Happy National Entrepreneurs' Day! We're taking the opportunity to celebrate this unofficial holiday to honor local entrepreneurs who are doing amazing things for customers and the economy. Because where would Utah County be without its myriad small business owners?
We wish we could highlight every one of the thousands of entrepreneurs across Utah County — but these 11 local business owners will have to do.
Naomi Smith: Naomi Lou Studios
A journey that Pleasant Grove resident Naomi Smith started in her childhood finally came to fruition with the recent opening of her own Irish dance studio this year. An Irish dance champ who performed frequently throughout her childhood and teenage years, Smith decided to go through the grueling process of becoming a certified Irish dance teacher in adulthood.
“Irish dance is not an, ‘everybody gets a medal, everybody gets a trophy,’” she said. “It’s very clear(ly) defined who’s working hard and who’s not, and who’s willing to go the distance with their own goals.”
Elizabeth Sarquis: Global Gaming Initiative and Jukko
As the CEO, founder and co-founder of not one, but two tech companies, Elizabeth Sarquis has accomplished a lot in her lifetime. She is the founder and CEO of Global Gaming Initiative, and co-founder and CEO of Jukko, and she moved Jukko's operations to Lehi in May 2019.
She hopes to become a role model for women in tech. “There’s a lot of culture that we can change,” Sarquis said. “I want to see more women in leadership positions.”
Kendall Hulet: Cake Technologies
Headed by CEO Kendall Hulet, Provo-based company Cake Technologies takes on the issue of privacy with a mobile browser designed to collect the least amount of personal information possible.
“I think that people probably don’t realize how much other people know about what they’re doing online. And it’s kind of scary,” said Kendall Hulet, Cake CEO.
Matt Eau Claire: Clear Water Distilling Co.
Pleasant Grove is now home to Utah County's first ever distillery, thanks to entrepreneur Matt Eau Claire. Clear Water Distilling Co. has been Eau Claire's passion project for years, and though the facility is mostly finished, he surmises the distillery will official open sometime in January because of the time-intensive distilling process.
“We’re constantly trying to figure out new recipes,” Eau Claire said. “Our shtick is just to be creative and provide bartenders something new to experiment with.”
Colton Soelberg: Communal restaurant
Co-founder and original chef Colton Soelberg reflected on the past decade at Communal restaurant's tenth anniversary last October.
Although Soelberg said he feels Communal and its food have become somewhat more refined over the years, it continues to be ingredient-driven and draws inspiration from a simple source: Sunday dinners.
“Similar to what you’d have maybe Sunday dinner where everything just comes to the table and you’re sharing things around,” he said. “That was kind of like the basis of it.”
Asher Bambrough: Nebo Nightmare Haunted Forest
During the Halloween season, a Woodland Hills neighborhood gets haunted, thanks to 18-year-old Asher Bambrough.
Four years ago, Bambrough said he was out in his backyard with friends and the idea of building his own haunted house just came to him, and he's built and run Nebo Nightmare Haunted House each Halloween season since then, adding new attraction and updates each year.
Bambrough plans to use the profits from his haunted house business to fund a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which he plans to serve next year.
Dave Sewell: ikiki shoes
After visiting China, where he noticed an abundance of small children walking around in squeaky shoes, Dave Sewell decided to take the footwear idea to Orem. His product, which he calls "ikiki" shoes, became a hit among young children: kids love the sound and bright colors, and parents love that the squeaker, located in the heel, promotes healthy heel-to-toe walking.
“We got real excited ... hearing from parents that their child was walking better due to positive reinforcement for heel-to-toe walking provided by the squeaker,” Sewell said. “We have had a number of children with various kinds of disabilities and walking disorders who walk in a more healthy manner after being ‘trained’ by our shoes.”
Kilee Haggard: Baby Bummy
Kilee Haggard was understandably sick of her young children having diaper blowouts, especially in public. So, she decided to create and sell a mom-made, mom-approved invention: the Baby Bummy.
The Baby Bummy looks like a normal diaper, but it’s meant to fit over a regular diaper and has the addition of “baby bumpers,” which Haggard is patenting. Haggard explained the bumpers are a better quality elastic that creates a better seal, and there’s also a strong, durable Velcro to keep it in place.
“The moms that have been testing them ... they love it,” she said. “(The blowout) stays inside the Baby Bummy, which is a lot easier to clean up than to have to change their clothes, give them a bath.”
Jay Davis: Pillow Cube
A side sleeper his whole life, Jay Davis, of Pleasant Grove, said he hated pillows, and would stack them to try and get the support he wanted and needed. This frustration eventually lead him to creating the Pillow Cube: a 12x12 square that’s either 5 or 7 inches wide, depending on personal sleeping preference, made of high-rebound foam which is antimicrobial and hypoallergenic, according to the Kickstarter site, and features a “silky smooth stretchy cover.”
“I’ve always just been like, man, there must be a better way to do this and make a better pillow,” Davis said.
Valerie and Tyler Kukahiko: Crust Club
What started as a food blogger selling chicken pot pies out of her home in Highland is now the highly popular Crust Club company. Selling crust-focused dinner and dessert pies, among other items, the wife and husband marks three years of having a storefront location this November.
“We were like, there’s a need there for a really good, homemade product (that’s) really easy,” Valerie Kukahiko said. “We’re all about convenience ... everybody wants something easy but really good. We just saw there was a need for it and so we thought, let’s figure this out and get it out to the masses.”
Michelle Luchese and Johnathan Ruggiero: Manly Bands
Wife and husband team Michelle Luchese and Johnathan Ruggiero started a men's wedding band business after Ruggiero couldn't find a wedding ring himself to his liking.
“It was just like, get a ring so we can get married,” Ruggiero said. “(My ring) meant something because of the wedding and my commitment but in terms of like, the piece of metal ... I didn’t connect with it.”
Dubbing their Orem business Manly Bands, the couple creates rings made out of unique materials, such as dinosaur bone, antler and more.