Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year, 2013 Greater Los Angeles Winners

How Janice Bryant Howroyd puts humanity in human resources at Act 1 Group

Janice Bryant Howroyd, founder, chairman and CEO, The Act 1 Group, Inc.

Janice Bryant Howroyd, founder, chairman and CEO, The Act 1 BusinGroup, Inc.

Business Services


A North Carolina native, Janice Bryant Howroyd left her hometown in 1976 and got a temp job in California, which introduced her to the need for job placement services. Then her entrepreneurial spirit flared up. She launched Act 1 Personnel Services in 1978 and has since dedicated her efforts to building an organization committed to keeping the humanity in human resources.

Howroyd is an advocate for balanced education and entrepreneurship in the workforce. Her active industry involvement gives her an understanding of the challenges faced by global workers and business owners alike.

In addition, her expertise on workforce optimization and entrepreneurship has made her a much sought-after speaker. She is also the author of “The Art of Work: How to Make Work, Work for You!” in which she distills more than 30 years of experience into a work/life balance guide.

As the founder, chairman and CEO of one of the country’s largest workforce management firms, Howroyd provides customers scalable advantages to excel through advanced technology and other service offerings.

Her passion for establishing lifetime relationships with job seekers, client companies and professionals within the human capital industry has enabled her to turn a successful domestic business into a world-class global enterprise.

Today, The Act 1 Group, Inc. is a reflection of her vision. Through her commitment to market-leading innovation and identification of market needs, Howroyd is able to expand her business, remain as the chief decision-maker of a workforce management firm and to match job seekers with companies where there is opportunity.

During the recent economic downturn, companies generally were not hiring as many people as they had been, but Howroyd was able to help her business customers increase their efficiency by using the most proficient human resource strategies possible. By continuing to inspire employees to excel in a business model that is agile and forward thinking, she will keep the Act 1 Group growing financially despite future market challenges.

How to reach: The Act 1 Group, Inc.,
How the An family turned despair into opportunity with House of An

Helene An, executive chef

Helene An, executive chef, House of An


Elizabeth An, managing partner, House of An

Elizabeth An, managing partner, House of An

Hannah An, managing partner, House of An

Hannah An, managing partner, House of An


Catherine An, managing partner, House of An

Catherine An, managing partner, House of An


Monique An, managing partner, House of An

Monique An, managing partner, House of An


Jacqueline An, managing partner, House of An

Jacqueline An, managing partner, House of An

Family Business Award of Excellence


When Helene An arrived in San Francisco in 1975 she had little more than memories to cling to. The fall of Saigon in her native Vietnam had forced An and her daughters to flee the country and come to the U.S.

Despite the hardships, they brought with them a strong spirit of determination to get back on their feet and find success. They would get their chance at an Italian deli that Helene’s mother-in-law Diana had purchased four years earlier while vacationing in San Francisco.

Most of the patrons to the deli had never experienced Vietnamese food, so Helene kept the Italian menu and slowly began to introduce patrons to Vietnamese cuisine. She would offer her favorite dishes for free, urging her patrons to “try this delicious food from my home country.”

Seeing how her customers loved pasta, she created her own version of Vietnamese spaghetti with garlic. It became one of her trademarks which she named An’s Famous Garlic Noodles.

Eventually, the deli became Thanh Long and is known as being the first Vietnamese restaurant in San Francisco. Today, the An family owns and operates five restaurants and a catering division. Each location offers a unique dining experience that complements the restaurant’s cuisine.

In 2007, the An family was inducted into the Vietnamese-American Wing of the Smithsonian Institute for being one of the first to bring Vietnamese cuisine to mainstream America.

While Helene serves as executive chef at House of An, her five daughters are managing partners. Catherine, Elizabeth, Hannah, Monique and Jacqueline each oversee part of the company’s operations. Catherine focuses specifically on the catering operations and is also the brainchild behind the An’s newest eco-chic concept, Tiato Kitchen Bar Garden + Venue.

As the great-grandchildren of Diana An now begin to learn the business, the future seems very bright for the House of An, and the fourth generation that will one day lead the way.

How to reach: House of An,


How Clarence Daniels Jr. brings well-known restaurant brands to airports through Concession Management Services

Clarence Daniels Jr., chairman and CEO, Concession Management Services, Inc.

