These entrepreneurs built thriving companies. Better yet, they are free to live out their very own fantasies
Bruno Vassel III CEO of iBoats.com No. 48
Back when his kids were young, and before the family moved out West, Bruno Vassel III owned a summer house on Martha's Vineyard. "I had a couple of outboards, and one of the engines went down," he recalls. "It took me the rest of the summer to get it fixed, because the local dealer couldn't find the right parts." An avid boater who finds himself in similar straits today can rely on Vassel's website to find what he needs. "In the summer, we're out on our boats every other weekend," says Vassel. "This is Bear Lake, on the Utah-Idaho border. It is deep and very cold, and it's filled with cutthroat trout and little fish called cisco. And because there are a lot of minerals in the water, it is crystal-clear and azure blue."
The Deer Hunter
Larry Metz CEO of L.E.M. Products No. 412
Larry Metz's meat-processor business was inspired by his favorite hobby, but he says that when he's hunting -- often in the evenings after work -- he doesn't think about his company. "I'm just watching the animals and the sunset and listening to the quiet," he says. Yet the 30 acres behind his home in southwestern Ohio are great for brainstorming. "I've gotten my best ideas in the woods," says Metz, shown here on the couch in his den employing the art of camouflage. "But it's not like I'm sitting out there trying to think of something. My mind clears, and an idea just pops in." Two of the three deer mounted on the wall behind him were shot on his property with his weapon of choice, a Mathews compound bow. The one on the left was the first deer he ever shot; the one on the right was the biggest, a 210-pound, 10-point buck.
Katrina Markoff CEO of Vosges Haut-Chocolat No. 374
In yoga, the color violet represents the seventh spiritual center -- or chakra -- which is associated with the highest level of enlightenment. That's why Katrina Markoff (left, in the yellow-and-green Bob Marley T-shirt) chose violet for her company's yoga room, located on the mezzanine of her 11,000-square-foot office in Chicago. "I'm a workaholic. I'm always rushing around," says Markoff. "Yoga is a time to slow down." An instructor leads classes every Wednesday evening, and at other times the yoga room is a place for Markoff and her 40 employees to meditate. Asanas and chocolate might seem an odd combo, but "after yoga, the taste of food is more amplified," Markoff says. Indeed, this fall, she began hosting seven-day chocolate and yoga retreats ($3,900 per person) in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Bruce Goode The Works Corp. No. 158
Bruce Goode's kayak trip with his wife, Jody, this summer was lovely, except that they were the only folks on that damn lake in Idaho who failed to see a moose. The disappointment vanished, however, when they stumbled upon an RV park, where a master of totem pole carving was teaching a class. "There was this huge carving pavilion with 20 people in there every day from all over the country because, in the woodworking world, this place is known," Goode says. He spent three weeks designing and carving the six-and-a-half-foot pole with a raccoon at right, which he plans to place on his property next to a pond frequented by raccoons. Here he's cutting a bust of a grizzly from a log of pine. Goode has plenty of time to devote to carving: His online garden-supply business in Boise does so well that he goes into the office only a few times a week.
The Scout Leader
James Rounsville CEO of Network Management No. 153
More than 100,000 boys ages five to 17 belong to the Royal Rangers, a group that James Rounsville (facing forward on the right) has helped lead for 27 years. An overtly Christian take on the Boy Scouts, the Royal Rangers give boys merit badges for skills such as first aid, fire craft, and public speaking. "The boys like sleeping in tepees and shooting bows and arrows," Rounsville says. "It keeps them out of trouble and away from girls and cars." Being a positive male role model for youngsters is meaningful for the CEO, who lives in a suburb of Sacramento. "I never knew my own father," he says. "So when I see a kid change and start to feel good about himself, that makes me feel good."
The Racing Aficionado
Robert Coo CEO of STOPS No. 35
Being an entrepreneur means that you can be lying on a hotel bed watching TV, see an interview with the only paraplegic racecar driver ever to compete in a NASCAR-sanctioned event, and decide to sponsor him -- just like that. That's how Robert Cook, pictured here in the blue shirt at the Heart O' Dixie Speedway in Sayre, Ala., came to be driver Ray Paprota's sole patron, for $250,000 a year. While his favorite part about the deal is "the pleasure of being on Pit Row at Daytona with guys like Dale Earnhardt Jr.," Cook also says you just can't beat the exposure. "We're in Charlotte one time, and there's a five-car wreck, and just as all the cameras cut to the accident, the hood from Ray's car flies up, and there," he says with satisfaction, "is our logo painted on the inside."