Accuform Manufacturing Inc.
Like any proud parents, Ron and Veronica Johnson had high hopes and great confidence that their son, Wayne, would do a great job with what they had asked him to do.
They wanted Wayne to go to Houston, the epicenter of the safety industry at the time, and generate business as a sales representative for Accuform Manufacturing Inc.
They soon had to call Wayne back to Florida. The problem was Wayne had been so successful, he outsold Accuform’s capacity. So his father brought him back to Florida to establish and grow the company’s local customer base.
It was an example of the talent that Wayne possessed and paved the way for him to take over as the company’s CEO in 1995 when his parents decided to retire. Johnson went right to work expanding Accuform’s business to move beyond the company’s initial product line and offer a robust catalog of other safety identification products.
Seven years later, he again embraced the spirit of innovation when he moved the company into the digital realm by replacing their old screen- and vacuum-printing methods with 100 percent digital printing.
Johnson always has his eye on the future, but that spirit of innovation is meshed with a strong work ethic and an understanding of how integral his employees are to the company’s achievement of its goals.
Employees are recognized for tenure and have access to amenities such as a fitness center, a cafeteria and special parking for expectant mother — to demonstrate how much they are all valued in the organization. These perks demonstrate that while employees are expected to work hard and be committed to the business, they are also appreciated.
The company is currently facing one of its biggest challenges; something which Johnson is confident will also be one of its greatest opportunities. Operations are being moved into a new, larger office to accommodate future growth. While it will no doubt be challenging, Johnson is confident his team will come through once more.
How to reach: Accuform Manufacturing Inc., www.accuform.com
Chairman, president, CEO and founder
Health Insurance Innovations
Michael was probably thinking about being in the insurance business before he even knew what insurance was. Born into the third generation of Kosloske insurance business owners, he had developed acumen for the industry at an early age.
After countless conversations around the dinner table, his dream was to one day take over his parents’ business. His plans continued to evolve as he attended Florida State University when he began to see the potential for technology to revolutionize insurance product distribution and sales.
His new plan was to create a scalable online platform to bring consumers, agents and carriers together to transact business.
This desire to create a new business model led him to sell the family business he had dreamed of owning and eventually start raising capital for what would be a new business, Health Insurance Innovations. But he never banked on having to deal with the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
Raising funds to start his company became a huge undertaking. Kosloske eventually scraped together the money he needed, but the tough times were not over.
There was barely enough money to cover payroll and it got to the point where his wife, having just delivered a baby, encouraged her husband to quickly hit the road and see what he could do to drum up more business.
The challenges continued but all that hard work finally began to pay off and the business started to boom. The entrepreneurial spirit that drove Kosloske and his wife to work so hard to make HII a success is firmly embedded in the company’s culture.
Kosloske encourages employees to come up with their own ideas about how to make the business function even better for its customers. It all leads to a company that continues to grow with employees who are proud to be key factors in the growth.
How to reach: Health Insurance Innovations, www.hiiquote.com
Michael J. Wright
President and co-founder
William “Glenn” Durie
Vice President-Engineering and co-founder
Vice President-Business Development and co-founder
Power Grid Engineering LLC
Frustrated with the quality of subcontract electrical work available, Michael J. Wright and co-workers William “Glenn” Durie and Andrew Uribe became intrigued in late 2005 with the idea of starting their own consulting firm that would fill the quality assurance niche. But the idea of selling quality was unheard of at the time.
Wright was passionate about his idea to the point of leaving his management level position and salary to work from home, without a salary, while getting Power Grid Engineering off the ground.
He soon had the duty of telling his boss he would be leaving the company — but wanted to sign up his old company as PGE’s first customer. Wright was successful in landing the contract work he wanted, as well as in negotiating his partners’ departures to stagger their effective dates.
It was not all a bed of roses at first for the new company. With only one customer, PGE had to walk on eggshells at times to maintain its relationship with its sole client.
Even as PGE began to make profits, Wright realized the need to diversify his customer base to ensure success in the future. It took time and effort, but by 2009, results were being seen. Even more impressive is the fact that Wright has managed to grow the company without taking on debt by funding the company organically.
The next challenge was to find qualified workers in an industry with a shortage of experienced candidates. To address this situation, Wright created a family-oriented corporate culture that encourages employee retention. Also, he began holding a series of training seminars that have served as an invaluable recruiting and networking tool. His knowledge and public speaking ability are put to use in that effort. He even opens these seminars to competitors’ employees.
Wright is willing to share his expertise by training the next generation of electrical engineers — and thus gain clients and recruit employees.
