Though the economic storm has darkened the nation’s business environment, Utah’s entrepreneurial spirit is still growing strong. As Ernst and Young’s 2010 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, tried-and-true business philosophies and trend-setting innovations, these leaders prove that there is light peaking through today’s dark economic clouds.
Jacque Butler WINNER
Jacque Butler started MedQuest Solutions after her former doctor wasn’t meeting her medical needs. When he asked her if she could do better without him, Butler told him, “Of course I can.” And better she did. Butler sought out experts in the medical field, hired them, and took crash courses on what she needed to know. Combining her business savvy with medical expertise, MedQuest Solutions was born.
Today MedQuest Solutions is committed to developing and distributing the highest quality age management medicine, including personalized hormone replacement therapy. MedQuest Solutions includes six segments. The first, MedQuest Pharmacy, is a national, full-service pharmacy; Medical Horizons is a contract supplement and nutraceutical manufacturer; Nutrascriptives is a vitamin and supplement product line; MedQuest Testing coordinates nationwide draw sites for processing patient blood; Worldlink Medical is an age management training institute for physicians; and Emedplus.com is a web-based practice management software system created for physicians.
Going forward, Butler says MedQuest Solutions plans to expand into other areas of prescription compounding, including veterinarian, pain management, dentistry, infusion, sports medicine and autism.
Jeff Reynolds and Bruce Remund
Longtime friends Jeff Reynolds and Bruce Remund have shared one common interest: a longing to become entrepreneurs. So when Reynolds was given the opportunity to take the reigns of VMI Nutrition in 2005, he knew he needed Remund on his executive team. Together they have taken the company to new heights.
Since the two assumed leadership and ownership of the Salt Lake-based company, VMI Nutrition, which manufactures powdered nutritional supplements and food, has grown to more than $26 million in annual revenue and is slated to reach $33 million in revenue during 2010. Today its products are found in Costco, GNC and Whole Foods. Their goal is to become a $50 million company within five years.
Reynolds and Remund believe their company’s success is based on their commitment to creating quality products, while allowing their customers to build their brands. The company’s mission: “Act as an extension of our clients’ business by effectively managing product development, science-based testing, innovative packaging solutions and delivery.”
Jeffery R. Nelson
Jeff Nelson literally walked a dishwasher-to-CEO career path helping family-owned Nelson Laboratories become the industry-leading life sciences microbiology testing company it is today. Nelson has worked in nearly every area of the company, from human volunteer test subject, to operations, to customer service, to becoming CEO in 2008.
Over the years Nelson saw the company’s potential to become more than it was, and took a hands-on approach to enhance and improve the company in every aspect including helping it nearly double revenues every five years on average.
Going forward, Nelson has plans to add 350 jobs during the next 10 years, and the company is on track to become a $50 million corporation within the next five years. Nelson says innovation and process improvement are integral to the company’s DNA. “I realize that we are in a competitive market space and that we have to keep a sharp edge,” says Nelson. “I am confident that our strategy will continue to differentiate our service and fuel continued growth and success.”
Tim Matthews and Burt Matthews WINNER
NOTE – There’s a picture of one of these brothers in the Editorial file
Hard work is nothing new to brothers Tim and Burt Matthews. The two grew up experiencing entrepreneurialism firsthand as they watched their parents pursue a variety of side jobs to support their family of 10. From their parents, Tim and Burt learned that it didn’t matter what product or service they were selling; as long as they were passionate about it, they would be successful.
While both were under the age of 30, Tim and Burt pursued their first big venture: owning and operating convenience stores. Though the venture was successful, they quickly realized that the most profitable part of their space was the ATM machine. A light bulb went off, and the two formed Grant Victor in 2000. Today, the company is North America’s foremost ATM service provider, owning nearly 3,000 ATM machines. In 2009, Grant Victor reached $34 million in annual operating revenues and experienced 85.6 percent revenue growth.
Ellen Meyer and Marco Meyer
Great American Appetizers
Husband and wife team Marco and Ellen Meyer are no strangers to the food industry. Both grew up in competing cheese manufacturing families in Wisconsin, but put the competition aside and married. In 1997 the two invested in Great American Appetizers, a company that specializes in providing proprietary, customized food products to some of the nation’s best-known regional and national restaurant chains.
Seeing the company’s potential to become a leader in the food industry, the pair purchased the company in 2004. It didn’t take long for the Meyer’s influence to be felt throughout the company. During the next year, 32 products were added to the newly named Wahoo! line and 28 new brokers signed on.
