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8 / Auburn University Kicks

32 / Go-getters and Dynamos: This Year’s

34 / Where are They Now?

Off Its 2018 Annual Entrepreneurship Summit

A look at the top winners and events

Top Tigers Share Their Stories

Past Tiger Cage Winners take on the Real World

10 / Welcome Letter

Interim Dean and Regions Bank Professor Joe Hanna, Ph.D.


14 / Keynote Speaker Jeff Stillwell

Advice, insights, and encouragement from the president of the lifestyle brand, Salt Life

18 / Top Tigers by the Numbers 19 / Warren Averett Rankings

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Winners: $250,000 $5,000,000 category


/ Winners: $5,000,001 - $20,000,000 category


/ Winners: $20,000,000+ category

AGENDA 2018 The Hotel at Auburn University & Dixon Conference Center

THURSDAY, APRIL 5, 2018 Auburn University Entrepreneur Hall of Fame Gala, 6 p.m. Top Tigers Reception 7:30 p.m.

FRIDAY, APRIL 6, 2018 Welcome Breakfast/Check-In 7:30 a.m. - 9:00 a.m. Junior Tiger Cage Competition Finals 8:30 a.m.

High school students pitch their early-stage product and business concepts to a panel of judges

Tiger Cage Competition Finals, 9:30 a.m. Auburn University students pitch their early-stage product and business concepts to a panel of judges with $50,000 in funding on the line

Top Tigers Networking 10:30 a.m. Top Tigers Awards Luncheon 11:30 a.m. Recognizing the fastest-growing companies founded, owned or led by Auburn University alumni

Top Tigers 2018


Auburn University Kicks Off Its 2018 Annual Entrepreneurship Summit April 5 - 6, 2018 The Hotel at Auburn University & Dixon Conference Center Text by Jessica Armstrong


esides stellar academic and athletic programs, Auburn University is well-known for some quirky traditions. There’s the “War Eagle” battle-cry, and rolling oak trees in toilet paper after a football victory. Also putting Auburn University on the map is the annual Entrepreneurship Summit, now in its fourth year. Hosted by AU’s Raymond J. Harbert College of Business, the two-day event pays tribute to alumni and students from each of the university’s degree-granting colleges and schools, through events held at the Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center. The Summit kicks off with the Hall of Fame awards gala, which recognizes alumni who, through their entrepreneurial drive, have made significant contributions to their professions.  Entrepreneur Hall of Fame awards will be presented

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at a gala dinner from 6-7:30 p.m. April 5 where one Hall of Fame honoree will be inducted, along with two Entrepreneurs of the Year awards and an award for Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Hall of Fame inductee is former Accenture chairman and CEO Joe Forehand Jr., a 1971 Samuel Ginn College of Engineering graduate. During his time as CEO, Accenture grew from $6.9 billion in revenue and 66,000 employees to $13.7 billion in revenue and an international workforce of 103,000. His 34-year career with the company ended in 2006. Receiving the Entrepreneurship of the Year award is Bob Broadway, who began his career in commercial banking with Barnett Bank after receiving his Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree in 1991 and his MBA in 1993 from Auburn University’s Harbert College of Business.

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Above, from left: Accenture (Joe Forehand Jr.), Bob Broadway, Tara Wilson, Michael Johnson

After a short stint in Jacksonville, Florida, Compass Bank brought him to Birmingham to enter their commercial loan officer training program. His banking career took him to a few locations, and a few different banks, where he advanced through various levels of management. In 2001, Bob Broadway founded The Broadway Group, a development firm specializing in retail development of national tenants that combined his construction and commercial real estate expertise. Among The Broadway Group’s major clients are Dollar General, McDonald’s, AT&T, Fastenal, Cash Advance America, Little Caesars Pizza, Mayer Electric and Michelin Tire. The agency develops properties in New York,Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and New Mexico. With over 40 employees and an additional 150 contract workers, its annual revenue exceeds $100 million. In addition to The Broadway Group, Broadway owns Broadway Construction Company, a general contracting firm. BCC operates under The Broadway Group, performing all construction aspects of its development and is licensed as a general contractor in 10 states. Broadway also owns an investment property firm, Broadway Capital Investments. BCI owns a portfolio of commercial retail and office properties in all of the states where The Broadway Group does business, as well as South Carolina, Illinois, and Florida. Major tenants include Regions Bank, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, PNC Bank and First State Bank. “To summarize the great Pat Sullivan: “‘There may be

others that deserve this award more than I but no one will ever appreciate it more than I do.’” Also receiving the Entrepreneurship of the Year award is Tara Wilson, a 1997 Harbert College graduate. Her Fort Worth, Texas-based experiential marketing firm ranked No. 901 on Inc.’s 2017 list of the nation’s 5,000 fastest-growing companies. Her agency provides strategy, insight, ideation, event production and management services for companies seeking to improve brand engagement. Clients have included major companies such as Samsung, Nike and Ann Taylor. Receiving the 2018 Young Entrepreneur of the Year is Michael Johnson, founder and CEO of Elite Transit Solutions and a 2008 Harbert College graduate. The Pittsburghbased business provides third-party shipping and logistics management services for clients nationwide. Elite Transit Solutions ranked No. 697 in the Inc.’s 2017 list of the nation’s 5,000 fastest-growing companies. “Being named Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the Harbert College of Business at Auburn is a remarkable honor,” says Johnson. “This award is a testament to the extraordinary supply chain education Auburn offers, which helped to prepare me for many of the challenges encountered along the path to building a thriving company. “As I look forward to the bright future of Elite Transit Solutions, my amazing Auburn education – both in and out of the classroom – will continue to serve as the foundation on which even greater successes will be built and new heights achieved.”

“Auburn University provided me with a strong foundation on which to build my business. My parents modeled the necessary work ethic in me. The Grace of God provided me these tools and ability to start and maintain a successful business able to withstand the test of time. One may get many awards over his or her lifetime, but this one will always be very special to me. To be honored among the many other successful Auburn University Harbert College of Business entrepreneurs is very humbling.” —Bob Broadway, The Broadway Group

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Tiger Cage Competition A clever take on ABC’s Emmy-winning reality show “Shark Tank,” aspiring entrepreneurs compete for funding and the chance to bring their business concepts to fruition. During the Tiger Cage competition, Auburn University student entrepreneurs pitch their early-stage product ideas and business plans to a panel of judges, who decide if an idea is worth sinking their teeth into, or in AU’s version, their claws. Student-led start-ups specializing in mobile apps, rehabilitation garments and engineering resources will compete for shares of a $50,000 prize pool in the finals of the Tiger Cage business pitch competition.

2018 Tiger Cage Finalists Also part of the Entrepreneurship Summit is the Top Tigers event, which recognizes fast-growing companies founded or run by alumni. This event is presented in partnership with Business Alabama magazine and the accounting firm Warren Averett. Nominees are evaluated on revenue growth and their ability to operate following the Auburn Creed, the longstanding code that expresses the university’s underlying values. This year’s Top Tigers include Cameron Doody, founder and CEO of Bellhops, Jimmy Stubbs, president and CEO of River Bank Trust and Entrepreneur of the Year award winner Tara Wilson, founder and CEO of The Tara Wilson Agency among others. Top Tigers networking takes place from 10:30 to 11:15 a.m., and the Top Tigers luncheon from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jeff Stillwell, a 1988 Auburn University business graduate and president of the lifestyle company Salt Life, LLC, will be the keynote speaker at the luncheon. With 20-plus years in the apparel industry, Stillwell has spent the past several years managing Salt Life as a licensed brand until acquiring the company as a wholly owned subsidiary of Delta Apparel in 2014. This year, consumers are expected to spend over $100 million on Salt Life products. “I am often asked to participate in events,” Stillwell says, “but to be asked by one’s alma mater to return and speak to others is truly an honor and something I am looking forward to doing.” Stillwell and his and partners started Kudzu in 1993 to produce headwear for the NASCAR and corporate markets. They acquired The Game from Russell Athletics in 1998. Through Kudzu and The Game, the company managed event merchandise sales for the Olympics, the SEC, PGA Tour events and the Kentucky Derby, along with creating a premier collegiate headwear brand.

