We Attended The EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards Gala

So many macarons.

On Saturday, June 10, winners of the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2017 Utah Region Awards were announced at a black tie gala at the Grand America Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City.

The event was very fancy. There was rolled salad that I, being the not fancy person that I am, had no idea how to eat. And I’m sure the unrolling method with which I consumed the salad was wildly inappropriate. But worth it because that salad was delicious. As was the steak, salmon, and dessert. I think I ate seven macarons.

The award ceremony, hosted by former KSL News Anchor Scott Haws, began with recognition of the 2017 EY Youth Scholarship recipient, 16-year-old Olivia George, owner of Mountain Blue Doodles. George received a $2,000 scholarship in recognition of her stellar entrepreneurship.

At this point I ate another macaron.

Then the Utah Region award winners were announced.

In the Consumer Services category, CircustTrix won and CEO Case Lawrence accepted the award. “This [Entrepreneur Of The Year] program is incredible and it’s been a great opportunity to be a part of it,” Lawrence said, then added, “This was such a team effort to get CircusTrix where it is today.”

In the Retail and Consumer Products category, Younique won and CEO Derek Maxfield accepted the award. “I truly believe that what happened with Younique is so much bigger than me,” Maxfield said. Maxfield spoke mostly about the company’s foundation, which seeks to help victims of sexual abuse. “[The foundation] is why we succeeded as a company,” Maxfield said. “God wanted [the victims] to have healing.”

In the Social Entrepreneur category, Operation Underground Railroad won and CEO & Founder Tim Ballard accepted the award. He also received a standing ovation. Ballard thanked his wife, who encouraged him to start OUR, and his operators currently on the ground saving children in several countries, saying he was accepting the award on their behalf. “I want to thank EY for allowing us this opportunity,” Ballard said. “This exposure leads to awareness and leads us to rescue more children. I want to dedicate this award to those children who have no voice.”

In the Distribution & Manufacturing category, Malouf won and CEO & Founder Sam Malouf accepted the award. Malouf explained that he’s never thought of himself as an entrepreneur. He just wanted to own really nice sheets (and a fully loaded Honda Pilot). He thanked his wife — with whom he built the company — and his team. “[Malouf is an] incredible place to be each day,” Malouf said. “Malouf is and will always be about the people who make it special.”

In the Technology category, Ivanti won and CEO Stephen Daly accepted the award. Daly thanked his family saying, “The biggest investment you make is your time and a lot of times family has to pay that price.” He also thanked his employees, each of whom volunteer two days a year at a school. He called the award a tribute to all Ivanti employees.

In the Real Estate, Hospitality & Construction category, Four Foods Group won and CEO/co-founder Andrew Smith accepted the award. After explaining the difficult time he had deciding whether to wear his hair up or down, he talked about why he became an entrepreneur. “I was young and naive. I wanted to change the world and make money,” he said. “But as I aged and matured, my perspective changed. I wanted to create jobs and opportunities where people can explore skills and abilities.” He also spoke to how great it is to allowed to legally make out with his cofounder (his wife.) “I love the hell out of what I’m doing, so I’m going to do it forever,” Smith said.

In the Business Services category, Lucid Software won and CEO/co-founder Karl Sun accepted the award. Fun fact: I was once on a call with Sun and I suddenly had to cough really bad, and I tried to hold it in, and that backfired, and I exploded in a fit of coughing, and he was very nice about it. That niceness was reflected in his acceptance speech. He thanked his family and his team, and recognized how far Utah has come over the last ten years since he arrived in Utah and how many great companies are thriving here. “We are so fortunate that we get to work and have fun doing it,” Sun said. “We’re doing something that we love.”

And finally, in the Direct to Consumer Products category, Chatbooks won and co-founders Nate and Vanessa Quigley accepted the award. Nate explained that when their family moved to Utah three years ago, they felt their company was on death’s door. Then Vanessa saved the day with her idea. “We have an amazing, incredible team,” Vanessa said. “Thank you to our amazing team and customers. Thank you for understanding the importance of holding on to what matters.”

Then I ate another macaron. My dress had stopped fitting four macarons before this one.

Anyway. These winners will be considered for the national Entrepreneur Of The Year program, the gala for which will be in Palm Springs on November 18.

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