SBN Staff

NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Family Business Award



Martin Kanan

president and CEO

King Nut Companies


Martin Kanan joined King Nut Companies in 1991 as the company’s sales manager. Kanan was named president and CEO of King Nut in 2003, and since joining the company its growth has been driven by his desire to make the family business a success and the risks he has taken in leading the company.

King Nut is known for serving the airline industry with snack foods. As the company’s sales manager, Kanan started to call on US Airways in 1993 after he heard that it needed someone to supply peanuts. He pursued all of the other airlines with little success while trying to meet the demands of US Airways.

One of the biggest challenges in his career was meeting the quality standards of US Airways. Eventually, King Nut lost the contract. However, due to Kanan’s efforts through his relentless pursuit of the other airlines, he signed on Northwest just as they were losing the US Airways business.

As Kanan continued to pursue additional business at airline shows, Anheuser Bush closed Eagle Brands and King Nut was able to secure the business of the other airlines. This business came with many challenges, which Kanan handled head-on through managing his team and his investment in new equipment.

Kanan has been no stranger to other challenges at King Nut since becoming CEO. He has dealt with a transition from peanuts to other snack foods within the airline industry, the Sept. 11 tragedy and its impact on the company’s business, the acquisition and integration of Peterson Nut Co., and a national recall due to King Nut product that was co-packed by another peanut butter manufacturer.

Today, King Nut is not only a growing supplier of snack foods to the airline industry, but also sells product to the likes of Wendy’s, Giant Eagle, Speedway, and co-packs product for Pepperidge Farm, ConAgra and Aldi.

How to reach: King Nut Companies,

NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Distribution and Manufacturing



Jim Keene

president and owner

Keene Building Products


From starting Keene Building Products in his basement more than 10 years ago, Jim Keene has had the courage to not only take a chance on starting his own business, but he continually focuses on how to make the business better every day.

The company makes envelope and noise control applications. When Keene, who is president and owner, started the business in 2002, there was a compelling need for someone to make products for noise and moisture control. The company filled that void well and is currently at a point where it has greatly added to the market in technique and product development through creative “Keene Ideas.”

The creative juices flow freely at Keene, whether it applies to its website design, sales approach in the market or a creative way to finance an acquisition. Keene employees think in a positive, juxtaposed and innovative way.

When you think about building envelope and noise control applications, you probably only think about noise reductions in hotels and apartment complexes or drainage and erosion control, but Keene has other ideas. The company is currently working on products that will utilize its existing technology in everyday applications.

Even with the most creative ideas, Keene understands that it is critical to be close to the company’s customers. You will routinely find him working with customers, helping them install products. This activity has allowed Keene and the company to be trusted business advisers and helps identify new and more innovative products.

Keene is not complacent about the success of the company. He plans to remain committed to Greater Cleveland. To continue growing as a company, he hopes to branch the large filament fiber company into other areas in construction and target consumer goods and packaging. His major goal is to grow sales 25 to 40 percent each year by adding new systems and acquiring complementary companies.

How to reach: Keene Building Products,


Taseer Badar

President and CEO

ZT Wealth/Altus Healthcare Management Services

The genesis of Taseer Badar’s healthcare venture — Altus Healthcare Management Services/ZT Wealth — was the observation that despite a large rise in spending, physicians suffer from a steady decline in professional fees.

This is due to declines in health care benefits from insurance companies and government sources in a climate of increased patient load and increasing liability insurance.

Badar’s goal was to ensure the benefit of the health care dollar to health care professionals who are prime movers of such spending. Badar, Altus’s president and CEO, wanted to invest in physicians’ success and bring cutting-edge technology to the health care arena.

Despite early skepticism from both health care executives and medical practitioners,

Altus HMS/ZT Wealth has grown in both experience and assets.

With only seven years in the industry, Altus HMS has grown to include three surgical centers, six outpatient hospice companies, durable medical equipment, practice management, infusion, a physician-grade vitamin line and a wellness practice.

The company is continuing its growth strategy in 2013 with the addition of three stand-alone, fully functional emergency room locations along with the planned purchase of three additional hospices.

Badar has infused Altus with his entrepreneurial spirit by investing in the business and encouraging his executive staff to do so as well. Personal investments in the company have afforded Badar and his executive team heightened accountability for their business decisions and pronounced dedication to the success of the venture — a management strategy that is reaping impressive rewards.

