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South Coast Business & Technology Awards Honor Lynda.com, Sandi Hirsch, George Powell

Annual awards banquet brings together innovation leaders for Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara benefit

From left, South Coast Business & Technology Awards Executive of the Year Gordon Morrell of Yardi; Entrepreneur of the Year Sandra Hirsch of Isolite Systems; Company of the Year representative Tanya Staples of Lynda.com; Excellence in Service recipients Rhonda Ledson Henderson, primera vice presidente, and J.C. Gordon, el presidente, of Old Spanish Days Santa Barbara; and Pioneer Award winner George Powell.
From left, South Coast Business & Technology Awards Executive of the Year Gordon Morrell of Yardi; Entrepreneur of the Year Sandra Hirsch of Isolite Systems; Company of the Year representative Tanya Staples of Lynda.com; Excellence in Service recipients Rhonda Ledson Henderson, primera vice presidente, and J.C. Gordon, el presidente, of Old Spanish Days Santa Barbara; and Pioneer Award winner George Powell. (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

[Click here for a related Noozhawk photo gallery.]

More than 700 attendees from the local business and technology community gathered at The Fess Parker on Thursday night for the 22nd annual South Coast Business & Technology Awards, benefiting the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara.

The highly anticipated event is the largest networking opportunity on the South Coast, gathering business leaders and innovators to honor and recognize companies and individuals with a commitment to the vibrancy of the local economy.

“This event is truly unique,” Scholarship Foundation president and CEO Candace Winkler told Noozhawk. “It is an opportunity to celebrate the top echelon of the business and technology community while supporting our local students — the next generation of leaders.”

The Scholarship Foundation is a vehicle for generosity by supporting students who are motivated to achieve a higher-education degree, and the organization is the beneficiary of the annual SCB&T Awards event.

Outstanding students attending Santa Barbara City College, UC Santa Barbara and Westmont College were also recognized for achievements with awards provided by the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara.

Following a spirited networking reception, guests entered the ballroom for the dinner and presentations. A video starring two Scholarship Foundation alumni, Jaime Dietenhofer, co-founder of Figueroa Mountain Brewing, and Kirsten McLaughlin, market vice president of Cox Communications, showcased their career journeys.

Another video featured scholarship award recipient Mackenzie Fell, who while still in high school started Fell Design after winning first place in the Scheinfeld New Venture Challenge. The ambitious recent Santa Barbara High School graduate plans to attend Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in the fall.

“Receiving a first-place award for my business plan gave me confidence and encouraged me to pursue a business degree,” Fell said. “Receiving a scholarship gives me the opportunity to attend college and actually earn that degree.

“Encouragement from the community, like the donors and supporters of the Scholarship Foundation, like all of you here tonight, has made a huge impact on my future.”

A volunteer steering committee led by co-chairs Steve Amerikaner of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck and Susan Rodriguez of Brown & Brown Insurance helped select five distinguished honorees for 2016.

The Excellence in Service award was presented to Old Spanish Days in Santa Barbara, dedicated to celebrating, honoring and preserving Santa Barbara’s history, spirit, culture, heritage and traditions.

Sandi Hirsch, president and CEO of Isolite Systems, received the Entrepreneur of the Year award. She fulfilled a lifetime dream to be an entrepreneur with a focus to bring a revolutionary patented product to market that today is used by thousands of dentists around the world, benefiting millions of patients every year.

Scholarship recipient Mackenzie Fell, a recent graduate of Santa Barbara High School. While still in high school, Fell started Fell Design after winning first place in the Scheinfeld New Venture Challenge. Click to view larger
Scholarship recipient Mackenzie Fell, a recent graduate of Santa Barbara High School. While still in high school, Fell started Fell Design after winning first place in the Scheinfeld New Venture Challenge. (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

Isolite Systems has received 11 Townie Choice Awards, which are the People’s Choice awards for dental products.

“It is incredibly gratifying that the dental community consistently recognizes and acknowledges the difference we bring to their practices every day,” Hirsch said.

