Since 1986, EY has celebrated the entrepreneurial spirit of men and women who have followed and achieved their dreams. These leaders have changed the lives of countless others by building their businesses and giving back to their communities.
Their passion, vision and persistence stand as a testament to their dedication. Twenty-eight years ago, EY founded the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ Program to recognize these dynamic leaders and to build an influential community of innovative entrepreneurs.
Each June, we host celebrations in 25 U.S. cities to welcome the men and women who are regional finalists into our community and to toast their vision. Their energy and strategic vision have turned their dreams into reality. We applaud them all for taking the road less traveled to launch new companies, open new markets and fuel job growth.
Join us in celebrating their passion, innovation and unwavering commitment to win in the marketplace. Congratulations to all!
For more information on the EY Entrepreneur Of The YearTM Midwest Program, visit www.ey.com/us/eoy/mw
Kevin T. Conroy
President and CEO
Exact Sciences Corporation
Kevin T. Conroy was stepping into a difficult situation when he took the reins at Third Wave in 2005. The company was struggling to develop new products and was not meeting investor expectations. Conroy refocused the team on developing and earning Food and Drug Administration approval for a molecular diagnostic test for HPV, the virus that causes cervical cancer. In less than three years, Third Wave had successfully developed an accurate HPV test, Cervista, completed a large clinical trial and saw it approved by the FDA.
In June 2008, Hologic acquired the company, providing shareholders with a substantial return during Conroy’s leadership.
In April 2009, Conroy became president and CEO at Exact Sciences Corporation where his confident demeanor and positive attitude enable him to lead effectively by motivating his fellow team members based on a personal devotion to the improvement of life for people with colorectal cancer.
Conroy oversees every aspect of the company’s operational strategy whether it’s research and development, employee morale or staying true to the mission to improve others’ lives. Each person who works at Exact Sciences feels a personal connection to the work and to the larger mission of eradicating colorectal cancer.
By 2013, Exact Sciences had completed one of the largest clinical cancer screening trials ever conducted, enrolling more than 10,000 patients. It showed that the company’s test detected 92 percent of patients with colon cancer.
Conroy promotes a workplace of commitment to the cause, but he wants employees to feel as strongly when they are away from the office. The company is built around five core values and has a recognition program that honors those who embody the values of innovation and leadership.
Daphne Preuss’ passion for learning and growing has allowed her to never give up in her transition from a career as an academic scientist to a leading biotechnology CEO at Chromatin, Inc.
The multinational company is improving the sustainability of agriculture around the world through innovations in sorghum, a crop that is used for food, feed and fuel.
In 2000, Preuss, a highly respected University of Chicago and Howard Hughes Medical Institute professor, raised the company’s Series A round of venture capital funding and served as chair of the business’s scientific advisory board while maintaining her professorship.
All seemed to be on track until 2004, when the company’s business leadership elected to pursue a different path that diverged from the vision Preuss and some board members felt was optimal. She left the company, but returned two years later to take on the chief operating role at a time when the company was struggling to stay afloat.
Preuss stabilized the technology program, downsized all unnecessary functions to conserve cash and negotiated the company’s first commercial deal with a major agricultural biotechnology partner — all while drawing no salary. She secured several more deals and saved the company from certain bankruptcy.
The next step was to take the company even higher. She began looking for a crop that would enable Chromatin to gain a position and grow rapidly. She chose sorghum because it was a major global crop that had not yet been improved significantly and could grow on more than 80 percent of the world’s land, including areas prone to drought. The result is a vibrant company with a strong reputation for innovation as well as high-quality products and customer service.
Timothy P. Walbert
Chairman, president and CEO
When Timothy P. Walbert became president and CEO of Horizon Pharma, he brought with him an all-star team of senior managers that would allow him to build a great specialty pharmaceutical company.
These individuals had worked with Walbert in previous roles and had expertise in commercial, scientific and operations backgrounds. They helped to form a company that was focused on long-term growth and on creating shareholder value, ultimately optimizing the benefit for patients and physicians.
One of the key moves that Walbert helped oversee was the relocation of the business from Palo Alto, California, to Chicago. The move extended the opportunity for partnerships and allowed Horizon to conduct business in one of the most dynamic markets in the country.
Horizon Pharma’s commercial and business development strategy is to develop, acquire or in-license additional innovative medicines or companies where it can execute a targeted commercial approach among specifically targeted physicians such as primary care physicians, orthopedic surgeons and rheumatologists.
As a specialty pharmaceutical company, Horizon focuses its efforts on building a sales force with business-to-business representatives. While others in the field hire life science or pharma representatives, Horizon’s decision to hire B2B reps gave the company an advantage in how physicians are approached for prescribing and adopting the products.
Walbert, who also serves as chairman, retains several board positions at biotech/pharmaceutical companies. He also serves as director for the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the Illinois Biotechnology Industry Organization, ChicagoNEXT and the Greater Chicago Arthritis Foundation. Gov. Pat Quinn also recently appointed him to the Illinois Innovation Council.
His achievements with the Greater Chicago Arthritis Foundation will be honored in September when Walbert receives the Freedom of Movement award, recognizing his efforts to address the needs of arthritis patients and caregivers.
