An idea. A dream. A chance. This is how it all begins. No matter how large or small, all businesses are conceived from someone’s vision. Entrepreneurs are individuals who have a natural instinct for taking these visions to reality. They can identify unserved needs, look ahead to the future and then develop a unique solution. But it doesn’t stop there. It takes guts. A true sense of fearlessness is critical when building the foundation for a successful venture. From new jobs, products, services and industries, just about everything in our modern economy can be credited to the vision and courage of entrepreneurs.
When asked what qualities successful entrepreneurs possess, Sierra Nevada College Entrepreneurship Professor Peter Hackbert, Ph.D., answered, “Entrepreneurs have the ability to recognize and take advantage of opportunities and solve unforeseen problems.” These qualities are what make entrepreneurs so important to today’s economy. It has been said small businesses will play an integral role in economic recovery from recent events. Small businesses also employ more than half of the United States workforce and account for 50 percent of private sector economic output. Nevada, recently ranked the number one entrepreneur-friendly state in the country, is home to many talented business owners, as evidenced by this year’s Entrepreneurs of the Year. Through nominations collected from Nevada Business Journal readers, our editorial team has selected 10 entrepreneurs to salute as Entrepreneurs of the Year. Following are their stories and words of advice for those who want to follow in their footsteps.
Fair, Anderson & Langerman and MDL Group
After graduating as a Certified Public Accountant from the University of Notre Dame, Curt Anderson gained a broad experience in international taxation, mergers and acquisitions and general business management while working for a national accounting firm. After four years, he left the firm and entered the real estate industry to broaden his experience, and ultimately, the services he could provide clients. Combining his skills in accounting and real estate, Anderson founded the Las Vegas-based Fair, Anderson & Langerman accounting firm in 1988. Just one year later, he also co-founded the MDL Group, a real estate brokerage and management company. “I enjoy creating organizations that offer people opportunities to expand themselves personally, professionally and financially,” said Anderson. Current challenges for Anderson’s companies are largely related to human resources. He shared, “In professional service firms such as ours, qualified personnel are difficult to find. This naturally produces profitability pressures.” Today, Anderson is proud of his venture’s accomplishments. “The organizations we have created are profitable and provide meaningful employment and professional opportunity for over 50 individuals,” he said. Finding, and keeping, good employees continues to be a mainstay of his professional life.
“Assume you won’t be able to take a paycheck for at least one year, and spend your money on hiring the best people available. If you can, hire people smarter than you. You will be better for it.”
John Ascuaga’s Nugget Casino-Resort
This year, John Ascuaga’s Nugget Casino-Resort celebrated its 47th anniversary in business. On March 17, 1955, the casino got its humble beginning as a small café in Sparks called the Nugget. John Ascuaga’s first taste of the resort industry took place while he was working as a bellman at a lodge in Idaho while he attended college. Soon after graduation, Ascuaga met restaurateur Dick Graves, from whom he would later inherit the Nugget café. When Graves retired in 1960, Ascuaga took over the Nugget and is now sole owner and operator of John Ascuaga’s Nugget Casino-Resort. Under his guidance, the Nugget has grown from a small coffee shop to one of Northern Nevada’s largest casino-hotel operations. Today, the property features 1,600 hotel rooms, 75,000 square feet of casino area, eight award-winning restaurants and much more. Ascuaga has been recognized for his dedication to excellence and his never-stand-still business philosophy. The community has also benefited from Ascuaga’s entrepreneurial success. Each year, he awards college scholarships to support his commitment to higher education. So far, Ascuaga has awarded $410,000 in scholarships. Since 1961, he has also provided Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners to the homeless and needy.
“If you have the desire to make it and you put your everything into it, you will succeed. But know that owning your own business is not an 8 to 5 job, so make sure you love what you do.”
Hub Cap Annie
Rose Bowe grew up surrounded by hub caps. When Bowe was just five years old, her father began collecting hub caps, which soon filled the family’s garage, backyard and swimming pool. Neighbors and friends eventually began offering to buy hub cabs from Bowe’s family to replace lost or stolen hub cabs of their own. In 1979, Bowe’s mother opened the first Hub Cap Annie store in Memphis, Tenn. to help serve the growing demand for automotive accessories. And in 1990, with a U-Haul full of hub caps and $15,000 in cash, Bowe moved to Las Vegas to start her own Hub Cap Annie store. Eight short years later, Bowe opened Vegas’ second store to sell new and used hub caps and wheels. Today, Bowe is taking the company one step further with a national expansion and franchising plan. Bowe brought a lifetime of knowledge to her business, although she didn’t always aspire to be her own boss. “Shortly after being on my own, I realized owning my own business was the best way to obtain financial independence,” she said. Bowe represents the second generation of women running a business in the male-dominated world of automotive accessories.