The company continues to expand its product offerings and invests in private label manufacturing. It also expanded into the convenience store, club store and military base markets. Today, Great American Appetizers has grown from 30 employees to more than 450 and generated $43 million in revenue during 2009.
Salt Lake-based IntegraCore is a one-stop-shop for all distribution center needs. From manufacturing, to media and print services, to warehousing, to distribution, IntegraCore does what it takes to provide efficient and cost effective operational outsourcing to its clients. According to Ted Broman, who took the reigns as president in 2004, it’s the company’s dedication to its core services that have led to its success.
Under Broman’s leadership, IntegraCore has experienced rapid growth, achieving a nearly 300 percent increase in revenues last year alone. And though the company felt the economic impact during 2009, the company’s unwavering focus on short- and long-term viability kept it moving forward. Broman also credits the company’s success to its employees. “It is the people at IntegraCore, with their constant intellectual contributions that make IntegraCore the success it is today.”
Access Technology Solutions
The complexities of international trade can be overwhelming to inexperienced sellers, which is where Access Technology Solutions comes in. Challenges like expensive shipping, customs-clearing delays and language translation can discourage U.S. companies from exporting, and Chris Boyle wanted to change that. He founded Access Technology Solutions working solely with shipping in Japan where he had been working for Novell. He used his knowledge of the specific challenges including language and culture to set up a shipping process that was cost-effective and allowed importing via a website.
Access now leads the nation’s e-commerce brands into more than 50 different international markets including Korea, China, Malaysia and Hong Kong and is projecting $25 million in revenue in 2010. Boyle says, “Getting orders delivered cost-effectively and on time 24/7 around the globe requires building and nurturing relationships with key customs officials as well as small operators and streetwise delivery agents.”
Todd Pedersen WINNER
APX Alarm Security Solutions
Todd Pedersen, CEO of APX Alarm, knows keeping his 370,000 customers happy not only means keeping up with the trends, but staying ahead of them. “Instead of only celebrating what we’re doing great, we look toward the future,” Pedersen says.
Pedersen developed a door-to-door sales model while working as a college student for a pest control company and this model, along with quality employees and strategic vision, has led the company to significant growth, including acquiring a central monitoring station and receiving a $440 million credit facility from investment partner Goldman Sachs. “I feel like I’m part of a phenomenal organization,” Pedersen says. “APX is about the group and the organization of people where only being the best matters to us.” In addition to its more than 2,000 outside sales reps, APX Alarm has built an inside sales force and customer advocacy group that has been recognized by industry trade journals and publications.
Like many entrepreneurs, Larry Maxfield left a comfortable, calculable path to one of risk and surprise. More than 25 years ago, he took a database of information and has turned it into a business supporting more than 450 national brands, with 1 million members and 250,000 locations. Access Development helps organizations secure customer loyalty by offering exclusive discounts from merchants, who in turn see increase business. This business model has presented success, but also a constant need to adapt. Casey Kleinman, president of Access Development, says, “Entrepreneurship too often entails dramatic but short-lived success. Larry is unique in his ability to consistently, carefully and wisely layer one innovation after another over the decades to achieve remarkable long-term results.”
Access was a pioneer in the electronic rewards programs, and helped develop Zions Bank’s cash rewards program. Maxfield continues to lead Access into the future as the company prepares to make on-demand discount content more easily available to members with mobile applications.
Von Curtis, Inc (DBA Paul Mitchell The School)
When Winn Claybaugh moved from California to Utah in 1982 to open a salon, he thought he was taking his first step toward fulfilling his entrepreneurial dreams. But, Claybaugh quickly discovered that something was missing from the salon industry—quality education from beauty schools. With help from his parents who mortgaged their home, Claybaugh opened the first Von Curtis Academy in 1983.
Today, Claybaugh’s cosmetology school, now dubbed Paul Mitchell The School, has a solid reputation in cosmetology education excellence. The Provo-headquartered company now has nearly 100 cosmetology schools throughout the United States and more than 10,000 students enrolled. Claybaugh’s five-year goal includes broadening internationally and adding more than 200 additional schools. Beyond success as the leader of Paul Mitchell, Claybaugh has become a renowned speaker and is the author of Be Nice (Or Else!).
Chet Linton, Cory Linton, Curtis Linton WINNER
School Improvement Network
As children of school teachers, Chet, Cory and Curtis Linton recall watching their parents struggle to find ways to improve their teaching skills. But the three brothers also watched their parents overcome those struggles when they launched the Video Journal of Education, a resource for teacher education. As Chet Linton grew older, he decided to take the Video Journal of Education one step further and formed School Improvement Network, a comprehensive, research-based, professional learning tool.
