E-Day honorees inspire other small business people • Northwest Indiana Business Magazine
2023 E-Day

E-Day honorees inspire other small business people

The Northwest Indiana Small Business Development Center presented 10 awards Thursday during its annual E-Day luncheon to honor entrepreneurial excellence.

“I am blown away by the winners here today,” said Linda Hough, who was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award. “Northwest Indiana is lucky to have all of you.”

NW-ISBDC Regional Director Lorri Feldt said the energy evident in the large, packed room at Avalon Manor banquet center in Merrillville showed the value of hosting the annual event. She said it is uplifting to see the honorees each year.

“Entrepreneurship is alive and well in Northwest Indiana,” Purdue University Chancellor Tom Keon said in his opening remarks.

Cynthia Roberts, dean of the School of Business and Economics at Indiana University Northwest, was on the event’s steering committee. “It’s one of the highlights of my year,” she said.

“I like the diversity of the honorees and the inspiring and creative ideas they have,” Roberts said. “It’s a good problem to have when you have so many good candidates.”

Honorees included:

  • Young Entrepreneur of the Year: Aylin Cornejo, owner and stylist at Whimsy Do’s in Schererville
  • Advocate for Youth Entrepreneurship: Krissy LaFlech, Munster High School entrepreneurship teacher
  • Minority-Owned Business of the Year: Cory Armand, owner of Armand Investment Group in Gary
  • Emerging Business of the Year: Brandi Smith, owner and clinical director, and Jamaal Smith, CFO, of All Pieces Fit in Merrillville
  • Woman-Owned Business of the Year: Ann Coglianese, owner and founder of Region ATA Academy in Highland
  • Garry Bradley Small Business Advocate: Lisa Dan, executive director, and Mary Perren, executive assistant, of Starke County Economic Development Foundation in Knox
  • Family-Owned Business of the Year: Jeanne Robbins, president of Munster Steel in Hammond
  • Entrepreneurial Success of the Year: Allen Kent, president (retired) of Kent Heating & Air Conditioning in Valparaiso
  • Small Business Person of the Year: John Vode, founder and president, Precision Maintenance Systems in Chesterton
  • Lifetime Achievement Honoree: Linda Hough, founder and consultant of CLH, CPAs & Consultants in La Porte, Michigan City and Valparaiso

CLH founder John Craighead introduced Hough.

“Linda left a lasting legacy at CLH in her role as human resources director,” Craighead said.

Among Hough’s responsibilities was setting up training, employee benefits and communications for the firm, which has grown from its original three partners and support person to 40 employees in multiple locations. “She did so with a level of empathy that cannot be seen in many firms,” Craighead said.

Hough urged small business people to give back to the community. “Please get involved with these nonprofits. They really could use your talent,” she said.

Throughout her career, Hough worked with nonprofits only if she truly believed in their mission.

She’s now retired from CLH, but is still figuring out what comes next.

“I’m not done, and I can guarantee it’s not a rocking chair,” she said.

Feldt said E-Day is a banner day for the NW-ISBDC but not the only newsmaker.

“Stay tuned. I think there are interesting collaborations coming up in the world of small business and entrepreneurship,” she said.

Caption: NW-ISBDC Regional Director Lorri Feldt addresses the crowd during the 2023 E-Day Awards on Nov. 9 at Avalon Manor in Merrillville. (Photo by Heather Pfundstein)

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