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Business

46 DFW Entrepreneurs Share Strategies and Lessons Learned

The regional business leaders honored in EY’s 2022 Entrepreneur Of The Year program used ingenuity and tenacity to fill market gaps.
By | |Photography by Jonathan Zizzo

Entrepreneurs find purpose in solving problems and identifying cracks in the market where processes can be improved and innovations brought to life. “That gap became our opportunity,” says Noblesoft Technologies founder and CEO Venkat Yerubandi, of the spark that led to the creation of his company. For the 46 entrepreneurs featured here, the vision crystallized, and their commitment paid off. They’ve struggled to find funding and scale their enterprises, taken risks, and even gone on to acquire the competition—all with the mission of helping make the world a better place. For a 15th straight year, D CEO is proud to profile all Central Plains Region finalists in EY’s Entrepreneur Of The Year program. Judges this year included former EY winners and area entrepreneurs. All regional finalists were honored Saturday, June 25, at the Omni Dallas, where 11 winners were revealed. Those winners will then compete for national recognition in November. 

Maria Carell

CEO and President, Revision Skincare and Goodier Cosmetics

WINNER: Revision Skincare and Goodier Cosmetics leader Maria Carell says the two companies have tripled total revenue since 2017, when she became CEO, and have expanded their workforce by 38 percent since 2019. “We have moved beyond the startup phase in all aspects, and I am very excited about the next stage we are entering,” she says. Founded in 1986, Irving-based Revision was the first brand to widely incorporate peptides into skincare products and pioneered at-home neck therapy. It continues to invent from its 110,000-square-foot research facility in Dallas—and aims to expand its global footprint soon. “Our goal for the next five years is to continue to drive market penetration while focusing on true skincare innovations,” Carell says.

Tops

Midland-based oilfield equipment company Tops rents electric natural gas compressors that reduce operator costs and improves sustainability. “We have eliminated emissions and improved runtimes to near 100 percent,” says CEO L.D. Green.

RiseIT

WINNER: Software development company RiseIT is forecasted to double in the next 24 months. “I see new avenues where we can expand both organically and through acquisitions,” says chairman and CEO Kishore Khandavalli.

AmplifAI

AmplifAI uses data to help consumer-facing employees improve performance. “It’s becoming more difficult to attract, quickly train, and effectively retain employees. I see this as an opportunity,” says founder and CEO Sean Minter. 

Securonix

“We are innovating in multiple areas, primarily in security analytics, technology, and threat hunting,” says Securonix CEO Sachin Nayyar. The company uses its innovative platform to investigate cybersecurity threats. 

Brainvire

Brainvire, which helps businesses transition to digital, sees pandemic trends fueling continued opportunity. “I have witnessed 20–30 percent of businesses adopt digital, and more are on their way,” says CEO Chintan Shah. 

Commercial Metals

WINNER: “We’re leading innovation in our industry by introducing the world’s first continuous micro mill, utilizing the cleanest, most energy efficient tech to produce rebar,” says Commercial Metals chairman, president, and CEO Barbara Smith. 

The Beneficient Company Group
Brad Heppner, Chairman and CEO

After Brad Heppner sold his asset management group to Lehman Brothers, he realized the industry was struggling to manage smaller customers’ liquidity requests. “There were firms popping up every day focused on getting smaller institutions and individuals into alternative assets to ‘democratize’ the industry, but very few—or perhaps none—focused on getting them out in a simple, rapid, and cost-effective way while delivering transparent data on the investments,” Heppner says. He launched The Beneficient Company Group to meet this hole in the market, providing custodial and liquidity services with fiduciary powers to small companies. Now, it has grown to $3 billion in total assets. 

My Labs Direct
Led by Justin Simons

Justin Simons created Plano-based My Labs Direct to avoid the surprise billing involved in insurance reimbursement, offering D2C testing at wholesale. The company shifted its focus from blood and molecular testing to COVID-19 testing during the pandemic, spurring 260 percent growth. It will now further expand its offerings via a joint venture with Baylor University. “We’ll study concussion biomarkers, a menstrual blood test that identifies cancer biomarkers, and gut microbiota to determine the best foods for cancer patients throughout treatment,” Simons says.

Throughout COVID, we were the best at filling shifts when healthcare facilities were in dire need. We ended 2020 filling 100,000 hours per week.”

