20 Minnesota Companies Named To Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2023 Heartland Award Finalist List

Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2023 Heartland Award

Entrepreneur Of The Year celebrates ambitious entrepreneurs who are building bolder futures


(Minneapolis, MN) — May 10, 2023  —  Ernst & Young LLP (EY US) today announced the finalists for the Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2023 Heartland Award. The Heartland program celebrates entrepreneurs from the Dakotas, Iowa, Kansas (excludes greater Wichita area), Minnesota, Missouri and Nebraska. Now in its 37th year, Entrepreneur Of The Year is one of the preeminent competitive business awards for transformative entrepreneurs and leaders of high-growth companies who are building a more equitable, sustainable and prosperous world for all.

These 30 entrepreneurs were selected as finalists by an independent panel of judges. The candidates were evaluated based on their demonstration of building long-term value through entrepreneurial spirit, purpose, growth and impact, among other core contributions and attributes.

The 2023 Heartland finalists are:

Anant Bhalla | American Equity Investment Life Holding Company | West Des Moines, IA

Brent Comstock | BCom | Lincoln, NE

Margaret Murphy | Bold Orange Company, LLC | Minneapolis, MN

Jason Seger | Border States | Fargo, ND

Todd Graeve | Boundless Enterprises dba Scooter’s Coffee, LLC | Omaha, NE

Cheri Beranek | Clearfield | Minneapolis, MN

Igor Epshteyn | Coherent Solutions | Minneapolis, MN

Jerry Johnson | EMC (Energy Management Collaborative, LLC) | Plymouth, MN

Justin Barrett | Eyesafe | Eden Prairie, MN

Michele Henry | Face Foundrie | Eden Prairie, MN

Dan Florness | Fastenal | Winona, MN

Bob Gardner | Gardner Builders, LLC | Minneapolis, MN

John Hopper | Gateway Dealer Network, LLC | Valley Park, MO

Rick Bauerly | Granite Partners | Saint Cloud, MN

Cameron McNie | Hawaiian Bros Inc. | Kansas City, MO

Patrick Hawkins | Hawkins, Inc. | Roseville, MN

John Axelson | Hunt Electric Corporation | Bloomington, MN

Michael Kennedy Jr. | KAI | St. Louis, MO

Shikhar Saxena | Milan Holdings dba Milan Laser Hair Removal | Omaha, NE

Dr. Melvin Ashford | Minnesota Women’s Care | St. Paul, MN

James Mortensen | R3 Continuum | Bloomington, MN

Christian Lawrence | Rise Modular | Minneapolis, MN

Reed Nyffeler | Signal | Omaha, NE

Eric Hall & Rita Katona | So Good So You | Minneapolis, MN

Maureen Steinwall | Steinwall Inc. | Minneapolis, MN

Jude Bricker | Sun Country Airlines | Minneapolis, MN

Nay Hla | Sushi Avenue Inc. | St. Paul, MN

Ali Ahmadi | TCARE Inc. | St. Louis, MO

Eli Maloley | Vivacity Tech PBC | St. Paul, MN

Michael Happe | Winnebago Industries | Eden Prairie, MN

“This year’s finalists are ambitious entrepreneurs set on transforming their industries and communities,” said Dominic Iannazzo, Heartland Program Co-Director.

“The finalists have been carefully selected by our independent panel of judges for their unwavering commitment to their companies, customers and communities, and we are thrilled to recognize them,” added Erin Donovan, Heartland Program Co-Director.

Regional award winners will be announced on June 8 during a special celebration. The winners will then be considered by the National judges for the Entrepreneur Of The Year National Awards, which will be presented in November at the annual Strategic Growth Forum®, one of the nation’s most prestigious gatherings of high-growth, market-leading companies. The Entrepreneur Of The Year National Overall Award winner will then move on to compete for the World Entrepreneur Of The Year® Award in June 2024. 

The Entrepreneur Of The Year program has recognized more than 11,000 entrepreneurs throughout the US since its inception in 1986, and it has grown to recognize business leaders across 145 cities in over 60 countries around the world.


Founded and produced by Ernst & Young LLP, the Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards include presenting sponsors PNC Bank, N.A.; SAP America; and the Kauffman Foundation. In the Heartland, sponsors also include regional Platinum sponsors, Colliers International, Padilla and Twin Cities Business.

About Entrepreneur Of The Year®

Entrepreneur Of The Year® is the world’s most prestigious business awards program for unstoppable entrepreneurs. These visionary leaders deliver innovation, growth and prosperity that transform our world. The program engages entrepreneurs with insights and experiences that foster growth. It connects them with their peers to strengthen entrepreneurship around the world. Entrepreneur Of The Year is the first and only truly global awards program of its kind. It celebrates entrepreneurs through regional and national awards programs in more than 145 cities in over 60 countries. National Overall Award winners go on to compete for the World Entrepreneur Of The Year® title. Visit ey.com/us/eoy.

About EY Private

As Advisors to the ambitious™, EY Private professionals possess the experience and passion to support private businesses and their owners in unlocking the full potential of their ambitions. EY Private teams offer distinct insights born from the long EY history of working with business owners and entrepreneurs. These teams support the full spectrum of private enterprises including private capital managers and investors and the portfolio businesses they fund, business owners, family businesses, family offices and entrepreneurs. Visit ey.com/us/private.

About EY

EY exists to build a better working world, helping create long-term value for clients, people and society and build trust in the capital markets.

Enabled by data and technology, diverse EY teams in over 150 countries provide trust through assurance and help clients grow, transform and operate.

Working across assurance, consulting, law, strategy, tax and transactions, EY teams ask better questions to find new answers for the complex issues facing our world today.

EY refers to the global organization, and may refer to one or more, of the member firms of Ernst & Young Global Limited, each of which is a separate legal entity. Ernst & Young Global Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, does not provide services to clients. Information about how EY collects and uses personal data and a description of the rights individuals have under data protection legislation are available via ey.com/privacy. EY member firms do not practice law where prohibited by local laws. For more information about our organization, please visit ey.com.



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