Today, the three brothers lead the Midvale-based company that is revolutionizing the classroom. The company’s flagship product, PD 360, allows educators to access professional development resources anywhere, anytime. And the product is getting good grades: In schools where educators use PD 360, students perform up to 15 times better in standard tests.
James Endicott, Exact Wave president and CEO, learned at a young age that hard work and ingenuity are the formula for success. Endicott has launched three startup companies in five years, with Exact Wave being the most successful. In 2002, Endicott seized the opportunity to create the first company within the postal data management industry using a SaaS model. Exact Wave has since grown to be the leading provider of zip code data in the United States.
Proud to be debt-free, Exact Wave has never taken outside capital and has enjoyed increasing revenues every month since sales began in October 2002. “Outside capital can benefit a young company in many ways, but the exciting part is figuring out how to launch and grow a business on a shoe string,” says Endicott.
Endicott teaches entrepreneurship and is also the faculty advisor to the Business Plan Competition in the Marriott School of Management at his alma mater, BYU.
One on One Marketing
Like many tried-and-true entrepreneurs, Nick Greer took a huge risk when launching his first business. With only $2000—the total amount in his bank account at the time—Greer started One on One Marketing, a lead generator for companies like Ancestry.com and NordicTrack. Luckily, Greer’s risk was well worth taking.
Since its 2002 founding, the American Fork-based company has grown 10,000 percent and reported more than $22 million in revenue during 2009. And the company’s phenomenal success isn’t slowing—Greer says the company is expected to reach $50 million in revenue during 2010 and plans to keep growing from there. “We will not be a $20 million company, not a $50 million company, nor a $100 million company,” says Greer. “We are building a company that will last for many more years to come where we will be part of a $1 billion company.”
Kate Maloney WINNER
Kate Maloney helped create and leads one of the world’s largest online costume retailers. Staying on top requires constant examining and re-examining the company’s products—something Maloney feels strongly about. “There will always be room for improvement—always,” Maloney says. Constantly improving means taking risks. Maloney uses intellect, experience and her “gut feeling” to take intelligent risks that have not only helped Costume Craze find success, but also motivates Maloney to keep working hard. “Kate is not a behind-the-desk CEO. She knows how to roll up her sleeves and get to work. And no one works harder than she,” says Jeff Wiseman, vice president of marketing.
Costume craze is in a growing market, which keeps Maloney and her team always looking for new and better ways to implement its products, especially year round. Costume Craze recently began manufacturing its own costumes, and is continually working toward creatively differentiating itself from other costume retailers.
Michael Anderson and David Fairbanks
Brothers-in-law Michael Anderson and David Fairbanks got the idea for their power tool and outdoor equipment company, eReplacementParts.com, while chatting in an airplane in 2004. Combining Michael’s web design skills and David’s internet marketing experience, the two have created a leading parts distributor by delivering top quality products and services to customers around the world.
The company’s mission is to help tool owners save time and money by providing them the parts needed to repair their tools. The business model naturally creates less waste and prevents throwing away machines that still have years of usefulness.
The website offers simple breakdowns in the form of diagrams and documents for more than 100,000 individual tool and equipment models, and also includes thousands of individual photos. In addition, there are how-to repair articles, tool page discussion boards and videos presented by experienced repairmen, all designed to help customers visualize their repairs and increase order accuracy.
Commonly known as “Dan the Laptop Man,” PC Laptops founder and CEO, Dan Young, is an entrepreneur to the core. The son of Chinese immigrants in search of opportunity, Young got his first entrepreneurial start selling sunglasses and T-shirts on Venice Beach as a teenager. As a young adult, he landed his first 9-to-5 job working as the top salesman for now-closed Silo. Though Young was left unemployed when Silo shut its doors, he seized the opportunity and opened Elite Systems. “I kept thinking that I might be crazy, but I was able to form a lot of new relationships the first year and help a lot of [former Silo] customers who didn’t forget about me,” Young says. “The first year I lost quite a bit of money, but I recognized a great opportunity and I kept pushing to grow this new business.”
His hard work paid off: in 1994, Young opened his first retail location and renamed the company PC Laptops. He says his success is based on two main philosophies: surrounding yourself with people smarter than you and focusing on personal relationships.
Preston Cochrane WINNER
AAA Fair Credit Foundation
Preston Cochrane saw a dire need for financial education in a state ridden with saddening statistics in bankruptcy, debt and low income. So he and three others set off to decrease poverty by increasing financial literacy. Since its beginnings in 1997, AAA Fair Credit Foundation (FCF) has helped poverty-stricken families in Utah create sound financial habits and given them the tools they need to take control of their financial futures, as well as driven campaigns encouraging people of all ages in all income brackets to spend money wisely.