When asked by Noozhawk what advice she would give to the next generation of entrepreneurs, she said, “Have no doubt that you can pursue and realize your American Dream. The road to success is not easy, but it is fully achievable and worth the effort. Learn from everything you try. Don’t give up!”

Lynda.com, a LinkedIn company, was the recipient of the Company of the Year honor. Founded in 1995 by Lynda Weinman, the company is headquartered in Carpinteria, with offices in San Francisco, London, Sydney and Graz, Austria. The online learning service helps subscribers educate themselves with business, software, technology and creative skills to achieve personal and professional goals.

The Executive of the Year award was presented to Gordon Morell, executive vice president of Yardi. Morell began working at Yardi Systems in 1990, when there were around 30 employees. Today, Yardi has nearly 5,000 employees, and Morell’s tenure has grown to 26 years.

“I joined Yardi in March 1990, thinking it would be a temporary job,” Morell told Noozhawk. “But I was inspired by the intellect, modesty and generosity of the founder, Anant Yardi — as I continue to be to this day.

“People here have always been great. And I’m also inspired by the company’s ethical standards, and by our commitment to supporting nonprofit organizations around the world.”

Morrell’s advice to the next generation of leaders is to “keep your options open — you never know which way the markets will turn. Don’t let yourself be trapped in one direction just because that’s the path you’ve already started down.”

Co-founder and owner George Powell received the Pioneer Award. His name is the “Powell” in the legendary skateboard company Powell Peralta, also commonly known as Bones, with the company’s signature skull and bones artwork adorning skate decks worldwide.

Powell received a master’s degree in mechanical engineering and product design from Stanford University in 1966, and the company, with headquarters in Goleta, has grown from his garage with now more than 120 employees designing and producing thousands of skateboard wheels per day.

The company has been an innovator in the field of skateboarding and technology, with the first double radial wheel, first high rebound (modern) skate wheel, first skateboard videos, Bones Brigade — the most famous skateboard team of all time — first graphics to cover the entire double kick tail boards, first discharge ink skate graphic shirts, first terrain-based polyurethane wheel formulas (SPF, STF) and first skate wheel bearing designed specifically for skating.

Powell and his company have survived several deep business declines to become one of the smallest companies to be known and patronized worldwide. His advice to the next generation of young leaders and inventors is to “do something you really love and believe in, and don’t give up.”

His passion for skateboarding is fueled by what most inspires him about Skate One — “the opportunity to do what I love doing with those I respect, admire and love,” he said.

The Excellence in Service award goes to a company providing strong customer and community service, while the Entrepreneur of the Year honor is presented to an individual with a successful career of entrepreneurial endeavors. The Company of the Year is a market leader that demonstrates profitability and strong growth.

Additionally, the Executive of the Year is for a senior executive who has increased company profitability with strengthened market presence and a vigorous passion for the local community. Finally, an individual with a long history of outstanding leadership or innovations in business or technology on the South Coast receives the Pioneer Award.

Since 1962, the Scholarship Foundation has provided more than 44,000 scholarships totaling $99.3 million for Santa Barbara County students. Through scholarships, financial aid, advising and financial aid advising services, the organization reaches more than 36,500 students and parents each year.

These impressive feats have earned the foundation a four-star rating for 11 years from Charity Navigator, the nation’s leading independent evaluator of nonprofit organizations.

Support from the Scholarship Foundation reached 3,016 Santa Barbara County students in 2016, with scholarship awards totaling a record $8.74 million in student aid. The Scholarship Foundation does not charge an administrative fee, with 100 percent of contributions to support scholarships going directly to deserving students.

The SCB&T Awards are made possible through community support from businesses and individuals.

Click here for more information about the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara, or call 805.687.6065. Click here to make an online donation.

Click here for more information about the South Coast Business & Technology Awards.

— Noozhawk contributing writer Melissa Walker can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

More than 700 guests mingled at The Fess Parker for the 22nd annual South Coast Business & Technology Awards. Click to view larger
More than 700 guests mingled at The Fess Parker for the 22nd annual South Coast Business & Technology Awards. (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

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