WINNER Eve Yen Founder and president Diamond Wipes International, Inc. www.diamondwipes.com
Eve Yen is living the American dream. After immigrating to the U.S. in 1994, Yen established Diamond Wipes International, starting out with just one manufacturing machine in a 1,700-square-foot warehouse in El Monte, California.
After losing money the first four years, the founder and president has grown the fledgling operation into the largest manufacturer of consumer and industrial wet wipes on the West Coast. Currently, Diamond Wipes produces millions of wipes daily for a variety of uses from a 130,000-square-foot facility in Chino, California, as well as a 65,000-square-foot plant in Bucyrus, Ohio.
Yen has achieved success through innovation and diversification. When she started, baby wipes were the only cosmetic products on the market. She’s helped to shape a billion dollar industry largely by developing and marketing more than 2,000 products including a private label brand and “La Fresh” for the international market. Diamond Wipes also offers contract packaging, a turnkey manufacturing, packaging and assembly service.
Moreover, she has stayed ahead of overseas competition by manufacturing in the U.S. The strategy puts her closer to her customers and provides them with freshly manufactured products. In total, Yen was able to reduce delivery time by two to three months through domestic manufacturing while creating jobs for American workers.
Yen is also committed to sustainability. Domestic manufacturing reduces the company’s carbon footprint by creating logistical efficiencies. In 2012, Diamond Wipes completed the installation of a 3,360-panel solar power system at its California facility. The panels supply 86 percent of the plant’s electrical power and have reduced its annual carbon dioxide emissions by roughly 200 tons.
Yen often looks back on how far she has come and feels fortunate and blessed to have created a company that has become a real American gem.
Maynard Carkhuff Chairman and CEO Freedom Innovations www.freedom-innovations.com
To go from an unprofitable startup to one of the world’s top three names in prosthetic technology, Freedom Innovations needed a leader who had climbed to the top of the industry before. That someone was Maynard Carkhuff. He joined Flex-Foot in 1985 as a consultant, rose to the rank of CEO, and grew it into the world’s second-largest prosthetic company, leading to its acquisition by Ossur Prosthetics in 2000.
Hoping to repeat that rise to the top, Freedom Innovations hired Carkhuff as president in 2005. Carkhuff set off to fix the balance sheet and strengthen the assets of the two-year-old startup. He discovered that Freedom actually comprised three separate businesses: Freedom Innovations as the sales and marketing arm, Freedom Science and Technology as R&D, and Applied Composite Technology as a manufacturing and R&D unit.
In a risky move, Carkhuff negotiated a partnership buyout to merge Freedom Science and Technology into the Irvine, California-based Freedom Innovations. The merger paved the way for recapitalization with two private equity firms. By reinvesting proceeds from the recapitalization back into the company, Carkhuff supported its continued growth. Freedom’s value increased enough over four years for a second round of capitalization, which strengthened the company’s balance sheet and fueled growth by funding more investments in next-generation technologies.
By investing in future growth, Freedom Innovations bolsters itself against uncontrollable obstacles like government regulations and economic downturns. Most recently, health care reform decreased reimbursements for the prosthetics industry. Carkhuff, now chairman and CEO, pushed through the challenge by focusing on innovation to add value for customers.
With a forward-thinking approach to meeting customer needs, Freedom Innovation holds 18 patents and, in partnership with Vanderbilt University, created the world’s first bionic leg. Innovations in products and operations continue to increase sales and drive growth beyond the U.S., as the next phase of growth pushes further into the global market.
Michael Burdiek President and CEO CalAmp Corp. www.calamp.com
Before Michael Burdiek joined CalAmp Corp., the mobile resource company was strictly a satellite enterprise on a path to commoditization with significant customer risk. The board viewed acquisitions as a way out of the predicament and asked Burdiek to guide the organization through the critical growth phase. Fortunately, Burdiek has always believed that everything is possible because the president and CEO would need plenty of courage and optimism to overcome the challenges that lay ahead. The first challenge came when the satellite business plummeted, depleting the firm’s funding for acquisitions and exposing the company to significant recall liability. As soon as the satellite business was back up, the economic downturn hit and Burdiek again had to pick up the pieces. Throughout the difficult journey, Burdiek remained positive. He kept CalAmp on course, even in the face of possible insolvency, by sticking to his strategic plan. His contagious attitude inspired creativity and determination. His team responded by delivering significant increases in revenue, margins and market cap. Today, CalAmp not only offers investors a positive ROI, it’s the only B2B company in the sector with scalability and multiple customer offerings. Like any successful leader, Burdiek is always thinking two or three steps ahead and coaching his team for the future. His ability to anticipate customer needs, inspire creativity and innovation, and develop new products and services has transformed CalAmp from a vulnerable satellite company into a data company. Above all, Burdiek firmly believes that complacency is dangerous and the time when business leaders should be most anxious is when they’re least anxious. Even though technology is constantly changing, Burdiek’s team isn’t concerned. Under his leadership, CalAmp has overcome challenges and learned how to thrive in a dynamic marketplace by offering customers a stream of new products and services.