James John Cutillo
Founder and CEO
Stonegate Mortgage Corporation
Founded in 2005, Stonegate Mortgage Corporation began at a time when the mortgage industry was crowded with lenders willing to provide anyone, qualified or not, with the money to buy a home. So James John Cutillo, CEO and founder of Stonegate, differentiated his new company by sticking to traditional, sound underwriting principles — only loaning money to qualified applicants and avoiding subprime lending.
Stonegate also invested in technology and put an emphasis on the customer experience to stand out among larger, more impersonal financial institutions. The company’s internal culture would be defined by honesty, accountability and reliability.
With its principles established, Cutillo was able to orchestrate a strategy during the 2008 economic crisis that would establish the company’s leadership in the new mortgage industry and lead to its successful IPO.
Recognizing that access to capital was key, Cutillo acquired a Kansas-based bank that would enable the company to more effectively tap into financial resources to fund mortgages. He acquired Swain Servicing in Mansfield, Ohio, to provide the company with expertise and resources in mortgage servicing that would add a critical component of personal customer service to the company.
Cutillo also actively reinvested in the business, developing a technology system that enabled Stonegate to more effectively review, process and close loans for customers.
Finally, Cutillo began hiring, creating hundreds of jobs at a time when most financial companies were shedding employees. He sought people from the financial industry who understood the mistakes of subprime lending, valued customer service and shared and believed in Stonegate’s core values.
Further acquisitions have helped the company grow. Cutillo recently announced the company would create additional jobs in Indiana by 2017 and continue its national expansion. Stonegate, now licensed in 42 states and Washington, D.C., plans to expand its services across 48 states this year.
President and CEO
Morales Group, Inc.
Tomas Morales was the first member of his family to earn a college degree. The son of seasonal migrant workers who picked tomatoes on an Indiana farm, Morales is now a successful engineer with some impressive corporate names on his resume.
But for all his accomplishments, Morales didn’t ignore his father’s dying wish that he do more than donate money to causes related to his Mexican ethnicity. Rather, he needed to embrace his heritage and make substantial contributions to the Hispanic culture.
So Morales took a leap of faith and started Morales Group, Inc., a staffing firm that initially focused on placing Hispanic immigrants in jobs.
The workforce was once 75 percent Hispanic, but now includes Burmese, Nigerians, Iraqis and other immigrants from across the globe. Morales’s belief is that if he can give an individual a job, he isn’t just helping them; he’s multiplying the effect by helping families. Morales is a disciple of the school of servant leadership and his faith in God leads him in every decision that he makes.
That faith was tested when Morales launched his business. There were nights when he and his wife would lie awake wondering how they were going to make payroll the next day. There were plenty of times when supporters would seemingly come out of nowhere to loan money and help them get by.
The company began to take off, but was tested again in 2008 when the recession hit. Salaries were cut by 20 percent and creative cash flow ideas were enacted. But the company stayed afloat as local business supporters who saw the potential in what Morales was doing came to lend a helping hand.
Morales has lived up to the promise he made to his father, lecturing around the U.S. on immigration issues as he continues to advocate on behalf of the Hispanic community.
President and CEO
Transportation Solutions Enterprises
Todd Berger began as a dispatcher at Transportation Solutions Enterprises with little knowledge of the transportation and logistics industry. But his intelligence and strong work ethic would soon have him seated atop the company as president and CEO.
Four years into his career, Berger recognized the need to diversify the business. He proposed opening a trucking company to ensure Transportation Solutions could stay competitive.
Though those at the top opposed the idea, Berger persevered and convinced them to open Freight Exchange, a full truckload carrier. It turned a profit in the first year and helped Berger gain upward momentum in the company.
Berger has since launched 3PLogic, a contract logistics management provider, and fought successfully to gain investors. He structured Transportation Solutions to be the holding company for the two companies he created, strategically aligning them to be each other’s solutions but not each other’s problem.
This past year Berger facilitated the acquisition of three companies, further diversifying his company’s service offerings. He has also opened new offices for the parent company in Ohio, Texas, Minnesota, Michigan and Illinois, which has helped the company realize one of its highest number of loads transported to date.
Berger believes that continued innovation is necessary for growth, so he hires creative employees who challenge themselves and the business.
He has recently invested heavily in recruitment, with an emphasis on developers and integration engineers to continue to push innovation and cutting-edge technology.
The company has also invested significant capital in building enterprise technology products. For example, 3PLogic has built extensive proprietary middleware that integrates and communicates with any system, and allows a few employees to facilitate hundreds of millions of dollars in freight.
In the next five years, the company plans to continue to create solutions and in the process triple its value.
President and CEO
TransTech IT Staffing
Mary Davenport, a stay-at-home mom, and her husband bought TransTech IT Solutions, a staffing firm dedicated to IT service professionals, in 2002. Davenport handled back-office operations until her husband spun off a company and was pulled in another direction.
Davenport took the lead as president and CEO amid skepticism. She was forced to learn the sales and recruitment functions quickly, sacrificing her personal time to study the business.
Her employees learned not long into her tenure that Davenport was great at making tough decisions. She learned quickly and took over all client-facing activities. When it became clear that Davenport was both capable and truly cared about those she worked with, the staff at TransTech rallied behind her.
Davenport acts with integrity and stays true to her word. She is excellent at generating consensus with her team then enforcing the expectations and performance of the established goals to achieve the desired results. This has led to considerable growth in each of the past eight years.
