During a time of record-level home foreclosures, a local financial services company with a program for homeowners to pay off traditional 30-year mortgages in eight to 11 years won one of 14 Ernst & Young Entrepreneurs of the Year Awards Friday night.
"Many people are conditioned to accept the fact that they can never get out of debt," said Skyler Witman, a founder of United First Financial, who received the award with four colleagues because of the company's program in which homeowners use software and coaching to pay off their debts quicker. "After seeing so many people fail (on home loans), we thought there had to be a better way."
The 14 award recipients were among a group of 34 people who had been nominated for recognition. About 1,100 people, many employees and spouses representing nominated companies, attended the black-tie event in the Salt Palace Convention Center.
"Sometimes they (entrepreneurs) don't take home the trophy, but they take home a great sense of accomplishment," said Tim Layton, founder of Sorenson Capital, who was one of the judges.
"Entrepreneurship is not easy," said award recipient Travis Parashonts of Suhidutsing Technologies LLC. "The risk is hard. But the dream and the passion are what carry you through."
Suhidutsing Technologies started with a $4,000 grant and the hard work of members of the Cedar Band of the Paiute Indian Tribe, who live in Cedar City and are plagued by low-paying jobs.
Parashonts wanted to create high-paying jobs with benefits through selling IT equipment and services. After landing a $200 million U.S. Department of Interior contract in 2004, "we've reached that goal," Parashonts said.
Business owners face a "new economic frontier," said David Jolley, managing partner of the Utah office for Ernst & Young, from the current economic slowdown to the rise of powerful businesses in developing countries. The entrepreneurs who emerge successful in the new environment will be those who can adapt to the changes.
"They see change as opportunity," he said.The award recipients in Utah will compete for awards nationally. The Deseret News sponsored the event, with Digital Bytes, Diversified Insurance Brokers, Scherzer International, Spring, The Summit Group and Utah Business Magazine.
Fourteen entrepreneurs took honors in nine categories Thursday at the annual Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards in Utah.
Financial services: Jonathan Bonnette, Don Jorgensen, Matthew Lovelady, John Washenko and Skyler Witman, United First Financial.
Health products: Wayne K. Barlow of Wescor Inc.
Manufacturing/distribution: Hanko Kiessner, Packsize LLC
Real estate/hospitality/construction: Orluff Opheikens, R&O Construction Co.
Retail and consumer products: Rick Alden, Skullcandy
Services: Travis N. Parashonts, Suhidutsing Technologies LLC
Software: Josh Coates, Mozy Inc.
Technology: John Edwards, Move Networks Inc.Community Legacy Award: Bob Harmon and Randy Harmon, Harmons