Topic: Miller College of Business

October 22, 2008

Entrepreneurs making a name for themselves by marketing a popular shoe, creating an overseas coffee shop chain and selling ice cream are finalists for Ball State University's Ascent Award.

Ball State's Entrepreneurship Center  will honor the business executives Nov. 1 during a black tie event at the Conrad Indianapolis. Finalists are granted an Ascent Fellowship that offers opportunities to meet and collaborate with other entrepreneurs.

"Entrepreneurship is about the energy, creativity and determination it takes to get to the top," said Michael Goldsby, director of the Entrepreneurship Center and the Stoops distinguished professor of entrepreneurship. "Entrepreneurship is the story of the ascent. The character of the entrepreneur and the power of the venture are fully seen only in the recounting of the journey."

The process of finding an Ascent Award winner began earlier this year with a coast-to-coast search for 10 entrepreneurs who exhibit the spirit of Ball State's Entrepreneurship Center. After the original group is reduced to three by a vote of current entrepreneurship students, the decision is passed to a panel of entrepreneurship alumni. On the day of the awards ceremony, the finalists will share the challenges and successes they have faced.

Past winners include Michael Biddle of MBA Polymers, the world's most advanced recycler of plastics used in durable goods, and Vickie Stringer of Triple Crown Publications, the vanguard in a new genre of fiction known as hip-hop lit.

The finalists are:
Jason Araghi, Green Beans Coffee : After moving to Saudi Arabia in 1995 as a physician to work for the House of Saud, Araghi was asked to build a coffee shop in a princess' lavish furniture store as a place where men and women could socialize. After bringing his brother into the project, they created a coffee shop that quickly became popular place among American soldiers. The company has added 70 stores throughout the Middle East. Most locations are portable 40-foot shipping containers converted to resemble an American coffeehouse. The company, which grosses more then $20.8 million, is expanding into the United Stated market by opening coffee shops near military bases.
Lyndon "Duke" Hanson, Crocs Inc.: During a vacation with two other Boulder, Colo., businessmen, Hanson found an innovative type of footwear to market. He had come across a weird sort of clog developed by a Canadian plastics company. It wasn't just that the shoe looked strange, but it also was waterproof. The lightweight resin material the shoe was made of caught his interest. In 2002, the shoe was adapted for boating and became Crocs. In 2005, Crocs sold 6 million pairs of shoes.
Donald and Susan Southerland, Cold Stone Creamery: The couple started their first store in Tempe, Ariz., in 1988 after looking for the perfect ice cream. They made the ice cream fresh in the store every day and people started to recognize its superior taste. In 1990, their first store finally became a hit so they opened another in Phoenix. After they knew they had something, the couple hired more staff to help with the growing company and began to franchise. Today, a Cold Stone Creamery franchise can be found in 49 states and the firm recently opened its 100th foreign franchise.