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INITIATIVES >> Trailblazer Awards

Frequently Asked Questions

Eligibility Criteria and Award Categories

Q:  What are the requirements for a Trailblazer Award?

Trailblazer Awards are open to:

·       Women business owners with a majority woman-owned (51% or more) for-profit business.

·       The business is registered and headquartered in the State of Wisconsin.

·       The business/owner are in compliance and good-standing with all applicable legal, regulatory, and program requirements of government authorities. 

·       Plus, meet additional category-specific eligibility for one of the Trailblazer Award Categories.

Currently, business owners may be nominated for one of three award categories:

Business that has been continuously majority woman-owned for 25 or more years (1993 or before). May be one owner, more than one owner, or a series of women owners, over the time period.

Business that has been continuously majority woman-owned for 50 or more years (1968 or before). May be one owner, more than one owner, or a series of women owners, over the time period.

Family-owned business, run in continuous operation by three or more generations, currently run by a female relative of the founder.

A complete list of eligibility criteria is available on the Trailblazer website at

Q:  How many Awards are given out? 

Multiple Awards are given out in each award category, based on the number of eligible submissions.  No guarantee is made to the number of types of awards given.  In past award years, there have been between 12 and 18 award recipients.  In 2016, for example, there were 5 Pioneer Awards, 1 Thrive Award and 6 Torchbearer Awards made, each to a different business owner. 

Q:  What if a woman business owner has 50% ownership in the company?

50% ownership does not meet the eligibility requirement.  The business must be majority woman-owned, defined for this purpose as 51% or more.  An exception would be if two or more female owners of the same business have a combined share of 51% or more ownership, they would meet the majority woman-owned business requirement. 

Example 1:  A company owned by two women and one man, where Woman 1 owns 30%, Woman 2 owns 21% and the Man owns 49%, would meet the majority woman-owned requirement because the women owners jointly hold a majority share. Example 2:  A business owned by a man and woman (such as a married couple business), where the woman owns 50% and the man owns 50%, would not meet the requirement.          

Q:  What if the business was started by a woman, but is now majority male-owned? 

This would not meet the requirement because award eligibility is based on majority female ownership by the current owner or owners. For example, a family-owned business started by a woman and now majority owned by a man or male heirs would not be eligible because it is not currently a woman-owned business. 

Q: Does the business have to be officially certified as a woman-owned business to be eligible for a Trailblazer Award?

No. Business owners are asked to self-certify that they meet all the eligibility criteria, including that the business is majority woman-owned.  Certification, such as Women-Owned Business or Women-Business Enterprise (WBE) certification, is not required.

If you are nominating someone else (such as a colleague or another business owner), we ask only that the person you nominate meet the award criteria to the best of your knowledge. Award program staff will follow-up directly with the nominated business owner to verify eligibility.


Q:  How can I submit a nomination?

Nominations are submitted online via a link on the Trailblazer Awards website:

Q:  Can I get a paper nomination form that I can print out and mail in? 

No. Nominations must be submitted online.  If there is an accessibility issue in using the online form, please contact the Wisconsin Women’s Council at 608-266-2219 or by email at, and staff will work with you to submit your nomination.

Q:  Is there are fee for making a nomination or accepting an Award?

NO. There are no fees or other financial costs for making a nomination or accepting a Governor's Trailblazer Award for Women in Business.  The Trailblazer Awards are offered through the Wisconsin Women's Council, a state government agency.  Costs associated with the Award Program are underwritten by the Women's Council and other Trailblazer Award sponsors.

Q:  Who can make a nomination?

Individuals and organizations, including business and professional associations, chambers of commerce, elected officials, employees and other friends or colleagues are all invited to nominate women-owned businesses for Wisconsin's Governor’s Trailblazer Awards for Women in Business.  Business owners are also invited to self-nominate.

Q:  What information do I need to make a nomination?

1. If you are NOMINATING SOMEONE ELSE for an Award you will need:

·       Decide which Trailblazer Award category applies

·       Name of Nominee

·       Nominee’s Company Name

·       Nominee’s Contact information, such as email, mailing and website addresses and phone number

·       Your name and contact information

The Trailblazer Program will then notify the business owner of your nomination, tell them you nominated them, and collect the additional information needed to verify award eligibility.

2. If you are NOMINATING YOURSELF for an Award, you also will be asked for information about your business and award eligibility, including:

·       Year business was established

·       Women-owned business history

·       Generational history (Torchbearer awards only)

·       County where business is located

·       Type of business / industry

·       Tax identification (FEIN) number

·       Certify that you meet specific eligibility criteria

Q:  Can someone be nominated more than once?

YES.  An individual can be nominated by more than one person, including self-nomination.  Two or more individuals also may make a joint nomination. 

