The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce’s James Tyree Emerging Business Leadership Award recognizes an inspiring small business who has excelled in business while also making a lasting impact in their community. 

This award is in memory of James Tyree, former Chairman and CEO of Mesirow Financial and Chairman of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. Jim was an exceptional business leader and dedicated to civic engagement, serving on more than 50 corporate, civic and non-profit boards of directors throughout his esteemed career.

Applications are accepted through March 31, 2019.

Questions? Contact Amelia Salter, Director of Programs, at (312) 494-6784 or asalter@chicagolandchamber.org.

Award Criteria

The winner receives $50,000 in cash courtesy of Mesirow Financial and CIBC, as well as valuable business consulting services from the Chicagoland Chamber.

Qualified applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Operate within the six-county Chicagoland metropolitan area
  • Be in business for a minimum of two years
  • Demonstrate substantial growth over the past two years
  • Generate revenues of at least $150,000 but less than $10 million
  • Have three or more employees, including business owner(s)
  • Demonstrate a commitment to social impact


Previous Winners   

2018 | Cornelius Griggs |  President, GMA Construction Group

Video featuring the top 3 finalists from 2018:

2017 | Wendy Serrino, President and CEO, North Shore Exchange

2016 | Sophie Evanoff, President and CEO, Vanille Patisserie

2015 | Neil Byers, Owner, Horse Thief Hollow

2014 | John Roa, Founder and CEO, ÄKTA – A Salesforce Company

2013 | Jim Alvarez, Founder, Gesture

2012 | Matt Matros, Founder, Protein Bar

About Jim Tyree

The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and Mesirow Financial launched the Tyree Award in 2012 in memory of Jim Tyree, who had served as Chairman and CEO of Mesirow Financial, and Chairman of the Chicagoland Chamber. CIBC, then known as The PrivateBank, became a sponsor in 2016 and made it possible to double the prize to $50,000.

During his tenure as Mesirow CEO, Jim led the firm to exceptional levels of growth in all areas of the business. The 50 acquisitions he completed included Stein & Company, a premier real estate organization; the Near North Insurance Brokerage's Chicago office, and Dann Insurance, two leading insurance agencies; and the U.S. Corporate Recovery practice, acquired from KPMG. 

Throughout his career, Jim served on more than 50 corporate, civic and not-for-profit boards of directors. He also served as chairman of Sun-Times Media Holdings, a media firm that published 58 newspapers, including The Chicago Sun-Times, and their corresponding websites. In 2007, Jim was appointed to the board of PrivateBancorp, Inc..

Jim served as Chairman of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce from 2007-2010.