Enki Engineering, a startup that has developed a spiral engineering calculation notebook. The team includes junior supply chain management major Terran Ray, junior software engineering major Garrett Raab and sophomore marketing major Jackie Litschewski. ESCAPE Therapy has developed a personalized rehabilitation garment. Team members are kinesiology doctoral students Sarah Gason and Matt Hanks, and consumer and design sciences doctoral candidate Dawn Michaelson. Snippety Snap has developed a public phone stand and integrated mobile app. The team consists of public administration and public policy doctoral candidates Olivia Cook and Courtney Haun. Savor, a mobile app concept focusing on the reduction of food waste. The team includes junior business major Evan Walker, senior software and aerospace engineering major Rain Li and computer science graduate student Abhishek Jariwala. Each team will make a presentation to a panel of industry judges during the finals. The winner will earn a $25,000 grand prize, while the second place finisher will claim $10,000. The third place team will receive $6,000 and the fourth place finisher will earn $4,000. Audience members will also have the opportunity to vote on a $1,000 People’s Choice Award winner. Local high school innovators and visionaries will have a chance to participate in the Junior Tiger Cage competition, held April 6 from 8:30 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. Auburn High School students will present their early-stage product and business concepts to the panel of judges. The Tiger Cage finals, which are free and open to the public, take place at 9:30 a.m. Friday, April 6 in the ballroom of The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center. Four Auburn University student teams will pitch earlystage product and business concepts to a panel of judges.

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Welcome Letter

2018 Top Tigers Companies Indicative Of Auburn Way


aving served as a professor and administrator at Auburn University for 53 years, George Petrie certainly had ample opportunity to assess the qualities that differentiate the university and its graduates. “I believe that this is a practical world and that I can count only on what I earn,” Petrie wrote in 1943. “Therefore, I believe in work, hard work.” Those words are worth revisiting as we celebrate the 2018 Auburn University Entrepreneurship Summit and honor the newest class of Top Tigers, the fastest-growing companies founded, owned and led by Auburn alumni. Business people of all industries and backgrounds can relate to Petrie’s opening line of The Auburn Creed because it speaks to the endurance and discipline required to launch a new company or lead an established one to success. Auburn graduates, whether they happen to lead small businesses or one of the most profitable brands in the world, also recognize the importance of combining hard work with smart work to maximize results. As Apple CEO (and Auburn engineering alum) Tim Cook outlined in a recent interview, the most successful companies are, frequently, extraordinarily purposeful in their pursuits. As Cook explains, Apple focuses on “just a few things, but the few things that we do, we want to make the very best in the world.” Sure, Apple’s market cap may be above $920 billion but his lessons are applicable whether your company caters to a Main Street crowd or is publicly traded on Wall Street. Our 2018 Top Tigers companies have exercised similar discipline and imagination in driving and sustaining growth. These companies cover a vast assortment of industries – apparel, architecture and construction, banking and finance, consulting, entertainment and hospitality, health and fitness, insurance, marketing, supply chain and logistics, among others – but have adhered to Cook’s prescription of identifying and following an appropriate “North Star.” Coupled with the work ethic Petrie described, there’s little doubt our Top Tigers companies will continue to carry on the proud tradition of Auburn University entrepreneurs driving inspiration, innovation and transformation. War Eagle!

Joe Hanna, Ph.D. Interim Dean and Regions Bank Professor Harbert College of Business Auburn University

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Thank you to the TOP TIGERS Sponsors

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Jeff Stillwell: Living the Brand


dds are you’ve seen a Salt Life logo on a vehicle or apparel. Jeff Stillwell, a 1988 Auburn University marketing graduate, drives the company, a lifestyle brand that manufacturers clothing and equipment for fishermen, surfers, divers and sunbathers.  Stillwell had previously helped drive growth for The Game, a company that sold branded college athletic apparel, and Kudzu, which worked with the PGA Tour. The Phenix City, Alabama native took an interest in Salt Life after a colleague mentioned the logos that were being sold in bait and tackle stores in and around Jacksonville, Florida. Salt Life was initially launched by four friends from that community. Stillwell saw the potential to grow it and acquired it in 2011. Here, he shares how he turned Salt Life into a larger, more diverse company, how a strong code of ethics has influenced his leadership, and the challenges of building a brand. 14 Top Tigers 2018

Q: Your grandfather owned a barbecue restaurant in Phenix City, Alabama, and your father, Neil, owned a sporting goods store and started a college sports apparel company.What did you learn from them? Jeff Stillwell: To be successful, you have to work hard every day and work smart. My dad and grandfather would do whatever it took.You don’t necessarily have to be the smartest person, but you have to outwork others and hustle and put in the effort. I tell people I’m never the smartest person in the room, but I like to get in there and work hard. I’ve found that showing up, you’re three-quarters of the way there.  Q: Before college athletic programs took control of licensing apparel, your father started selling branded Auburn hats and shirts at home games. His company [The Game] eventually grew to include other SEC schools and really seemed to take

off in the mid-1980s, when you were studying business at Auburn. Pat Dye was the first head coach to wear one of the company’s hats on the sideline. How involved were you in the business at that point? JS: When I was 7 years old, if I wasn’t playing sports or at school, I was at work. On Saturdays, I would be selling things in the retail store or sweeping or doing something.  It’s the only way I knew to be.  Fast forward -- when we started selling things over at the university, selling concessions, and, really, we were the first people to do [novelty sales], I was 13 or 14 years old. Me and some of my buddies would come over [to Auburn] and work. We had six locations and, the first day, at the end of the game, we had sold about $8,000 worth of stuff. After my dad paid for everything, he realized he made a profit of about $2,500. He said, “I’ve got to do more of this.” A handful of years later, we were with Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi State, Florida State, Florida. Every weekend I was working in a stadium.   Fast forward -- I go to Auburn. Bo Jackson was here, and I never saw a game. I was 18 years old, I had a key to the stadium where I kept an office. I would be there at 6 a.m. on Saturday, they would come up with a 22-foot Ryder truck, and we would unload everything. We had about 15 or 16 locations at that time at Auburn and we might do $100,000 [in sales] a game. Here I am in business school and I’ve got 90 people I’m in charge of, I’ve got all this cash, and after I would lock up everything, a police officer would go with me and I’d make a giant deposit at the bank.   Q: Did you know from the outset that you would be involved in the family business, or was that a decision that came later? Was there a particular point when it all clicked?  JS: What I’d intended to do, and how I started my career, was in sales. I graduated on a Friday and started working on a Monday. I worked for a sales agency and had several brands – Asics footwear was one of them, I had The Game, and several brands. I did that from `88 to `94 and lived in Baton Rouge and then moved up to the Carolinas. I remember taking over a territory in the Carolinas that was doing $800,000 of revenue a year and when I left in `93 it was doing $7 million. I was 27 years old and had a great career, but my dad called and said, “I want to start a new business and I need you to come home. It’ll be a lot of fun and you’ll get to travel the world.” Q: Is that where the story of Salt Life more or less begins? JS: No, we started a little company called Kudzu in 1994. We were making private-label stuff for NASCAR. For the next 10 to 15 years, if you bought a hat with a NASCAR driver on it, there was a 60 to 70 percent chance we made it. We made a lot of stuff for Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops, and other people. We sold blank headwear to screen printers. In 1998, we bought The Game back from Russell. It went from $86 million in sales [when we sold it to Russell] to Top Tigers 2018


