Watchful Eye

Let’s face it: stuff happens. But not if Elijah Shaw can help it.
“Security, when done correctly, is called prevention,” says Shaw, president and CEO of Icon Services Corp., a full-service security and investigative agency, specializing in executive and VIP protection. “So, it’s all about thinking of every conceivable threat or possible problem that can occur and then solving them before they happen.”

Founded in 1998, the St. Paul, Minnesota-based company merges what the client wants with want the company needs. For 2007, revenues were just shy of $3 million. Shaw, 34, anticipates earning $3.75 million in 2008, courtesy of lucrative contracts and expanding Icon Services’ reach.

Introduced to the industry at age 19 while working security at a night club to help pay for film school, Shaw says he immediately took to the field. After extensive training and working in retail loss prevention, the Chicago native moved to St. Paul to work with a corporate security and investigations firm. But when an opportunity to become a partner did not materialize as planned, Shaw decided to start his own company.

Using $25,000 in savings, the eager entrepreneur launched Icon Services. His major expenses included securing office space; purchasing errors, omissions, and liability insurance; and obtaining his professional license, one of his biggest challenges. “There was lots of red tape involved,” says Shaw, who started with just three bodyguards, including himself. “But it is one of my most valued possessions and a symbol of the hard work it took to get where I am today.”

Going in, Shaw knew his company needed to be different. “More often than not in security, nothing happens,” says Shaw who has a black belt in karate, and is also certified in First Aid and CPR. “So you end up training people to have very high skill sets, but after time some may become disillusioned or just plain bored.” To counter the high turnover, he married the idea of corporate security with celebrity protection. “Those skills translate but traditionally speaking, they’re two different marketplaces,” he adds.

The company’s first big deal came in 2000 with a $75,000 contract to handle background checks for Ford Motor Co., which remains one of its biggest clients. Today, clients have grown to include celebrities such as R&B singer Usher Raymond and supermodel Naomi Campbell. Outside the U.S., the company has security operations in Europe, Australia, and South Africa. Shaw says rates in the industry can run anywhere from $400 to about $1,000 per day, depending on the client, location, and level of risk.

His firm also offers free security services to victims of domestic abuse and domestic violence shelters courtesy of its ISC Safety Net initiative. Later this year, Icon Services will provide security for events associated with both the 2008 Republican and Democratic national conventions. And efforts are already in place to carve a more defined global space with trained overseas contractors. Be it pro bono or for hire, Shaw and his 32 full-time employees strive to meet the demands of clients and maintain the