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D CEO Editors’ Favorite Business Stories of 2021

The greatest strength of the region’s economy—its diversity—was reflected in our coverage. Here are some of the year’s most memorable profiles and features.
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LTK's Amber Venz-Box Sean Berry

Even when faced with constantly shifting market conditions and unimaginable challenges, business leaders in North Texas power through with determination, creativity, and grit.

That’s why it’s so fun to tell their stories.

D CEO editors have some big things planned for 2022, but before we move forward, we wanted to look back at some of the profiles and features published in the magazine last year. Here are each editor’s favorites, starting with mine:

The oil and gas industry has played a foundational role North Texas. Our November issue featured a report on how Pioneer Natural Resources’ Scott Sheffield is leading the sector’s remarkable transition. It was written by Jennifer Warren, one of the best energy journalists in the country. The story on Sheffield was accompanied by a fascinating report by Associate Kelsey J. Vanderschoot, who introduced readers to our Energy Awards finalists in the Innovation and Sustainability category. These disruptors are focusing on everything from bacteria microbes and hemp crops to carbon capture and clean backup power generation. Fascinating stuff.

One of our favorite freelance writers at D CEO is Barry Shlachter, who spent nearly three decades as a reporter and editor at The Fort Worth Star-Telegram and, prior to that, worked as a foreign correspondent in Asia and Africa for the AP. Barry is adept at weaving in and breaking down business facts and statistics in his profiles, but he really shines as a storyteller. Executives trust him and with even the most personal details of their pasts, and readers come away with a deeper understanding of what makes these leaders tick. In 2021, Barry wrote about how Brint Ryan overcame his hardscrabble upbringing to build the world’s largest business tax firm, and the force behind Texas’ largest Black-owned construction and real estate company, Gerald Alley.

Last year, we wanted to profile David and Ann Sutherland, a couple that has transformed the outdoor furniture industry with their companies, Sutherland and Perennials. We knew the best person to write it was sitting in the corner office at D Magazine Partners—Editor-in-Chief and CEO Christine Allison. Thankfully, she agreed to do it. From the very first sentence of her story, readers knew they were in for a treat: “The 1970s and ’80s were an unfortunate period for outdoor furniture: curly, cast-iron garden tables and chairs, oversized wicker sectionals, and those webbed aluminum chairs that millennials in Brooklyn now buy to be ironic.” Christine’s piece on the Sutherlands is a story of innovation, risks and rewards, remarkable growth, and, at the heart of it all, love.

I was sitting in a salon chair in early 2021 when my hairdresser friend asked me how we come up with stories for D CEO. “We talk with a lot of people,” I told him. “There’s no shortage of interesting execs in Dallas, and everyone knows someone.” I then asked him what ideas he had. He thought about it for a minute then told me about a client whose husband was a former Mattel exec who had taken the helm of KidKraft, a North Texas company that makes children’s furniture, playsets, and toys and has been around since the 1960s. That conversation ultimately led to a profile of Geoff Walker, an innovative force who’s unleashing imagination and driving record-breaking sales at KidKraft. I loved talking with Walker and hearing about his huge wins at Mattel and his absolute zeal for making toys that spark imaginative play in children.   

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D Magazine's Zac Crain wrote about Michael Sorrell of Paul Quinn College in our April edition.

Will Maddox, Managing Editor

Michael Sorrell has transformed Paul Quinn University in southern Dallas in so many ways. From serving as a COVID-19 testing site to turning the football field into an urban farm, his leadership has been impactful and innovative. Zac Crain’s profile on the university president is as well-written as it is interesting. 

As someone who wishes they were crafty but lacks any real artistic talent, I was intrigued to learn about North Texas-based The Michaels Cos. and its new CEO, Ashley Buchanan. The twists and turns of the company going public and Buchanan’s embrace of technology at the crafts company make Kelsey J. Vanderschoot’s profile a great read. 

The moment of passing the baton from a family-run company to a non-family leader is always a delicate and interesting one. Christine Perez’s profile of Jean Savage, the first woman and non-family member to run Dallas-based Trinity Industries, is a behind-the-scenes look the dramatic moments that led to her leadership at the $2 billion railcar company.

