What to do When You Win Company of the Year … in the World.

Entrepreneurship, Leadership

Um, you high five and drink champagne.

Ok, let’s take a step back for a moment and allow me to provide a little context on how we got here.

This summer, we submitted ourselves for four award categories for The Stevie Awards. The Stevie Awards are an international award series and this one was specifically for women in business. A fellow kick-ass woman entrepreneur that I follow, Jessica Zweig from SimplyBe out of Chicago won Entrepreneur of the Year last year and that’s when the Stevie Awards first popped on my radar.

So this summer, we reviewed the 90 available awards to submit nominations to and selected the following four awards to see how we’d stack up against global entries. The first three were for a company with 10 or less employees.

  • Women-Led/Women-Owned Company of the Year
  • Entrepreneur of the Year
  • Best Business Services Company of the Year
  • Achievement in Work/Life Balance

I had no idea what to expect, but I also operate under the mentality that you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take and I wasn’t going to upset Alexander Hamilton - I wasn’t throwing away my shot.

We submitted nominations for these four awards in July of this year. And then we went about our lives kicking ass, taking names, and eating snacks. In October, I received an email informing us that we were finalists! But a finalist in not one, not two, not three, but all four categories.

What the what!?

I was floored. When you become a Stevies Finalist, you are taking home a bronze, silver, or gold award. So we swept the nomination process and became a four-time finalist.

That was nuts.

Now who knows how often this type of thing is going to happen, so I seized the moment, found cheap flights and booked a 24-hour stay in New York City for the awards ceremony with Bonnie, our COO.

Because YOLO.

We showed up on Friday, November 15th in Times Square ready to embrace the night. We went for a lovely stroll in Central Park, grabbed a bite to eat, took a nap (as true champs do), and got ready for the event.

The ballroom at the Marriott Marquis was huge. There were almost 600 people in that room and as we were searching for our table, we were a little taken back to find we were seated right in front of the podium. Minor freak out. All gold Stevie Award winners were called to the stage to make a 30-second acceptance speech, which I did not prepare because I didn’t think it would be necessary.

But why were we seated so close to the stage if we weren’t going to be on it at some point!?

As the awards ceremony began, we were awarded silver for Achievement in Work/Life Balance. Which was incredibly flattering, as that’s something we work really hard to promote. We were also awarded silver for Woman-Led/Woman-Owned Workplace and bronze for Entrepreneur of the Year.

Then when Company of the Year for our category came up, Brainchild Studios was announced as the winner of the category.

And I think I blacked out a little.

I brought my COO on stage with me and have no recollection of what I said, so hopefully, the live video coverage isn’t too embarrassing. We did get a series of pretty sweet pics though.

To be honest, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind and while it’s two weeks later, I still don’t know if this has really set in yet. Over 1500 nominations from 25 nations were received for 90 awards. About 80 companies went home with gold Stevies, and we were one of them. 5% of companies that submitted nominations took home a gold trophy that looks like an Oscar and we were awarded ours for being Company of the Year out of 25 nations.

So while we nominated ourselves, 150 strangers from all over the world judged us and somehow decided that we were worthy of such an honor. And that’s exactly what it is, a true honor. This award and recognition is so humbling that it has rattled my brain and confused all my feels because I still don’t know how to digest it.

Any time your hard work and dedication is acknowledged, it’s so appreciated. That’s why even a thank you or a “you’re doing a good job” just feels good to know you’re not royally screwing things up. Last year, when we received the Rising Star Award for a Woman-Owned Business for the state of Wisconsin, I was floored. But to receive international recognition for this virtual business I lead out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Well, schucks. That’s pretty swell.

So since I was ill-prepared for my acceptance speech in real-time, if I had been prepared, my speech would have gone something like this:

Thank you to the Stevies, for this incredible humbling recognition. Thank you to our team, for without you this company wouldn’t exist. Thank you to our friends, family, supporters, clients for believing in us, for without you this company also wouldn’t exist. Thank you to our challengers, for without you we wouldn’t be as strong and resilient as we are. We do this work because we believe women deserve equal opportunities and we believe the 9-5 workplace needs to change. This company is run by smart, kind, innovative, supportive, collaborative, funny women for whom we’re dedicated to creating opportunities for them to have fulfilling careers, strong family lives, and pursue personal growth. Because we believe women can have their cake and eat it too.

Then I would have hoisted that beautiful trophy into the air, dropped the mic (but it was attached to the podium - so just figuratively), and walked off hand in hand with Bonnie.

Because that’s how I really feel. Thank you all so much for your support.

And remember to shoot your shot. You never know what might happen.

ICYMI: actual acceptance speech:

Kiley Owner & CEO, Brainchild Studios

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