“Surround yourself with qualified professional advisors whom you trust.”
“My passion is the convergence of entrepreneurship and technology,” said Bob Goff, founder and “Archangel” of Sierra Angels. This passion drove Goff to launch the Incline Village-based venture capital and mentoring service for high-tech start-ups in Northern Nevada. After 25 years of working with entrepreneurial companies, investment banking and mergers and acquisitions, Goff had moved to Incline Village to settle into retirement. But that didn’t last long, as he observed a distinct opportunity in the region. There were a growing number of entrepreneurs as well as seasoned executives who were capable of providing both funding and advice for these entrepreneurs. However, the two groups were disjointed, lacking a bridge to bring them together. “So we established the Sierra Angels,” said Goff. Sierra Angels membership is composed of successful business owners and senior executives. Founded in 1997, it was a challenge at first for the Sierra Angels to locate projects that merited the size of investments being requested. They overcame this challenge by forming coaching teams to mentor entrepreneurs during the planning phase of their businesses. In five years, the Sierra Angels have funded more than 40 successful companies resulting in improved economic diversification for the region.
“Carefully select your unique product and define your sustainable market advantage, assemble the most qualified team members possible and seek funding from relevant, experienced sources.”
Good Morning Furniture
As a result of the 1981 strike by air traffic controllers, Glen Guttry found himself unemployed. He decided to change careers and eventually start a successful business of his own. After two years managing a group of lift operators under a tight budget at a Utah ski resort, Guttry’s entrepreneurial fate caught up with him. “My brother was working as a deliveryman for a furniture store in Reno. I met with the owner and told him I’d like to open a store in Elko. At first, he thought I was crazy,” said Guttry. The lack of experience and funds couldn’t dampen his spirit. In 1984, Guttry moved to Elko, borrowed $40,000 from family, purchased furniture on credit, and Good Morning Furniture was open for business. To this day, Good Morning Furniture is a growing, successful business. Guttry and his team doubled gross sales in the first three years and have maintained annual growth rates of 20 percent since. Customer service, Guttry believes, is the key to the store’s success. Good Morning Furniture has been named “Best Furniture Store in Elko” by the local Chamber of Commerce each year since the awards started.
“Pay attention to the details and don’t get discouraged. ‘Some days you eat the bear, and some days the bear eats you.’”
USA Capital and Tanamera Commercial Development
At one point in Tom Hantges’ career, he applied for a job he didn’t land. Disheartened, he left the corporate scene to become his own boss. “I thrive on finding new, untapped opportunities,” he said. In 1987, Hantges co-founded USA Capital, a private investment firm that underwrites and funds loans for homebuilders, commercial developers and property owners. Today, Hantges has multiple projects in the works. One is the Reno Corporate Center at Rattlesnake Mountain, featuring 2.5 million square feet of industrial distribution space. Another is the Reno Tahoe Tech Center, scheduled to open this month. The state-of-the-art, 850,000-square-foot office campus is unlike anything else in Reno. Hantges also sets new standards for residential development. In 2001, he founded Tanamera Commercial Development. Through this company, he has created luxury-style living options for Reno residents. His latest project, Fleur de Lis Townhomes, will include luxurious amenities such as a full-service concierge, wine cellar and private massage room. Hantges states his challenges have largely involved credibility issues as a locally-based, independent entity. “However, since I had been in town for 25 years prior to starting my company, I’ve made it through a lot of hurdles,” he shared.
“Be prepared to be totally immersed in your business and pay attention to every detail. It takes more than a full time job to own your own business and make it successful.”