Davenport makes it a strategic initiative to create innovative efficiencies that improve employee and corporate performance. TechServe’s client satisfaction system enables the firm to deliver a high-level of service with a high-touch approach.
Davenport celebrates its culture and clients by throwing a joint holiday party with clients and consultants together. It’s become an annual event many look forward to attending and helps keep staffers and clients highly engaged with the company.
Today, the company is more profitable than ever. Davenport is a national board member for TechServe Alliance and is considered a leader in the industry. By taking advantage of its robust social recruiting platform and mobile readiness strategy, the company plans to triple its revenue over the next seven years.
President and CEO
Tim Beaudin is not one to underestimate the value of a business’s employees. It’s not only important to find talent, but you also have to be willing to take that talent, cultivate it and give it the tools it needs to thrive in your business. It’s an approach he’s used with great success at IndCor Properties, where he is president and CEO.
Beaudin firmly believes that if you show employees you care and want to help them achieve their full potential, they will, in return, work hard to help your company achieve its goals.
IndCor currently ranks as the largest owner of domestic-only industrial real estate in the U.S. The company has 1,175 buildings encompassing about 117 million square feet located in 43 markets in 24 states.
Beaudin fosters this kind of culture by being approachable at IndCor, which was a newly created industrial real estate platform when he arrived as CEO in 2011. The company has achieved significant growth, increasing from only 21 employees in 2011 to a current headcount of 91.
The culture has grown and retained its people, using a low turnover rate to build a stronger organization that knows its customers and works hard to meet their needs. To further that sense of loyalty, Beaudin recognizes each employee with IndCor-branded apparel reflecting his or her respective hire number, a concept that was inspired from the high-tech industry startups.
Outside of the company, Beaudin is very involved in philanthropic work, including the National MS Society, Colorado-Wyoming Chapter where he participates in Bike MS. IndCor is a corporate sponsor of the event which in 2013, raised more than $80 million nationally to help create a world free of multiple sclerosis.
Chairman and CEO
Zeke Turner left a job on Wall Street at the age of 25 to bring his entrepreneurial spirit and international experience to his home state of Indiana. When he founded Mainstreet, Turner only had $10,000. But he had an ability to see what was possible before others, sharing that vision and getting others inspired by a new reality.
It’s that fearlessness that allowed Turner to pioneer a new way to raise capital and become the largest developer of senior care in the U.S. But lest you think Turner is just a thrill-seeker constantly in search of the next challenge, Turner demonstrates that it’s about a lot more than that.
He takes on challenges that allow him to think differently about an industry or sector. When faced with adversity, Turner exhibits the skill of focusing on the end goal without letting the worries of tomorrow influence his strength in the moment.
Turner wanted to change the way senior health care was approached in the U.S. So he kept asking the question, “How can it be done differently?” For Turner, it was about respect.
He looked at the standard nursing home and had a vision for how to transform it into a medical resort.
He wanted consumers to have a transformative health care experience and plans to grow Mainstreet across all verticals in order to influence the aging experience for the better. Turner doesn’t fear failure, but he does fear mediocrity.
The chairman and CEO of Mainstreet has never lost his ability to constantly ask why. This ability has helped his company disrupt and innovate, creating a strong business model that focuses on revenue maximization rather than cost management and in the process, has changed lives.
Patrick J. Allin
Chairman and CEO
Sometimes there can be tremendous opportunity in a simple idea. As a novice in construction, Patrick J. Allin saw a need to make the industry more efficient. So he developed Textura Corporation to provide cloud-based collaboration and productivity tools for the construction industry.
Textura applies Internet technology to core business processes involving multiple participants. The first application of this concept was to the invoicing and payment process in commercial construction.
Allin, chairman and CEO, faced widespread skepticism that Textura’s solutions and business model — in which fees are charged to all participants — would ever be accepted. Further, Internet technology was not widely trusted or accepted at the time. Many potential clients didn’t use computers at work and the concept of software as a service was even less understood.
Textura’s payment management model was new to the construction industry. Construction projects are complex, so rather than focusing on automating processes for a single company, Allin enabled process collaboration, making multiparty interactions and transactions more streamlined, efficient and transparent for all participants.
The company established a cloud environment that allowed clients to access the system anywhere. All participants pay to use the system, with fees commensurate with value received.
Since conception, Textura has become a public company with a growing global footprint and clientele that includes some of the largest general contractors in North America.
Textura has applied the collaboration concept to numerous other construction processes, developing a comprehensive suite of solutions. The company and its subsidiaries have been granted 42 patents domestically and internationally, with 52 pending.
Allin is now focused on the development of a single, integrated Textura platform with a flow of information that will support all construction. Currently, no such platform exists in the market today. Other growth initiatives include increasing cross selling, expanding globally and broadening the industries Textura serves.
When Daniel Adamany founded AHEAD in 2007, collaboration was not the buzzword it is today. In those days, IT companies operated in silos, as did the organizations that served them, leading to problems such as one faction of the team not knowing what the other was doing. Adamany set out to change all that. He could see technology evolving in a way that would force those silos to be broken down.
He wanted to build a company that would be at the forefront of change not only today, but tomorrow. As CEO, he creates a mindset with his team members that the next evolution is right around the corner and they need to constantly be ready to adapt.