How to reach: Power Grid Engineering, www.powergridengineering.com
CEO and founder
Naomi Whittel got the idea for Reserveage Organics while she was in the south of France contemplating the French paradox. It’s a belief many have that centers on findings showing the French have a relatively low rate of coronary heart disease despite a diet rich in saturated fats.
As she looked for clues, she began to research the benefits of daily consumption of red wine. This ultimately led her to develop exclusive relationships with seventh-generation organic vineyard farmers to purchase raw materials for a line of health and wellness products.
Whittel, the company’s CEO and founder, has built a sophisticated team of leaders and advisers to conduct research and get access to cutting-edge ingredients that can help people feel better and be healthier.
This team plays an integral role in the company’s operations, and leaders have the opportunity to make a difference on the front lines. When the company succeeds, Whittel wants her people to share in the glory.
One reason for this kind of culture is that Whittel knows what it’s like to have to fight for recognition. When she started the company, she was one of the few female CEOs in the health and wellness industry. She knew there would be challenges in marketing women, but also knew that it was crucial to the business. That was a driving factor in lining up female leadership to help guide her company.
Of course, there have been other challenges too. As more and more people become familiar with wellness products, the industry has become more scrutinized to ensure products are doing what they claim they can do. Whittel has a strong legal counsel on hand to advise her and to make sure that she never makes a false claim about one of Reserveage Organics’ products.
The result is a company that continues to grow and a culture that is thriving with new ideas and determination, limited only by the creativity of the people who work there.
How to reach: Reserveage Organics, www.reserveage.com
Distribution & Manufacturing
Gator Cases Inc.
Crystal Morris, president of Gator Cases Inc., embodies the essence of entrepreneurship, innovation and social responsibility. Morris traces her successful career with Gator Cases to her passion for the company, the employees she is responsible for and the music industry as a whole.
Gator Cases was started with the goal of serving the music industry by selling different types of instrumentation and instrument cases. Dealers did not have one source for all their needs so Gator Cases became that one source. With innovation into new product segments and diversification to a global customer base, Gator Cases has grown to a multi-million dollar corporation.
Morris leads Gator Cases by example. She is positive, knowledgeable of Gator Cases’ products, and is a hard worker. She does not hesitate to roll up her sleeves to get the job done. In the earlier days, when her father became ill, she had to take over the sales side of the business. This was difficult since the music industry is male-dominated.
At first, no one took her seriously because she didn’t take the old-fashioned fast-talking sales approach. Instead, she sells through demonstrating her product knowledge and finding out how to solve the target customer’s problems. She identifies what her customer’s purpose is in the market and in turn, she finds ways where doing business with Gator Cases could improve their business.
Based on their unique business model of innovation and convenience to the music customer, there is no one equal competitor to Gator Cases. The closest competitors are only competing for business in each independent line of Gator Cases. Because the company services several markets, it can bundle value to address the various needs of its clients.
The future is bright for Gator Cases and under the leadership of Morris, success is sure to continue. Future expansion includes new and exciting innovative products and manufacturing processes in the U.S.
How to reach: Gator Cases Inc., www.gatorcases.com
Distribution & Manufacturing
George Hernandez Sr.
Solo Printing Inc.
Before Manny and George Hernandez started Solo Printing in 1985, they were sales representatives for a print shop enterprise — and they learned that customers came back not only for the product but for the service and the quality.
So the brothers set out on an adventure to bring their own high standards of service and quality to a competitive and demanding industry. Since they were now independent from big corporation attitudes and planning methods, they could make their own decisions and implement techniques and strategies.
One last hurdle remained: no one would readily lend them money for the equipment required for even a small commercial print shop. They finally found someone to believe in them and began printing letterhead stationery and fliers in a 1,400-sq. ft. warehouse. It was a simple beginning but it allowed them to remain committed to their vision. Success came immediately and they were able to preserve their business idea unaltered.
The brothers believe a successful business is all about teamwork. The employees at Solo Printing have enabled the company to differentiate itself from the competition. By having skilled workers want to work for a company that has quality equipment, is busy and treats them well, the brothers ensure a reputation for quality, service and price competitiveness. In 2012, for instance, the 130-employee company set record sales.
Among the incentives Solo Printing offers employees is a quarterly bonus program, annual raises and bonuses even throughout the tough economy. The brothers are on the print shop floor on a daily basis making sure that everyone is happy and teaming up to define solutions should issues arise.
One of Solo Printing’s crowning achievements was receiving an industry award of G7 Master Certification, granted to printing facilities required to use the G7 Proof-to-Print Process and use the most modern technology, techniques and printing press controls to produce a close visual match from proof to print. Solo Printing has been recognized by the South Florida Business Journal as one of the region’s fastest growing companies.
