The Top 25 Entrepreneurs of Dallas for 2024

Great Entrepreneurs is pleased to announce The Top 25 Entrepreneurs of Dallas for 2024. Located in the heart of northern Texas, Dallas is a hub of entrepreneurial activity, with a thriving technology sector and a significant presence of banking, finance, and insurance companies. The entrepreneurs on this year’s list have left an indelible mark on the city’s economic landscape. Their prowess ranges from tacos to life insurance and everything in between. 

Among this year’s awardees is Steve Kuhnau, a former nurse whose thirst for a healthy, fruity drink birthed Smoothie King, one of the nation’s biggest smoothie franchises. Then there’s Whitney Wolfe Herd, a millennial who changed the online dating game by founding Bumble in 2014. Debbie Bolton is also redefining business in Dallas as the Co-Founder of Norwex USA, an eco-friendly provider of microfiber cloths and chemical-free cleaning products. 

These founders are exceptional at building high-performing organizations and producing products and services that customers love. Please join us in recognizing the accomplishments of The Top 25 Entrepreneurs of Dallas for 2024.


1. Steve Kuhnau
Founder, Smoothie King

Steve Kuhnau is the Founder of Smoothie King, which began as a small health food store that sold vitamin-infused fruit smoothies in 1973 in Kenner, Louisiana. Presently, Smoothie King Franchises, Inc., is a privately held, Dallas-area-based franchise company with nearly 1,400 units worldwide. The stores offer a number of healthier retail products in addition to smoothies, including sports beverages, energy bars, and vitamin supplements.

In 1989, Kuhnau franchised his business, establishing the first juice bar franchise in New Orleans. In 2012, Kuhnau sold the brand to SK USA, Inc. headed by Wan Kim, a successful franchisee with more than 100 stores throughout South Korea.


2. Willis Johnson
Founder, Copart Salvage Auto Auctions

Willis Johnson is the Founder of Copart Salvage Auto Auctions, a publicly traded vehicle salvage and auction company. Johnson established the business in 1982 and has since expanded to 243 physical locations in 11 countries, with a collective area of over 10,000 acres dedicated to vehicle inventory. The company uses a patented virtual auction technology, named VB3, to conduct business.  

Before becoming an entrepreneur, Johnson served in the army, worked at a Safeway grocery store, and for his father’s business. Prior to starting Copart, he purchased a dismantling yard in 1972. 


3. Chakri Gottemukkala
Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, o9 Solutions

Chakri Gottemukkala is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of o9 Solutions, an AI-powered platform for integrated business planning and decision-making. Since launching the business in 2014, Gottemukkala has worked with clients such as Walmart, Nike, Starbucks, GE, Google, and Exxon Mobil. In 2024, the company joined the World Economic Forum’s Unicorn Community, which brings together enterprises valued at over $1 billion with technologies from various sectors.   

Prior to starting o9, Gottemukkala held a number of positions at i2 Technologies, a supply chain software company. Gottemukkala holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras and a master’s degree from the University of California, Los Angeles. He currently serves on the Impact Council at Fast Company, a business media brand, and is an official member of the Forbes Technology Council. 


4. Debbie Bolton
Co-Founder, Norwex USA

Debbie Bolton is the Co-Founder of Norwex USA, an eco-conscious company that sells special microfiber cloths made using recycled and ocean-bound plastics, as well as cleaning and personal care products. 

Bolton began working at Norwex Canada in 1999. In her position as chief executive officer, she was responsible for sales, recruiting, and leadership development. In 2011, she assumed the role of senior vice president of sales for North America. Earlier in her career, Bolton served as vice president of sales at Lantana Fashions. She earned an undergraduate degree in cosmetology from Northern Michigan University. 


5. Keith Schwartz
Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Bounteous

Keith Schwartz is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Bounteous, an IT service management company that offers personalized digital experiences, customer loyalty programs, and brand experience planning. In his leadership position, Schwartz collaborates with global clients in the healthcare, finance, consumer goods, and retail industries. Notably, he recently oversaw the company’s merger with Accolite, a software company that offers data, AI, cloud, DevOps, cyber security, and UX design solutions.

Before establishing Bounteous in 2016, Schwartz worked for other digital technology solution companies, including HS2 Solutions, Seurat Technologies, and XOR Security. In 1993, he founded a custom software development company called Hollyer and Schwartz. He graduated from the University of Michigan with an undergraduate degree in computer science.


