ASU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences alumni honored for entrepreneurial spirit

Award honoring alumni

Each year, the Arizona State University Alumni Association selects and honors leaders of organizations from around the world who demonstrate innovation, growth and entrepreneurial spirit. This year, 12 College of Liberal Arts and Sciences alumni will be recognized at the Sun Devil 100 Class of 2018 reception.

Honorees are invited back to campus for an award ceremony and get the opportunity to connect with each other, meet with ASU leaders and deans and interact with aspiring student entrepreneurs.

Meet this year’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences inductees:

Andrew Gutierrez, president and CEO, Gutierrez-Palmenberg Inc.

Gutierrez has been president and CEO of Gutierrez-Palmenberg Inc., which operates Phoenix Internet and a commercial data center, since 1997. Phoenix Internet has the largest fixed-point wireless provider in the Phoenix Metro area with nearly 50 tower sites. Gutierrez also served as a youth mentor through New Pathways for Youth and was active in Rotary International. He received his bachelor’s degree in economics from ASU in 2011, a degree originally started in 1992.

Message to future entrepreneurs and innovators: “The Phoenix market presents a rich, fertile ground to plant the seeds of entrepreneurship. ASU's proud reputation, storied history and engaged network of alumni make the Valley of the Sun an ideal place for your dreams and aspirations to take root and grow into the most innovative businesses of the future.”

Angel Jannasch-Pennell, PhD, co-founder, president and CEO, KOI Education

Jannasch-Pennell co-founded KOI Education in 2011. The firm offers consulting and training services including a training academy focused on the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) model. Jannasch-Pennell serves on the boards of the Arizona K12 Center and the Southwest Kids Cancer Foundation. Jannasch-Pennell received her doctorate in curriculum and instruction in 1996, her master's in special education/technology integration in 1993 and her bachelor's in sociology in 1991, all from ASU.

Message to future entrepreneurs and innovators: “‘Rapport before rigor’ is a phrase often used in schools to remind educators of the importance of building relationships with students first, before teaching can affect learning. Strong relationships are also at the heart of business. Take the time to break bread together — it’s an investment you won’t regret.”

Ben Ellis, founding partner and designated broker, E & G Real Estate Services

Ellis has been the designated broker and founding partner for E & G Real Estate Services since 2013. He began his real estate career in 2008 as the marketing and transaction coordinator for the real estate investment firm Marcus & Millichap. He is a director for the Jewish Community Association of Greater Phoenix and a member of the ASU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Council. Ellis received a bachelor's in communication from ASU in 2008.

Message to future entrepreneurs and innovators: “Map it out, then take action. Keep a clear vision. The outcome is only uncertain for those who disbelieve. Plan tomorrow before you leave today.”

Eric Flottman, chief operating officer, Higher Ed Growth

Flottmann has been the chief operating officer for Higher Ed Growth since 2007. Higher Ed Growth provides services to higher education institutions. Flottmann also serves as the chief technology officer for Green Nurture, a firm that helps companies incorporate sustainability into their operations, and is the co-founder of Flattmann received a BA in communication from ASU in 2001 and an MBA from the University of Phoenix in 2007.

Message to future entrepreneurs and innovators: “No matter which industry you choose, it will change over time. It’s inevitable. And an opportunity. Over the years, we’ve had to redefine who we are as a company. It’s key to our success. So, create a business model and team that is able to pivot and embrace what’s next.”

Jennifer Kaplan, owner and founder, Evolve Public Relations and Marketing

Kaplan founded Evolve Public Relations and Marketing in 2010. She previously was the director of public relations for Spark Design LLC. She was a co-founder and partner in PRIME 3 LLC, a Phoenix-based public relations, marketing and event planning firm, from 2005–09. In 2017, she was named by Arizona Business Magazine as one of the Most Influential Women in Arizona Business. Kaplan received a bachelor's in communication from ASU in 1996.

Message to future entrepreneurs and innovators: “Go for it! Don't be scared, don't let your fear of taking a risk hold you back! Make sure you are doing something you believe in — I would say make sure it’s something you love, because I love what I do; however, I have seen many successful people not love what they do, but they believe in it and have a passion for it.”

Kara Goldin, founder and CEO, Hint Inc.

Goldin founded Hint Inc., best known as a manufacturer of fruit-flavored waters, in 2005. She has received numerous accolades including inclusion on Fortune’s list of Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs and Forbes’ 40 Women to Watch Over 40. In 2016, she launched the Kara Network, an online platform for entrepreneurs. Goldin is a member of the Campaign ASU 2020 council. She received her BA in communication from ASU in 1989.