Badar works hard to “see the invisible” and understand where his company needs to go before the rest of the market does. He firmly believes that the best place for personal investment is in his own firm.

“I don’t like gambling in the market,” Badar says. “I want to invest in what I know, and I know my firm.”

How to reach: Altus Healthcare Management Services,


Each year in June, Ernst & Young celebrates entrepreneurial leaders in 25 regions across the country as part of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards. This marks the 27th year in which Ernst & Young has recognized those leaders.

For 2013, the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Gulf Coast Area program is called “Leading the Way.” There is no other place in the country where entrepreneurial innovation and leadership no matter the entrepreneur’s background is accepted and supported. We have continually seen significant innovative strides throughout a variety of industries in the Gulf Coast area, most notably in the energy, technology and the medical industries. It is the culture of the Gulf Coast that the individual or group of individuals working together can accomplish great things when they take the initiative in their own hands.

That culture was the foundation of the Gulf Coast in the early years and that culture remains today. This is why we believe the Gulf Coast led the country during the recent down years and today in population and job growth. The companies represented at this year’s Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Gulf Coast Area awards grew the number of people employed by 20 percent and grew revenues by 16 percent over the last year. There can be no doubt these entrepreneurial leaders, through their leadership, will continue to strengthen our country’s economy. That is why we believe the Gulf Coast is once again “Leading the Way”!

Ernst & Young has been recognizing these risk-taking visionaries for 27 years and, over that time, has recognized more than 10,000 entrepreneurial men and women. The Entrepreneur Of The Year Award has grown to be recognized as the leading business award. While Ernst & Young is proud of this accomplishment, the credit goes to the thousands of entrepreneurial leaders who have been recognized over the years. The fact that the program has endured and grown for more than 27 years is a true testament to the entrepreneurial leaders themselves.

The program celebrates entrepreneurial leaders in 25 U.S. regions each year. The regional award recipients then participate in the National Entrepreneur Of The Year awards in November in Palm Springs, Calif. At that ceremony, 10 award recipients are selected and one is selected as the National Entrepreneur Of The Year overall award recipient. The National Entrepreneur Of The Year overall award recipient will then participate in the World Entrepreneur Of The Year in Monte Carlo, along with award recipients from 50 other countries. This truly is the world’s business award.

The National Entrepreneur Of The Year Program is the culminating event for a four-day Strategic Growth Forum that had about 2,000 participants last year. This is the only event of its kind that is focused on the CEOs of companies. The panelists and speakers are unparalleled and in the past have included special guests such as George W. Bush, former President of the United States; Frederick Smith, chairman, president and CEO of FedEx Corp.; and Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin. This year will feature Jeffrey Immelt, Chairman and CEO, General Electric Co.; Bernard Tyson, incoming chairman and CEO, Kaiser Permanente; and Jeffrey Sprecher, founder, chairman and CEO, Intercontinental Exchange, Inc.

We are honored to present the 27th Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards-Gulf Coast and to recognize the entrepreneurial leaders of the past, present and future in the Gulf Coast that are “Leading the Way” to keep this the greatest country in the world to do business.

Todd Zuspan is a partner with Ernst & Young LLP ?and is the director of the Entrepreneur Of The Year Gulf Coast Area program.

Family Business Award of Excellence

Award recipient

Kenneth L. Robison,

Crest Industries

Construction & Industrial Services

Award recipient

Stephen V. Pate

Strike, LLC


James Joseph Frischhertz

Frischhertz Electric Co., Inc.


Troy Collins

Nathan Granger

Quality Companies USA, LLC


Jeffrey Gerald Davis

The Brock Group

Consumer Products

Award recipient

Donald P. Klein

Chesmar Homes, Ltd.


Basim Shami

Farouk Systems


Stacey Gillman Wimbish

The Gillman Companies


Gary Kiedaisch

Igloo Products Corp.


Jerry Lasco

Lasco Enterprises

Distribution & Manufacturing

Award recipient

Walter Emanuel Blessey Jr.

Blessey Marine Services


Arthur Moore

American Alloy Steel, Inc.


Amit Bhandari

Biourja Group


John L. Magee

Crane Worldwide Logistics


Mark C. Arnold

GSE Environmental, LLC


Fred Koetting

Schulte Building Systems


Award recipient

David D. Dunlap

Superior Energy Services, Inc.

Energy Services

Award recipient

Larry O'Donnell

Rockwater Energy Solutions


Darron Anderson

Express Energy Services


John T. Rynd

Hercules Offshore, Inc.