In 1996, Lee Medick moved the MRCGroup out west to Las Vegas with the same confidence as the city’s founders – “Build it and they will come.” The previously Princeton, NJ-based research group conducted research for itself and immediately saw the potential in moving to the fastest-growing city in the U.S. Further, Las Vegas lacked a research infrastructure required to provide corporations with quality research. Today, the MRCGroup employs over 300 full-time research professionals, features a behavioral response theater for testing movies and television pilots and has grown to be one of Nevada’s most technologically advanced market research firms. It provides research for the entertainment and gaming industries as well as government agencies. Prior to starting the MRCGroup, Medick held senior level management positions for other companies. “While I found the corporate world quite fulfilling, there is no better feeling than succeeding after putting your money and your reputation on the line. It’s quite a buzz.” Medick explained her biggest challenges have been finding courage within herself and weathering the personal and financial risks associated with being her own boss. To maintain its market leadership, the MRCGroup continues to make investments in its employees and focuses on partnering with what Medick calls “the finest customers in the world.”
“Create a positive work environment and surround yourself with bright, intelligent people. Most importantly, be passionate about your company — passion is contagious.”
Paradise Development Company
Real estate development, television and film production — some may wonder how one man can be involved in such diversity in a single lifetime. The answer is simple: Irwin Molasky exemplifies the spirit of an entrepreneur. Molasky saw unlimited potential in Las Vegas and was driven by a desire to create a great city in which people could work, play and live. A homebuilder by trade, he had learned the basic components of design and development. Combined with his skills, Molasky’s ambition paved the way for Paradise Development Company. Although lack of financing challenged the young company, Molasky’s perseverance paid off. Since 1951, he has played an active role in the development and growth of Las Vegas and is credited with building many of the city’s “firsts.” Molasky developed Vegas’ premier private hospital, Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center; the city’s first master-planned community, Paradise Palms; and the first high-rise office building. His accomplishments have brought leading retailers such as Sears, J.C. Penney and Best Buy to the community. In addition to the Paradise Development Company, Molasky also secured the ABC affiliation for Las Vegas and co-founded an independent film studio called Lorimar, which eventually bought MGM Studios.
“Expand your mind – dream big dreams and be persistent in the pursuit of what you want to accomplish.”
Dr. Anthony Pollard
Rainbow Medical Centers
As Dr. Anthony Pollard can attest, when you combine best practices of medicine with sound business principles — you’ve got a prescription for success. Pollard always knew he wanted to be a physician. After completing his residency at the Naval Aerospace Medicine Institute in Pensacola Fla., Pollard became a flight surgeon in the U.S. Navy. “The military is very organized, and the same types of organizational skills can be applied in the medical industry,” said Pollard. An accomplished physician, Pollard soon realized he also had a natural talent for business. In 1989, he founded Rainbow Medical Centers to provide family practice and internal medicine to Las Vegas residents. Early challenges were largely financial. “Not many people support a new physician just a couple of years out of residency,” he said. Hard work, over 85 hours per week, and dedication helped Pollard “out-work” challenges. Rainbow Medical Centers was the first independent primary physician group to obtain accreditation by the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations in the state of Nevada. The Rainbow group, which has grown to seven facilities, has also been recognized with numerous awards.
“Perform your due diligence ahead of time — learn the details of what it will take to provide superior service and you will always have customers.”
Magnolia Construction and Design
Lizanne Stoever literally worked her way up from the trenches. Stoever still remembers the days of fixing broken pipes under homes in inches of cold mud. She’s come a long way since those days. In 1990, along with her brother, Stoever embarked upon a new business venture, Reno-based Magnolia Construction and Design. Four years later, they joined forces with the RPL Group to offer a full range of construction and property management services. Stoever credits much of her success to her past experience. “I learned the business by first working for others. I am also very fortunate that many great people were willing to share their experiences and wisdom with me,” she said. The first few years weren’t always easy — there was a lack of finances and an enormous amount of time required to sustain her new business. “I never gave up. I worked all night when necessary and still do,” she stated. Since its inception, Magnolia Construction has more than doubled its revenues and portfolio asset base every year. As president and CEO of the RPL Group, Stoever is now responsible for more than 273,000 square feet of office space in the Truckee Meadows. Her unique resort-style business parks have gained national attention and set new standards for upscale office parks across the country.
“Never, never give up and have fun along the way.”
Nevada’s Entrepreneurs of the Year exemplify how a sound idea, coupled with hard work and dedication, can result in personal success as well as a diverse, rich economy. Please join us as we salute each of these entrepreneurs as well as the many other business owners who help make Nevada great.