The Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship (IECE) at Cal State San Bernardino has announced the finalists for the 2017 Spirit of the Entrepreneur Awards program. Award winners will be announced on Nov. 14 at the black-tie gala at the Riverside Convention Center.

Now in its 15th year, the Spirit of the Entrepreneur Awards event has honored the top business leaders of the Inland region since its inception in 2003.  

“The best entrepreneurs and innovators of the Inland Empire are the centerpiece of our 15th anniversary celebration,” said Mike Stull, founder of the event and director of IECE. “The finalists are an indication of how incredible the entrepreneurial spirit is in our region.”

The program will feature awards given out in eight categories, and also a presentation of the 2017 “Best of the Best” award to one of the eight award recipients who best exemplifies what it means to be an entrepreneur in terms of taking risks and building a successful enterprise that creates jobs and value where none existed before.

Entrepreneurial finalists for 2017 include:

Eco Entrepreneur

  • Taylor Hale, Crown Paper Converting, Inc. - Ontario
  • Joe Castro, Greenpath Recovery - Colton
  • Roy Dann, Ruuhwa Dann & Associates, Inc. dba Cal Micro Recycling - Ontario          

Family Business Entrepreneur

  • Manal Iskander, Green Shack Market/ PCTronics/Musicology/Veggiecrumbs - San Bernardino
  • Janet Steiner, Thoro Packaging - Corona
  • Steve Kienle, Walter's Automotive Group, Inc. - Riverside

General Entrepreneur

  • Craig Danley, Delta Pipeline Inc. - La Verne
  • Michael Fox, Fox Transportation, Inc. - Rancho Cucamonga
  • Alan Yu, Lollicup USA, Inc. - Chino
  • C.C. Vest, Midpoint Bearing - Ontario

Healthcare Entrepreneur

  • Dr. Rahmi Mowjood and Dr. Kyle Smart, Cucamonga Valley Medical Group - Fontana
  • Jeffrey Bekendam, TEAM Physical Therapy - Rancho Cucamonga
  • Michael Rappaport, Total Wellness, Inc. dba Marketplace Physical Therapy and Wellness Center - Riverside

Manufacturing Entrepreneur

  • Mike Konrad, Aqueous Technologies - Corona
  • Cheryl Young and Jennifer Hall, Ejay Filtration, Inc. - Riverside
  • Loren Hanson and Dave Haffter, Fusion Sign and Design - Riverside
  • Kathy Bodor, Plastics Plus Technology - Redlands

Service-Based Entrepreneur

  • Christina Loza, Loza & Loza LLP - Upland
  • Leo Castaneda, Protech Staffing Services, Inc. - Riverside
  • Chet Hitt, Sunset Hills Family of Mortuaries - Apple Valley

Small/Emerging Enterprise

  • Joshua Kreitzer, Absurd Media Group, dba Channel Bakers - Corona
  • Minerva Baral, Oke Poke, Inc. - Chino Hills
  • Brad Trevithick, The Goat & Vine, Inc. - Temecula

Social Entrepreneur

  • Cesar Navarrete, C.A.S.A. of San Bernardino County - Colton
  • Lowell King, Goodwill Southern California - San Bernardino
  • Frederick B. Axelrod, MD, MBA, LifeStream Blood Bank - San Bernardino
  • Clemente Mojica, Neighborhood Partnership Housing Services, Inc. - Rancho Cucamonga

The finalists and award recipients are selected by an independent panel of judges consisting of past Spirit Award recipients. The 27 finalists represent the culmination of a nomination and evaluation process that included 194 nominees.

Individual tickets for the Nov. 14 event range from $135-175 per person and tables of 10 can be purchased. Special Premier VIP experience ticket packages are also available. For more information or to make reservations, call (909) 537-3708 or visit

Commencing at 5 p.m., the gala includes a cocktail reception, dinner, special entertainment guests and the awards presentation. A portion of the proceeds benefit the Spirit of the Entrepreneur Scholarship at Cal State San Bernardino.

About the Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship

Located on the campus of Cal State San Bernardino, the Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship (IECE) was recently recognized as a Top 35 Global Business School for Fostering Entrepreneurship by AACSB International. IECE offers a wide range of programs and services including academic programs that lead to business degrees in entrepreneurship for undergraduate and graduate students as well as delivering experiential learning and student support programs such as the Fast Pitch Competition. In the local community, IECE offers existing and aspiring entrepreneurs a wide array of business advisory and mentoring services, student internship and consulting resources and entrepreneurial training programs that help them achieve greater levels of success in their business ventures. For more information about IECE, visit