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EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2017

There are as many fascinating business tales as there are finalists in this year’s program.
Nick Prendergast

Varidesk got founded because Dan Flaherty couldn’t find a reasonably priced, easily assembled stand-up desk. Blake Walker launched Arcis Golf because he believed the golf-management industry to be “stagnant” in its thinking. And Corey Egan’s success with Ilumi stemmed from a series of “wild cards,” including an appearance on TV’s “Shark Tank.”

Those are just a few of the fascinating snippets you’ll find on the following pages, as we recognize those honored in this year’s EY Entrepreneur Of The Year program. For the 10th straight year, D CEO is proud to profile all of the finalists in the program’s Southwest region.

To select the 2017 finalists, EY assembled a panel of independent judges. They were: Rick Allen, Paragon Healthcare; Mark Dubrow, Onyx CenterSource; Anurag Jain, Access Healthcare; Clane LaCrosse, Bosque Systems LLC; Brian Williams, OneSource Virtual; Amber Venz Box, rewardStyle; Randy Gier, GameStop; Kevin Lavelle, Mizzen+Main; Steve Valenta, NASDAQ OMX; and Gary Wojtaszek, CyrusOne.

All the regional finalists in this year’s EY Entrepreneur Of The Year program were honored at a black-tie gala on June 24 at Dallas’ Hilton Anatole hotel. The winners announced there will go on to compete for national recognition in November at EY’s Strategic Growth Forum in Palm Springs, Calif.

Bruce Schultz

CEO, Boardroom Salon for Men

Some things in life are certain. Among them: People need haircuts. And men often get their hair cut every two to four weeks, says Boardroom Salon for Men CEO Bruce Schultz.

Schultz opened the first Boardroom in 2004 with the idea to create an upscale men’s salon. In the early days, Schultz and his wife performed all aspects of the business except the hair-cutting. Since then, they’ve built a great team, and their Southlake-based salon concept has accrued a loyal customer base.

“We should hit 500,000 services in 2017—that’s half a million people getting their hair cut at Boardroom,” Schultz says. “We’re focused on making this a national brand.”

Boardroom aims to open six new salons this year, for a total of 30 locations. This summer, Schultz will launch Brighton Barber Institute, where cosmetologists can hone their skills. —Tara Nieuwesteeg

David Clark and Bobby Sharp

Bobby Sharp (left) and David “Sheffield” Clark

Co-founder and CEO ; Co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer, Coinsource

Two years ago, David “Sheffield” Clark and Bobby Sharp bet big on bitcoin. The digital currency was relatively new, and the founders believed it would quickly rise to global prominence. Their bet has been lucrative.

Coinsource now has 110 bitcoin ATM locations in 10 states, serving about 45,000 customers. The Fort Worth-based company employs 16 people and generated more than $20 million in revenue in 2016. Its next step is to break into new markets and expand services.

“We want this to become the financial services kiosk for the underserved,” Clark says. “Because the machines are where they are … we can flip a switch [so that] people can pay utility bills or send money. The future is bright in terms of our flexibility.” —Danielle Abril

Blake Walker

Founder, Chairman and CEO, Arcis Golf

Not even five years old yet, Arcis Golf has vaulted quickly into the top ranks of the golf business as one of the largest owner/operators of courses in the country. The Dallas company was founded by Blake Walker, an SMU graduate and former chief investment officer for Dallas-based ClubCorp.

Walker says he viewed the golf-management business as “stagnant,” especially in technology, so he’s tried to infuse the industry with fresh thinking. So far Arcis has accumulated—and improved—more than 60 private, resort, and daily-fee facilities in major metros nationwide.

