OC METRO November 2011 : Page 38
25 people of orange county BY JERRY HICKS EDITOR’S NOTE: To see who made our “Hot 25” lists in prior years, visit our archives at ocmetro.com. And, we’re now on the hunt for exceptional women who are impacting O.C. Know someone who deserves to be on our 20 Women to Watch list? Go to ocmetro.com and click on “Nominate.” the hottest Every year, for the past 21 years, the editors of OC METRO have had the daunting task of selecting a roster of the Hottest 25 People of Orange County from literally thousands of contenders. This year – our 22nd-annual list – was no different. The process started in January, as we began to monitor the region’s movers and shakers, tracking them in the news, on Facebook and through LinkedIn. We received a ﬂood of nominations from readers via ocmetro.com. And then, some time in August, the ritual of narrowing the list began; ﬁrst to 100, then to 50 and ﬁnally to the much-anticipated list of 25 of the most impressive and inﬂuential people in O.C. Here they are. – Kimberly A. Porrazzo, Editorial Director 38 NO VEMBER 2011 OCMETRO . C OM HEADLINES IN YOUR HAND | OCMETR O.C OM/APPS
The Hottest 25 People Of O.C.
EDITOR'S NOTE: To see who made our "Hot 25" lists in prior years, visit our archives at ocmetro.com
And, we're now on the hunt for exceptional women who are impacting O.C. Know someone who deserves to be on our 20 Vtomen to Watch list? Go to ocmetro.com and click on "Nominate."
Every year, for the past 21 years, the editors of OC METRO have had the daunting task of selecting a roster of the Hottest 25 People of Orange County from literally thousands of contenders. This year- our 22nd-annual list - was no different. The process started in January, as we began to monitor the region's movers and shakers, tracking them in the news, on Facebook and through Linkedln. We received a flood of nominations from readers via ocmetro.com. And then, some time in August, the ritual of narrowing the list began; first to 100, then to 50 and finally to the much-anticipated list of 25 of the most impressive and influential people in O.C. Here they are.
- Kimberty A Porrazzo, Editorial Director
Founder – Trinity Bat Co., Fullerton
STATUS: Married with two adult sons who work in the business, and four grandchildren
FANTASY JOB: This is my fantasy job.
HOT FACTOR: Major League Baseball All-Stars love Trinity Bat Co.’s custom-made wooden bats. Steve McKee’s company now ranks among the top MLBapproved manufacturers.
If ever there was a story that inspires others to “swing for the fences,” it’s the story of Trinity Bat Co. The Fullerton-based bat manufacturer, founded by Steve McKee six years ago, is located in a dusty industrial complex just a few miles beyond the outfield fence at Angel Stadium. Inside the nondescript building, a team of craftsmen shapes the bats used by today’s gods of hitting – think MLB All-Star Adrian Gonzalez.
McKee launched his venture with the goal of making custom bats for the pros. In 2006, after an introduction by former Angels’ second baseman Rex Hudler, Vladimir Guerrero gave Trinity’s bats a try.Today, half of the Angels’ lineup, and more than 50 Major Leaguers, swing Trinity bats. The company is now among the top in a field of 31 authorized MLB bat manufacturers.
Where did McKee get the idea that he could compete with other bat makers such as Louisville Slugger and Easton?
“We were rookies. We didn’t know any better. ... I felt like the baseball ‘field’ was big enough to play in,” says McKee, who now plays backup to his two sons, Jeremy and Jeff, and former Phillies shortstop Sam Orr, who this year was named CEO. It’s attention to the personal preferences of the pros that has catapulted the company into the big leagues. When Adrian Gonzalez said that the ash used to make his bats was starting to feel a little soft, Trinity switched lumber companies (a.k.a. forests) in order to deliver the harder ash that Gonzalez was seeking.
“The best bats in the world come out of this location,” Orr says. “We’re considered the Bentley of the industry.”
Performance may be the company’s hallmark, but take a tour of Trinity Bat Co.’s 4,000-squarefoot facility with McKee and Orr, and you’ll feel the reverence and respect they have for the game – and also for humanity. Baseball is the field on which this Christian-based team plays while staying true to their mission to support causes close to them.Their purple bats help fund cancer research (cancer claimed two extended family members just last month). In a moving tribute, a special edition bat was created for former Mater Dei star Cory Hahn, to whom life threw a curveball with a career-ending, life-changing accident on the field. Proceeds from the purchase of the bat help fund medical care for Hahn, who is now paralyzed from the chest down.Trinity has embraced him as one of its own.
