The Spirit of Entrepreneurship Foundation is excited to announce the sixth annual Spirit of Entrepreneurship Awards dinner, which will take place May 6 at the Bacara Resort from 5:30-8:45 p.m.  

The gala awards event will honor 11 women who exemplify what it means to be a successful entrepreneur as well as the student winners of a business plan competition, the New Venture Challenge, administered by Santa Barbara City College’s Scheinfeld Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation.

This unique collaboration is designed to celebrate entrepreneurship at all levels in Santa Barbara County. Both the women and student winners will receive their awards at the dinner. 

Julie Samson, executive director of the Scheinfeld Center for Entrepreneurship, met with other board members of the Spirit of Entrepreneurship Foundation to discuss the plans for the upcoming event.

According to Cathy Feldman, board chair and CEO, the partnership with the Scheinfeld Center is a great opportunity for both organizations.  

“We know that entrepreneurship is one of the key drivers in the economy, and women business owners are one of the fastest growing groups,” Feldman said. “We had over 70 women nominated for our Spirit of Entrepreneurship Awards this year, so it was not easy for our independent judges to select winners in each of the categories.

“At the same time, we believe it is important to support future entrepreneurs, which is why the proceeds from our Spirit of Entrepreneurship Awards Dinner fund prizes (in the form of seed money) and scholarships for the student winners of the Scheinfeld Center’s New Venture Challenge,” Feldman said.

The Scheinfeld Center’s New Venture Challenge competition is a two-tiered business plan competition for the region’s college and high school students to promote youth entrepreneurship.  

“The New Venture Challenge gives our high school and college students an opportunity to showcase their business concepts to the community,” Samson said. “Thanks to our generous donors — including Montecito Bank & Trust, Southern California Edison, SOE Foundation and American Riviera Bank — the winning students will be receiving start-up cash and scholarships totaling at least $15,000.”

Samson and Feldman cited some examples of the successes that have been achieved by the student winners. The top high school winner in 2015, Mackenzie Fell, expanded her newly launched graphics design firm, Fell Creative, with the seed money she received.  She has a number of active clients she is working with while finishing her senior year at Santa Barbara High.  

John Harmon, the top college winner, has placed his winning product, Oil Slick, a biodegradable beach tar remover, at surf shops along the Central Coast as well as at the Bacara Resort. He reports there is high demand for his products not only for beach goers but also for mechanics.  

Lynda Weinman, co-founder and former executive chair of lynda.com, will once again be the emcee.

One of the women winners has already been announced: Sara Miller McCune will receive the Rock Star: Life Achievement Award for 2016. She founded Sage Publications 50 years ago, and her business is now a hugely successful international publishing company.

Prior to the Spirit of Entrepreneurship Awards dinner, the guests and public are invited to meet all the high school and collegiate finalists from the New Venture Challenge and learn more about their proposed businesses from 5:30-6:30 p.m. on the patio of the Bacara’s ballroom during the Spirit of Entrepreneurship Startup Showcase.

Information about tickets and sponsorships for the Spirit of Entrepreneurship Awards dinner is available at www.soefoundation.org or contact Cathy Feldman, Spirit of Entrepreneurship Foundation board chair, at 805.682.8775 or info@soefoundation.org.

Tickets, which are available at www.soefoundation.org, may be purchased until May 2, 2016.

For more information about the Scheinfeld Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation’s New Venture Challenge, which will be held April 29, 2016, and is open to the public, go to scheinfeld.sbcc.edu or contact Julie Samson, director, at 805.892.3643 or jasamson@sbcc.edu.

Cathy Feldman is the board chair and CEO of the Spirit of Entrepreneurship Foundation