$8 million in five years [with Russell owning it]. We built it back up and continued our product label.   We were making baseball caps for Callaway Golf and Ashworth. I had gone out to a sales meeting for Ashworth and the CEO asked if I had a few minutes. He asked, “You guys ever thought of selling?” I said, “`Everything I own is for sale except my wife and my dog. My wife is negotiable.” He ended up making us an offer that was too good to be true. They sold us to Adidas and Adidas sold us to TaylorMade. I managed to trick everyone along the way and convince them to let me run the company. Delta Apparel acquired us in `09 and I began following Salt Life in late 2010. They were looking for someone to step in. It was a little bitty fishing brand with a name that was so good. I thought it could be a lifestyle brand.  Q: What’s a typical day like as president of Salt Life? You’ve mentioned you’re very hands-on in some respects. Do you sweat the small things across all areas?  JS: For me to be successful and for our brand to be successful, I feel like I have to be involved to a degree. The most value I will bring to Salt Life will be spending time on product and marketing. If we get any one of those two things wrong, the brand will suffer. I have people a lot smarter than me who handle distribution, accounting, and finance, and all of those things that make the engine run. But there are a handful of things I like to look at that tell me if we’re on the right track or the wrong track.   The worst thing anyone can say to me is that we’ve always done it this way. I’ve seen a lot of businesses go broke that way. Every couple of years, and our entire staff knows it’s coming and I think they cringe, we say let’s start over 16 Top Tigers 2018

with a clean sheet of paper. Given software changes and the way business has evolved it’s important to ask the question: If we were starting from scratch today, would every process be the same? Let’s go out and detail every single process and challenge ourselves. Are we making the best use of the system? If not, we need to change things. Q: When you came to Salt Life, it was four guys from Jacksonville, Florida.What did you bring to Salt Life that had not been there before? JS: To me, it was the challenge to make it more than it was. In the beginning, when we got involved, 95 percent of the products sold were hardcore fishing-related. I said we’re going to be a lifestyle brand. We’ll push out some surfing stuff, paddleboarding stuff, relaxing on the beach stuff, more diving things. And people kept saying, why are you doing this? All you need to do is keep printing these fishing shirts and making fishing shorts and we’re going to be good forever. I said, no, we’ll never be as good as we could be.   Fast forward to 2018, less than 20 percent of our revenue will come from hardcore fishing items. It’s more lifestyle.  I realized we were becoming a lifestyle brand when we started selling logos and items that weren’t in the original font. Now we sell about 50-50. That tells you it’s not logo-driven, that people are embracing the brand.   Q: You’re continuing to grow and have stated the intention to open two to four new retail stores per year. People find your brand at Belk and retailers in coastal communities. How do you decide the sweet spot for growth?  JS: A lot of people have the thought that it’s about opening up as many doors as possible.You can over-merchandise

the market. I look at dollars per door. We’re in about 2,200 doors now. There are certain brands that can support 7,000 and certain ones that can support 3,000. It’s really about how much you’re getting per door. We have to give our consumer more things to wear. We started with a T-shirt and a hat. Now it’s a T-shirt, a hat, board shirts, a fishing shirt or a performance shirt she’s working out in. Now it’s going to be bags to carry it in and then long-sleeve shirts or buttondown shirts to wear to dinner. Or a combination board short and walking short. The balance is finding the right customers that will support the entire line.  Q: You had mentioned the importance of observation in your career. Is that something you believe many executives struggle to do – slow themselves down enough to simply observe from time to time?  JS: You do have to slow down and be aware of what’s going on. The other thing, and I’ve seen it happen a lot of times, a corporation will rule by committee. I’ve been in meetings where they have their entire ideas for the year and start working down the line. If you have your vision and you know where you want to be and you know your demographic, you don’t need a group of people. All you’re going to do is take a great idea and make it mediocre. Or you’ll make it so complicated you can’t effectively build it.  Q: Do you have a code of ethics for your business, and how did you come about forming it?  JS: Absolutely. There are several apparel industry standards everybody follows, so it’s pretty easy to adapt. The list can get long, but it’s necessary. For instance, when I go to our factories in Asia, I walk the floor to make sure it’s something

I would be proud to take somebody into. I won’t do business with a factory unless I’ve been there. I want to make sure it’s right. If you have to do these things, you should want to do these things. We’re making a product, a living, off of a community that’s based around water. We have to make sure that if we’re going to make money, we have to do right.  Q: How do you blend your work life and personal life? JS: My internal philosophy is to give back. If it’s right for your personal life, it’s right for your business life. We have chosen to support the Roatan Marine Park, the second largest barrier reef in the world and the largest living. I want to make sure it stays living. That group tries to educate the islanders on how to take care of the reef and not poach the fish. It’s a very pristine, beautiful place. I want to make sure that, generations from now, people can see that.  Another group we sponsor is Artificial Reefs International. They go into areas where coral is gone and will sink an artificial reef. The life is there. Coral will grow on something super fast.   I want Salt Life to be around 100 years from now. But for us to have it and for it to be thriving, we better make sure we take care of these oceans. I remember growing up, there was a period of time in the Gulf — there was an area where you couldn’t catch redfish. They were almost decimated. Now they’re thriving. Who wants to be the person who says they caught the last redfish? I want to leave things better than I found them.   Editor’s Note: The uncondensed and complete version of this interview originally appeared in Harbert Magazine, the bi-annual alumni magazine of Auburn University’s Harbert College of Business.

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Advertising, Media & Marketing Architect, Engineer, Technical Communications Conglomerate Construction & Sub Contraction Consulting Distribution and Wholesale Financial Services and Insurance Fitness Food & Beverage Government Contractor

Healthcare Hospitality IT Law firm Manufacturing Movie Production & Theatres Moving and Storage Services Property Management Real Estate Recruiting and Staffing Retail Special Trade Staffing Technology & Biotechnology Transportation

37% 249%




2 6


Huntsville(4) Auburn(3)




Geraldine(1) Hoover(1) Mountain Brook (1)




Pelham(1) Prattville(1) Scottsboro(1)

Total Number of 2018 Top Tigers: 58






36% 18 Top Tigers 2016 18 Top Tigers 2018

Average Growth in Small Business Category




Average Growth in Medium Business Category


Average Growth in Large Business Category




aking it into the Top Tigers fastest growing businesses is quite an accomplishment. The nominees were evaluated on each business’s compounded growth rate over a three-year period of time. These companies have taken advantage of a growing economy and thrived despite challenges—like price sensitivity, growing competition and increasing regulations. The alumni leaders of these companies have represented the best of the best in their respective industries, and they honor their alma mater with their accomplishments. To determine the 2017 class and the rankings, Warren Averett CPAs and Advisors completed the application process by asking each company to submit its gross revenue numbers for the years 2013 through 2016, using 2013 as the base year. The team calculated the compounded annual growth rate based on the information provided by each company verified under the guidelines of the program. From this information, all the winners were ranked. We are proud to reveal that 22 of the Top Tigers are returning from last year. These companies are continuing to innovate, and maintaining the status quo just will not do for them. After reviewing the qualifications, Warren Averett found an average growth rate of 26% for the large category, 49% for the medium category and 36% for the small category. The average growth rate across all Top Tigers is 37%. And, the Top Tiger with the highest growth rate was 249%. By comparison Sageworks quotes that in 2016 nationwide, all private companies’ net profit growth rate was 19.7%. This comparison shows you how impressive our Top Tigers are. Top Tigers represent a total of 13 states. Companies are located as far west as California and as far north as New York, though the vast majority of our Top Tigers are located in the Southeast with 28 companies in 11 cities throughout Alabama. Top Tigers represents more than 26 industries. From advertising to architecture, from fitness to veterinary medicine, from restaurants to technology, the Top Tiger companies are diverse and innovative. Auburn University has made and continues to make great contributions to our lives – both professionally and personally. There is no doubt that Auburn Alumni produce a great source of talent for leaders in a wide variety of fields. War Eagle, Jay Robbins, CPA, CFP® Top Tigers 2018




Trent Kocurek, CEO Luke Richardson, Opportunity Explorer & Crew Lead Airship was founded in 2013 to change the status quo in outsourced development services. We are a company built by highly skilled leaders passionate about maintaining a track record of building successful products and services that help others achieve their goals. Our 3 core services — Mappings, Journeys, and Voyages — take our clients, large and small, from idea to execution to growth using proven problem-solving techniques and development practices. Birmingham, AL /

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Tara Wilson, CEO

Jacob Watkins, Owner/Managing Partner; Phillip Poundstone, Owner/Managing Partner

We are a fearless experiential marketing agency that connects brands with audiences through highly immersive and imaginative experiences. At Tara Wilson Agency (TW Agency), we connect the dots between strategy, branded experiences, and business results.

