Ontario, CA (PRWEB) January 21, 2014
The largest ever Spirit of the Entrepreneur awards event took place recently at the Ontario Convention Center, with 610 people attending and 26 finalists vying for awards in nine categories at the 11th annual black-tie gala on Nov. 19.
“It’s a show, entertainment, and also a celebration,” said Mike Stull, director of the Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship at Cal State San Bernardino and founder of the Spirit of the Entrepreneur awards program.
The best part of each event, Stull told SoCalCEO’s Jeff Allen, is the comments honorees make when they accept their awards.
“Each year, the award recipients get up on stage and talk about their team and the people that help make it possible every day. They usually deflect most of the credit to their team, and that’s a really inspiring thing,” said Stull. “They know that its a lot of work and risk to create a business, and they know that it takes a team to build a business and make it successful.”
Winners are chosen based on nominations from the communities in the Inland Empire, and the gala has grown each year since its inception in 2002.
“The focus is really around the quality of the nominations,” Stull explained. “To top yourself each year, you have to continually get a good group of businesses that are nominated, make their way through the nomination process and ultimately end up at the event. That’s the heart and soul of the awards program. The entertainment, the logistics, the staging, the audience – all that all has to come together, but it really starts with having great companies.
Nominations begin in April and run through July; then judges begin the evaluation phase for the final awards gala in the fall.
For the 11 judges, it’s a very demanding process, mainly because of the amount of material to review, according to head judge Alan Lewis
“What we’re looking for is companies that are being led by very outstanding individuals who show the grit, the determination, the perseverance, the passion, the entrepreneurial spirit to succeed, no matter what the obstacle,” Lewis said. “When we get to meet these people and read the materials, it’s looking for the people who excel virtually in all of those characteristics…from the judge’s perspective, the cream always rises to the top. It’s a lot of work on the judge’s part but the ultimate result is selecting some of the really outstanding companies in our area to be recognized.”
The winners of the award in the General Entrepreneur category, and ultimately the “Best of the Best” top prize, were Gary and Sally Meyers, president and CEO and vice president, respectively, of BMW Management. BMW owns and operates 26 restaurants in California, most in the Inland Empire region.
“We’ve been in business since 1983 and our first Sizzler was in Temecula. We tried to make that Sizzler the very best that we could back then, and we grew to 23 Sizzler restaurants today,” said Gary Meyers. “We now own two Richie’s Real American Diners, one in Rancho Cucamonga, one in Palm Desert. We have one Texas Roadhouse that we joint venture with Texas Roadhouse.”
The couple was quite surprised by their awards.
“It was shock…it was unbelievable that we actually won the Best of the Best award, and I think that it was very personal, too, because we try to be the best at everything we do,” said Gary Meyers. He said they owe the honors to “thousands of people, incredible people that work hard every day. Most people get to play in the hospitality business, we work while others play.”
Sally Meyers added that she was honored to share the limelight with so many other dedicated businesspeople.
“That evening I decided to look up the word spirit and I shared what I thought that meant, because everybody in that room obviously has that spirit… that is really that innermost passion, that drive that you have as an individual from your heart, your soul, everything that motivates you is that passion,” Meyers explained. “Everyone who was nominated in that room has passion not just for a business but for people, because in business we have a passion for people, we want to create jobs, we want to create a quality of life for people.”