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Entrepreneurs are innovators, creative thinkers, and risk takers often defying the odds to turn their dreams into reality. Small business owners and entrepreneurs working to grow the region’s economy were recognized at the 2014 Excellence in Entrepreneurship Awards (EIEA) luncheon.

This year’s EIEA award winners and top 12 finalists in their respective business categories are:

2014 EIEA recipient Shane HamiltonYoung Entrepreneur: Shane Hamilton, owner, Service Maids Inc., a professional residential cleaning service, Garrett, Ky. At 19, Shane started the business from money he saved from selling items at flea markets and festivals and rebuilding dirt bikes.

Finalists: Robert Hicks, managing director, Indiview Media, LLC, Somerset, Ky., and Jordan Meece, owner, Aqua 41, Liberty, Ky.

2014 EIEA recipient Greg Drury Harlan's Coal Fired PizzaStart-Up Business: Greg Drury, owner, Harlan’s Coal Fired Pizza (dba The Portal), a nostalgic, vintage-themed restaurant, Harlan, Ky.  The first-time restaurant owner was looking for a new business venture in 2012 when he decided to open The Portal in downtown Harlan.

Finalists: Ronald and Caira Aldridge, owners, In-Range Archery, Richmond, Ky., and Brian McElroy, owner, Russell County Farm Store, LLC, Russell Springs, Ky.

2014 EIEA recipient Mark Gumbert Copperhead Environmental Consulting IncFor Profit Small Business: Mark Gumbert, CEO/Principal Biologist, Copperhead Environmental Consulting, Inc., an environmental consulting firm specializing in environmental regulatory compliance and ecological inventories, Paint Lick, Ky.

Finalists: Brook Ping, real estate developer, Stonebrook Development, Somerset, Ky., and Kelly Upchurch, president and CEO, American Health Management, Inc., Richmond, Ky.

Revised 2014 EIEA recipient Cassie Hudson Partnership HousingNot-For-Profit Entity: Cassie Hudson, executive director, Partnership Housing, Inc., Booneville, Ky.  The Owsley County nonprofit corporation assists low-income families and individuals to purchase, build, or repair homes utilizing funds from various financial institutions and lending agencies.

Finalists: Adrienne Bush, executive director, Hazard-Perry County Community Ministries, Hazard, Ky., and Thomas Manning-Beavin, president, Southern Tier Housing Cooperation, London, Ky.

The program is sponsored by Eastern Kentucky University College of Business and Technology, Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation, Southeast Kentucky Economic Development (SKED), and The Center for Rural Development.

Click here to view photos of all of the 2014 EIEA finalists and the luncheon program.