Success Stories

Trick or Treat Studios Masks

Chris Zephro was always a huge fan of horror. He decided to start his own business because he hated working for corporate America.  He wanted to do something for which he had true passion. 

            In order to understand the financial side of running a business, Chris earned an MBA from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.  He never wrote a formal plan for his own business.  He did write business plans for at least twenty other companies as a graduate student. 

            Chris quickly chose the name Trick or Treat studios because of its iconic connection to Halloween. 

            His favorite licensee to work with has been Halloween II.  It was his first major studio deal.  He called Universal Studios incessantly to get access to the movie licensing.  Eventually, he was granted a fifteen minute interview at a licensing expo, which ended up running two hours.  Today the Michael Myers mask produced by Trick or Treat studios is the most sold mask in the... Read More

Greg and Neil Rising Sun Solar Install

Neil and Greg Maguire got their first taste of business partnership on their shared childhood paper route.  The brothers were born two years apart, the sons of Irish immigrants.  Neil and Greg’s father worked as an electrician at Guinness before immigrating to America. 

The brothers haven’t always worked together.  Neil worked in a number of roles in the automotive, software, semiconductor, and battery industries and their various intersection points.  Greg meanwhile served as a pilot in the US Navy, working his way up through the ranks to retire as a Captain.

Both brothers were interested in partnering on some sort of enterprise once Greg was out of the Navy.  In 2012, Neil’s then-employer, National Semiconductor, was acquired by Texas Instruments.  Rather than move to Texas with the company, Neil decided to investigate the market potential for a new energy business in early 2013 (the first was an automotive software company sold to Agile Software in 2003).  Greg,... Read More

Max Gunawan

            For Max Gunawan, being a small business owner wasn’t the goal.  He was an architect for over a decade. 

            Max decided to channel some of his creativity to create a functional and beautiful portable light. The end result was Lumio.  Lumio is a dynamic, multi-functional lamp that conceals itself in the form of a hard-cover book. The light opens to 360 degrees and is versatile in a number of settings. He designed, built and sourced the manufacturing by himself. “It grew organically from there and slowly turned into a full-fledged business when I realized there was a huge demand for the product,” recounts Max.

            Max chose the name Lumio because he wanted a name that related to his illuminating product that was unique, catchy and easy to remember. The Lumio brand creates modern lighting systems with the simple goal of giving people the freedom to experience beautiful lighting wherever they are.  In business for over two years, Max has grown... Read More

Helen and Brooke

Twenty years ago, in the back of a small garage in Marin County, CA, Helen Russell and Brooke McDonnell were working on a big idea. Brooke had pawned her mother’s wedding ring to buy a small Italian coffee roaster, and Helen was fine-tuning a marketing plan for their new wholesale coffee roasting company. Brooke held a creative vision, and Helen distilled it into a business plan. Together, they were about to launch Equator Coffees & Teas, one of the first coffee projects of its kind. Eventually, it would grow into something larger than they’d ever imagined. But first, they had to start small.

The idea came to Brooke and Helen when they were still flipping houses in the Northeast. “We were sitting in front of a Starbucks in Portland. Brooke was having an espresso and I was having my mocha, and she was describing all the nuances of what she was drinking. I said ‘I love business, you love coffee. Let’s do this.’ So we wrote a business plan for a café; we drove down to San... Read More