Madison executives, youth among 2022 Entrepreneur of the Year winners
MADISON – Deal makers, change makers and dream makers compose the individuals who have won the 2022 Entrepreneur of the Year awards, presented by the Catalyst Center for Business and Entrepreneurship.
* Dave Bristol, Entrepreneur of the Year – Works as President and CEO of Acquisition Integrations LLC. This top-level award goes to an individual in business for more than three years and has succeeded in sustainability, strategic direction and community involvement.
Bristol’s career began as an Army Aviator and acquisition professional; he served 27 years. In 2015, he founded his SBA-certified HUBZone and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business. Bristol quickly recognized the importance of relationships throughout the Department of Defense and industry sectors.
* Paul Finley, Joanne Randolph Entrepreneur Champion of the Year – Serves as Mayor of Madison. A small business owner, Finley understands challenges that face these companies.
Madison was ranked no. 1 in niche.com’s “Best Places to Live in Alabama.” Exponential growth involves managing infrastructure and other demands. “We appreciate all Mayor Finley does to support this growth, small businesses and to keep Madison’s quality of life a priority,” spokesperson Lisa Mays said. stated.
* Belle Buerhle, Youth Entrepreneur of the Year — Awarded to student in grades K-12 who has founded a business. Buerhle’s journey started with the Madison CEO (Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities) in her senior year. A figure skater for 10 years, Buerhle disliked the snack market’s lack of healthy, tasty options. She transformed her protein snacks into a business, Burly Bites.
Buerhle has sold her snacks at farmers markets and fitness centers. She plans to pursue entrepreneurial studies at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
* Bailey Erickson with Wafel Bitte, Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year – Awarded to entrepreneur in business for one to three years with success in sustainability and growth. Erickson founded Wafel Bitte with daughter Alexis Hope Nichols during the COVID-19 pandemic. Founding the business allowed Erickson to demonstrate to her daughter about taking an excellent idea and transforming it into a business.
The mother-daughter team experimented with recipes for the authentic taste of a true Belgian waffle. They grew Wafel Bitte by selling at markets and catering “to make the world happier ‘one waffle at a time,’” Mays said.
* Maria Troupe with Wine & Design, Creative Entrepreneur of the Year – Awarded to nontechnical entrepreneur with focus on retail, arts, entertainment or culinary. Maria Troupe founded Wine & Design to fill a need for Madison’s entertainment options.
Encountering challenges during renovation, she cut costs to confirm that she could operate the business. She has focused on offering diverse services and “strives to continually be in the know on the latest trends in crafting . . . and collaborates with small businesses monthly,” Mays said.
* Sandra Cepeda with Cepeda Systems & Software Analysis, Government Contracting Entrepreneur of the Year – New award that highlights the significant role that government contracting entrepreneurs play in the area’s economic ecosystem. Cepeda started her own company in 2001 after working in engineering and management for Department of Defense.
Using this on-the-job knowledge, Cepeda provided engineering support to the Army’s Software Engineering Directorate. “Sandra has steadily expanded her company to meet customer needs; she continues to strive to meet God’s will. She believes in true servant leadership, encouraging others to (reach) the best of their abilities,” Mays said.
* Lee Marshall with Kids to Love, Non-Profit Entrepreneur – Non-profit leaders “must possess an entrepreneurial spirit to grow their organization. Lee Marshall truly began her journey (with) adoption into foster care at age two,” Mays said.
Kids to Love provides emergency assistance to foster families, houses school supplies and Christmas gifts and supports about 13,000 people annually. Marshall believes that leaders must communicate that “everyone knows they have a seat at the table and a voice that will be heard,” Mays said.
* Buddy Lockwood with Artemis Shielding, Veteran Entrepreneur — Granted to outstanding military veteran with entrepreneur pursuits in North Alabama. After military service, Lockwood wanted to continue to make the world a safer place. He now protects people from hazardous effects of lead and radiation.
Lockwood applies the same principles he learned as a military leader. He trains “the team to his left and right to do his job,” Mays said. “He believes one of the best lessons is to lead from the front . . . never ask someone to do something that you’re unwilling to do.”
* Chris Crosson with Crosstek Construction, People’s Choice – This public decided this award. The winner is a local entrepreneur who applied for an award and received the most votes on AL.com.
After starting his business in a garage, Crosson has grown the venture to include three full-time project managers with a corporate office in seven years. Approximately 80 percent of his business comes from referral/repeat clients. Treating customers with respect and honesty is critical in the construction industry. “He has adopted a new strategy . . . to pause growth to provide the best possible customer service,” Mays said.
* Adyre Mason with The Veggie, Female Entrepreneur of the Year – Must live in North Alabama. Mason’s work will be submitted to Small Business Administration’s “Small Business of the Year” national award by the Women’s Business Center. Chef Mason, Owner and Executive Chef of The Veggie, began entrepreneurial work in 2017 after losing her mother. “She used her grief as a catalyst to reinvent herself through her business in her mother’s honor,” Mays said.
Doctors revealed that a healthier, plant-based diet could have helped her mother’s chronic issues and prevented strokes. Mason hopes to help others in eating better, even prolonging their lives. “When things have gotten tough, she has always . . . worked to promote her strengths to the local vegan community,” Mays said.
For more information, visit catalystcenter.org.