Manoj Bhargava, Founder and CEO, Innovation Ventures LLC and Living Essentials LLC

Manoj BhargavaWinner, Master

Manoj Bhargava’s experience didn’t come from a college degree. It came from life. Moving from India to the U.S. at 14, he worked various odd jobs — from demolition to taxicab driver — before returning to India in his 20s to pursue spiritual education. After 12 years, he brought his vast life experience back to the U.S. to successfully grow and sell his family’s business in the plastic industry.

He retired upon completing the sale in 2006, but his break only lasted two months. Unable to stay out of the entrepreneurial realm long, Bhargava dove into a new project, setting out to make what would become the leading liquid energy shot: 5-hour Energy.

Bhargava is now founder and CEO of Farmington Hills, Mich.-based Innovative Ventures LLC and Living Essentials LLC. Living Essentials, the company that produces 5-hour Energy, has seen rapid growth since 2004. But the success of the energy drink wasn’t immediate.

The company had a challenge in introducing a product that many distributors couldn’t categorize at the time. The Living Essentials team successfully introduced it by convincing convenience stores to place the product near the checkout aisle or cash register, as opposed to in a beverage cooler. This helped establish a new product category.

Living Essentials has built a strong brand, maintaining 90 percent market share. It serves as a title sponsor of NASCAR’s Sprint Cup series racer Clint Bowyer, professional golfer Jim Furyk and Kenda Racing.

The company has also partnered with AARP and has expanded its channels, such as specialty retail and hardware. Its revenue has grown by 20 percent in the last year, and its staff has reached 400 employees.

HOW TO REACH: Living Essentials LLC,