Ted Simons: Every year ASU's W.P. Carey School of Business hands out the Spirit of Enterprise Awards to honor local businesses for ethics, energy, and excellence in entrepreneurship. Gary Naumann is the director of the Spirit of Enterprise center and here to talk about this year's award winners. Good to have back.
Gary Naumann: Good evening, Ted. Thanks for having me.
Ted Simons: Give us a definition of Spirit of Enterprise.
Gary Naumann: Our center is driven by entrepreneurship. And what we want to do is honor, educate and assist entrepreneurs. So we have our big event each year the Spirit of Enterprise Awards, and that's how we do it. We invite ten entrepreneurs to be our finalists, they go through much rigor to get to be the ten, and out of that we choose winners.
Ted Simons: Let's look at some of your winners now and start with the Emerging Entrepreneur Award, and the winner is Blue Media. Talk to us about that.
Gary Naumann: Blue Media is a company started by guy in high school, Jared Smith, and he was able to look at -- he was delivering flyers for this company, and he said well, I can do that very well. And because the key is putting them on the door. A lot of people just sort do the job, and he said well, my job is to do that, get them on the door, and then he said maybe what I should do is also print them for them. So, all of a sudden, here's an entrepreneur who said, I went from step a to step b, and then he went to the big leagues and he does the signs in the stadiums for the Super Bowl. So --
Ted Simons: Literally the big leagues. Baseball and the NFL, huh?
Gary Naumann: All across the board, so, that's almost classic entrepreneurship. And they have catch phrase that makes their song sing, if you will, which is “Make it perfect.” That's what they do. And that's what they shoot for.
Ted Simons: All right. And our next award Special Achievement in Entrepreneurship, and this was awarded to company called ComTrans. I’ve heard of ComTrans
Gary Naumann: ComTrans, right. So, specialty transportation, and what they do is they provide transportation for special needs individuals: some children, some adults. And there was a hole in the market. So here's a gentleman who was actually trying to win a date from a nurse, and in part of that process he listened to her very intently describing the need for special transportation, because there was none. He saw that hole and said, I think that I can fill that.
Ted Simons: And he did so, and you awarded him for it, and I know that they donate to a lot of nonprofits, as well, and that's big, as far as the awards.
Gary Naumann: That's big, and I think that if there is a catch phrase for these folks, his is “You cannot teach someone to be compassionate, you look for really good people. And teach them how to do the job.”
Ted Simons: GPS Insight was an award-winner, and this is for Innovation in Entrepreneurship, and this sounds like -- what is this, software fleet tracking software?
Gary Naumann: Fleet tracking software, so picture this company has a thousand customers and 50,000 vehicles that they track for their clients, throughout the country. So, that is something Rob Donat came up with this himself, and decided he was going to build a company based on this tracking software. But, what he did that was really great, he listened to his customers. Can we do this? How can we do something different? And he was innovative because paid attention to his customers.
Ted Simons: Interesting. The Valley Sleep Center is another one of the winners here, and this is interesting because they won the Overcoming Adversity award. What was the adversity here?
Her adversity was really twofold. First, she overcame personal adversity, a cancer patient, a young mom with children, and trying to overcome that, and at the same time, trying to start a business. So, she was incredibly tenacious in coming through that set of issues. And she also was able to, in her business, she was in a business where the rules changed, where the reimbursements from insurance companies and Medicare or whatever, those changed, so she lost a big chunk of the business, and had to come through that, as well.
Ted Simons: And I noticed 80% new growth in this company is from referrals. That's pretty impressive.
Gary Naumann: It’s word of mouth. We can call it social media, if we want to, which is the electronic word of mouth. But that’s what it is: you do a great job, somebody tells somebody about it, and you move on.
Ted Simons: Couple other winners, Real Property Management of the East Valley won the Enterprise Leadership Award. And Vantage Retirement Plans won the Minority Entrepreneurship Award. That Vantage Retirement Plans, those guys really exploded.
Gary Naumann: They did. And they did because they also paid attention to their customers and listened, and somebody said, “Aren't there alternative vehicles for us to use for our retirement plans versus stocks and bonds?” And J.P. Dahdah said “You bet, and I will find out when we can do,” and made a business out of it.
Ted Simons: And you gave a student entrepreneur award, as well. Talk to us about what the goal was here, who won, and why?
Gary Naumann: Ok. The goal there was to recognize the fact that student entrepreneurship is a very big thing now, on the ASU campus, and particularly, at the W.P. Carey School of Business. We have three finalists, but the winner was Divesh. He looked and saw a problem; find hole in the market. Students were not connecting. They need study groups and people that are like-minded, have similar schedules, and looked out and said, “there is no way that this is being done well. Maybe I should figure out way to develop a program and a system and some software to make this happen.” Ted Simons: So, he's working on that system as we speak to figure out better ways for students to connect.
Ted Simons: And this could be a system that can be used at other universities.
Gary Naumann: Very portable. And this could be replicable across the board.
Ted Simons: As far as the awards are -- what do you want them to accomplish?
Gary Naumann: We want the -- For our winners, what we want them to accomplish is this is validation for them. For them, it's something that hits us, something that is extremely important, gives back to the community, and does something that really catches our attention. We're not a year over year earnings group. We're not how fast are your sales growing. We want to say, are you making a difference, and how are you doing it, and does it capture our attention as a great entrepreneurial story. And all ten of our finalists were really in that mode and they get down to the ten from a long process. Nine months and all kinds of essay questions. It's a rigorous process. But, we get to the top ten, and they are extremely great companies.
Ted Simons: Well it looks like a worthy group of winners, and congratulations on another successful award ceremony, and we'll look for it again next year.