From manufacturing recreational vehicles and developing paint samples to serving frozen custard, networking home electronics and raising money for breast cancer research through handbag sales, Indiana's top entrepreneurs of 1999 are a diverse group sharing a similar dedication to success.
That dedication was recognized as Indiana hosted two of the 47 regional Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards ceremonies held across the country this summer. The prestigious awards, which began in 1987 as a way to recognize the contributions of successful business leaders, pick winners in a variety of categories from nominations that have been submitted by area business leaders, audited through on-site visits and reviewed by a panel of judges.
Entrepreneurs from central and southern Indiana were recognized in Indianapolis during the Heartland awards, while their counterparts to the north gathered in Fort Wayne for the Northern Indiana ceremonies. Each award winner becomes a permanent member of the program's Hall of Fame and is entered in a national competition with other regional winners for top awards to be presented this November during a nationally televised ceremony in California.
Jack Shaw, a partner at the Indianapolis Ernst & Young office, says the goal of the program is not only to recognize excellence among the state's top entrepreneurs, but also to encourage others to create new companies. "It's very difficult to have businesses move into the state," Shaw says. "If we are going to remain a competitive economy, we have to grow our own."
"Calling someone who simply goes into business an entrepreneur is like saying all students are scholars," says Brad Smuts, program director of the Northern Indiana awards. "Like those who pursue knowledge, true entrepreneurs reach beyond their grasp, determined not only to set their own course but to raise their potential as well as that of their employees and their communities."
Following are Indiana's Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award winners for 1999. Some categories were represented in both the Heartland and Northern Indiana regional contests, while others were given in only one of the regions.
Jim Harris, Glenn Campbell and Scott Molander won the Heartland emerging-business award for creating Hat World, a retailer of primarily baseball-style hats with embroidered logos. The three former employees of a retail sporting-goods store stress having fun at work as their key to success.
"We didn't start this for awards or recognition," says Campbell. "We started this No. 1 because we needed a job, and No. 2 because we wanted to create a company that people would enjoy working in."
From its first location in Lafayette, Hat World has grown to provide more than 400 jobs at 80 locations in 14 states, with headquarters in Indianapolis. The company plans to open 60 to 80 stores per year for the next several years.
Although mall developers and management were not initially convinced that retail hat stores could be successful, the Hat World strategy was to empower store managers to stock merchandise reflecting local tastes from the apparel that Hat World provides for major sports teams and more than 300 colleges and universities.
Not only has the company seen fast growth as a result, it has also been profitable in each of the five years it has been operating.
J. Gregg Allen took the Heartland Award in construction for his residential and commercial work through J. Gregg Allen and Associates.
After doing remodeling on a part-time basis in the mid-1970s, Allen built a home for his family and then increased his construction work to include several homes a year. His work has won a variety of awards in Johnson County, and he has expanded his home-building throughout the greater Indianapolis area. Today, Allen's company is working on 12 residential subdivisions.
Allen has also developed commercial projects for clients including CVS drugstores, Community Hospital and Orthopedics of Indianapolis. He retains ownership of most of these commercial projects and manages the properties for his clients.
While some of his projects have innovative designs, Allen says his approach to business is old-fashioned. By providing a quality product at a reasonable price and treating people fairly, Allen has found a strategy that allows him both to enjoy success and give back to his community through youth sports programs.
P. David Lucas and Steven Sybesma won this Heartland award for entertaining millions of people at more than 4,000 live events in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Puerto Rico. They formed Sunshine Promotions in 1971 after Lucas talked to a janitor at a Beach Boys concert who told him that the only companies that set up big concerts were from New York, Los Angeles or Chicago.
"Not any more," Lucas said, and he went out to obtain a loan he used to become the first local promoter to bring concerts to Indianapolis. In a business where the failure of a large event can cause major problems for both a company's finances and reputation with booking agents, Sunshine Promotions has enjoyed some very bright skies.
In 1989, Sunshine opened the 20,000-seat Deer Creek Music Center in Hamilton County, where half a million people turn out each year to see artists ranging from Bob Hope to REM to Metallica. Sunshine opened a similar facility in Columbus, Ohio, and also renovated the historic Murat Theater in Indianapolis, which now features musical and Broadway shows.
Lucas and Sybesma note with some satisfaction that when they started there was no business model for what they wanted to do; now they are the business model.
James D. Ash of Ash Brokerage Corp. in Fort...