While many companies see the value of a new platform that can help their business grow, Adamany saw companies struggling with massive amounts of information, data and hype coming at them. So he worked to build trust with his customers, allowing AHEAD to help clients navigate the changes effectively.
Adamany is a mechanical engineer by trade and is used to working with his hands. He’s known to get consumed by a project, making sure it exceeds customer expectations. For Adamany, it’s not just about solving a problem and checking off the next box on the list, he does what he can to ensure his clients have the tools to provide the same great service to their customers.
He also makes sure that within the community he and his employees do business, they take the time to give back to those who need a little extra support. Adamany and his wife Katherine launched Getting Ahead, a not-for-profit organization that helps children advance their own educational pursuits.
Co-founder and VP of operations
Craig Vodnik believes in giving young people a chance to prove what they can do. While other business leaders prefer to let someone else groom new talent to the point that they can step right in and go to work, Vodnik has no problem getting in on the ground floor with someone who has yet to be given the chance to reach his or her full potential.
The approach is great for workers who are just getting started in their careers, but it also allowed Vodnik and his team of co-founders at cleverbridge, Inc. to keep their personnel costs down in the early days of the business. In some cases, Vodnik hired employees who were still in college and had very little e-commerce knowledge. But Vodnik was committed to helping them grow, and because of that, the young people he hired returned the favor and committed to cleverbridge.
The company saw an opportunity to improve upon existing e-commerce solutions. They had experienced the challenge of buying a product from a vendor that did not support their language, payment method or business hours. It was a dismal shopping experience for customers around the world and cried out for something different.
Even more challenging to Vodnik, who serves as the company’s VP of operations, was the fact that early on, he was the only employee based in the U.S. His colleagues were based in Germany and the seven-hour time difference left Vodnik to handle U.S. sales growth, marketing and client relations on his own.
But he was up to the challenge. He put in the work himself and when his team began to grow with that young, unproven talent, his passion shone through and spread to the new employees who were eager to learn and grow with the business.
President and CEO
The launch of FOB.com was a bust for Glenn Trout. But that didn’t stop him from picking up the pieces and launching MSDSonline, a provider of cloud-based environmental heath and safety compliance solutions.
FOB.com was decimated when the dot com bubble burst. The company’s venture firm had faith in Trout, however, and provided him with a small seed pool of cash to turn an ancillary offering of his old company into a new business venture. Trout took five of his employees and started MSDSonline with a small, non-monetized part of FOB.com, the electronic dissemination of material safety data sheets, and turned it into a fee-based service.
Trout, the company’s president and CEO, recognized that Occupational Safety and Health Administration compliance was a big problem when selling chemicals. So MSDSonline began as a lead source for such sales, and developed a suite of cloud-based tools to help companies manage their chemical hazards to reduce their risk and liability.
The company was slow to take off, so Trout invested in a sales team to accelerate its growth. He’s also put together a dedicated product management team that processes customer input to enhance the product and improve design aesthetic.
Trout has created a vibrant work environment at MSDSonline that encourages openness and having a good time. He’s quick to praise, first to take blame and relentless in his pursuit of finding the best solutions to problems.
He also works to extend goodwill to his community, hosting students from Chicago Public Schools, and donating technology and money to schools for uniforms and after-school tutoring programs. Trout is also president of the Kenilworth United Fund, which raises and distributes $150,000 annually for local charities.
Today, Trout’s customer base and sales have increased tremendously, leading his organization to be recognized as a six-time Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Company.
John James Schwan
Founder and CEO
In most cases, Solstice Mobile is competing against services firms many times its size. So Solstice uses its smaller size to its advantage. Headed by founder and CEO John James Schwan, the company uses its nimbleness and creativity to develop mobile technologies for multibillion-dollar global organizations.
Schwan started Solstice’s mobile development service line in 2007, focusing its R&D efforts on iPhone and Androids at a time when BlackBerry had the lion’s share of market penetration. It was a risky bet that paid off.
Solstice has been able to accelerate the meaningful adoption of emerging technologies for its clients, while ensuring enterprise-class standards and extensibility. From client-server development, to e-commerce, to early endeavors in mobile channels, Solstice has helped its clients fully exploit the compounding waves of technology innovation.
While many consulting firms were off-shoring development work, Schwan differentiated Solstice by using domestic computer scientists who justified their increased cost through speed, nimbleness and precision.
Existing client relationships account for most of the company’s revenue, showing the value they place in the company. And Solstice has managed to create one of the fastest-growing firms in the country, without taking on any outside investment capital.
Schwan ensures that the company’s work does not stop with its clients. Recently, Solstice recruited more than 50 dancers for Chicago Dance Marathon, raising more than $55,000 for Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. This year, Solstice will send three delegates to Nairobi, Kenya, to find ways Solstice can help various not-for-profit mobile technology efforts aid individuals around the world.
The world of enterprise mobility and innovation is changing rapidly, as digital disruption is reaching every office of the C-suite. Solstice is ideally positioned to help its clients fully leverage emerging technologies to create opportunities of transformation.
Founder and CEO
Jerry Jendusa has never been afraid to take risks. So when he was approached by a customer at Gulfstream Aerospace with the idea of replacing fluorescent tubes in airplanes with LEDs, Jendusa was excited to tackle the challenge.
He began working on a plan in his basement while honoring a non-compete agreement that meant he could not draw a salary for more than a year.
