Entrepreneur of the Year
Every year, EY awards entrepreneurs who are changing the way we do business. Find the full list of the entrepreneur of the year below.
The Other Side Academy | Dave Durocher, Alan Fahringer, Joseph Grenny, Tim Stay, Lola Zagey
At first, it seems an odd team to bring together. On one side are two successful entrepreneurs in Joseph Grenny and Tim Stay. And on the other is Dave Durocher, a former drug addict and criminal who spent almost 20 years in prison, and Alan Fahringer and Lola Zagey, who have a history of drug abuse, homelessness, and criminal behavior. But because of their differences, they have formed a cohesive, productive team that is focused on helping those battling drug addiction.
Mr. Durocher, Mr. Fahringer, Mr. Grenny, Mr. Stay, and Ms. Zagey have each faced the difficulties of drug abuse, either through personal experience or helping their family members battle addiction. Dedicating themselves to helping those facing addiction, they have truly made a difference in the lives of addicts, their families, and their communities. Completely peer-run, The Other Side Academy works more like a family than a business, with more than 75 students who are working on saving their own lives. Their innovative approach to drug addiction is preparing their students for life and teaching them to one day run their own Academy sites across the country.
Playworks Utah | Chris Conard
Chris Conrad moved to a city he’d never lived in to launch an organization that would lose all funding and school partners a week before the launch. Before the move, he’d had a lot of momentum. He had eight school partners with verbal commitments as well as initial funding conversations with foundations. The stars were aligned. Or so it seemed. One negative story in the press led to a district mandate prohibiting all schools from using district funds for Mr. Conard’s project. That didn’t stop him. The business has since partnered with more than 78 elementary schools and helped more than 40,000 Utah kids.
Columbus Community Center | Stephanie Mackay
Stephanie Mackay has spent 15 years at Columbus Community Center. Her personal and professional standards have been shaped by this legacy of social justice and compassion and she is determined to break through the institutional, social, and economic barriers that challenge individuals with disabilities every day. Compassion, humility, inclusion, and respect—these are the foundation of Ms. Mackay’s professional and personal life. She is fiercely determined to improve the world for future generations of individuals who want to live in the world as equals with their peers.
BambooHR | Ben Peterson, Ryan Sanders
Ben Peterson and Ryan Sanders cofounded BambooHR in 2008, joining forces to develop a company focused on making a difference in people’s lives. Having previously worked together at MyComputer.com and MingleMatch, deciding to dive into the human resources software industry was uncharted territory, making it both a challenge and a risk. For the first three and a half years, Mr. Peterson and Mr. Sanders sacrificed much to create a company focused on its people, creating a “culture at all costs” business model that is rewarding in every way they could imagine. Trusting in their vision, Mr. Peterson and Mr. Sanders have created a sustainable and innovative business that provides a beautifully designed, intuitive solution to HR management teams across the world. Ranked among the top mobile apps of 2018 in PCMag and ITPro, Mr. Peterson and Mr. Sanders continue to expand the depth and breadth of BambooHR’s offerings.
Over the past decade, Mr. Peterson and Mr. Sanders’ candid friendship has enabled BambooHR to flourish and enjoy flexibility for the future. While Mr. Sanders is focused on deep thinking and analysis, Mr. Peterson emphasizes the relationships between teams and colleagues within the company, encouraging crucial conversations where needed. Both agree their relationship as co-founders and friends has helped them be better people outside of the office with their families and friends.
BrainStorm, Inc. | Eric Farr, John Wade
When John Wade and Eric Farr acquired BrainStorm in 2002, they saw an opportunity to help a frustrated, unmotivated customer workforce unlock their professional potential. That’s why the duo chose to not just take on training, but to take on apathy itself. BrainStorm has done just that. The company has become a world-class SaaS platform that empowers learners of all ages to work smarter, set their sights higher, and unlock their true potential.
Podium Corporation Inc. | Eric Rea
Eric Rea did not follow a conventional path to entrepreneurship. After speaking with his dad about his frustration of owning a local company in an increasingly online economy, he immediately had an idea, quit his job, moved his family halfway around the world, and got to work. Less than four years later, his company is one of the fastest growing businesses in Utah’s history and is positioned to be one of the most influential technology tools for any business with a physical location.
