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Mod III Lunches, 2015

Lunch with an Entrepreneur, Mod III, 2015


Wednesday, January 14, 1:00 to 2:00, Dean’s Conference Room

Steve Gruver (Owen 2001Steve Gruver is a hard core manufacturing person.  He graduated from the Rochester institute of Technology in 1989 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, and immediately went to work for Orchid International.  The company was founded in Ontario, Canada, and later moved to Brentwood, TN.  Shortly after it moved to Brentwood, Steve entered the Executive MBA program at Owen where he completed his degree in 2001.

 He is Co-CEO/Owner of Orchid Technologies.  The company is a world class supplier of engineered metal products and assemblies with core competencies in precision metal stamping, automated assembly, fabrication, robotic TIG & MIG welding, projection & resistance welding, precision machining and fastening processes.  The Mount Juliet location is a leading supplier of automotive entry hinge mechanisms, precision metal stampings, automotive sub-assemblies, and complex fabricated cabinets & assemblies.  This plant supplies  electric vehicle traction drive motors, electric vehicle motor controllers, rotor & stator assemblies, and electrical laminations to a variety of customers..

 The  Monroe plant is a world class supplier of motor & generator laminations and motor technology with core competencies in high-speed electrical lamination stamping, aluminum die casting, robotic welding, annealing, metal slitting, and automated assembly processes.

 In addition to its US plants, the company has several plants in Mexico that produce castings

Home page is:


Friday, January 23, 1:00 to 2:00, Dean’s Conference Room

David Hornsby (Owen 1986)  David Hornsby went to work for CRC Equities upon graduating from Owen in 1986.  After tiring of working for a big company, he moved to Christie Cookies, where he used what he had learned about linear programming  in his Operations class at Owen to calculate the optimal location of chocolate chips in the company’s  cookies (just kidding).  Starting in 1994 he bummed around for a couple of years and then hit on the brilliant idea of parking cars for a living.

David owns and operates Executive Travel and Parking at 616 Royal Parkway near the Nashville Airport.  His integrated operation can book your trip for you and park your car while you are away.  There are interesting challenges a parking company faces, so be sure to ask David what he has learned about politics and how it can affect your business. 

It won’t be a dull session.


Full disclosure:  I have been a committed customer of Executive Travel and Parking for over 15 years.


Tuesday, January 27, 1:00 to 2:00, Dean’s Conference Room


Mike Butera   Since this is Music City we try to pick up some of the local music entrepreneurs, and this brings us Mike Butera.   Mike has training in sound and technology studies that focused on auditory experience, historical innovations in sonic technologies, and socio-cultural networks.  In other words he is a musician who understands technology.  And he has used this knowledge to develop a digital instrument called Artiphon, an instrument that turns an iPhone into a variety of instruments like a banjo, a guitar, or a violin.  He showcased it at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, this past March.

 The company raised $670,000 in this past November.

 Here is how he describes the instrument on his web page:

Artiphon has developed an instrument that adapts to the way you want to play: strum like a guitar, slide like a violin, tap like keys, and loop like drums.

Play thousands of music apps with one instrument that goes with you anywhere. Exploring new sounds and styles becomes simple and natural from your very first note.

To hear what it sounds like,  paste this link in your browser.

 Only in Nashville!!!!


Tuesday, February 3, 1:00 to 2:00, Dean’s Conference Room

Doug Hudson (Owen 1994)  Doug Hudson came to Owen to get an MBA so he would not have to go work in the hearing aid business his family owned and operated.   Upon receiving his MBA in 1994, Doug went to work as a bond trader for a local financial services firm, J.C. Bradford & Co.  In 1998 Doug realized that bond trading was becoming a business with shrinking margins that would probably stay that way, so he looked around to see where he could find a business with better margins.

 1998 was a time when the internet was just getting started, and Doug recognized the value of having a business that took advantage of this new technology.  So he explored different kinds of products that could be sold over the internet without a store front and its related overhead.  He looked for products that were not now sold online, and he came up with the idea of selling hearing aids (see above) online.  He founded Hearing Planet in 1999, a company that marketed hearing aids online and then connected the customer with a local audiologist who did the installation and fitting. 

 After seven years of successful operation (he was a pioneer in using the internet to connect with his customers), he sold the company and started his next venture, Simplex Healthcare, Inc.   This company sold products to people with diabetes; again the internet was the medium Doug used to market his products.

  He sold this company in 2013 and started his next venture, SmileCareClub, Inc., a company that provides high-quality, professional results at a fraction of the cost of traditional braces and other invisible aligners.  You will have to get him to tell you more about this one.



Monday, February 9, 1:00 to 2:00, Dean’s Conference Room

 Jon Yarbrough  Jon is a graduate of Tennessee Tech and a foosball aficionado.  In fact, he has won several foosball tournaments.   His interest in foosball led to his success in business.  While a student at Tennessee Tech he found that the small apartment in which he lived would not hold both him and his foosball table so he worked a deal with a local bar to let him keep his foosball table in the bar if he would split the revenue with the bar.  At the end of the first week, he emptied out the coin box on the table and found 800 quarters ($200).  So he bought more foosball tables and placed them around other bars in Cookeville.

 From foosball tables he graduated to video games, and, being an engineering student, he took one apart and decided he could build these games himself.  During the summers while he was in school he worked for the Southwestern Company selling books door to door.  Southwestern is famous for its sales training program that brings thousands of students from all over the world to Nashville each year to teach them how to sell.  His first assignment was to sell books in Dallas, Texas.  There he learned that the Texas chiggers are much meaner than the Tennessee chiggers.

 Eventually he built a company that produced video games and that evolved into the manufacture of flat panel video games that replaced “one armed bandits” in casinos.  A casino could put many more electronic gambling machines in a given space than they could slot machines.

 Jon also flies his own jet plane, drives a pickup truck whose front and back wheels steer, and has a lovely home in Brentwood, Tennessee.  He sold his company, Video Gaming Technologies, in July last year to  Australian gaming firm Aristocrat for $1.28 billion in cash.