Call it divine intervention if you like, but it’s clear that Trinity Bat Co. Is batting a thousand.
President – Disneyland Resorts, Anaheim
FAVORITE DISNEY CHARACTER: Eeyore
HOT FACTOR: From busboy to president, George Kalogridis is living that Disney song lyric, “... dreams really do come true.”
Only in the movies do you go from busboy to president of a company. Unless, maybe, it’s Disneyland, where dreams are supposed to come true. George Kalogridis did just that, and today he is overseeing the $2 billion renovation of California Adventure.
“I can’t think of a more exciting time in Walt Disney Parks and Resort’s history than what is taking place with our current expansion efforts,” says Kalogridis. “We’re combining more ‘immersive’ environments, more family experiences and more storytelling linked to our Disney heritage.”
Kalogridis has been with Walt Disney Parks and Resorts since he was a teenager, starting as a busboy at Disney World 40 years ago.
“I took my mother to an open house. The first attraction we rode was It’s a Small World, and I remember thinking how amazing it was. It’s still one of my favorite rides.”
Kalogridis moved through the ranks until 2006, when he became CEO at Disneyland Paris (with two theme parks and seven hotels). He arrived in Anaheim two years ago.
And what’s next after the current expansion/renovation?Kalogridis says, “Walt Disney famously said as long as there is imagination left in the world, Disneyland will never be complete!”
//J. CHRIS WALSH President – Sunwest Bank, Tustin
STATUS: Married with four children, ages 12 to 24
YOUR PROUDEST MOMENT: Becoming a vice president at age 23
HOT FACTOR: During the past three years, with J. Chris Walsh as president, Sunwest Bank’s assets more than doubled, all while weathering a tumultuous time in banking history.
Three years ago, Sunwest Bank had assets of $250 million. Today, that has more than doubled, to $607 million, the result of Sunwest’s strong organic growth, as well as the acquisition of three failed banks.
“This was great for us, because it gave us the chance to go into new markets, like San Clemente, Encinatas, and even to Arizona,” J. Chris Walsh says. But he also attributes that success to Sunwest’s shrewd decision seven years ago to get out of the construction-lending market. It was perfect timing, because that’s when many banks found themselves floundering financially when developers couldn’t make good on their loans.
“Our forte is small to midsize businesses, and we do well by simply concentrating there,” says Walsh. But part of the bank’s success may be his own enthusiasm for banking. Walsh has been at it for 32 years, and his father had been a banker.
“He taught me that in banking you get to meet with people in all walks of life. To see a young entrepreneur become successful because your bank helped him – some of them just starting out of their own garage. That’s a tremendous feeling.”
MAN OF INFLUENCE
AFABLE CEO – Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, Newport Beach SOMETHING FEW PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT YOU: I used to make a living as a musician in a rock group.
HOT FACTOR: Dr. Richard Afable’s visionary leadership earned him a place among the “50 Most Influential Physician Executives in Healthcare.”
Many hospital administrators come from the business world. But Afable spent 16 years as a physician, specializing in internal medicine and geriatrics, before moving into management. Afable was recruited for the top Hoag spot seven years ago. He made the move, he says, because he had been so impressed with the dedication of its board of directors, whose members all serve without a fee. And his commitment has earned him a spot on Modern Healthcare and Modern Physician’s “50 Most Influential Physician Executives in Healthcare.”
“Many who live in coastal Orange County can afford to go to major clinics all over the country for special healthcare needs,” Afable says. “We want them to know they can get the same treatment at Hoag.”
As part of a 10-year plan, Hoag last year opened the 154-bed Hoag Hospital Irvine. But Afable adds that Hoag is also concentrating on enhancing the five areas of general care: orthopedics, cancer and heart care, women’s health and neuroscience.
Afable believes Hoag offers the highest skill level in the country.
“We want a hospital that’s more like the academic medical centers, such as UCLA, where you see exceptional care going on,” he says.
“We think we’re well on our way.”
//OLEEMA & KALANI MILLER
Owners – MIKOH Swimwear, Newport Beach
WORDS YOU LIVE BY (KALANI): “In every breath is a new opportunity.”
