For the third time, SACC-SF/SV hosted the Achievement Awards, a black-tie gala that acknowledges the network of successful Swedish business entrepreneurs in the Bay Area and encourages the collaboration between Sweden and the U.S. This event, co-hosted with SAS as the presenting sponsor along with the Swedish Consulate, commemorated the achievements of select Swedish business professionals, cultural personalities and successful women in the Bay Area.
At the elegant Julia Morgan Ballroom, the highly successful Swedish author Björn Ranelid was the master of ceremonies, the renowned explorer, Johan Ernst Nilson, was the keynote speaker, and the Swedish folk-pop singer, Sofia Talvik entertained all. The awards recognized accomplishments in three categories; Business Achievement, Cultural Achievement and Women’s Achievement. The three winners were decided by a jury consisting of notable entrepreneurs, including Barbro Sachs-Osher, the Consul General of Sweden and Nils Welin, chairman of the SACC-SF/SV board.
What better way to honor outstanding Swedish women’s achievements here in the Bay Area than by proudly presenting to Viveka Rydell the award, appropriately on International Women’s Day. She was honored for her dedication in dental childcare work as the CEO of PDI Surgery Center, a non-profit, community-based dental surgery center which since 2008 has helped nearly 7,000 low-income children of northern California with dental surgery. Before her commitment to this organization, she had a successful legal career in San Francisco and served on the board of the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce SF/SV.
Rydell expressed her emotions about the evening: “I knew I had been nominated, but winners were only announced that night, so it was a nerve-wrecking experience to be waiting for the results, kind of like, a small scale of the “Oscars.” So, in keeping with the Oscars, of course I got “dressed to the nines” in a golden dress, and got a friend to accompany me to the event … just in case. o, here I found myself, in a group of beautiful Swedish mentors, friends and business partners who supported me, first as a budding lawyer fresh out of UC Berkeley Law School, and then as I followed my passion to head up PDI Surgery Center. Seeing all the support as I entered the event, I was overcome by emotions already. So, it was an emotional evening, to say the least.”
She remembered the early days of her career here: “When I spent my first eight years in San Francisco as a lawyer, I didn’t know anyone in the business or law world, really. Serving on the board of SACC SF/SV gave me a “home,” professionally and emotionally. Through the chamber, I got mentors that I would never have been able to meet otherwise who supported me as a lawyer, and the past seven years as a non-profit CEO/business woman, and mother.”
Rydell concluded, “No one has to make huge sacrifices. All it takes it that everyone does a little bit, and that in itself creates major change. May we never forget our Swedish roots, our goal to make everyone “equal”—no one should be branded or held back because of how they started out in life; instead everyone deserves an equal chance at making one’s mark in life. I thank my family, my ex-husband’s family, and my friends for teaching me this.”
Rydell’s Swedish heritage and family mean so much to her, and she wants to teach her children to work hard and be kind, but to also make a difference in the world. She is grateful that her children are so lucky as to have this richness of having both the U.S. and Sweden be part of their lives; while they are straddling two cultures, they can be part of significant change.
Peter Arvai, CEO of Prezi, was given The Business Award for the outstanding growth of Prezi’s cloud-based worldwide online software, impressively increasing at a million new subscribers monthly. Additionally, the award also honored his commitment to Singularity University for his developing leadership by encouraging engineers and technologists to solve some of humanity's tough challenges.
The Cultural honor on this Achievement Award night was presented to Maestro Ragnar Bohlin, director of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus. The award recognizes his success in leading the chorus of the San Francisco Symphony to achieve worldwide recognition, having received three Grammy Awards in 2010 for the chorus’s recording of Mahler's Symphony No.8.
This year’s Achievement Awards gala gathered 130 entrepreneurs and honored 13 nominees including the three winners’ achievements mentioned above. The program and the honors made for a fantastic evening and a great success!

By Michaela Alestam, SACC-SF/SV


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