Jerry Lasco, founder and CEO, Lasco Enterprises LLC

Consumer Products & Services, Finalist

Jerry Lasco did not come to the restaurant business by spending hours in the kitchen watching his grandmother make her famous secret recipe lasagna. He was a pilot in the U.S. Air Force and then for Continental Airlines. The work provided the opportunity for a lot of travel and a chance to try a lot of different wines and foods.

It laid a foundation for Lasco to start a new business when he lost his job at Continental in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Lasco started slowly, working at a Houston wine store where he learned about the wine industry and finetuned his palate.

Lasco became drawn to the idea of creating a wine bar that also sold retail wine and so he and his wife, Laura, took their savings and opened The Tasting Room, one of the first wine bars in Houston.

The concept was a smash and began to grow quickly, eventually branching out into a unique restaurant concept.

Lasco spends a lot of time and effort to make sure he’s hiring good people, and then when they come on board, he works hard to make them feel like part of the team. Lasco doesn’t impose his position on others but wants to see his people grow and flourish and become strong leaders themselves.

By empowering employees and demonstrating trust, Lasco creates an environment where customers get great service and a memorable experience.

The final piece is Lasco’s commitment to giving back to the community and assisting with charitable causes. He doesn’t take his business for granted and believes that the leaders who succeed are the ones who never forget that philosophy.

How to reach: Lasco Enterprises LLC,