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Annual Awards of Business Excellence (AABE)

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Annual Awards of Business Excellence (AABE)



Click here for a profile of the 2020 AABE honorees

The Daily Herald Business Ledger Annual Awards for Business Excellence (AABE) highlight successful suburban businesses and organizations and honor the people who make them successful.

The AABEs, given for business achievement, growth and community involvement, are presented to outstanding businesses and non-profit organizations with a significant presence in the suburban circulation area of the Daily Herald Business Ledger (DuPage County, Fox Valley, Northwest Cook County, Lake County, West Cook County, Southwest Cook County and Will County.)


  • Small Company (0-50 employees)
  • Medium Company (51-150 employees)
  • Large Company (over 150 employees)
  • Business Organization and Economic Development Entity
  • Architecture & Construction
  • Educational Institution, Entity or Program
  • Entertainment / Hospitality Company
  • Family Business
  • Manufacturing
  • Minority-Owned Business
  • Innovation in Business
  • Not-for-Profit Organization (501)(c)(3)
  • Retail
  • Trade Association/Professional Society


Individuals, businesses or organizations may submit nominations.

A cover letter is recommended from business management, customers, employees, or others familiar with the nominated organization. The letter is helpful to our editorial staff that will conduct the judging.

After the nomination is submitted, the key contact in a company or organization will be asked to submit a nomination portfolio consisting of supporting materials. (See checklist below.)

Business executives or employees may nominate their own company or organization.


We encourage supporting materials be sent electronically and should be e-mailed to blawards@dailyherald.com.


Nominated companies or organizations should have a significant business presence in the Chicago suburbs. If the company does not have a business address in the suburbs then the suburban business presence must be described in supporting materials.

Nominated companies may be publicly or privately held.

Companies or organizations that have been nominated in previous years but not selected may be nominated again.

Previous award recipients are also eligible, except for those recognized in the past five years under the same category.

Companies or organizations may be nominated in multiple categories as long as they meet the criteria, but may only be honored in one category. The judges, at their discretion, may move a nominee into the category they believe most suitable.


Small Company (0-50 employees)
Medium Sized Company (51-150 employees)
Large Company (over 150 employees)

All industries are eligible. The companies that will be honored have shown a consistent record of financial success, an emphasis on workplace quality, innovation in its processes or procedures, support of the business community, support of the community at large through charitable or volunteer efforts, mentoring or internship programs and other similar projects.

Architecture & Construction: This award may be given to companies for a single project or a body of work. Leadership and management excellence will be considered. Other factors to be judged are team relationships, innovations, the design process, planning and control, occupational health and safety, use and development of new technologies, training and development initiatives. The judges will take into consideration the degree of difficulty of the project(s).

Business Organization/Economic Development Entity: This category honors local chambers of commerce or other business associations that are classified as (501)(c)(6) by the IRS, and economic development agencies that have provided creative and innovative services for their members and/or have made a significant contribution to the growth of the business community. If this is a membership organization, the members must primarily be local. (For organizations with regional, national or international membership see Trade Associations/Professional Societies).

Educational Institution, Entity or Program: This category recognizes public, private and proprietary institutions, entities or programs involved with industry and commerce in terms of teaching, consulting, partnering with and promoting business. An emphasis on some educational component and/or community service aspect will be considered.

Entertainment/Hospitality Company: Organizations can be privately or publicly held, and must be involved in the restaurant, entertainment or leisure industries. The awards honor the leaders and businesses that have established successful ventures through vision, leadership, innovation and hard work.

Family Business: The Family Business category recognizes businesses in all industry sectors that can demonstrate sustained success across a broad range of measures including growth, innovation, entrepreneurship and contributions to the community. A family business is broadly defined as having multiple family members or generations involved in the strategic direction, management and/or working in the company with the intention for the business to remain in the family. This award showcases the region's best-managed family businesses and recognizes the achievements of their leaders.

Innovation in Business: This category recognizes companies and organizations for positive and lasting innovations that have a profound effect on a business, industry or community through the invention or creation of new products, services, programs or processes. Describe in full the ideas and procedures that have led to the innovation. All industries are eligible.

