In 2008, best friends Luke Murray and Brian Raney wanted to start a business incubator, a place for creative, high-tech, and entrepreneurial people to pursue their definition of
“Awesome” in the company of those who were doing the same.
The first year was rocky (they “had succeeded…in losing more than $40,000”). When they “reached out to successful Kentucky entrepreneurs…Unsurprisingly, they couldn’t seem to fit us into their schedules.”
Undaunted, in 2009, they started the Kentucky Entrepreneur Hall of Fame. Murray says in his introduction to “It’s funny to think that in 2010, we almost had to call off the event because no one took us seriously or responded to our invitation. For our most recent induction class (2016) we received more than one hundred nominations. We held the induction ceremony in a downtown Lexington hotel ballroom with more than three hundred guests, and instead of borrowing A/V equipment from UK, we had professional floor-to-ceiling projections.”
Their new book, Unbridled Spirit: Lessons in Life and Business from Kentucky’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs is the result of sitting down “with these incredible entrepreneurs and asking them to share their stories once more.”
The book is filled with the stories of many Kentucky household names, like Alltech’s Pearse Lyons, Bill Samuels of Maker’s Mark, and former UK president, Lee Todd.
Outback’s Chris Sullivan tells the story of a franchise empire path that includes many well-known dining staples in Hamburg (e.g., Outback, Carrabba’s, Bonefish). He says, “the most scared I ever felt was when I screwed up our Carrabba’s business. We’d taken the company public and the stock was doing well, but we overestimated how many restaurants we were able to grow in a particular market and how quickly we’d open them.” He also oversaw the recovery, though, explaining, “As we expanded into other brands, such as Fleming’s and Bonefish Grill, we didn’t make those mistakes again. We’d learned our lesson and the Carrabba’s rebound gave us a lot of confidence.”
His formula for entrepreneurial success includes the advice that “principles and beliefs can give you a real playbook, a business document that holds everybody accountable. And it works.”
Forcht Group chairman Terry Forcht is a familiar face in Hamburg, having chosen to locate the Lexington headquarters of the Kentucky group on Sir Barton very early in the neighborhood’s development.
In the book, he tells the story of an early experience with hard work, “One of the first jobs I had was in junior high school, delivering the West End News, a weekly newspaper. I was paid twenty cents per hundred for delivering those papers, and I had four hundred papers. I covered certain streets, giving out the papers and also signing up new customers. Anyone who wanted to make sure they received the West End News could be a customer for ten cents a month. That was a good experience; I worked hard to create customers and make sure they always had their paper delivered.”
He also believes strongly in the impact of education on his career (earning his bachelor’s degree from U of L in three years — awarded the honor of “Outstanding Student” in the University of Louisville Business School, and receiving a prize of $100, which he describes as “big money in those days!” He earned an MBA from the University of Miami [Florida] and then worked his way through U of L law school). His education path led him to teaching at the University of the Cumberlands early in his career, before founding a law practice, and then building businesses that grew to include health care, banking, finance, broadcasting, insurance, media, and more.
Part of his formula for entrepreneurial success, “When you’re the head of a company, probably the most important thing you can do is get the right people in; once you do that, you’re on your way.”
What he doesn’t recommend is retirement! He says, “I can think of several things you don’t need to do if you want to be successful, and one of them is retire.”
This article also appears on page 6 of the November 2017 printed edition of the Hamburg Journal.
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