“We’re doing new things in a business where there hasn’t been a lot of innovation,” Walker says. “We have clubs where we’ve made investments of several million dollars in strategic capital and increased revenues 50 percent.” —Glenn Hunter

Chris Drake

Founder and CEO, Armor

Eighteen years ago, Chris Drake watched a customer of his marketing startup suffer a massive data breach and recognized an opportunity. In 2009, the former U.S. Army paratrooper launched Richardson-based FireHost, now Armor, a secure cloud platform. Armor now employs 250 people, runs a security operations center led by a military security expert, and serves customers in more than 40 countries. It recently raised $89 million from Singapore investment firm ST Telemedia that will fuel strategic acquisitions. Amor boasts a one-day ‘dwell time,’ the time in which a threat goes undetected, compared to the industry standard of 150 days, Drake says. “That coupled with the capital infusion and the international growth options with our partner, we’re pretty excited about our future,” he says. —Danielle Abril

Joseph DePinto

President and CEO, 7-Eleven Inc.

When 7-eleven president and CEO Joseph DePinto came to the company 12 years ago, he took an active approach to refining the brand. He tackled the company’s debt, transitioned to a franchise model, and improved the company culture by establishing a “servant-leadership” model.

 rnrn“It’s about keeping up with the changing customer.”

Joseph DePinto, 7-Eleven Inc.

And, he hasn’t stopped there. In order to appeal to millennials, 7-Eleven has expanded its food selection and delved into one-to-one marketing approaches. The Irving-based company also aims to reduce its carbon footprint by 20 percent over the next eight years by utilizing wind power and reducing packaging. 7-Eleven has more than 62,000 stores in 19 countries and, over the last three years, has enjoyed a cumulative sales growth of 10.9 percent.

“We’re committed to delivering convenience,” DePinto says. “It’s about keeping up with the changing customer and innovating.”—Tara Nieuwesteeg

Lewis Bird III

CEO, At Home

When Lewis “Lee” Bird became CEO of Garden Ridge in late 2012, he saw an opportunity—a big-box store where customers could find myriad home décor styles at low prices.

But first the brand would need a major transformation. Bird relocated the HQ to Dallas, renamed the company At Home, and created a better workplace environment. Stores were tidied up and scrubbed clean, and he worked to ensure fast turnaround times for new marketplace trends. From 2013 to 2016, At Home’s revenue grew from $364 million to $622 million, and the company has had more than 20 percent unit growth for the past four years. At Home went public in 2016.

“The mission is to enable everyone to affordably make a house their home,” Bird says. “Our vision is to become the leading home décor retailer.”—Tara Nieuwesteeg

Stephanie Alsbrooks

Founder and CEO, Defi Solutions

By 2012, Stephanie Alsbrooks had spent most of her 15-year career buying, building, and tweaking loan-origination systems—and constantly battling the technology status quo.

Annoyed by the lack of technological innovation in the auto lending industry, Alsbrooks scraped together her own money, along with cash from friends and family, to launch defi SOLUTIONS five years ago.

The Grapevine-based company offers a software-powered loan origination system for the auto lending business. Alsbrooks attributes the company’s success to meeting a need in the auto finance sector, adjusting the technology to meet market demands, and “always challenging ourselves.”

“Surround yourself with smart people,” she advises her fellow entrepreneurs, “and keep moving forward.” —John Egan

Gagan Sharma

President and CEO, BSI Financial Services

Introspection drives Gagan Sharma. He frequently wonders: What did I accomplish today that I can do better tomorrow? That philosophy extends to BSI Financial Services as a whole. Employees at the Irving-based company, which provides technology and services for mortgage management, strive to listen carefully to customers and respond to their evolving needs

Sharma says that in order for entrepreneurs to succeed, they must enjoy steering a business through the ups and downs. Rather than being laser-focused on reaching certain numbers, for example, he concentrates on improving how to run the business. —John Egan

Stephen King

CEO, Dave & Buster’s Entertainment Inc.

In March 2006, Stephen King left TGI Friday’s to join Dallas-based Dave & Buster’s Entertainment Inc., as CFO. By that September, he’d been named CEO. Since then, the company has changed its structure, technology, food, and entertainment options—with the aim of appealing to both families and young adults.

“I saw a really differentiated brand, one that had a lot of runway in front of it,” King says. “It went from a great restaurant with some games to an entertainment brand that’s really focused on sports-viewing and entertainment with great food and beverages.”