However, the number of nominations or nominators is not a factor in award consideration, which is based on specific eligibility criteria primarily related to business ownership and ownership history.

Q:  Can someone be nominated in more than one award or award category?

In general, NO.  Nominators are asked to select one award category for their nomination.  If a business owner is nominated in different categories, the Trailblazer Award Committee will decide about which award, if any, best fits that nominee’s situation.

The exception is for a business owner who receives a Trailblazer Award and in the future becomes eligible for a different category of award.  For example, if the owner of business with 40 years of continuous majority women's ownership received a Pioneer Award, and later reaches the 50-year milestone, she would become eligible for nomination for a Trailblazer Thrive Award.


Q:  What happens after I submit a nomination?

Once you have submitted your nomination, you will only be contacted if the nomination is determined to meet the eligibility requirements and moves forward, or if there are questions about the information provided.

If you NOMINATED SOMEONE ELSE for an award, the Women's Council will notify the individual(s) of their nomination and recognize you as the Nominator.  We then request additional information about their business and history of business ownership to verify eligibility and confirm they wish to be considered for an award.

If you SELF-NOMINATED, you will have provided this information as part of the nomination form.

Once all the information on the nominee has been collected, the nomination will move on for formal review.

Q:  Who decides which nominations get awards?

Nomination are reviewed by Trailblazer Awards Program staff to confirm they meet the eligibility and award criteria, including addressing any questions or concerns.  A list of recommended awardees, denials and any questions is submitted to the Trailblazer Awards Committee for review and discussion.  Sometimes during this period, additional information is collected from nominees.  Once a recommended list of Trailblazer Awardees is completed by the Award Committee, it is submitted to the Wisconsin Women’s Council Board for review and a vote finalizing the list of Award recipients.


Q:  When can Nominations to be submitted?

The deadline for 2018 Trailblazer Award nominations is December 31, 2017.  Award nominations are accepted on a rolling basis through December 31, 2017. 

Submitting a nomination early or late process is not a factor in award consideration, which is based on specific eligibility criteria primarily related to business ownership and ownership history.

Q:  When will I find out if I or my nominee is selected for an Award?

Awards are announced in March 2018.  Staff will work directly with nominees during the review process and keep successful nominees and their nominators informed about key dates and timelines.  An Award Ceremony typically follows in Spring or early Summer.


Q:  When and where is the Award Ceremony held?

In the past, the Award Ceremony has been a public event held in the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin.  The location is subject to change based on timing and availability.  

The event has been held, variously, between April and June, on a weekday morning.  Specific information about the 2018 Trailblazer Awards Ceremony is not yet available. Typically, a reception for Award recipients and their guests has followed the ceremony.

Q:  Who can attend the Award Ceremony?

Award recipients are invited to bring their nominator(s) as well as a limited number of friends and family.  Ceremonial rooms in the Capitol may have limited capacity depending upon the number of awards being presented. 

Q:  Is the Nominee or Nominator required to attend the Award Ceremony?

No.  Attendance at the Award Ceremony by either the award recipient or nominator is encouraged but not required.  It should be noted that by agreeing to participate in the Trailblazer Awards program, information including the business owner’s name, business history, business name and nominator’s name still will be included in releases and promotional materials for the Trailblazer Awards program, and maintained on the Trailblazer Awards program web page.

Q:  What if we are not from the area?  Does the Award Program provide hotel or travel assistance for out-of-town award winners?

No.  Award winners and nominators are responsible for their own travel arrangement and accommodations, if needed.


Q:  What is the Award?  Is there a prize?

The award prize is solely recognition, but may also include plaques, certificates and/or other mementos of no or limited cash value, and/or invitations to award programs and events. 

Q:  How are award winners recognized?

1. Award recipients are publicized via official press releases distributed statewide and on the Wisconsin Women's Council website at  

In addition, individual and group press releases are typically created for businesses in different parts of the state to be sent to local media to generate local coverage.  This may include, for example, a photo of a recipient receiving their award at the Capitol.  Award program staff work with recipients on distributing press releases locally and to other organizations such as professional associations, colleges/universities, etc.

2. A single Award Ceremony is held for all award recipients.  Typically, awards are presented in a public ceremony at the Wisconsin State Capitol.  See Terms and Conditions in the Nomination Form for additional information. 

Q. Can there be additional recognition in the community in which I live?

Yes. The Trailblazer Committee would be pleased to provide materials to your Chamber of Commerce, civic organizations, professional associations, etc. for their use in honoring you.  Depending on your location and event timing we may be able to send a representative of our committee to make remarks at your event.


Additional Questions not answered here?  
Email your question(s) to the Wisconsin Women’s Council at


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