Jendusa obtained equity through family and friends and cobbled together a small amount of cash, a Small Business Administration loan and a minimal line of credit.
Despite the financial difficulties, Jendusa was driven to make this plan work. He wanted to offer an expansive product line that would be flexible in its use on many different aircraft types. Other goals were to continually increase the amount of product sold on each aircraft and to include value-added services such as certifying products and aircraft in order to box out the competition.
But product wasn’t the only thing that would be needed to make EMTEQ a great business. He needed to develop a strong vision that everyone understood and would channel their efforts toward fulfilling. He had to build a team that was adaptable and ready to move quickly to meet customer demands and stay ahead of the competition.
He empowered them with an entrepreneurial spirit and a commitment to excellence that was second to none.
Those traits are nice when your company is growing, but they become essential when you hit a rough patch. The 9/11 terrorist attacks created havoc in the aviation industry and could have easily been the end of EMTEQ. But the company’s founder and CEO would not let that happen. He over-communicated to his team about new marketing strategies and ways to get new customers, continuing to push forward. The strategy worked, and the company kept right on growing.
Robert D. Kamphuis
Chairman of the board, president and CEO
Mayville Engineering Company, Inc.
When Robert D. Kamphuis started as CEO of Mayville Engineering Company, Inc., in 2005, he found a company that was struggling. The company had its ups and downs and this was one of its down periods. Even in the midst of those tough times, Kamphuis could see an organization that had tremendous potential.
So he didn’t waste any time making moves to help the company reach it. He set forth a clearly defined mission that continues to be successful today. It began with a foundation of teamwork and trust that led to a culture that is filled with tremendous loyalty and commitment to each other and to the company.
Each employee owner is vested in the success of the company and is therefore focused on helping to make the company’s customers successful. Kamphuis has helped them understand that when customers are successful, the company is also successful.
Employee shareholders have embraced the mission Kamphuis has set forth, largely because they have reaped the rewards of growth opportunities, both personally and professionally.
Kamphuis, chairman of the board, president and CEO, is able to see beyond his business and help those who need it. He’s created a charitable giving campaign that gives back to local schools, chambers of commerce, United Way and other organizations that set out to improve the lives of local citizens.
But it’s the business that has set the foundation for these many great works. Kamphuis has worked hard to build a strong culture, but also a business that is continually aiming to get better at what it does. The company has built new plants and acquired businesses that have diversified the customer base while stabilizing and growing record profits. He has done this by exercising good risk management and implementing well-thought-out plans.
Cary Brendan Wood
President and CEO
Cary Brendan Wood is the fifth person to head the 109-year-old Sparton Corporation, a manufacturer of electromechanical devices. As president and CEO, he took over the company just a few months from bankruptcy in a tough economy. He and his management team led Sparton through a series of difficult, unpopular, but necessary decisions to avoid bankruptcy and retain customers.
Prior to Wood coming on-board, the manufacturing company had squandered its cash reserves, suffered multimillion-dollar losses and developed an over-leveraged debt position. Customers, suppliers and employees were anxious, and vocal investors wanted a leadership change.
With Wood at the helm, he and his team initiated a financial and operational turnaround strategy. He asked employees to make decisions as if they owned the company. Employees found cost- and time-saving initiatives, which led to profitability for Sparton for the first time in three years. Now, the company was able to shift into growth phase, launching a new business development function that led to six acquisitions.
With bankruptcy behind him, Wood led a series of planning events that established corporate values and a five-year strategic plan with further growth opportunities and operational improvements.
The strategic plan defined the types of products and markets Sparton would pursue. Business development was re-initiated with a new team, brand and marketing message. Sparton made its first annual investments in R&D that led to a number of proprietary products in 2011. Finally, the team started strategically rounding out Sparton through acquisitions, leading to geographic expansion, customer diversification, value-added capabilities and entry into tangential markets.
Together, these efforts have strengthened Sparton and differentiated it from competitors.
Today the culture is benefiting from Wood’s installation of corporate values and the entire organization is benefiting from the turnaround strategy — Sparton is enjoying one of the most profitable eras in its history.
President and CEO
As president and CEO of UGN, Inc., Peter Anthony’s leadership demonstrates his ability to implement multiple strategies as part of a comprehensive business plan. He joined UGN, a producer of high-quality acoustic interior trim and thermal management products, as a sales and marketing manager in 1992.
His goal, however, was to run the company. Anthony’s personal growth plan has translated to immense success for the company he now heads.
While responsible for business development, he helped increase UGN sales, implemented standard costing models to ensure consistent quotations to customers and developed an internal packaging department that became a profit center for the company.
As the company’s vice president, Anthony created and implemented global strategies and systems to coordinate sales activities with customers in Japan and Europe.
Then, as CEO, he diversified the company’s product mix by successfully marketing new technologies to customers and building business cases, returns-on-investment and projected cash flow to support new investments. He dramatically increased profitability through effective negotiations with both domestic and international customers.
During his tenure, he has coordinated multiple, cross-functional groups encompassing a variety of global stakeholders to broaden market share, bringing new products and technologies to market. He created and implemented a global core team to meet customer demand for worldwide business sourcing, and coordinated worldwide sales and marketing efforts to ensure cross-functional viability.
Anthony reinvented UGN by expanding it from a niche supplier to a broad-based corporation with a diversified product line. He implemented strategic and aggressive growth by skillfully directing successful entry into novel sectors.
