July 10, 2009

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Ernst & Young 2009 Entrepreneur of the Year

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Ernst & Young 2009 Entrepreneur of the Year

Innovators Making Utah the Place for Business

By Candace M. Little & Sarah Ryther-Francom

July 10, 2009

Though the economic storm has darkened the nation’s business environment, Utah’s entrepreneurial spirit is still growing strong. As Ernst and Young’s 2009 Entrepreneur of the Year finalists and award recipients show, the Beehive State is a fertile ground for innovation, rich with resources to turn dreams into realities. Spanning the state and covering a variety of industries, these entrepreneurs have established businesses that are molding Utah’s landscape into one of the country’s healthiest environments for business. With inspiring stories, solid business philosophies and trend-setting innovations, these leaders prove that there is light peaking through today’s dark economic clouds. Join Utah Business as we applaud some of the state’s most pioneering entrepreneurs and their companies. Matthew Heaton, CEO and Owner | BlueHost After starting his first successful business at age 17, Matthew Heaton knew the typical 9-to-5 office job was not for him. Exuding an entrepreneurial spirit, Heaton started another venture: BlueHost. Founded in 2003, BlueHost provides cost effective Web hosting services to small businesses and individuals. After starting with only 50 customers, BlueHost has become the world’s fastest growing Web hosting company, providing Web hosting services to more than 1.4 million Websites. Heaton attributes the company’s success to its customer commitment: the company operates 24/7, receives more than 200,000 support requests each month and is able to maintain average call hold times of less than 30 seconds. When Heaton’s not leading the Provo-based company, he can be found playing ping-pong; Heaton is known as one of the best ping-pong players in the state, competing on a national level. Scott Johnson, CEO and Founder | AtTask, Inc. With little more than an idea and perseverance, Scott Johnson built AtTask into a leading SaaS company with more than 1,300 world-wide customers, including American Airlines, GE Healthcare, Google and HBO. The company’s acclaimed software, @task, is a proven project management solution that gives executives complete visibility, intelligence and accountability over their organization’s strategic direction. “@task gives executives the tools so they can actually model out what it would be like if they did certain initiatives. So, if they make changes or reorganize, @task helps them see how doing so will affect the company,” Johnson says. And though the economy has hit a hurdle, Johnson isn’t taking a break: the company’s goal for 2009 is to achieve 90 percent growth. Jeff Anderson, CEO and President Audio Enhancement Improving education. That’s the goal of Audio Enhancement, a 30-year-old company dedicated to enhancing audio in the classroom. Under the leadership of Jeff Anderson, who was named CEO and president in 2005, the company’s annual sales revenue has grown from $15 million to $37 million. Anderson has also led the company’s drive for innovate products; the company started with the utilization of FM radio waves, but has since developed infrared microphone technology—an innovation that has significantly improved classroom audio. It’s the company’s innovative spirit that Anderson says has led to its success. “I can’t even count the number of times we were told this would never work,” he says. “So many people thought we were crazy, but we quietly went on our way and worked to develop the solution.” Andrea Anaya, CEO | Career Step As a single mother working to support her family as a medical transcriptionist, Andrea Anaya discovered the need for adequate training in the transcriptionist industry. A naturally self-motivated individual, Anaya hand-wrote a custom training program and later produced hard copies of the program, hoping it would become her full-time job. After years of marketing the program using a variety of methods, Anaya finally began seeing results. In 1999, Anaya published the program online and has since helped numerous individuals train as medical transcriptionists. Today the company continues to expand its training programs. “The original medical transcription program is now in its sixth edition and earlier this year we launched a new medical coding and billing program,” she says. “We were able to change our industry completely, overcoming major bias against ‘newbies’ by building great relationships with companies and stressing quality outcomes.” Marc Bingham, CEO Blue Diamond Capital, LLC Marc Bingham began his storied career as an entrepreneur in 1971 when he started Phone Directories Company. The company began with one directory in Carbon County, but grew to more than 200 directories and experienced years of record-breaking success. After more than 30 years at the helm of the award-winning company, Bingham sold PDC and began his next endeavor: Blue Diamond Capital. Based in Orem, Blue Diamond is a real estate development and investment management firm that is playing an integral role in building Utah and its