With all the effort that it takes to grow companies fast enough for them to make the Inc. 500, you wouldn't think their CEOs would have time for moonlighting. But--being the overachievers that they are--many of these company leaders are involved in extracurricular activities. Here's a sampling.

Using Your Noodle

Some CEOs are never satisfied. No matter how successful they are, they're always noodling around with ideas for other potential moneymakers. Take David Sanso, for instance, the president and founder of Carsan Engineering (#308). One day back in 1996, Sanso and his two sons were spending a lazy afternoon in the pool. Sanso was watching his sons float on their "noodles"--you know, those five-foot lengths of spongy foam that suddenly showed up in everybody's pool a few years back. And inspiration struck. "You know what would be really cool?" said Sanso. "If we put some water guns on these things." He cast his own noodle-water-pistol prototype using some plastic denturelike material that he'd gotten from his dentist. Fast-forward three years, and Sanso has a patent and a new company, Toy Tec, which shipped 50,000 Noodle Squirters (retail price: about $3) this past summer. --Mary Kwak

Shaken, Not Stirred

In 1995, Tom Hansen, CEO of Accent Marketing Services (#209), in Louisville, made a sideline investment that left him feeling a bit woozy. Although Hansen doesn't smoke cigars, and prefers beer to gin, he invested about $50,000 in Havana Cigar & Martini, a trendy bar in downtown Cincinnati. "I thought it was a good opportunity for me to network with some power players," he recalls, referring to the wealthy coinvestors who financed the lounge with him. Unfortunately, two years ago the club floundered, and most of its backers pulled out. But Havana has been able to draw larger crowds by adding live music and promoting its corporate meeting room, which is a hit with the "senior professional types," Hansen says. He even brings many of his own clients there. "It would be nice if the club made a lot of money," he says. "But it gives me a good excuse to go to Cincinnati. And being married with three kids, I need a good excuse." --Mike Hofman

The Boys in the Band

Little did Tim Riester, president and founder of Riester-Robb (#71), know that when he asked his employees to bring something creative they had produced to a show-and-tell staff meeting, he would find himself embarking on a career in music. Senior accountant Tony Piccini penned a humorous song about the Phoenix-based advertising company and performed it in front of his coworkers, accompanying himself on the guitar. Riester--on drums--and two other musically inclined employees soon joined Piccini, and together they formed a band they call Sucktacular. The band entertains fellow employees at company functions. Why the vivid name? "Because we suck, but in a very spectacular way," says Piccini. --Anne Marie Borrego

The Epicurean Entrepreneur

One night a week John Bostick, president and CEO of CSA (#272), sheds his consultant's hat for a much larger one: that of chef extraordinaire. Bostick teaches evening cooking classes at a local food store. Although he attributes his culinary interest to both his Ukrainian heritage and time spent in Eastern Europe, today he specializes in Thai, Mexican, and Mediterranean cuisine. He even hopes to one day produce his own cookbook. "I'm in the entertainment business as much as the instruction business," says Bostick, citing the waiting list to get into his classes. Although Bostick doesn't teach expressly to benefit his business, his classes have been, in his words, "a strong relationship builder." He often finds employees, vendors, and even customers among those tasting the peanut sauce. --Christopher Riegle

Published on: Oct 15, 1999