For 27 years, Ernst & Young has celebrated the entrepreneurial spirit of men and women pursuing innovation and entrepreneurial excellence in their businesses, their teams and their communities. We are excited to announce that this year we received more than 1,600 national entries from some of the country's most well deserving entrepreneurs.
The blood, sweat and passion they’ve poured into their businesses and the triumphs they’ve achieved stand as a testament to the role they play as visionaries, leaders and innovators. Ernst & Young founded the Entrepreneur Of The Year Program to recognize this passion for excellence and to build an influential and innovative community of peers.
We have gathered here and in 25 other cities in the U.S. to welcome the men and women who are regional award recipients into our entrepreneurial Hall of Fame and to toast their commitment to succeed. We applaud them for launching their companies, opening new markets and fueling job growth.
So let’s celebrate their achievements, perseverance and tireless pursuit of business excellence.
John Belli, office managing partner, Ernst & Young, Orange County
Kim E. Letch, partner, Entrepreneur Of The Year program director, Orange County
Kathy Beckman, Entrepreneur Of The Year program manager, Orange County
Family Business Category
Real Estate & Hospitality
Retail & Consumer Products
Bala Iyer, Board Member
Life Technologies, QLogic, IHS,
Skyworks Solutions, Power Integrations
Prior Judge – 2009, 2012
Bruce Hallett, Managing Director
Miramar Venture Partners
Dan Lubeck, Managing Director/Founder
*Dean Yoost, Board Member
Union bank, Pacific Life, Emulex, Belden Inc.
Prior Judge – 2010, 2011
*Doug Ammerman, Board Member/Director
Fidelity, Stantec, William Lyon Homes, El Pollo Loco
Prior Judge – 2011, 2012
Gary Jabara, Founder & CEO
Prior Winner – 2012
National Winner - 2012
Glenn Schafer, Chairman
Janus Capital Group, Skilled Healthcare
Prior Judge – 2011, 2012
Matthew Jenusaitis, President & CEO
Prior Judge – 2012
- * Judge’s spokespeople
NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year
Education and Non-profit
William Scott Duennes
Before the term “social enterprise” was coined, Cornucopia, Inc./Nature’s Bin, under the direction of William Scott Duennes, was a leader in setting the standard for socially responsible companies in northeast Ohio.
Duennes joined Cornucopia in 1986 and in just one year, due to his display of leadership qualities, the board of directors approached him about transitioning into the role of executive director. He accepted, and the organization has been flourishing ever since.
Cornucopia is a nonprofit organization that operates five community-based vocational training sites providing opportunities and employment services to people with disabilities. The primary training location is Nature’s Bin, a retail grocery store that Cornucopia operates.
Throughout Duennes’ tenure as executive director, he has maintained a focus on the organization’s mission to help people with disabilities develop their skills, confidence and workplace potential. This is evidenced by the partnerships that Cornucopia has made with retail and non-retail organizations.
Duennes decided to expand beyond the retail world with respect to rehabilitation training to meet the needs and interests of the individuals the program serves. Cornucopia placed 40 individuals with disabilities that were part of its training program into competitive employment in 2012.
To emphasize the organization’s focus on rehabilitation efforts and related success, Duennes recently arranged for the income statement to list rehabilitation revenue ahead of Nature’s Bin retail operation revenue.
While maintaining a steadfast focus on the training program affiliated with Cornucopia, the retail business associated with Nature’s Bin continues to thrive, breaking industry norms by being more than just an organic food market, and widening its target market base by appealing to the needs of people in the community.
Specifically, through product diversification and its ability to identify, develop and serve niche sub-markets, the organization under Duennes’ leadership is an industry leader in sales per square foot, averaging 32 percent more than its competitors.
How to reach: Cornucopia Inc., www.cornucopia-inc.org
As executive vice president and CMO of Global Cash Card, Michael Purcell has faced both trouble and triumph throughout his journey as an entrepreneur, which began in the staffing industry.
It was during this time that Purcell realized there had to be a better way to distribute payroll to employees across the nation. Though this was uncharted territory, he knew that an electronic pay system would save time and money for employers and employees. This creative spark helped to transform a traditional staffing business into a cutting-edge business.