Clarence Daniels Jr., chairman and CEO, Concession Management Services, Inc.

Consumer Services


Smaller is better, according to Concession Management Services, Inc. Chairman and CEO Clarence Daniels Jr. It was because of CMS’ smaller size that brands such as Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf allowed Daniels to operate one of its stores at the Los Angeles International Airport.

Founded in 1992, CMS is an airport concession company that operates restaurants such as Panda Express, Coffee Bean, Carl’s Jr. and Cinnabon in airports in Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth, San Diego, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Houston and Tampa Bay.

Daniels admits that operating in airports is extremely difficult. There are many stakeholders who feel they own the airport concessions, such as the airport commissioner, airport staff and the airline station manager. There are also numerous regulations that govern everything from security to employee pay to the design of the store. These are all obstacles that Daniels constantly works to overcome.

CMS concessions such as Panda Express, Coffee Bean, Carl’s Jr. and Cinnabon are among the highest grossing restaurants in the country. Daniels attributes his success in customer service to being hungrier than the competition. His managers volunteer to open the restaurants earlier than the competition, or even open the stores 24 hours a day.

The company uses its knowledge of the industry to become a sought-after partner for national, regional and local restaurant brands that want to gain entry to the airport concessions industry. Because malls and neighborhoods are saturated with restaurants, airport real estate is highly sought after. However, most restaurant owners don’t want to invest the time to learn how to gain this entry, nor do they have the experience working with organized labor.

CMS has capitalized on these issues and developed an approach to licensing where the company pays restaurant owners attractive licensing fees to allow it to own and operate their concepts in airports. This approach has enabled CMS to bring numerous restaurant brands to airports around the country.

How to reach: Concession Management Services, Inc.,
How Jeff Stibel grows Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp. by building reputations

Jeff Stibel, chairman and CEO, Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp.

Jeff Stibel, chairman and CEO, Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp.



When Jeff Stibel founded Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp., he wanted to assist businesses in establishing their reputation as credible enterprises.

Formerly the president and CEO of, Stibel saw there was a significant need for small businesses around “credibility.” He and his team founded a company around this need. Determined that it was critical to have a brand name in credibility, Stibel acquired the rights to certain assets from Dun & Bradstreet in 2010.

The business he acquired had a declining revenue base, but Stibel wanted the storied brand, ability to use the name and the ability to tap the data. He quickly shut down the existing business and reformed it to provide credibility analysis for businesses throughout the U.S. and Canada.

If you look at employment growth alone, you would conclude that he’s been a success. Starting with just eight employees, the company has now grown to more than 600 employees.

But that is not the only impressive attribute. Stibel has become well-known for his “failure wall” where employees write about their business mistakes and miscues. He believes that every failure is an opportunity to learn and grow. The principals of positive failure have even been incorporated into the company’s performance evaluations — employees are graded on failures and calculated risk-taking.

Stibel believes in the importance of creating an outstanding workplace environment for his team to thrive. In appreciation of his staff, he began an innovative education savings plan, which allows his employees to set aside a wage-deferred contribution that is company-matched. He then triple matches it by donating directly to the school district.

Additionally, Stibel rewards high-performing employees each year with an all-expense paid vacation. Not surprisingly, his company has a low turnover rate. In just three years, the company has grown into a business that is experiencing significant growth, and became profitable in 2012.

How to reach: Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Co.,
How Robert V. Sinnott finds a ‘win-win’ deal for Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors clients

Robert V. Sinnott, president, CEO and chief investment officer, Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors

Robert V. Sinnott, president, CEO and chief investment officer, Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors

Financial Services


Robert V. Sinnott believes in the idea of partnership and “doing the right thing” as a staple of a successful investing strategy. In the late 1990s, a rogue oil trader was crippling a Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors portfolio company, and the company was not likely to survive.

Sinnott, president, CEO and chief investment officer at Kayne Anderson, worked closely with the company’s management to navigate and source a large equity investment to support the company’s long-term success.

The portfolio company is now one of the largest and most respected master limited partnerships (MLPs) in North America. Both firms have prospered from the long-term relationship.

Upon joining Kayne Anderson in 1992, Sinnott brought his unique approach and deep knowledge of the energy industry, which has not only led to generating impressive returns but also to revolutionizing the energy markets by fostering institutional ownership of the industry, thus changing MLPs’ access to capital.

