Monday, July 5, 2010

Academy Awards

Well okay, not THE Academy Awards, but certainly as small businesses go, one of the highest honors bestowed!  On May 17th, Jay and I flew to Washington, D.C. for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Summit.  At this event, it was to be revealed which of seven businesses from around the U.S. would be awarded the Small Business of the Year Award. 

From the moment we set foot in the Omni Shoreham Hotel, we were treated like royalty.  Since 1930, the Shoreham has been host to presidents, world leaders and inaugural balls.  We should have known we were in for a great experience when at registration we were recognized and directed us U.S. Chamber literature table where we saw the following…a promotional poster for the Small Business Network!

After that thrill, we went to check into our room which turned out to be a beautiful suite complete with wine, macaroons and chocolate.  I think we could easily make a pitch for their in-room chocolate amenity, but otherwise, it was amazing!  We had about an hour before the first 'official' event of the week would begin.  We were invited to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce building for a welcome cocktail party.  We had heard there was a great photo op there, but had NO idea what that might be.  When we walked in, once again we were immediately recognized by one of the wonderful U.S. Chamber staff who ushered us to the elevator for our rooftop photo.  Okay, for those of you who haven't visited D.C., every building in the downtown is a huge, stately limestone structure with columns, tons of dark wood everywhere and marble where it's not wood.  So off to the elevator for our photo.  So in addition to the beautiful building, the neighborhood doesn't suck either!

We could actually see Secret Service on the back portico and I think if I'd shouted, they would have pointed their guns at us!  It was amazing and so cool!

The cocktail party was a total blast...sorry I can't locate my photo standing on the podium acting like a dork.  I also got a chance to be interviewed by Free for their upcoming media campaign.  Haven't seen it yet, but we'll keep you posted.  So after a glass or ten of wine at the cocktail party, we made our way back to the hotel for a little rest and relaxation before the awards ceremony on Tuesday.  Of course, I couldn't sleep and weirdly enough found Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory on late-night TV.  How perfect!!

Tuesday morning began with a private breakfast for the 75 Blue Ribbon Finalists.  Delicious food, fascinating attendees and a photo op.  This is Jay and I receiving our finalist certificate presented by Tom Donahue, President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  Of course, I stepped on my dress going up the stairs and made a bit of an entrance not captured in this photo.
After breakfast, Jay and I sort of hung out and visited with several of the other Regional Finalists we had met at breakfast.  I found it amazing that regardless of the business each nominee conducted, the passion and commitment to their business was consistent.  Bright, interesting individuals from all over the country--awesome! 
During the morning, Jay gave me a gift from our Cocoa Dolce family...hilarious, charming and totally heartwarming.  It made me cry because I had so wished that the whole gang could be with us that day.  And the best part?  The message was, "win or lose, we still booze."  Highly inappropriate in so many ways, but it made me laugh and broke some of the tension.  The gang also included a $20 bill so that I could buy Jay and I a drink when the event was over.  Perfect!

Time flew and suddenly we were in the main ballroom for rehearsal of the awards ceremony.  This is when it began to really feel like a big deal.  All seven finalists met and we were walked through coming onto the stage, hitting our mark (yes, there was actually tape where we were supposed to stop!) and exiting smoothly. 

Next thing we knew, we were front and center at our table sharing it with Sam's Club executives, U.S. Chamber executives, Phyllis Robertson from the Wichita Metro Chamber and a couple of American Airlines marketing executives.  I got so nervous--sweaty palms, nauseous and fidgety. I probably re-applied my lipstick 50 times in the time leading up to the awards.  And then it was our turn.  We were in a huge ballroom and there were floor to ceiling screens on either side of the stage for the people in the cheap seats.  It was unreal.  Our video started to play and people in the room started to cheer (well actually, we had made friends with most of Texas the night before and they became our cheerleaders).  It stood up and began the walk to the stage--made it up the stairs, hit my mark, received my Regional Finalist award, shook hands and was able to exit the stage without injury! 
Then the drum roll.....the winner of the 2010 U.S. Chamber Dream  Big Small Business of the Year...Fintech!  You know, I was thrilled for them.  Jay and I could not have been happier for the whole Fintech family.  Great business, great people!

This whole experience made us feel like Rockstars!  You know what the most satisfying part of this summit was?  Being able to represent Wichita and Kansas at-large and to receive such validation that our dreams and hard work mean something beyond our personal scope.  

Now the fire is lit...I want to come back to Washington, D.C. in 2011 and WIN this thing!  Who's with us?  

Until next time, Dream Big!!

1 comment:

  1. Congrats, Beth! You totally inspire me. You are number one in my book!!
    -Jenny M