The foundation of any awards program lies in the strength of its judging process. From the very beginning, the Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship sought to ensure the integrity of the Spirit Awards program by establishing an independent judging process - a panel of judges would select the finalists and award recipients without participation or input from the presenting sponsors of the event.
To maintain that independence, the judges are selected each year based on their integrity, professionalism, reputation as Inland Empire business leaders, and their overall support of entrepreneurship in the community. In addition, former award recipients from the Spirit Awards program are asked to join the judging panel to lend their special insight and experience.
The process includes several phases. First, all nominees are screened and evaluated by the Spirit of the Entrepreneur award staff to ensure that they meet the basic eligibility requirements.
All eligible nominees complete a comprehensive company profile that is then reviewed by the Executive Committee of the judging panel. The Executive Committee consists of three judges who review the company profiles and then select up to 40 candidates as semi-finalists from the typical field of well over 100 candidates.
Next, the entire judging panel then reviews the profiles of the semi-finalists and meets with them at a special reception, allowing the judges to learn firsthand about the nominee’s background and their business.Lastly, following the reception, the judges face the difficult task of narrowing the field down to up to 27 finalists and selecting the ultimate award recipients. The judges base their decisions not only on financial success, but give equal weight to the nominee’s accomplishments, innovative approaches, and their entrepreneurial spirit.