Now, she can officially be known as the champion after receiving the Entrepreneur Champion of the Year Award at the fifth annual Entrepreneur Awards ceremony and luncheon.
Randolph, the founder and CEO of The Catalyst Center, has been at the forefront of entrepreneurship and small business ownership while leading the Women’s Business Center of North Alabama and The Catalyst Center.
“I have loved working with entrepreneurs over the last 25 or so years,” said Randolph. “Many of you are in this room. I’ve celebrated with you when good things happened and I was saddened when they didn’t.
“We learn so much more from our failures; which is why many very successful entrepreneurs have a failure or two under their belt.”
Randolph planned to retire in 2019 but The Catalyst board appealed to her to stay on, for just one more year.
“Joanne has been with The Catalyst, formerly the Women’s Business Center of North Alabama, when we were just an idea,” said Leigh Christian, project manager for TechRich at the Catalyst. “She has led our organization for 20 years and has coached, counseled, and championed hundreds – maybe thousands – of entrepreneurs through the years. The Catalyst staff and Board of Directors chose this year to honor Joanne as not only the Entrepreneur Champion of the Year for 2020, but of all time.
“In honor of this, we are renaming the award the Joanne Randolph Entrepreneur Champion Award.”
The award was the grand finale to the event at The Stone Center and wrapped up this year’s Innovate Huntsville Week.
Kevin Hoey, Chairman of the Board of the Catalyst, provided opening remarks and Kenny Anderson, the Multicultural Affairs Officer for the City of Huntsville, served as the emcee.
Here are the 2020 winners of the Entrepreneurial Awards:
YOUTH ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Caleb Wortham, owner of Caleb’s Cookie Cutters.
This award is given to a school-aged entrepreneur who started their entrepreneurial journey at a young age and is working toward their dream.
When Caleb was in the first grade, he became fascinated with design and technology after listening to a TED Talk on 3-D printing. He was so inspired, he asked his parents for a 3-D printer for Christmas, along with saving up his own money to help them purchase the printer. Enrolling in Mindgear Lab and Endeavor Learning Lab, Caleb learned everything he could about 3-D printing technology.
Caleb’s older brother Joshua started Peaceful Pastries when Caleb was 10. Helping out with the bakery, Caleb soon realized that cookie cutters can be costly. Additionally, Joshua often received unique cookie orders that often required special shapes. To meet the needs of his brother’s successful business venture, Caleb collaborated with Joshua to become Peaceful Pastries and Sweets Bakery largest custom cookie cutter supplier.
This award is given to an entrepreneur that’s been in business for less than 3 years and has a proven track record for sustainability with room for growth.
After leaving a successful career as an educator, Davis entered the world of real estate. After 3 years of being a full-time agent and two years of teaching real estate classes, Davis decided to establish her own company. Along with Chanda Davis Real Estate, a flourishing real estate company with over 60 agents, Davis’ Superior School of Real Estate by Chanda boasts one of the highest passing rates in the state.
CREATIVE ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Lady Vowell Smith, owner and founder of The Snail on the Wall bookstore.
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.
As a book aficionado with a Ph.D. in literature, Smith is no stranger to books. Smith felt there was a lack of small independent bookstores North Alabama —a place where readers and authors could meet and share ideas.
Beginning with a pop-up store at Randolph’s Under the Christmas Tree market in 2017, she has formed a large, loyal customer base by recommending books through social media. Her store has hosted pop-up bookstores at local businesses and has brought bestselling authors to Huntsville for events. Says Smith, “The spirit of entrepreneurship is embracing experiments and new ideas, and when local businesses brainstorm together, it benefits the community as a whole.”
NONPROFIT ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Anne Caldwell, CEO of Greater Huntsville Humane Society.
The Nonprofit Entrepreneur of the year is a new category for 2020. Although different than for-profit ventures, nonprofit leaders still require an entrepreneurial spirit to grow and develop their organizations.
Caldwell’s life and career path changed forever six years ago, when she adopted Randy, a terrified little Chihuahua from Huntsville Animal Services. Caldwell said she was astonished by the problem of overcrowding at the shelters and became involved with several animal welfare organizations before taking on her role as CEO at the Greater Huntsville Humane Society last year.
Through a variety of innovative programming, Caldwell has increased the number of adoptions, lowered length of stays and return rates, in addition to cutting costs and raising donations.
FEMALE ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Amber Yerkey James, founder and CEO of New Beginnings Family Law.
This award is given to an outstanding female entrepreneur in the North Alabama Region. The winner of this award will be submitted to the Small Business Administration’s Small Business of the Year Award National Award by the Women’s Business Center.
In 2012, almost six years after starting her own law practice James realized that she wanted to do something more than just process divorce and custody cases, she wanted to make a difference in the lives of her clients and in her community.
New Beginnings Family Law works with clients to plan for life following divorce and other family law situations. The goal is for clients to have the knowledge, skills, and insight to truly have a new beginning.
This award is given to an outstanding military-veteran entrepreneur in the North Alabama Region.
As one of the first women assigned to the Air Force Special Weapons Center’s maintenance squadron at Kirtland Air Force Base during the Vietnam War, McGuire understood the importance of supplying the military with effective systems and supplying troops with the right tools. In 2006, with this experience in mind, McGuire started Victory Solutions to help save the lives of soldiers.
McGuire’s success has resulted in having some 130 employees and subcontractors working on projects ranging from unmanned aerial vehicles to missile defense to missions to the moon. She attributes this success to a continued focus on supporting fellow veterans, women, and other small businesses.
ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Sandra Brazelton, president and CEO of Advanced Innovative Management Solutions
Awarded to an entrepreneur who has been in business for over three years and has a proven track record for sustainability, strategic direction, future growth and community involvement.
Brazelton’s journey has been one of overcoming obstacles, including gender and racial barriers. While working as an engineer, Brazelton started a real estate business. When buying her first two houses, she was steered to low-income areas. This experience fueled her mission to build a business that would educate, empower, and help others while building generational wealth.
Her goal is to leave a legacy in business and in character that would make her children proud. Her daughter, Alex, is also her business partner, helping to create a legacy.
PEOPLE’S CHOICE ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Jerry “JD” White, owner and president of JD Productions, Inc.
Al.com hosted a link on social media for this award. The winner was selected by voters.
After reading books on the topic, coupled with hands-on experience by working the audio/visuals at a variety of events, White finely honed his skills. White said collaboration has been lost in the entertainment industry; he believes that JD Productions will revitalize the entertainment industry, making it a better place to do business.
Coming from a variety of backgrounds and business ventures, there were 68 finalists competing for the nine categories. These entrepreneurs represented 11 communities and 21 ZIP codes in North Alabama. 46 were women, 22 were men.
Combined, they provide jobs for 2,269 employees; in 2019, they accounted for more than $270 million in economic development dollars across North Alabama.