2018 James Tyree Business
Leadership Award

Three finalists have been named in the competition for this year’s $50,000 James Tyree Emerging Business Leadership Award. The award is presented annually by the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Mesirow Financial, and CIBC to a high-growth small business with a commitment to philanthropic values. The award is named in honor of the late James Tyree, a beloved Chicagoan and the CEO and Chairman of Mesirow Financial who passed away in March of 2011. Mesirow and CIBC provide the cash prize. The competition began with more than 30 applicants from among Chicago’s brightest entrepreneurial small businesses, from an array of industries. The finalists are:

GMA Construction Group | Cornelius Griggs, President

GMA Construction Group is full service General Contracting, Construction Management and Cost Engineering that’s focused on developing people who will transform communities. GMA focuses on projects that impact the communities in which we live, work and play by reno­vating and building Educational, Healthcare and Affordable Housing Facilities within urban areas.

Ink Factory | Dusty Folwarczny & Ryan Robinson, Co-Founders

Ink Factory is a team of artists who use visual notes to help organizations communicate bet­ter. It’s simple: You talk, we draw, it’s awesome.

Landmark Pest Management | Rebecca Fyffe, President & Director of Research

Landmark Pest Management’s team of scientists controls insects and humanely manages wildlife in the interest of human health and safety from an environmental sustainability per­spective, with a love of nature and a deep respect for all living things. The firm’s approach to pest control is science-based, enabling clients to live and work in greener, safer buildings.

We congratulate and thank all 12 companies that stepped up to take part in the Tyree Award competition! Special thanks, as well, go to the following people and organizations that made this initiative possible:

Award Criteria

The winner receives $50,000 in cash courtesy of Mesirow Financial and CIBC, as well as valuable business consulting services from the Chicagoland Chamber.

Qualified applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Operate within the six-county Chicagoland metropolitan area
  • Be in business for a minimum of two years
  • Demonstrate substantial growth over the past two years
  • Generate revenues of at least $500,000 but less than $10 million
  • Have five or more employees, including business owner(s)
  • Be active in local civic or philanthropic initiatives


Previous Winners   

2017 | Wendy Serrino | President, North Shore Exchange


2016 | Sophie Evanoff
President, Vanille

2015 | Neil Byers
Owner, Horse Thief Hollow 


2014 | John Roa
Founder and CEO, ÄKTA

2013 | Jim Alvarez
Founder, Gesture 

About Jim Tyree

The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and Mesirow Financial launched the Tyree Award in 2012 in memory of Jim Tyree, who had served as Chairman and CEO of Mesirow Financial, and Chairman of the Chicagoland Chamber. CIBC, then known as The PrivateBank, became a sponsor in 2016 and made it possible to double the prize to $50,000.

During his tenure as Mesirow CEO, Jim led the firm to exceptional levels of growth in all areas of the business. The 50 acquisitions he completed included Stein & Company, a premier real estate organization; the Near North Insurance Brokerage's Chicago office, and Dann Insurance, two leading insurance agencies; and the U.S. Corporate Recovery practice, acquired from KPMG. 

Throughout his career, Jim served on more than 50 corporate, civic and not-for-profit boards of directors. He also served as chairman of Sun-Times Media Holdings, a media firm that published 58 newspapers, including The Chicago Sun-Times, and their corresponding websites. In 2007, Jim was appointed to the board of PrivateBancorp, Inc..

Jim served as Chairman of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce from 2007-2010.