What a difference a year has made.
At this time last year, the Stone Event Center at Campus 805 was packed to capacity for the fifth annual Entrepreneurial Awards ceremony.
This year, social distancing and masking up has presented new challenges to the big celebration. Or, perhaps, it has created new opportunities for honoring North Alabama’s finest entrepreneurs.
While there might be a new way of presenting awards, one thing is certain: Despite the setbacks of 2020, the entrepreneurial spirit is still very much alive and well in Madison County.
Just a few months shy of a year at the helm, Catalyst CEO Lisa Davis Mays has taken the lemons tossed out by the pandemic and has made a superb glass of lemonade. Mays and her Catalyst “Dream Team,” found creative solutions and skillfully presented this year’s awards with heaping doses of pizazz and style.
“This past year has impacted us all in ways we could have never imagined,” said Mays. “We’ve all felt the impact of the pandemic. This year, more than ever, we want to commemorate the extraordinary accomplishments of local businesses and entrepreneurs. And in true Catalyst style, we wanted to celebrate the hard work and inspiring stories of our entrepreneurs in a unique and fun way.”
The new twist for this years’ presentation – The Catalyst crew, armed with balloons and cameras, surprised the winners at their homes or at their offices in pre-recorded segments, presenting them with their awards. These segments were then presented as a key part of the awards ceremony.
With more than 140 people Zooming in for the big event, the presentation was well-executed and seamless. Kenny Anderson, the City of Huntsville Director of Multicultural Affairs, served as master of ceremonies. Anderson was both articulate and engaging when introducing the finalists and presenting the winners in each category.
Joanne Randolph, the former CEO of The Catalyst and the namesake for the Entrepreneurial Champion Award, had the special honor of introducing this year’s Entrepreneurial Champion – Larry Lewis of Project XYZ – without even having to leave her home in Orange Beach. This award is for a champion with a proven track record of volunteering, mentoring, investing, or collaborating with new ventures on their entrepreneurial journey.
In addition to last year’s nine categories, the Pandemic Pivot award was added for this year. It is collectively hoped that this crisis-specific category would be a short-lived, distant memory by the time the 2022 awards roll around.
“Today, we celebrate the finest entrepreneurs in our community,” said Lauren Smith, 2021 Catalyst Board Chair. “Entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of our community and our economy. They are the dealmakers, the changemakers, and the dream makers. They are our future.”
Here are the 2021 Entrepreneurial Award winners:
YOUTH ENTREPRENEUR – Brailynn Camille Granville, The Ausome Kid. This award is given to a school-aged entrepreneur who has started their entrepreneurial journey at a young age and is working toward their dream.
EMERGING– Megan Nivens Tannett, Flourish. This award is given to an entrepreneur who has been in business for less than three years and has a proven track record for sustainability with room for growth.
CREATIVE – Michelle Givens, Image in a Box. This award goes to an entrepreneurial venture that focuses on the retail, arts, entertainment, or culinary industry and has a proven track record for sustainability.
NONPROFIT – Amy Roark, Give256. The Nonprofit Entrepreneur of the year award is given to a leader who possesses an entrepreneurial spirit that inspires growth and development in their organization.
FEMALE – Alice Lessmann, Signalink. This award is given to an outstanding female entrepreneur in the North Alabama Region. The Women’s Business Center will, in turn, submit Lessmann’s name to compete at the national level for the Small Business Administration’s “Small Business of the Year” award.
VETERAN – Marvinia Adams, Adams Dry Cleaning, dba Martinizing. This award is given to an outstanding military/veteran entrepreneur in the North Alabama Region.
PANDEMIC PIVOT – Karen Mockenstrum, Fantasy Playhouse. This award is for an entrepreneur who has faced down the setbacks brought on because of COVID-19. Not only did Mockenstrum adeptly manage the setbacks faced by Fantasy Playhouse, but she and her team developed new ways of doing business.
ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Jamie Miller, Mission Multiplier. Awarded to an entrepreneur who has been in business for more than three years and has a proven track record for sustainability, strategic direction, future growth, and community involvement.
PEOPLE’S CHOICE – April Chiosky, AMZ Importers. Using the power of social media, voters cast their ballots early and often and the entrepreneur receiving the most votes wins.