FAVORITE GETAWAY SPOT (OLEEMA): Tavarua in Fiji. It is absolutely incredible there, and it is truly the most gorgeous, relaxing and calming place in the world.
HOT FACTOR: This swimsuit-designing sister act, whose suits are worn by celebs such as Cameron Diaz and Rhianna, this year had one of their designs featured in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition.
Oleema Miller’s favorite word is “definitely.” And when you ask Oleema (above, left) if she’s excited about the fact that the swimwear she and her sister, Kalani, have designed has been seen on celebrities such as Kourtney Kardashian, Cameron Diaz and Rhianna, she comes back with a huge, “Definitely!”
“I didn’t even go to college, and here I’m part of this amazing business,” says Oleema. (They’re now in their third year). The two sisters’ swimwear can now be found in nearly 100 outlets. And when these twentysomethings learned that one of their suits was being worn by a model in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue last year (their Skyler one-piece, on model Julie Henderson), they told their brother, Jason, “You’d better get that website going, because we’re in business!”
Oleema is the creative mind, while Kalani, who did go to college (a business degree from UC Santa Barbara), concentrates on the business side.
The Miller women were born into a surfing family in San Clemente, and both of them date well-known surfers (Oleema with Taj Currow, Kalani with Kelly Slater). They spend lots of times in bathing suits, and finding the right one has always been a challenge so they created MIKOH Swimwear. A key to their success: mix-and-match bikinis. They sell tops and bottoms separately.
Oleema says: “Some women have big boobs but tiny waists, and they just can’t find a suitable bathing suit to fit. With us, they can buy parts to make sure it all matches up.”
The next step for the duo: Oleema says, a new line for young children.
GUARDIAN OF THE FUTURE //SANDY SEGERSTROM DANIELS
Founder and Executive Director – Festival of Children Foundation, Costa Mesa
STATUS: Married with a daughter and two grandchildren
THE TITLE OF THE BOOK YOU’RE READING NOW: “I Love You, Ronnie: The Letters of Ronald Reagan to
Nancy Reagan,” by Nancy Reagan
HOT FACTOR: Sandy Segerstrom Daniels was behind the effort that led the U.S. Senate to recognize September 2011 as National Child Awareness Month.
Sandy Segerstrom Daniels, a managing partner in the family business running South Coast Plaza, knows that there’s hardly a child in Orange County who hasn’t been on its carousel, the iconic symbol of the world-famous Segerstrom-owned shopping center. So what better place to host many of the events for her Festival of Children Foundation, the arts-supported nonprofit she created 10 years ago to assist local charities that serve children.
Segerstrom Daniels had three things going for her when she got into this: strong organizational skills, terrific Segerstrom family support and unbridled enthusiasm.
“So many young people in Orange County cannot afford to enjoy places like the Performing Arts Center or South Coast Repertory. So we bring some of those performances to them.”
Segerstrom Daniels came up with the idea when she noticed that there were two charities holding golf fundraisers just a week apart. ‘Why can’t they get together for one large event?’ she thought. What Orange County charities needed was better organization, and she knew how to give it to them. Her nonprofit has supported hundreds of charities that have worked with her on events, and the 24 original charities involved are still with her. And here’s a rarity: The nonprofit takes zero dollars for administration. All administrative costs are funded separately.
“My motto is: ‘If you build it, they will come.’”
HYUNDAI’S GPS DEVICE
//JOHN KRAFCIK President and CEO – Hyundai Motor America, Costa Mesa
HOT FACTOR: John Krafcik’s Hyundai Motor America reached a milestone in July, selling its 100,000th 40 mpg/highway vehicle, outselling all other automakers’ 40 mpg models.
Jay Leno once quipped that if you fill up the tank of a Hyundai, you’ve doubled its value. But nobody is laughing about that these days, because it’s far from true.Hyundai president and CEO, John Krafcik, has led his company to compete with the big names in motoring. This summer, Hyundai reached a milestone, selling its 100,000th vehicle that gets 40 miles per gallon on the highway. Hyundai smoked the entire auto industry, outselling all other automakers’ 40 mpg offerings. And last year, for the first time, Hyundai made Kelley Blue Book’s list of top five brands for buyers.