Rent Gear Here (RGH) has served South Walton County, Destin, and Panama City Beach since 2012. Offering everything needed to create the ultimate beach experience, Rent Gear Here is focused on quality and customer service. RGH is devoted to creating a vibrant, motivated, familyoriented, customer-centric culture. Whether a part of the RGH team, a RGH customer, or a RGH partner, we work to disseminate our culture in the community around us.

Fort Worth, TX /

Santa Rosa Beach, FL/


CEO: Scott Ferguson Will Forbes, Partner Whit Mitchell, Partner Move and Store is a moving and storage company based out of Birmingham, Alabama. Move and Store started at Auburn University in 2011 by college roommates who had a vision of delivering students a full service moving experience. What began as a labor only solution to parents needing assistance loading and unloading items, has now evolved into a multi-location operation providing full service collegiate, commercial, and residential moving services Birmingham, AL /

Amy G. Hunley, Owner/President Drape98 is a custom soft goods manufacturing company providing custom, quality window treatments and bedding to top residential and commercial designers in the Southeastern United States and beyond. In 2015 Drape98 was nationally recognized as the Window Treatment Designer of the Year by the International Window Coverings Association and holds several Houzz awards recognizing our strong commitment to customer service. Drape98 services many boutique hotels, restaurants and large-scale homes. Atlanta, GA /

Robert Blake Fleming, President/CEO Compass Logistics is a high performance, technology-based freight forwarder & NVOCC providing a wide menu of worldwide services to our client base. Services include: • Air Cargo • Expedited Freight Services • Final Mile White Glove Services • LTL Services • Ocean Import & Export • Supply Chain Management • Truckload Services • Warehousing & Distribution Atlanta, GA /

Partner/Owner: Kella Stephenson Farris Farris Self and Moore is a boutique firm, providing accounting, HR, business management, and financial planning services to hit songwriters and producers, major touring acts, and national recording artists.

ChartCapture provides doctors with a cloud-based software solution that currently archives over 184 million pages of medical records data and is growing by over 4.2 million pages per month. ChartCapture software provides doctors with an easy way to archive and access patient medical information from legacy systems (paper and electronic). Birmingham, AL

Dominique Love, CEO/Founder The Atlanta Food & Wine Festival is a four-day epicurean event dedicated to shining an international spotlight on the rich food and beverage traditions of the Southern US from Texas to DC. Founded in 2010 by entrepreneurs, Dominique Love and Elizabeth Feichter, the Festival engages more than 250 Southern chefs, mixologists and sommeliers in telling the story of Southern food and drink through classes, tasting experiences and dinners and events. The weekend draws more than 10,000 people from around the globe to eat, drink and indulge in the South! Atlanta, GA

Nashville, TN /


To nominate a business, or your own business, send business name and contact info to Troy Johnson at

TO QUALIFY: 1. Company must be owned or led by an Auburn University alumnus. 2. Must be in business for at least 4 full years by their fiscal year ending 2017.

3. Company’s revenues must be at least $250,000. 4. Company must operate in a manner consistent with the Auburn Creed. Deadline for nominations: Nov. 2018

Top Tigers 2018



TAYLOR WORKSHOP Owner, Architect: Richard Taylor Taylor Workshop specializes in helping businesses validate or fail their ideas faster and more economically. They do this by offering designful solutions as well as managing the production of full-scale prototypes. Turning a vision into a tangible object or space can bring a tremendous amount of insight and value to a company and the innovation process.

Agent and Owner: Kathy Powell Leah Blair & Nick Blair, Owners Auburn Flowers & Gifts is an alumni owned, full service retail florist, that has served the Auburn community for more than 30 years. Exceptional customer service, and a vision that the emphasis should be placed on serving people rather than churning out projects has created sales momentum and fueled business growth. People, not projects!

Owner / Partner: David F Painter Owner / Partner: C Todd Holder


Bridgeworth, LLC clients benefit from 350 years of combined experience. With diverse backgrounds and a wide range of areas of specialty, they collaborate and share the latest planning strategies. They call it “Drawing on a Wealth of Knowledge.” The team approach helps deliver more strategic thinking for clients throughout their financial lives. Birmingham, AL

Auburn, AL /

Auburn, AL /

Atlanta, GA

Founding Partner: Wayne Harris

Kathy Powell and her team were voted the Best Insurance Agent four years in a row by the readers of the Opelika-Auburn News. Kathy thanks her clients by giving back and being an active participant in the community. Kathy is currently the President for the Auburn Rotary Club, and creative director for Dancing Stars of East Alabama.

CEO: Scott Bell Bell Media’s mission is to deliver media products and services to aid small businesses with their advertising. We use our local advertising experience and personalized marketing support to generate a positive return on investment for every customer we work with. To meet the everchanging advertising needs of our customers, we continue to develop innovative and unique product and service offerings. Montgomery, AL

Southern Financial Group’s expertise comes from over 40 combined years of experience managing portfolios for a wide variety of clients, each with very different financial needs. Our customized portfolios are built on an array of investment strategies, from highly aggressive portfolios for investors looking for growth to ultra-conservative strategies focusing on wealth preservation and income. The goal of Southern Financial Group, LLC is to provide personalized one-on-one service to you that would be expected from an independent local firm while still providing all the resources and benefits of the large national firms. We choose to practice this way because we believe it allows us to find solutions most suitable for you. Birmingham, AL

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Stephen Denton, Owner Archadeck of Central Georgia is middle Georgia’s leader in designing and building high end outdoor living structures. Our specialties include decks, screened porches, sunrooms, pergolas, Hardscapes, outdoor kitchens, and more. Macon, GA

CEO and Founder: Forrest Walden Iron Tribe Fitness is a group personal training company founded in Birmingham, Alabama. We lead the industry in creating fitness communities that change lives by providing fun and intense workouts for our clients in a positive and encouraging community. We have 40 locations in 14 states from Miami, FL to Seattle, WA. Birmingham, AL

Craig L. Tindall, Managing Partner Adam Stoffregen, Partner Method Mortgage is dedicated to helping their clients achieve the dream of living in a home that they love and can afford. The local lending professionals at Method Mortgage closely communicate with their clients to understand their individual goals and objectives.  Method Mortgage has developed a lending method that reviews numerous lending options to identify the best mortgage option to fit each borrower’s need. Combining a high level of personal service, expertise and communication, Method Mortgage is always the smartest way home. Birmingham, AL

Lyle Sosebee, General Manager Goose Pond Colony Resort is located on the banks of the Tennessee River’s beautiful Lake Guntersville and nestled into the picturesque Cumberland Mountains. The Resort offers two beautiful 18 hole championship golf courses, comfortable lakeside cottages, lodge, relaxing waterfront campground, walking trail, full service marina, meeting facilities, The Docks Restaurant, swimming pool, and Lake Guntersville. Since 2011 the resort has completed over $4.5 million in expansion projects.

Claudia Brooks D’Avanzo, Founder/President Creative Communications Consultants is a boutique PR firm started in 1998 Claudia Brooks D’Avanzo, an Auburn University graduate who built her career at some of the top PR firms in the world. With operations in Atlanta and New York, this award-winning marketing communications + public relations firm represents national lifestyle and consumer brands. Services include communications strategy, program management, content marketing, influencer campaigns, social media marketing, national promotions, experiential marketing, strategic alliances, media relations, community relations, issues/ crisis management, and internal communications strategy. Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2018, CCC is a small shop that prides itself on doing “big” work. Its client partners get the best of both worlds: international agency talent matched by the energy, devotion and spirit of a small, entrepreneurial team. Learn more at Atlanta, GA /

Scottsboro, AL/

Top Tigers 2018



WINNERS: $5,000,000-$20,000,000 CATEGORY

Chris Bradford, President & Co-Founder

Cameron Doody, Co-founder & President

Newline Interactive is an interactive solutions company that produces the world’s easiest-to-use software and combines it with world-class interactive touchscreens to move organizations forward. The company was founded in 2012 by Kevin Wang and Chris Bradford and was recently listed in the 2017 Inc. 5000 list as the 149th fastest growing private company in the US. Newline Interactive is headquartered in Plano, Texas and has offices across the country and around the world.

