Twenty suburban business owners were recognized for their entrepreneurial spirit and success at the 19th annual Entrepreneurial Excellence Awards, hosted by the Daily Herald Business Ledger and its sponsoring partners Thursday evening.
About 100 people attended the event at Belvedere Events and Banquets in Elk Grove Village and heard inspiring stories about the honorees' success.
2018 Entrepreneurial Excellence Award honoreesEarly Stage• David and Heidi Files, Energy Brewing, Batavia
• Jim and Kristine Blessing -- 151 Kitchen & Bar, Elmhurst
Growth• Gene Faut, 3D Exhibits Inc., Schaumburg
• Matthew and Amy Goles, Prairie Wellness Counseling Center, Batavia
• Brad Parker, Parker Restaurant Group, Chicago
• Jim Feltner, FPM Heat Treating, Elk Grove Village
Innovation• Kirby Corkill, Jarvis Lighting, Elk Grove Village
• Andre Janus, Cristaux International, Elk Grove Village
• Chris McCarthy, Earth Paint, Wood Dale
• Jeff Taylor, Crafts Technology, Elk Grove Village
Lifetime Achievement• Gary Gregg, The Austin-Gregg Corp., Lske Zurich
• Robert Hansen, Funway Ultimate Entertainment Center, Batavia
• Neal Karbin, Lexco Cable, Norridge
• Eric Lundstrom, Focus Capital Advisors, Downers Grove
Outstanding Service to Entrepreneurs• Jay Cash, Sign A Rama, Libertyville
• Emilia DiMenco, Women's Business Development Center, Chicago
• Carol Levin, Green Oaks-Libertyville-Mundelein-Vernon Hills Chamber of Commerce, Libertyville
• Jamie Saam, Batavia MainStreet, Batavia
Young Entrepreneurs (Under 40)• Aaron Del Mar, Adrenaline Special Events, Palatine
• Cody Snick, Central States Signs, Elk Grove Village
The Entrepreneurial Excellence Awards recognize business people in the six-county suburban Chicago region who demonstrate the best traits of entrepreneurship, including willingness to take risk, drive, perseverance and business creativity. The honorees were selected from nominations submitted by their peers and examined by a panel of Business Ledger staff members. Companies selected for the awards must be based in or have a significant presence in the suburbs.
John R. Dallas Jr., CEO and co-founder of ENCLAVE for Entrepreneurs, a not-for-profit economic development education initiative in Elk Grove Village, spoke to the group about the sacrifice entrepreneurs make to turn an idea into a business, and make that business grow.
"It is personal, very very personal, this thing called entrepreneurship," Dallas said, noting that most entrepreneurs are not motivated by money, but for developing a sense of significance.
Dallas said the zeitgeist that defines business in the Chicago area is set in an aura of dependence that has not changed since the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. "We need to stop that dependence in order to grow," he said, adding that growing entrepreneurship, represented by the honorees, is moving the region into a new sense of independence.
"We are working on it," he said. "We are a symbol for the region and for the entire U.S."
Many of the honorees echoed the sacrifices and commitment involved in starting and growing a business, and thanked family, employees, friends and mentors who have supported them in their endeavors.
"Without all the Chicago support, we would not be able to do what we do today," said Brad Parker, owner of the Parker Restaurant Group in Chicago. "This validates all the hard work we put into it."
Jay Cash, owner of Sign A Rama in Libertyville, noted an trait all entrepreneurs have in common.
"We all sell the exact same thing," he said. "We all sell trust very well."
Kristine Blessing, who with her husband, Jim, was honored for their work with 151 Kitchen and Bar in Elmhurst, summed up the motivation expressed by all the honorees.
"We do it because we love it," Blessing said.
In addition to the honorees, a special Service to Entrepreneurs award was given to Jim Elsener, who founded the Business Ledger 25 years ago and ran the publication until it was bought by the Daily Herald Media Group in 2010. Elsener's efforts helped create the EEA and four other award programs that recognize outstanding businesses and business people.
Profiles of the honorees can be found in the October issue of the Daily Herald Business Ledger, and online at dhbusinessledger.com.
Sponsoring partners for the event are B. Guenther and Co. of Lisle, Focus Capital Advisors of Downers Grove, Elk Grove Village and ENCLAVE for Entrepreneurs in Elk Grove Village.