6. Tom Ellis
Founder and Board Member, shiftkey

Tom Ellis is the Founder and Board Member of shiftkey, a marketplace technology platform that links licensed professionals with healthcare facilities, allowing independent practitioners to select their preferred times and locations for work. Ellis founded shiftkey, which is headquartered in Dallas, Texas, in 2016. Since then, facilities have posted more than 50 million hours of open shifts on the platform, and hundreds of thousands of licensed professionals have engaged on the platform. 

Ellis began his career in 2005 as a senior recruiting manager at Staff Care. In 2011, he assumed the role of president and chief executive officer of Da Vinci Staffing. Ellis graduated from Oregon State University.


7. Whitney Wolfe Herd
Founder and Executive Chair, Bumble

Whitney Wolfe Herd is the Founder and Executive Chair of Bumble Inc. Launched in 2014, the publicly traded company is the parent enterprise behind dating sites and apps such as Bumble, Badoo, Fruitz, and Official. 

Notably, Wolfe Herd is the youngest woman to have taken a company public in the United States. In 2021, she became the world’s youngest female billionaire after Bumble went public. Before Bumble, Wolfe Herd co-founded the dating app Tinder. She also served as the company’s vice president of marketing from 2012 to 2014. Wolfe Herd graduated from Southern Methodist University with a bachelor’s degree in international studies. She currently sits on the board of directors of Imagine Entertainment as well as the Executive Board at SMU. 


8. Sarah Shadonix
Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Scout & Cellar

Sarah Shadonix is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Scout & Cellar, a wine and beverage company. In her role, Shadonix sources and produces products that are backed by the company’s Clean-Crafted Commitment®, which eliminates the need for artificial components on the farm or throughout the production process. Under her leadership, the company is set to become carbon-neutral by 2030. 

Shadonix began her career as an attorney in 2006. She remained in the legal world until 2015, when she began working as a channel manager at Wine Country Connect, a management, sales, and logistics company based in Sonoma, California. Shadonix graduated from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University with a doctor of law. She pursued her undergraduate education at the University of Richmond.


9. Peter Bendor-Samuel
Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Everest Group

Peter Bendor-Samuel is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Everest Group, a research firm that provides enterprises with IT solutions. Bendor-Samuel founded the company in 1991. It has since served numerous Fortune 500 companies, including Shell USA. Everest Group has also emerged as a respected industry analyst advising the investing community through a partnership with DeepDive Equity Research. 

Before founding Everest Group, Bendor-Samuel established Ernest & Young’s outsourcing advisory practice. He also served as a regional sales support at Electronic Data Systems. Bendor-Samuel graduated from Baylor University with an undergraduate degree in business administration and a master’s degree in business administration.


10. Jeff Olson
Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Neora

Jeff Olson is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Neora, a company in the anti-aging skincare, wellness, hair care, and weight management markets, focused on clean products. Olson founded Neora in 2011 and has served as the CEO since.

Olson’s prior roles include manager in the intelligent systems divisions for Texas Instruments. In 1994, he founded The People's Network, a company that became one of the largest personal development training organizations in the nation. In addition to his position at Neora, Olson is the Founder of Live Happy, a company dedicated to educating the world about positive psychology. 


11. Yasser Bashir
Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Arbisoft

Yasser Bashir is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Arbisoft, a software and technology development company. Arbisoft partners with top technology businesses and institutions around the world, including Indeed, The World Bank, and KAYAK. The company is also the official tech partner of edX, an online education platform.  

Before founding Arbisoft, Bashir was a director of technology at OrthoClear Inc. and a manager of software engineering at Align Technology. Bashir graduated from Stanford University with a master’s degree in management science and engineering and from Lahore University of Management Sciences with a bachelor’s degree in computer science. He is currently a member of YPO, a global leadership community of chief executives.


12. Joseph Lubin
Founder and Chief Executive Officer, ConsenSys

Joseph Lubin is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Consensus Systems (ConsenSys), a blockchain venture studio. ConsenSys offers blockchain technologies, building developer tools, decentralized applications, and other solutions. The company ventures with organizations such as Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, and The World Wide Fund for Nature. 

Prior to founding ConsenSys, Lubin co-founded Ethereum, a peer-to-peer platform for decentralized applications, and held leadership positions at Blacksmith Technologies and Goldman Sachs. He also worked as a software engineer for various ventures, including Vision Applications Inc. and TOMANDANDY, an entertainment application and music production business. Lubin graduated from Princeton University with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science. 


