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Off Hours: Entrepreneurial Pursuits Outside the Office

At one time or another, most CEOs have claimed to be swimming with sharks, shoveling manure, or recovering from a nosedive. But when these CEOs say it, they really mean it. Meet six Inc. 500 entrepreneurs who have used success in business as a chance to pursue passions outside the office.
Taking the Bull by the Horns
Taking the Bull by the Horns
Two years ago, Mark Pentecost decided to scratch his cowboy itch. Pentecost, CEO of It Works! Global, a direct-sales company in Bradenton, Florida, bought a working 340-acre ranch, complete with 50 Texas Longhorns, wild hogs, and coyotes, in nearby Myakka City. "It's like a John Wayne movie out here," says Pentecost, who spends several days a month at the ranch plowing fields, feeding cattle, and rounding up his herd on a horse. One thing he can't do is connect with the outside world: There's no cell signal, landline, or Internet connection. "There are no interruptions, which has taught me to hear other people-and myself," he says. "It's made me a better CEO and a better person."-Reshma Memon Yaqub

Watch Pentecost in a video on his ranch.
Mark B. Pentecost
It Works! Global
Three-year growth 1,047.2%
No. 438
PHOTO: Bryan Schutmaat
Into the Deep
Into the Deep
Scuba diving has been a humbling experience for Matthew Borjes. "I'm just a speck of sand, compared to what's down there," says Borjes, CEO of Space Saving Solutions, a company in Lexington, South Carolina, that designs and installs mobile shelving and other storage equipment. Several times a year, he pilots a rented plane to Florida or the Caribbean and squeezes dozens of dives--ranging in length from five to 40 minutes each--into a four-day trip. Borjes, shown here exploring a sunken ship off the coast of West Palm Beach, Florida, has had some unforgettable underwater encounters. Recently, he came across a dozen goliath groupers. ("They could literally have inhaled me," he says.) Another time, he was surrounded by several 8- to 10-foot sharks. (He stayed very still, with his arms crossed, until they swam away.) It's been good training for running a business, he says: "I'm a little fish who has had to get good at risk management. I've learned to push myself out of my comfort zone and not panic when I get there." –R.M.Y.

See Borjes go on a dive.
Matthew Borjes
Space Saving Solutions
Three-year growth 1,594.6%
No. 273
PHOTO: Lazaro Ruda
On the Agenda: Giving Back
On the Agenda: Giving Back
In July 2012, Lakeshia Grant's father told her about a local food bank where he was doing carpentry work. Grant, the founder and CEO of Virtual Enterprise Architects, a business and IT consulting firm in Washington, D.C., decided to check it out. Since then, she and several employees have spent the third Thursday and Friday of each month at the bank, the Family and Youth Outreach Center, where they package food and distribute it to 80 local families. Charitable giving has been a core principle at Virtual Enterprise Architects since Grant founded the business in 2007. Each year, the company matches up to $3,000 in charitable contributions for each employee and gives an award to the staff member who racks up the most volunteer hours. "It's not so much about the financial giving," Grant says. "To me, the time we put in is more valuable than the money." -Abigail Tracy
Lakeshia Grant
Virtual Enterprise Architects
Three-year growth 2,127.5%
No. 196
PHOTO: Dustin Aksland
Top of the World
Top of the World
After taking his first plane trip in high school, Frank Dombroski fell in love with flying and saved up for lessons. In the 25 years since then, the CEO of FlexWage Solutions, a financial services and payroll processing company in Mountainside, New Jersey, has logged 2,000 flight hours. He has also owned a dozen two- or four-seat planes, three of which he assembled himself. Dombroski, shown here piloting his Vans RV-7A kit plane over Manhattan, often flies to business meetings and enjoys the occasional aerobatic stunt. He has had some close calls: In February, his plane crashed into treetops on a hillside in Lake Placid, New York, as he was diverting from an unlit runway. The plane was destroyed, but he was unhurt. A week later, he was back in the cockpit. "I have a speed affliction," he says. –R.M.Y.

Click here to see Dombroski fly his plane.
Frank Dombroski
Flexwage Solutions
Three-year growth 1,670%
No. 258
PHOTO: Benjamin Lowy
Animal Rescue
Animal Rescue
Growing up, Monica Smith and her six siblings were known for taking in half a dozen stray animals at a time. “What’s one more Smith?” they’d joke. Smith, now CEO of Marketsmith, an advertising company in Parsippany, New Jersey, has converted swaths of her three-acre farm in nearby Chester into a sanctuary for 100 cats, two dogs, and four goats. It’s aptly titled “One More Smith.” Smith funnels $55,000 a year and countless hours into the sanctuary, which her partner, Amy, manages full time. Smith's family is known for taking drastic rescue measures: they’ve stopped traffic for an hour to save a swan, negotiated with drug dealers to extract a kitten from a crack house, and salvaged goats from a hoarder. She admits it all sounds a little “crazy cat lady.” “It’s not just other people who think I’m nuts,” she laughs. “I think I’m nuts. We could be free of cares and on vacation. But this is what makes us feel aligned.” –R.M.Y.
Monica Smith
Three-year growth: 1,137.7%
No. 391
Warrior Benefit
Warrior Benefit
Rod Long found it relatively easy to re-enter civilian life after 22 years in the U.S. Marines. But Long has seen countless other veterans--particularly wounded ones--struggle to make sense of life after war. Long’s Houston-based business, Team Trident, provides full- and part-time technical workers, many of them veterans, to oil and gas companies. But he wanted to take it a step further. So he founded Warrior Benefit, a non-profit organization that honors veterans and connects them with mentors as they work to repurpose their lives. The group’s main event, which has been held every spring since 2009, is a clay shoot that draws 600 to 800 people. The group also holds small, informal gatherings with vets every few months, including barbecues and fishing excursions. “Everyone needs to get on with their lives and live their lives with a purpose,” Long says. “We’re helping others help themselves.” –R.M.Y.
Rod Long
Team Trident
Three-year growth: 1,823.2%
No. 235
From the September 2013 issue of Inc. magazine


Abigail Tracy is a staff reporter for Inc. magazine. Previously, she worked for Seattle Metropolitan magazine and Chicago magazine.

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