Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful. – Albert Schweitzer
In the competition to generate jobs, the primary driver is entrepreneurialism. Entrepreneurs are those who have the vision, take the risk and possess the fortitude to build scalable, sustainable businesses. Founders Forum highlights these incredible individuals, who by launching a business have uplifted the entire community as a result of what they do.
Established in 1985, Founders Forum was a place where new businesses could meet with funding sources and potential investors. Over the years it has evolved into an educational and networking organization where entrepreneurs can learn from and build relationships with many of the area’s most successful business leaders.
This year’s Founders Forum finalists are Don and Julie Herndon, Travis Proctor, Eduardo Rabel, and Edward and Ruth Richard. All finalists have been industry leaders and shown exemplary service in the community.
Don and Julie Herndon
COMPANY: Classic Wood Flooring
After running a successful flooring installation company in Brevard for 28 years, Don and Julie Herndon felt the need to add a designer showroom. For the married couple of 25 years, it was one thing for customers to see the flooring on a display rack, but it was quite another for them to feel it and get a better understanding of what they wanted in their homes.
Don and Julie have worked and lived in the Melbourne area for more than 40 years. Their business, Classic Wood Flooring, is the county’s largest specialty store and offers free in-home estimates. Their installers are licensed, insured and factory certified, and they offer a lifetime warranty on all of their installations. They also specialize in custom moldings made for every installation.
No matter the type of work they perform, Don and Julie always put the customer first, and as a result of their high customer service standards, referrals are a massive part of Classic Wood Flooring’s business. While the couple admitted running a family business has its share of challenges, nothing is more rewarding to them than sharing the success with people you care about.
In addition to the success enjoyed as a couple, the Herndons also relish the philanthropic work they participate in. The family is involved with many organizations in the community, such as Ascension Catholic Church, Holy Name of Jesus, the Red Cross, the Brevard Zoo and Habitat for Humanity. They recently donated a dance floor to the Brevard County Sheriff’s Department for its “Dancing for the Space Coast” event.
As local business owners, the Herndons provide quality service with great success and are dedicated to improving quality of life for all who live in Brevard County.
COMPANY: Artemis IT
Travis Proctor’s passion for computer support dates back to his time as a junior in high school in his hometown of Montrose, Colorado. While a sophomore at Florida Tech, Proctor founded Artemis IT. The mission then was to provide technology support to small and medium-sized businesses. As the company grew, the focus on providing top service stayed sharp. Artemis IT now offers end-to-end IT solutions ranging from computer sales and support to Internet hosting and software development, all with the goal of increasing productivity and reducing the total cost of technology ownership.
Today, Proctor’s company has enjoyed double-digit growth in both cloud services and managed business lines, and organizations have noticed. In 2012, he won Governor Rick Scott’s Innovators Under 40 award. In 2014, Artemis was listed in Inc. 5000, an exclusive ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies. Proctor also won the CEO Nexus Cup in 2015, that organization’s member-recognition award, for companies that have achieved growth and entrepreneurial success in part due to their collaboration with CEO Nexus.
Proctor and Artemis have experienced consistent growth, including a merger with netDirective Technologies. That merger led to building, and then selling Artemis’ 25,000-sq.-ft. data center, now known as TerraCom Direct.
Proctor also is well engaged in the community, serving as a board member at Florida Tech and Junior Achievement, as well as an executive board member with the Space Coast EDC. With a passion and prowess for IT and a desire to engage in the community, Travis Proctor continues to leave his mark in the area.
COMPANY: Rush Construction
Eduardo Rabel’s story is one of perseverance and adaptation. Emigrating from Havana, Cuba at the age of 16, he lived in a refugee camp in Miami for seven months before moving to a boys’ home in Kentucky. At the home, Rabel took his studies seriously and improved his grades enough to earn a college scholarship. He eventually received a degree in Civil Engineering and married his college sweetheart. The family now includes a son, a daughter and two grandchildren.
Rabel worked for general contractors for 15 years prior to starting RUSH Construction in 1984. The perseverance he showed as a teenager continued in his first year, as the company’s first contract was the U.S. Air Force. Had the company not secured this large contract, Rabel said he would have had to shut down.
Over the company’s 33 years in business, Rabel and his company have helped companies — such as the YMCA of Central Florida — grow to better serve the community. The company has also been able to exceed client expectations by getting projects done ahead of completion dates.
A big feature of Rabel’s company is its Employee Ownership Program, which allows employees to own stock in and develop a bigger role within the company. Rabel took a corporate sabbatical to assess the company’s direction in 1996. As a result, he felt the need to address company ownership. He believed the company would be strengthened if it had more owners other than him, and he put the Employee Ownership Program into effect.
Throughout his life and career, Rabel’s ability to persevere and adapt has been the key to his success.
Edward and Ruth Richard
COMPANY: Richard’s Paint
A 55-gallon vat in Edward Richard’s garage is where his journey started. Mixing paint at his home, Edward, a paint contractor, was making the batches for himself. However, after his samples were well received by other contractors, he decided to expand into a business. In 1954, he and his brother, Joseph, opened Richard Brothers Paints, a retail paint store in Hialeah, Florida. With an investment of less than $500, Edward and his wife, Ruth, worked alongside Joseph and his wife in a 1,200-sq.-ft. building. In 1957, Edward bought out his brother.
Richard displayed a tremendous work ethic, starting his day at 6:30 a.m., when he would start selling paint to homeowners and painters. He would come home at 6:30 p.m., eat dinner and make a batch of paint to sell the next day. The hard work led to much success and growth. In 1965, he opened up the first store in Rockledge. Since then, the company has reached 400 distributors in New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas, as well as in the Bahamas, China, Saudi Arabia, South America and the Virgin Islands. Sales have exceeded over $20 million.
Throughout the journey, Richard has kept family an integral part of the business. He credits Ruth, for whom he says he could not have accomplished the success he has without. Their sons, Eric and Edward, Jr., are also involved in daily operations, and the company has created and maintained an atmosphere that makes its employees and clients feel like a part of the family.
From a 55-gallon vat to a multimillion-dollar business, Edward and Ruth Richard’s journey has been a storied one.