His vision for continued growth has resulted in the addition of two manufacturing plants in the U.S. and Mexico. A third U.S. plant has just been announced.
Anthony’s assertive implementation of cost-cutting measures has positioned UGN to remain a highly profitable enterprise, and an industry leader in the delivery of innovative automotive products.
President and co-CEO
Tom Sosnoff, founder and co-CEO, and Kristi Ross, president and co-CEO, have blended comedy and investing into online video shows called tastytrade.
With the mission of making finance more fun and easy to understand, tastytrade began in a Chicago brownstone incorporating Sosnoff’s 25 years of finance and trading knowledge with Second City comedians.
One year later the show had its own studios and is now producing eight hours of live programming distributed through Roku, iTunes, AppleTV and YouTube. More than 1 million hours of tastytrade programming is watched each month.
The programming has a mission of teaching the end consumer about self-directed investing and financial literacy. It does so through live, on-air trading rather than delivering select successful investments later that are un-actionable. This helps viewers see the ebb and flow of investing in real time while traders maneuver the market.
In addition to the 30 tastytrade show segments, the company has also created a free app called dough, that converts complex opinion trading concepts into a simple display, highly visual, mobile trading platform.
The company’s philosophy centers on exceptional customer service, answering emails on nights and weekends, and making executives accessible. Sosnoff, a recognized online brokerage innovator and sought-after financial speaker, openly shares his knowledge of investing and entrepreneurship.
In addition to his online shows, he also speaks to high school and college students about his experience.
Ross started her career as a CPA, specializing in financial services. She is in charge of strategy and business operations for tastytrade, and is the founder of EveryHandCounts, which has a mission to introduce community service to elementary age children.
This year, Sosnoff and Ross hope to penetrate colleges to address financial literacy, and to expand across the globe by further leveraging its online technology capabilities and unique programming.
Founder and CEO
Matthew Matros, founder and CEO of Protein Bar, says he was an overweight child who was made fun of as a kid. His father, the owner of a local dry cleaner, passed away at 48 from a heart attack when Matros was only 11 years old. The impact of his father’s death would help him become the person he is today.
Matros, who was working as a sports agent, was heavy and not taking care of himself. He was worried the same fate that befell his father was in store for him. So Matros quit his job and improved his diet and health.
He realized there wasn’t a place serving the kinds of foods he wanted to eat. So he took out a Small Business Administration loan and poured his life savings into the first Protein Bar location, which focused on protein shakes. The business couldn’t make enough money on shakes alone, so he added a line of healthy wraps, salads and bowls.
Long lines attracted lots of interest in the health food concept, and Matros began getting investment and franchise inquiries. Not long after, a group of private investors helped fund Protein Bar’s growth. That proliferated the brand and expanded its locations to 10, with three restaurants opening in Washington, D.C.
Protein Bar is now a chain of fast-casual restaurants serving foods high in protein and fiber and low in saturated fat and sugar.
Seeing his company’s growth potential, Matros began searching for a top consumer-focused private equity firm and landed one that invested heavily in the company. The investment helped the company establish four more locations, and Matros expects to have up to 21 this year.
Having changed his own life, Matros is hoping Protein Bar can do the same for others, which is exemplified in its motto: To change the way people eat on the go.
Co-owner and co-founder
Tracy Roemer and Bonnie Micheli’s shared passion for teaching and fitness training led them to co-found and co-own Shred415. They had tracked exercise trends for years and assembled a plan to open a studio where they could teach high-intensity cardiovascular training.
Differentiation was key to Roemer and Micheli’s fitness venture. The area had a variety of Pilates and yoga classes, but nothing like the strength and cardiovascular program they had in mind. A Shred415 class involves four, 15-minute segments broken into 30-second intervals that have clients working between cardiovascular and strength training.
They opened the first studio in Chicago’s Lincoln Park and have generated a following since. That single studio grew to three, and four more locations are scheduled to open this year.
At the onset, there was more to maintaining the business than teaching fitness classes. Both Roemer and Micheli worked the front desk and cleaned to make sure the studio was in top shape for clients. The experience helped them understand what was necessary to run the business and that hiring the right people was essential. Now, they have a knack for hiring the best talent, and offer them frequent professional development opportunities.
Giving back to their community, Roemer and Micheli contribute to both their respective children’s schools and various local events throughout the year.
Their biggest fundraising efforts have been with Bright Pink, which focuses on the early detection of breast and ovarian cancer in young women while providing support for high-risk individuals. In 2013, they were guest instructors at Bright Pink’s Fab-Fest, a health and fitness expo, raising more than $12,000.
After three years, the two still put their heart into Shred415 and have never forgotten what it took to make the first studio a success.
The social media space is crowded, filling with competition almost daily. To stick out, Sprout Social’s CEO Justyn Howard maintains a relentless focus on quality and innovation for his company, which provides social media engagement, publishing and analytic tools for brands.
The inspiration to launch Sprout came when Howard recognized social media’s importance in connecting customers, but also how cumbersome the process was and the lack of tools built for professional use. Sprout was built to make the complex process of social media engagement simple and effective.
Howard and the Sprout team created a platform that encourages brands to not just push messages into the world, but to engage on a daily, hourly and minute-by-minute basis. Sprout debuted numerous collaboration and analytics enhancements in the past year that enable customers to better work together, measure success and determine ROI of social efforts.