One of my favorite stories to report on and write this year was a dive into the female-led heart surgery team at Medical City Children’s Hospital, which is performing some of the most advanced procedures in the country. Several of these women connected over the years at different stops in their careers, making mental notes to try to work together if they got a chance. When Dr. Kristine Guleserian took over the heart surgery team at the hospital, she began assembling what she calls her “dream team,” and the results have spoken for themselves.

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Our August issue featured a story on Brad Alberts of the Dallas Stars by Peter Simek.

Kelsey J. Vanderschoot, Associate Editor

Peter Simek led readers through the rise of Dallas Stars CEO Brad Alberts and the moves he has made to turn North Texas into a true hockey hub. The journey from Alberts’ start selling tickets to creating the Stars’ youth league and securing Dallas as host for the winter classic is engrossing and fun—much like watching a Stars game.  

Will Maddox’s story on Golden Chick President Jim Stevens tells of the CEO’s quick rise from running a single franchise to corporate leadership, and how he helped save Texas State Fair staple Fletcher’s Corny Dogs. It also highlights Golden Chick’s innovative use of modular building to quickly get new stores up and running. Will writes the story with his characteristic humor and charm, making for an enlightening and inspiring read.  

Will also wrote another 2021 favorite of mine, a profile of Legacy Knight, a Dallas-based company that combines the interests of various family offices to make larger investments.” The firm is led by Matt Ogle and former Mark Cuban Cos. exec Abe Minkara, who take their company from one of the most strategic pieces on a chess board, the knight. In his profile on the company, Will makes a complicated finance topic accessible and intriguing.

After months of research, I had the opportunity to co-write my first cover story alongside Bianca R. Montes on the beauty industry in North Texas and its rapid gain in market share. The story combines trends and profiles and touches on everything from emerging ingredients to sustainable packaging—and all the local players leading the charge. I truly enjoyed getting to know the changemakers in this often-overlooked industry and learning about what they’re doing to rival their coastal competitors.  

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Will Maddox wrote about the struggles of working moms in our June/July edition.

Ben Swanger, Assistant Editor

Midway through the year Will Maddox put together a piece on DFW’s working moms to highlight the incredible juggling act they perform every day. Nobody asks men when they have children if they will go part-time or even leave their job altogether; this is not the case for women. To think women can more easily abandon a career is asinine, and thanks to my colleague Will, great businesswomen like Yvette Ostolaza, Jennifer Chandler, Noelle LeVeaux, and working mothers everywhere are elevated to the pedestal they deserve.

One of the greatest ascensions in DFW business is captured effortlessly by Christine Perez in her profile of Amber Venz Box, who has had trailblazing career as the innovator behind influencer commerce–all while balancing four children under her roof. Christine’s piece paints a compelling picture of Box’s incredible journey and the success she has sparked for many others.

Early in 2021, Kelsey J. Vanderschoot masterfully wrote about Jessica Nemmers’ journey from professional ballerina to leadership posts in IT and security. Trained in classical ballet from the age of 6, Nemmers was awarded an apprentice contract with the former Dallas Ballet while still in high school. After the company went bankrupt, she turned her attention to college and attended SMU on a full-ride dance scholarship. She reignited her professional career but ultimately called it quits after another company bankruptcy. Nemmers then worked her way up from the call center of the Dallas Symphony to chief security officer of Elevate Credit—a fascinating story.

It was a joy to write about Chris Calandro and Big Game USA, a Farmers Branch-based company that supplies 90 percent of Division I college footballs. Lying in bedrest after an injury, Calandro had an idea to paint footballs for display. He ran with it and brought on clients like the Dallas Cowboys, Atlanta Falcons, and more. He then decided it was time to stop playing with toy footballs and learned how to stitch the ultimate college game ball. Several years later, he secured a partnership with Nike and in a single season went from five clients to 90. Today, he holds accounts with about 110 of the 130 Division I teams.

Author

Christine Perez

Christine Perez

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Christine is the editor of D CEO magazine and its online platforms. She’s a national award-winning business journalist who has…

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