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The Entrepreneur Factor

Monthly Archives: November 2011

Once a year, children get to trumpet all things that make their dads the greatest. Between a father and a son, beer and barbecue is the best way to celebrate Father’s Day. A relaxing day of bonding, with good food and drinks to boot, has been central to the occasion.

However, this modern way of celebration is much different from the original Father’s Day commemorated in 1908. It was meant to remember the lives of roughly 360 men — 210 of which are fathers — who passed away because of the Monogah Mine Disaster. The tragedy left almost a thousand children fatherless.

For entrepreneur Wesley Keegan, celebrating Father’s Day is a combination of both old and new traditions.

His dad, Tim, was one of those people who had a new plan for a million-dollar business every week. One day when Wesley was still in college, Tim approached him and pitched a name for a beer company: TailGate. Tim took the first step when he applied for the TailGate trademark and trusted his son to crunch the numbers, the paperwork, and production. Soon, TailGate entered the brewing industry and won recognition at the Great American Beer Festival and other competitions. That was in 2007.

Three years later, just as the company was reaching its peak, Tim Keegan unexpectedly passed away. Wesley lost his mentor, sounding board, and right-hand man that day. But most of all, he lost his father.

The passing of his dad inspired Wesley to make the company thrive. Brewing up success with passion, determination, and commitment, it only took the young entrepreneur a few years before TailGate became an all-American brand. All the while, Wesley continues to honor his father’s memory by doing exactly as he did and learning from his mistakes.

Tim’s legacy lives on at Tailgate Beer as Wesley celebrates Father’s Day every single day.

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Working in his bedroom in Moscow, Andrey Ternovskiy created a controversial site which accumulated tens of millions of users in just three months. Chatroulette was geared to allow random video chats with strangers – an idea which is quite unusual to hear from a teenaged video game aficionado.

As Chatroulette became infamous, the seventeen-year-old founder  was hunted down by investors and media who all wanted a piece of his success. Ternovskiy suddenly had a situation at hand. How will he explain that Chatroulette was not a company, but just a boy in Russia? He was sure that meeting with professional businessmen would mean the end for him. He will probably be offered a substantial amount, but his involvement in his project would be terminated.

Ternovskiy did not want that. He compared Chatroulette to a book and him an author. No other author can finish what you have started writing.

He ignored the calls and e-mails at first, but finally summed up the courage to talk to them. He initially accepted invites for interviews and later flew to America to meet potential investors.  With the same tenacity, he decided to keep his company and move permanently to Palo Alto, California. To this day, the only money Ternovskiy received from others is from his father, who paid for his initial servers.

The company got very hot, very briefly because it gave users more freedom to communicate through the internet – even with people they don’t know. Others may have thought of a no-rules video chat site before, but Ternovskiy was the only one who was brave – or foolishly young – enough to pursue the idea. Although he has met criticism because of the risks that come along with Chatroulette, he still has full faith in what he’s doing.

The young tech entrepreneur wants to keep on working on Chatroulette for the next five years, but wishes to pursue other ventures in the long run.

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Tim Blixseth’s life is a rags-to-riches story. Penniless and with only one hour of college education, he sought to become rich, and succeeded.

Born to Norwegian immigrants in 1950, Blixseth grew up in an impoverished household. His father, who fell ill to undulant fever before he was born, was incapable of supporting their needs. As such, the family was forced to live on welfare. Blixseth was the youngest of five children.

Blixseth developed an interest for music at an early age; he originally intended to become a musician or a songwriter. However, growing up without a penny to his name pushed him to pursue a career in business and profit instead. During his teens, Blixseth worked at lumber mills and grocery stores to earn extra money. He took Saturday classes to catch up on his studies.

The budding entrepreneur made his first deal selling donkeys three times their original price. Profit margins excited him, and so he began a career in trade.

Blixseth dropped out of college after attending a single class at Umpqua Community College. For him, learning academics was not as useful as learning how to make money. He started working in lumberyards, where he made profit by purchasing and selling timberland. He amassed great wealth and continued to gamble his funds.

Blixseth experienced his first encounter with failure in the early 1980s, when lumber companies started rigging sales to bring the value of timber down by ninety percent.

Despite the obstacles surrounding his career, Blixseth is one of the few entrepreneurs to make it to the Forbes billionaire list. Although he is currently facing more money troubles, the real estate developer and timber company owner will always be an example of how hard work and persistence can improve one’s financial situation.

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Michael Dell

image: mikeandryan

A true entrepreneur sees the need for a product or service, then utilizes all the resources available to him to offer that service or produce that product. A perfect example of this mix of qualities is Michael Dell, CEO of Dell, Inc. – a company that sells computers directly to consumers. Dell was smart enough to recognize a gap in the computer retail market, and he used his skills and resources to fill that gap.

Dell’s entrepreneurial attributes appeared early in life. In his younger years, he invested monies that he earned in stocks and precious metals. One summer during high school, Dell sold subscriptions to the Houston Post to earn some extra money. After realizing that newlyweds and others moving into a new home were more likely to buy a local newspaper subscription, Dell made $18,000 in one year – an amount that exceeded the salaries of his teachers. By the age of fifteen, Dell had been introduced to early computers and was hooked. He purchased an Apple II computer for the sole purpose of disassembling it, in order to see how it worked.

While attending the University of Texas at Austin, Dell launched his now-famous computer business. With only $1,000 from his savings account as seed money, he started building computers in his dorm room and selling them to other students, cutting out the middleman and saving his customers money. He was named Entrepreneur of the Year by Inc. magazine when he was only 24. By the age of 27, Michael Dell was the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company, and he was a billionaire by the age of 35.

