• News
  • General

Consumer Products Finalists

Related Special Reports

Daphne's Greek Cafe

George Katakalidis


Daphne's Greek Cafe

It was George Katakalidis' darkest day that sparked his greatest achievement. Playing professional soccer with the San Diego Sockers, Katakalidis encountered that fear of all athletes - a career-ending injury. His means of livelihood had ended. His life would never be the same. And his response showed the stuff that he was made of.

Instead of giving in, he fought back. While he rehabilitated, he thought about a new course. He considered his strengths and weighed his options. He was passionate, he was determined, and he was Greek.

Looking around, he realized that there was a business opportunity that he could fill better than anyone else. Using updated versions of his mother's family recipes, Katakalidis opened the first Daphne's Greek Café in San Diego in 1991.

Just as it was in the days when he played professional soccer, Katakalidis' motto as an entrepreneur is, "Play to win."

Entering an industry in which he had no experience, his willingness to fight for what he believed in and refusal to take no for an answer were the tools he needed to succeed.

Learning as he went, Katakalidis' other mantra became, "Learn to fail fast." When something didn't work, Katakalidis noted it, made changes and adapted quickly.

Daphne's is built around serving fresh, fast and delicious Greek cuisine in a warm and friendly atmosphere. The unique menu may challenge some inexperienced diners, but Katakalidis has turned this potential disadvantage into an opportunity by using the differences to set his restaurants apart from the competition.

Daphne's meals are rooted in tradition, but Katakalidis has made use of the most current technology to maximize efficiency and improve customer experience.

He commissioned the development of a proprietary online ordering system that allows guests to place their orders in advance. The order is ready and waiting upon the guest's arrival. And online ordering for Daphne's catering has increased the profitability as well as the sales of that department.

On the day he founded Daphne's, Katakalidis turned adversity into triumph. The chain now employs over 700 people in 55 units throughout California and Arizona. The last five years have seen growth of at least 35 percent each year, and the company has become a leader in the quick casual segment of the restaurant industry. Daphne's delicious and unique cuisine has emerged as a superior brand and earned national recognition.

K2 Inc.

Richard Heckmann

Chairman & CEO

K2 Inc.

Richard "Dick" Heckmann had been chairman of K2 Inc. for two years when the former CEO of the company called to tell him that negotiations with lenders had reached a complete impasse and that K2 would need to file for bankruptcy within the next 24 hours.

Heckmann refused to accept this bleak assessment and took action. He called the lead banker in the situation, and in one 15-minute conversation, he worked out the deal points. K2 got additional financing and no longer needed to file for bankruptcy. Two months later, Heckmann became CEO of K2.

Heckmann had already noted that there was a classic consolidation opportunity in the sporting goods industry: there were numerous smaller sporting goods manufacturers, while at the same time sporting goods retailers were in the process of consolidating the retail market.

Determining that these bigger retailers would want fewer, bigger vendors to ensure delivery and cut costs, Heckmann decided to lead K2 to meet this demand. He concluded that K2 needed to get bigger and fast.

Since that time, he has guided K2 in the acquisition of 17 companies, buying only category-leading brands and seeking products that will readily integrate with K2's manufacturing and distribution infrastructure and disciplined valuation methodology.

The company's current mix of products is used primarily in sport activities such as baseball, softball, alpine skiing, snowboarding, in-line skating, mountain biking and water sports.

Heckmann also instituted a corporate culture that emphasizes innovation in thinking and demands the sharing of ideas and technology among divisions.

At the same time, he increased the option grants for the executive teams at each of the divisions so that there was more of a direct link between the performance of K2 and compensation. A previous structure where each team controlled its own budget and actually competed against the others was eliminated. As a result, divisions have profited mutually from the formal and informal sharing of ideas.

Only two-and-a-half years since becoming CEO, Heckmann has shaped K2 into a premier branded consumer products company. As of April 5, K2's stock price had increased 108 percent from the time Heckmann became CEO, especially impressive growth for the sporting goods industry, where sales last year increased approximately 4 percent.

Today, K2 products are sold in over 100 countries and represent a portfolio of over 35 leading brands.


Andy Laats

President & CEO


Chad DiNenna

Director of Marketing


The action sports industry is made up of the surf, skateboard and snowboard industries. These are all individual sports, and the men and women who practice them have to be comfortable in areas where there are no established rules or boundaries.

For participants, there is a strong tendency to blend their personalities, their lifestyles and their active participation in their sport into one. These sports contain a high degree of risk and require deep-rooted confidence in one's own abilities.

The very characteristics that made Andy Laats and Chad DiNenna avid fans of action sports made them superior entrepreneurs.

When DiNenna set out to buy himself a watch that was interesting, reliable and said something about who he was, and was unable to find one, he came to the realization he was looking at an untapped market.

DiNenna contacted Laats, and together they created Nixon. The company vision was based upon the dual truths that people, especially young people, have a tremendous need to express who they are through items that signal their identity, and there was currently no manufacturer offering to this market the kind of watch that DiNenna himself had been looking for.

The obstacles were many. With more than 400 brands of watches, the watch industry itself is over 500 years old and dominated by a few major players. Action sports retailers, on their side, were not interested in selling "jewelry."

But DiNenna and Laats hadn't climbed the mountain to take the ski lift down. They strapped on their boards and made their own run.

DiNenna and Laats recruited some of the best action sports athletes in the world to help develop their product. The move broke down the barriers to retailers and helped Nixon achieve a number of watch industry firsts, such as an altimeter watch with pre-programmed ski area base lodge elevations, and a patented locking system to hold down the excess strap when your watch is attached.

Nixon's product line now contains over 90 different models of watches, and the company's designs have been highlighted in design and general interest publications such as I.D., Rolling Stone, Spin, Maxim, Vanity Fair and The New York Times, among others.

Nixon has expanded to other action sports-related accessories, and sells its products in over 30 countries and supports a wholly-owned subsidiary in France and a partnership in Hong Kong.

User Response
0 UserComments