Howard believes these features will better serve small, mid-market and enterprise organizations as they expand social’s role in the overall organization without stifling autonomy or building in bulky layers of bureaucracy.
Sprout has consistently supported and been involved in the burgeoning technology and startup community in Chicago. Howard donates his time to help local entrepreneurs as they embark on their new journey and hosts small business events throughout the year. This year, Howard is also spearheading a new philanthropic and service initiative at Sprout — a consortium of employees from around the company is determining the best community service projects that align with employee curiosities and capabilities.
Sprout is experiencing unprecedented growth. Since January 2013, the company has doubled in size and Howard has established a culture of fun and excitement that helps the company maintain a 98 percent retention rate. Howard hopes to maintain this energetic environment to build on the company’s creativity, pride and hard work.
Private Equity/Venture Capital Backed
Founder and CEO
Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants
Tim McEnery began his career in the hospitality industry as a dishwasher when he was 11 years old. He was patient, slowly working his way up through the ranks to become a restaurant manager by high school, when he would hop in his car to go directly from school to work at night and stay until closing time.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in restaurant and hotel management from Purdue University and was hired as general manager at Green Gardens Country Club in the southern suburbs of Chicago. He was given the large task of overseeing the club’s restaurant, its banquet facilities and its golf course operations. That’s a lot of responsibility for any one person, let alone a 21-year-old, but once again, McEnery was up to the challenge.
During this time, he was positioning himself to accomplish his dream of opening his own restaurant. He set out to create a menu, paired it with his own handcrafted wines and formed the innovative dining concept known today as Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants.
The inspiration for the concept had come while McEnery was on a date with his future wife. He was planning to eat after a wine tasting and wondered why the place didn’t have a restaurant.
It took more than four years of diligent planning and rejections from 12 banks, but in 2005, McEnery opened the doors to his first Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant. As of today, it’s the 37th largest winery in the country and the fifth largest outside of California, producing more than 204,000 cases of wine in 2013.
The business thrives and so does the earth as McEnery, the company’s founder and CEO, imported a sanitizing machine from Italy that allowed him to save more than 588,000 bottles from landfills in 2013.
David L. Nussear
President and CEO
Bluffton Motor Works
David L. Nussear had an inkling that good days were ahead when he became president and CEO at Bluffton Motor Works. How else would you explain his decision to use money from the sale of his family’s home to invest in a company that had experienced five consecutive years of declining revenue?
Nussear saw the potential during his interview for the job and a facility tour. He was confident that he had what it took to not only get the company turned around, but make the supplier of specialty fractional motors, gearboxes and controls a successful business.
He came to Bluffton Motor Works in 2008 with more than 15 years of experience in the motor industry, gradually taking on greater levels of responsibility. Success is part of who Nussear is, having been a state champion football player, an Eagle Scout and now the leader of a growing business.
He put those skills to use right away. The nation was entering a deep recession and the motor industry was among the hardest hit.
Nussear assembled his leadership team to stay true to his philosophy of “first who, then where.” The team developed and executed a strategy that led the company to five straight years of growth and market gains. But those results came at a price. Many difficult decisions had to be made with regard to staffing, product and customers. It was never easy, but Nussear stuck to his principles, remained transparent to his team and made it a point to have open, candid conversations with employees whenever necessary.
He faced situations when employees didn’t want to change, but Nussear was able to work through the challenges, bridge the differences and help Bluffton make the moves needed to grow to all-time highs in sales, profit and market share.
In the early 2000s, Steve Sarowitz, chairman of Paylocity Corporation, recognized the coming cloud computing trends in the payroll industry. He invested tremendous effort and capital to build an accessible, scalable cloud-based human resources and payroll tool.
Through processing payroll, Paylocity gathered information that it used to build a suite of human capital management products. It leveraged that insight to provide services to support HR functions such as HR administration and performance reviews.
Having established the web-hosted product and positioning it in the software as a service space, Paylocity grew rapidly. Sarowitz saw the opportunity to take the company national, but needed a boost to get there.
He hired Steve Beauchamp from his executive position at a major payroll processor to lead the push. Beauchamp recruited strong leadership in sales and helped Sarowitz develop innovative go-to-market strategies that helped Paylocity access new channels that now contribute significant leads and new business.
The company has positioned the product to provide heavy analytical support to HR and developed differentiation with upcoming requirements of the Affordable Care Act to further insulate it against the competition.
In addition to their tenacity in business, both Sarowitz and Beauchamp are strong believers in philanthropy. Paylocity participates in Toys for Tots and has volunteered at the Chicago Food Depository and Chicago Cares Serve-a-Thon.
But their philanthropy was realized within the organization when a Paylocity employee lost her home to a fire. The company created a “Penny Wars” program in which various departments competed against one another to help raise money for the employee and various other charities. The initiative raised $4,200 and conveyed the sense that Paylocity cares about its employees.
With both Sarowitz and Beauchamp focused on the company’s strategic vision, expansion and the future potential of new applications and features are at hand.
When faced with business challenges, YourEncore’s management team — Brad Lawson, president and CEO; John Barnard, chairman; and Tim Tichenor, CFO — remains disciplined and focused.
During the recent financial crisis, YourEncore’s clients, consumer product and life sciences companies that use its global network of doctors, Ph.D.s and other technical experts for advisory and execution services, sharply reduced spending.