A mechanical engineer by training, Krafcik worked his way up to a job at the Ford Motor Co. Developing new vehicle systems. He joined Hyundai in Orange County in 2004 and became CEO in 2008.His marketing ideas have grabbed national attention. For example, he offered to buy back the vehicle from any Hyundai owner who lost his or her job.
Krafcik, who admits that he caught the car bug at a young age, is a Stanford graduate who went on to get a master’s degree in management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He’s a long distance runner but admits that he likes speed when it comes to cars. He recently told USA Today: “We need to stay hungry and never be complacent.” You can find him on YouTube talking about the future: cars rated at 50 mpg.
“We don’t know in detail how to get there,” he says, “but we have an awful lot of confidence we’ll find a way to get it done.”
President and CEO – Iconosys, Laguna Niguel
STATUS: Married with four children, ages 8 to 17
YOUR PROUDEST MOMENT: My proudest moment was to see one of my apps get picked up last year on “Saturday Night Live.”
HOT FACTOR: Led by Wayne Irving, Iconosys has developed some 700 apps in the past three years, many of which are ranked as the top app in their categories.
Wayne Irving vividly recalls how he got into the mobile safety apps field two years ago: “I was standing in the front yard thinking about getting back into the Internet business when my 15-year-old daughter brought me some paperwork to sign for her driver’s permit. It scared me, because my daughter is absolutely addicted to text messaging. She’s the text message queen. No way she could drive safely. ‘Someone ought to put out a safety app about this,’ I said to myself.”
Since then, his Iconosys app business, a mobile-device firm based in Laguna Niguel, has been “crazy great,” he says. Here’s just how crazy great: He’s now up to 700 apps, some of them for small businesses, but most focused on child safety. Many of his apps have been ranked No. 1 in their categories for multiple months.
Irving’s goal: 1,000 apps by the end of the year
Founder and CEO – Teacher Created Materials, Huntington Beach
STATUS: Two adult daughters who work in the family busines
YOUR PROUDEST MOMENT: Winning 3 Golden Lamp Awards in the last 10 years, the highest award given in educational publishing
HOT FACTOR: Rachelle Cracchiolo started a business to help teachers teach. Her kitchen-table venture grew into a company that industry experts value at $30 million.
When the orange phone rang at the Cracchiolo’s home, the children knew to play the “quiet game.” The orange phone was for clients of Rachelle Cracchiolo’s new book business aimed at helping teachers. Not all teachers – mostly those who weren’t artists at heart but had to come up with art ideas for their classes. The first book, sold with a partner, was a huge hit, and several books followed.
That was more than 30 years ago. Today, with her two daughters working alongside her, Teacher Created Materials has grown from a kitchen-table operation to thousands of teaching-aid products sold in 89 countries and in more than a dozen languages. According to industry estimates, the business is valued at $30 million.
Last year Cracchiolo was awarded the highest individual honor bestowed by the Association of Educational Publishers: She was inducted into its Hall of Fame.
One daughter, Corrine Burton, was a natural to work in the family business, because she was a teacher herself. But Deanna Mendoza, the other daughter, says she had a difficult time convincing her mother to hire her, even after she got a master’s degree.
“She said I needed more experience,” Mendoza says. “It wasn’t until I actually started teaching at USC that Rachelle (the daughters call their mother by her first name) decided I had enough experience.”
One of the company’s most successful ventures was a book that teaches algebra visually to students who fail in the subject.
“I think my mother’s success comes from her understanding of how tough it can be to teach,” Mendoza says, speaking for the business at her mother’s request.
“Teachers seldom get the respect they deserve.” She adds, “I’m just so proud of my mom. ... All she wants to do is help teachers.”
TRAVEL HUB HEAVEN
//JOHN WAYNE AIRPORT
HOT FACTOR: From a single airstrip in the 1920s to a commercial airport that recently piloted a $500 million airportimprovement project, JWA is taking off!
How do you get hotter than John Wayne Airport? When its new Terminal C opens on Nov. 14, its footprint will almost double in size, the number of gates will jump from 14 (most are always jammed) to 20, and the number of eateries will almost triple.
Parking will greatly improve. And technology is in place to not only make parking quicker; finding your plane will be quicker, too.
“I took a tour and was just knocked out by how beautiful everything was,” says Lucy Dunn, president and CEO of the Orange County Business Council.
