Every year, Ernst and Young recognizes innovative business leaders through their Entrepreneur of the Year program. Of the 24 Utah region finalists, almost half of them are based in Utah County. This series highlights the nominated CEOs and company founders. The winner of the Utah regional Entrepreneur of the Year contest will be announced in June.
Doug Robinson, co-founder and CEO, LGCY Power
Several years ago, Doug Robinson was flying from Kathmandu in Nepal to the Mount Everest base camp. As the flew over one of the tallest villages in the world, Robinson said, he was struck by the power lines running up and down the side of the mountain housing this village.
“It dawned on me ... they distribute their power in the tallest village in the world, the same way we do outside here (in Utah). We burn stuff, and we send it thousands of miles up mountains around wherever to the end user that consumes it,” Robinson said. “In our day and age, with technology, that seems so archaic and crazy to me. I had this moment where I was like, there’s a much better way to do it.”
LGCY Power, Robinson’s residential solar power company, is now coming up on its five year anniversary. In that time, it’s grown 22,000%, Robinson said, and become the largest privately held residential solar sales company in the United States, with over 700 employees nationwide and offices in 19 states outside of Utah.
Robinson credits their growth to general growth in the renewable energy industry, a company culture that encourages people to become “the best version of themselves,” and technology.
“When we look worldwide, when we look at global warming and what’s happening and sort of the world economy, renewable energy is ... part of the solution to the challenges we’re facing with global warming,” Robinson said. “We’re at about 3% market penetration in the United States. In Germany they’re at 60% renewable energy, for example ... I think we’ll see a lot of renewable energy just continuing forward.”
The technology said of LGCY Power recently became a second company, called Ember. LGCY Power and now Ember has developed and continues to develop sales performance software that aims to help salespeople improve their efficiency and effectiveness when it comes to engaging with customers.
Russ Page, the president of Ember, has known Robinson for around 10 years. He started his own company building software for sales organizations and said he still remembers when Robinson first came and shared his business idea with Page’s company.
“I remember very vividly, Doug left, and me and my partners were like, ‘Let’s do this,’” Page said. “We said, ‘I don’t know what he’s doing, but we want to do it with Doug.’”
Page described Robinson as a visionary who would do everything possible to make his vision happen.
“He’s the ultimate optimist,” Page said. “It’s not surprising to me that we’ve grown 22,000%.”
Robinson’s wife, Krista, said Robinson has always been a hard worker.
“I knew that whatever he chose to do, he would be good at and very successful at,” she said.
Of course, it’s only the beginning. Robinson and his optimism are determined to change the world, or at least the way it’s powered, by “disrupting” the energy industry.
“That’s a $450 billion industry we can disrupt, and that (is) the exciting part of what we are doing, to go and disrupt that and ... make the world a better place, make the world a greener place, and do it while creating a ton of jobs and opportunities for people and helping them become the best versions of themselves as they do it,” Robinson said. “It’s pretty staggering to look at the impact that we’re having, both on the jobs that we’re creating, but also on our world.”
Learn more about LGCY Power by visiting their website, https://www.lgcypower.com/.
Sandi Sumner Hendry, owner, Minky Couture
Minky Couture didn’t start in Utah County, but owner Sandi Sumner Hendry did, and her family recently moved back. Hendry grew up in Orem, got her teaching degree at BYU and even taught a year at Orem Elementary before marrying her husband and moving to the Ogden-Layton area.
Twelve years ago, Hendry retired from teaching. Sometime in the next couple of years, she discovered a fabric she loved, “minky,” which had an incredibly soft texture. When one of her daughters had to stay in the hospital for several months for complications with her liver, Hendry commissioned a family friend to turn the fabric into a large blanket her daughter could have in the hospital with her.
“When I’d go back to see her (in the hospital), somebody else would always have her blanket on,” Hendry said.
So she had a few more blankets made, and then a few more, before finally ordering enough fabric to make 100 blankets to sell.
“I basically just sold them out of the trunk of my car,” Hendry said.
Eventually, the blankets were popular enough she opened up a little shop, which led to opening four more — Orem is the fourth store — and eventually an online store. This week, on Wednesday, Minky Couture celebrated its tenth anniversary.
“Just from one little blanket,” Hendry said.
Besides the high quality of fabric, which Hendry personally makes sure is up to snuff (and she isn’t afraid to send it back if it isn’t), Hendry said she feels what sets Minky apart from other companies is the variety of sizes and options for customization. Blankets range in size from “mini,” designed for infants, to “monster,” suitable for anyone over six feet tall, and patrons can choose to mix and match patterns and colors. A little over half of the blankets are hand sewn in Utah, while the rest are outsourced to manufacturers in California, Korea and China. Some of the thicker fabrics, Hendry said, are too much for her Utah seamstresses to tackle with their home sewing machines.
It’s easy to see that Minky has grown because of Hendry’s personal drive and vision. But it’s also because she wants to, almost literally, “blanket the world” with Minky.
“It’s really about giving back and giving something that she has seen enrich her family’s lives, this blanket, and she wants everyone to have it,” said Kristine Brown, general manager of Minky Couture. “Anytime that we can see a need or when we are presented with an opportunity to give back ... she’s eager to do that and wants Minky to grow simply for the fact that it can do good in the lives of others.”
One of the ways the company looks to give back is through their charity organization, “The Heart of Minky.” Hendry has had three different grandchildren who, when they were born, had to stay in the NICU. With the first grandson in the NICU, who is now 5 years old, Hendry placed a mini Minky with her daughter to absorb her scent, and her “love and faith.” The blanket was then placed with her then-tiny grandson in the incubator. According to The Heart of Minky’s manifesto, the grandson began to thrive and grow, encouraged by his mother’s scent.
“The blankets ... absorb the scent of the mom and then they put (the blankets) in the incubators, and (the babies) wrap their little hands around the ruffle or put it under their cheek and just smell the scent of their mom and they thrive,” Hendry said. “Plus it gives the mom ... just something new, something happy, something that connects them with the baby.”
So far, The Heart of Minky has donated mini blankets to NICUs in 19 states across the country. Her goal is to donate to NICUs in every state. Since the company started donating mini blankets to NICUs, Hendry said she’s been able to hear stories from moms about receiving blankets for their babies and how they plan to keep them forever.
“That’s kind of fun, to hear those stories and to know that we’re touching lives across the United States,” Hendry said. “It’s such an easy thing for us to donate that can change a life.”
It’s been quite the journey, Hendry said, and not without its bumps in the road, but it’s something she’s grateful to do.
“Every time there’s a purchase ... it’s a privilege. I feel that (people are) purchasing my product with their hard-earned money, and it means a lot to me that they’re taking that money and choosing us,” Hendry said. “I’m just blessed and grateful that people choose us.”
Learn more about Minky Couture by visiting their website, https://www.softminkyblankets.com.