Saint Cloud – Scott Warzecha, President and Founder of Netgain, based in Saint Cloud, has been named the Minnesota Small Business Person of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
The Small Business Person of the year is selected annually based on growth in sales or unit volume, increase in the number of employees, financial strength, innovativeness of product or service and evidence of contributions to community-oriented projects. Gail Ivers, Vice President of the St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce nominated Warzecha for this award.
Warzecha, a St. Cloud native, started his career as a salesman at Team Electronics, but it was during his 13 years at Marco that he had the idea to do things differently.
The concept was cloud computing. It may seem like old news today, but when Warzecha first talked of the idea in 2000 of providing cloud services to businesses, it was unheard of. His technology employer wouldn’t even consider the idea because they believed it was a fad. At the time, businesses had their computing resources in the back room of their buildings and brought in technicians to fix and update the machines and their software. To implement his vision for cloud services fully, Warzecha had to quit his job and start his own company, Netgain.
About three years ago, Warzecha made a strategic shift at Netgain. Instead of being a general service IT company, they decided to focus their services on the health care industry, especially small hospitals and rural clinics that are large enough to need things like electronic medical records and networked computer systems. That transition has taken the company from just over 50 employees in 2011 to almost 100 today.
“We knew someone who gave us a referral that got us our first health care account,” Warzecha says. “Eventually our cloud computing model demonstrated that it lent itself particularly well to medical clinics.” As the company began to take on clients in the Twin Cities health care market, Warzecha and the Netgain leadership team gained an appreciation for the intense regulatory requirements in the medical services industry. In order to help companies deal with those requirements, Netgain had to be willing to take on the same liabilities as the health care provider, regarding patient data privacy. “Any penalty from a security breach on behalf of the provider is extended to us.”
Reaching into rural communities forced Netgain to expand its business model. Many small, rural communities do not have access to reliable high-speed telecommunications so they require on-site equipment for adequate transmission speeds. At the same time, they often don’t have the time or skill to make the most complex computer systems work. In response to these unique needs, Netgain has extended their services into the hospital itself, by providing Netgain equipment on-site for clients. “This is the complete opposite of what we’ve been doing for the last 11 years,” Warzecha says.
They’re able to take this step because of the best practices developed by Netgain’s datacenter operations. Netgain staff monitor, manage and maintain the client’s equipment remotely. They can run the client’s systems from the Netgain office to provide upgrades or trouble-shooting. If the hospital systems fail, it rolls over the Netgain datacenter in St. Cloud. Today, 95 percent of Netgain’s growth is in the health care industry, and that trend is expected to continue.
Warzecha’s cloud hosting vision in 2000 – once considered unfathomable in the business community – has moved to the mainstream of IT services. But as it has, Warzecha has continued to lead Netgain through an evolution that seeks out the technological advantages and markets that keep the company on a strong growth track. His leadership has helped his company respond to client needs, weather challenges, strengthen St. Cloud, and establish a national presence.
The company’s commitment extends beyond its doors to the greater community. This philanthropic organization has made contributing to the community part of its culture. They annually donate five percent of profits to charity and support community involvement and volunteerism among their employees.
Warzecha will be honored at the Minnesota Small Business Week Awards program on May 6, 2014, at the Minneapolis Marriott Northwest.
For more information:
720 W. Saint Germain
St. Cloud, MN 56301-3501
Andrew Levin (President) and Daniel Perkins (Chief Operations Officer) of Turkey To Go, based in Minneapolis, have been named the Minnesota Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
The Young Entrepreneur of the Year is selected annually based on success as measured by sales and profits, increased employment opportunities created by the business, development and/or utilization of innovative or creative business methods, and demonstrated entrepreneurial potential necessary for long-term business success and economic growth. If this wasn’t enough, all of these accomplishments are done before the Young Entrepreneur reaches the age of thirty (30). Michael Ryan, Director of the Twin Cities Small Business Development Center at the University of St. Thomas, nominated Drew and Dan for this award.
Turkey To Go is an exciting quick service restaurant that has its roots at the Minnesota State Fair for over 50 years. Turkey To Go serves giant turkey sandwiches and slow-roasted turkey drumsticks. The sandwiches are similar to a pulled-pork sandwich, with turkey that is roasted and pulled. You may not know it, but Minnesota is the leading turkey producer in the United States, and Dan and Drew have an exclusive partnership with the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association.
Dan and Drew have operated Turkey To Go since acquiring it in 2009. Under their management, Turkey To Go has gone from a little known food booth at the Minnesota state Fair to a brand that is well-known throughout the state of Minnesota. They have grown Turkey To Go into one of the top five grossing food booths at the Minnesota State Fair, and in 2012, were awarded the People’s Choice Award for “Best Food at the Fair.”
But Dan and Drew have not rested on their State Fair laurels; they continue to grow rapidly. In 2010, they successfully worked with the Minneapolis City Council to pass a local ordinance allowing mobile food trucks in downtown Minneapolis and now have their own food trucks on Nicollet Mall and South 8th Streets. In 2011, Turkey To Go opened two concessions at Target Field, the home of the Minnesota Twins.
To offset the seasonality of the State Fair, Food Truck and Baseball season food business, in 2012, Dan and Drew opened two year-round locations in the Minneapolis and Saint Paul skyway systems.
Their sales and employment numbers have also grown impressively with each year. Before they began operating Turkey To Go in 2009, the State Fair business had sales of $362,000. Today Turkey To Go’s sales have surpassed $1 million and they employ eight people at the four new locations.
But Turkey To Go is not their first entrepreneurial venture. Dan and Drew met as freshmen at the University of Florida in 2001, and immediately connected through their drive to succeed and respect for the hard work needed to achieve their goals. In 2004, they raised capital for an online social entertainment network called Yfly.com. Unfortunately, the technology platform was unable to support the millions of users coming to the website and it failed in 2006.
Building on their experience from Yfly.com, Dan and Drew identified a market opportunity created by the collapse of the U.S. housing market, and in 2007, formed D&D Real Estate Holdings LLC. They first acquired several residential properties near the University of Minnesota. Today they currently own and manage over 40 residential properties in the Twin Cities.
As a result of this success, in 2012, they inked a deal to film a new television series for Home & Garden TV (HGTV) following them as they purchase, remodel and rent properties. The series is scheduled to air in the summer of 2013.
With respect to community involvement, both Dan and Drew are committed to charitable causes. Dan participates in the Big Brother program and has employed a family member of his “little brother.” Drew is a founding member of the Alzheimer’s Association Young Champions group and Turkey To Go has underwritten the food for the Alzheimer’s Association Young Champions Gala for the past three years, and will again do so for the upcoming gala.
Dan and Drew participated in SBA’s Emerging Leaders program in 2011. The goal of the SBA Emerging Leader initiative is to target inner-city businesses across the country that show a high potential for growth—and to provide them the network, resources and motivation required to build a sustainable business of size and scale.
SBA is increasing outreach to areas historically challenged by high levels of unemployment and poverty. Bolstering entrepreneurial success in these areas will generate new jobs, attract investment, and provide a more sustainable economic base in distressed areas. The program enables participating small businesses to engage in an intensive curriculum focused on developing a winning, expansion strategy for their business, including options for capital access and contracting. Participants have the opportunity to work with experienced mentors, attend workshops and develop connections with their peers, city leaders, and financial community.
Dan and Drew will be honored at the Minnesota Small Business Week Awards program on May 6, 2013, at the Depot Minneapolis.