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Posted: June 19, 2009

Entrepreneur of the year

Seven executives in industries ranging from real estate to technology honored

Patricia Kaowthumrong

When Barry Cooper, chairman and CEO of Cooper Tea Company, made the list of Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year finalists for the third year in a row, he didn’t write an acceptance speech. After being nominated twice without victory, he was doubtful that he would win.

“After my first two nominations, I wrote an acceptance speech, which I thought jinxed me, so this time I didn’t write one,” Cooper said. “When my company’s name was announced, I was stunned.”

Ernst & Young held its Entrepreneur of the Year Awards Banquet for the Rocky Mountain Region on Thursday at the Grand Hyatt Denver. Entering its 23rd year, there were seven categories ranging from communications to healthcare and medical equipment. The finalists were selected by an independent panel of judges.

The seven winners are eligible for the national Entrepreneur of the Year awards in November; the awards program will take place in Palm Springs, Calif. The national winners will be chosen from among more than 240 winners from 26 U.S. regions.

Full list of winners:
Services: Frank Backes, CEO, Braxton Technologies, LLC
Technology: John Tredennick, CEO, Catalyst Repository Systems
Consumer Products: Barry W. Cooper, Chairman & CEO, Cooper Tea Company
Real Estate & Construction Services: Robert Levitt, President, Hudspeth & Associates, Inc.
Healthcare and Medical Equipment: David Chernow, President & CEO, Oncure Medical Corp.
Communications: Roy Dimoff, CEO & Chairman, ViaWest, Inc.
Emerging: Dan Caruso, President & CEO, Zayo Group

John Tredennick of Catalyst Repository Systems won in the technology category; he was a finalist for ColoradoBiz’s Top Company award last year and was named Top Tech Entrepreneur of the Year 2009 by the Colorado Software and Internet Association.

“I’m going to Palm Springs to see Jay Leno,” Cooper said about his win in the consumer products category. “We’re going to the nationals with real tea to tell the world about, and we’re really excited about that.”

Cooper Tea Company is devoted to using real, all-natural tea in their products. They developed a “real-tea” solution for restaurant soda fountains, just tea and water, nothing else, which is a first, Cooper said.

Copper is excited to help create awareness about his company’s products through the Entrepreneur of the Year award.

Robert Levitt, president of Hudspeth & Associates, winner of the real estate and construction services category, said he also hopes the award will help his company build relationships.

“We will continue to do business as we always have, but working with Ernst & Young and all of the companies that were nominated gives you validation,” said Levitt. “We’re all about forming relationships and this is definitely something we can leverage for the future.”

First-time finalist Levitt founded Hudspeth & Associates in 1999 with the goal to become the “go-to” contractor of choice in the western U.S. Now the company has 140 employees and a yearly growth rate of 33 percent.

David Chernow, president and CEO of Oncure Medical Corp, said his win in the healthcare and medical equipment category is inspiring.

“I think what it did personally, and for the company, is that it confirmed the importance of what we do and encourages us to continue to push hard,” Chernow said. “It inspires you to want to do things faster and better.”

A cancer survivor, Chernow took over as chief executive officer of Oncure Medical Corp. in 2007; it is a national network of cancer treatment centers. Also a first-time finalist for the award, he never thought that he would win.

“I was totally surprised and by the screaming of my wife and some of the management team, you could tell we weren’t expecting to win,” Chernow said.

Chernow let the words of Journey and Nike explain his success in entrepreneurship in his acceptance speech.

“When I think of entrepreneurship I think of two things: the song "Don’t Stop Believing" by Journey and the Nike slogan ‘Just do it,’” Chernow said. “That’s what entrepreneurs do. They don’t stop believing and just do it.”
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Patricia Kaowthumrong is a student at the University of Colorado School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Contact her at

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