Sinnott sees to it that the Kayne Anderson reputation and business philosophy inspires confidence among investors and portfolio companies. The firm focuses on accountability and living up to commitments to create a sense of trust that leads to mitigating risk and continued business relationships.

Trust also begins with open communication. Sinnott believes that oral commitments are as strong as written, and insists that his team negotiate personally, rather than slipping legalities into agreements.

He also argues that terms should be mutually beneficial — an “everyone wins” mentality. If one party is in a distressed situation, you might get a little more out of the party now, but the party will be less likely to return on the next deal.
To help ensure return business, Sinnott searches for win-win deals and develops long-lasting partnerships. In the economic downturn in 2008, many investment firms were limiting investor withdrawals. Kayne Anderson recognized the uncertainty investors faced, and worked hard to ensure the liquidity investors had come to rely on.

How to reach: Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors,
How Moctesuma Esparza built a business he could be proud of with Maya Cinemas North America

Moctesuma Esparza, founder and CEO, Maya Cinemas North America, Inc.

Moctesuma Esparza, founder and CEO, Maya Cinemas North America, Inc.



If you saw a movie script that detailed the life of Moctesuma Esparza, you would never believe that it was historically accurate. Esparza was a leading activist and organizer in the Chicano movement of the 1960s, fighting for civil rights and equality for Mexican-Americans.

His involvement left him at one point indicted and facing life in prison for being an organizer of the revolution. But within two years of having the charges dropped, Esparza had not only turned things around, he was working in the West Wing of the White House with security clearance.

Having overcome those kinds of odds, Esparza might have been on easy street with the launch of a multiplex theater chain. But he has worked hard to ensure Maya Cinemas North America, Inc. is all about quality.

His passion is not in day-to-day management, but rather in bringing an idea to life. So he spends a great deal of time working on developing business strategies, identifying new locations to expand into and then getting that location off the ground.

Esparza has also been a leader in raising new market tax credits since part of his strategy is to target markets that other movie theater companies are reluctant to enter. In order to succeed, he hired a dedicated and highly involved president and COO, Frank Haffer, to manage long-term operations and hired strong local managers to run his multiplexes.

Esparza is admired by colleagues for his innate ability to persuade and inspire. He recognizes and rewards individuals who contribute to the company’s vision while giving managers the freedom to perform their jobs how they see fit.

Esparza hasn’t forgotten where he came from. He launched an innovative program that gives patrons the opportunity to round up their purchase to the next dollar and have the money donated to a local college scholarship fund that will be restricted to students within a designated area.

How to reach: Maya Cinemas North America, Inc.,

How Sam Naficy has defied the odds to make DTT an industry leader

Sam Naficy, president and CEO, DTT

Sam Naficy, president and CEO, DTT



Sam Naficy is the president and CEO of DTT, a technology company in the video surveillance industry. Although DTT has emerged as a dominant player in its industry and continues to deliver cutting-edge services and technology through Naficy’s leadership, it had modest beginnings, often facing capital constraints and tough competition.

With DDT’s early financial struggles, Naficy decided to change DTT’s business model from a fixed-fee service to a monthly subscription service to adjust to the competitive market and offer his clients newer technology. He also made necessary infrastructural investments to serve his clients better.

Although business was booming, he found himself unable to keep up with demand. It was not until he was able to thoroughly convince his father-in-law about his vision for DTT the he was able to obtain the needed funds to continue DTT’s operations.

Through the years there have been many formidable competitors that have tried to enter DTT’s market, but all have been unsuccessful in penetrating the company’s dominance. Much of this can be attributed to Naficy’s focus on his customer’s needs instead of trying to dabble in various aspects of the technology world.

Essentially, he grew his company vertically rather than horizontally — providing a litany of services for specific customer needs. The company’s “secret sauce” is its product’s ability to extract sales detail from point-of-sales systems and mirror it with a video image.

Recently, DTT also rolled out a new product called the SCREAM service, a feedback app that operates in the cloud so the owner/operator receives customer feedback immediately by text and can respond immediately to any issues.

During the past 14 years, DTT has supported more than 27,000 customer locations for renowned brands such as McDonald’s, Subway, Burger King, the Peninsula Hotel and has just developed a new relationship with Arby’s. With 350 employees residing in various departments, Naficy has grown the equity value of the company immensely.

How to reach: DTT,