Breaking into the pay card industry was no easy feat. In its inception, no one knew what a pay card was or if it was even legal. There was no product, no demand and there were no clients. As time passed, the innovative idea of a pay card finally caught on, but there was still the challenge of client trust to overcome.
What sets Global Cash Card apart from its competitors is flexibility and client service. Off-the-shelf software does not fit the diversified needs of many companies. As a solution, Global Cash Card developed an in-house software system, and it is the only company in the industry that provides a live demo of the system.
Global Cash Card’s unique value is that there is no charge to the company to implement the system. The formula of success equals customer service and a flexible system is exemplified by the fact that the company has been able to acquire one new client every day for the last three years, with more than 15 percent coming from competitors.
The company continues to innovate and was the first company in its industry to create a mobile app and help companies become 100 percent paperless. As the company continues to grow, Purcell’s goal is to be at the forefront of the newest payroll technology.
How to reach: Global Cash Card, www.globalcashcard.com
Throughout Stephen Gordon’s distinguished 25-year financial and investment banking career, he’s served in executive leadership positions with rapidly growing and successful financial services firms focusing on investment banking, retail banking and commercial banking.
During the worst economic cycle in decades, Gordon recognized that the lack of available credit and liquidity was severely stifling the growth of small and midsize businesses and entrepreneurs, thereby impeding job growth, business expansion and economic recovery.
At the height of the financial crisis, through his vision, leadership and perseverance, Gordon raised millions of dollars to recapitalize a small bank based in the South Bay area of Los Angeles, which he rebranded as Opus Bank. Gordon, who is chairman, president and CEO of Opus, created a community bank with a clean balance sheet and positioned it to infuse capital funding and liquidity back into its local economies.
In the two years since its recapitalization, Opus Bank has grown tenfold to 54 locations in California and Washington. This success has resulted in Opus Bank becoming the fastest growing bank in the Western region.
The bank’s growth was aided by two rapid follow-on acquisitions and additional capital infusion, which required a clear vision and relentless focus on driving out inefficiencies and redundancies, while maintaining an unfailing focus on the client and the community. This growth has allowed Opus to provide billions of dollars in capital funding through 750 loans to small and midsize commercial businesses, entrepreneurs, real estate investors and professionals.
To achieve Gordon’s vision of returning to the old days of banking, where bankers respected their clients and clients relied on and respected their bankers, Opus has broadened its business lines to include advanced treasury management and payment solutions, fiduciary banking and other highly valued features that deliver efficiencies for clients. These business lines complement the bank’s more traditional business lines: retail banking, residential lending and income property banking.
How to reach: Opus Bank, www.opusbank.com
NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year
Distribution and Manufacturing
president and CEO
Chromaflo Technologies Corp.
Scott Becker’s story begins 33 years ago when he was hired as a color matcher for a London-based company in Pennsylvania. After a highly successful journey through the colorants business, Becker now leads a nationally recognized supplier — Chromaflo Technologies Corp.
As president and CEO of Chromaflo, an independent global colorant provider to the coatings and thermoset plastics markets, Becker has turned opportunity to success using the recession, targeting customer needs, and carefully strategizing partnerships and acquisitions. At his core, Becker wants what is best for the company, its people and its customers.
The way in which he has handled the company’s challenges only reiterates his passion for success. While at a company called Plasticolors, Becker had a vision to transform what was a single-focus, small business into a global leader. Becker spent several months convincing shareholders to take a leap of faith with the acquisition of Colortrend, which would launch the company into a broad range of markets. The acquisition of Colortrend transformed Plasticolors into what the business is today as Chromaflo.
One main component of Becker’s success is his philosophy of “give the customers what they want.” That attitude resonates throughout the company, from the customer service to the business’s alliances and partnerships. He uses a “less rules” strategy in his customer service department and is in constant contact with his customers to understand their needs and demands.
That philosophy helped Becker and Chromaflo to grow the business during the recession while others were cutting back. In 2008-09, Chromaflo was building opportunity and gaining customers, and didn’t have to partake in any layoffs. Becker’s leadership helped transform Chromaflo and increase market share, leaving other companies to catch up.