TaskEasy | Ken Davis
As the CEO and founder of TaskEasy, an on-demand services company, Ken Davis helps home owners and property managers order services like lawn mowing and yard care online. Taking advantage of the rapidly growing gig economy, Mr. Davis has given both contractors and consumers more time for the things in life that they care about. He has app-ified yard care by marrying traditional and modern technology. His leadership teaches us that it’s scary to be fully empowered and make correct, good decisions on our own, but to embrace the fear and push forward because it’s the right thing to do. It’s scary to be fully empowered if you’ve never had the opportunity to be before, he says, but to take the opportunity and run with it is what matters, and that’s what makes a difference.
GPS Capital Markets, Inc. | Ryan Gibbons, Al Manbeian
The regional bank where Ryan Gibbons and Al Manbeian were working had been bought by a multi-national banking institution, and, in the process, it became evident that the clients’ interests were secondary to profit margins. Inspired to do better, the founders left behind the lucrative income stream and steady clientele of traditional banking institutions with a goal to put the client first. It worked. Despite challenging economic cycles, GPS has been able to grow its revenue more than 100 percent over the last five years and has built one of the largest corporate FX trading floors in the country.
VLCM | Mike Linton, Rich Linton
Rich Linton has grown VLCM’s revenue every year—with the exception of the year his National Guard unit was deployed to Desert Storm. Over the years he has been a gas station attendant, rubber layer, miner, ski lift operator, accountant, financial advisor, and even a landlord—he once let a homeless employee live in the back of VLCM’s building for a year. Although he has been undeniably successful in business, he defines success by how well he takes care of VLCM employees and customers. Good jobs are the foundation for strong families, he says, which are the foundation for a strong society.
Paparazzi, LLC | Trent Kirby, Misty Kirby, Chani Reeve, Ryan Reeve
Paparazzi started in October 2008 after Trent Kirby studied items that did well during the Great Depression. It started as a hobby for Mr. Kirby and his wife, Misty Kirby, creating fashionable, fun, and affordable jewelry, using their own savings to travel to fairs and shows across the country. But when they added handmade hair bows by Ms. Kirby’s sister and brother-in-law, Chani and Ryan Reeve, they knew they had something special.
To many, starting a business during the recession would prove to be a problem, but the Kirbys and the Reeves knew one important fact: accessories are a natural fit when the economy falls. It is easier to afford a new accessory vs a new outfit. Seeing a need and an opportunity, the Kirbys looked at avenues that could help others and grow their business, which lead to Paparazzi, LLC. Their direct sales business is focused on its employees, home-grown in Hurricane, Ms. Kirby’s and Ms. Reeve’s hometown. By giving back to a community not known for big business, they help hundreds of families enjoy the small town and make a living through selling quality, affordable jewelry.
Acima Credit | Aaron Allred
Aaron saw that though there were several traditional banking institutions in the market, none would extend credit to consumers with subprime credit who were seeking financial options for every day necessities such as tires, mattresses, and appliances. Mr. Allred saw the demand, all he needed to do was build the technology. Today, Acima’s technology platform uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to issue real-time credit decisions for more than 2,500 applicants each day.
Intercap Lending, Inc. | Josh Romney
After graduating from Harvard Business School in 2005, Josh Romney worked as a real estate investor. That’s when he noticed how unprepared the market’s biggest players were for the technological advancements to come. He felt that smaller, more nimble companies could better adapt to growth and success moving forward, so he purchased Intercap Lending in 2016 with that vision in mind. By early 2017, after less than one year at the company, Mr. Romney moved the company from California to Utah, and has since grown it by more than 1,200 percent in just two years.
Health & Life Sciences
Collective Medical Technologies, Inc. | Chris Klonp, Adam Green, Wylie van den Akker, Chief Technology Officer
Chris Klonp, Adam Green, and Wylie van den Akker believe in one thing: good companies aren’t started for money; good companies are started to change the world. Brought together by Green’s mom and her idea of helping complex patients, the hree childhood friends set out to make a difference. She asked them to write her a computer program. So, they did. Now, over a decade later, Collective Medical Technologies, Inc. is flourishing, with more than 10 percent of hospitals unable to imagine life without them.