Teaming up with the community, FCF changes people’s lives on a case-by-case basis, an individualized difference Cochrane is proud to be a part of. Cochrane believes the financial functioning of individuals and families not only plays a central role in wellbeing, but that a financially educated community creates a more vibrant economy and reduces reliance on costly state-provided services.
Spy Hot Productions
Rick Wray believes education is central to solving today’s social ills. But, he acknowledges that not every child fits the traditional education model. Using a multimedia educational platform, Wray founded Spy Hop Productions in 1999 to encourage expression, self-discovery, inventive thinking and skilled participation. Ultimately, his goal is to change the way students learn and how teachers teach.
Spy Hop got off the ground with 12 students and a small loan from Wray’s grandmother. Today under Wray’s vision and leadership, the nonprofit serves approximately 1,000 students each year and has an annual budget of $25 million. And though most nonprofits are being forced to eliminate staff and cancel programs, Spy Hop is slated to generate nearly $500,000 in additional revenue during 2010. Though happy about the nonprofit’s growth, Wray says Spy Hop’s greatest accomplishments are its students. “With over 95 percent of Spy Hop students graduating from high school, our participants defy the dismal graduation rates plaguing our state and the nation.”
Alan A. Matheson Jr.
Utah is one of the fastest growing states in the country, and that growth will significantly impact the state’s economy and quality of life. Enter Envision Utah, a nonprofit organization that is helping to build a home-grown quality growth strategy. Former Governor Jon Huntsman said Envision Utah has “become a national model” for facilitating public involvement in exploring land use, transportation and environmental solutions, and using only a small staff and a limited budget.
At the time of Alan Matheson’s executive director appointment in 2004, the nonprofit organization was facing a 70 percent funding loss. Matheson restored financial stability, with revenues exceeding expenses annually since 2006. Matheson, known as a bridge-builder, works hard toward giving residents a voice backed up by research and analysis. Envision’s successful and innovative approach has been shared with more than 90 regions in the United States and 14 foreign countries.
Construction and Manufacturing
Robert S. Moore WINNER
Big-D Construction Corporation
Rob Moore grew up on a Utah farm where he learned three basic things that led him to success: Do what you say you’ll do; work hard, play hard; and family comes first. After a motorcycle accident, Moore found himself in a hospital bed and, as a steel erector, unable to perform his normal job. He soon got to work on the phone securing steel jobs for Big-D Construction. Dee Livingood, owner of Big-D Construction, recognized Moore’s passion and work ethic and asked him to join the company in 1976.
Moore continued to land deals. In 1994 he led a team that won Big-D’s first $100 million project, in 1998 he helped lead the company in completing the largest design build state project in history, and continued leading through the years building hospitals, the Gateway Development, the Salt Lake City Library, and many others. Big-D is now one of the largest builders in the Western United States.
President and CEO
Susan Johnson, president and CEO of Futura Industries, says company culture is key to building a successful organization. “When you walk through the door, I believe you can feel a company’s culture,” she says. “Take care of your people first and the bottom line will take care of itself.” Futura’s culture includes engaging, challenging work, a safe work environment, opportunities for learning and growth, and employee ownership of the company mission. If these factors are present, Johnson believes any company will attract and retain a loyal and profitable customer base.
Combining this employee-first philosophy with a dedication to customer needs, Johnson has been able to build one of the nation’s leading manufacturing companies. Based in Clearfield, Futura Industries manufactures custom aluminum extrusions for customers in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia and Europe. The company serves the solar and green energy markets, semi trucks and boat windshields and trims, and is the number one provider of floor covering trims to wholesale flooring distributors worldwide.
Jason Kilgore, president and founder of Kilgore Paving, got his start in the paving industry by working for Staker Paving at age 14. By age 17, Kilgore was a foreman on a patch crew and worked as a laborer to operate heavy equipment and machinery. When Staker Paving was sold in 1995, he made the decision to start his own business at age 26.
Kilgore launched Kilgore Paving by maxing out his credit cards and taking out a hefty loan. With a pick-up truck, some seal coat equipment and sheer determination, Kilgore Paving has grown to become one of the most respected asphalt paving companies in Utah, completing projects for the Intermountain Medical Center, Daybreak Development and the Salt Lake International Airport.
The company’s aim has always been on customer service and planning for the future, says Kilgore. The focus has remained “about being the best contractor, not necessarily the biggest,” he says. Employees have adopted the attitude of doing the job right the first time, creating satisfied long-term customers.
