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Entrepreneurs of the Year | Karen Rehn

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Why we chose her:

A meeting Karen Rehn had with Hyatt Regency hotel executives in downtown Sarasota in 2009 was her shot to redefine the temporary staffing firm she just bought.

The company, HH Staffing, with a focus on construction, struggled to survive the downturn. Rehn promised hotel executives that HH could supply well-trained banquet servers for a host of upcoming events. She came with a PowerPoint presentation that highlighted the new HH training program. This was new territory for the firm — it didn't even have the employees yet.

Rehn, 57, was in her element going big. But her business partner Stuart Kortie, with more than a decade in professional staffing, says he never left a sales pitch meeting with so much anxiety. “She made commitments in that meeting I never would have,” says Kortie, who has a minority ownership stake in HH.

The company won the Hyatt work. Soon after that it was awarded a similar contract at the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota. The firm then went on a five-year-and-counting growth run in sales, employees and office locations. Rehn attributes the success of the business to the training program. It schooled workers in everything from how to carry a tray to how to show gratitude.

But Kortie says HH's success really goes to Rehn's never-quit ethos and personal drive, where good is the enemy of great. “She really wants to be right on all levels,” says Kortie. “She always looks to improve.”

2012: $2.32 million
2013: $2.94 million, Ç26.7%
2014: $3.94 million, Ç34%

2012: 10 2013: 12 2014: 14

—Mark Gordon


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