neighboring states. With a portfolio that spans industries including hospitality, medical office, commercial office, industrial space, raw land development and more, Blue Diamond is a key player in the state’s business landscape. Gary Goodrich, CEO, President and Director Chris Jensen, Corporate Secretary and Treasurer Richard Sorensen, Executive Vice President, COO ProPay, Inc. Founded in 1997, ProPay Inc. started providing merchant accounts for small and large businesses to process payment online. CEO Gary Goodrich took the company from its infancy and helped the firm produce more than $24.8 million in revenue in 2008, with growth expectancy in 2009. His sense of vision and perspective has led ProPay past economic, compliance, regulatory and legal challenges, where other electronic-payment firms lie defeated. Chris Jensen was one of the first ProPay employees and his aptitude for prioritizing, minimizing costs and collaborating and building trust with business partners certainly earned his secretary title. COO Richard Sorensen sets high expectations and gets high results. Since joining the team in 2006, he initiated the development of products that have propelled ProPay as a leader in the payments industry, and has served as instrumental in navigating the company through economic uncertainty. James Higgins, CEO | Smile Reminder, Inc. Missed your last doctor’s appointment? Smile Reminder might be your solution. The company’s leading technology enables practice-to-patient e-communication, including text and e-mail appointment reminders, birthday greetings, patient portals, patient testimonial tools and more. Started by James Higgins in 2000, the company has been a pioneer in patient communication across the health care industry. But times weren’t always so rosy for the company. In 2001 Smile Reminder experienced a financial hurdle, but Higgins kept the company moving with determination and endurance—traits he’s put to use in other areas of his life. After experiencing a tragic accident and hearing that he would be paralyzed for life, Higgins adopted a never-give-up attitude. That attitude translated into professional and personal success; beyond starting and maintaining Smile Reminder, today Higgins can walk, run and became a professional tennis player. Douglas Sayer, President Premier Technology, Inc. Many businesses solve their customers’ problems, but at Premier Technology there is a rare and strong sense of ownership of the projects worked on. Doug Sayer, president of the company, says, “We turn their problem into ours and make it our emergency.” This specialized metal engineering and manufacturing company has taken on some pretty serious problems, including helping the Department of Defense with nuclear waste clean up and the pharmaceutical industry treat cancer. Sayer says the most important role he plays in the company is being an enabler. “The way that I’m wired is to make a difference and make a change. I didn’t start the company to become rich and retire.” He adds it’s rewarding to see his employees succeed and to see how the company is influencing communities. “That’s why I come to work every day,” Sayer says. “And, I’d do it for free.” Sylvia Medina, President and CEO North Wind, Inc. Sylvia Medina founded North Wind in her home office with little more than a credit card and a dream; in fact, Medina left a secure and well-paying career to turn her dream—North Wind—into reality. Started in 1997 as an engineering and environmental consulting firm, today North Wind is an award-winning business with more than 345 engineers, scientists and professionals operating under 18 offices worldwide. With such a diverse team, North Wind is able to offer numerous services including managing and executing environment-related projects and providing support to a variety of private, federal and state agencies. Medina says the company’s ability to adapt to changes and broaden its offerings have led to its success. As the company’s mission statement reads, “North Wind is in perpetual motion on the road of success, moving toward and embracing new and exciting opportunities…recognizing the best is yet to come!” David Wadman, CEO Wadman Corporation Dave Wadman learned the construction business from the ground up, literally. As a young adult, he worked pulling nails, setting concrete forms and framing buildings. Wadman’s hands-on work and unwavering dedication proved he was ready to take charge, and in 1984 he was named president of Wadman Corporation—a company his father, V. Jay Wadman, started in 1951. But at the time Dave Wadman took the reigns, the company was facing harsh times. Wadman rose to the challenge, working to re-build the company into what’s become one of the state’s top award-winning contractors. Today Wadman attributes the company’s strong foundation to that trying time, saying that it gave him the opportunity to establish new relationships and to explore new trade areas. Matt Minkevitch, Executive Director The Road Home Since its inception in 1923, The Road Home has been a safe haven for anyone who’s needed a roof over head. But in recent years, the organization has evolved to do much more for Utah’s homeless. Under the leadership of Matt Minkevitch, who was appointed executive