There are currently 95 venues in North America, and King plans to increase that number by 10 percent each year. This year, Dave & Buster’s will expand to the Middle East, and add locations in Asia and South America. —Tara Nieuwesteeg

John Avila Jr.

Chairman, Byrne Construction Services

“You get a lot done when everyone is pulling together.”

John Avila, Byrne Construction Services

John Avila enlisted in the Army in 1966 during the Vietnam conflict and was commissioned an officer at age 18. Avila credits his military experience for shaping how he runs his general contracting business, Fort Worth-based Byrne Construction Services. Avila quickly rose in the Army’s ranks. By age 19, he was a first lieutenant in command of an artillery battery along the DMZ in South Korea. “Military service taught me leadership, organizational skills, problem-solving, the importance of team and moral,” he said. “You get a lot done when everyone is pulling together. That stuck with me, and I use it to this day.” Avila bought the 93-year-old firm in 1995 and rebuilt it into a powerhouse known for its versatility and sterling reputation.  —Kerry Curry

Bryan DeLuca

Co-Founder and CEO, Foot Cardigan

In 2011, Bryan DeLuca was traveling in Europe when he ran out of socks. He purchased a colorful pair abroad and, upon returning home, decided that quirky socks suited him. Around the same time, razor subscription service Dollar Shave Club made its debut. “I was struck by the idea of taking something historically boring and making it fun,” DeLuca says.

In 2012, he launched Foot Cardigan, a service that delivers funky socks to subscribers’ doors every month. By 2015, the Dallas-based company was growing at a year-over-year rate of 300 percent. And a week after DeLuca appeared on TV’s “Shark Tank,” his subscriber base doubled.

DeLuca aims to expand past subscription services. But for now, he says, Foot Cardigan is all about the surprise: “We’re an experience. Till you open your mailbox, you don’t know what you’re going to get.” —Tara Nieuwesteeg

Dr. Sulman Ahmed

Founder and CEO, Deca Dental

Deca Dental CEO Dr. Sulman Ahmed grew up in Zimbabwe, where he witnessed dentistry at its worst. If someone had a toothache, the tooth was pulled—and a lot of people had missing teeth.

He carried these memories with him to the U.S., where he attended dental school. When he began work, he found that business revolved around dentists’ convenience, not patients’. In 2009, Dr. Ahmed opened a private practice built on patient-centered dentistry.

Dallas-based DECA is a one-stop shop, offering same-day appointments, guarantee of service, and stress-free payment plans. In its first year, DECA grew to four locations. By 2016, there were more than 70. “We think this could be a national brand with locations all over the country,” Ahmed says. “We’re trying to build a Starbucks of dentistry.” —Tara Nieuwesteeg

Debbie Frazier

Founder and CEO, ETC Group

“It does take a lot of wine and vitamins, but it’s worth the ride.”

Debbie Frazier, ETC group

At ETC Group, an Arlington-based travel management company, there are no “accounts” or “customers” or “vendors.” Rather, there are partners. Founder and CEO Debbie Frazier views those partners as much more than line items on a spreadsheet.

Frazier says her company’s success lies in the strong relationships she and her employees have cultivated with those partners, including 7-Eleven, the Dallas Cowboys, and Dean Foods.

Frazier founded the company in 1993, building it into one of the largest woman-owned, full-service travel management companies in the country. “I may not be the best manager or make the right decision every single time, but I give 110 percent in everything I do,” she says. “It does take a lot of wine and vitamins, but it’s worth the ride.” —John Egan

Joshua Robertson

CEO, E-Mist Innovations Inc.

For E-Mist Innovations CEO Joshua Robertson, healthcare has always been a family business. After creating a company centered on providing hospice equipment, Robertson started an investment company. He soon fell in love with one of the investments, E-Mist Innovations, and became its CEO in 2016.

Based in Fort Worth, E-Mist is an electrostatic disinfection tool that can cover 54,000 square feet an hour. The technology was used during the Dallas Ebola crisis to disinfect nurse Nina Pham’s apartment, and Robertson believes E-Mist can help eliminate the 1.7 million healthcare-associated infections that occur in hospitals each year.

