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Aebersold awarded 2018 Distinguished Entrepreneur of the Year

‘Tis the season for our neighborhoods to light up with the warm glow of Christmas decorations and our homes to be filled with loved ones celebrating the many traditions of the season. Well maybe not quite yet, but the Tennessee Wesleyan University campus was filled with the spirit of Christmas as we welcomed Ms. Carol Aebersold and family back for an annual honor.

Ms. Aebersold, co-author of The Elf on the Shelf®: A Christmas Tradition, is the 2018 recipient of the Goodfriend School of Business Distinguished Entrepreneur of the Year Award. The fifth annual Distinguished Entrepreneur luncheon was held on Thursday, October 25 when Aebersold was presented her award and spoke to a packed room of students, faculty, staff and community members.

The accidental entrepreneur

Ms. Aebersold began her address commenting how she never considered herself as an entrepreneur, and in fact had to look it up to make sure she was one. As the crowd chuckled, the author described an entrepreneur as someone that starts a business and takes on greater financial risks than normal. After reading the definition, she agreed that she was but wanted to share the story of raising two entrepreneurs – her twin daughters – rather than tell her story.

The overwhelming theme of her message was to remember whose we are, an idea that she reminded her girls every morning as they left for school. “What I wanted my children to do and to know is that they were to do justice, to love kindness, to walk humbly with their God, to exhibit the fruit of the spirit as outlined in Galatians and to trust in the Lord with all of their heart,” explained Ms. Aebersold. She went on to describe a very dark time in her life when she was praying and crying out for God’s guidance, and that came during a conversation with one of her daughters who encouraged her to write a book about their family elf tradition. As she was rolling her eyes and about to say no, a voice stopped her in her tracks and told her to say yes.

The journey of an elf named Fisbee

Fortunately for all of us, she did say yes, and the journey of The Elf on the Shelf® began. “Have you ever wondered how Santa could know if you’re naughty or nice each year as you grow?” – the first line of the book came to her quickly, but the publishing and promoting process took more time and included multiple rejections. Those rejections didn’t stop the family from sharing their tradition with the world. With the encouragement from one literary agent, they self-published the book. To do so, Carol and daughters had to learn everything about publishing a book and creating their own publishing company, Creatively Classic Activities and Books. Now their family elf can be seen each Thanksgiving morning flying high above the streets of New York City during Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Pulling from scripture, Ms. Aebersold shared, “God will prosper whatever you put your hand to, but you have to put your hand to something. We put our hand to hard work. Now I see my girls working more than 90 hours a week, working so hard as entrepreneurs.”

Her call to action for us all

Ms. Aebersold closed with four reminders of how we can remember whose we are:
– Be persistent;
– Have an insatiable curiosity and continue to learn;
– Don’t look at failure as a defeat of your ultimate goal; and
– Give back.
Her final words to the group include one last reminder “I hope as a mother and your friend, that you will remember whose you are, and I thank you very much for this honor.”

Other distinguished awards

  • U.S. Small Business Administration’s 2010 Georgia Small Business Persons of the Year
  • University of Tennessee, Knoxville 2019 Accomplished Alumna
  • Marietta Daily Journal’s 2014 Cobb Citizens of the Year
  • See a complete list of awards and recognitions.

The Distinguished Entrepreneur Award

This is the fifth entrepreneur award presented by the Goodfriend School of Business. Previous award recipient and part of the namesake for the business school, Dr. Robert Goodfriend was in attendance and shared how honored he was to be a part of what TWU is doing. Working with kids and helping them succeed is important to the entire Goodfriend family and one of the reasons Dr. Goodfriend is proud to be a part of this organization.

Annually, Tennessee Wesleyan hosts two events connected to the Goodfriend School of Business including The Goodfriend Lecture Series held during the spring semester. Each event provides current students the opportunity to meet and learn from business leaders with diverse backgrounds and experiences. Complete information about these events and the academic programs within the business administration can be found on the school’s website.

Tennessee Wesleyan University, founded in Athens, Tennessee in 1857, is a comprehensive liberal arts institution affiliated with the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church. The University offers more than 30 academic programs at the undergraduate and graduate level and is dedicated to supporting and mentoring students as they explore and discover their purpose. For additional information about Tennessee Wesleyan University, visit