Twelve Chicago-area small businesses have advanced to the “pitch” round of 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 following twelve of Chicago’s brightest entrepreneurial small businesses, from an array of industries, will pitch their missions and businesses strategies “Shark Tank”-style at a Pitch Reception Thursday, April 12 at Mesirow’s James Tyree Auditorium:

  • Crafty: Manages workplace food, beverage and events via surveys, data analytics, and systems engineering.

  • Direct Steel: General Contractor, Construction Manager and Owner's Representative for industrial, recreational, religious and government entities.

  • Eat Purely: Produces healthy, chef-made meals, made from scratch daily, delivered on demand within 20 minutes.

  • Environmental Analysis Inc.: Specializes in Industrial Hygiene Services including Asbestos, Lead Paint and Mold Associated Consulting and Training Services.

  • GMA Construction Group: General Contracting, Construction Management and Cost Engineering.

  • Ink Factory: Visual note-taking studio whose artists can listen to almost anything—a keynote speech, an earnings call or fireside chat—and draw a visual representation of what’s heard, using media such as illustrations, animated videos, outdoor murals and large-scale LED lightpanels.

  • KOVAL Distillery: First distillery in Chicago since the mid-1800s. Now the largest organic craft distillery in the world.

  • Landmark Pest Management: Science-based, sustainable pest control featuring the most up-to-date methods, many of which were developed by the company through field trials and proprietary innovation.

  • Midway Broadcasting: Founded by two former colleagues at WVON Radio, who eventually became owners of the station and evolved its format.

  • Mightybytes: Applies sustainability principles to the process of creating digital products and services such as strategy and consulting, design, technology, and digital marketing.

  • ParqEx: Unlocks the value of privately owned parking spaces at homes, non-profits, retail, and open lots by leveraging technology.

  • Uptown Underground: “Retrotainment” and “Subculture Redefined” on-stage, featuring burlesque, cabaret, circus, comedy, drag, magic, music, special events, and variety performances.

Past Tyree Award winners have gone on to remarkable success, including expanding nationally, winning other major awards, and even landing on the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing companies.  The 2017 Tyree Award winner will be among the judges at this year’s pitch event.

More information and a video about the James Tyree Award can be viewed and downloaded here for use reporting on the pitch event. Business people in the public can register here to attend the Tyree Pitch Reception on Thursday, April 12.

In addition to his role as CEO and Chairman of Mesirow Financial, James Tyree served on the Board of Directors at PrivateBancorp, parent company of The PrivateBank (now CIBC), and as Chairman of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.



The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce represents 1,000 member organizations that employ 400,000 people and create more than $24 billion in revenue. It combines the power of its membership with a legacy of leadership and business advocacy to drive a dynamic economy. The Chicagoland Chamber focuses on delivering value for its members, making Chicagoland a world-class place to live and work.