Tom Ellis, ShiftKey [winner]

Mr. Cooper Group
Jay Bray, Chairman and CEO

The largest non-bank mortgage servicer nationwide, Mr. Cooper Group serves nearly 4 million customers and a portfolio of more than $800 billion in unpaid principal balance. “We grew our servicing portfolio 644 percent over the last decade,” says chairman and CEO Jay Bray. He took the lead in 2012—the year Mr. Cooper went public—and led it through a two-year shift from its former name, Nationstar. Now, he’s guiding the company as it continues to innovate. “We’re partnering with Google Cloud to create a customer-centric digital mortgage servicing platform, powered by advanced automation tech such as AI, machine learning, data analytics, and cloud scalability to make the mortgage process easier,” Bray says. 

What are the strengths and challenges of DFW’s entrepreneurial landscape?

  • Sulagna Bhattacharya
  • Chris Crosby
  • Shridhar Mittal
  • Joseph P. Urso

WINNER: “There are unique clusters of biotech innovation, but public-private partnerships and financial institutions supporting local ventures are nascent. We need public or academic institutions to aid tech transfer and economic incentives for startups.” Sulagna Bhattacharya, Nanoscope Therapeutics

“Dallas-Fort Worth is a microcosm for the pro-business orientation of Texas. For an entrepreneur, DFW boasts an educated workforce, receptivity toward new businesses and entrepreneurs, and a favorable regulatory and taxation regime.” Chris Crosby, Compass Datacenters

“We have a lot of strengths in terms of having the right skill sets and talent here. We don’t have the funds to help startups get off the ground, though. We need more of that. It’s also important to note that Dallas has grown a lot for the tech market.” Shridhar Mittal, Zimperium

WINNER: “We’re a melting pot for people from all around the world. DFW is a powerful place to start and be in business, but we could do more to promote our strengths. People are focused on Austin or Silicon Valley because they haven’t heard what we have.” —Joseph P. Urso, ActivePure Technologies

Daniel McCarthy

Co-founder and CEO, Musicbed

WINNER: Before his company launched, Musicbed Co-Founder and CEO Daniel McCarthy welcomed a child, renovated and sold his home, and sold his ad agency. “I knew Musicbed was the path forward,” he says. The Fort Worth-based company helps filmmakers find or create music that matches their work and navigate the necessary royalty fees. McCarthy and his co-founder Nic Carfa have since grown their vision to include a second brand under parent organization FM Brands. Called Filmsupply, it licenses cinematic footage. Both companies gained market share during the pandemic when producers had to reevalute their creative processes. Now, McCarthy and Carfa are expanding again. “Specifically, we are taking on the stock photography industry in a fresh way,” McCarthy says.

Halo with Cesar Millan
Cesar Millan, Co-founder | Heather Gode, Founding Team Member | Ken Ehrman, Co-founder and managing partner | Michael Ehrman, Co-founder

Co-founders and brothers Ken and Michael Ehrman began brainstorming Paws, a smart collar company, after their niece’s dog escaped from her yard and was hit by a car. They added canine behavior specialist Cesar Millan and founding team member Heather Gode to formally launch in 2017, combining Millan’s knowledge of dog psychology with the Ehrmans’ Internet of Things expertise. The company earned $3 million in revenue in 2020; it jumped to $30 million in 2021 and is now on track to break $100 million in revenue this year. Company leaders say they’re also currently keeping more than 80,000 dogs safe with Halo, with that number increasing rapidly every day.

Catalyze Dallas Holdings
Joe D’Cruz and Tricia D’Cruz, founders and managing directors

Joe and Tricia D’Cruz left corporate jobs to found Catalyze Dallas, which commercializes intellectual property to help R&D companies scale. Early on, they met with Lockheed Martin. “They wanted help commercializing IP that was ‘sitting on the shelf.’ That led to our first spinout, and today, we work with many top defense and aerospace companies, as well as global tech companies,” Tricia says. The company’s ability to take a product and turn it into an entrepreneurial venture has attracted notice. “The last year has seen our pipeline of investments grow, and with new capital raised, we have big plans to add to our portfolio of operating companies,” Joe says.

With product-market fit in place, business model set, and market focus locked-in, Worlds is scaling. We are engaged with some of the largest global brands.”

