addition to hosting fundraisers, Red Arrow donates 5 cents for every ounce poured to a local charity. Red Arrow Tap Room has also won the Daily Herald's Best of the Best award for best new restaurant and was nominated for the 2017 Chicago Innovation Awards.

Wendy Dibenedetto

The Market at Gaetano's, Batavia

Nominated by Jamie Saam, Batavia MainStreet

Wendy Dibenedetto
Wendy Dibenedetto -

Wendy spent her summers growing up in Batavia, which wove magic into her heart and blossomed the desire to create her very own business in her beloved town. She not only started one business, but three! She began her journey a few years ago with the introduction of the main restaurant, Gaetano's Batavia. Her creativity in décor, tasty offerings of food, amazing experienced staff, and the outreach to the community has made Gaetano's Batavia a favorite for locals.

Recently rated the #1 beautiful restaurant in Illinois, along with being named the #1 rated restaurant in the prestigious Zagat guide. Wendy was hungry for more and last year decided to purchase the building that housed Gaetano's Batavia, expanding into both the upstairs and downstairs. She transformed the upstairs into a romantic Middle Eastern escape -- the Lounge at Gaetano's.

Take a step downstairs and you've traveled across the Atlantic to a rustic Italy, with Gaetano's This Italian Market.

Jim and Liz Bolash

Woodcrafters DIY Studio, Inc., Arlington Heights

Liz and Jim Bolash
Liz and Jim Bolash -

Jim is a carpenter with 25 years of experience and Liz is a clinical psychologist who continues to run a thriving private practice since 2005. This wealth of experience has led them to the realization that connecting with others through creativity and building confidence are important ingredients in the life of satisfaction.

In sharing their concept with friends and family, Jim and Liz encountered an overwhelming interest and excitement, which fueled their initial idea into action and created Woodcrafters DIY Studio, Inc. A wood crafting studio with a fun art-studio atmosphere.

Since opening their doors in November 2016, the response in the community has been amazing. Having served a wide range of ages and experience, from school-aged children's birthday parties and scouting events to bridal showers and company team-building events. Social media has attributed to their success and growing customer base with over 1000 likes on Facebook, and a 100 percent rating out of 65 reviews rating Woodcrafters Studio with 5/5 stars!

Growth Category

James and Tely Nagle

The Drake Oak Brook Hotel, Oak Brook

Nominated by Beth Marchetti, DuPage Convention & Visitor's Bureau.

James and Tely Nagle
James and Tely Nagle

Born and raised in DuPage County, Jim often visited the Drake with his family, which captivated him at an early age. A hotel built in 1962 as the suburban sister to the Drake in Downtown Chicago, it housed many celebrities like Frank Sinatra & Rock Hudson, not to mention royalty that included Prince Charles. The then, Wyndham Drake Hotel fell victim to the recession, causing it to close its doors in 2009.

In December of 2013, Jim, a successful lawyer and real estate entrepreneur, wasn't afraid to step into a situation from its bottom and build it toward success. Jim and his wife Tely purchased the hotel and has worked hard to return it to the glory of it's past.

Upon the building's crest is the Latin saying "where time rests," which is more than just an inscription, but a way of life. The Nagles have managed to create a timeless space that features both the hotel's classic design with a modern twist.

Chris and Mary Ginder

Gindo's Spice of Life, Batavia

Nominated by Andrew Parker, Graydon Management, Inc.

Mary and Chris Ginder
Mary and Chris Ginder

Chris and Mary are a husband and wife team with a passion for fiery foods, so much that they launched their own hot sauce company, "Gindo's Spice of Life", launched in 2011 in Los Angeles, California. Their sauce gained attention from well-known chefs, spice lovers, restaurants and foodies alike.

