Four Detroit entrepreneurs to be honored at TechTown's annual fundraising event

Four Detroit entrepreneurs will be honored at this year's Salute Awards, a part of TechTown's annual fundraising event Toast of the Town.

The 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year is Nailah Ellis-Brown, founder of Ellis Island Tea. The maker of Jamaican hibiscus bottled tea, Ellis-Brown has grown her brand from its 2008 roots to now being sold in more than 1,500 stores nationwide. Ellis-Brown recently signed a distribution deal with Sam's Club in May 2018.

Among the numerous distinctions to her credit, Ellis-Brown is the only black female beverage maker in the country with her own manufacturing plant.

Additional awardees include Monica Wheat, founder and partner of Venture Catalysts, receiving the Small Business Champion award. Both Joe Gleason, CEO of Genus, and Ali Beydoun, owner of Sicily's Pizzeria, will receive TechTown on Tap awards.

Kristin Palm, communications director for TechTown, says the award ceremony moves her each year, listening to each winner talk about how much support they received from the community.

"It really does take a village," Palm says. "Opening a business is one of the most difficult things a person can do."

The Toast of the Town event serves as TechTown's annual fundraiser. In addition to the award ceremony, tickets include a strolling dinner, signature cocktails, musical entertainment, an entrepreneur Marketplace, Silent Auction, and more.

It also serves as a major networking opportunity, with approximately 500 people in Detroit's entrepreneur ecosystem expected to attend.

The event is open to the public. Tickets cost $100 with young professionals and retired professionals receiving a 50 percent discount.

Toast of the Town takes place on Thursday, Oct. 18 from 6 to 9 p.m. at TechTown, located at 440 Burroughs St. in Detroit. The award ceremony begins at 6:30 p.m. across the street at the Wayne State Industry Innovation Center.

Tickets and more information are available online.

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MJ Galbraith is Model D's development news editor. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.