Manufacturing: Illinois manufacturers are thriving -- and growing -- in the face of tough times, creating jobs, increasing sales, moving into international markets. It's achievers like these who are worthy of special recognition. These awards are designed to honor companies that have achieved excellence in manufacturing. Recognition will be based on overall company success, use of high technology, and the creation of new products and markets.

Minority-Owned Business: Majority ownership must be held by a person(s) of an ethnic minority. The company must be privately held. All industries are eligible. The companies that will be honored have shown a consistent record of financial success, an emphasis on workplace quality, support of the business community, support of the community at large through charitable or volunteer efforts, mentoring or internship programs or other similar projects.

Not-for-Profit: Organizations must be registered as a (501)(c)(3) (charitable), and have a significant community impact and affect numerous people. Describe how the organization partners with business. Supporting data provided should include mission statement, numbers of paid and volunteer staff, sources of revenue, disbursement of funds, number of people and communities served.

Retail: Business may be independently owned or a franchise. Judges will consider business success, how the company has differentiated itself from the competition, unique marketing strategies, workforce management and contributions to the community.

Trade Association/Professional Society: Nominees must be a (501)(c)(6) and represent a specific industry or profession. They may have an international, national or regional membership, but must have a physical presence in the suburban business community. The same general management success criteria that are considered in all categories will be considered.



How much financial information must we disclose?

A. Not that much. There is no need to disclose proprietary information. We are looking for some general benchmarks of financial growth and success. Percentages are often used. (e.g. "the company grew by over 200 percent in the last five years and expects sales to exceed $25 million in 2021.")

Why should our company participate in this awards program?

A. The awards provide a significant public relations opportunity and let's your entire company share in your success. The retail value of an article about your company if purchased as ad space would be valued at approximately $2,000. Honorees are profiled in the Daily Herald Business Ledger as well as online through our e-mail newsletter The Business Edge. You can send out your own press release to interested media. You can post your company's honor on your web page and insert copies of articles in your sales kits. You will also have the opportunity to meet other successful business executives who are being honored.

Who does the judging and what are they looking for?

A. The editorial staff of the Daily Herald Business Ledger conducts the judging. They will select approximately 20 companies to be honored. They are looking for a diverse group of honorees: by industry, size of organization, financial success, by product and service. Our goal is to select a representative sample of businesses that are successful in our community. We are looking for good business stories.

Is there a recognition event?

A. Due to current COVID-19 restrictions, all recognition events, including AABE, will be presented virtually. Honorees will be featured in a presentation that will include details of recipient and/or company being recognized. Honorees also will be profiled in a special section to be published in the April 19th issue of the Business Ledger. Stay connected on our Facebook page, facebook.com/DHBizLedger.

What happens after the nomination is entered?

A. The week after the deadline, the key contact at each nominated company or organization will receive an e-mail acknowledging the nomination. At that time you will be asked to submit additional materials to support the nomination.

Materials should be submitted via the online submission form or e-mailed to: blawards@dailyherald.com.



Please use the list below as a guide to provide additional information / materials about your company or organization. Include whatever information you think would be helpful to the selection committee in considering your company or organization for an award. Remember, judging is conducted solely from the quality of the information and materials submitted. Please do not submit audio/visual materials or materials that must be returned.

  • Describe how this company/organization fits the awards category
  • History of the company/organization and a mission statement if applicable.
  • Describe the growth of the organization.
  • Achievements, honors and awards.
  • Contributions to or reinvestment in the community.
  • Marketing or sales brochures.
  • Brief biographies of top executives.
  • Testimonials/newspaper articles.
  • Annual report or summary indicating the growth of the company or organization, if applicable.

Electronic submissions are strongly encouraged and should be e-mailed to blawards@dailyherald.com. All information and supporting materials should be received by the deadline via e-mail to blawards@dailyherald.com.

Questions? E-mail Kat Polomsky at kpolomsky@dailyherald.com or call (847) 427-4637.



Click here for a profile of the 2020 AABE honorees

Click here for a profile of the 2019 AABE honorees

Click here for a profile of the 2018 AABE honorees

Click here for a profile of the 2017 AABE honorees