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Entrepreneurial Excellence Awards

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The Entrepreneurial Excellence Awards recognize and build entrepreneurship in the suburban circulation area of the Daily Herald Business Ledger (Cook County, DuPage County, Kane County, Lake County, McHenry County and Will County). (Please see eligibility guidelines and procedure below.)



Click here for a profile of the 2020 EEA honorees.

For more information regarding the Entrepreneurial Excellence Awards, as well as for advertising and sponsorship opportunities, please contact Andy Zielonka, Daily Herald Business Ledger, at (630) 955-3592 or azielonka@dailyherald.com.


Honorees should demonstrate the best traits of entrepreneurship, including willingness to take risk, drive, perseverance and business creativity.

In order to qualify, a nominee's company or organization must be based in, have been founded in, or have a significant presence in the suburban Chicago areas.

EEA Categories (detailed descriptions below):

  • Early Stage Award
  • Growth Award
  • Innovation Award
  • Young Entrepreneur Award (under 40)
  • Outstanding Service to Entrepreneurs
  • Regional Spirit Award
  • Lifetime Achievement Award

Nomination Procedure:

    Individuals, businesses or organizations may submit nominations. Nominations must be submitted online at www.dhbusinessledger.com using the online form.

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

    After the nomination is submitted, the nominee will be asked to submit a nomination portfolio consisting of supporting materials. (See EEA Nominee Checklist below.)

    Nominees will be contacted and asked to submit a nomination portfolio consisting of supporting materials.

    Self-nomination is permitted.


    Nominated individuals should have a significant business presence in the Chicago suburbs. If the individual does not have a business address in the suburbs then the suburban business presence must be described in supporting materials.

    Individuals 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.

    Individuals 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.

Selection Process:

Judges' decisions are made from personal knowledge of the nominees and/or the quality of the supporting materials that are submitted.

All nominees will be notified of their status following the judging.

Primary Criteria for Entrepreneurial Excellence:

  • Entrepreneur must be the founder of the business, or have been critical to its growth.

  • The entrepreneur's company must be based in, or have been founded in, or have a significant presence in suburban Cook County, DuPage County, Kane County, Lake County, McHenry County or Will County.
  • The company should demonstrate profitability.
  • The company should demonstrate significant growth and long-term potential.
  • The entrepreneur should note contributions to the community through charitable or leadership roles.
  • The company should demonstrate innovative employee programs and corporate culture.
  • The entrepreneur should demonstrate the ability to overcome adversity.
  • Additional Considerations:

  • Entrepreneur has founded more than one company.
  • Entrepreneur's company has received local, regional, national or international recognition.
  • Previous honorees will be considered if involved in a venture different from one that was previously recognized.

Entrepreneurial Excellence Award Categories:

  • Early Stage Award: The award recognizes an individual whose company or organization has shown great promise and achievement in its early stages. Entrepreneur's company should demonstrate a likely prospect of profitability. The company should have been in business for five or fewer years.
  • Growth Award: Honorees are recognized for significant revenue growth over a two-year period.
  • Innovation Award: Transforming the entrepreneurial dream into the reality of a tangible product or technology that will solve a problem is the first defining benchmark of entrepreneurial success. This award recognizes the best innovation-based products, technologies, systems or practices.
  • Young Entrepreneur Award (under 40): Honorees must meet the primary entrepreneurial criteria, and they must be under the age of 40 at the time of the nomination deadline.
  • Outstanding Service to Entrepreneurs: Through both personal and professional service, the recipient of the Outstanding Service to Entrepreneurs Award exhibits a strong commitment to helping entrepreneurs in a variety of industries. These honorees provide entrepreneurs with the resources they need to give our community its competitive edge. Examples of candidates would be attorneys, accountants, consultants, teachers and others who work with entrepreneurs.
  • Regional Spirit Award: Honorees should demonstrate commitment to the growth and well-being of the region through outstanding corporate citizenship and promotion of regional ties. Honorees should demonstrate the following:

    • Be active in local and regional business groups
    • Promote charitable and civic causes
    • Work to build the region's work force and enhance its quality of life

  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Honorees should demonstrate the following:

      Contribution to the growth of the suburban business community for at least one decade. Provide inspiration to younger entrepreneurs by examples of risk-taking, community mindedness and success. Provide information regarding outstanding achievements in business and in the community at-large, or development of the region's economy.

    NOTE: Candidates may be nominated in multiple categories, but may only be honored in one category. The judges will make that determination.


    Please use this guide for providing supporting materials for your nomination portfolio. Include whatever information or materials you think would be helpful to the selection committee in considering this year's honorees.

    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.

      Entrepreneur Biography: This may include the entrepreneur's resume and history, as well as mission/vision statements for the company or organization. Include information that tells the story of the entrepreneur. Include brochures if applicable, as well as testimonials or articles.

      Growth: Describe how the entrepreneur has contributed to the growth of the company or organization. Please include measurable data such as statistics showing significant revenue growth over a period of time and how the entrepreneur contributed to this growth. Also describe the entrepreneur's potential for continued growth and achievement going forward.

      Innovation: Describe a unique quality of the entrepreneur and/or their company or organization. This may be a tangible product or technology, a customer service system or practice or something that distinguishes the entrepreneur, company or organization within its industry.

      Workforce Potential: Describe how the entrepreneur has developed the potential of the company or organization's workforce.

      Achievements: List honors, awards, or achievements that the entrepreneur and/or the company or organization has earned.

      Service and Entrepreneurial Spirit: Describe how the entrepreneur and the company or organization has reinvested in its community. List any involvement with business organizations, charitable or civic causes or any involvement that would enhance quality of life and give back to the community.

      Category: Describe how the entrepreneur fits the awards category.

    Electronic submissions for supporting materials 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.

    FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions)

    Q. What do you do with the nomination supporting materials that I provide?

    A. The supporting materials that you provide are the basis for selection. The material is also used to profile your company at the recognition event and in the follow-up issue to the event. You should NOT submit any materials that you do not want disclosed either verbally or in print.

    Q. 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 2022.")

    Q. Why should our company participate in this awards program?

    A. The awards provide a significant public relations opportunity and allows your entire company to share in your success. 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 honor on your company's web page and insert copies of articles in your sales kits. You will also have the opportunity to meet other successful entrepreneurs who are being honored.

    Q. Who does the judging and what are they looking for?

    A. The editorial staff of the Daily Herald Business Ledger conducts the judging. They are looking for a diverse group of honorees: by industry, size of organization, financial success, product or service. Our goal is to select a representative sample of entrepreneurs who are successful in our community. We are looking for good business stories.

    Q. Is there a recognition event?

    A. Due to current COVID-19 restrictions, all recognition events, including EEA, will be presented virtually. Honorees will be featured in a presentation that will include a profile of recipient and/or company being recognized. Honorees also will be profiled in a special section to be published in the Oct. 18 issue of the Business Ledger and online. Stay connected on our Facebook page, facebook.com/DHBizLedger.

    Q. 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.

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



    Click here for a profile of the 2020 EEA honorees.

    Click here for a profile of the 2019 EEA honorees.

    Click here for a profile of the 2018 EEA honorees.

    Click here for a profile of the 2017 EEA honorees.