Christian J. Beckett

Pacific Drilling

Exploration & Production

Award recipient

Mark E. Ellis

LINN Energy, LLC


Michael Minarovic

Arena Energy, LP


John D. Schiller Jr.

Energy XXI


David H. Welch

Stone Energy Corp.

Health Care

Award recipient

Dana Sellers

Encore Health Resources


Taseer A. Badar

Altus Healthcare Management Services


Andrew C. Knizley

Houston Orthopedic & Spine Hospital


T. J. Farnsworth

SightLine Health

Midstream Services

Award recipient

R. Bruce Northcutt

Copano Energy, LLC


Brad Childers

Exterran Holdings, Inc.


Gregory L. Ebel

Spectra Energy Corp.


Award recipient

Drake Ellis

Community Trust Bank


Bryan Leibman

Frosch International Travel, Inc.


Michael L. Soper

Legacy Funeral Group


Jose S. Suquet

Pan-American Life Insurance Group


Award recipient

Peter M. Duncan

MicroSeismic, Inc.


Joel Bomgar



Jonathan Brett Klein

Luis Luque




Gregory D. Brenneman

Shelaghmichael Brown

Doug J. Erwin

Joe R. Fowler

Scott W. Smith

Cindy B. Taylor

Richard E. Zuschlag



Family Business Category


When Eve Yen came to the United States from Taiwan nearly two decades ago, she was thinking like both an entrepreneur and a mother. She hoped that starting a business would allow her to feed both her passions and, most importantly, provide a better education and opportunity for success for her daughters.

Yen started Diamond Wipes International Inc. in 1994 as a manufacturer of disposable wet wipes. She had worked on a similar venture in Taiwan but hoped to find greater success in the United States. She started modestly with just one machine in a facility no bigger than a two-car garage.

In those early days, she would travel to local restaurants and food service distributors with her wet wipe product. She found success, and today the company’s products are distributed to more than 2,000 clients worldwide. Diamond Wipes now operates a 130,000 square-foot facility in California and a 60,000-square-foot factory in Ohio.

In addition to restaurant wipes, the company also has found great success in contract packaging, which is now its fastest-growing business.

Yen, the company’s CEO, is determined to keep manufacturing in the United States. She believes that wet wipe products should be freshly made and distributed via the shortest distance to the customer, but she’s also conscious of the energy and fuel costs that come with product transportation.

That awareness of what she wants and how she wants to do it has been a key factor in Yen’s success building Diamond Wipes. And it has allowed her to take even greater steps, such as the construction of a 3,360-panel solar power system to generate electricity for the Southern California manufacturing facility.

And just as Yen looked for a chance to prove herself in the early days, she affords the same opportunity to today’s future leaders. She never shies away from hiring young college graduates full of energy and creativity.


How to reach: Diamond Wipes International Inc.,

Sunday, 30 June 2013 20:00

Entrepreneurs change the world

STL Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2013

Recognized as one of the world’s most prestigious business award programs, the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards celebrate gravity-defying innovators who build and run great companies. This June, we gather here and in 25 cities across the U.S. to honor all of our regional finalists and welcome the class of 2013 into our Hall of Fame.

Entrepreneurs change the world and make it a better place to work and live. We honor them for their fortitude and resilience, and we celebrate their ability to forge new markets, navigate uncharted territory and fuel economic growth.

Congratulations to this year’s finalists and winners for their unyielding pursuit of business excellence. We are honored to share their inspiring stories with you.


Randy Buseman, partner, Kansas City Ernst & Young Office

Mike Hickenbotham, partner, St. Louis Ernst & Young Office


Here are the 2013 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalists and winners:


Agriculture and Plant Sciences

Winner – J. Larry Sanders, Ph.D., president and CEO, Specialty Fertilizer Products, LLC


Engineering & Consulting

Winner – David Raboury, president and CEO, Terracon Consultants, Inc.



Winner – Robb Heineman, owner, president and CEO, Sporting Club


Industrial Products

Winner – J. Joseph Burgess, president and CEO, Aegion Corporation



Winner – Joseph Suhor III, chairman and CEO, Suhor Industries, Inc.



Winner – Jim Schwartz, chairman and CEO, NPC International, Inc.