Named after the great actor John Wayne in 1979 (he made his home in Newport Harbor), the airport now serves close to 9 million passengers a year. But as great as Terminal C is touted to be, don’t expect the Duke to pull up stakes and head over there. The 9-foot-high bronze statue of the actor will remain in the lower level in the older part of the airport.
//DAISY TRAN Senior Director of Sales – Irvine Pacific, a division of the Irvine Co.
HOT FACTOR: While many new-home builders are failing, Daisy Tran has led the sales effort at Irvine Pacific, overseeing some 1,500 new homes built in its Pacific Home division.
Last year Daisy Tran was working for a San Diego County-based homebuilder that had a partnership with the Irvine Co. Her bosses told her that she should take extra care to make sure she kept the Irvine Co. Happy. She certainly did, she notes with a laugh: They were so happy, they hired her. Since then, Tran has been responsible for overseeing some 1,500 homes built in its Pacific Homes division, all while many other developers have failed to build anything.But Tran says the success comes because, well, it’s the Irvine Co.
“It’s like being at Harvard,” she says.“We have such a tremendous team of quality people here.”
GOLD MEDAL DOC
//DR. ROBERT BRAY
CEO – D.I.S.C. Sports and Spine,
YOUR FANTASY OCCUPATION: Professional hockey player/owner of a sports team
HOT FACTOR: Many Olympic athletes are not covered by medical insurance, something Dr. Robert Bray is countering by offering free medical services.
Dr. Robert Bray, a neurosurgeon who specializes in spinal injuries, counts a number of high-profile individuals among his patients. (On her website, actress Jennifer Grey thanks him for making her “completely pain free.”) But for years, Bray has had special feelings for amateur athletes, especially those who compete at the Olympic level. It has always bothered him that most Olympic athletes were not covered by medical insurance.
“If you’re injured at an Olympic event, you’re covered,” he explained. “But not if you have a chronic injury because of years of competing.” Bray is helping to change that.
“Just knowing their medical needs will be covered takes tremendous pressure off them, so they can concentrate on competing.”
You can bet Bray will be in London for the 2012 Olympics.
THE MOVING MAN
Founder and COO
The Dingman Group, Newport Beach
WHAT YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB: I love being the first call when players, coaches and their families face the daunting and stressful task of moving.
HOT FACTOR: Chris Dingman’s company now boasts a client roster of more than 300.
Chris Dingman toiled at his career in marketing and advertising, but yearned to have his own business. The chance came six years ago, when an old college roommate, Steve Smith of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, called. He needed help moving his mother, and he didn’t have time to do it himself because he was in training camp every day Dingman took care of everything. Afterward, Smith wrote him, saying, “You made a great thing happen. Thank you for making it so easy.”
Dingman decided to see if he could make a go of his own relocation business. He formed the Dingman Group and has since moved more than 300 clients in more than 25 states, some of those more than once.
“Being an athlete, you’re in the most nomadic business there is, outside of the military,” Dingman says. “Sometimes they get traded and have to move immediately, with no time to do it.
He’s proud that no athlete he’s helped to relocate has gone to a different company when traded again.
Dingman works with realtors to buy, sell or lease homes for relocating athletes.But a growing part of his business is helping athletic coaches and even athletic directors.
Says Dingman: “Our job is to take care of things in the move so they can concentrate on their sport.”
//JOSEPH LEWIS III
Director and Dean – Claire Trevor School of the Arts, UC Irvine
STATUS: Married with two children, an adult daughter and a 7-year-old son who carries on the tradition: Joseph Lewis IV
YOUR INDULGENCE: Sci Fi movies and anything involving political intrigue
HOT FACTOR: Dean Lewis is at the helm of the new state-of-the-art Claire Trevor School of the Arts at UC Irvine, an institution that is now a major academic force in art technology.
It’s a big year for the arts at UC Irvine. This fall it opened its new Contemporary Arts Center, which Dean Joe Lewis believes will make it a major academic force in art technology.
“We have the same kind of technology now that was used in creating the movie ‘Avatar,’” Lewis says. “It’s been a long time coming, but this is exciting for all of us.” The center includes a 4,000-square-foot gallery and musical theater rehearsal space.
