At the Top of Their Game

Competent and creative, these entrepreneurs are small businesses' elite

He opened for business with five cars.
Less than 10 years later, Underwood was able to open his second dealership. He bought the business where he got his first job as a car salesman more than 20 years prior. This time, he had a $2.5 million inventory of vehicles on the lot.
Underwood employs 35 people and sells between 80 and 100 cars a month. Last year, he sold 1,400 vehicles and brought in revenues of more than $10 million, and he’s the first minority dealer in the U.S. to be named National Quality Dealer of the Year by the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association.

Business Innovator of the Year NOMINEES
This award recognizes companies that have set trends and broken new ground in a particular industry.

RolloverSystems Inc.
TYPE OF BUSINESS Financial service
software provider
LOCATION Charlotte, NC
For Reggie Bowser, necessity was definitely the mother of invention. Having worked as a chief marketing officer charged with developing strategies to capture rollover IRA customers, and also as vice president of marketing at a lending institution, Bowser saw firsthand the hassles most people went through trying to transfer their corporate retirement savings from one vehicle to another. Bowser’s product, RolloverMarket, is a software program that helps individuals transfer their retirement savings into a tax-deferred IRA upon changing jobs.

The software is just over a year old, but Bowser has already realized a 137% jump in revenues; he’d projected 2003 revenues of about $2 million. The market is growing so fast that, for 2004, he’s projecting a 150% jump in revenues compared to last year. “All the financial institutions have responded very positively to what Rollover Systems does,” he says.
Currently, Bowser has one office and 15 employees, but he has plans to open sales offices on the East and West Coasts this year.

Rideau Vineyard
TYPE OF BUSINESS Winery and Tasting Room
LOCATION Santa Barbara, CA
Most of us retire to stop working, but not Iris Rideau. In 30 years, she owned three companies. Now she owns Rideau Vineyard, which she launched in 1997.
Two years prior to launching her vineyard, Rideau had to build it. She purchased 25 acres of land, complete with a historic, landmark 19th century farmhouse, and hired a consultant to help her develop it. The 15-acre vineyard has eight full-time employees and annually produces about 6,500 cases of wine (some 78,000 bottles). And along with maintaining her vineyard, she runs a tasting room. Rideau Vineyard’s revenues broke the $1 million mark in 2002, and last year, it brought in $1.5 million. Rideau has won several awards for her premium wines and has been written about in Wine Spectator magazine.
Competition is thick in Santa Barbara, where Rideau Vineyards is based: More than 60 other vineyards and wineries share the same general location. But Rideau sets her winery apart by offering tasty Creole cuisine at her tastings.

Orthopedic Sciences Inc.
TYPE OF BUSINESS Medical device manufacturing
PRESIDENT/CEO James K. Brannon, M.D.
LOCATION Los Angeles
OSI is making strides in the medical world thanks to the inventions of one man. James Brannon is a

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