Consumer Services


Mel Elias had a lot of worldly experience when he first got involved with The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. He had completed his military service in Singapore, graduated from the London School of Economics and practiced law in Singapore, before opening and operating a The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf franchise in his native Malaysia.

He saw a lot of potential in the coffee retail chain and helped organize a buyout from the founding owners. Elias then moved to Los Angeles and helped transform The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf from a family-run business to a structured enterprise.

When he became president and CEO in 2008, he battled through intense competition and limited external financing to extend the company’s brand across the U.S. and around the world in multiple channels and formats.

One thing that makes the company unique is the fact that it buys directly from coffee farms and tea estates, thus knowing where every bean and leaf comes from. Elias buys only the top 1 percent grade available in the world, ensuring quality in every cup.

He also was able to see the growth of at-home coffee consumption and develop the company’s own single-serve beverage system. The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf conceived, created and implemented its own system in 10 months, including national distribution in more than 4,000 locations as well as a 10-country launch.

The innovation was achieved through third-party strategic alliances and employee engagement initiatives. It did not include any additional shareholder investments.

Through all the success that The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf has had, the company also has been able to make a big difference in philanthropic causes. Elias wants employees to understand that they have a higher purpose than just making a profit; their goal should be to have a successful company that uses its success to make a positive difference in the world.

How to reach: The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf,


Published in Los Angeles

NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Professional Services



Alan Jaffa


Safeguard Properties Management, LLC


Alan Jaffa has been CEO at Safeguard Properties Management, LLC, since 2010. Safeguard Properties is the largest privately held mortgage field services company in the country.

Jaffa learned the business by moving through the ranks of Safeguard, experiencing first-hand virtually every department in the company. He joined the company in 1995 when it was a small start-up with few employees. As a result of a great work ethic and innovation, Jaffa moved up quickly, becoming COO in 2002.

By the time he became CEO in 2010, Safeguard had grown its employee base significantly. Under his leadership, Safeguard completed the acquisition of Bank of America’s field service department. Jaffa took this bold step to protect the company’s leadership position and expand its footprint into the south and west regions of the country where large concentrations of the company’s clients are located.

Under Jaffa’s watch the company has almost doubled its revenue, and he has helped fully integrate the acquired entity with Safeguard within six months after the acquisition.

Aside from a focus on growth, Jaffa ensures that he is a visible leader at Safeguard. He spends at least one day per week at each Safeguard location, maintains an open door policy and hosts monthly “Java with Jaffa” sessions around the company to hear ideas from employees at all levels.

Jaffa also meets weekly with his executive team, monthly with the entire senior management team of directors, and hosts quarterly two-day off-site meetings with the executive and management teams to encourage collaboration, address challenges together, build on best practices and identify new initiatives to maintain a competitive advantage.

These efforts help Safeguard deliver greater efficiencies, track and improve quality, recruit and retain diverse and qualified employees and vendors, forecast trends, and anticipate client needs for new and varied services.

How to reach: Safeguard Properties Management, LLC,

Published in Akron/Canton

Consumer Services


Smaller is better, according to Concession Management Services, Inc. Chairman and CEO Clarence Daniels Jr. It was because of CMS’ smaller size that brands such as Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf allowed Daniels to operate one of its stores at the Los Angeles International Airport.

Founded in 1992, CMS is an airport concession company that operates restaurants such as Panda Express, Coffee Bean, Carl’s Jr. and Cinnabon in airports in Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth, San Diego, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Houston and Tampa Bay.

Daniels admits that operating in airports is extremely difficult. There are many stakeholders who feel they own the airport concessions, such as the airport commissioner, airport staff and the airline station manager. There are also numerous regulations that govern everything from security to employee pay to the design of the store. These are all obstacles that Daniels constantly works to overcome.

CMS concessions such as Panda Express, Coffee Bean, Carl’s Jr. and Cinnabon are among the highest grossing restaurants in the country. Daniels attributes his success in customer service to being hungrier than the competition. His managers volunteer to open the restaurants earlier than the competition, or even open the stores 24 hours a day.

