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Chamber narrows Venture award list

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The Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce has announced the finalists for its first-ever Venture Awards, which will honor local entrepreneurs.

“This event is all about recognizing some of the business startups and success stories among the entrepreneurs in our community,” Chamber President Cindy Frey said. “We love the notion of a venture being a daring undertaking or a risky journey, so we think the name

really fits.”

Finalists will be recognized Aug. 18 at the Venture Awards Dinner at the Factory 12 Event Loft.

Awards will be presented in four categories — entrepreneur of the year, innovation, new and emerging business, and small business advocate.

Three finalists have been announced in every category except small business advocate.

“There was such a consensus about the small business advocate, we just had a winner,” Frey said. “We are not sharing who that is because we want there to be some suspense.”

Nominations were accepted from the Chamber’s small business and membership committees, as well as from the general membership through the organization’s website.

About 50 businesses were nominated for the awards.

The criteria for nominees in all categories required that the business be a Chamber member in good standing located in Bartholomew County with fewer than 100 employees.

Considerations that helped determine the finalists included innovative practices, a commitment to the community, wealth and job creation and the ability to overcome adversity.

Frey said the Venture Awards are envisioned as a fun and energetic celebration of all of the region’s entrepreneurs.

“The entrepreneurs in our community have dared to step out and see if they can create something, and when that happens the community is the beneficiary,” Frey said.

The keynote speaker for the event is John Wall, who has been chief technical officer with Cummins Inc. since March 2000.

“He has to make decisions about which risks to take every day — how to determine what technology to use, which products are going to fly and how do they learn from their failures,” Frey said. “Those are the same things that (startup) businesses have to do every day, so he was a good fit for that reason.”

In 2007, the Chamber introduced a similar program, called the Maverick Awards, as an extension of the awards presented to business owners at the Chamber’s annual meeting.

“The annual awards were going to the larger, more established businesses, so it left the small businesses without recognition,” said Kami Adams, the Chamber’s events and marketing director. “This was a way to recognize those businesses.”

The Chamber presented the Maverick Awards in 2007 and 2009 and has been looking for a way to again recognize local entrepreneurs. The Maverick Awards now honor winners of the statewide Maverick Challenge for high school students, so the Chamber’s entrepreneurial awards were relaunched with the new name.

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