HOBART │ Nearly a decade ago, Norma Williams was a struggling single mother trying to feed her three children when she started a business in which she purposely hired women in similar situations despite having no experience.
On Thursday, her Hebron-based business Excellence By Design was honored at the Urban League of Northwest Indiana’s second annual Diversity and Inclusion Awards at Avalon Manor.
Excellence By Design was the recipient of the League’s Workforce Award.
“I’m shocked but mostly I’m humbled,” Williams said. “What started off needing to feed my family and going through a divorce — having to do this has turned into the biggest blessing of my life.”
Williams’ journey to help other women began eight years ago when she started to promote her paint contracting business by handing out fliers to strangers with her three children in tow.
Since then she has employed more than 20 women while the business has expanding into cabinetry, furnishing, refinishing and remodeling with clients in three states. In the last year Excellence By Design has grown more than 300 percent.
“There is nothing more powerful than a woman with hope,” Williams said.
Some of the women have transitioned from painting to pursuing their other passions or have started their own companies.
The Urban League also honored Calumet College of St. Joseph with its Leadership Award. Calumet College President Daniel Lowery said it is the only college or university in Indiana designated by the federal government as a Hispanic-serving institution. The college also hired Spanish-speaking personnel in every department to serve students and has been designated as a military-friendly institution.
“For Calumet College of St. Joseph diversity isn’t a program, it’s who we are.” Lowery said.
Horizon Bank received the Community Relations Award. The bank’s community involvements include hosting a Veterans Day breakfast and sponsoring an annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfast. The bank also has a charitable grant program, Horizon Cares, which has provided thousands of dollars to help improve local communities.
Michael Suggs, chairman of the Urban League, said it was the right time to engage people in conversation on diversity and inclusion and also identify organizations promote diversity efforts in the community, workforce and leadership.