The company uses its knowledge of the industry to become a sought-after partner for national, regional and local restaurant brands that want to gain entry to the airport concessions industry. Because malls and neighborhoods are saturated with restaurants, airport real estate is highly sought after. However, most restaurant owners don’t want to invest the time to learn how to gain this entry, nor do they have the experience working with organized labor.

CMS has capitalized on these issues and developed an approach to licensing where the company pays restaurant owners attractive licensing fees to allow it to own and operate their concepts in airports. This approach has enabled CMS to bring numerous restaurant brands to airports around the country.

How to reach: Concession Management Services, Inc.,

Published in Los Angeles

NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Distribution and Manufacturing



Michael Baach


The Philpott Rubber Co.


Not many people would expect an already successful business man to become CEO of a rubber company and enroll in classes at the University of Akron to study polymer mixing, but that is exactly what Michael Baach did. Baach wanted to understand the technical side of the business as the company’s new CEO.

When he arrived at Philpott Rubber in 2009, he came to a company that was started in 1889 with a wooden push cart in downtown Cleveland. The company had strong principles and was dedicated to providing high-quality molded rubber and plastic parts to its customers, but overall was lacking the drive a 21st century company needed to succeed.

Baach noticed a complacent attitude that bred mediocrity, and it was this content attitude that was holding this sleepy company from its true potential. He knew that in order to survive and grow in an ever-changing environment, a strategic vision and innovation would be needed.

Although Philpott had long been focused on the steel industry, Baach knew the company could impact many other booming industries. With much attention being given to the Utica and Marcellus shale gas fields, Baach believed it was imperative to break in and sent out his salesmen to search for a way into the industry.

The big break came when a polymer was developed that would be useful in the gas industry. This polymer is used as a lubricant to help increase the pressure flow of the gas as it is being released from the ground.

This ambitious leap into the gas industry has paid dividends for Baach and Philpott, as this polymer began production in 2009 and now makes up more than 15 percent of the company’s sales. It is projected to grow to more than 25 percent by next year and in just a few years, has the potential to become more than 50 percent of Philpott’s business.

How to reach: Philpott Rubber Co.,

Published in Akron/Canton

Business Services


Jessica Firestone founded Tempest Telecom Solutions, LLC in July 2005 because she felt a woman-owned business in the telecom network equipment sector could be successful given the growing attention to diversity at the leading Tier 1 operators. She also had a strong interest in reuniting a specific team of individuals who had all successfully worked together.

Tempest is a leading provider of telecom infrastructure equipment and related services, helping service providers and network operators build, expand and maintain their networks faster and more cost-effectively.

Firestone has extensive sales experience in the secondary equipment market. Her career evolved quickly in sales and sales leadership positions because of her energy and intuitive understanding of her customers. Tempest meets the need for cutting-edge technology support as well as repairing and supporting hardware that is no longer under manufacturer warranty.

An example is the current 2G/3G/4G cell phone trends, in which Tempest is involved in decommissioning 2G infrastructure, repairing and maintaining 3G infrastructure as it ages out of manufacturer’s warranty, and installing and expanding 4G networks nationwide, with a thorough understanding of various local and state security and emergency services response regulations.

Tempest’s positioning within the current 4G-conversion trend is unique, as the company is able to leverage experiences gained with larger nationwide and international cell carriers and translate those solutions into smaller-scale answers for its regional clients. Because of this positioning, Tempest is also able to anticipate the direction of the industry.

Within the repair and maintenance aspect of the business, the company strives to create replacement parts that meet or exceed the original equipment manufacturer component. Replacement parts are shipped with all cables and components in place, ready to use.

Tempest’s creativity and innovative nature helps to differentiate the company. Known for being flexible, customer centric, and always willing to go beyond normal obstacles to dig deeper and solve customer challenges, the company is poised for further success.

How to reach: Tempest Telecom Solutions, LLC,

Published in Los Angeles

NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Distribution and Manufacturing



Gary Schuster

president and CEO



In 2006, Gary Schuster accepted an offer to take over as the president and CEO of OMCO, a supplier of custom metal parts made using a roll forming technique. He joined OMCO at a difficult time in the company’s history.

