“Pioneer Starts Here” Movement Continues to Grow

2024 Pioneer Event

The second annual Pioneer Event was another successful evening celebrating our region and recognizing a few great individuals who made a name for themselves here in Northeast Indiana.

It was also another milestone in the growth of the “Pioneer Starts Here” Movement. This year’s event was even bigger in a few ways. Compared to the inaugural event in 2023, this year’s Pioneer Event was significantly larger and more engaging.

We received more nominations for the Pioneer of the Year award, expanded our award categories to honor more pioneers, and attracted a larger audience, resulting in an increase in live votes for our 2024 Pioneer of the Year, James Khan. Thanks to all our partners who helped us organize the event, it looked bigger, sounded bigger and felt bigger. That’s what we plan on doing moving forward.

This year’s awards featured three distinct categories: Brand Champion, Social Impact and Entrepreneur. Notably, there was a tie in the Brand Champion category. The award winners for Brand Champion were Cathy Brand-Beere, Founder and President of DeBrand Fine Chocolates, and Tod Minnich, President and CEO of Honeywell Arts & Entertainment. Our winner for Social Impact was Cote Godoy, Director of Musical Conexion. Our winner for Entrepreneur was James Khan, President and Owner of ObiCai Restaurant Group.

The Pioneer Event is more than a celebration; it’s a significant boost for the community. It highlights the best of Northeast Indiana and brings people together. Additionally, it shows that there are many ways to pioneer our region.

The impact of our awards extends beyond mere recognition. Ariana McGee, CEO and Founder of Navigate Maternity and the 2023 Pioneer of the Year, said before presenting this year’s award that winning last year’s award was the “spark” for her and her company.

After winning the award in 2023, she gained quite a bit of press and has partnered with two hospitals in the Midwest, including one in Fort Wayne. Additionally, it allowed her to get the stamp of approval from other business leaders and get her foot in the door with key decision makers here in our region.

The Pioneer Event continues to grow in prominence, gaining recognition within the region, across the state and beyond. We look forward to celebrating and promoting the pioneering spirit that drives Northeast Indiana.


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