“My goal is that it becomes a standard operating procedure in most hospitals,” he says. “Not only do we have an incredible product that’s hopefully going to save a lot of lives, but we have a really awesome team.” —Tara Nieuwesteeg

Larry Johnson

CEO, Fogo de Chão

When Larry Johnson started as CEO of Fogo de Chão in 2007, he aimed to grow the business without losing sight of its authentic Brazilian steakhouse dining experience.

“We have a high-growth pace, and keeping the culture alive and vibrant is a challenge,” he says. “The path we’ve chosen is to focus on the dining experience, but to enhance it through adding seasonal choices and expanding the wine and cocktail selection.”

Since 2007, the company has grown from 11 to 47 restaurants across the United States, Mexico, and Brazil. In 2015, Johnson took the Dallas company public and, based on the company’s earnings for the quarter ending in October 2016, its growth rate is around 13.2 percent. It recently added brunch and lunch menus and plans to open two locations in the Middle East this year.—Tara Nieuwesteeg

Corey Egan

Founder and CEO, Ilumi

Corey Egan’s success with smart light-bulb company Ilumi boils down to a series of wild cards. In 2010, Egan and future co-founder Swapnil Bora won $5,000 in a business idea competition, which helped them file patents and launch the company in 2011.

In 2013, the two raised $200,000 via crowdfunding. They were put in the national spotlight in 2013, when they won $350,000 from Mark Cuban on TV’s “Shark Tank.” Now Ilumi’s bulbs are sold in 1,400 stores including Best Buy, Home Depot, and Target.

Ilumi, which employs 15 people and cleared $2 million in 2015, is branching further into the connected space with its new Bluetooth infrastructure, MeshTek. “We’re anticipating an even bigger opportunity—or light-bulb moment,” Egan says. —Danielle Abril

James Rosengren

Chairman and Executive Chairman, Heritage Health Solutions Inc.

James Rosengren, executive chairman of Heritage Health Solutions Inc., has worked in healthcare most of his life. He’s only had three employers: the Army, where he started as a combat medic; HealthNet, where he served as vice president of political and government relations; and Heritage Health Solutions, which he founded in 2005.

Flower Mound-based Heritage provides healthcare and pharmacy services for veterans. In 2006, the veteran-owned company garnered its first VA contract; by 2010, it had more than 50. Today, Heritage delivers first-fill pharmacy services to a million veterans across 750 VA medical centers. —Tara Nieuwesteeg

John Bartling and Dallas Tanner

President and CEO; Founder, EVP and CIO, Invitation Homes

“The entrepreneurial spirit is still part of our DNA today.”

John Bartling, Invitation Homes

When the bottom dropped out of the housing market, private equity powerhouse Blackstone Group swooped in, formed Invitation Homes in 2012, and bought foreclosed houses on the cheap. The bet paid off last year as Dallas-based IH went public, raising $1.54 billion and redefining the single-family rental (SFR) market into a sophisticated business. IH is the biggest SFR owner in the nation, with nearly 50,000 homes in 13 markets. It has a strong tailwind with robust demand and rising values. “Good investors understand the difference between perceived risk and real risk,” Bartling says. “It was a great time to buy.” Tanner says the lightning-fast ramp-up was done with a can-do attitude: “The entrepreneurial spirit is still part of our DNA today.” —Kerry Curry

Warren Ivie

CEO, Ivie & Associates Inc.

As a corporate vice president more than 20 years ago, Warren Ivie used to believe that advertising agencies didn’t have their clients’ interests at heart. So, in 1993, he launched his own firm to offer companies in-house advertising assistance and put the clients’ needs and values first.

The idea was to build a brand in which the agency’s associates were embedded with the clients. “We’re transparently a part of their staff on a day-to-day basis,” Ivie says. “In some cases we are their staff.”

The model worked, and Ivie has since grown his company to employ more than 725 and generate more than $500 million in annual revenue. The Flower Mound company prides itself on its family-like culture and its digital strategies. —Danielle Abril

Robert Michelson

CEO, RMG Networks Inc.