Technology & Business Services

Winner – Daniel Reed, CEO, UnitedLex


Transportation & Logistics

Winner – Artur Wagrodzki and Tomasz Tokarczyk, presidents, Artur Express



Winner – T. Michael Riggs, chairman, Jack Cooper Holdings



-          Matthew J. Condon, CEO, ARC Physical Therapy


-          John H. Kramer Jr., president and CEO, Cambridge Engineering, Inc.


-          Jeffery Keane, founder and CEO, Coolfire Media, LLC; Coolfire Originals; Coolfire Solutions


-          Robert D. Taylor, chairman and CEO, Executive AirShare Corporation


-          Mark R. Bamforth, president and CEO, Gallus Pharmacueticals, LLC


-          Gary Jaffe, CEO, GL Group, Inc.


-          Stephanie Leffler, CEO, and Ryan Noble, president,


-          Cary T. Daniel, CEO, Pivot Employment Platforms


-          Mike O’Neill, CEO, John Nickel, president, and Kevin Quigley, executive vice president, Switch: Liberate Your Brand


-          Lenora Payne, president, Technology Group Solutions, LLC


-          Lisa Nichols, co-founder and CEO, Technology Partners


-          Geoff Coventry, COO, Rob Freeman, CEO, and Matt Gilhousen, chief development officer, TradeWind Energy, Inc.


-          Robert Griggs, president, Trinity Products, Inc.

Family Business Category


All was not well at Nature’s Best in 2005 when Jim Beck stepped into the role of CEO. The company’s CEO had stepped down from the family run business because of a clash with the owner, who happened to be his mother, about the future of the business.

Operations had become very expensive and the company had cut ties with Whole Foods, which made up 36 percent of the company’s revenue. Beck had been with the company focusing on IT development, but he had not previously been part of any discussion about strategy and leadership.

It wasn’t going to be easy, but as it turned out, severing the relationship with Whole Foods was actually a good thing for the company’s future. The relationship was no longer profitable for Nature’s Best and the break allowed the company to establish itself as a key distributor for independent health food stores.

Another challenge was to redesign the company’s production line and implement new software as well as consolidate operations into one building.

When all was said and done, Nature’s Best became much more efficient and was better positioned to expand into new markets and open new distribution centers.

As the company continued to evolve and even create its own brand, Beck made sure that his people felt like part of the growth. That was a key motivating factor behind his support of Greener Initiatives, a program that started as a grassroots co-op dedicated to providing healthy food for employees, their families and customers. Beck doesn’t want employees to see their work as just a job, but as an opportunity to make a difference and put their unique talents to use.

One of Beck’s next major goals is to expand eastward by acquiring a gourmet food company on the East Coast and propel his company to even greater heights.

How to reach: Nature’s Best,

STL Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Technology & Business Services



Daniel Reed


UnitedLex Corp.


For Daniel Reed and UnitedLex Corp., the root of excellence is passion. Cultivating passion and creating highly motivated, accountable and committed professionals is the secret of UnitedLex Corp., and the reason the company has driven transformation within the global legal profession.

Daniel Reed is CEO of UnitedLex and an innovator who is changing a legal industry that has historically been slow adapters of technology.

Recognizing a new opportunity to change the legal profession by leveraging technology and process improvements, Reed co-founded UnitedLex, a consulting, technology and outsourcing provider of legal services in 2006. The company’s lightning bolt moment came after several collaborative discussions with the leadership team of Hewlett Packard, which became UnitedLex’s first client, and recognition of gaps in the global legal system.

The mission that emerged was to transform the global legal industry by providing a single point of knowledge and capability in those support areas most critical to law firms and law departments in becoming efficient business operations. The biggest obstacle for Reed was that no one had ever executed such a strategy before.

Rather than adopt a law firm or BPO model for the delivery of legal support services in the areas of litigation, intellectual property, contracts and immigration, UnitedLex created a model that has a management consultancy front end, a technology development and integration enablement group and a centralized resource outsourcing engine for delivery execution. Within five months of starting, UnitedLex was providing legal services to IBM, Microsoft and Marriott Hotels in addition to HP.

By maintaining focus on current business lines, UnitedLex expects to continue to see significant growth in the future. The company is in a position to grow without cash constraints, and given the receptivity and strong demand of an international client base, UnitedLex will continue to invest in areas of core differentiation.

How to reach: UnitedLex Corp.,

Bespoke means custom made, or made to order. The term originally came from custom clothiers — from suits to shirts to shoes; anything someone wears can be made to order for him or her by the right manufacturer.