Dave Copps, Worlds [winner]

EOSERA
Elyse Stoltz Dickerson, Co-founder and CEO

Ear care company Eosera was founded in 2015 after its leaders left corporate careers in Big Pharma and discovered the market niche was ripe for innovation. “Many of our products are the first of their kind,” says Co-founder and CEO Elyse Stoltz Dickerson. In the past three years, Eosera has increased revenue 657 percent. It plans to move its 38 employees into a larger headquarters later this year. “Not only will we have more space, but we designed it to suit our specific needs,” Dickerson says. Eosera products, which include remedies for ear wax removal, pain, and itch, are sold in more than 26,000 retail outlets across the United States. “We’re in most major drug and food stores in the U.S., but we have plenty left to conquer,” Dickerson says.

Arm Candy
Led by John Lods

Dallas-based Arm Candy, an agency-to-agency media firm, focuses on outcomes when building out its clients’ media plans. It help other agencies manage media campaigns without them having to hire and train employees in media content—frequently not an area of their expertise. “This approach led to the development of our technology, Cyris, which allows us to better understand the expected outcomes that our strategies deliver and helps us make media recommendations that are most likely to achieve business objectives,” says founder and CEO John Lods. The company has grown revenue 350 percent in the last two years. Lods says nearly all new business continues to come from referrals. 

Edwin D. Tatum CEO, Tatumtek
Edwin D. Tatum CEO, Tatumtek Jonathan Zizzo

Edwin D. Tatum

CEO, Tatumtek

The idea for modular construction firm TatumTek came to Edwin D. Tatum after he played professional basketball in Latin America. “I began investing in residential construction projects,” he says. “I became frustrated with the change orders, inspection process, and delayed times. I distinctly remember telling myself, ‘There has to be another way.’” Now, the company he founded builds homes in eight to 16 weeks, making the construction process more sustainable in the process. “There’s no point in making customers wait a year on the largest purchase of their lives,” Tatum says. The company bought land for its first manufacturing and distribution center in 2019, and this year it forecasts more than $50 million in revenue. “Our business is truly in the starting blocks of a long race,” Tatum says.

What is your best business advice for other entrepreneurs?

  • Gabe Abshire
  • Michael D. Gianni
  • Lawrence King
  • Chip Register

WINNER: “Replace yourself as soon as you can! When you are starting out, you have to do everything—even the things you hate and suck at. Spend as much time in your unique ability and allow others to do the same. This will become a great foundation for an amazing culture.” —Gabe Abshire, Utility Concierge

“Take action, don’t just brainstorm. I’ve seen too many people work on a business plan but never begin to execute. We like to say that an 80 percent solution that gets enacted is better than continuing to seek a 100 percent solution that never gets out of the gate.” Michael D. Gianni, MD7

“Tenacity is underrated. Very few boxers become a champion without getting knocked down during the fight. Same for entrepreneurs. Talent, skill, and preparation are necessary, but it’s the tenacity that helps
you get off the mat and keep going.” Lawrence King, Headstorm

“My two favorite words in the English language are entrepreneur, which means ‘bearer of risk,’ and ‘iconoclast,’ which means ‘breaker of idols.’ It isn’t always necessary, but it’s important to be willing to be one or
both when the opportunity arises.” Chip Register, Argano

Cherry Coatings
Zack Cherry, CEO | Rocky Cherry, Chief Growth Officer

Cherry Brothers Painting was founded 54 years ago in 1968 by brothers Pat and Jan Cherry. It became Cherry Coatings in 2017, after the founders’ sons and nephews took over as leaders. Now, Zack and Rocky Cherry, the company’s CEO and chief growth officer, respectively, are guiding the enterprise through rapid growth, reaching more than $100 million in revenue in 2021, breaking into two new markets a year, and exploring robotic automation. The dynamic family duo, who lead 1,400 employees from their Carrollton headquarters, aims to reach $750 million in revenue by 2030. This year the key focus is on reporting systems, CRM, streamlining IT, and cloud-based infrastructure. 

Noblesoft Technologies

SAAS supply chain management company Noblesoft Technologies looked to Latin America during COVID. “This risky proposition saved us and opened up new vistas for service business,” says founder and CEO Venkat Yerubandi.

