Milwaukee native Dr. Valerie Daniels-Carter, president and chief executive officer of V&J Holding Co., the largest female-owned franchise organization in the United States, will receive the Ken Hendricks Memorial “Seize the Day” award June 6 at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference.

The conference at the Italian Community Center returns to the Cream City to celebrate the region’s rise as a startup and scale-up hub within the Midwest.

Registration is open at or linked here.

V&J Foods Inc. was founded in 1982 by Valerie Daniels-Carter and John Daniels Jr., launching operations in 1984 with a single Burger King restaurant and growing into 38 stores – 12 of which are in greater Milwaukee 26 in metropolitan Detroit, Mich. V&J National Enterprises LLC and V&J United Enterprises LLC are Pizza Hut franchisees, founded in 1997 and 1999, respectively. They operate in Syracuse, Rochester and Albany, N.Y., and western Massachusetts, where they collectively operate 64 restaurants and four non-traditional sites.

With all restaurants combined, V&J is one of the largest restaurant franchisers in the country.

The award, which celebrates entrepreneurial leaders who have been crucial to Wisconsin’s economic growth, is named in honor of the late Ken Hendricks, a Beloit businessman and 2006 “Seize the Day” award winner who died in an accident in late 2007. The Tech Council produces the June 5-6 Entrepreneurs’ Conference and administers the award, which has gone to entrepreneurs who have shown persistence in building their companies.

“With her work through the V&J family of companies, Dr. Daniels-Carter has repeatedly demonstrated the ability to grow her businesses, to adapt to change and to persevere in all kinds of economic conditions,” said Tom Still, president of the Tech Council. “The V&J franchising model offers lessons for entrepreneurs are all types.”

Daniels-Carter was recognized in 2024 by National Action Network as an innovator and trailblazer. She has been honored by Essence Magazine as one of nation’s “The 50 Most Inspiring” African-American leaders. Other recognition has included a 40th anniversary Wisconsin Distinguished Business Leader Award and separate awards from Black Enterprise Magazine. She has also been featured in Milwaukee Magazine in honor of Women’s Month and Biz Times Media granted her the “Bravo Entrepreneur Award of Lifetime Achievement.”

Because she is known for her business acumen across industry lines, Daniels-Carter is a member of multiple civic, corporate and non-profit boards, as well as being a board member of the Green Bay Packers and a minority owner of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Recent winners have been Kevin Conroy of Exact Sciences (2020); Don Zietlow of Kwik Trip (2021); Cory Nettles of Generation Growth Capital (2022) and Deb Carey of New Glarus Brewing Co. (2023). The first winner was Don Weber of Logistics Health Inc. in 2004. Here is a complete list of past winners and criteria as reviewed by our steering committee.

Mapping the entrepreneurial mind is the theme of the conference, where entrepreneurs from around the state will showcase their ideas, services and technologies. Six panel tracks formed under three unique stages of “launch,” “grow” and “succeed” will appeal to entrepreneurs in all stages. Detailed panel information will be posted soon at

Produced by the Tech Council, the Entrepreneurs’ Conference is among the region’s largest and affordable events for entrepreneurs and early stage investors. Other highlights:

  • Diligent (Baker’s) Dozen: Top 13 finalists from the Governor’s Business Plan Contest square off for judging the afternoon of June 5 with award announcements June 6
  • Maneesh Arora, Elephas keynote speech the morning of June 6
  • Innovation Showcase featuring exhibits from Wisconsin companies
  • Six Launch, Grow and Succeed panels throughout June 6
  • Plenty of chances to network with seasoned entrepreneurs and investors over food and refreshments, including a June 5 reception at the Italian Community Center

Sponsors thus far are: Affiliated Engineers, Apple, Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals, AT&T, Baird Capital, Baker Tilly, BDO, Business Fitness, Center for Technology Commercialization, City of Fitchburg, City of Milwaukee Office of Equity & Inclusion, CLA (CliftonLarsonAllen), DeWitt, Findorff, First Business Bank, Foley & Lardner, Godfrey & Kahn, Husch Blackwell, J.P. Morgan, Lost Boys Interactive, Madison Development Corp., Madison Gas & Electric, Makin’ HEY! Communications, Marquette University, N29 Capital Partners, Neider & Boucher, NuvaBox, Perkins Coie, Quarles & Brady, Raven Software, Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren, Ruder Ware, Sadoff E-Recycling & Data Destruction, SustainableHR PEO, Technology Innovation Center – Milwaukee, University Research Park, UW-Madison Center for Dairy Research, UW-Madison College of Engineering, UW-Madison Innovate Network, UW-Madison Office of Business Engagement, UW-Madison Office of University Relations, VC3, Venture Investors, Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, WE Energies, Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., Whitewater University Innovation Center, Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters, Wisconsin Counties Association, Wisconsin Technical College System and Yahara Software.

To sponsor, contact Angela Schlobohm at For more information, visit or call 608-442-7557.