Message to future entrepreneurs and innovators: “Usually the best ideas come from an entrepreneur looking to solve their own need.”

Kathleen Duffy, president, Duffy Group, Inc.

Founded in 1991, the Duffy Group provides an alternative to the traditional fee-based model often used by executive search firms. Duffy said she wanted to create an entity with an unprecedented commitment to work-life balance for her team. “I am proud that Duffy Group was one of the first companies to innovate and operate an entirely remote workforce in the ’90s,” she said. Duffy graduated from ASU in 1981 with a BA in communication.

Message to future entrepreneurs and innovators: “Be true to your leadership style and stand firm on the culture of the organization. For many years, I felt I did not fit into the role of a typical CEO. I am a kinder, gentler version of a CEO role, and I am a confident leader because of it.”

Marianne Howard, grants writer, Mercy Haven Inc.

Howard joined Mercy Haven Inc., a social service agency located in Islip Terrace, New York, in January. She previously served as the executive director of the Smithtown (N.Y.) Historical Society for almost three years. She has certificates in professional fundraising and nonprofit management. She received an master's in anthropology from ASU in 2001 and a bachelor's in anthropology from the University of Albany SUNY in 1999.

Message to future entrepreneurs and innovators: “Challenge and believe in yourself. If you don't, then who will?”

Rami Kalla, owner and founder, Point in Time Studios

Kalla founded Point in Time studios in 2002. The Tempe-based firm produces videos, animations and virtual-reality presentations for various commercial purposes. Prior to launching his company, Kallas was a business planning associate for General Mills. He is a past president of the Arizona Production Association. Kalla received a bachelor's in management and a bachelor's in Spanish from ASU, both in 1999.

Message to future entrepreneurs and innovators: “If I could build a time machine, I would go back and tell my college self three things:

  1. Surround yourself with like-minded entrepreneurs.

  2. Read and never stop learning.

  3. Pursue a business that you are passionate about. You will have challenges, so you better love what you do!”

Scott Cooper, CEO and co-founder, MEJDI Tours

Cooper co-founded MEJDI Tours in 2009. The company provides groups and individuals with customized itineraries for travel to locations worldwide. Prior to launching MEDJI, he served as co-executive director of the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University. Cooper received his bachelor's in political science from ASU in 2003. He received an MS in conflict analysis and resolution from George Mason University in 2010.

Message to future entrepreneurs and innovators: “Social problems have typically been relegated to governments and nonprofits to solve. Furthermore, the brightest entrepreneurs have been told they can’t work on these issues and make a good living. Reject these notions. Any social problem is only your imagination away from solving. The world needs you!”

Reagan Jackson, owner, CEO Etc.

Charles Reagan Jackson, who goes by his middle name, is the owner of several Texas-based technology businesses. He has owned CEO Etc., which also is known as CEO Technologies and Computers, Electronics and Offices (CEO) Etc., since 2009. His other businesses include Crosspoint Data Centers, Nalcom Wireless Communications Inc., East Texas Broadband and CEO Security. Jackson received a bachelor's in communications from ASU in 2004.

Message to future entrepreneurs and innovators: “Beginning a partnership is definitely one of the most important decisions that I have made. I say this for many reasons, as I understand many partnerships do not work out. Growing a complicated business at a high growth rate is extremely taxing on all parties involved. I do not believe I could have done it without a partner that I trust as well as one who brings much to the table to complement me in many ways. We tend to balance each other out and keep each other positive and moving forward.

“Hiring the right management team and employees who are committed to your vision is another very important consideration. As you hire personnel, it's hard to instill your values, but if you hire a team that share in those values, you are in a much better spot to grow together at a rapid pace.”

Susan Timm, owner, SCM Timm Enterprises d/b/a Knife & Fork Media Group

Timm founded SCM Timm Enterprises in 2010. The firm specializes in providing marketing, public relations and strategic communications with an emphasis on the food and beverage industry. Previously, she had a successful banking career, serving as community bank president for UMB Bank from 2007–09. Only 27 at the time, she was the youngest bank president in Arizona. She received a bachelor's degree, cum laude, in political science from ASU in 2000.

Message to future entrepreneurs and innovators: “Nothing replaces hard work when it comes to success. There's not a magic pill or easy way. Your success will be directly related to your level of passion and how hard you are willing to work to accomplish your goals. Do not follow the trends, just put your head down, and follow your path. Success comes to anyone willing to sacrifice and work for it.”

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