Dean Lewis has only been at UCI for a year and a half, but he has spent his life in the arts business. His grandfather and father were entertainers.
Lewis had been dean of art design at Cal State Northridge when he moved his family east to take care of his ailing father. After his father passed on, Lewis had a yearning to return to California when the UCI job opened up.
“It’s exciting to come to a school where there is so much support for the arts,” Lewis says.
But there are also challenges. Lewis says he realized soon after arriving that much of O.C. was unaware that UCI even had a thriving arts program. “Much of what I have done has been to get out into the community, to spread the word about what we’re doing,” he says.
DEAN OF DREAMS
Dean of Extended Education – Brandman University, Irvine
STATUS: Married with two adult children
YOUR FANTASY OCCUPATION: National park ranger
HOT FACTOR: Nancy Salzman took over as dean two years ago. Today the school offers unique new degree programs.
Brandman University may not be as well known as its sister school, Chapman University in Orange, but it’s a busy place, with some 10,000 students spread out at dozens of campuses across the country, and another 16,000 in extended education, the area Nancy Salzman now heads as dean. She has developed many strategic community partnerships that have evolved into in-demand programs. For example: a new degree program for firefighters, a law enforcement leadership program for the Orange County Sheriffs Department, new military-related programs, an autism program for teachers and a new health and wellness curriculum. Extended education, she says, means different things to so many people.
“We get students who have returned to school to improve their skills for better jobs,” Salzman explains. “Some have returned because of the recession and the poor job market, and they want to improve their prospects for getting hired. ... It’s been just a delight to see the growth of Brandman,” she says.
SCRAP METAL MOGUL
CEO – SA Recycling, Anaheim
STATUS: Married with five sons, ages 11 to 27
YOUR PROUDEST MOMENT: The day that I finally got my first bulk exporting facility. This gave us the ability to load large oceangoing vessels with scrap metal.
HOT FACTOR: With more than $1 billion a year in sales, nearly 50 scrap yards and shipments from two ports, George Adams’ firm is one of the largest scrap-metal-recycling operations in the Western Hemisphere.
George Adams joined the family heavy-metal-recycling business at age 20, pillaging through city dumps for metal.His father told him that if they could produce revenue of $65,000 a month, they would be a success. Some 35 years later, Adams still chuckles about those numbers.SA Recycling and its Australian partner (Sims) bring in a minimum of $100 million in monthly business – often double that.
“My dad is 90 years old and still comes to the office every day. But even he can’t believe the success we’ve had,” says Adams, who earned a law degree along the way to help prepare him to run things.
SA Recycling deals in big steel: buildings, fences, high beams, trucks, buses. It ships 3.5 million tons each year to Asia from the ports of Long Beach and L.A. It operates almost 50 scrap yards in California, Arizona and Nevada, as well as one in Mexico. It has grown from 12 workers to 1,500. Part of his success, Adams says, is luck.“But you have to put yourself out there to get lucky. We’ve been willing to do that, to capitalize on our luck.”
President and CEO – T3 Motion, Costa Mesa
STATUS: Father of two adult children
WHAT YOU DO IN YOUR OFF HOURS: Golfing and thinking about future products
HOT FACTOR: Ki Nam’s electric security scooters are now used in 30 countries, including Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
Ki Nam can’t resist a smile when he asks, “How many people can say they built their own car? Corporations, sure – but how many individuals?”
Marketing cars isn’t quite here for Nam; that’s a future project he hopes to launch soon. But he does have his own line of electric scooters that are being used by law enforcement and security teams across the country and around the world.
It was in 2006 that he started a company selling electric scooters he designed himself. Nam now has some 3,000 security vehicles in 30 countries, including recent major orders by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Local clients, he says, include Disneyland and the Orange County Sheriffs Department. His vehicles are used by security personnel at 15 percent of the airports in the U.S. They are compact, quiet and easy to ride.
You can see his idea for that car, the GT3, on his website.
CEO – KTGY, Irvine
SOMETHING FEW PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT YOU: I love NASCAR.
There. I said it for all of Orange County to hear!
HOT FACTOR: Tricia Esser’s business savvy guided architectural firm KTGY through the difficult recession and positioned the company for growth.
While the national architectural firm KTGY, based in Irvine, had to dramatically cut staff during the recession, it survived when many others did not; an estimated 10 percent in the industry went belly up. CEO Tricia Esser has guided the company to a comeback, hiring some 50 employees in the past year alone. For some, the economy continues to appear stalled, but not so at KTGY.
