Chamber honors small businesses

LAWRENCEVILLE - For 25 years, the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce has honored the county's top small businesses.

This year, however, is the first time the chamber has recognized 25 small businesses, with the winners announced Wednesday.

"We wanted to create more recognition for Gwinnett companies and bring more attention to our county," said Laurie McKenzie, senior program manager for the chamber.

In 2006, the chamber honored five companies as the county's top small businesses, with one person being chosen as the county's small business person of the year.

This year the chamber decided to recognize more companies and rename the honor as the Pinnacle Small Business Awards.

Out of the top 25 companies, the chamber will continue to choose an overall small business person of the year, but has also added three additional awards depending on the number of employees each company has (1 to 10 employees, 11 to 149 employees and 150-plus employees).

The Gwinnett chamber received more than 300 nominations this year, the most ever. Last year the chamber set a record with about 200 nominations, McKenzie said.

"This year's nominees were phenomenal," McKenzie said. "Everybody had such outstanding track records."

The chamber selected the winners based on factors including steady and above-average growth and profitability, growth in number of employees, contributions in the community, overcoming adversity and original entrepreneurship.

"It took quite a bit of work to narrow it down to 25," McKenzie said.

For the honorees, such as Seth Weathers of WeathersDesigns.com, the award is a motivation to continue their good work.

"I am honored to be receiving this award from the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce," Weathers said. "We look forward to another great year of removing countless ugly Web sites from the Internet and replacing them with WeathersDesign.com designs."

The chamber has chosen to honor this year's winners in a more upscale manner, with a black-tie optional gala at 6 p.m. April 25 at the Atlanta Hilton Northeast.