The teenage founder of a Covington, La.-based dance company received top honors this week at an annual awards ceremony that recognizes the nation's best young female entrepreneurs.

Brandi Lynn Thomas of Ballroom by Brandi was awarded $10,000 as part of the 2008 Girls Going Places entrepreneurship program sponsored by Guardian Life Insurance. Thomas and other award winners can choose to invest the cash prize in their business or save it for college.

In all, 15 winners were selected from some 5,000 nominees, and together received a total of $30,000 in prizes. This year's finalists represented a diverse range of businesses, including a decorating firm, a jewelry maker and a chess club.

"These young enterprising nominees are truly an inspiration and an example for women in business of all ages," Diana Acevedo, the national manager of Girls Going Places, said in a statement.