The impact that Mississippi’s younger generation of business professionals is having on companies from Ocean Springs to Olive Branch was the focus of Thursday afternoon’s annual “Top 40 Under 40” awards luncheon.
A crowd of more than 800 gathered at the Mississippi Trademart in Jackson to honor their colleagues.
Comcast Business Class, the Mississippi Development Authority, TekLinks and the Mississippi Business Journal were sponsors for the event.
Top 40 was designed 15 years ago to identify the state’s up-and-coming business leaders while also inspiring them to pursue excellence throughout their careers.
Opening remarks and introductions came from MBJ editor and publisher Ed Darling, Comcast director Rhonda Thompson and Cellular South public relations manager Dave Miller.
EXPO 2009’s celebrity master of ceremonies Howard Ballou also welcomed the guests and was followed by entertainment from the Swing de Paris jazz group and vocalist Allison Jenkins.
Author and motivational speaker Dr. Bob Litro challenged the companies to be their best cheerleader rather than their worst critic.
“Our biggest competitors are often ourselves,” Litro said, “The race continues and you’ve got to use your potential to be all that you can be. There is risk involved but also fulfillment.”
A special video presentation of this year’s Top 40 followed, narrated by Howard Ballou.
“It’s a tremendous honor for me to be here,” said winner Ravi Raju of SmartSynch Inc., a leading technology company with corporate offices in Jackson. Raju said his is the fifth award that SmartSynch has received from the tradeshow.
The product management and marketing vice president admitted that he was grateful for the support of his team and that his parents and wife were his chief source of inspiration.
“Sometimes you get carried away with everything that’s going on, so for me finding the time to balance my career with my family is important,” Raju said.
Another awards recipient, Karen Stanley of the Eat With Us Group, says it was her devotion to community involvement that helped her find the tools for success that she uses today.
“Learning to give back really helps you learn more about yourself,” Stanley said.
Stanley says the Columbus restaurant management agency has been a very special family. She is currently marketing director for five different restaurants.
Dr. James Smith was also recognized for his work as an international wellness expert.
Smith is assistant director of emergency medicine at Riley Memorial Hospital in Meridian and the founder and president of Buji Spa Resort and Boutique.
“I’m passionate about health,” Smith said, “Wellness is a new concept in the health industry, so we’re working hard to bring quality service to Mississippi,”
Smith added that his main professional goal for 2009 is to continue his success by remaining positive.
“You have to always look for the beauty in the moment,” he said.
Contact MBJ staff writer/researcher Stephen McDill at stephen.mcdill@ msbusiness.com .