By Jon Hurdle
Delaware business leaders honored a local bleach manufacturer, a one-person marketing company, a group of CPAs, and the Delaware Humane Association on Nov. 7 with this year's Superstars in Business awards.
The event, hosted by Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, also gave its Marvin S. Gilman Bowl "“ which commemorates the renowned Delaware homebuilder "“ to his daughter, Martha Gilman, who continues to play a central role in the awards.
An awards lunch in the Gold Ballroom of the Hotel Dupont in Wilmington marked the 20th year of the DSCC's event which highlights successful businesses that give back to the community.
"We're looking for people who have grown as a small business, and have really shown a lot of community involvement along the way," said Bob Smith, co-chair of the chamber's Small Business Alliance and a member of the panel that chose this year's winners. "We look for charitable involvement "“ that means a lot to the committee."
The judges, who chose from 38 entrants in all categories, also look for growing financial strength and a strong reputation among other business people, who may provide testimonials to an applicant's entry for the awards.
"You might say it's an overall business resume report card where they hit on many different categories," Smith said.
In the 1-24 employee category, the Superstar award went to Newark-based Promo Victory, a promotional marketing company with only one employee, Vicki Lam, who is also its president and founder. She started the company 10 years ago after leaving her job with another promotional business, and now has more than 350 clients.
"Tomorrow is my birthday and this is the best gift ever," Lam said at the awards ceremony which was attended by about 300 people including Governor John Carney and U.S. Senator Chris Coons.
Cover & Rossiter, a Wilmington-based public accounting and advisory firm, won the Superstar award for companies with 25-59 employees. The company's managing partner, Marie Holliday, said the firm's success was not always assured. "A few years ago, I was not even sure we were going to be here," she said.
But she urged other business leaders to believe in themselves and their ideas, and to recognize that there are always ways around obstacles.
For companies with 60-150 employees, the Superstar award went to Kuehne Company, a New Castle-based maker of bleach for the treatment of water and waste water in many mid-Atlantic municipalities.
In the nonprofit category, the award went to Delaware Humane Association, a refuge that cares for some 1,600 animals annually.
Keynote speaker Scott Kammerer, president of Rehoboth-based hospitality group SoDel Concepts, said he didn't know at first whether he would make payroll at an early stage of the restaurant and food-management company.
But he noted that with a work force of some 1,200 people, it's now the second-largest private employer in Sussex County, and feeds some 50,000 people a week at 10 coastal restaurants.
He urged other business leaders to pay attention to detail, focus on employee retention, and be prepared to adapt to the market's changing demands.
"You've got to keep adapting because the game is always changing," he said.
Kammerer, who won the Gilman award in 2015, said it was a powerful endorsement of his company by Delaware's business community. "I can't say enough how the Gilman award legitimized what we are doing," he said.
To mark the 20th anniversary of the awards, DSCC officials honored Martha Gilman with the award that was created to honor her father, the late Marvin S. Gilman.
Kelly Basile of the DSCC said the award is given annually to an individual who goes "above and beyond" in the world of small business and community support.
"The Superstar in Business Awards was created in honor of her father," Basile said, referring to Martha Gilman. "She has been very involved over the years in the success of this program, and since this was the 20th anniversary, it felt right to honor her."
Before receiving the award, Gilman said the ceremony is an important showcase for Delaware's business community to recognize some of its outstanding members.
"This is peers recognizing their peers not only for the work they do in their businesses but the work they do in the community," she said.