GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A creator of organic fertilizers, an inventor of tasty seasonings and a wealth-management advisor are just three of 12 alumni of the University of Florida’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences honored Feb. 6 for their entrepreneurial efforts.
UF recognized each of them for leading one of the 100 fastest-growing, most innovative and emerging companies at the inaugural Gator100 Awards at UF’s Reitz Union Grand Ballroom in a celebration organized by the Warrington College of Business Administration’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
Ernst & Young calculated each company’s compound annual growth rate over the past three years to generate the ranking.
The honorees, their entrepreneurial efforts and their CALS degrees are listed in alphabetical order, by last name:
- Nate and Sarah Bazinet; founders of Sunshine Plumbing and Gas; Micanopy, Florida. In 2003, Nate earned a bachelor’s degree in microbiology and cell science, and Sarah earned a bachelor’s degree with a double major in wildlife ecology and animal sciences. They founded Sunshine Plumbing and Gas in 2009. Prior to launching Sunshine Plumbing and Gas, Nate worked part-time in the plumbing industry while also working at the UF Cytogenic Lab, and Sarah was working as a veterinary technician and contemplating a career as a veterinarian. Together, they have grown the company to more than 30 employees and a service area reaching across central Florida from multiple regional offices.
- Chad Buckmaster; CEO of Processing Point; Carlsbad, California. Buckmaster earned a bachelor’s degree in food and resource economics in 2002. Processing Point is a leading provider of innovative solutions for small businesses nationwide. Products range from cutting-edge, cloud-based timekeeping software to the latest in mobile payment processing and point-of-sale solutions. San Diego Business Journal named Buckmaster a 2014 finalist for its “Most Admired CEO” award.
- William “Bill” Hamm Jr.; founder and CEO of Independent Financial Partners; Tampa, Florida. Hamm earned a bachelor’s degree in food and resource economics in 1979. He founded William E. Hamm and Associates, Inc. in 1995 and formed IFP in 2000. IFP consists of a national network of more than 500 advisors in 38 states, providing comprehensive wealth management services with $35 billion in assets under advisement.
- Robert “Mike” Lester Jr.; founder and CEO of Talon Wealth Management; The Villages, Florida. Lester earned a bachelor’s degree in food and resource economics in 1996. He founded Epic Financial Group in 1998 and has grown it to a multimillion dollar financial service company. He then partnered with ING Financial Partners to provide independent investment services and in 2012, he rebranded his branch offices as Talon Wealth Management to continue providing independent investment advice and services.
- Dani McVety; co-founder of Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice, Lutz, Florida. McVety earned a bachelor’s degree in microbiology and cell science in 2004. She partnered with Mary Gardner to found Lap of Love soon after she graduated from UF’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 2009. Lap of Love is a network of veterinarians specializing in end-of-life care and in-home euthanasia and is the largest network of its kind. The network has grown to more than 50 veterinarians across the U.S. In 2013, McVety received the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Distinguished Young Alumna Award.
- William “Trey” Mueller III and Stephen “Trey” Walding III; co-founders and co-owners of Dental Associates of Florida; Tampa, Florida. Both earned bachelor’s degrees in food science and human nutrition; Mueller in 2001 and Walding in 1992; and both are graduates of the UF College of Dentistry. Dental Associates is a network of dentists serving west central Florida with 10 Tampa area locations including Winter Haven, Bartow, Lakeland and Plant City.
- Jodi Reed; founder and owner of the Harmony Animal Hospital; Apex, North Carolina. Jodi earned a bachelor’s degree in animal sciences in 1997 and a doctor of veterinary medicine degree from UF in 2001. In May 2009, Jodi established Harmony Animal Hospital, following interning and practicing in California, as well as practicing for eight years at several clinics in Apex. Her husband, Jason Lenhardt, joined her in establishing the practice and serves as Practice Manager.
- Andrew “Drew” Sheahan; founder and president of Virtual Fleet Supervisor; Oviedo, Florida. Sheahan earned a bachelor’s degree in food and resource economics in 2003. Sheahan launched his company in 2009 while working from home to be with his wife during an illness. VFS is a fleet-tracking and management system that uses GPS technology to monitor various aspects of a fleet vehicle’s operation. In 2014, the company was ranked No. 126 by Inc. Magazine in their Inc. 5,000 fastest-growing companies.
- Ghazi Taki; founder and chairman of Amazing Taste Foods; Malibu, California. Taki earned a doctorate in animal science in 1965 with a focus on meat science. During his career, he invented many products, such as the foot-long, frozen, hardboiled egg and the hard-cooked diced egg, Adolph’s Food Products meat and poultry tenderizing marinades, and other popular seasonings. A mazing Taste meat and seafood seasonings are sold in supermarkets nationwide.
- Amir Varshovi; founder and president, Green Technologies; Gainesville, Florida. Varshovi earned a master’s degree in 1991 and a doctorate in 1995, both in soil and water science. In 1999, Varshovi founded Green Technologies, manufacturer of advanced slow-release organic fertilizers for golf courses and lawns, using its patented process for transforming byproducts from water treatment into renewable products that promote sustainability and environmental consciousness. He was awarded the 2014 Small Business Person of the Year for the state of Florida by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
For more information about the Gator100, visit www.gator100.ufl.edu.
Cutline: Pictured, front row left to right are Elaine Turner, dean of the University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences; Amir Varshovi; Ghazi Taki; Dani McVety; and Jodi Reed; second row left to right, “Drew ” Sheahan; “Trey” Walding; “Trey” Mueller; and Jason Lenhardt; third row, left to right, “Mike” Lester; Bill Hamm; Mary Gardner; Nate and Sarah Bazinet. (Not pictured is Chad Buckmaster) .
By Brad buck, 352-294-3303, firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Elaine Turner, 352-392-1961, email@example.com