director by Governor Jon Huntsman in 2001, the organization devotes itself to finding permanent housing for those who need it. “We want to help the most troubled individuals who have the highest usage of emergency room, jail or who have lived on the streets chronically,” says Minkevitch. “We’ve developed a variety of different tools with private and pubic partners to find and create different and affordable housing options.” Under its Housing First model, The Road Home helped 934 individuals find housing last year alone. In addition, the organization provided shelter for 4,471 individuals, including 475 children. Stephen & Bette Gibson, Co-founders Academy for Creating Enterprise Stephen and Bette Gibson are social entrepreneurs. Their goal is not to create personal wealth, but to solve a critical social problem—and that’s exactly what they are doing. The Gibsons are working to end the vast amounts of poverty in the Philippines and other third world countries. The Gibson’s solution: the Academy for Creating Enterprise, a program that teaches people how to provide for their families through entrepreneurship. The Academy for Creating Enterprise began in Cebu, Philippines in 1999 and today, 10 years later, has trained close to 1,500 Filipinos and has expanded to Mexico City and Sao Paulo, Brazil. The Gibsons say the academy does more than just teach skills. “The bi-product is hope,” says Bette Gibson. In a simple sense, the Gibsons say they’re waging war against poverty, one individual and one family at a time. Jessica Norie, Executive Director | Artspace Jessica Norie, executive director of Artspace, learned from a young age that anything is possible. Norie has been pushing the limits for Artspace by honing in on its mission, which is to revitalize and promote stable, vibrant and safe communities by creating affordable live and work space for artists, cultural organizations and non-profits. Norie has done that, and revitalized city areas in the process. Norie has instilled a strong business sense in the non-profit with focus. “I’m a strong believer in doing one thing and one thing well, and now our focus is real estate development,” Norie says. Providing affordable spaces with an emphasis on arts and culture for non-profits is the most important part of Artspace’s mission, Norie says. “It is what nobody else is doing, and it’s the niche that needs to be filled.” Dallin Larsen, Founder, President, Chairman MonaVie MonaVie is company distributing an acai-based fruit juice person-to-person. But MonaVie isn’t like many multi-level marketing companies—it has generated 10 times its revenue in its first year, has now (in four years) sold more than $1.5 billion worth of products in 9 countries and, as Founder Dallin Larsen puts it, more than 1 million people have “said ‘yes’ to MonaVie,” Larsen says, adding that the company even has its own stimulus package. “It’s called rolling up your sleeves and going to work. If we don’t like things the way they are, we need to roll up our sleeves and make a difference.” And Larsen’s company is making a difference: today the company is providing jobs to 400 traditional employees and thousands of individuals selling the MonaVie product. Alison Chuntz, Owner Alison’s Pantry When you think of a pantry, it isn’t normally 23,000 square feet, but Ali Chuntz has a little more food than most. Since 1987, Chuntz has been distributing restaurant quality bulk food items to customers throughout the Rocky Mountains. Chuntz’s main goal is to serve moms and housewives, farmers and ranches across the United States with food and other products they cannot buy at their local store. She started by selling homemade cheese, which turned into a wholesale food business, and then into Alison’s Pantry. After the company grew to $8.5 million in sales in 1999 and despite the difficult decision, Chuntz sold the business. Under new ownership the business failed but eventually the wildly driven Chuntz came back and worked hard to reestablish trust with employees and customers. “They want to know that there’s really an Alison behind the pantry,” Chuntz says. It has been her personal touch that has brought the business out of bankruptcy and fully functioning today. Charley Johnson, Co-owner Brandon Mackay, Co-owner | SnugZ USA Growing at an average of 25 percent a year since 2004, shipping out 100,000 lanyards a day and receiving awards left and right has SnugZ co-owners, Charley Johnson and Brandon Mackay, seemingly on good terms with karma. But it wasn’t luck that moved the company from Las Vegas to Salt Lake City in one weekend in 2004, nor was it luck that changed the 10-employee family company into a 170-employee operation. After the sudden passing of former CEO Patti Hicks, Johnson and Mackay were thrust into management positions, but succeeded in turning the struggling business into one of the leading providers of lanyards and promotional materials. They made personal visits when competitors were making phone calls, and they said yes when their competitors said no. “We said yes to everything,” Johnson says. “We went everywhere we could to promote our company. At the time we didn’t have an internal sales force, so it really came down to Brandon and me.” Richard Reese, President