As a result of a downturn in the transportation industry and worsened by the economic recession, the company’s sales fell by 80 percent from 2006 to 2009. However, Schuster had innovative ideas, as well as a plan to rapidly recover by expanding into new markets.

Although the company had a long-term plan of diversifying its business past the transportation industry, there was no one in the company who was exploring future opportunities when Schuster took the helm. Accordingly, he hired a key individual who specialized in sales and marketing to focus solely on finding new customers and growing the business into new markets other than the transportation industry.

After Schuster and his sales and marketing team identified a need for OMCO’s custom roll-forming products in the rapidly growing solar panel manufacturing industry of the Southwest, he relocated his top sales representative to Phoenix.

In mid-2009, the company received its first million-dollar order followed by several other significant orders that same year. Schuster quickly took advantage of these growing opportunities in the solar energy market by opening a plant in Phoenix that could centrally serve the Southwestern region of the U.S. The subsequent rapid growth in this new market resulted in an increase of more than 300 percent in the company’s sales from 2010 to 2012.

Although OMCO’s expansion into the Southwestern solar market has provided great success for the company, Schuster insists on continuing to explore future opportunities. He has started to consider further diversification within the solar market to new geographic locations, particularly Australia, Saudi Arabia and Chile. He is also identifying additional new industries for the company to leverage.

How to reach: OMCO,

Published in Akron/Canton

Business Services


At age 32, James “Jamey” B. Edwards took a huge risk by giving up a highly lucrative career at Lehman Brothers as an investment banker to become the CEO of Emergent Medical Associates; he was a businessman with no medical background or experience with the health care industry.

That meant he had a huge learning curve and had a lot to prove to the physicians as well as the executives of the company. But he met the challenges head-on, implemented various programs and increased revenue by more than 268 percent since his 2006 arrival. With results like that, Edwards earned the respect and trust of the company and the physicians.

One of the key factors he believes is necessary to grow a business is to create a culture of which everyone wanted to be a part. Edwards worked hard to establish a reputation for EMA to be the fastest growing company of its kind, providing high-quality care, and being employer of choice for providers and group of choice for hospitals.

Edwards believes in assembling the right team with the right people and empowering them to make the right decisions. With a lot of emphasis and resources being placed on training, these result in corporate employees who may better assist the physicians who then are trained so they may better attend to their patients. If physicians and patients are happy, it leads to the success of the business.

Two leadership groups are involved in managing EMA: physician leadership and executive leadership. The two groups may have different goals and visions for the company at times, but Edwards has created a “Senior Counsel” to help establish a partnership between the providers and operations teams.

Since Edwards joined EMA, the company has grown its number of physicians from 60 to 329. The company plans to continue to grow by acquiring sites located in Salt Lake City, Phoenix and Las Vegas, and by organic growth.

How to reach: Emergent Medical Associates,

Published in Los Angeles

NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Family Business Award



Marc Brenner

president and CEO

Ohio Technical College


In July 1969, Marc Brenner and his father Julius founded the Ohio Diesel Mechanics School. Over the course of 30 years, the school grew, added programs, training, and changed locations and names. In 1996, Brenner’s father retired, and he assumed complete and total responsibility for all aspects of the school.

In his new leadership role as president and CEO, Brenner implemented major changes throughout the organization, including redesigning classrooms, shop floors and training courses. One of the most successful strategies that Brenner implemented was a change in the marketing approach from targeting middle-aged adults to targeting 18 to 25 year olds.

This strategy led to rapid expansion, and in 1998, because of the increase of program offerings and campus developments, the school’s name was changed to Ohio Technical College, a private and accredited technical college providing career-oriented auto mechanic training.

Over the years, OTC has faced numerous obstacles such as obtaining financial aid for its students and limited housing. Through Brenner’s business acumen and vision for his college campus, he was invited by President Clinton to be a part of the advisory team to start Direct Loans, which offers financial aid to for-profit schools. OTC also purchased several houses, which are now used to house its students.