A serial entrepreneur, Robert “Bob” Michelson was brought in to help turn around digital signage company RMG Networks in 2014. RMG was a special acquisition company, taking the form of a publicly traded firm after merging with another company. It had been around in some form for more than 30 years and was in “serious distress,” Michelson says.

He did five things to flip the business: cut about 35 percent of expenses, brought in new sales leadership, hired a new executive team, reignited innovation, and expanded the target markets. The Dallas company now employs 180 people across the world and last year generated $37.6 million in revenue. “I think to a great degree we’re well along our path,” Michelson says. “It’s been really fun.” —Danielle Abril

Greg Brown

President and CEO, LearField Communications LLC

You may not have heard of Plano-based Learfield Communications LLC. But you’ve likely seen its work.

Learfield manages multimedia rights and sponsorships for more than 120 college sports programs, conferences, and arenas, including Southern Methodist University and the University of North Texas. In 2016, private equity firm Atairos Group Inc. snapped up the company, which was founded in 1972.

Greg Brown has worked at Learfield for more than 30 years, ascending to president and CEO in 2009. He credits the company’s success to a culture instilled by co-founder Clyde Lear and shepherded by its employees. The culture has “allowed us to build trust and thereby build our brand,” Brown says. “It also attracts the right kind of people.” —John Egan

Nathan Sheets

President and Chief Steward, Nature Nate’s

“We want to be a disrupter in a historically sleepy space.”

Nathan Sheets, Nature Nate’s

Nature Nate’s Honey Co. is a Mc-Kinney-based honey company with a focus on healthy living.

Nathan Sheets bought North Dallas Honey Co. as a side business in 1997 and started working there full-time in 2010. He soon changed the name to Nature Nate’s. Today, the honey company has 90 employees and products on the shelves of major retailers like Walmart and Kroger.

Sheets believes his company’s raw honey offers families a healthy alternative to high fructose corn syrup. The company culture also emphasizes charity work, and donates 10 percent of its profit annually. “We’re not satisfied being the No. 1 honey company in America,” Sheets says. “We want to be a disrupter in a historically sleepy space. And we want to use our financial resources to make an incredible impact in the lives of others.” —Tara Nieuwesteeg

Chris Bradford and Kevin Wang

President; CEO, Newline Interactive

Leading Newline Interactive, Chris Bradford and Kevin Wang say their business model is the source of success in the touchscreen product market. The key: Newline not only develops the technology, it also owns its own manufacturing facility in China—thanks to Wang’s connections abroad.

The two have been business partners for 17 years, launching Newline in 2012. Within the last three years, the company’s top line has increased by 770 percent.

Plano-based Newline employs 25 people, sold 10,000 units last year, and expects to generate between $20 million and $40 million in revenue this year. —Danielle Abril

Stephen Jones

Founder and CEO, Pegasus Technology Solutions

When Stephen “Buck” Jones decided to start his own IT company, he chose to go all in. Instead of specializing in one of three industry specialties, as most firms do, he set out to provide all of them. He launched Plano-based Pegasus Technology Solutions in October 2014, offering value-added reselling, managed services, and professional services.

Jones has grown his company to generate $17 million last year and employ 18 people. It also was one of the fastest of 103 companies to become an HPE Platinum Partner. “I didn’t think we would grow this fast,” Jones says. “But you hire the right people and set the vision, and you accomplish a lot in a short amount of time.” —Danielle Abril

Quincy Roberts

CEO, Roberts Trucking Inc.

Quincy Roberts earned a bachelor’s degree in music, with an emphasis on vocal performance, from Indiana University in 2002. As a solo vocalist, he’s performed with groups including the Dallas Opera and the Cincinnati Symphony. Today, however, he’s singing an entirely different tune. Roberts leads Dallas-based Roberts Trucking Inc., which specializes in transporting construction materials for commercial construction companies.

