What if there were a place where small, locally owned businesses devoted themselves to helping the less fortunate? And treating their employees fairly? And cooperating with one another?
To judge from Monday night's Isthmus Independent Business Awards ceremony, Dane County is such a place. The event at the Madison Concourse Hotel -- sponsored by Monona State Bank and presented by Isthmus in cooperation with Dane Buy Local -- might have been the most idealistic gathering of business people in capitalist history.
You didn't hear a peep about short-term profits from this bunch. Instead, you heard about tying financial success to the long-term interests of Dane County.
Adrian Reif and Matt D'Amour, winners of the "Fresh Food Friend" award, set out to be a force for good with their Yumbutter products. Along with making luscious peanut butter, Reif and D'Amour help malnourished children in developing countries and provide jobs for Wisconsin folks with disabilities.
"We wake up every day working to create the kind of world we want to live in," said Reif, accepting his award from Isthmus' associate publisher, Linda Baldwin.
"Hometown Artist" Meghan Blake-Horst emphasizes community-oriented projects in her gallery Absolutely Art. "Green Angel" Ann Sensenbrenner founded Farm to Vase to counter factory-flower operations with a locally sourced version. Sensenbrenner struck a common theme when she mentioned the "outpouring of support" she's received from other local businesses.
Ian Gurfield of Ian's Pizza won the "Neighborhood Notable" award for his dedication to creating a good working environment for his employees. Ellen Barnard won "Dynamic Developer" for spearheading the new kitchen incubator called FEED Kitchens.
"Market Spark" winner Angela Kowieski, owner of Divine Body & Styles Organic Salon & Spa, converted to eco-friendly beauty products for the sake of customers' health. "Bridge Builder" Howard Mandeville, head of Movin' Out, helps people with disabilities find housing that's integrated into the community.
Michael Fenchel of startup booster 100State won the "Dane and Beyond" award by encouraging innovation and problem-solving. He thanked his mother for raising him in an extraordinary place like Madison.
As a local citizen who will benefit from Fenchel's efforts, I feel like thanking his mother, too.