2012 Entrepreneurs Of The Year

opportunity street sign

Serial tech entrepreneur Charlie Kratsch

This year's winners from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the Dakotas.

by Gene Rebeck, Ingrid Case, and Suzy Frisch

July 18, 2012

For the visionary men and women who run growing businesses, the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year competition is something like American Idol (except that everyone who competes actually has talent). In other words, for entrepreneurs, this is a big deal. The selection of the 2012 Ernst & Young Entrepreneurs of the Year for Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the Dakotas started with hundreds of suggestions, which in turn led to dozens of formal nominations. The panel of judges conducted site visits and interviews, narrowing the field to 25 finalists. From this group, the judges made the difficult decision of choosing this year’s eight winning companies.

The stories of the winners and the other finalists—each a successful entrepreneur who has uncovered a distinctive opportunity and driven notable growth—are told on the following pages.

In addition, this year’s award recipients include William Cooper, CEO and chairman of TCF Financial Corporation, whose entrepreneurial endeavors were recognized in a Lifetime Achievement award.

The 2012 Entrepreneurs of the Year were honored June 14 at the Marriott Hotel in Minneapolis. They now are candidates for the national Entrepreneur of the Year awards, which will take place in November in Palm Springs, California. Whether or not the Minnesota and Wisconsin winners earn national honors, they deserve your applause.

Click the links below to read about each winner.

 

Event Introduction: Creating Jobs, Creating Futures

Why entrepreneurs matter—now more than ever.

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William Cooper

William Cooper

Bill Cooper became CEO of a troubled bank and made TCF profitable by being both innovative and conservative.

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Larry Lukis and Brad Cleveland

Larry Lukis And Brad Cleveland

Larry Lukis created a faster way to make injection-molded parts. Brad Cleveland led Proto Labs to greater growth.

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Cynthia LaConte

Cynthia LaConte

Cynthia LaConte turned drug wholesaler The Dohmen Company into a multiple-service provider to health care industries and companies.

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Charlie Kratsch

Charlie Kratsch

Serial tech entrepreneur Charlie Kratsch discovered a way to use his business background to improve school management through Infinite Campus.

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Doug Kohrs

Doug Kohrs

Doug Kohrs has translated his serial success in med-tech into the expansion of Tornier, Inc., into new markets.

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Aaron Jagdfeld

Aaron Jagdfeld

Aaron Jagdfeld took Generac Power Systems public. Now he’s moving the former family firm into new products and markets.

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Scott Happ

Scott Happ

Happ’s company Mortgagebot started out primarily as a mortgage lender. Then he saw the promise of focusing on technology.

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Paul Grangaard

Paul Grangaard

The Allen Edmonds CEO and president has the company stepping forward while keeping one foot in tradition.

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Michael and Stacy Gauthier

Michael And Stacy Gauthier

The Gauthiers, founders of Gauthier Biomedical, saw an opportunity that big med-tech firms had overlooked. It now is a vendor to many of those companies.

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Regional Sponsors

    ManpowerGroup
    Padilla Speer Beardsley
    Twin Cities Business

Local Sponsors

    Faegre Baker Daniels
    Lockton
    Pohlad Companies
    Quarles & Brady

National Sponsors

    Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation
    SAP

Regional Judges

James Dolan
Chairman, CEO, and president The Dolan Company

John Fowler
Executive vice president and CFO Quad/Graphics Inc.

Dennis Krakau
Executive vice president, East Commercial Banking Associated Bank

Mark Platt
CEO, president, and chief engineer Multistack LLC

Jay Radtke
Director Mason Wells Buyout Funds

Scott Richardson
Managing director Houlihan Lokey Minneapolis

John Romans
CEO and president BioMedix Vascular Solutions Inc.

Keyna Skeffington
Vice president and deputy general counsel Medtronic Inc.

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