Standard Plumbing Supply One of Richard Reese’s favorite childhood memories was working side-by-side his father, Dale Reese, who started Standard Plumbing Supply in 1952. Years later, his father passed down the torch and Reese became the leader of the Sandy-based company. Upon being named president, Reese led the company through a phase of rapid expansion, growing from a mere 13 locations to more than 70 in multiple states. And for the following 15 years, the company grew an average of 27 percent year after year. Reese says what’s kept the company on the road to success is its innovative practices, adaptability and dedication to its employees. “I always have felt a responsibility to employ the people who have worked for my family for so long,” he says. “If we close shop, it’s not just me who’s out of a job. We’re all in this together.” Charles Freedman, Co-founder, VP Jonathan Freedman, Co-founder, VP William Freedman, Co-founder, VP DownEast Outfitters Charles, Jonathan and Bill Freedman’s success started with them selling one box of J-Crew jackets at a community swimming pool at 40 to 80 percent off the retail price. Today their company, DownEast Outfitters, offers similar deals to its customers, but now has 40 stores throughout Utah, Idaho, Arizona and Washington. Since 1991, the company has partnered with more than 250 big box retailers, chains and clothing boutiques and created its own furniture label and clothing brand. DownEast Basics is one of the top providers in the modest and layering clothing industries and is sold throughout the United States and Canada. Even though the company was never created in hopes of becoming this big, there’s no denying the rewarding feeling. “A tremendous amount of pride goes into our company and into our jobs,” says Jonathan Freedman. “I love seeing our product on people. Every piece has a story and I love knowing that story.” Keith Moeller, Scott Moeller, Bill Moeller Managing Directors | American Biotech Labs Keith, Scott and Bill Moeller founded American Biotech Labs (ABL) in 1998. Since then, the company has been chasing and securing patents and research, and creating health products made of silver. Being short of a superhero to your body’s immune system, the products are able to destroy or neutralize pathogens that cause many of the world’s most serious diseases, and greatly boost the human immune system. Keith Moeller says that a recent four-month study in India showed an ABL product helped improve conditions of HIV-positive individuals. Among others, ABL also has products attacking Malaria and open wounds. Keith, Scott and Bill Moeller see significant expansion in the next several years in its product offering, geographic dispersal and partnerships. There are thousands and thousands of people alive and living healthier lives because of ABL product and Keith Moeller can’t talk about his products without smiling. When a superhero kills off the bad guys, don’t you smile too? Steve Bain, President Simply Mac Jason Ellis, President Spring Mobile Spring Retail Group How does a local company become a premier retailer for a worldwide brand? Just ask Steve Bain and Jason Ellis of Spring Communications, because they are retailers of two of the world’s most admired brands—Apple, since 2006 and AT&T since 2005. Each brand has its own store—Spring Mobile for AT&T and Simply Mac for Apple—and both business units are doing remarkably well. Spring Mobile went from six stores in 2001 to 76 locations scattered across the West and was named as AT&T’s second highest producing agent in 2008. And Apple is pleased with Simply Mac, and for good reason. Last quarter, 71 percent of Simply Mac customers set up with an Apple computer were converted from PC users, which is 21 percent better than Apple’s corporate stores. Bain says, “They ask us regularly to expand our distribution and we plan to open one or two additional stores later this year.” Robert Pedersen II, President and CEO ZAGG Inc. Worried about scratching your fresh-off-the-shelf smartphone? Don’t fret—ZAGG has your smartphone covered. The Salt Lake-based company designs, manufactures and distributes protective clear coverings and other accessories for your favorite mobile gadget. Co-founded in 2005 by Robert Pedersen, who now serves as CEO, president and chair of the company’s board, ZAGG has accomplished the entrepreneurial dream: successfully creating a new product that creates and dominates a new niche in an existing market. Its flagship product, invisibleSHIELD, has grown enormously popular, with individual sales around the world numbering in the millions. And though the economy is tough, Pedersen says ZAGG is poised to double its annual revenue in 2009. The company also plans to introduce more products and services to further enhance the electronic experience and ensure continued company growth. David Flynn, Founder and Chief Technical Officer Rick White, Founder and Chief Marketing Officer Fusion-io To say David Flynn and Rick White have been in the technology business a while is an understatement. Flynn started as early as 16 years old when he designed and authored 3D flight simulation and image processing software for the Department of Defense. White has also been around the block a few