Bellhops workforce-facing app, similar to that of driving service Uber, matches customers with their local bellhops and professional drivers up to 24 hours before a move. The app further streamlines the moving process by managing the majority of logistical details until the move is complete. Bellhops currently offers fullservice moving in 20 additional cities and metro areas including Austin, Atlanta, Charlotte, Nashville and Birmingham.

Plano, TX

Chattanooga, TN

Dr. Jay Price, DVM, Founder/CEO Barron Lakeman, Chief Development Officer Chase Whitworth, Regional Medical Director Jeff Falone, Chief Medical Officer Southern Veterinary Partners provides centralized support for the animal hospitals in its network including marketing, HR, finance and inventory and purchasing management and enhanced benefits to the team members. The hospitals retain their names, culture and local commitment to their communities as well as veterinarians and staff that provide their clients with high-quality veterinary care. As of March 2018, Southern Veterinary Partners has 42 animal hospitals across 10 states in our network and employs over 700 team members. Birmingham, AL

24 Top Tigers 2018

WINNERS: $5,000,000-$20,000,000 CATEGORY CONTINUED

President/CEO: Michael Johnson

Justin Lambert, CEO/President

COO: Elzie Jerry Golden

ELITE Transit Solutions is the premier logistics and freight management service provider in the U.S. commercial transportation industry. Powered by Chameleon, the company’s innovative software platform, ELITE provides each of its clients with the industry leading service levels and cost efficiencies they demand. ELITE’s pioneering integration of technology with proven freight management logistics best practices has led to the company setting the new benchmark for on-time delivery rates — 98%. ELITE was honored on the Inc. 5000 list in 2017, recognizing it as one of the fastest growing companies in America. Pittsburgh, PA

The Mint Julep Boutique launched on July 2, 2012. Our unprecedented growth, our social media following, and our loyal customers have humbled us. We are a team of eclectic, zealous, and slightly chaotic individuals who are passionate about our products and are constantly pushing the boundaries. We have created a culture that is young and energetic, and an environment that is bursting with ideas and evokes the mantra “we are in control of our own destiny.” Shopping should be easy and the process should be painless. Our clothes may not change the world, but the women who wear them will!

Named one of Inc. 5000’s Fastest Growing Companies and one of Broadband Communities Magazine’s FTTH Top 100 two years running, 3-GIS is a leading innovator of smart GIS solutions to plan, design, construct, and manage the physical components of FTTx networks. 3-GIS Fiber Network Solutions is the industry’s first web-based, full-editing GIS software solution for fiber optic network management. 3-GIS Fiber Network Solutions combines an intuitive user interface with desktop and mobile tools created specifically to connect stakeholders across an entire enterprise, with accurate real-time information about the network.

Auburn, AL /

Decatur, AL /

Glenn Phillips, CEO The nation’s largest lake-focused real estate company, Lake Homes Realty is the easiest way to find, buy, and sell lake real estate. We are a full service, multi-state real estate brokerage, powered by, and featuring our own licensed lake-expert agents. Our agents live and work at their lake, where they are top experts in their local real estate market. With more than 60,000 lake properties, together totaling more than $15 billion in lake real estate listed for sale, our unique website provides one-stop shopping convenience, covering multiple lakes in more than 17 states (with more lakes and states coming this year!)

Hoover, AL /

President: John Butts Erich Weishaupt, Proprietor The Ruby Slipper Café is one of the leading breakfast and brunch restaurants in the Southeast, serving up scratch made dishes all day with a focus on the freshest ingredients possible. Our mission is to enrich the lives of our guests, employees and owners through superior quality food and beverages, excellent customer service, sales growth and cost controls. Our success depends upon creating and retaining a staff capable of delivering an exceptional dining experience to every customer, every time. New Orleans, LA

Muscle Up Marketing specializes in developing and executing integrated print and digital marketing campaigns for member-based businesses. Their cutting-edge strategies and superior service help provide a hassle-free experience to a client roster of over 1,000 businesses across the United States.

Alpharetta, GA

Top Tigers 2018


WINNERS: $5,000,000-$20,000,000 CATEGORY CONTINUED

Chairman and CEO: Walter Woltosz Simulations Plus designs, develops, licenses, and supports simulation and modeling software for research and development in the pharmaceutical, chemical, food, cosmetics, and aerospace industries. In addition, we provide consulting services to each industry. The company has a global customer base covering North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Lancaster, CA

Todd Schmidt, Managing Director Corey Martin, President/CEO David Mathis, Chief Operating & Finance Officer Jackie Stanley, HR Manager MartinFederal was founded in 2007 as a small Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business. The company serves the federal contracting community including the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, NASA and Department of Education. With more than 100% growth in 2017, MartinFederal delivers highly capable engineers, instructors and personnel to support our nation’s War Fighter. Our goal is to assist in bringing home someone’s son, daughter, or spouse through our laser focused team members. Huntsville, AL

Paper Mill Playhouse, recipient of the 2016 Regional Theatre Tony Award, is where American musical theatre is celebrated, cherished, and pushed in exciting new directions. A beloved New Jersey arts institution since 1938 and a nationally renowned not-forprofit regional theatre, Paper Mill has been consistently recognized for the high-quality artistry of its work and for its commitment to supporting the development of new works and the careers of Broadway’s best talent. Paper Mill boasts award-winning access services and outreach initiatives as well as performer training programs that impact more than 35,000 students each year. Millburn, NJ /

Dr. Jenny Sobera, Founder/CEO Audrey Easterwood, Practice Administrator In 2008, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Jenny Oakes Sobera opened Village Dermatology in her hometown of Mountain Brook, Alabama with a single purpose: providing patients and families with the highest quality skincare available. She assembled a group of board-certified dermatologists, medical and aesthetic staff who share this vision. Along with a state-of-the-art medical facility, Village Dermatology includes a skincare boutique and the Aesthetic and Laser Center as well as two satellite offices. Village Dermatology also serves the medical community hosting training events for other dermatologists and healthcare providers throughout the year.   Mountain Brook, AL

26 Top Tigers 2018

Heather Bagby, VP/COO

Ben Chappell, CEO/Principal Joseph Martin, CFO/Controller Interior Elements is a contract furniture dealership with operations in Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee. The company focuses of several different vertical markets including commercial/ corporate, governmental, healthcare and a large education niche (k-12 and higher education). Birmingham, AL

Summit Salon Business Center (SSBC) is the world’s largest salon, spa, and school consulting company. SSBC employs over 100 industry professionals throughout North America and is committed to helping small business owners earn a better living and live a better life. SSBC is a strategic partner of L’Oréal Professional Products Division USA. Plymouth, MN

$5,000,000-$20,000,000 CATEGORY CONTINUED

Bill Grainger, President Optimum Solutions develops, markets and supports HRIS software solutions(“OptimumHRIS”), including payroll, HR and time & attendance applications for midsize companies across various industry verticals including healthcare, manufacturing, distribution, retail and transportation. All of OptimumHRIS applications utilized one database and can be deployed locally as an on-premise application or hosted in a customer’s private cloud of Optimum’s cloud (“Opticloud”).

Kate Luce, President/CEO Brandon Johnson, Trainmaster Mississippi Export Railroad Company is a 95-year-old freight railroad and transportation services company facilitating the flow of goods between the Gulf Coast and broader North American rail infrastructure. Moss Point, MS /

Founder and Managing Partner: Brian Pitts Partners: John Carver and Ben Branch

Liberty Bank is locally owned and operated. The bank is happy to offer the latest in banking technology for our customers’ convenience. However, the cornerstone of our business model continues to be friendly, local customer service that keeps the customer’s best interest at heart. Liberty Bank: “Local bankers serving local customers... Since 1971.” Geraldine, AL

I believe that this is a practical world and that I can count only on what I earn. Therefore, I believe in work, hard work. I believe in education, which gives me the knowledge to work wisely and trains my mind and my hands to work skillfully. I believe in honesty and truthfulness, without which I cannot win the respect and confidence of my fellow men.