Esser’s key to success running a large architectural firm may be that she is not an architect. Her background is in business. She started out with KTGY as an accountant when the company was formed in 1991, then worked her way up to comptroller and then to chief financial officer.Five years ago, she was appointed to the top post. The architects, she says, needed someone who understands the business world first. Now she sees a bright future for the company.
“We were diligent not to take on any debt during those difficult years,” she says. “That’s given us a solid foundation for growth now.”
The firm was just awarded a new student housing project on the USC campus. It has two apartment projects working in Las Vegas. The good news keeps coming: The company has been asked to present preliminary concepts for a 5-star hotel in West Beijing.
Founder and CTO – Amonix, Seal Beach
YOUR FAVORITE GETAWAY SPOT: Mammoth Mountain
HOT FACTOR: Vahan Garboushian has turned his solar energy systems company into one of the nation’s fastest-growing in its field.
Vahan Garboushian started his company in 1989 with less than 40 employees. It now has 600 staffers, and he has taken his products across the West and Southwest, and into a dozen foreign markets. Clients include the University of Nevada’s Center for Energy Research and the Arizona Public Service Co.His innovative leadership and the firm’s growth are reasons why this year it was named CleanTech O.C.’s Company of the Year.
The company slogan: “Powering the future now.” Garboushian insists it’s appropriate because his solar-panel devices are ahead of their time.
He formed Power Hybrids, a $20 million supplier of military and commercial semi-conductors, and later formed Amonix. Photovoltaic technology (CPV) is a vital element in solar energy and it’s his chief weapon.
//MARC MASTERSON Artistic Director – South Coast Repertory, Costa Mesa
STATUS: Married with two adult daughters
WHAT MOTIVATES YOU: A complex collaboration HOT FACTOR: Marc Masterson is the first new artistic director at South Coast Repertory in 47 years.
An artistic director is the soul of the company. And after more than four decades, South Coast Repertory has a new one. Following long stints in the same role with his own company in Pittsburgh, and then at the Actors Theatre of Louisville, Ky., he was thrown into a production at South Coast Repertory before he’d even had a chance to buy a house or move his family here. He loves it.
“It’s a perfect fit for me,” Masterson says. “This place is just so amazing. We work on two productions at once.I hope this is my last job.”
Masterson knows he has big shoes to fill. SCR founders, David Emmes and Martin Benson, have been the artistic directors since starting the company more than 40 years ago. They moved on as founding directors, meaning they will be quasi-official advisors to Masterson. He says they’ll make a strong team.
SOCIAL MEDIA MAVEN
//TIM VANDERHOOK President and CEO
Specific Media, Irvine HOT FACTOR: Specific Media this year acquired MySpace for a cool $35 million, and Vanderhook has plans, with partner Justin Timberlake, to revive the brand.
Specific Media of Irvine is hardly a household name.It’s an ad network, owned by Vanderhook, a Cal State Fullerton graduate with a bachelor’s degree in communications with an arts emphasis. However, this summer Specific Media bought MySpace, which is a household name. Vanderhook partnered with Justin Timberlake, who is the household name for many of his fans, and suddenly Specific Media is getting national attention.
The purchase price: $35 million. Timberlake is part owner and will be its creative consultant.
Says Vanderhook: “The question is, can we take the best of both worlds and put them together in a single company?” Vanderhook believes they can.
Specific Media has the respect of the ad world. It has 500 employees in 11 countries. But Vanderhook told Billboard magazine last summer that he wants to take the company to a new level – to make it a digital media company.
MySpace is a good fit, he says, because it has 70 million users a month, despite being badly overshadowed by Facebook. Vanderhook says that he plans to throw a lot of “firepower” into the mix, and expects that Timberlake will “invigorate the MySpace brand.”
Founder and CEO – Yogurtland, Anaheim
STATUS: Married with one daughter, age 11
What motivates you: My competitors HOT FACTOR: The yogurt store that Phillip Chang started in 2006 has become the fastest-growing frozen yogurt franchise in the nation.
By the 1990s, Phillip Chang had built a successful business with 33 franchises by selling an Asian fruity drink known as “boba” (with dark tapioca balls at the bottom). Almost six years ago, he decided to create a boba-and-yogurt shop in Fullerton.
