president and CEO
Checkers Drive-In Restaurants Inc.
Throughout his career, Rick Silva has earned a reputation for bringing energy, vision and endless dedication to his work. He has also become known as an approachable leader as president and CEO of Checkers Drive-In Restaurants Inc. No matter who he is talking to, be it a general manager, a franchisee, or an investor, Silva is genuinely interested in everyone’s ideas, always looking for new ways to improve and grow the Checkers/Rally’s business.
Checkers and Rally’s began as two separate, but similar fast-food concepts , both dedicated to giving guests great food at great value with fast and friendly service. Checkers was founded in 1986 in Mobile, Ala., and Rally’s in 1985 in Louisville, Ky. Checkers was moved to Florida in 1987 and quickly began to grow.
The two brands merged in 1999 as Checkers Drive-In Restaurants Inc., becoming the nation’s largest chain of double drive-through restaurants. When Silva joined the company in 2007, it was struggling with slowing sales, leadership turnover and underperforming locations.
Silva led a restructuring and expansion of the business. He recruited industry-leading talent to the management team, led new brand strategy and directed the implementation of best-in-class operating and performance management systems. He took risks in new technology, developed new product lines and laid out an aggressive plan for sales and unit growth.
All this occurred at a time when many restaurant chains were closing units and businesses in every sector were pulling back on investments. Silva encouraged franchises to believe in the future and his own belief in the brand has generated a complete transformation of the Checkers/Rally’s brand.
Thanks to Silva’s leadership and perseverance, the chain has experienced category-leading sales growth with more than two straight years of consecutive same-store sales increases every quarter. Moreover, the company is expanding again with new franchisees signing up in record number and a new Checkers or Rally’s restaurant opening almost every week.
How to reach: Checkers Drive-In Restaurants Inc., www.checkers.com
chef and CEO
4R Restaurant Group
From president of a $1.4 billion pharmaceutical operation to pit master, John Rivers stepped out of 20 years in corporate America to pursue his dream of opening a traditional Texas smokehouse in Florida as a platform to introduce his 18-hour, slow-smoked Angus brisket in what was otherwise considered a pork-dominated market.
He had spent two decades perfecting his recipe for brisket in his back yard. However, it was a heartfelt call in 2004 to raise funds to help offset the overwhelming cost of cancer treatment for a 6-year-old girl that brought Rivers’ passion to a new level.
Moved by the family’s story, Rivers organized a barbecue fundraiser that resulted in more than 500 attendees and the launch of what he dubbed his “barbecue ministry.” For the next five years, Rivers fired-up the smoker anytime a church, family, school or charity was in need of help.
Working from his garage, Rivers’ ministry quickly grew in popularity, prompting the bottling of his 4R signature barbecue sauce and later a line of signature rubs. The ultimate leap of faith was in October 2009 when Rivers opened the first of three 4 Rivers Smokehouses in Winter Park, Fla.
Since opening his restaurants, Rivers, who is chef and CEO, does not focus on the top line or bottom line growth. Rather, he focuses on his employees’ and customers’ experiences. He has found that spending time on employees and customers, and of course, his product, helps drive his growth.
In his first year in business, Rivers received numerous accolades from the media, including “Best Barbecue” by Florida Travel + Life magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, Orlando magazine, Orlando Business Journal and Orlando Weekly; “Best Sandwich” by Orlando magazine and two Silver Spoon Awards from Orlando Home & Leisure.
Rivers was most recently featured in Cigar Aficionado, Restaurant Business, Cooking with Paula Dean and was a recipient of Cooking Light’s 2012 Taste Test Awards.
How to reach: 4R Restaurant Group, www.4rsmokehouse.com
founder and CEO
50 Eggs Inc.
John Kunkel exaggerated his age to get his first job was as a dishwasher in a restaurant at age 15, but there was no exaggerating his can-do attitude and strong work ethic, which allowed him to escalate the ranks of the restaurant industry.
When Kunkel ventured out to open his own restaurant around the time he was 30 years old, he had succeeded at all positions within a restaurant, from line cook to dishwasher to general manager. By then, he was very much in tune with the industry and believed he had what it would take to develop and run his own concepts successfully.