Nashville, TN /

Chris D. Bailey, President

The Auburn Creed

ITAC Solutions mission is to position themselves as the strategic business partner for recruitment and placement of talented individuals, create winning situations for client-companies, contract consultants and their internal team. With four offices in the southeast, we are wellequipped to help all positions of professionals, whether it’s someone at the front desk or corner office. Birmingham, AL

I believe in a sound mind, in a sound body and a spirit that is not afraid, and in clean sports that develop these qualities. I believe in obedience to law because it protects the rights of all. I believe in the human touch, which cultivates sympathy with my fellow men and mutual helpfulness and brings happiness for all. I believe in my Country, because it is a land of freedom and because it is my own home, and that I can best serve that country by “doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with my God.” And because Auburn men and women believe in these things, I believe in Auburn and love it. —George Petrie (1945) Top Tigers 2018



WI NNER S : $ 20 , 0 0 0 , 0 0 0 + CATE GO RY

Bradley Collin Carter, President

President, CEO: Jimmy Stubbs

President: John Watson

With a Texas Division and a Southeastern Division, Carter & Carter Construction LLC specializes in mixed-used construction throughout the southeastern United States. In 2006, Walter Carter and Collin Carter took over the management of Charter Construction Management Company, Inc., which was a division of The Charter Companies in Auburn, Alabama. The transition was completed in the first quarter of 2008 and Carter & Carter became the preferred builder of multi-family and mixed used developments for The Charter Companies.

In 2005, Mr. Jimmy Stubbs gathered a group of business leaders who shared his vision of establishing a communityfocused bank with localized decision making that would recirculate money into the communities it serves. After 14 months of organization and the sale of just under 25 million dollars in common stock to local investors, River Bank & Trust opened its doors. Today, the bank currently has assets exceeding $725 million and is one of the largest community banks headquartered in Alabama.

Torch provides engineering services and solutions to the Department of Defense in weapon system performance, modeling and simulation, information technology, manned and unmanned aviation, test and evaluation, and technology research and development. Employee-owned, the company has ten locations in six states. In 2015, annual revenues were close to $232 million.

Auburn, AL /

28 Top Tigers 2018

Prattville, AL

Huntsville, AL

WINNERS: $20,000,000+ CATEGORY CONTINUED answer critical business questions. Unified has offices in New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. President and CEO: David Gray

CEO: Scott B. Reed, CFO: Jenifer G. Kimbrough Head of Banking: Sam A. Scalici Head of Risk and Credit: Forest W. Whatley, Jr. The core disciplines of Oakworth Capital Bank’s service model are commercial banking, private banking, and wealth management/ trust. Our goal is to “bring the bank to you” through a combination of personalized service from professional associates and the support of innovative technology. Birmingham, AL

Director: Mike Fuller Executive VP: Rodney Rushing VP and CFO Bud Foshee Senior VP- Private Banking: Chris Robbins ServisFirst is a full service commercial bank focused on commercial and correspondent banking, cash management, private banking, and the professional consumer market, emphasizing competitive products, state-of the-art technology and a focus on quality service. The bank offers sophisticated cash management products, Internet banking, home mortgages, remote deposit express banking, and competitive rates. ServisFirst Bank was formed in Birmingham in May 2005, and has locations in Huntsville, Montgomery, Dothan, Pensacola, Mobile, Nashville, Charleston, Atlanta, and Tampa Bay. Birmingham, AL

New York, NY /

Daxko is a leading provider of mission-critical software solutions to member-based nonprofits. Daxko’s solutions help customers achieve high levels of operational efficiency, increase engagement with their constituents, and drive community impact to expand their mission. Birmingham, AL /

President & CEO: Jeff Huntley T-H Marine Supplies is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of parts and accessories for recreational boats. Manufacturing and distributing over 3,000 products sold by major boating and fishing accessory retailers, the family-owned business employs over 125 people in three plants. Huntsville, AL

Jesse Channon, SVP Revenue Unified helps marketers make informed and impactful decisions with the industry’s only business intelligence platform purposely designed for social advertising. With experience collecting and enriching over 1 billion dollars of social investment data, Unified is passionate about providing Fortune 2000 brands and agencies greater transparency into their many teams, tools and strategies. The Unified Platform and service teams are specifically built to ensure data quality, optimize investments and

Matt Kaye, President/CEO For the past 30 years, Janus Global Operations has grown to become the premier Integrated Stability Operations company in the world— supporting both public and private clients in more than 50 countries with munitions management, security, and other services in some of the world’s most challenging and hostile environments. For example, Janus professionals are currently removing explosive hazards, including thousands of improvised explosive devices (IED’s), in territories formerly occupied by ISIS, allowing more than a million displaced persons to return to their homes. Janus has also successfully managed and disposed of some of the world’s largest weapons stockpiles, preventing these dangerous materials from falling into the hands of terrorists and rogue states, and is providing protective security services for military personnel, civilians, and diplomats around the world. Lenoir City, TN /


Top Tigers 2018



Michael Bruce Barrett President/CEO Haines is the largest flooring and flooring supplies distributor in North America. Haines is privately held and has been in business since 1874. John J. Haines was the company founder and his family currently own the majority of shares in the company. Haines founded the company with $800 he won playing poker while a prisoner of war during the Civil War. Haines has over 600 employees and operates in 14 states delivering service to over 12,000 customers. Haines will make over 203,000 customer deliveries in 2017 delivering over $470 million in revenue. Glen Burnie, MD /

CEO: William (Bill) Wallace Chairman-Board of Directors: David Reed Regional President-South Region: Galen Thackston, Regional President - North Region: Jeffrey Brewer Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood, Inc. is a privately-held architecture and engineering firm, with more than 300 employees located in offices throughout the Southeast. GMC provides all of the services associated with architecture, engineering, environmental, geotechnical, interior design, landscape, planning, surveying, and transportation. While the company has evolved tremendously since its launch in 1947, our founding principles remain vital. We maintain our commitment to client satisfaction, creativity, superior quality, and integrity as the primary focus of each and every project. Montgomery, AL /

Bill Lee, Chairman Lee Company is a third generation, family owned business, offering comprehensive facilities solutions and home services to customers in Alabama, Tennessee, and Kentucky. Today, Lee Company counts with over 1200 team members delivering award winning service and solutions. Our mission is to provide a place where employees can thrive and to honor God by serving people with respect, integrity, and compassion. Nashville, TN /

Jack Fite, President Harry James, VP/Chief Estimator Marty Blackwood, VP/Commercial J. Robert Fite, Project Manager A full-service general contracting and construction management firm, Fite Building Company, Inc. has earned its reputation as one of the premier building partners in the Southeast by delivering quality jobs through experienced construction professionals, dependable communication with owners and architects, and a commitment to detailed follow-through during the entire building process. Our talented team excels in a wide variety of Continued...