Arthur Roberts Sr., Quincy’s grandfather, founded the trucking company in 1979. Quincy joined the family business after graduating from college and stepped up his involvement following the death of an uncle in 2004. “Our key to success is being prepared for new opportunities by strategically planning our growth,” he says. —John Egan

Gregory Moran

President and CEO, Outmatch

During his career in the executive search industry, Greg Moran grew frustrated by how many companies he saw making bad hires. So, he figured, why not improve the hiring process by applying analytics?

Thus, Dallas-based Outmatch was born. The company supplies predictive data enabling employers to match the right people to the right roles. Moran founded in 2009; his company merged with Assess in 2015 to form Outmatch.

Among its clients are heavyweights including American Airlines, Brinker International, Hyatt Hotels, and La Quinta. —John Egan

George Baker Sr.

Founder and CEO, Parkhub

George Baker Sr.’s history with the parking industry dates back to age 12, when he started working for his family at Parking Co. of America. As the years passed, he identified inefficiencies within the business and began developing products to solve them. ¶ In 2010, he launched Dallas-based ParkHub, a mobile application that initially allowed drivers to search and pre-pay for parking spots in real time. It has since transitioned into a B2B platform serving as a vendor for stadiums and arenas.

Last year, the company integrated with and became the only certified parking service for Major League Baseball. ParkHub employs 33 and generates more than $50 million in revenue. “Frictionless parking is coming,” Baker says. “Look for that in parking—and we’re driving it.” —Danielle Abril

Kent McKeaigg

Founder and CEO, OrderMyGear LLC

“Changes in the market have been good for us.”

Kent McKeaigg, OrderMyGear LLC

Kent McKeaigg initially created what would become OrderMyGear to help his father, who worked in sporting goods, with large orders from youth sports organizations. But instead, he ended up bootstrapping a company that’s thrived for nearly a decade, growing 100 percent annually for the past three years.

The online store helps teams, leagues, schools, distributors, and manufacturers streamline the ordering process for team gear. McKeaigg expects OrderMyGear, which employs 55 people, to generate $15 million in revenue this year.

“Retail has suffered over the last five years in sporting goods, and I think kids, coaches, and parents are changing how they buy,” says McKeaigg, who adds that the company continues to bolster its software. “Changes in the market have been good for us.” —Danielle Abril

Suzy Bátiz

Founder and CEO, Poo~Pourri

After a series of failed businesses and bankruptcies, Suzy Bátiz launched Poo~Pourri in 2007. With the help of clever packaging and a hilarious viral video, her oil-based, before-you-go bathroom spray took the world by storm.

Today, Poo~Pourri has sold more than 22 million bottles in 42 countries. The Addison-based company is hard at work on new product lines, and recently launched an in-house production studio. Bátiz is also a staunch supporter of women’s empowerment. Poo~Pourri has contributed $30,000 to Lotus Outreach International and $30,000 to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

“We’re passionate about raising our voice as boldly and loudly as we can in order to empower and liberate others,” Bátiz says. “We’ve had success—now, how can we use this brand to create change in the world?” —Tara Nieuwesteeg

Sam Darwish

CEO, Skinny IT

At his previous it employer, Sam Darwish saw a recurring customer need: an opportunity to break up the way the company bought, delivered, and serviced hardware for its clients. So in 2010, Darwish founded Skinny IT. The Frisco-based company employs 50 people worldwide, serves 150 clients, and is expected to generate eight-figure revenue by year end, Darwish says.

It also plans to acquire a couple of companies this year that will help bolster its offerings. “We’re developing our name,” Darwish says. “In the next couple years, you’ll see us in a big way.” Darwish also is growing another company he founded—Fireracker—which specializes in small business technology, as well as managing Burgers, Buns, & Beverages Inc., which operates Carl’s Jr. franchises in Dallas-Fort Worth. —Danielle Abril

Darnell Jones and Danyel Surrency Jones

Founder and CEO; Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer, POWERHANDZ Inc.

For athletes, competition boils down to winning and losing. Many athletes who are customers of POWERHANDZ Inc. certainly see a winner in the Dallas-based company—a maker and distributor of sports training products, including performance-boosting gloves.

