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Business Observer Monday, May 6, 2019 3 months ago

Executive named 2019 Distinguished Innovator of the Year

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Small business development group honors hurricane protection company chairman for accelerated growth through innovation.

FORT MYERS — Storm Smart Executive Chairman Brian Rist has been named by the Florida Small Business Development Center at Florida Gulf Coast University as its 2019 Distinguished Innovator of the Year. The designation is awarded to a local business owner who has, “Adopted or created their own technologies or cutting-edge approaches resulting in accelerated business growth and profits.”

Rist pioneered the use of fabric-based storm protection with the Fort Myers-based company's line of Storm Catcher wind abatement screens. He was met initially by a skeptical public. “When we started selling screens as storm protection, most people thought we were something of snake oil salesmen,” says Rist in a statement.

Propelled by its line of Storm Catcher screens, Storm Smart saw record revenue growth in 2018, reporting $50 million in gross income during the calendar year, a 51% increase over 2017. It was the second time Rist has been recently honored by the SBDC. In 2017 he was named the organization’s Advocate of the Year.

“I was deeply honored to be thought of by the SBDC as one of the leading entrepreneurs of Southwest Florida,” says Rist. “I look forward to working with the SBDC and everyone involved to continue the efforts to make the initiative a reality.”

The SBDC also awarded Rafael Feliciano, owner of Food Idea Group, as their 2019 Advocate of the Year; and Ryan Carter, owner of Scotlynn USA Division, as the 2019 Distinguished Entrepreneur of the Year.

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