Two years ago the Gindos decided to move to Illinois with hopes of growing their business into a company to one day pass to their children. You can now find Gindo's Spice of Life at local businesses and farmers markets, restaurants, and online. Over the first five years, sales grew about 10-20% annually. Now in the sixth year, growth has erupted to over 150 percent. In the ever expanding and highly competitive world of hot sauce, the Gindos are passionately working to become the must-have condiment in every kitchen.

Lifetime Achievement category

Sid Bala

alligatortek, Oakbrook Terrace

Sid Bala
Sid Bala -

Sid Bala is a Chicago area native, attending the University of Chicago for his bachelor's degree in applied mathematics. He also holds degrees from the State University of New York and MIT. Sid established alligatortek in 1993 to build custom enterprise applications for the web and mobile devices.

Alligatortek is driven by Sid's vision and direction, resulting in an award-winning software firm dedicated to solving business challenges with technology. This past year, Sid was inducted into the 2016 Chicago Area Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame. Under Sid's leadership over the past 24 years, the company has grown revenue steadily at an average of 26 percent year over year. The team doubled in size from 2014 to 2016, and is poised to double again in size over the next five years.

Marcia Boyce

Boyce Body Werks, Naperville

Nominated by Jamie Saam, Batavia MainStreet

Marcia Boyce
Marcia Boyce -

Boyce Body Werks was started by Marcia's husband out of their garage, to make a little extra money for their growing family. Over the last 35 years the couple has worked side by side to build one of the largest independent collision repair centers in the Chicago area.

In 1985, the Boyces moved out of their garage to a small industrial condo in Batavia, officially opening Boyce Body Werks. Over the next 20 years the couple expanded their shop four times. Building a state of the art shop in Batavia in 2001, opened a second location in Naperville in 2006 with another expansion in 2015. Boyce Body Werks has increased sales substantially over this time period.

Katie Dolan Dix

Capannari Ice Cream, Mount Prospect

Nominated by Kaitlin Skye Collins, Mount Prospect Chamber of Commerce

Katie Dolan Dix
Katie Dolan Dix

As a Co-owner and President of Capannari Ice Cream Katie oversees all marketing aspects of the company and forecasts directional decisions for its Growth. Within 16 years, Katie has navigated the company from a small retail shop to the premier ice cream catering company in Chicago.

From day one, Katie has maximized her staff, consultants, and community to not only benefit her own business, but to establish and help support as many people and local businesses as possible. She elevates the typical process of business to something more personal and inviting for everyone who comes in to experience her product. Katie has the ability to generate pride in all those around her, bringing a sense of family and community to every level of Capannari's, as well as her town. Capannari Ice Cream holds countless achievements, being named Top Ten Destinations in America for Ice cream as well with being featured on NBC's Today Show and in Bon Appétit magazine, to name a few.

Linda Schreiber

Starship Travel, Arlington Heights

Nominated by Hailey Schield

Linda Schreiber
Linda Schreiber

Linda opened Starship Travel in 1986 in Arlington Heights, IL. She's always had a love for travel and turned her obsession and passion into a very successful business. Starship Travel's slogan is "We know what we sell ... because we have been there" and considering she has visited many of the destinations and properties that is offered to her clients, including Asia, Europe and her personal favorite, river cruises.

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

Starship Travel has been honored with many awards including 14 consecutive years winning Apple Vacations Platinum Sales award and 9 years as the best of the best with Sandals/Beaches Resorts. Linda was also awarded the 2012 President's Award for being the MAST Network member who has contributed her time and dedication to the overall success of the organization.

Service to Entrepreneurs category

Holly Deitchman

Batavia Chamber of Commerce, Batavia

Nominated by Jamie Saam, Batavia MainStreet

Holly Deitchman
Holly Deitchman -

Holly Deitchman became executive director for the chamber back in February of 2014. With her leadership, the Batavia Chamber of Commerce has grown in its ability to educate, inspire and support budding entrepreneurs as well as long-term businesses.

