Ernst &Young Entrepreneur Of The Year®

By Utah Business editors | Photography by Eric Delphenich

July 9, 2013

“To see people coming together to have this shared experience in their urban space is really exciting to me,” Mathis says. “I like to see people using their downtown for the purpose it was intended, and that is to be a community gathering place.”


Adam Cohen, CEO

Odyssey House of Utah

As a teen, Adam Cohen struggled, and he received services from Odyssey House of Utah. Now, 14 year later, he serves as its CEO—a development he calls “surreal.” With this background “on both sides of the fence,” Cohen set out to create new revenue streams for the nonprofit organization and to continue developing innovative treatment programs for those who are suffering from substance abuse or mental health disorders.

For example, Odyssey House partnered with local businesses to create a vocational training program. “Our clients have come in generally with no employment skills or education, and we have been able to give them basic skills and bring them into a career path as they leave treatment,” says Cohen.

The Sober Living program gives clients stable, supported housing and longer treatment durations while providing additional revenue to Odyssey House. And a new integrated medical clinic blends behavioral healthcare with medical services, operating as a lifetime medical home for clients.

Cohen says the organization has more than doubled the number of clients it serves each year, growing from 1,200 in 2009 to 2,500 in 2012.


Award Winner

Erin Trenbeath-Murray, Director

Salt Lake CAP Head Start

For nearly 50 years, Salt Lake CAP Head Start has helped educate and support young children from low-income families. Erin Trenbeath-Murray, who serves as the organization’s director, has transformed the organization from a passive recipient of federal grant funding to a fundraising leader in Utah’s nonprofit industry. She also helped the organization create a central kitchen that offers home-cooked, healthy meals to children in the community.

But leading the nonprofit organization has come with its share of struggles. During the Great Recession, Trenbeath-Murray saw the nonprofit’s funding diminish. And just this past March, Trenbeath-Murray was faced with further financial loss due to sequestration, which led to a 5 percent budget cut. She tackled those funding challenges by revamping the organization’s nonprofit structure to generate revenue without federal assistance. Despite rough economic conditions, Salt Lake CAP Head Start has been able to maintain services where they are most needed in the community.


Financial Services

Award Winner

Adam Kessler, President

Academy Mortgage Corporation

Adam Kessler became acting president of Academy Mortgage in 2005, a time when many companies in the home lending market were making quick profits using the kinds of irresponsible business practices that contributed to the collapse of the housing market. Kessler decided Academy would forgo easy money and reorganized the company to follow more sustainable lending practices. That strategy proved wise, and Academy Mortgage thrived during a time when 75 percent of the top mortgage companies went out of business. The company now operates 145 offices in four states, employs 1,500 people and provides 26,000 home loans a year.

Kessler attributes Academy’s success to its focus on purchase business and its habit of quickly embracing regulatory reform, while other companies hold out and fight against it. He also credits its concern for people. “We’ve never wavered in our focus on people and individuals,” he says. “We haven’t allowed ourselves to focus on bottom lines or production numbers.”


Spencer Angerbauer, President

EQUINOX Business Solutions

EQUINOX Business Solutions was once a small bookkeeping and accounting firm, but Spencer Angerbauer and his colleagues saw a chance to make it a national company that could take over all back-office business matters for independent truck drivers. Within months of expanding nationally, EQUINOX had added more than 18,000 clients.   

Much of EQUINOX’s success is due to its use of technology. For example, the company developed mobile apps that would allow independent contractor truck drivers to see scans of their mail, receive business documents, track fuel economy and manage other parts of their businesses from wherever they might be. The company also offers EQUINOX University, an online business training program for drivers.

“There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing an idea that you had two or three years ago now a very successful company that employs hundreds of people,” Angerbauer says. 

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