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Generally speaking, an entrepreneur takes risks to initiate a new service or business. Corporate leaders, on the other hand, direct the activities of established enterprises. Entrepreneurs often are oriented to change, innovation, and risk, while corporate executives frequently have a stronger commitment to maintaining the status quo and profiting from it. Most businesses today, recognizing their organizational need for entrepreneurs as well as leaders, hire executives for one or the other quality; it is relatively rare to find both in a single individual. Ashok Bagdy, currently its Vice President of Outsourcing Services for Cameo Corporate Services, possess both qualities.

Entrepreneurial behavior is second nature to Ashok Bagdy, who organized a citywide blood drives for the Lions/Leo Clubs when he was an undergraduate at Madras University in India. He also displayed his leadership qualities when, as an MBA candidate at Bharathiar University in Coimbatore, India, he served as the president of an intercollegiate organization of business students.

After he completed graduate school, Bagdy joined the family business and immediately exercised his entrepreneurial talents by significantly expanding the company’s market, especially in China. Many similar instances mark his career as an executive with both startup and established companies. For example, at Cameo Corporate Services, Bagdy took the calculated risk of introducing speech recognition technology to the company. The risk paid off, and speech recognition is now used in 75 percent of Cameo’s work.

While inherently risky, entrepreneurialism can seem exciting and attractive; corporate leadership is often decidedly less so. Responsible for seeing that an enterprise’s daily routines are properly carried out, chief executive officers and other operating executives are usually accountable to a company’s stakeholders in a way that entrepreneurs are not. Corporate officers must sometimes implement unpopular policies. Ashok Bagdy has assumed his leadership responsibilities very successfully, often analyzing and streamlining back-office operations to enhance customer service and increase productivity. Although such measures are sometimes unpopular with rank-and-file employees, staff turnover at Cameo Corporate Services has been reduced by over 50 percent during Mr. Bagdy’s tenure, a testament to the strength of his leadership.

Cameo Corporate Services has gone from being a provider of business process outsourcing (BPO) within the Indian market to a significant contributor in the global BPO marketplace due to Ashok Bagdy’s combination of entrepreneurial spirit and disciplined business leadership.

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With all of the confectionary stores around today, it may be hard to believe that that retail concept was considered extremely risky as recently as the 1970s. Debbi Fields was one of the early pioneers in this industry and paved the way for future confection companies. Debbi Fields is better known as Mrs. Fields, who now boasts more than seven hundred cookie shops and franchises worldwide.

Debbi Fields was born in Oakland, California in 1956. At the age of thirteen, she was one of the first “ball girls” for the Oakland Athletics baseball team. Fields received five dollars an hour to collect stray baseballs for the team, and she funneled that money into ingredients for baking cookies, which she loved to bake for her family and friends. After marrying at the age of nineteen, Debbi decided to start her own cookie business. She convinced a local bank to finance the venture and, in 1977, Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chippery opened in Palo Alto, California. When her cookie shop did not get many customers on its first day in business, Debbi took her cookies to the street and began handing them out to passersby. Before long, her business increased significantly.

After twenty years in the cookie business, Debbi had stores and franchises in eleven countries. She prides herself on quality and customer service, and she credits her success, in part, to these attributes. Debbi also jumped into the computer age with both feet, using technology to improve her production schedules and streamline her business. In fact, Mrs. Fields serves as a case study at Harvard Business School because of its successful use of computers and technology.

Debbi sold Mrs. Fields to an investment company in the 1990s, but still acts as the company’s spokesperson.

mrs fields bag

image: LADYM

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A business leader and entrepreneur with years of experience in fields such as investments and nursing homes, Danny Shabat has consistently demonstrated his ability to drive profitability and operate successful businesses.

Daniel Shabat currently owns and operates The Waterford, a nursing and rehabilitation center located on the shores of Lake Michigan in Chicago, Illinois. Under the experienced guidance of Shabat, The Waterford has become known for its intimate environment and focus on individualized attention for all residents. In addition to providing high quality nursing services around the clock, The Waterford offers premier rehabilitative services such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language therapy. The Waterford also offers specialized care options such as a unit for residents with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia and a short-term care facility.

Daniel Shabat has also leveraged his knowledge of the nursing home industry to purchase the Diplomat Nursing Home and the Heritage Nursing Home Inc. A long-term care facility also located in Chicago, the Heritage Nursing Home helps residents achieve optimum independence and a high overall quality of life.

Aside from his involvement in the nursing home sector, Danny Shabat also maintains an active leadership role in the pharmaceuticals industry. As the owner of PharMore Drugs, LLC, he oversees the operations of the 250-employee prescription drugs provider. PharMore Drugs provides a number of valuable services for its clients, including reliable business management systems, pharmacy and nurse consultation, 24-hour dispensation of medication, and specialized infusion therapy programs. Thanks to the efforts of Shabat and others on the leadership team at PharMore Drugs, the company has earned a reputation as a reliable prescription drugs provider with an unwavering focus on client satisfaction.

A testament to his entrepreneurial ability and highly refined business acumen, Danny Shabat has experienced success in such far-reaching fields as laboratory services. As the owner of LifeScan Laboratory, Inc., Shabat helps maintain a large staff of highly trained laboratory professionals. LifeScan works closely with customers to offer a wide range of laboratory resources, including phlebotomy services, STAT services, supplies, reporting, environmental testing, billing, and education training. LifeScan also offers a comprehensive range of customer service options, including assistance with regulatory requirements and in-service programs provided by dedicated customer service representatives engaged in highly personalized treatment.

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