Holly has been involved with the Batavia Community for nearly 10 years, having worked previously as the station manager for Batavia Access Television, a not-for-profit, community based, television station. She also has experience as a market analyst where she spent 3 years performing feasibility and fiscal impact studies for urban retail and housing projects for financiers, developers, and builders of the Elgin Community.

Since joining the Batavia Chamber Holly has been busy advocating for, building relationships with, and educating chamber members for the benefit of the community. Holly has also been an active member with the Rotary Club of Batavia, Batavia Arts Council, and is currently raising money for 2017 Women Build for Habitat for Humanity.

James Salvato

J.R. Salvato and Associates, South Elgin

James Salvato
James Salvato

James' journey into bookkeeping began at a young age, when he witnessed his father struggling with his business' paperwork. He noticed that his father wasn't receiving the support he needed, which eventually forced his father into an early retirement. It crushed James to see his father's dream destroyed so he decided to devote his career to help other hard working business owners succeed.

James works in his home office that uses secure software and administrative programs to make appointments easy and inviting for anyone.

James created his own networking group, focusing on helping other small businesses gain new clients. He has helped numerous small nonprofits, including Women Tech Founders, and LTM Heroin Support and Awareness Foundation. James also is working with Elgin Community College on a program to train new recruits of Enrolled Agents

Innovation category

Dr. Cheryl Perlis

Perlis Wellness Center, Lake Bluff

Nominated by Ashley Mayer, JJR Marketing

Dr. Cheryl Perlis
Dr. Cheryl Perlis

Dr. Perlis has been in a private practice since 1990 and has helped hundreds of men and women look and feel their best at any stage of life. Specializing in natural hormonal therapy, brain and body biochemistry and aesthetic procedures.

Dr. Perlis began her training as a conventional obstetrician gynecologist, but found her true calling in functional/integrative medicine.

Dr. Perlis sees her wellness center evolving. She plans to expand her centers to have locations in Winnetka and Chicago and both would include hormone therapy, brain and body chemistry which includes personalized supplements, noninvasive cosmetic procedures, and the medically supervised HCG weight loss diet. As an entrepreneur, she researches evidence-based medicine to provide her patients with cutting-edge information for their health and well-beings, allowing her to constantly keep the growth of the practice rising.

Regional Spirit category

Jim Staley

Midwest Transit System, Palos Heights

Nominated by Beth Marchetti, DuPage Convention & Visitors Bureau

Jim Staley
Jim Staley -

Midwest Transit Systems was started by Jim's father in 1963 and is a family founded and owned business. Jim received a business degree from Saint Joseph's College in Indiana in 1986. He was soon drafted by his father to help the family business temporarily but found his calling had been right in front of him all along.

Since taking over the business from his father in 1988, Jim has grown it immensely. The company now services the entire Chicagoland area and Milwaukee along with the ability to partner with companies on a national level. IT can handle individual passengers traveling to and from the airport to even up to thousands of people coming in from a conference. Jim has made a name in the Chicagoland area as an adept businessman who puts value on connecting with those around him and providing excellent service.

Sheri Law

Sheri Law Art Glass, Ltd., Homer Glen

Nominated by Marie Lazzara of JJR Marketing

Sheri Law
Sheri Law -

Sheri is the president, owner, and creative spirit of Sheri Law Art Glass, Ltd. With over 35 years' experience, this award winning business is recognized for its creative achievements for residential, commercial, and liturgical clients. Offering innovative concepts and techniques, the work encompasses all facets of art glass. Each project celebrates the versatility and beauty of decorative art glass.

In 1979, Sheri opened Sherick Art Studio, a 1000 square foot studio in Home Glenn with her brother Rick Law. Determined to expand, in 1987 she was granted the first SBA construction loan given to a woman in Will County for a new building. While running her studio full time Sheri studied at the Harrington College of design to advance her skills. With a few additions over the years, her studio currently encompasses a showroom, production shop, and her residence, which displays art glass in a home setting.