As the school’s growth continued, BMW of North America developed an interest in OTC and created a specialized training facility on the campus — one of only four training sites in the U.S. Most recently, the college opened a branch campus called PowerSport Institute that specializes in motorcycles.

Brenner and his team have developed partnerships with industry leaders such as Kawasaki Motorcycle, Yamaha Motor, Victory Motorcycle, Honda, Polaris and others. This branch campus of OTC now trains about 250 students and total enrollment for OTC and PSI averages 1,500 students on an annual basis. In 2009, OTC was recognized as the National School of the Year.

How to reach: Ohio Technical College,

Published in Akron/Canton

NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Public Company



Michael Hilton

president and CEO

Nordson Corp.


Driving growth has been Michael Hilton’s objective since being named president and CEO of Nordson Corp. at the beginning of 2010.

Nordson Corp., a more than 5,000-employee manufacturer of products and systems used for dispensing adhesives, coatings, sealants and biomaterials for consumer non-durable, durable and technology end markets, has been a strong company, even during the recession years. When Hilton came into the company he saw it as an organization that could grow three to four times its size in revenue.

Globally, Nordson has a presence in more than 40 countries and has been well established in locations such as China, India, Brazil, Europe and Japan for a long time. To take advantage of growth opportunities, Hilton had to evaluate the business and understand the key areas that needed attention and resources.

Hilton believes the keys to achieving Nordson’s financial and strategic goals are innovative new products, growth in emerging markets and strategic acquisitions. In the 10 years prior to Hilton’s leadership as CEO, Nordson completed just five acquisitions. Since then, the company has made six acquisitions with global footprints and complimentary product offerings.

Through this recent acquisition activity, Hilton acknowledges that risks must be taken to continue to grow globally. These risks are most prevalent in adding new products to the company’s portfolio and the difficulty of integration into Nordson’s culture. As part of the risk mitigation process, Hilton has ensured that each acquisition/merger target passes the Integration Process Plan, which examines culture and market comparison.

With Hilton’s leadership, Nordson has generated record earnings and is on track to achieve its new strategic goals. Sales have increased and total assets have doubled since he has taken over as CEO. Dividends also have increased annually for 49 consecutive years, placing Nordson among only 15 other public companies to do so for that length of time.

How to reach: Nordson Corp.,

Published in Akron/Canton

Business Services


A North Carolina native, Janice Bryant Howroyd left her hometown in 1976 and got a temp job in California, which introduced her to the need for job placement services. Then her entrepreneurial spirit flared up. She launched Act 1 Personnel Services in 1978 and has since dedicated her efforts to building an organization committed to keeping the humanity in human resources.

Howroyd is an advocate for balanced education and entrepreneurship in the workforce. Her active industry involvement gives her an understanding of the challenges faced by global workers and business owners alike.

In addition, her expertise on workforce optimization and entrepreneurship has made her a much sought-after speaker. She is also the author of “The Art of Work: How to Make Work, Work for You!” in which she distills more than 30 years of experience into a work/life balance guide.

As the founder, chairman and CEO of one of the country’s largest workforce management firms, Howroyd provides customers scalable advantages to excel through advanced technology and other service offerings.

Her passion for establishing lifetime relationships with job seekers, client companies and professionals within the human capital industry has enabled her to turn a successful domestic business into a world-class global enterprise.

Today, The Act 1 Group, Inc. is a reflection of her vision. Through her commitment to market-leading innovation and identification of market needs, Howroyd is able to expand her business, remain as the chief decision-maker of a workforce management firm and to match job seekers with companies where there is opportunity.

During the recent economic downturn, companies generally were not hiring as many people as they had been, but Howroyd was able to help her business customers increase their efficiency by using the most proficient human resource strategies possible. By continuing to inspire employees to excel in a business model that is agile and forward thinking, she will keep the Act 1 Group growing financially despite future market challenges.

How to reach: The Act 1 Group, Inc.,

Published in Los Angeles