Things are looking up for businesses in Nevada, particularly in Northern Nevada, where such companies as 3G Studios, Campo, Dolan Automotive Group, and Jimmy Beans Wool are flourishing. In 2012, Nevada was ranked No. 3 “Most Business Friendly Tax Climate” by the Tax Foundation for 2013, as well as the No. 12 “Best State for Business” earning five out of five stars in Taxation & Regulation and four out of five stars in Workforce Quality and Living Environment by Chief Executive Magazine. Not to mention, the Part-Time MBA Program at the University of Nevada, Reno was also recently ranked No. 4 in the country by a 2011 BusinessWeek report.
While having an environment that’s conducive to business is just one prerequisite for entrepreneurial success, having the vision, passion, mission, and energy to bring it all together are quite another. Of the talks given by James Kosta, CEO of 3G Studios; Mark Estee, chef/owner of Campo; Ryan Dolan, General Manager of Dolan Automotive Group; and Laura Zander, co-owner of Jimmy Beans Wool; several common themes emerged including the philosophy that running a business well requires vision, passion, energy, risk-taking, hard work, flexibility, and adaptation. Below are some of the stories these individuals shared at the Tedx University of Nevada, Reno event and the key insights from each.
3G Studios – As the CEO of an independent video game development studio, James Kosta focused his talk on his vision for the future of online gaming, to be led by Nevada, by combining video game technology with online gaming. In 2012, 3G Studios was the first video game company to apply for an online poker license. By operating as the driving force behind the innovative vision of 3G Studios, his company has been able to grow, adapt, and lead the charge in terms of new technological endeavors. Founded in 2006, 3G Studios has approximately 50 employees and pulls in an estimated $10.5 million in annual revenue.
Campo – Mark Estee’s talk focused on passion. As chef and owner of a highly successful downtown Reno restaurant that opened alongside the Truckee River in 2011, Estee has managed to build a business around this concept. The Campo Reno web site notes that Estee’s culinary career has been driven by a deep love for the authentic ingredients that create true connections between land, farmer, food, and diner. He continues to forge new territory in his own cooking technique known as “Whole Hog Philosophy,” which focuses on digging deeper into the fuller flavors produced from using every portion of every ingredient. In his talk, he also placed an emphasis on building relationships—particularly with farmers, fisherman, and ranchers—which has also been central to his business approach.
As such, Estee can be found actively sharing his passions and building relationships through his web site, social media presence, interactions within the community, and inside of his restaurant. In 2012 Campo was named to the 2012 “Best New Restaurant” list in Esquire Magazine.
Dolan Automotive Group – Ryan Dolan’s talk focused on the need for business to be integrated within the community and noted that “business is a vessel that can take you there.” As general manager of a family-owned, well-integrated automotive business in the Northern Nevada region, he said at one point he decided that it was time to give back to the community to not only do the right thing, but to get more involved within it, as well as to build strategic relationships with future consumers.
From this service-based mission, Dolan Automotive Group’s “class project” idea was born, whereby area public school teachers are asked to submit a concept for a classroom project on behalf of students. Teacher proposals are then voted on by fans of the Dolan Automotive Group Facebook page and the top 20 vote-earners receive $2,500 to help bring the idea to life. In 2011, the inaugural $50,000 Class Project awarded 20 Northern Nevada classrooms with $2,500 each. This program not only aided local schools in countless ways, but it established brand awareness throughout the region and also took care of the social media “problem” of needing to grow a strong presence online. Their Facebook page grew from 0 fans in June of 2011, to over 30,000 fans by January of 2013.
Jimmy Beans Wool – Laura Zander’s talk focused on the need for being flexible, adapting, and going with the flow in business. She shared a story about having her two-year old son ask the pilot of an airplane whether or not he could sit in the cockpit. Despite her husband’s disagreement, she thought, the worst that can happen is that he says no, but can you imagine what might happen if he said yes?
This moment in time became a metaphor for how she approaches her business. As a former San Francisco-based software engineer, running a business that sells yarn (which, not to mention sold $7 million worth of knitting and crochet products and fabric in 2012) is certainly not what she had originally pictured for herself. But by continually asking questions, prodding, experimenting/risk taking, and driving her ideas forward, she has ended up where she is today with over 50 employees, a 20,000-square-foot building, and 1,000 orders on a good day. Her best advice? “Dream big and go with the flow, because you never know where the flow is going to take you.” Put another way: “If you dream big, assume failure, work hard, and stay flexible, your imagination can take you places you never dreamed.”
In closing, these Northern Nevada businesses are thriving. It’s not every day we get the chance to hear such insights from entrepreneurs who are forging ahead and making excellent progress. Take the time to watch their talks, as well as to understand and internalize their advice so that you too can apply such lessons and make dreams a reality in your own life!
Photography provided by Theresa Danna Douglas and Alixzandra Collaro.