Sheri also uses her talent to help local community organizations such as the Crisis Center of South Suburban in Tinley Park and is a member of 100 Women Who Care Will County, a nonprofit comprised of women who support communities by contributing to local charities together.

Young Entrepreneur (under age 40) category

Todd Eichholz

A & A Paving Contractors, Inc., Roselle

Nominated by Patty Martucci, Custom Direct, Inc.

Todd Eichholz
Todd Eichholz -

Three years ago, Todd became co-owner of A & A Paving Contractors and envisioned utilizing state of the art technology, and cutting-edge management concepts to re-energize the 55 year old company, assuring its stability and long-term success. A & A Paving Contractors employs 23 people doing paving, sealcoating, striping, pavement repair, and concrete and relies on an 18 person crew to complete 250 jobs a year, all of them for commercial, industrial, and multifamily property customers.

Todd introduced has newer technology techniques to the company upgrading A & A Paving Contractors' computers and providing each associate with, an iPhone and an iPad for more work efficiency.

The company has achieved double-digit growth each year, and in the last three years the company has averaged 132 percent annual growth, with total revenue more than doubled. Since Todd's involvement A & A Paving Contractors has received multiple achievements including 2017 National Contractor of the year Award for Pavement, Maintenance, and Reconstruction by PM & R Magazine.

Tyler and Natalie Anderson

Beardsgaard Barbers, Batavia

Tyler and Natalie Anderson
Tyler and Natalie Anderson -

Tyler and Natalie are a married pair of barbers. Natalie trained under an old-school Italian barber in Montreal for a decade and Tyler who found his natural talent as a barber later on in life. Once they were both licensed barbers, their seed of a dream, to own their own shop began to sprout. They had a desire both to create something truly unique in their industry. The plan was to make fellas look fantastic in a place that feels like home.

Most barbershops haven't changed much the past 100 years, and the tradition of old ways is what the Anderson's love most about the industry. This brought them the question, "how do you make your mark and do it different while still maintaining tradition?" They found a building full of history, used what they had on hand, and let it spiral from there.

Beardsgaard's team is currently up to 12 employees and has grown well over 600 percent in sales over the past three years.

Jessica McGrail

Dollar and Sense Bookkeeping, Inc., Batavia

Nominated by Jamie Saam, Batavia MainStreet

Jessica McGrail
Jessica McGrail -

Dollar & Sense Bookkeeping was created by Jessica's mother, providing bookkeeping, payroll, and administrative assistance services to small businesses. The business had grown into a multi-service establishment for small businesses that Jessica and her mom worked with for years, and were like family to her. After her mother passed away, Jessica decided to carry-on with the business.

In the beginning, Jessica worked from home in a small office. She married, started a family and after several years, Jessica was able to move into an office space, a huge milestone for the company. Two years ago, she joined the Batavia Chamber of Commerce, growing the business to over 60 clients, with two full-time employees. This year, Sense Bookkeeping has had substantial growth which Jessica attributes to networking, referrals, Chamber connections, and hard work.

Jessica serves on multiple boards, including Treasurer on the Board of directors of the Interfaith Batavia Food Pantry and Clothes Closet. She also volunteers at man community and small business events.

Julie and Charlie Cates

Muscle Activation of Schaumburg

Nominated by Kaili Harding, Schaumburg Business Association

Charlie and Julie Cates
Charlie and Julie Cates -

The Cates are advocates of an exercise and personal training program known as Muscle Activation Techniques or MAT. Not only is this the foundation of their business, but Julie and Charlie first met while attending a MAT course.

The Cates moved to Schaumburg in 2013. Their business has been in its current location for the past two years and showcases nearly 20 pieces of exercise and cardio equipment. The Cates have managed to become the Chicago hub for the MAT educational program, hosting and teaching classes for all levels. The Cates have created a welcoming, private, and exclusive environment meaning every client can improve their health in a non-intimidating environment. They are an education hub for several programs, including Personal Training Education and also provide free educational content and talks for members of the business community.

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