Mr. Klonp, Mr. Green, and Mr. van den Akker focus on where they have the greatest impact, helping complex patients get the care they need. It didn’t matter if they took meager salaries, funded payroll out of their own pockets, or slept between the Motel 6 and rental cars. After eight years of bootstrapping, they have become the only company in the country that can tell a payer or provider, in real time, where their patient is, why they’re there, if they represent imminent future-state acute encounter risk, and then enable them to impact care outside of their four walls.
Lineagen, Inc. | Dr. Michael Paul
Michael Paul launched Lineagen, Inc. to develop the world’s best genetic diagnosis and clinical information for autism spectrum disorders and other forms of childhood developmental delays. Dr. Paul inspired other top leaders to join him, often working for delayed or reduced salaries to ensure families would have access to the tools they needed. Lineagen has since partnered with some of the world’s leading researchers at the University of Utah, the Children’s Hospital of PA, Toronto SickKids Hospital, and others to develop the most advanced and accurate genetic diagnostics tools available today.
Xyngular | Russ Fletcher
By the time Russ Fletcher was hired, Xyngular had lost nearly 40 percent of its revenue base and it was up to him to turn it all around. Being a network marketing business, the company had to build confidence with their distributors and customers. They built a new sales team, replaced IT infrastructure, and focused on hiring and training. They proved they were in it for the long haul and that the company took the financial future of their sales force very seriously. It paid off. As a result, employees now earn revenue three times the industry average.
Manufacturing & Consumer Products
Kodiak Cakes | Joel Clark, Cam Smith
When Joel Clark took over Kodiak Cakes in 1997, it was one of the greatest risks he’d ever taken, and perseverance is what made Kodiak Cakes the success it is today. Between day jobs and school, Mr. Clark ran Kodiak Cakes by night. Mr. Clark bought and sold cars, started a retail cookie business, and flipped a couple homes and piece of land to try and stay afloat. In 2009, Cameron Smith took over as co-founder, COO, and secret weapon. The pair got used to taking risks, and bootstrapping became a way of life. Mr. Clark and Mr. Smith put every ounce of sweat they had into Kodiak Cakes. “It’s scary to take on more than you can handle,” says Mr. Smith, “But you just have to roll with the punches and believe all will work out.”
Mr. Clark and Mr. Smith continually strive to cultivate a company that promotes a positive work-life balance and encourages employees to lead a healthy and active lifestyle. Mr. Smith initiated “Bear Bucks” in 2015, giving each employee a yearly allowance to spend on anything that helps support their outdoor activities and active lifestyle. They also launched the “Kodiak Cares” campaign during the 2017 holiday season to help those in need.
Action Target, Inc. | Mike Birch
Some years ago, Mike Birch took up mountain biking. He established a goal to compete in the Leadville Trail 100 MTB, one of the most challenging mountain bike races in the world, and to win the coveted silver buckle. It took four attempts to finally realize his goal and earn the silver buckle. This is exactly the kind of perseverance that makes Mr. Birch an asset to his team at Action Target. By establishing milestones, and then applying determination, anything is possible. Action Target is now unmatched as a true turnkey solution provider of modern shooting range systems.
Walker Edison | Brad Bonham
Brad Bonham didn’t want to be CEO. He wanted his title to accurately reflect his ability to lead, and he had to work his way up to get there. He worked every job in the company until it finally got off the ground. Even then, it was risky territory. An early mistake cost the company $1.5 million, but he didn’t let that decision ruin the business. He learned from his mistakes and quickly corrected course. The company is now a top-50 supplier to Amazon, Overstock, Wayfair, Target, Walmart, Best Buy, Bed Bath and Beyond, and other online retailers.
Products & Logistics
Cariloha | Jeff Pedersen
Jeff Pedersen began the Cariloha team in 2007 with a vision: to offer an enriching lifestyle of comfort, luxury, and eco-friendliness in a single package. During one of the worst economic downturns in recent history, Mr. Pedersen saw an opportunity to create a unique niche in an untapped marketplace. Despite heavy risks, Mr. Pedersen took the Cariloha business from concept to a thriving international business with 60+ full, inline standalone stores and 1,000+ wholesale accounts across 16 countries. Today, Cariloha is now recognized as the only brand in the world with a full line of luxury products made entirely from eco-friendly bamboo.