30 Top Tigers 2018

fields, including: commercial, industrial, retail, financial, medical, government institutions, schools, and churches. Many of our clients have become repeat customers, a true indication that they rely on us to exceed their expectations – and that we deliver. Decatur, AL /

Mike Arasin, Owner/CEO Cal Patterson, VP Construction is the art of the possible, and Fulcrum Construction brings together the best people, ideas and experience to deliver retail construction projects from possible to successful. Founded by Auburn University Alumnus Mike Arasin, Fulcrum Construction is a company that’s focused on people and relationships. The Fulcrum Team includes several Auburn alumni who model pillars of the Auburn Creed including a belief in hard work, honesty & truthfulness and mutual helpfulness. Those pillars provide the foundation for the great work that our superintendents, project managers and administrators do each and every day. Fulcrum Construction has grown from a handful of folks to over 100 employees. Even as the Fulcrum team has more than tripled, we remain focused on being the go-to construction partner that tackles challenges creatively, bringing ideas and solutions to the table for retailers, developers and owners across the country. Atlanta, GA


COO and CFO: David Walker

Bob Broadway, Owner/CEO In 2001, Bob Broadway founded The Broadway Group (TBG) with an emphasis on sharing the light of Christ in the marketplace. Following in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps as a builder, he combined his knowledge of construction and commercial real estate to create a development firm to service national tenants. The Broadway Group’s major clients include Dollar General, McDonalds, AT&T, Fastenal, Cash Advance America, Little Caesar’s Pizza, Mayer Electric, and Michelin Tire. It develops properties in New York, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, and New Mexico. With over 40 employees and an additional 200 contract workers, TBG’s annual revenue exceeds $100MM. The Broadway Group, under Broadway Construction Company, performs all construction aspects of these developments. He also owns an investment real estate firm, Broadway Capital Investments (BCI). BCI owns a portfolio of commercial retail and office properties in various states. Major tenants include Regions Bank, Wells Fargo, PNC Bank, and First State Bank. Huntsville, AL 256-533-7287

Founded in 1944 by the late Elton B. Stephens, EBSCO Industries, Inc. has evolved into a global company with businesses in a range of industries including information services, publishing and digital media, outdoor products, real estate, manufacturing and distribution, and business services. EBSCO operates divisions and subsidiaries in 23 countries. EBSCO Information Services is the leading provider of discovery services, databases, and other information resources for libraries worldwide. Birmingham, AL /

President and CEO: Stephen M. Nordness Automation Personnel Services, Inc. provides staffing solutions to customers from coast to coast. We specialize in providing light industrial employees to meet temporary or contingent needs in warehousing, manufacturing, assembly, and production lines. Over the last 25 years, Automation has grown from a small, single office to 31 branch offices in 10 states and has become a major player in the staffing industry. Pelham, AL /

Owner: Dana Town SEA is a family-owned and operated small business founded in 1970 by the late Gary Griffin and owned by Dana Griffin Town. The company supplies high performance wire and cable, heat shrinkable tubing, connectors, backshells, termination devices, molded shapes, and other harness creation/protection devices to the military and commercial aerospace markets. With robust and turnkey solutions, SEA is established as the leader in supply chain logistical solutions catering to customers of all sizes. Our commitment to world class service and quality sets us apart from the competition. SEA employs over 100 people and is headquartered in Madison, Alabama with sales offices in Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, and Texas. Madison, AL

Richard Consoli, President Cross Company is a 100% employee owned ESOP. We apply technologies to improve machine and manufacturing process improvement. Our customers are primarily industrial manufacturers located in the southeastern United States, and they value us as an extension of their engineering departments. Greensboro, NC

Top Tigers 2018


Go-getters and Dynamos: This Year’s Top Tigers Share Their Stories They come from all walks of life and have taken diverse career paths. Yet two key attributes unite Top Tigers – a swift climb up the ladder of success and a degree from Auburn University. Text by Jessica Armstrong

Cameron Doody


resented by Business Alabama magazine and the accounting firm Warren Averett, the Top Tigers award recognizes the fastest-growing companies that are founded, owned or led by Auburn University alumni. Selecting the Top Tigers was based on revenue growth and their commitment to conducting business following the tenets of the Auburn Creed. This year’s Top Tigers include Cameron Doody, founder and CEO of Bellhops, Jimmy Stubbs, president and CEO of River Bank Trust and Tara Wilson, founder and CEO of The Tara Wilson Agency, who is also being honored as an Entrepreneur of the Year. Top Tiger Cameron Doody co-founded Bellhops in 2011 with Stephen Vlahos as a way to provide Auburn University students with an alternative to the standard, “big box” movers. The company started by employing college students as movers, called bellhops at the company. They later hired campus directors to recruit teams of student movers on college campuses throughout the Southeast. Services expanded to include off-campus apartments and homes. Based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Bellhops offers full32 Top Tigers 2018

Jimmy Stubbs

Tara Wilson

service moving in 21 cities and metro areas. Bellhops is reportedly the fastest growing tech-enabled moving company in the multi-billion dollar moving services industry. The company’s labor-facing app matches customers with local bellhops and professional drivers up to 24 hours before a move. Smart technology tracks the bellhop’s performance to ensure that the highest-scoring workers are matched to jobs in the customers’ location. In 2013, the Doody and Vlahos connected with a Chattanooga venture capital firm, and after receiving seed capital rebranded the company to Bellhops Moving and established it as a simple, affordable alternative to conventional moving companies. Being able to continually innovate is a key attribute that has led to the company’s rapid rise, notes Doody, who earned a supply chain management degree from AU’s Harbert College of Business in 2009. “But being innovative isn’t just about building technology,” he points out. “Being innovative is about never being satisfied with the status quo... starting with technology to remedy operational inefficiencies like we did at Bellhops is a true game-changer, but you can’t stop there if you hope to be a success. To change an industry you have to innovate on

customer service practices, communication strategies, product enhancements and anything your industry aims to do.” Doody has raised more than $25 million in venture capital from Silicon Valley investors and is a past recipient of Auburn University’s Entrepreneur of the Year award. Last year he was invited to take part in Harvard Business School’s Young American Leaders program. “My time at Auburn played a role in this company in many ways. I met my first business partner here, and this campus and community essentially served as the first ‘proof of concept.’” He credits his logistics degree in playing an integral role in starting Bellhops and expanding it by leaps and bounds. “The company’s success hinges on logistics. We have to have quality movers in the right place at the right time. At Auburn, I had classes in transportation and those have proven to be extremely useful once we began offering full-service moves into more than 20 cities nationwide.” Top Tiger Jimmy Stubbs has worked as a community banker in Alabama for the past 30 years. Today, he is director and CEO of River Bank & Trust and serves on its Board of Directors. Under his leadership, the full-service commercial bank was formed in 2006 and is now among the 15 largest banks in Alabama with total assets of $823 million with offices in Alexander City, Montgomery, Prattville and Wetumpka. After earning a degree in agribusiness education at Auburn University in 1985, Stubbs decided to pursue a career in banking and earned an MBA from Troy University in 2005. He currently serves on several business and nonprofit boards including treasurer of the Alabama Bankers Association, the Montgomery Area Committee of 100, the Prattville Area Chamber of Commerce and the YMCA of Montgomery Endowment Foundation. Stubbs cites two of his principles that have helped him ascend relatively fast to the top in the banking industry: When at work…work hard (part of the Auburn Creed) and the Golden Rule. What’s also essential to his success, he adds, is to “Get plenty of rest, eat right and exercise. Surround yourself with a capable team, then set the vision and get out of their way.” And, “Little things are important.” He also credits his success to his undergraduate years at Auburn University. “My education at Auburn set the base for success as a banker and CEO.You can’t deny that the academic component provides a good based as you enter the work world. In addition, I have to mention my time as a fraternity and IFC (Inter-fraternity Council) president. This is where I learned to work with people and practice leadership.” Top Tiger Tara Wilson In addition to being recognized as a Top Tiger at the 2018 Auburn University Entrepreneurial Summit, Tara Wilson is also being honored this year as Entrepreneur of the Year. Wilson founded her experiential marketing agency in