With years of service and food industry experience under his belt, Kunkel was able to blend all his different learning’s into one cohesive plan when it came to creating the business model for Lime Fresh Mexican Grill, Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, Khong River House and Swine Southern Table & Bar, which all make up 50 Eggs Inc., a full-service creative firm focused on developing irrepressible brands within the entertainment and hospitality industries.
Kunkel, who is founder and CEO, knows the restaurant business has some of the highest failure rates of any business. From the beginning, he had to have a strong vision which needed to be executed to perfection. The greatest and still ongoing challenge for 50 Eggs has been growing from a one restaurant concept company to a multi-concept company.
In order to retain key employees, 50 Eggs supplements the industry standard with benefits and incentives such as performance bonuses.
Throughout this process, Kunkel has been an avid researcher to proactively learn from other operators’ and his own mistakes to ensure 50 Eggs expands the right way. Although challenging throughout, by developing the correct systems, processes and procedures at the outset, 50 Eggs has been able to grow in number of concepts and branch out into fine dining from fast casual. All of Kunkel’s concepts have received critical acclaim.
How to reach: 50 Eggs Inc., www.50eggs.com
Dr. Stephen C. Vogt
CEO and founder
BioPlus Specialty Pharmacy Services Inc.
It was just a gift from a neighbor, but it sparked in Dr. Stephen C. Vogt a passion for science that continues to this day. The gift was a chemistry set, and it set Vogt forth on a career path of innovation and success that would have a sustaining impact on the world of science.
After finishing pharmacy school, Vogt found his calling as not only an aspiring pharmacist, but as a thriving entrepreneur in the medical practice. He was one of the first pharmacists to be recognized as a board-certified nutrition-support pharmacist. Vogt helped pioneer the fields of intravenous home care and specialty pharmacy services.
He founded BioPlus Specialty Pharmacy with the goal of building a specialty pharmacy that went beyond simply providing biological medicines. The CEO and founder wanted to build a company that treats patients with individual pharmaceutical care plans to make sure that their biological specialty medicines have the best possible outcomes.
He wants the culture at BioPlus to be based on “a meaningful purpose-driven life.” Vogt interviews each employee not just to make sure they are qualified, but to judge the behavior and personality of the individual to ensure commitment to the core values of the company.
It’s that sense of purpose that drove the creation of a patient care portal that will provide patients with access to the same records physicians use to track medical progress and history. The innovation will revamp the way patients and doctors interact and will also allow transparency in the patient/doctor relationship.
BioPlus always has its patients in mind and nowhere was this more evident than in the wake of Superstorm Sandy in late 2012. Through proactive planning and quick response to the chaos that comes with such a disaster, patients received the medicine they needed. It should be noted that the actions were not initiated by Vogt, proof that his team was on top of its game.
How to reach: BioPlus Specialty Pharmacy Services Inc., www.bioplusrx.com
Dr. Matt Leavitt
CEO and founder
Advanced Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery
He lives to find innovative solutions that he can bring to the masses to help solve problems in their lives. This mindset makes him a valuable asset for his clients at Advanced Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery, where Leavitt manages the country’s largest dermatology practice consisting of more than 70 clinics.
Despite this significant responsibility, Leavitt still sees his own patients and provides the same high level of care he expects of all his practitioners. The business was built with patient care and provider excellence as the primary pillars and Leavitt wants every person in the organization to understand the key role they play in helping the company to meet those standards and be the best it can be.
As CEO and founder, Leavitt is transparent in the way he runs the company, which helps him to attract top talent. He thrives in a collaborative culture where everyone is trying to get better. Leavitt is excited to share ideas with colleagues in hopes of finding a better way to help patients.
This culture has been even more crucial for the business in light of the ongoing sluggishness of the economy. Between that and the recent political climate of change in the health care industry, fear has been prevalent among doctors who wonder what their future will look like.
But Leavitt sees the current environment as an opportunity to grow his business in order to increase the company’s influence on the industry. Seeing opportunity in the face of challenge has always been one of Leavitt’s greatest entrepreneurial qualities.
On a personal level, Leavitt rewards employees who experience individual success with both accolades and financial rewards such as stock options. His drive and passion is contagious throughout the organization, and he challenges everyone to be the best caregiver, employee and person they can be.