YourEncore successfully navigated the downturn by staying disciplined in balance sheet management, keeping the team focused on selling the right product mix and adapting the firm’s services to the marketplace. As a result, YourEncore’s revenues increased and have every year of its existence.
YourEncore was originally founded as a way for companies such as P&G and Lilly to access industry retirees, and to fill short-term gaps in capacity and expertise. It identified and vetted the experts, and handled taxes, confidentiality, insurance and other services to reduce the administrative burden and risk for both clients and experts.
Today, YourEncore serves some of the world’s largest and most innovative companies. Its team of experts has grown to more than 8,000 technical specialists, entrepreneurs, innovators and clinicians.
Over the past decade, the company has seen competition from its own experts for projects and reluctance among some companies to accept others’ ideas. YourEncore has adapted to the evolving marketplace by becoming a trusted partner to its clients, providing a differentiated service and delivering value.
Faced with the shifting demands and tastes of consumers around the world, consumer product companies are looking for new ways to innovate and go to market faster.
YourEncore provides these companies with innovators who have developed many successful products, but also provides solutions that improve internal innovation approaches and inject external stimuli into the process.
By focusing on its strengths, YourEncore has been addressing the most urgent needs facing its clients and is positioned for continued growth.
KAR Auction Services
If you think you had a tough path to follow to achieve your goals, you need to sit down and talk to Jim Hallett. It’s not that he would expect or want you to feel sorry for him, but you have to admit that the man had his share of challenges reaching his current position as CEO at KAR Auction Services.
As a child, Jim had a debilitating stutter, but he overcame it to become student body president. He grew up in a house that burned coal, didn’t have indoor plumbing and his family didn’t own a car. He was fired as the president and CEO at KAR’s predecessor in 2005, but connected with an activist investor and private equity sponsors and bought back the automobile auction company in 2007. Since that time, the company has reached new heights and in 2009, had a successful IPO.
Hallett was not raised with a silver spoon, but he never used the hurdles he had to overcome as an excuse. He continued to push forward, using his spirit, humility and authentic honesty to attract million-dollar deals with his word and a handshake.
Hallett worked at a car dealership in his 20s and it was there he put his philosophy —opportunities are created from other peoples’ failures — to work. Instead of shipping his used cars off to the closest auto auction that was two hours away, he started his own auction in the dealership’s service bays.
There would be more challenges, such as the economic downturn of 2008. It was during that period that Hallett made a huge bet and bought a marginally successful online auto auction in Silicon Valley. The purchase paid off and Hallett once again proved his skill for bringing ideas together and helping them become a perfect match.
Founder and CEO
Brad’s Deals is not the culmination of a lifelong dream Brad Wilson had as a child to become an entrepreneur. Rather, it is a product of the tremendous frustration Wilson felt as a cash-strapped, 21-year-old college student trying to buy the books he needed for his classes. The books in the school store were overpriced and Wilson was determined that there had to be a better way for students to get the books they needed.
He headed home, went online and found better deals. Then he spoke with his friends, got them to do the same and worked hard to share the idea with others. That led to a website, the printing of 10,000 fliers and a stand that Wilson made in front of the store to convince even more students to bypass the store for a better, cheaper way to get their books.
Wilson took a semester off from school to build an even better website and never went back. Brad’s Deals was born. It was a great idea, but getting the business established to the point where Wilson could support both him and his family took a lot of time, effort and stress.
He borrowed money from friends and family; liquidated, borrowed from and paid back entire IRAs; and applied for dozens of credit cards to get funding with 0 percent interest.
Along the way, he got married, celebrated the birth of two children and lost his father to cancer.
It’s been a whirlwind ride for Wilson, the company’s founder and CEO, but the result is a business that seeks to educate and empower consumers. The business itself has no variable cost, no inventory or sales team, and no billing or collection. It’s an opportunity to build a brand that consumers can look to and count on for reliable, trustworthy service.
Founder and president
Howard Stillman did not have a lot of role models growing up in Chicago to help guide him along the path to entrepreneurship. As a student in Chicago’s public school system, it wasn’t even certain that he would graduate from high school. All of that didn’t stop him from taking steps toward his dream. At 9, he was an Amway distributor and at 15, he started a business detailing cars at peoples’ homes. He didn’t have his driver’s license yet, so he had to hire someone with a car to move the supplies and labor to each job site.
Eventually, he went to college, paying for his own expenses since his family couldn’t afford to help him.
He finished his formal education, but continued learning when he moved to Singapore and studied Chinese. He became exposed to businesspeople from around the world, including a group from Moscow. Eventually, Stillman returned to Chicago where he spent a year searching for the right opportunity.
It was then that he received an offer to manage a small consumer finance company focused on used automobile lending. Level 6 is now one of the leading used car dealerships in Chicago and focuses on serving the city’s Hispanic population. Stillman, the company’s founder and president, continued to face challenges, including a particularly difficult moment earlier this year.
On March 11, Stillman received a call at 2:30 a.m. that his corporate headquarters was on fire. He was on the scene by 3 a.m., and by 4:30 a.m. he had rallied his executive team to the scene and put a plan in place to allow the business to function that day, despite the tragedy. The building burned for eight hours, but thanks to his unrelenting ability to always find a way, the company endures.
Echo Global Logistics