Five Madison businesses take home Family Business Awards

Five family businesses based in Dane County, including grand award winner Wiedenbeck Inc., were honored May 4 during the 14th annual Wisconsin Family Business of the Year Award banquet.

Wiedenbeck, a Monona supplier of metals, metal fabrication, and industrial and construction supplies, received a Grand Award in the small company category (under 25 employees).

The Wisconsin Family Business of the Year Award program, held at Monona Terrace, recognizes the contributions of family businesses to their communities and to the Wisconsin economy.

Wiedenbeck Inc., originally known at Wiedenbeck, Dobelin & Co., started in 1894 as a wagon maker and supplier to blacksmiths and transitioned into a metals services center.

Fourth-generation owner Jane Wiedenbeck Young, who co-owns the company along with brother Jim Wiedenbeck, Jr., called the small company award an incredible honor. “It’s really cool because we’ve just been given an award for being a family, for doing something that we love,” she told the gathering at Monona Terrace. “It’s especially cool because it doesn’t just recognize the success we’ve been having now but also the success of the generations before us.”

Four local companies received special awards (in quotation marks), including:

Also winning Grand Awards were Crave Brothers Cheese & Farmstead Cheese of Waterloo, which won in the medium company category (25–99 employees), and Brakebush Brothers Inc. of Westfield, which won in the large company category (100-plus employees).

Another special award went to County Materials Corp. of Marathon, which won the “Bridging the Skills Gap” award.

An entertaining keynote address was delivered by Madison’s Tom Farley, who described what it was like to be involved in a family business — asphalt sales — with his younger brother Chris Farley, who would eventually make comedy the family business.

However, the person who stole the show was 10-year-old Alex Hart-Upendo, founder of Build-a-Bow LLC of Racine. Alex was named an “Outstanding Entrepreneur” for his work to raise awareness of bullying. After being identified as a gifted child, Alex was taunted and bullied, and he and his family decided to start Build-A-Bow from its parent company, a custom bow tie retailer and event service, to help raise money to address bullying.

An independent panel of judges selected the winners, including Jon Konarske, publisher of In Business magazine, which serves as the program’s media sponsor, Donna Gray of Total Awards & Promotions/, Jeff Lerdahl of Lerdahl Business Interiors, Doug Dittmann of Neckerman Insurance Services, Terry Armstrong of State Collection Service, Amy Bettis of Empire Screen Printing, Mary Lawrence of Badger Basement Systems, Bill Ryan of Architectural Design Consultants Inc., and Megan Sajdak-Holtan of Stan’s Fit for Your Feet.

Award program sponsors include Smith & Gesteland, a Madison-based CPA and business consulting firm, First Business Bank, and the law firm Husch Blackwell.