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What is the Entrepreneur Of The Year®?

Over the last 27 years, EY has recognized more than 8,000 entrepreneurial leaders in business through the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards. Today, the Entrepreneur Of The Year Program spans more than 140 cities and 50 countries worldwide.

Programs seek nominees to compete in their geographical region and are evaluated by an independent panel of judges. Each spring, the business community comes together to nominate and celebrate finalists and winners. These honorees not only create and build market–leading businesses, but also help take the standard of excellence to new heights, transform the face of industry, create jobs and contribute to the vibrancy of communities.

The regional winners then compete for the EY National Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards, announced at an annual black-tie gala in Palm Springs, California.

Who is eligible to be nominated?

Successful entrepreneurs, whether company founders or current leaders, take businesses to the next level. They find creative ways to acquire the capital and resources they need to achieve their goals and build and grow a business. The Entrepreneur Of The Year Program recognizes these men and women who put everything on the line to turn an idea into a viable, sustainable enterprise.

An Entrepreneur Of The Year nominee must be an owner or manager of a private or public company with primary responsibility for the recent performance of the company, as well as be an active member of top management. The nominee’s company must be at least two years old for Emerging category candidates (companies two to five years old) and three years or older for all other categories. Non-founding entrepreneurs are also eligible if the individual manages the business and assumes the associated risks.

How are award recipients are chosen?

Entrepreneur Of The Year nominees are evaluated by an independent panel of judges in each nominee’s region. The judges are past award recipients and business and community leaders. They know what it takes to be an outstanding entrepreneur and what measures really matter when selecting award recipients in various categories.

The business an entrepreneur creates, how successful it has been, its everyday employee practices and its impact on the community are among the factors that contribute to the selection of Entrepreneur Of The Year award recipients. The following are also essential criteria:

  • Vision: creating or improving a business concept and implementing it effectively
  • Leadership: demonstrating the focus and strength of character that enable an entrepreneur to move forward — and inspire a team to do the same — despite skepticsand obstacles
  • Achievement: driving business success by going beyond developing an idea to continual innovation in order to generate new ideas
  • Social responsibility: knowing that commitment and responsibility aren’t confined to business and leveraging

Download our Call for Nominations brochure

What is an Entrepreneur?

Entrepreneurs include both founders of companies and those who organize, manage and assume the “educated” risks of a business or enterprise in a company's life or development and are active in the leadership of the company.

Traditionally, the entrepreneur is the chief executive officer or original founder of an organization.

Entrepreneurs can also be those CEOs who come on board to join an existing business. In doing so, these chief executive officer or entrepreneurs assume a different kind of risk, but a risk nonetheless. Many times, the non-founding chief executive officer or entrepreneur leaves a stable job to take on the unknowns of a company seeking to get to the next level. This may include rebuilding a brand, developing new business lines or increasing revenue growth. A financial stake (whether in the form of equity or incentives) also should be at risk, demonstrating his or her personal investment in the company.

In select cases, the chief executive officer or president of a subsidiary may also qualify as an entrepreneur. There are many situations, such as an acquired business, where the subsidiary or divisional chief executive officer or president has a separate P&L and substantial vision and authority over strategy and execution of the grand plan for that business and, as a result, can be considered an entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurs can also be multigenerational (i.e., business passed from generation to generation). The new leadership should exhibit its own form of risk and also “make his or her mark” on the family business.

Whether the original founder or a non-founding chief executive officer or entrepreneur, these individuals find creative, venturesome ways to acquire the capital resources, build their team and innovate to achieve their goals and to build and grow their business. They create value for themselves, their employees, their customers and their communities.

There are some entrepreneurs who may have grown a successful business, but one that is not positioned for aggressive growth and expansion. These are known as “lifestyle companies,” businesses that support a lifestyle for the entrepreneur, their immediate family and a small group of employees. While these companies are important to the economy, they are not comparable to those seeking a high-growth trajectory path in business.

The new Southeast program. Why Unify?

Maximizing the value of our programs for our nominees, judges, sponsors and alumni is always top of mind for EY.  This year we unified two of our exceptional regional programs:  the Alabama/Georgia/Tennessee and Carolinas programs into one Southeast program.  Our goal was to:

  • Broaden the pool of nominees
  • Additional branding opportunities
  • Increase the value to EOY nominees, judges, sponsors and alumni

We’re excited about our new Southeast program and look forward to a tremendous 2013 program year.

Have another question?

Please contact Kim Todd, Southeast Program Manager, by phone at +1 404 817 5158 or email at kim.todd@ey.com.