How to reach: Advanced Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery, www.advancedderm.com
President and CEO
Axium Healthcare Pharmacy Inc.
Mark Montgomery knew it would be tough to launch a new business in a competitive market, but he also faced another disadvantage. Although he had become a successful entrepreneur, he did not have the scientific knowledge of clinical pharmacy — the specialty he wanted to enter.
Montgomery took the approach of being transparent in this disadvantage through his business ventures and by hiring highly educated and trained people who understood the technical aspects of clinical pharmacy, his disadvantage has not been an issue. Two years after beginning an executive consulting relationship with Axium’s owners, he was hired as president and CEO which included an ownership position.
With his “people first” mentality, he has taken risks that have led to rewards. Despite past deficits in cash flow, Montgomery has not sacrificed the quality of Axium employees and their benefits. He does not sacrifice quality over quantity as well as compensation.
Montgomery holds a high regard for the culture he has created and provides employees the resources necessary in the areas of IT, human resources, legal compliance and accounting. He values their expertise and this has led to the continued investment in his people. This reputation has attracted a seasoned member of the FDA among other highly trained clinical pharmacists.
His leadership abilities do not stop at the employee level; Montgomery seeks opportunities to expand through mergers and acquisitions. In December, Axium was purchased by the Kroger Co., the fifth largest pharmacy in the U.S. This transaction will help Kroger become a specialized pharmacy, while aiding in Axium’s geographical retail expansion.
Such a “big risk-big reward” approach has been the backbone of Axium. This knowledge of business and entrepreneurial tactics has overcome Montgomery’s lack of scientific pharmaceutical training and has lead Axium down the path of success.
As Montgomery’s manta says, “Success is measured by outcomes, and outcomes are attained through understanding and action.”
How to reach: Axium Healthcare Pharmacy Inc., www.axiumhealthcare.com
Kenneth E. LaRoe
chairman and CEO
First Green Bank
Ken LaRoe thought he was done working. He had just sold Florida Choice Bank in 2006 and set out with his wife on a trip across the United States in a mini-motor home. As they traversed the country, LaRoe began reading a book his brother had given him.
The book was titled, “Let My People Go Surfing,” by Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia.
Patagonia is a highly successful outdoor clothing and equipment company and Chouinard’s philosophical approach to business greatly influenced LaRoe. He began to believe that in addition to making a profit, a business could have a positive impact on society.
When LaRoe returned from his journey, he decided to put his newfound philosophy to work by creating First Green Bank. It’s not that he was a completely changed man. LaRoe had been an environmentalist his whole life and has always been a leader who cares about society and the world around him.
But armed with the knowledge he had gained reading Chouinard’s book, he was now energized to build a bank that took personalized customer service to another level.
He bought a space that had been used as a physical therapy facility and had it retrofitted with many green features to serve as First Green Bank’s first office and headquarters. The second branch office formerly was a restaurant and was retrofitted in a similar way to the first.
In November 2011, the bank’s chairman and CEO opened a new state-of-the-art headquarters in Mount Dora, Fla., that exceeds most if not all of the standards for energy efficiency in the United States.
It includes a butterfly roof, which funnels collected rainwater to a 75,000-gallon subterranean storm vault. The stored rainwater provides 100 percent of the water used to irrigate the landscaping, which was sustainably designed to utilize plants native to the Florida ecosystem.
LaRoe is confident First Green Bank can and will change attitudes about what is possible when it comes to being financially, socially and environmentally responsible.
How to reach: First Green Bank, www.firstgreenbank.com
Co-founder, president and CEO
Business Financial Services
You’ve heard of the phrase, “crème de la crème.” Well, Marc Glazer has been called “an entrepreneur’s entrepreneur.”
The president and CEO of Business Financial Services, Glazer uses his optimism, determination and business savvy to help other entrepreneurs grow their businesses. Accordingly, BFS thrives because of Glazer’s vision, leadership and ability to meet the underserved financing needs of small and medium-sized businesses.
As the son of a business owner, Glazer grew up helping in the family’s chain link fence company. He soon realized that in order to manage a business to succeed and achieve control over results, you had to master the numbers, and he chose to pursue an accounting degree.
After passing his CPA exam, Glazer tasted several entrepreneurial offerings before observing that in servicing small business clients, the unavailability of capital was a consistent impediment to their success.
