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Entrepreneurs
Business Observer Friday, Jun. 12, 2009 12 years ago

Tampa Bay entrepreneurs dominate

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Tampa Bay entrepreneurs dominated the winners Thursday night at the annual Ernst & Young Florida Entrepreneur of the Year awards banquet.

Tampa Bay entrepreneurs dominated the winners Thursday night at the annual Ernst & Young Florida Entrepreneur of the Year awards banquet.

Tampa Bay entrepreneurs won four of the eight categories. The winners:

Dr. Stephen Dickey, founder president and chief executive officer of Tampa-based Doctor's Walk-In Clinic, in the health services category.

Tony Little, founder, president and CEO of Clearwater-based Health International Corp., in the marketing, media and entertainment category.

Scott Riley, chief executive officer of Tampa-based Fintech, in the services category.

Tony DiBenedetto, founder, chairman and CEO of Tampa-based Tribridge, in the technology category.

The Tampa Bay region produced 10 of the 24 finalists, more than any other region. The South Florida region had nine finalists and Orlando and Jacksonville regions each produced two finalists.

Other Tampa Bay finalists included:

Benjamin Fertic, president and CEO of Tampa-based Ironman Corp., marketing, media and entertainment.

Joy Gendusa, CEO of Clearwater-based PostcardMania, marketing, media and entertainment.

Michael Ferris, president and CEO of Tampa-based Valet Waste, services.

Jacob Beckel, chairman and CEO of Tampa-based AnazaoHealth Corp., health services.

Gene Knippers, chairman, Nick Vojnovic, president, and Chuck Winship, CEO, Tampa-based Beef 'O' Brady's.

Nick Friedman, president, and Omar Soliman, CEO, of Tampa-based College Hunks Hauling Junk, emerging.

The other category winners included:

David Smith, chairman and CEO of Jacksonville-based PSS World Medical Inc., distribution and manufacturing.

Michael Murdoch, co-founder and CEO of Gulf Breeze-based AppRiver, emerging.

Charles Appleby, chairman and CEO of Jacksonville-based Advanced Disposal Services Inc., real estate and construction.

Menderes Akdag, president and CEO of Pompano Beach-based 1-800-PetMeds, retail and consumer products.

A lifetime achievement award went to Michael J. Ward, chairman and CEO of Jacksonville-based CSX Corp.

The category winners will go on to compete for the 23rd annual Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year national awards in November in Palm Springs, Calif.

When 64-year-old Dr. Dickey received his award, he joked to the audience of more than 400 at the Omni Champions Gate in Orlando: “Entrepreneur are not just 20-year-olds.”

Dickey, who has operated his company for nearly 30 years, recalled a few of the difficulties he overcame in starting what was then an unorthodox concept — convenient, affordable, walk-in medical clinics. “I just about got censured by the medical community for having a lighted sign on one of our buildings.”

He also recalled the Thanksgiving in his first year of business. He got home from one of his clinics at 9 p.m., only to have his two young sons fall asleep at the table during the family feast.

“This award is just helping a validation of my dream,” Dickey said.

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