An EPIC approach to chamber awards effort

May 17, 2010
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The 14 finalists for the first-ever EPIC Awards sponsored by the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce have been selected, and, in fact, they were saluted last week at a reception held at San Chez – A Tapas Bistro, in downtown Grand Rapids.

Wednesday evening at the JW Marriott, the top winners in five categories will be recognized at a dinner that has attracted more than 400 attendees.

The EPIC Awards combine the chamber's annual Small Business Celebration, Minority Business Celebration and Salute to West Michigan Business into one evening awards celebration. Nominees for each category went through a two-step selection process. After being nominated, they completed an extensive questionnaire that was reviewed by a committee of business leaders. The top two or three in each category were then invited for interviews to determine the recipient.

The finalists are profiled in this section.

"We spent an extensive amount of time asking our members about how we should be serving them," said Jeanne Englehart, the chamber's president and CEO. "We used a professional approach, including the use of focus groups. We asked them: What's your perception of the chamber, our events, public policy and other topics. One of the things we heard were there were just too many events. People were being put in a position to pick and choose. So for the 2010 budget year, we listened to what we heard. We will do fewer events but still recognize those who deserve it because people said that process still has a value. So we combined the awards into one event."

Englehart acknowledged the chamber "is trying something different. We don't typically do an evening event. We're excited. I don't even know who the winners are. They will be announced that night."

The nominees "present a great story about entrepreneurship in West Michigan," Englehart said. "This is a place people want to start a business as well as be involved in their chamber of commerce and its activities."

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