Since Cariloha’s concept, Mr. Pedersen has created a compelling business model that will continue to realize tremendous potential. He has succeeded in growing it organically and continues to increase online and inline sales, expanding its brand exposure within the most prominent marketplaces in the world. Mr. Pedersen intends to make Cariloha products available to every household in the US and the brand continues to take the top spot for bamboo-related search terms.
FirstMile | Devin Johnson
Devin Johnson was working two jobs. By day, he was knocking on warehouse doors trying to get his shipping business off the ground. By night, he was selling telecommunications for a provider. To help prioritize his company without alienating his “night job,” Mr. Johnson created an alias—in the shipping world he was known as Clyde. He knew that if he received a call for Clyde he had to take it. In this way, his night job never got in the way of his day job and he was able to prioritize the growth of his company. That prioritization of his customers made him an asset, and an outlier, in his industry.
Scandia Company | Jena Larsen, Rudy Larsen
Rudy Larsen never went to college. Instead, he began Lawn Butler with one man, a lawnmower, and a $200,000 loan. Ten years later, he was running a corporation with more than 160 full-time employees working for seven companies. He persuaded his wife to join the finance team and the two have been working side by side ever since. The two now own 100 percent of their companies—with the exception of Rubicon—and act as the CEO and CFO for all of them.
ClickFunnels | Russell Brunson
Russell Brunson has been innovating for over a decade, building a following of more than a million entrepreneurs, selling hundreds of thousands of copies of his books, and popularizing the concept of sales funnels. As co-founder of the software company ClickFunnels, he is currently helping more than 60,000 entrepreneurs quickly get their message out to the marketplace.
In college, Mr. Brunson was a top 10 NCAA wrestler for Boise State while also trying to start his own business. He had his first success as an online marketer selling potato gun DVDs, which launched him into the world of Internet Marketing. But entrepreneurial success didn’t always come easy, and the economic recession hit Mr. Brunson hard. In an effort to salvage his company and bring a new sales funnel to life, he co-founded Clickfunnels, an all-in-one marketing solution, in September of 2014. Within ClickFunnels, Mr. Brunson has worked to build a strong culture that promotes intrapreneurial success, as well as fostering a community of personal growth and development.
Jive Communications, Inc. | John Pope
While looking at phone solutions for one of his businesses, John Pope realized that he was looking at a hefty $20- to $30,000 bill, and a very complicated on-premise solutions. He knew there had to be a better solution, so he and his friends decided to build their own phone system using software instead of hardware—otherwise known as VoIP. Today, Jive has more than 600 employees, customers in over 25 countries, an industry-leading Net Promoter Score, and the highest platform capacity for total customer base.
PDQ.com | Shawn Anderson
Shawn Anderson grew up poor, impoverished, and unable to achieve even the most basic of life necessities: a high school diploma. But growing up this way taught him two powerful lessons: that there was nothing wrong with being poor, and that being poor is not a lot of fun. Determined to change his fate, he partnered with his best friend and his twin brother and created their first consulting company. Several ventures later, the partners pivoted to create PDQ.com, a software company with close to 20,000 customers.
Lifetime Achievement Award
FJ Management | Crystal Maggelet, CEO
Crystal Maggelet’s life has been a journey of challenging opportunities, from starting a hotel at the age of 29 with no experience to leaving her stay-at-home mom role to lead her father’s business out of bankruptcy. After her father’s tragic death in 2003 and his company entering bankruptcy in 2008, Ms. Maggelet was left to pick up the pieces and save her family name. And she did. Under her leadership as CEO, Flying J Inc., now FJ Management, exited bankruptcy within 18 months, paid back creditors 100 percent plus interest, and paid off all of their refinery debt. Ms. Maggelet has since rebuilt the family business and continues to raise the company’s value.
Ms. Maggelet has helped FJ Management find a new identity, expanding its reach beyond petroleum enterprises and leveraging its unique expertise in real estate development and service management to focus on the ageing US population. She also works to educate the next generation of business, encouraging her children over the age of 18 to observe board meetings, training them to become stewards of the family business.