As a result, in 2002 Glazer founded BFS to provide small-business financing secured by payment card receivables, an asset available to all but the smallest businesses. He invested his own funds and attracted investors who were confident that he understood the market, would devise the right strategy, and had the skills to implement it.
With unparalleled growth since its founding, BFS has been able to take advantage of the challenges in the last several years. Its customers are typically young businesses hungry for growth but with somewhat unpredictable sales and limited cash flow.
While his pre-recession business plan called for rapidly scaling the business, Glazer reacted with the market and implemented a low-growth strategy rather than risk degrading BFS’s receivables. By the end of the recession, half of BFS’s competitors were closed, yet the company emerged stable and ready to fund small businesses poised for post-recession growth that were unable to obtain traditional bank credit.
BFS is now the second-largest U.S. originator of payment card factoring, providing expedited funding for restaurants, retailers and other small businesses.
How to reach: Business Financial Services Inc., www.businessfinancialservices.com
CEO and founder
Trevor Burgess had a well-established career at Morgan Stanley when he was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug — big time. He risked his entire life savings in 2009 and started C1 Bank with $15 million in capital from himself and his business partners.
But the story doesn’t quietly end there. They have had to turn the bank around during one of the worst financial crises in history. By rigorously maintaining professional benchmarks and only making short-term loans, rather than making industry loan terms, C1 Bank has grown in assets, has expanded into 21 branches and the employees now number 205.
Burgess is not afraid to try innovative methods to differentiate C1 Bank from its competition. While some banks were announcing a $5 monthly fee on a debit card, Burgess advertised a program where his bank instead would pay its debit card users $5 per month. Another promotion gave away a brand new Mercedes to anyone depositing $1 million for a five-year CD.
To take a new approach to a job fair, Burgess created one based on “speed dating.” Held in 2010 when many banks weren’t even responding to resumes, it involved one-on-one five-minute interviews for job candidates with C1 Bank executives. As a result, the bank hired two employees who became two of the top three sales associates.
Innovation infiltrates the rest of the company as well. The C1 Bank headquarters has no doors or secretaries separating employees from one another. The associates are judged by the value they bring to the company, not by if they fit the industry mold or not. Each employee is made to feel like an owner of the company, and that effort pays off in more pride and responsibility when it comes to success.
Among the honors Burgess has received is the “Equality Means Business” award, designed highlight employers who understand and make a commitment to a diverse workforce core.
How to reach: C1 Bank, www.c1bank.com
Vanessa Valera Nolte
Most 20-something-year-olds are still trying to choose a career path, but not the Valera children. Vanessa Valera Nolte and Diego Valera are unlike others. The young duo launched Distrivalto, a kitchenware company, in 2007. Vanessa and Diego are co-founders of Distrivalto and its Holstein Housewares brand, which is adding light to the world of houseware items.
The brother-sister team believes in going to great lengths to do what’s best for consumers by providing high-quality products and services. Today, the brand Holstein Houseware is a clear reflection of Vanessa and Diego’s vision. The company is forward-thinking, family-owned, diversified and debt-free, which differentiates itself from other houseware companies.
Distrivalto has 21 employees which support the business and its clients. Due to the growth of business, the company is expanding its warehouse and moving into a new office in Miami and needs to hire more employees to support the growth of the business.
As young and emerging entrepreneurs in the houseware industry, Vanessa and Diego face a concerning challenge to prove that age is nothing but a number. They have grown up in the houseware industry as their father was the founder of Distrivalto Venezuela.
In 1998, Diego established a distribution company with his father and approached his sister to combine their talents and open a kitchenware line that would differentiate itself from brands like Oster and Kitchenaid and serve a different target market.
The houseware industry is saturated with traditional and conventional houseware products that are household names. Therefore, Vanessa and Diego identified a need for highly stylized and affordable houseware products that would separate themselves from their competitors. Holstein Hardware’s demand ignited following the International Home and Houseware show in Chicago, where they received outstanding press from various TV networks.
Holstein Houseware products are now sold in Walmart, Walgreens, Bed Bath and Beyond, HSN and many other big name retailers.
How to reach: Distrivalto, www.holsteinhousewares.com