Thanks in part to Evonik Industries’ Colortrend acquisition, which Becker orchestrated, Chromaflo has grown substantially in the last three years. The company’s employee count has more than tripled.
How to reach: Chromaflo Technologies Corp., www.chromaflo.com
A large part of Anand Nallathambi’s career has been working for subsidiaries of insurance company First American Corp. He has held several executive and CEO positions over the years, and in 2010 he was appointed CEO of CoreLogic Inc. He guided the company through its separation from First American Corp. to become publicly traded.
Since the separation, Nallathambi has developed a world-class executive team and repositioned the company to be the leading provider of data services and solutions in its markets. Following the separation of CoreLogic from FAC, Nallathambi developed a bold strategy for transforming the company into a higher-growth, higher-margin leader.
The four key elements of this strategy included refocusing CoreLogic on its core operations, transforming the organization from a fragmented and distributed model to one integrated team, reshaping the cost structure and reducing costs, and reinvesting in products, services, technology and people.
As part of his plan to overhaul CoreLogic, positioning the company to lead in the markets it serves, Nallathambi reorganized the company into three core segments to further drive focus and accountability. The operating segments were Data and Analytics, Mortgage Origination Services, and Asset Management and Processing Solutions.
Over the course of 2011 and 2012, CoreLogic exited five non-core businesses and sold or exited numerous smaller units. Although these units collectively generated significant revenue, their business models lacked significant data, intellectual property and scalable returns to support Nallathambi’s long-term strategy.
To drive margin expansion and create funds to reinvest in the business, Nallathambi launched Project 30 — CoreLogic’s enterprise-wide productivity improvement program — to significantly reduce technology and corporate shared services costs. Through 2012, Project 30 has delivered $82 million in total savings.
Many of the company’s recent accomplishments are due to Nallathambi’s ability to build confidence in CoreLogic employees, clients and investors. He made difficult decisions to dramatically improve productivity and operational execution.
How to reach: CoreLogic Inc., www.corelogic.com
NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year
Retail and Consumer Products
founder and president
Brand Castle, LLC
The idea of Brand Castle, LLC, came to Jimmy Zeilinger while he was in a local bookstore and came across a cookbook aimed for parents who wanted to create cooking projects with their children.
Being a devoted parent, he immediately thought of the hassle it would be to obtain all the ingredients needed to complete a cooking project in that book and how a kit that included the ingredients would make the task so much easier. After consulting about the kit idea with his wife Andrea, he quickly discovered that he had a great idea on his hands.
Since selling its first Crafty Cooking Kit in February 2005, Brand Castle has become the leader in interactive baking kits for children and adults. However, that success didn’t come without its hurdles.
Brand Castle almost closed its doors after its first six months as a result of listening to market researchers who wrongly advised Zeilinger, who is founder and president, on the type of demand for his products. Relying on this information, he spent all his personal savings and borrowed from family to launch Brand Castle by “slotting” the products via the grocery channel.
Six months later, this strategy proved to be unsuccessful when the products were not selling as anticipated and national retailers began to close out the product. Instead of closing the business, Zeilinger decided to change the market strategy to embrace seasonality and elected a low margin, high volume approach when selecting retailers.
Brand Castle is now an international company with employees in the U.S. and China. What started with six products ranging from paint-your-own-brownie to a rainbow cookies kit has grown into a portfolio of more than 300 items sold under three different brand names and numerous licenses, including Crayola, Disney and Sanrio. Each Brand Castle product aims to help families create memories.
How to reach: Brand Castle, LLC, www.brandcastle.com
The goal of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is to be able to manage all customer touch points on one system to improve both the end user and consumer experience — and Jonathan Ord is an expert in it.
Ord had a friend in the automobile industry who expressed frustration with the multiple systems he was using to track one customer at his dealership. Through continued conversations with this friend, Ord went to work creating a CRM for the dealership space. In 2001, Ord co-founded DealerSocket Inc. with the goal of helping auto dealers manage every interaction and touch point with their customers on one platform.
In order to put his vision and plan into motion, Ord, who is also CEO, took out a mortgage on his home and started DealerSocket in his garage. Initially his customers felt the software didn’t interface well with the sales force on the floor. Thus, he offered to work without pay at a dealership for a year to gain a better understanding of his customers’ needs.