Jim Higgins, founder and CEO of Smile Reminder, says successful entrepreneurs generally have three principles in common: vision, dedication and hard work—principles he put to work when founding his first company, Smile Reminder.
After learning of the enormous revenue loss health care providers experience when patients miss their appointments, Higgins had a vision to create Smile Reminder, an award-winning software company that delivers electronic communication solutions to the health care industry. He soon turned his vision to reality, launching the Lehi-based company in 2000. But like many entrepreneurs, Higgins faced many challenges during the initial years and even worked for two years without pay. He remained dedicated to the idea and since then the company has accomplished 108 percent year-over-year growth and maintains more than a 90 percent customer retention rate. Today Smile Reminder serves thousands of health care providers and messages more than 17 million patients each month—accomplishments definitely worth smiling about.
An artist knows that sometimes you have to give up your best creative idea to make a better piece of art—something Adam Edmunds learned in selling his brainchild and cash cow in order to better align company results with company goals. While attending Brigham Young University, Edmunds invented a technology that allowed employees to anonymously report wrongdoings within their company. While this technology led him to merge with another company, forming Allegiance, he eventually sold his software in the best interest of the company. Acts like these have proven Edmunds is not afraid to make decisions proactively to grow his business.
Now Allegiance is strictly a voice-of-the-customer software platform company with employees in Utah, Texas and India. Edmund’s vision has led Allegiance to combine multi-channel feedback, text analytics, social media and data mining into an integrated platform, resulting in clients getting results and insights directly from their customers.
John R. Sperry and Richard D. Hanks WINNER
Mindshare is a leading Enterprise Feedback Management (EFM) company tracing its roots to a networking lunch where mystery shopping was discussed. Founders John Sperry and Rich Hanks knew there had to be a more effective way to understand the customer feedback experience, and Mindshare was born.
The Mindshare survey process increases revenue, drives customer loyalty, uncovers problems, improves operations, and recovers at-risk customers. Several types of surveys are available for customers, employees, call centers and operations managers. Mindshare’s surveys are able to monitor customer experiences via Internet and telephone, providing real-time feedback to its clients.
Mindshare’s plan for the future is built around the core principle of automating the customer experience and operational monitoring process. By keeping the technology client and industry neutral, Mindshare leveraged the company into more than 25 industries to date through a single platform. Clients include McDonald’s, Papa Murphy’s, Target, JC Penney, Greyhound, Arby’s and Great Clips, among many others.
Robert Pedersen II WINNER
If you’re worried about scratching your fresh-off-the-shelf iPad or smartphone, don’t—ZAGG has you covered. The Salt Lake-based company designs, manufactures and distributes protective clear coverings and other accessories for your favorite mobile device. 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 in 2010, the company plans to continue supporting and advancing the exponential growth it has had since its founding. To maintain growth, Pedersen is constantly working to inspire new ideas, encourage development of new technologies, and find new markets.
Ryan Lee, president of AMP Security, started the company not only to protect its customers, but also to protect the integrity of the door-to-door industry. Lee’s first company, Silver Creek, was a pest control business that he sold in 2007 to a Fortune 500 company for $12 million. He then created Silver Creek Marketing, selling cable, Internet and phone service for Comcast and Time Warner using a similar door-to-door model. With Lee’s experiences and driven nature, he felt confident in starting AMP Security. And though he faced challenges, AMP attracted large accounts and earned $8.5 million in 2008, it’s first full year of operations.
“There will be obstacles in building a business, but it’s rewarding to beat out the competitor overcome those challenges,” says Lee. His mantra, “tear down the sky” has kept pushing him and AMP forward.
As founder, president and CEO of Rancho Markets, a grocery market that serves the Latino community, Eli Madrigal says she enjoys knowing that she’s giving back to her community and to her heritage. “I want my customers to feel like they are at home, buying at their local market in their own country,” she says.
Madrigal began working in her family’s grocery store in Baja, Mexico when she was only10 years old. “For me, it was exciting to go to work,” she says. “I knew since I was a kid the kind of money you could make selling groceries. I felt this was the kind of business I wanted to be in.”
In June 2006, Madrigal launched Rancho Markets in Salt Lake. The company has since added larger locations in West Valley, Kearns, Provo and Magna, and has plans to open at least five additional stores within the next five years.
To entrepreneurs just starting out, Madrigal advises: “A business has to be run in a cold way, with discipline, with strategies and with plans. One has to plan what is it that I want to be, what is it that I’m going to achieve … but overall, never give up.”