The last time, Jud Bowman went solo.
In 2001, when Ernst & Young first nominated Bowman as an entrepreneur of the year, the then-20-year-old traveled alone to Charlotte for the awards ceremony, figuring he wouldn't win. He did.
This week, when he returns to Charlotte as a finalist again, he'll bring his mother, girlfriend, and several board members and employees from the technology company he now runs, Durham-based PocketGear.
"We're thinking of renting a bus and all driving over together," Bowman said. "Even if I don't win, it's a great excuse to put on tuxes, drink some champagne and celebrate."
The annual Ernst & Young awards, now in their 24th year, have become prestigious recognition for the state's entrepreneurs. A caravan of other Triangle business leaders who are finalists also plan to make the trip to Charlotte. Most will bring spouses, children, employees, investors or friends as they bask in the limelight on Thursday night.