Ord aspired to help the automotive industry and make all customers fans of DealerSocket and its products. In the first year of business, 15 clients were signed, and in the second year, the number grew to 38. Today, DealerSocket serves more than 3,000 dealers in the U.S., Canada and Australia, and supports 100,000 active users.
Even during the near collapse of the automotive industry from 2006 to 2008, Ord continued to improve his products so that dealers could survive and carry on. As a result of its persistence, DealerSocket now has 20 percent U.S. market penetration and is striving for more.
The vision and plan for DealerSocket is to continue to be the No. 1 CRM for auto dealerships through customizing CRM for large dealer groups, expanding into other countries, and developing or acquiring products that make sense for the company’s software suite.
How to reach: DealerSocket Inc., www.dealersocket.com
NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year
Retail and Consumer Products
president and CEO
Ball, Bounce and Sport, Inc.
In 1982, Jim Braeunig started with Ball, Bounce and Sport, Inc., a subsidiary of Hedstrom, as a factory manager. Through the two decades following, Braeunig moved up in the manufacturer of rubber balls to director of operations, vice president of operations and eventually general manager.
Although BBS historically was a profitable subsidiary of Hedstrom, the majority of the company’s other subsidiaries were not. As a result, Hedstrom went through a rollercoaster of private equity buyouts and bankruptcies in the late 1990s and early 2000s. When Hedstrom encountered its second bankruptcy in 2004, Braeunig and a couple of other local investors decided to purchase the company to focus on BBS.
Upon the purchase of BBS in 2004, Braeunig and his team immediately went to work. They hired back several employees previously let go as a result of the bankruptcy, formed a joint venture with a Chinese manufacturer, obtained the support of retailers such as Target, Walgreens and Dick’s Sporting Goods, and after two years of consistent efforts, began to collect on the receivables of BBS purchased from bankruptcy court.
Today, BBS is still connected to the Hedstrom name, doing business as Hedstrom. Braeunig made revolutionary changes to the company, taking advantage of global resources and developing strategic business relationships.
In 2010, BBS acquired Diamond Plastics, and in 2012, Bosu, New Wave Container and Regent Sports were acquired. As a result of these acquisitions, BBS expanded its product offering to plastic dumpsters and names such as Meiter and McGregor for its sporting good products.
Even though BBS is booming, Braeunig is not ignoring potential future challenges. With increasing labor costs and high inflation rate in China, the company has started to seek an alternative to outsource manufacturing of certain products back to the U.S. or Mexico.
BBS owns 98 percent of U.S. and Canadian rubber ball markets and a growing percentage of the rotational molding market.
How to reach: Ball Bounce and Sport, Inc., www.hedstrom.com
In 2009, Dominic Gallello was tasked to turn around a company known for expensive and difficult-to-use software. The mismanaged and ailing MSC Software, founded in 1963 to assist with simulations for the space program, had not updated its products in far too long, customer churn rates were high, and there was no spark at the company.
Gallello set out to build and communicate to employees a comprehensive strategy framework that reduced general and administrative expenses from 19 to 11 percent in the first year. He cut $40 million from operating expenses in his first two years. Gallello expanded R&D by 40 percent, brought on more than 40 doctorate-degreed employees through hiring and acquisition, and initiated the development of a next generation computer aided engineering (CAE) system to be brought to market this year.
In less than five years as CEO and president, the company has embraced his vision, and his team is highly motivated to develop the solutions for existing and new customers. At MSC, he leveraged the synergy between the improved morale and the new technology to help customers change the world — which is precisely what the company is doing: The company was instrumental in simulations of the entry descent and landing for the Mars Rover Curiosity mission.
Gallello introduced a culture of “You never stop learning at MSC.” He encouraged managers and individual contributors to pursue professional development and funded their efforts.
He started a high-potential employee program (“Managing your Career”) to build future leaders and a management development program (“Managing by Influence”). Gallello believes that personal success should be celebrated, but must also come with responsibility.
He and his family have personally funded construction of five orphanages in Romania in the past five years and they call more than 100 children their own. Gallello also is funding the development of a farm in Romania for teenagers who cannot find jobs after high school.
How to reach: MSC Software Corp., www.mscsoftware.com