“To be an entrepreneur, I’ve had to be fearless. My job is to bring in new business and that outweighs being afraid.” —Tara Wilson 2015 to create emotional connections between her clients’ brands and consumers through “imaginative, immersive and transformative experiences.” Clients have included such business giants such as Samsung, Nike and Ann Taylor. The Fort Worth, Texas-based Tara Wilson Agency ranked No. 901 in Inc. magazine’s 2017 annual ranking of the 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in America.  Her path to CEO of her own agency has taken several turns. After earning a degree in finance from Auburn University in 1997, she spent nine years at Merrill Lynch, where her last position was as senior financial advisor.  Drawing on her leadership qualities and passion for event design, she became an entrepreneur when she opened Tara Wilson Events™ in 2007 and spent eight years executing social events.  She has been featured on a variety of national and local media outlets including The Today Show, Entrepreneur. com, Smart Money’s Small Business, MSN’s Business on Main and Fox Business. Wilson credits her business success to her involvement with the Entrepreneurs Organization’s Accelerator program.  Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) is a global, peer-topeer network of more than 12,000 business owners with 170 chapters in 53 countries. She served as chair of EO Accelerator Fort Worth for three years and continues to serve on the global sub-committee of EO Accelerator, which sets strategy for the program worldwide.   In addition to being a fearless leader it is important to be a learner, she adds, and always keep in mind that there are no bad experiences. “There is a lesson and an opportunity in everything you experience in your career… If I set my sights on developing a relationship, I don’t give up. If I need help with a specific issue, I’ll reach out to a mentor to ask a direct question. Asking for help isn’t weakness, it is strength. People want to help you develop and grow professionally.” The courses she took at Auburn University were valuable to her career, she says, but what made an even greater impact were the lessons she learned as an extension of those courses. “I learned how to stick to goals, to push through when things don’t come easy and to pick myself up and move forward when I experience a setback.” Harbert College of Business provided her with additional opportunities. During her junior year, she ran for student senate to represent Harbert College of Business. She won and spent a year working on initiatives for Auburn University. “That year holds my fondest memories. I met so many people and developed relationships I still have… the relationships I made led me to my college internship at Merrill Lynch, which set the trajectory of my life and led me to one of my earliest mentors.” Top Tigers 2018


GETTING STARTED AND MOVING FORWARD Harbert College of Business Nurtures Student Entrepreneurs


Text by Jessica Armstrong

uburn University’s Tiger Cage Accelerator and Incubator is a collaborative, coworking space that provides students with guidance from university faculty and staff. Here, area professional student-led startups get office and meeting space, along with access to mentors who help navigate the complexities of getting a business off the ground. Located at the Auburn Research Park, the 2,800-squarefoot facility opened through the efforts of the Lowder Center for Family Business and Entrepreneurship at Harbert College of Business and the Auburn University Research and Technology Foundation. Four student-led startups currently maintain office space and additional teams work in the Tiger Cage Accelerator and Incubator’s co-working areas. Teams meet weekly to discuss their progress and receive coaching from industry partners on revenue growth, sales and marketing, accounting, taxes, intellectual property and funding. Along with mentoring, the program includes weekly lectures and team pitches. One of the student-led startups operating out the Tiger Cage Accelerator and Incubator is Yellow Card Financial – a digital currency exchange for the cash market – started by Auburn University students Chris Maurice and Justin Poiroux. “We distribute our products and technology into retail stores around the world, allowing customers to exchange their local flat currency into digital currency which they may utilize on an international market,” Maurice explains. 34 Top Tigers 2018

Yellow Card has an accessible distribution network of 160,000 locations across Africa, the Middle East and the United States. Their goal is to allow as many people as possible access to this technology, adds Poiroux, who notes that only 20 percent of people living in Africa have a bank account, yet 80 percent of them have a telephone with SIM connectivity. “Digital currency provides an opportunity for everyone to interact on the same global market no matter where they are located,” Poiroux says. Their official go-live launch will take place this year in 5,000 locations in Lagos, Nairobi, Dubai, Doha, Johannesburg and Atlanta in English, Arabic, French and Portuguese before expanding into the rest of their 160,000 locations in 17 countries. “First thing after our launch in Africa and the Middle East is an American launch in a few select states,” adds Poiroux. “From there, we’ll be working on spreading our distribution while building new financial instruments and technologies for our users.” The primary focus post-launch will be their remittance service. Customers will be able to cash out digital currency for credit and then pick up cash at a nearby retail location, similar to getting money at a Western Union location. “Auburn has been fantastic in its support and mentorship,” says Maurice. “Between giving us space for the team at the Tiger Cage Incubator and Accelerator and the late nights Dr. Baker has put in with us preparing for competitions around the country, we wouldn’t be where we are today without her… and the entire Auburn University business and entrepreneurship community.”

Also maintaining office space in the Tiger Cage Incubator and Accelerator is FetchMeDelivery – a mobile-app enabled delivery service for groceries. The company was founded in January 2016 by Auburn business graduate Harrison Evola. His company has grown to handling more than 2,000 deliveries a month. FetchMeDelivery has formed a partnership with the Auburn University dining program. This partnership allows students to order groceries on campus, either to their dorm or the library, using their dining dollars. “We are revolutionizing the way people buy in Auburn,” says Evola. “FetchMe delivers for over 47 different restaurants. We have tons of parents ordering food and groceries for their children, as well as students ordering food and groceries for themselves. We employ over 25 drivers as we continue to grow each month.” “I had the opportunity to apply what I was learning in the classroom to my company, which allowed me to validate what I was learning each day. In particular, what helped were my business management, personal selling and consumer behavior classes. Those covered how to manage employees, as well as sell to businesses and market to consumers, which was very helpful and beneficial to operating a business.” Also a tenant in the Tiger Cage Incubator and Accelerator is Sole Line, a patent-pending storage container solution for displaying sneakers and other collectible items. SoleLine is the brainchild of Gibson Wang, a junior software engineering student, Berk Adanur, a senior electrical engineering student, and Frank Nguyen, a junior business administration student. The fourth student-led startup with an office in the Tiger Cage Incubator and Accelerator is Funnel. The company offers an app that consolidates into one place all of a person’s social media posts from friends. The app was created by finance major Jackson Speaks, Haven Barnes, a software engineering major, and Jonathan Hart, an Auburn graduate in software engineering. Speaks and Barnes finished fourth in the 2016 Tiger Cage student entrepreneurship competition. Funnel’s founders were given a hand in launching their startup by Haitham Eletrabi, founder and CEO of Tennibot, a robotic tennis ball collector that eliminates the need to collect balls. The patent-pending ball collector cleans up the court so players can hit more balls rather than spending time picking them up. Tennibot holds up to 80 balls and works on both clay and hard surfaces. Eletrabi won a competition that awarded him six months free in the Auburn Business Incubator. This full-service, mixed-use business incubator assists startup and early-stage businesses and is also located in the Auburn Research Park. Tennibot has since moved into the Auburn Center for Developing Industries, a division of the City of Auburn’s Economic Development Department. Tennibot has won a number of awards and garnered attention from many major media outlets, including Time magazine, Huffington Post, the Los Angeles Times and the

BBC. “We made a lot of progress with the Tennibot, grew the team, won the Tennis Industry Association Innovation Award the CES (Consumer Electronic Show) 2018 Innovation Honoree Award,” Eletrabi says. “We are ramping up toward production and getting ready to launch Tennibot this month.” “In addition to our entrepreneurship courses, we offer mentoring and coaching from our entrepreneursin-residence and from other successful entrepreneurs,” Lucian Bifano, director of Entrepreneurship Strategy says. “We also offer a broad range of programming focused on improving our students’ ability to fund, launch and grow a new business venture.” Harbert College’s introduction to entrepreneurship course is now open to all Auburn University students, says LaKami Baker, managing director of the Lowder Center for Family Business and Entrepreneurship. In addition, graduate-level courses have been created to guide students in developing commercialization and business plans for university-owned intellectual property and for technologies owned by the National Security Agency. The Tiger Cage Accelerator and Incubator got significant boost with a $1 million permanent endowment from Benny LaRussa Jr., a 1982 graduate of Auburn’s Harbert College of Business and his wife Lynn. Along with helping to fund the Tiger Cage Accelerator and Incubator, the endowment will also support a summer accelerator program. “The Tiger Cage Summer Accelerator program provides promising Auburn student entrepreneurs with immersive education and training aimed at accelerating the creation of young innovative companies by compressing learning-by-doing into an intense multi-week experience,” explains Bifano. “Accelerators are playing an increasing role in university entrepreneurship programs throughout the United States and we see our program as an important element in improving startup outcomes for our student entrepreneurs.”

Chris Maurice and Justin Poiroux of Yellow Card Financial, one of the student-led startups operating out the Tiger Cage Accelerator and Incubator.

Top Tigers 2018


Top Tigers 2018  

Auburn University's top alumni-led businesses published by PMT Publishing based in Alabama.

Top Tigers 2018  

Auburn University's top alumni-led businesses published by PMT Publishing based in Alabama.