times—enough times to be founder of several tech companies worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Today Flynn and White have partnered to form Fusion-io, a company that provides enterprise technology and high performance I/O solutions. And in a market split between the need for more capacity and the growing demand for more performance, Fusion-io’s disruptive creativity is setting a new standard for high-performance storage with its ioMemory architecture and ioDrive which uses only 1 percent of the power required by other high-performance storage solutions in its class. Jay Bean, CEO and Founder | OrangeSoda When the acquisition of Jay Bean’s first venture, Ah-ha.com, resulted in a return of $50 to $60 million to company shareholders, Bean became enthused to launch a company that would result in even greater returns. Using expertise garnered from his first start-up, Bean launched OrangeSoda in 2006. Having worked extensively in the online marketing space, Bean recognized that small businesses were often overwhelmed by online advertising complications—this was the problem OrangeSoda aimed to solve. Today, the American Fork-based company is an online search marketing machine that specializes in geo-targeted search results for small- to medium-sized businesses. “We’ve developed a series of solutions to help small businesses advertize more effectively online,” says Bean. “Smaller businesses often don’t have the technical resources to market online effectively. Our solutions and our support staff provide the help and technology that larger businesses have at a much smaller price.” Inger Erickson, Founder Stephanie Geisler, Founder Jeff Wilson, Founder | Uppercase Living It wouldn’t be home sweet home without “live love laugh” on the wall—at least it wouldn’t be an Uppercase Living home. Inger Erickson, Stephanie Geisler and Jeff Wilson do more than manufacture and distribute decorative vinyl lettering—they sell a way for people to creatively decorate their homes and crafts. Inger Erickson, founder and graphic designer says, “I really felt inspired to do vinyl lettering, but it wasn’t to start a business, it was more that I was inspired to share it with everybody.” While it’s a simple idea, it’s also a simple moneymaker. Uppercase Living has seen triple-digit growth each year since it was founded in 2006 and it also has independent consultants in all 50 states and two business offices and a manufacturing plant in Utah. Ryan DeLuca, CEO | Bodybuilding.com Ryan DeLuca has been setting and reaching his own bodybuilding goals since his early teenage years. And, he has always been filled with entrepreneurial spirit. While in high school, DeLuca combined his bodybuilding passion with his entrepreneurial spirit, starting his own search engine optimization business and creating the first version of Bodybuilding.com. The site has since grown from selling 100 products to more than 9,000 products, from vitamins and herbs, to accessories and clothing. But his site is not just to sell products, it’s a place where people share what they know and learn about bodybuilding. “From the beginning, we realized the power we had to make the site more than just an e-commerce site selling products,” DeLuca says. “I realize the power of an Internet business that brings people together to reach their goals.” Kate Maloney, CEO | Costume Craze Kate Maloney operates with one philosophy: success is the only option. That philosophy is apparent in everything Maloney puts her mind to. Her unwavering determination and strategic risk-taking has led to the success of Costume Craze—a company that has grown from a small home-based business to one of the world’s largest online costume retailers. And though you might think the company only operates during Halloween, numerous events from holidays to theater productions keep the Pleasant Grove-based company busy year-round; in fact, the company plans to introduce approximately 2,000 new items this year alone. Maloney’s second passion is health care. She developed the Double Tax Benefit Plan, which outlines ways employers can provide health benefits to their employees without breaking the bank. Utilizing this plan, Costume Craze is able to pay 100 percent of its employees’ health care premiums. Kody Bateman, Founder, CEO Erik Laver, President, COO | SendOutCards In Kody Bateman’s life, there is a before and an after. Before he failed to say goodbye to his brother and after his brother died in a work-related accident. Bateman founded SendOutCards after losing his brother, his way of encouraging others to do something he didn’t: act on promptings to reconnect with friends, loved ones and colleagues. One of many who helped Bateman accomplish his goal was Erik Laver. Together they grew SendOutCards from a garage-operated business to the third largest greeting card company in America. Using SendOutCards, anyone can send a printed out card, customized and designed by the sender and even include a box of cookies or other gifts. Bateman and Laver have also started a charity program where distributors can contribute to organizations like The American Heart Association, Parents Without Partners and The Bethel Foundation.
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