“We design products that really help athletes perform better,” says Danyel Surrency Jones, whose startup launched in 2015.

The nine products in the POWERHANDZ portfolio are designed to strengthen hand and arm muscles and to improve athletes’ dexterity. —John Egan

Nicholas Kennedy

Founder and CEO, Rise Air

As an executive at companies like EDS and NCR, Nick Kennedy racked up more than 2 million frequent-flier miles. He also racked up millions of reasons why he hated flying, not the least of which was lost work productivity and lost family time that he blames on the “highly inefficient and broken commercial airline industry.”

So in 2014, Kennedy—lacking even a single day of work experience in the airline business—launched Dallas-based RISE Air. It’s a membership-based air travel service that’s designed to make the skies friendlier for frequent fliers by filling a gap between crowded commercial planes and exclusive private jets. Since taking off three years ago, RISE has carried more than 25,000 passengers in Dallas, Austin, Houston, Midland, and San Antonio. —John Egan

Andrew T. Riess II

President and CEO, Popular Ink LLC

“We’re focused on being the fastest in our industry.”

Andrew T. Reiss II, Popular Ink LLC

In 2007, Andrew Reiss bought a printing press with the dream of starting a successful company. He had no idea how to use it, so he hired a guy from craigslist to teach him. Popular Ink, which specializes in printing on food-industry items, started in a barn, with Reiss filling every role from CEO to janitor.

It’s grown since then. The McKinney-based company employs 50 people, and its 2017 revenue goal is $33 million. In addition to bringing fresh appeal to an old industry—Reiss calls Popular Ink the “Google of manufacturing”—the company owes much of its success to speed and prides itself on quick turnarounds. Says Reiss: “We’re focused on being the fastest in our industry.” —Tara Nieuwesteeg

Sachin Nayyar and Tanuj Gulati

CEO; Co-Founder and CTO, Securonix

In 2008, Sachin Nayyar set out to offer a cybersecurity service integrating behavior analytics. “We … [said], ‘Why don’t we build a behavior for every user and machine, and see when there are anomalies?’” Nayyar says.

Securonix built a security analytics platform to visualize data and offer actionable intelligence for high-risk threats. The Addison company, which employs 300, has grown 100 percent annually over four years, now generating more than $50 million in revenue. —Danielle Abril

Frank Gonzalez and Rick Skaggs

CEO; President of Emerging Business, Technology Service Professionals

When longtime honeywell leaders Rick Skaggs and Frank Gonzalez lost their department and their team of engineers due to a restructuring, they launched a venture of their own. Thus Technology Service Professionals, a Dallas-based IT company, was formed in 2002. “We take care of our people, and they take care of our customers,” Skaggs says. TSP started with four employees, including Skaggs and Gonzalez, and $500 worth of supplies. It now employs 637 people and is forecasting more than $70 million in revenue this year. —Danielle Abril

Alexander Danza

President and CEO, Vonlane

Alex Danza says he saw a lack of innovation in the U.S. motor-coach industry. So he founded Dallas-based Vonlane, which provides first-class luxury bus service between Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.

Carrying slightly more business than leisure passengers, each of the company’s buses has fewer than two dozen seats, plus amenities like complimentary food and drink, an on-board attendant, Wi-Fi, satellite TV, and a conference room.

Danza, the great-grandson of Ellis Island immigrants, says passengers typically catch up on work—or just relax—in the “private jets on wheels.” Typically there are 26 departures per day—service between Fort Worth and Austin launches this year—and the CEO says he’ll look to expand to other cities “once Texas is built out.” —Glenn Hunter

William Shaddock

President and CEO, The Bill Shaddock Cos.

“I continued to aggressively grow while other people were hunkered down.”

William Shaddock, The Bill Shaddock Cos.

Bill Shaddock took one of his biggest business risks during the 2008 financial crisis. Shaddock used his strong cash position to expand into new markets and scoop up talent as others floundered. “I continued to aggressively grow while other people were hunkered down,” he says.

