Distinction Awards Strengthen Small Business Connections and Celebrate Economic Contributions

Carly Viegut, Communications Manager

October 27, 2023

The 2023 Entrepreneur Fund Distinction Award honorees (from left): Karine Woodman, Kyle Anderson, Bill Martinetto, Ann Anderson, Adelle Starin, Tom Hanson, Tabatha Beier, Steve Potter, Janelle Riley, Garrett Lamppa, and Mike Hudyma. (Photos by Clint Austin for the Entrepreneur Fund)

Duluth, MN – The Entrepreneur Fund, in its inaugural Distinction Awards, celebrated the remarkable small businesses that are the driving force behind regional economic growth. With 250 business owners and community leaders in attendance, the event on October 25 at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, highlighted business excellence while fostering connections and appreciation for the invaluable contributions of these entrepreneurs to the local economy.

The event offered a unique opportunity to gain insight into the inner workings of the ten honored businesses, fostering an environment for attendees to learn and interact on a personal level. During the “Behind-the-Business” sessions, business owners discovered strategies to grow and scale their enterprises, leading to engaging discussions and thought-provoking questions among their peers.

“It was so inspiring to see and hear the stories of our entrepreneurs’ journey,” said Dustin Goslin, Entrepreneur Fund Board Member. “One of our honorees shared stories of people who have grown with him over twenty years, to not only become leaders in business, but leaders in the community.”

Attendees also had the chance to savor the authentic flavors of the region, as 18 local food and beverage businesses offered delectable complimentary samples.  

The highlight of the evening was the awards ceremony, where ten business leaders were recognized as trailblazers for their substantial contributions to the regional economy. The event placed a well-deserved spotlight on these remarkable entrepreneurs, underscoring the significant impact they have on their communities and the region.

“The Entrepreneur Fund’s inaugural Distinction Awards was an opportunity to showcase the best and brightest small business owners in our region,” said Arik Forsman, Entrepreneur Fund Board of Directors Vice Chair. “The courage, dedication, and passion these leaders have for their businesses, families, workers, and communities was on full display. Their stories left our attendees feeling inspired and optimistic about the future of entrepreneurism in the Northland.”

The festivities continued with an after party featuring a live band, Mississippi Hot Club, offering attendees the opportunity to connect and enjoy each other’s company. This gathering of like-minded individuals created an atmosphere filled with optimism and a sense of camaraderie.

“You will never find a more electric environment than when you get small business owners together in a room, and tonight that energy was palpable,” said Shawn Wellnitz, Entrepreneur Fund CEO and President.

2023 Honorees and Their Distinctions:

  • 24hr Bookkeeper, Karine Woodman – Transformation from a local business into a national accounting firm specializing in the construction industry.
  • A+ Garden & Landscaping, Tabatha Beier – Workforce innovation and job quality for business growth.
  • Arctic Compressor, Steve Potter – Growth and scale of a family-owned business.
  • Baby’s on Broadway, Adelle Starin – Expansion into a national market as a retailer for Durable Medical Equipment, successful store expansions and establishing a national network for mothers.
  • Duluth Grill, Tom Hanson – Development of a positive, engaging employee culture; internal leadership growth and management sustainability.
  • Lamppa Manufacturing, Garrett Lamppa – Growth of a family-owned manufacturing firm with a commitment to workforce and quality jobs on the Iron Range.
  • Rapids Brewing, Bill Martinetto – Harnessing local talent for community vibrancy and comprehensive business expansion.
  • SCS Interiors, Mike Hudyma – Growth and scale of a small upholstery shop to a world-class manufacturer.
  • Syvantis Technologies, Janelle Riley – Transformation of a local service business into a nationally managed technology solutions provider with a growth strategy that prioritizes developing people and capacity before increasing sales.  
  • Tongue and Groove Store, Ann and Kyle Anderson – Successful scale from a start-up to a robust manufacturing company that now serves a national market.

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