July 1, 2011

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Ernst & Young ENTREPRENEUR Of The YEAR

For 25 years, the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year® Program ...Read More

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Article

Ernst & Young ENTREPRENEUR Of The YEAR

CONTINUING UTAH’S LEGACY OF SUCCESS

Candace M. Little, Heather Stewart, Sarah Ryther Francom

July 1, 2011

The gamble paid off. Diamond Wireless, a Verizon Wireless retail partner, has grown to 160 stores in 13 states with 800 employees. “But we really treat this company as a small business,” says Crosland. “We’re really just a big family, growing this business together.”

The pair says that investing in employees has been vital to the company’s success. They try to create a fun working environment and spend $60,000 every month in rewards and incentives such as car giveaways and exotic trips.

“We know our employees have taken us to the success we’ve achieved, and we want them to know of our appreciation for their successful efforts,” says Nelson.

SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR

ALLAN AINSWORTH, PH.D.
Executive Director — Wasatch Homeless Health Care/Fourth Street Clinic

In 23 years, Allan Ainsworth has grown the Fourth Street Clinic into a $6.5 million organization providing comprehensive healthcare to 6,000 homeless Utahns. This not only provides a vital service to those in need, but effectively routes patients out of the emergency medical system and into primary care services to reduce overall healthcare costs.

Ainsworth says the best part about being an entrepreneur is “thinking outside established parameters, and recognizing that being innovative—being an early adopter—can have very positive outcomes.” While it can be challenging, he says practicing yoga since age 14 has helped keep him centered and calm in times of turmoil.

A passion to help people was the force that drove Ainsworth to become an entrepreneur. “I had the advantage of having a very clear not-for-profit mission that I believe strongly in, and took the position of being an advocate for a group of people who had little voice in the business or political world.”

DEAN HOFFMAN
Executive Director — Columbus Community Center

Soon after Dean Hoffman took the helm at Columbus Community Center, he convinced the board that the organization needed new facilities. In what he describes as the biggest risk of his career, Columbus borrowed $2.1 million in 2000 to build new facilities. “[You] have a lot of sleepless nights when you go into debt that much…but I knew it was the right thing to do,” he says.

Columbus is a nonprofit organization that provides jobs and supportive programs for people with developmental disabilities. More than 250 people are employed through Columbus, earning $486,000 in wages last year. The organization’s commercial businesses generate more than a quarter of its revenue, giving it long-term stability.

Hoffman has developed several new commercial lines of business for the organization, including contract work for the government. “Our goal over the next few years is to generate over 50 percent of our income from the commercial businesses that we operate, and we’re on target for that,” he says.

DUSTIN HEUSTON, PH.D.
Founder, Chairman and CEO — Waterford Institute

In the 1970s, Dustin Heuston recognized the potential of computers and software to revolutionize education. “I realized that if I could harness it this technology, I could help every child on the globe, ultimately, to have an outstanding education at very low cost,” he says.

Unfortunately, Heuston was well ahead of his time. Attempting to gain funding for a nonprofit dedicated to developing educational technology, he was turned down hundreds of times.

He persisted, and now the Waterford Institute produces innovative reading, math and science software for students age 4 through 7. The software offers personalized lessons that adapt to each child’s needs.

The nonprofit has also partnered with the state of Utah to implement a software-based preschool program, UPSTART, which has already demonstrated significant results: first-year participants completed the preschool program at the Kindergarten Advanced level.

“We build software that really works, based on research,” says Heuston.

TECHNOLOGY AND EDUCATION

ROBERT MENDENHALL, PH.D.
President and CEO — Western Governors University

Western Governors University (WGU) was founded under the shared vision of 19 governors and its current president and CEO, Robert Mendenhall. That vision—to use technology and a competency-based academic model to expand access to higher education—has revolutionized the classroom for thousands of higher education students nationwide.

Under Mendenhall’s leadership, WGU is a fully accredited, nonprofit university with a solid financial base. The university has more than 50 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, and has more than 24,000 students enrolled, with enrollment increasing an average of 30 percent annually. WGU has a growing reputation as a university that not only offers affordable tuition rates (less than $6,000 per each 12-month school year), but an institution that focuses on individual success. WGU aims to help students who may not be able attend traditional higher education institutions; many of the university’s students are working adults, and 80 percent are either low income, ethnic minority or first-generation students.

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