“I kept seeing that when customers ate the yogurt, they always left smiling,” Chang says. “That told me there was a great market for frozen yogurt.”
So he turned that shop into an all-yogurt store. Since then, Yogurtland has sprung into 162 franchise shops across the country, with 20 in Orange County and another 30 in Los Angeles County – all offering 42 flavors. The franchise numbers almost tripled over the last three years. The key to this success, Chang says, is to understand the franchise business, and “make sure you always have quality yogurt.” But don’t expect more Yogurtland shops in Orange County. Chang said he doesn’t want to hurt existing franchises.
Does he eat it himself?
“Peanut Butter and Cookies and Cream are my favorites,” he says. “But most customers prefer the basics; something with strawberry, vanilla, chocolate.”
If you’re interested in a Yogurtland franchise, it’s no small investment, but Chang says it’s worth it.
Owner – Starfish restaurant, South Laguna Beach (She also owns Tabu Grill)
YOUR INDULGENCE: I indulge in as many massages as I can afford, especially for my feet.
HOT FACTOR: The Wilhelm restaurant brand has expanded with Nancy Wilhelm’s recent opening of Starfish, in South Laguna. The eatery serves up Asian cuisine to rave reviews.
After years in the downtown Laguna Beach restaurant business, Nancy Wilhelm decided to switch careers. The problem was, she says, “I just missed the smells of a restaurant. It gets in your blood.”
So when she got the chance to open Tabu Grill nine years ago, she decided to return to her first love. Tabu Grill specializes in high dining, steak dinners and fine pork chops. But recently she opened her second restaurant, just a few doors away in the Aliso Creek Shopping Center, a lunch venue named Starfish that specializes in Asian food and opened to rave reviews.
“Just travel down the coast: China, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand – we’ve got something from every country.” We can’t wait to see what’s next for Wilhelm.
Former CFO – The Toll Roads, Irvine
(Shott was recently hired as assistant CEO of the Orange County Employees Retirement System)
STATUS: Married with three sons, ages 10 to 20
THE TITLE OF THE BOOK YOU’RE READING NOW:
“The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels,” by Michael Watkins HOT FACTOR: Brenda Shott engineered the restructuring of $438 million in bonds sold for the 73 Toll Road.
Brenda Shott, a CPA by profession, made a name for herself by engineering a restructuring of $438 million in bonds sold for the 73 Toll Road. In simple terms, the new roadway didn’t generate as much income as expected, which left the joint Transportation Corridor Agencies in a serious financial bind. The problem was more than 10 years old, but it wasn’t until Shott and her team took it on that bondholders finally agreed to terms.
However, Shott pretty much worked her way out of one job and into a new nest of troubles. Recently she was asked to take over as assistant CEO for the financially troubled Orange County Employees Retirement System. Two employees were fired after the discovery of a $228 million shortage because of inadvertent underfunding from county agencies. Shott says the move came at a good time in her life.
She says, “I thought, ‘Okay, what’s next?’ Then this new challenge came up, and I couldn’t resist.”
Co-founder – International Pet Solutions, Santa Ana
SOMETHING FEW PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT ME: I spent winter break on a solo trip across Siberia.
HOT FACTOR: Tilden Smith hasn’t yet graduated college, but he has already gained national attention from Forbes magazine.
Tilden Smith won’t even graduate from Chapman University until next year, but already his entrepreneurial efforts have been lauded by Forbes magazine. He’s the co-founder of International Pet Solutions. His first product: Petlawn, a new type of indoor outhouse for pets.
“It all started when my friend had a dog in an apartment with no backyard,” Smith says. “We had to come up with something.”
Smith is a business major with an entrepreneurial emphasis, so his professors encouraged him to start his own company. Pet Solutions is now a six-figure business, with Petlawn now on the shelf in almost 150 stores. Forbes magazine this year named Smith to its list of the country’s top 10 student entrepreneurs. It hasn’t changed his life much, Smith says, except that his professors do let him know how proud they are of him.
His new goals: Make Pet Solutions a seven-figure business and graduate from college next spring.
Read the full article at http://digitalbt.ocmetro.com/article/The+Hottest+25+People+Of+O.C./878704/87110/article.html.