Press release

EY announces the Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2017 Award finalists in the Gulf Coast Area

Houston, 2 May 2017

  • Share

EY today announced the finalists for the Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2017 Award in the Gulf Coast Area. The awards program, which is celebrating its 31st year, recognizes entrepreneurs who are excelling in areas such as innovation, financial performance and personal commitment to their businesses and communities. The finalists were selected by a panel of independent judges. Award winners will be announced at a special gala event June 15, 2017 at the Marriott Marquis Houston.

The finalists are:

  • Clinton Phillips, Founder and Chief Innovation Officer and Jason Melton, CEO, 2nd.MD, Houston TX
  • Bill Sims, President and CEO, Accent Wire, Tomball TX
  • Mike Burrow, P.E., Chairman and CEO, Burrow Global, LLC, Houston TX
  • Gaurav Khandelwal, CEO, ChaiOne, Houston TX
  • Wallace Davis, CEO, DHI Telecom Group, Houston TX
  • Gary Walston, Co-Founder, Dolphin Debit Access, LLC, Spring TX
  • Bob Flexon, President and CEO, Dynegy Inc., Houston TX
  • Rich Wolfe, CEO, Empyrean Benefit Solutions, Houston TX
  • Shelly Brewer, Founder and COO and Steve Brewer, President and CEO, Express Corporate Housing, Houston TX
  • Chris Hilgert, CEO, Fairway Energy, Houston TX
  • Cris Gaut, Chairman and CEO, Forum Energy Technologies, Inc., Houston TX
  • Doug Evans, President and CEO, Gulf Interstate Engineering Company, Houston TX
  • Jon Harper, CEO and Co-Founder and Joseph Harper, Jr., CFO and Co-Founder, Harper Brothers Construction, Houston TX
  • James H. VanSteenhouse, CEO, InterLinc Mortgage Services, LLC, Houston TX
  • Michael Soper, President and CEO, Legacy Funeral Group, Houston TX
  • Heida Thurlow, President and Founder, Lentrade, Inc. DBA Chantal Corp., Houston TX
  • Ludmila Golovine, Founder, President and CEO, MasterWord Services, Inc., Houston TX
  • Bob Milner, Co-Owner, Mercedes-Benz of The Woodlands, The Woodlands TX
  • Dr. Juliet Breeze, CEO, Next Level Urgent Care, Houston TX
  • Kathleen Eisbrenner, Founder, Chairman and CEO, NextDecade, LLC, The Woodlands TX
  • Swapnil Agarwal, Founder and CEO, Nitya Capital, Houston TX
  • Joe Freudenberger, CEO, OakBend Medical Center, Richmond TX
  • Thomas Nguyen, Co-Founder, Peli Peli Restaurant Group, Houston TX
  • Charles Willis II, Co-Founder and President, Pinot's Palette, Houston TX
  • Wan Kim, CEO, Smoothie King, Metairie LA
  • Richie Miller, President, Spectrum Geo Inc., Houston TX
  • Rick Pleczko, President and CEO, symplr, Houston TX
  • Jeff Montgomery, Senior Vice President and Co-Founder, TopSpot Internet Marketing, Houston TX
  • Ben Cowart, Chairman and CEO, Vertex Energy, Inc., Houston TX
  • Benjamin Thomas, President and Founder, VitalPet, Humble TX
  • Chris Meaux, Founder and CEO, Waitr Inc., Lake Charles LA
  • Jim Mastandrea, Chairman and CEO, Whitestone REIT, Houston TX

Now in its 31st year, the program has expanded to recognize business leaders in over 145 cities and more than 60 countries throughout the world.

Regional award winners are eligible for consideration for the Entrepreneur Of The Year National competition. Award winners in several national categories, as well as the Entrepreneur Of The Year National Overall Award winner, will be announced at the Entrepreneur Of The Year National Awards gala in Palm Springs, California, on November 18, 2017. The awards are the culminating event of the Strategic Growth ForumTM, the nation’s most prestigious gathering of high-growth, market-leading companies.


Founded and produced by EY, the Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards are nationally sponsored in the US by SAP America, Merrill Corporation and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

In the Gulf Coast Area, regional sponsors include Colliers International, DLA Piper, ADP, Solomon Edwards, Chatham Financial, Pierpont Communications and Houston Business Journal.

Company Boilerplate

About Entrepreneur Of The Year®

Entrepreneur Of The Year®, founded by EY, is the world’s most prestigious business awards program for entrepreneurs, chosen from an independent panel of judges including entrepreneurs and prominent leaders from business, finance, and the local community. The program makes a difference through the way it encourages entrepreneurial activity among those with potential and recognizes the contribution of people who inspire others with their vision, leadership and achievement. As the first and only truly global awards program of its kind, Entrepreneur Of The Year celebrates those who are building and leading successful, growing and dynamic businesses, recognizing them through regional, national and global awards programs in over 145 cities and more than 60 countries.

About EY’s Growth Markets Network

EY’s worldwide Growth Markets Network is dedicated to serving the changing needs of high-growth companies. For more than 30 years, we’ve helped many of the world’s most dynamic and ambitious companies grow into market leaders. Whether working with international mid-cap companies or early stage, venture-backed businesses, our professionals draw upon their extensive experience, insight and global resources to help your business succeed. For more information, please visit us at or follow news on Twitter @EY_Growth.

About EY

EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. The insights and quality services we deliver help build trust and confidence in the capital markets and in economies the world over. We develop outstanding leaders who team to deliver on our promises to all of our stakeholders. In so doing, we play a critical role in building a better working world for our people, for our clients and for our communities.

EY refers to the global organization, and may refer to one or more of the member firms of Ernst & Young Global Limited, each of which is a separate legal entity. Ernst & Young Global Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, does not provide services to clients. For more information about our organization, please visit

This news release has been issued by Ernst & Young LLP, a member of the global EY organization that provides services to clients in the US.

For more information, please visit