Recuro Health

WINNER: The Richardson-based telehealth company launched in 2021 with a $2.9 million oversubscribed funding round. Led by former Teladoc founder Michael Gorton, the company announced another $15 million in funding just five months later. 

Thryv

The software company pivoted from advertising to business management and automation when Joe Walsh took the helm. “With the mass adoption of smartphones, SMBs needed to communicate with their newly mobile consumers,” the leader says. 

Titus Oil and Gas

Titus Oil and Gas founder and CEO Marshall Hickey focused on single drilling horizontal well units, rather than acquiring large swaths of acreage. Now, his upstream company produces the equivalent of 30,000 net barrels daily.

True Velocity

Entrepreneur Kevin Boscamp bought a single patent in 2003 and realized it could disrupt the defense sector. Now, Garland-based ammunition company True Velocity has more than 300 patents established or in development. 

AcreTrader

Led by Carter Malloy, AcreTrader establishes contracts with land owners, listing 1/10 share of farmland as real estate investments on its app, then allows investors to purchase shares and later disperses dividends. 

Terry Weber

CEO, Biote

Irving-based Biote places implants under the skin, which release hormones with the same molecular structure as those that naturally occur in the body to help patients balance their levels. “There are over 200 million people in the United States who are affected by symptoms of hormone imbalance, which means there is a massive opportunity for Biote,” says CEO Terry Weber, who began leading the company three years ago. In 2021, she guided Biote through 19 percent growth, producing $139.6 million in revenue and took the company public in May 2022. Biote also houses a training facility, where it teaches its methods to more than 4,700 healthcare professionals and 2,800 clinics. “I couldn’t be more proud of what we have accomplished so far and what we are setting out to do,” Weber says. 

As the most consumed meat in the country, I knew that chicken was where I could make the most impact through building a regenerative system for poultry.”

Matthew Wadiak, Cooks Venture

Eddy Badrina
Eden Green Technology

Vertical farming company Eden Green Technology was born in 2017 when its two South African founders witnessed a 5-year-old child hoarding food for his younger sister. The boy said it wasn’t his day to eat. Eden Green aims to make locally grown greens more accessible. The company broke ground on its first vertical farming greenhouse in Cleburne last year and launched its second facility in June. “We can now turn out up to 17 harvests per year in a greenhouse,” says CEO Eddy Badrina, who oversees the company’s 24 employees.

Mohammad Elashi
Founder and CEO, Synaptic Management

Synaptic Management leader Mohammad Elashi launched three companies and acquired one in six years across healthcare, renewable energy, pediatric speech and occupational therapy, and construction. He bootstrapped each venture, starting with Synaptic Pediatric Therapies, which he launched with $5,000 as a college student. Each of his enterprises has grown 3,000 percent to 6,000 percent. Combined, the four companies produce more than $65 million in annual revenue. Next up? Adding as many as 50 Synaptic Pediatric Therapies outpatient facilities. “We are one-fourth of the way there, building eight clinics in the last 24 months, and we are projected to build five to eight more in 2023,” Elashi says. 

What has been the toughest challenge you’ve encountered and are trying to overcome?

  • Daniel Berardi
  • Dan Noble
  • Kenneth Lewis
  • Mike Bidwell

“We have around 10 developers who have been instrumental to our tech’s success working remote from Western Ukraine. They are all from Kharkov, one of the areas suffering from intense fighting. Most have sent their families out of the country.” Daniel Berardi, Priority-1

“Creating an ethos of empowerment and accountability. We have embraced equity, diversity, and inclusion; investment in R&D; purpose beyond profit; and hyper collaboration to create meaningful work that stands the
test of time.” Dan Noble, HKS

“Transitioning from an owner-run company to a company run by an outsider. Keeping an owner engaged and listening to him, while attempting to guide the business to be more professional and prepared to scale, is a tough balance.” Kenneth Lewis, Ampex

WINNER: “Pushing my team to consistently choose opportunity over predictability. As we’ve grown at an accelerated rate, I’ve realized that achieving what’s never been done before requires taking risks where no road-map exists.” —Mike Bidwell, Neighborly

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Kelsey Vanderschoot

Kelsey Vanderschoot

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Kelsey J. Vanderschoot came to Dallas by way of Napa, Los Angeles, and Madrid, Spain. A former teacher, she joined…