Leaders from seven Minnesota companies were recently recognized by Ernst & Young, LLP, as winners in this year’s Entrepreneurs of the Year for the Upper Midwest competition.

The winners—who were selected from entries from Minnesota, North Dakota, Iowa, and Nebraska—were announced at a black-tie gala awards event on June 13 at the Minneapolis Marriott City Center.

The Minnesota winners—along with the categories in which they won, their company names and headquarters, and a brief description of what they do—are:

• Consumer Products: John Barrow, founder and president, Coolibar, Inc. (St. Louis Park)—Coolibar designs, manufactures and markets sun protective clothing, hats and, swimwear.

• Retail: Megan Tamte, founder and CEO, Hot Mama (Edina)—Hot Mama offers designer clothing to moms.

• Family Business: Kenny Nelson, president and CEO, KLN Family Brands (Perham)—KLN Family Brands sells four product lines: Tuffy’s Pet Foods, Barrel O’Fun Snack Foods, Kenny’s Candy, and NutHeads Chocolate Factory.

• Nutrition: David Lenzmeier, CEO, Milk Specialties Global (Eden Prairie)—Milk Specialties is an independent processor of whey and specialty protein ingredients serving the sport nutrition, health and wellness, food manufacturing, and animal nutrition markets.

• Manufacturing: Craig Kruckeberg, CEO, Spray Controls Systems, Inc./Minimizer (Blooming Prairie)—Spray Control Systems manufactures and markets polyethylene heavy-truck fenders.

• Consumer Services: Brad Rixmann, owner and CEO, Pawn America (Burnsville)—Pawn America is a purchaser and reseller of consumer goods.

In addition, Randall Hogan, chairman and CEO of Golden Valley-based Pentair, received Ernst & Young’s “lifetime achievement” award.

Other winners from the Upper Midwest region—along with the categories in which they won and their company names and headquarters—are:

• Energy Services: James Arthaud, CEO, MBI Energy Services, Inc. (Belfield, North Dakota)

• Technology: Dawn Ainger, president and CEO, Genova Technologies (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)

• E-Commerce: Doug Nielsen, president and CEO, Hayneedle, Inc. (Omaha, Nebraska)

The Upper Midwest winners will move on to compete for the title of National Entrepreneur of the Year at an annual awards gala in Palm Springs, California, on November 16.

Ernst & Young in April announced that the pool of applicants had been narrowed to 29 finalists, including 20 Minnesotans. Winners were selected by an independent panel of judges, which includes area business leaders.

Ernst & Young provides assurance, tax, transactions, and advisory services. Its annual program, now in its 27th year, honors outstanding contributions made by entrepreneurs who are building and leading successful, growing, and dynamic businesses.
 
This year's winners and finalists from the Upper Midwest will be featured in the August issue of Twin Cities Business, which is a regional sponsor of the awards program. To read about last year's winners, click here.

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