Based in Plano, the family-owned Bill Shaddock Cos. began in the 1980s with one employee (Bill), and eventually expanded to more than 700 employees and 10 entities, all related to the real estate and mortgage industries. They include Capital Title Co., the state’s largest independent title company, and First National Title Insurance Co., the nation’s 12th-largest title insurer. Shaddock says he focuses his businesses on building personal relationships, believing consumers do business with people they know, like, and trust. —Kerry Curry

Dan Flaherty and Jason McCann


VARIDESK originated when founder Dan Flaherty, diagnosed with sciatic nerve pain that made it tough for him to sit, tried to find a reasonably priced, easily assembled stand-up desk. Long story short, he couldn’t find one.

So he launched Coppell-based VARIDESK, which designs, delivers, and manufactures height-adjustable standing desks and accessories. Flaherty and CEO Jason McCann sell directly to consumers online and to 96 percent of Fortune 500 companies. The company now boasts 162 employees, 50 products, and sales to more than 1 million “fans” in 130 countries. —Glenn Hunter

Craig Hall and Kathryn Hall

Chairman; Co-Proprietor/Partner, Hall Group

Craig Hall has been an entrepreneur since he bought a small rooming house at age 18 to rent out in his hometown of Ann Arbor, Mich. One thing led to another and Hall, who moved his company to Dallas in the early 1980s, had amassed a portfolio worth $4 billion by the age of 35.

But it hasn’t always been easy. He filed for bankruptcy in 1992, and had to rebuild. A year later he was married to Kathryn Hall, an attorney and co-founder of the North Texas Food Bank who joined him in the business.

Today their company called the HALL Group has diversified interests in real estate, financial lending, hospitality, winemaking, art collecting, and investments. “He’s exciting to work with and exasperating to work with at times,” Kathryn says.

The couple says they’ve instituted a work culture of honesty, fairness, and transparency that fosters creativity. “Taking a risk is important,” Kathryn says. “A critical part of our success has been finding and supporting really creative people and giving them room to grow.”

Innovation is always part of the mix in the HALL Group businesses, like the automated optical scanners used for sorting grapes at their California vineyard (photo at left). And Craig, who owns two electric cars, is currently studying driverless vehicles and flying cars with the hopes they’ll eventually become a HALL Park amenity.

“There is great excitement in being an entrepreneur,” he says. “If you have the right stomach for it.” —Kerry Curry

Barclay Berdan

CEO, Texas Health Resources

In his two years at the helm, Barclay Berdan has led a number of entrepreneurial efforts at Arlington-based Texas Health Resources.

As CEO of a faith-based nonprofit that’s now the region’s predominant healthcare provider—its market share is nearly 28 percent—Berdan has expanded THR’s behavioral health services, forged innovative partnerships with Aetna and UT Southwestern, and implemented a “reliable care blueprint” focused on improving outcomes of all stripes.

The chief executive says THR’s “key foundational piece,” however, is its culture. That culture, he explains, consists of “the people here who love their work, who do well, who are very engaged, and like working for the organization.” THR now boasts 23,000 employees as well as 29 hospitals, 350 “points of access,” and 5,500 physicians with active staff privileges. —Glenn Hunter

Aaron Graft

Founder, Vice Chairman, and CEO, Triumph Bancorp Inc.

When then-28-year-old Aaron Graft moved to snap up Dallas’ troubled Equity Bank during the Great Recession, his plan was to refocus the bank on commercial real estate lending. By the time the drawn-out acquisition process was finally over in late 2010, however, it made more sense for the revamped institution to target commercial finance instead.

Today Dallas-based Triumph Bancorp is a unique, publicly traded community bank with a commercial-finance emphasis on factoring, asset-based lending, and equipment finance. Under the names TBK Bank and Triumph Community Bank, the company serves customers nationwide and through multiple branches in Iowa, Illinois, Colorado, and Kansas. Graft credits “the quality” of Triumph’s 730 employees for the success of the company, which has grown to $2.7 billion in assets. —Glenn Hunter