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Santa Barbara event highlights the work of the 11 honorees, and gives finalists in SBCC’s New Venture Challenge a platform for pitching their business ideas

wevnoozhawk Elizabeth Wisniewski, right, receives an award in the emerging business category during the fifth annual Spirit of Entrepreneurship Awards on Friday night. Wisniewski, who is blind but started Genuine Chiropractic, stands on stage with event emcee Lynda Weinman, co-founder of

 By Gina Potthoff, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @ginapotthoff | Published on 05.08.2015 10:30 p.m.

A vibrant spirit of invention accompanied 11 of Santa Barbara County’s most accomplished businesswomen Friday night, as the notable ladies were honored at the 2015 Spirit of Entrepreneurship Awards gala.

With expertise spanning design, catering, publishing and more, the women were surrounded by hundreds of adoring fans gathered at The Fess Parker DoubleTree Resort in Santa Barbara.

For the first time in the awards event’s five-year history, student entrepreneurs were also given a stage to strut and pitch their business ideas during a Spirit of Entrepreneurship Startup Showcase.

More than a dozen student finalists fromSanta Barbara City College’s Scheinfeld Center New Venture Challenge stood behind tables before the main event as part of a new initiative by the Spirit of Entrepreneurship Foundation, the nonprofit that hosts the awards.

The event typically highlights only the winners but was opened up this year to all student finalists, said Cathy Feldman, CEO and board chair of the Spirit of Entrepreneurship Foundation.

Among the young entrepreneurs was Kadie Pulliam, a 17-year-old Lompoc High School student who earned third place in the high school competition for the Blue Puzzle Project, a business that aims to raise money and awareness for autism by selling T-shirts.

Santa Barbara High School sophomore Elizabeth Avila was one of the finalists, launching her business called Common Ground. She sells handmade jewelry to benefit a tribe in Paraguay and the local community.

“I think this is just an amazing opportunity,” Avila said of being at Friday’s event.

wevnoozhawk1Santa Barbara High School sophomore Elizabeth Avila, a finalist in the SBCC Scheinfeld Center New Venture Challenge high school competition, discusses her Common Ground business with an attendee of Friday evening’s Spirit of Entrepreneurship Awards. Avila sells handmade jewelry to benefit a tribe in Paraguay and the local community. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

Feldman said the 11 woman entrepreneurs were selected from 33 finalists and more than 90 nominees countywide, with each winner receiving an engraved award from Tiffany.

Lynda Weinman, who co-founded Carpinteria-based, an online catalog of education courses that was recently purchased by networking giant, served as MC again this year, committing to come back again for the 2016 ceremony.

Receiving top honors was Dorothy Largay, who took home the Rock Star Achievement Award for her work at the Linked Foundation and other endeavors.

Other winners included Kimberly True of True Nature Design in the agriculture/wineries category; Elizabeth Wisniewski of Genuine Chiropractic for emerging business, Marge Cafarelli, developer of the Alma Del Pueblo project, for green/social entrepreneurship; Sandra Hirsch of Isolite Systems in the health category; Lynette La Mere of Pure Joy Catering for hospitality/tourism; and Kim Wiseley of Flutter Magazine for media/communications.

Rounding out the list of winners was Marsha Bailey of Women’s Economic Venturesfor the nonprofit award; Lisa Grossmann of Nannies2Go received the professional services award; Ann Pazier of Santa Barbara Gift Baskets got the retail award; Anupama Vaid of ParentSquare won the science/technology award; and Kristin Fraser of The Grapeseed Company was awarded in the wholesale/manufacturing/global trade category.

— Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at[email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk,@NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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