On Thursday, business leaders from across Northwest Indiana gathered at Avalon Manor for one of the most anticipated events of the year in the Region’s entrepreneur community: the Entrepreneurial Excellence Awards, or simply “E-Day.” Hosted by the Indiana Small Business Development Center Northwest, E-Day is a luncheon that honors businesses making strides in providing quality products and services and that make an impact in their communities.
Businesses and organizations of all kinds attended and sponsored the event, from educators such as Purdue University Northwest to business developers including the Economic Development Corporation of Michigan City. EDCMC Executive Director Clarence Hulse said that E-Day is an essential event for Northwest Indiana and claimed that even non-business owners should get excited about what it represents.
“These are companies that are actually providing jobs, great jobs,” Hulse said. “We look forward to this every year. It’s important to celebrate companies that are doing great things in Michigan City and across Northwest Indiana, and E-Day is doing that by honoring people investing in the community.”
Eight different awards are given out every E-Day celebrating emerging businesses, minority-owned businesses, and others that display excellence in their achievements. This year, Frederick “Chip” Lee, owner and operator of C. Lee Construction Services Inc., received the Minority-Owned Business of the Year Award. For him, the award is a culmination of years of effort and tears not only from him, but his family and employees as well.
“It’s a very humbling experience for me, considering where I come from, what I’ve been through, and where this whole journey started,” Lee said. “I’m hoping to represent that nothing is impossible, as long as you put God at the forefront of your life. I just want everyone to know that you should always hold on to your dreams, and you should never let anybody tell you what you can’t do.”
Joshua Halpern, President of Albert's Diamond Jewelers, was honored as the Entrepreneurial Success of The Year. The award highlighted his dedication to the family business, as well as his devotion to going above and beyond for customers.
"We treat people better than how we want to be treated. We want clients to feel like family when they enter the store and surpass their expectations," Halpern told Lesly Bailey of the Northwest Indiana Business Magazine. "We celebrate life's most important moments with people each day. Marriages, birth of children, birthdays, anniversaries - we consider it a profound privilege to be a part of these meaningful moments in our clients' lives."
The luncheon also included a special guest keynote speaker, Elaine Bedel, President of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. She discussed the importance of small business developers as champions in their community, and the unique position of Northwest Indiana as a bedrock for business success.
“You’re in a lucky corner of the state,” Bedel laughed. “You’ve got the best of both worlds here, you’re positioned for success and we want to do what we can to support that. You’re part of Indiana’s pro-growth business climate and right next to the Chicago market.”
Rich Shields, Director of Marketing & Business Development at Chester Inc., attended the event. As one of the Region’s leading developers and providers of architectural, construction, and information services, Chester Inc. constantly works with small businesses and recognized how important they are to the local economy.
“A few years back, our CEO Pete Peuquet, was honored here at E-Day, and we always want to support entrepreneurs around Northwest Indiana and new businesses that are incubators of growth,” Shields said. “Economic growth and development is the keystone to any community. We’re proud to be here and to see these businesses grow and create jobs and build community.”
The EDCMC, along with many others, proudly co-sponsored the event, and looks forward to seeing the day’s honorees’ continued success. The winners were:
Lifetime Achievement: Scott Albanese, Founder of Albanese Confectionery Group, Inc.
Emerging Business of the Year: Jeff Conti, Founder of Coffee Cabin and Lil Coffee Cabin
Women-Owned Business of the Year: Lori Lake, Owner of Intercontinental Subscription Services
Minority-Owned Business of the Year: Frederick “Chip” Lee, Owner of C. Lee Construction Services
Garry Bradly Small Business Advocate of the Year: Chris Chatfield, Commercial Relationship Manager at First Merchants Bank
Family-Owned Business of the Year: The Steve Radtke Family of Pioneer Lumber
Entrepreneurial Success of the Year: Joshua Halpern, President of Albert’s Diamond Jewelers
Small Business Persons of the Year: Julie and Tony Bombacino, Owners of Real Food Blends