13. Kenneth Cooper
Founder and Chairman, Cooper Aerobics

Kenneth Cooper is the Founder and Chairman of Cooper Aerobics, the parent company of six health and wellness ventures and a research and education nonprofit. Cooper published his first book, Aerobics, in 1968. Since then, he has spent his career advocating for healthy living and disease prevention.

Cooper began his career in the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force as a flight surgeon and director of the Aerospace Medical Laboratory in San Antonio. He received a bachelor’s degree in science and a doctor of medicine at the University of Oklahoma and a master’s degree in public health from Harvard University. He is certified by the American Board of Preventive Medicine.


14. Sanjay Jupudi
President and Co-Founder, Qentelli

Sanjay Jupudi is the President and Co-Founder of Qentelli, a digital cloud and technology company. Since founding the business in 2015, Jupudi has transformed it from a small startup to a business with revenues exceeding $100 million. Qentelli is also the first technology firm to focus on continuous delivery through orchestrated engineering.  

Before establishing Qentelli, Jupudi worked in leadership roles at Cigniti, a leading AI and IP-led digital assurance and engineering services company. He also worked as a technical architect at AT&T, where he designed and implemented complex telecom billing and business support systems. Jupudi earned his bachelor’s degree in electronics and communication from the University of Madras. 


15. Patrice Crisinel
Co-Founder and Chief Financial Officer, Alto

Patrice Crisinel is the Co-Founder and Chief Financial Officer of Alto, the first employee-based rideshare company. Crisinel founded the company in 2018. He also works for Autonomy Partners, a consulting business that provides management, restructuring, and investment guidance. 

Previously, Crisinel served as the vice president and chief investment officer of VIATRANS, a company in the logistics and transport chain industry. He has also held positions at UBS Wealth Management and Norinvest Holding SA. Crisinel completed the Executive Program in Business Administration and Management at the John E. Anderson Graduate School of Management. He also holds a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne.


16. Jerry Denham
Founder and Executive Chairman, BearCom

Jerry Denham is the Founder and Executive Chairman of BearCom, a solutions provider and system integrator of wireless voice and data communications equipment. Denham’s focus on sales management, directing growth, acquisitions, marketing, and team building has helped form BearCom into America’s only nationwide dealer and integrator of wireless communications products and solutions. 

Prior to the formation of BearCom, Denham served as co-founder, vice president, chief executive officer, and chairman of Bear Communications for a total of 14 years. Bear Communications merged with PageCom in 1995 to form BearCom. 

Since 2004, Denham has served on the board of directors for the Enterprise Wireless Alliance. He also served on the board of directors for the California Coast Chapter of the Young Presidents Organization. Denham has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from California State University at Long Beach, where he also earned his master’s degree in business administration. 


17. Chandra Pemmasani
Founder and Chief Executive Officer, UWorld

Chandra Pemmasani is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of UWorld, a platform for online learning for high-stakes exams. Pemmasani started the company in 2001 while completing his medical residency. Since the company’s inception, Pemmasani has expanded UWorld beyond the medical field to offer comprehensive study resources in other industries, such as nursing, college readiness, accounting, finance, legal, and pharmacy. 

Pemmasani completed his residency in internal medicine at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania. He also served as an instructor at Johns Hopkins University/Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, before moving to Dallas in 2010, where he established the corporate headquarters of UWorld.

Previously, Pemmasani was an internal medicine physician at Methodist Health System. Earlier in his career, he worked with Johns Hopkins University Schools of Medicine/Sinai Hospital as an academic internal medicine physician. Pemmasani earned an undergraduate degree in medicine from Osmania Medical College.


18. Claudia Mirza
Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Akorbi

Claudia Mirza is the Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Akorbi, a company specializing in enterprise solutions for the global economy. Under Mirza's leadership, Akorbi has grown to become one of the world's largest woman-owned, U.S.-based multilingual digital transformation and language service providers since its inception in 2003. 

Mirza is a serial entrepreneur and analytic business strategist. Before co-founding Akorbi, Mirza held leadership positions at Verizon and Genuity. Earlier in her career, she worked as a health safety environment supervisor in the oil and gas industry. Mirza graduated from DeVry University with an undergraduate degree in business administration and information systems.


19. Randy DeWitt
Co-Founder and Board Member, Velvet Taco

Randy DeWitt is the Co-Founder and Board Member of Velvet Taco, a Tex-Mex chain with locations across the Midwest and South. As a longtime restaurateur and entrepreneur, DeWitt got his start in 1994 when he founded Rockfish Seafood Grill, a Texas-based casual dining chain. 