“Bespoke is the art of being able to modify your production line to do custom paint and leather colors along with many other things,” says Jon Boardman, general sales manager at O’Gara Coach Company.

In addition, how your company operates with each individual that comes in or calls is bespoke. Bespoke can fit into any business, one way or another, he says.

Smart Business spoke with Boardman about made-to-order sales and what that can mean for your customers and business.

How does bespoke work in the luxury car market?

For a normal brand you just get to pick from 10 to 20 exterior colors and five to eight interior combinations. Then, the manufacturer picks where the leather goes and the color of each piece of the interior, while dictating the type of wood that goes with this.

However, Bentley and Rolls-Royce have more than 300 exterior paints and will also mix paint to sample for a client. They offer 28 leather colors for the inside, and upon special request — while staying within the legal guidelines — they will consider doing wild game leather, i.e. ostrich and alligator.

Both Bentley and Rolls-Royce take bespoke to many other levels that people don’t even think of when looking for a new car. They can do custom woods, stains and finishes, such as satin or high gloss. They can incorporate the client’s name in the doorsills, wood veneer and even into the leather. They will inlay precious metals, jewels and shells into the veneer prior to it being installed into a car. For example, one customer request was to make a car’s veneer from a tree in his yard. Yet another option is to have no wood in your vehicle at all and go with turned aluminum or carbon fiber.

The Bentley stand on bespoke is stated as follows: ‘We enjoy working with our customers on their bespoke requests and are only limited by the boundaries of good taste and our ethical and environmental responsibilities.’

What’s the relationship between bespoke and an enhanced customer experience?

Bespoke allows a person to make a vehicle — or any other product — exactly what he or she wants. Whether the customer prefers a black car or a pink car, he or she has the ability to take part in the design of the car.

Why might some business owners consider using this concept for their company?

It is a great way to distinguish your company from the next, even though you are in the same field of business. Anything that gets a client to be more active in his or her purchase can only help everyone involved.

A 2011 Los Angeles Times article pointed toward the accelerating trend for customized products, especially with millennials, those ages 18 to 39. In the article, Alexander Chernev, an associate professor of marketing at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, said by doing it themselves — ‘the Ikea effect’ — customers derive additional value.

Do you have any advice for executives on how to incorporate bespoke best practices?

Bespoke doesn’t have to be used in its traditional meaning. By modifying a customer’s experience with any company or brand you are making his or her experience unique. So, be creative and think outside the box.

A unique and memorable experience will have that person returning to you and speaking highly of your company while he or she is out with friends. You can do many things to thank your customers, from small dinners to event tickets to elaborate parties, anything to make sure you stand out to a client.

Jon Boardman is general sales manager at O’Gara Coach Company. Reach him at (310) 659-4050 or

Social media: Visit us at

Insights Luxury Autos is brought to you by O’Gara Coach Company

STL Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year



Robert Griggs


Trinity Products, Inc.


Since founding Trinity Products, Inc. with two partners in 1979, Robert Griggs has been taking huge personal risks. At its inception, Trinity had only a rented office space with four telephones, one employee and a borrowed debt of $15,000.

The company began primarily as a steel pipe supplier and then branched into fabrication. Adding fabrication services increased value to customers and allowed Trinity to diversify its customer base. This expansion brought about the addition of new product lines, high-rise sign structures and billboard and sign pole fabrication.

Because of Griggs’ tenacity and intense drive to succeed, the company has continued to be successful over 34 years. In this time Griggs has heavily invested in new equipment and technologies in order to facilitate the growth of the company’s different business units. In 2002, Trinity completed the construction of a 10,000-square-foot coating facility which allowed Trinity to diversify into painting and coating steel pipes.

Griggs’ vision was not finished. He focused on becoming vertically integrated by building his own steel mill with capabilities of producing spiral weld pipe. Production of the plant started in 2004 and was not completed until 2007, when the mill began to roll pipe. This created new challenges as the company not only learned how to roll pipe, but had to assume management of more employees. The risk of expanding services on the brink of the global economic downturn proved to be fortuitous, as the diversification allowed Trinity to remain nimble.

Additionally, the company broadened its expertise by investing in industry certifications like the American Institute of Steel Constructors facility approval, and obtained quality approval from states regulatory agencies in California, New York, New Jersey and the Army Corps of Engineers. Today, the company is the second largest producer of large structure pipe in the United States and currently has a larger market share than it had before 2008.

How to reach: Trinity Products, Inc.,