How to reach: Solo Printing, www.soloprinting.com
Distribution & Manufacturing
R. Charles Murray
PPi Technologies Group
In the mid-1990s, Charles Murray was inspired to use his knowledge of plastics, which he obtained through working in the plastic shrink-binding industry, to expand the use of plastic as a packaging material. At the time, Murray felt plastic was undervalued by American companies, which tended to use aluminum, glass or paper products.
So in 1996, he founded PPi Technologies Group, a supplier of StandUp pouch and tray machines used to package food, drinks, drugs, household products and chemicals. His business model was based on more than 30 patents to give customers an advantage over competitors and to keep the U.S. pouch machine market ahead of global competition.
He took a new approach to the pouch machinery industry by signing long-term supply agreements or investing in or with global machine suppliers to make parts of the American designed machines and then deliver these back to the U.S. for finishing with his patented technology.
During the last 16 years, PPi Technologies has expanded from producing pouch machinery to producing its own pouch beverage product. Murray, who is CEO, started Redi-2-DrinQ Group in 2008 for packing beverages into pouches and launched his own brand of shaped Redi-2-DrinQ ShotPak cocktails and STR8UP premium spirits in a patented hip flask shaped pouch.
The traditional wine in a box segment came under attack next with the launch of his patented BarrelPaQ pouch without the box. He then rounded out the beverage industry with a CarboPouch for draft beer and Chilling Rocks water pouch.
In 2008, the company was included in the Inc. magazine list of fastest growing private companies. Murray plans to lead the company into its next stage, focusing on expanding its Redi-2-DrinQ Group and providing safe, environmentally responsible beverage products to consumers in addition to going after products in the refrigerator that can be packaged and stored in one of the company’s innovative pouches.
How to reach: PPi Technologies Group, www.ppitechnologies.com
For 27 years, Ernst & Young has championed the entrepreneurial spirit of men and women pursuing excellence in their businesses, their teams and their communities. Ernst & Young founded the Entrepreneur Of The Year Program to recognize the passion of entrepreneurs and to build an influential and innovative community of peers.
We received more than 1,680 national entries for this year’s program from the country's most deserving entrepreneurs. Their triumphs stand as a testament to the role they play as visionaries and leaders.
In 25 US cities, we are gathering to toast their commitment to succeed. We applaud them for taking risks, breaking ground, opening new markets and fueling job growth.
Let’s celebrate their achievements, their perseverance and their unwavering commitment to winning in the marketplace.
Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Program Partner
Ernst & Young LLP
2013 Entrepreneur Of The Year Florida
Distribution & Manufacturing
Solo Printing, Inc.
Power Grid Engineering, LLC
Retail & Consumer Products
Denise E. Dickins, Ph.D.
Michael K. Ferris
Steven T. Halverson
Mark A. Llano
Jonathan Brett Klein
CEO and co-founder
CEO and director
In a decidedly old-school industry, oil and gas, Jonathan Klein and Luis Luque are a breath of fresh air. They have worked hard to build Cimation as both a company and a brand with a specific identity and corporate message unlike many of its competitors.
Where other companies may scoff at marketing as expensive and unnecessary, both understand the importance of a cohesive, modern marketing strategy. This initiative enables Cimation to compete with Fortune 500 technology companies for top industry talent and has helped earn business accolades even beyond the energy sector.
They have created an energetic environment where people truly love to work. All employees are encouraged to pitch new business ideas and are rewarded for their success along the way. Employees are not confined by their job title; instead, they are urged to seek out training opportunities and develop expertise across multiple areas.
The collaborative work environment at Cimation encourages employees to offer critical insights and constructive feedback. Recently, in a strategic rollout across all of Cimation’s offices, Klein, Luque and their executive team launched a series of focus groups centered on key business areas. These contributions to the overarching company goals increased engagement at the grassroots level and improved employee satisfaction.
Klein and Luque believe — and Cimation’s sustained success attests to it — that empowered, engaged and appreciated employees are more productive and work harder to support the ambitions of the entire company.
The duo cofounded Cimation in 2009 at the height of the recession when most businesses were struggling to remain open. Nevertheless, theyhave led the company to success from day one, increasing revenue, profits, head count and industry accolades year upon year.
They recently spearheaded an intellectual property initiative that will see Cimation developing new packaged technology solutions and other forms of intellectual property in the near future. Although a risky move in an industry overcommitted to underperforming technology, their vision of Cimation as a truly “great” company demands that they continue to push the envelope.
How to reach: Cimation, www.cimation.com