Currently, DeWitt is involved in several ventures. In addition to his role at Velvet Taco, he serves as a Board Member for Chuy’s Restaurants, Co-Founder and Board Member for The Food Hall Co., and an investor with Hai Hospitality. DeWitt also founded the Front Burner Society in 1994. In the decades since, the privately held company has acquired a number of restaurant concepts, including Whiskey Cake, The Ranch, Mexican Sugar, Ida Claire, Sixty Vines, and Haywire. 


20. Jamie Crosbie
Founder and Chairwoman, ProActivate

Jamie Crosbie is the Founder and Chairwoman of ProActivate, a global sales and marketing talent acquisition firm. Crosbie is also a certified speaker with the High Performance Mindset® system and regularly offers keynotes and workshops for companies such as Armstrong Relocation Services, Southwest Airlines, Encompass Home Health, and EBSCO Research.

Prior to launching ProActivate, Crosbie served as vice president of sales at CareerBuilder. In this role, she was responsible for leading 50 to 85 percent annual revenue growth with oversight of a more than 80-person sales team. She also managed $35 million in operations. She has held leadership positions at other staffing companies, including Staffing Edge, Pro Staff, and Robert Half International. Crosbie earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in business from the University of Kansas in 1995. She later took graduate business administration classes at the University of Dallas.


21. Michael Fey
Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Island

Michael Fey is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Island, a cyber security, enterprise software, and cloud technology company. In addition to this role, he is also a Board Member at Cycode, Axis Security, Bionic, and Open Systems. 

Previously, he served as president and chief operating officer of Symantec. Prior to joining Symantec, he served as president and chief operating officer of Blue Coat, leading product and go-to-market functions. While at Blue Coat, Fey also led the company to impressive growth, resulting in its acquisition by Symantec in 2016 for $4.65 billion. Fey also served as executive vice president and general manager for enterprise products at McAfee and chief technology officer of Intel Security. He received his undergraduate degree in engineering physics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.


22. Nathan Shultz
Founder, ELEVATE

Nathan Shultz is the Founder of ELEVATE. Founded in 2016, ELEVATE is a consulting and coaching company focused on helping founders and C-level executives progress in their current roles, improve their leadership skills, and boost productivity.  

Before establishing ELEVATE, Shultz worked as a consultant at DiamondCluster International. From there, he went on to Kraft Foods Group, before eventually assuming a leadership position at Venwise. During his career, Shultz led $60 million budgets for $500 million brands and facilitated a $25 million brand turnaround and exit. Shultz graduated from the University of Michigan with a master’s degree in business administration. He also pursued an undergraduate degree in statistics and economics at Northwestern University.


23. Anjan Pathak
Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Vantage Circle

Anjan Pathak is the Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Vantage Circle, a global employee engagement platform. Since establishing the company in 2014, Pathak has developed a complete suite of cloud-based solutions now utilized by more than two million users and several multinational corporations.    

Previously, Pathak was a principal consultant at Nalini Systems. In this position, he completed e-commerce consulting and architecture projects with notable companies such as Skype, Tesco, and Shop Direct. Pathak has also worked with Zensar Technologies as a Java and C++ developer. He earned an undergraduate degree in computer science and engineering from Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology.


24. Charles Bell, Jr.
Founder and President, AIS Healthcare

Chuck Bell is the Founder and President of Advanced Infusion Solutions (AIS) Healthcare, a provider of targeted drug delivery and infusion care. He is also actively involved with various industry and community committees and boards.

Bell started in the home infusion industry in 1992. Since then, he has been involved in pharmacy and healthcare senior management and owns multiple home infusion pharmacies as well as other healthcare-related businesses. Additionally, he served a six-year term as president of Professional Pharmacy Staffing, Inc. Bell received his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from the University of Louisiana at Monroe and his PharmD from the University of Arkansas. He is licensed in multiple states.


25. Melbourne O'Banion
Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Bestow

Melbourne O'Banion is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Bestow, a digital life insurance company. O'Banion established the company in 2016. He also currently serves as the Founder of O’Banion Capital, an investment holding company with ventures in the healthcare, insurance, real estate, and beauty industries; Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Beauty BioScience, a skincare company; and Partner at Presidio Title, a title insurance company based in San Antonio, Texas.

O'Banion started his career in 2007 as a partner at Kersh Health, a health risk management provider servicing the corporate, insurance, and health provider markets. In 2003, O'Banion graduated from Brigham Young University with an undergraduate degree in finance.