Zenefits Recognizes National Entrepreneurship Month Winners

Modern Times Brewery Small Business Success

November was National Entrepreneurship Month, a time to celebrate and honor the dreamers and risk-takers who create businesses that serve as the heart of our national economy. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), there are over six million small businesses that employ over half of the workforce and account for 2 of 3 net new jobs.

At Zenefits, our mission is to make entrepreneurship easier and more accessible for everyone. We do this by eliminating the time, headaches and hassles associated with hiring and managing people, offering benefits and facilitating payroll – tasks that can consume up to 25% of a small business owners time, according to the SBA.

In honor of National Entrepreneurship Month, we have spotlighted some amazing entrepreneurs to find out what drives them, what advice they can offer other budding entrepreneurs and what they are most excited about in 2017.

This month, we are proud to recognize a number of risk-takers and savvy business people creating economic opportunity for others. We asked each of our winners to share some advice on their journey and to recount stories for our readers. Below are a few spotlights from their answers.

We are featuring Jacob McKean, founder and CEO of San Diego-based brewer Modern Times.

Jacob McKean Zenefits Modern Times Brewery

Modern Times was founded in 2013 by writer and self-proclaimed “beer geek” Jacob McKean, who had a vision of creating a unique brewery experience. Since then, the company has grown to more than 200 employees with two locations in San Diego and two additional breweries, in Anaheim and Los Angeles, set to open soon. The brewery attracts devotees from all over Southern California and also distributes its beers and coffees throughout the region.

Question: What drove you to start your business?

Answer: “For years, I’d carried around the idea of Modern Times in my mind, as a writer, as a homebrewer, and finally as craft beer industry member. That idea evolved and grew over time, and at a certain point, it felt fully formed. I just really wanted to see that idea become a real thing. So I walked away from my (great) job, and jumped into the deep end. That was four and a half years ago, and every day since then has been incredibly challenging and rewarding.”

Question: What stands in the way from reaching your goals?

Answer: “There are always unique hurdles to overcome with any project and we are always working on dozens of projects, so I’m constantly having to adapt to whatever the world serves up on a given day. It spans the full spectrum: everything from yeast behaving badly to simply not having enough resources to do something exactly the way I’d like to.”

2. We are featuring Dan Rootenberg, president and co-founder at New York-based SPEAR Physical Therapy.

SPEAR physical therapy zenefits

Spear Physical Therapy:

SPEAR was founded in 1999 by two physical therapy school graduates, Dan Rootenberg and David Endres, with the mission to provide patients a personalized experience on their road to recovery. Starting as a one-room location, SPEAR this year is set to open its tenth office, all in New York City. The company has grown to more than 120 full-time employees, and three times has been recognized as an Inc. 5000 fastest growing company in the U.S.  

Question: What continues to drive you every day?

Answer: “One of the most rewarding ones is working with our team members, creating the next generation of leaders in our organization. And that led to the founding of the Spear Future Leader Program, the SFLP, which is probably one of my favorite things that we do. And that program is about developing the next generation and showing them what we think are the best practices for leadership, management, business development, marketing and having a program that will deliver those concepts.”

Question: What advice can you offer entrepreneurs just starting out?

Answer: “Surround yourself with talented people and trust them.  Your own passion and energy will get your business off the ground, but to really power through to success, it will take the engagement of a great team.

3. We are featuring Ari Heckman of ASH NYC— Co-Founder & CEOAri Heckman of ASH NYC Zenefits Small Business Success

ASH NYC is premised on the joining of historically compatible disciplines in one company and under one roof. We aspire to bridge the worlds of interior design and property development while embracing related opportunities to design products, furniture, brands, and experiences. We are in the business of creating both aesthetic and economic value for our partners, our clients and for ourselves.

Question: What advice can you offer an entrepreneur just starting out?

Answer: I think first off an entrepreneur needs to regard what they do as not a job but a way of life.  For me, work and personal life are almost completely fused.  I am always thinking about the company and our projects in goals, not as a burden but as what my life is about.  Most successful entrepreneurs are the same way.  So make sure whatever you tackle, it’s something you really believe in.   Also, I think having partners who share your vision and bring different skills to the table is essential.  It’s not to say someone can’t go it alone, but I think that’s a rarity.  Teamwork and shared vision are extremely powerful.

Question: How do you overcome obstacles that get in your way?

Patience and perseverance.  There is no magic playbook, only focus on the end goal and an ability to adapt to curve balls and make lemonade from lemons.  Discouragement just can’t be an option.

4. We are featuring winner, Deborah Marcus — Executive Director 

Deborah Marcus Zenefits

Communities In Schools of Los Angeles (CIS) is the nation’s leading high school dropout prevention organization. Working nationally with nearly 1.5 million students in 27 states, CIS is the only organization proven to increase graduation rates and decrease dropout rates in the schools in which they serve. Since its founding in 2007, CIS of Los Angeles has grown to serve over 10,000 students and families per year at 10 traditional, Title 1 public schools across LAUSD, with over 6,000 students having received individual case management.

Question: What drove you to start your business?

Answer: My dream is that all children  can not only access a high-quality public education, but that the non-academic barriers that often times stand in the way, are removed so that students can succeed and achieve their potential.  CIS’s mission is to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.

Question: What advice can you offer an entrepreneur just starting out?

Answer:  I have never considered myself an entrepreneur – but my advice to people with passion and ideas starting out,  is to listen to others.   Those who you agree with and those who you don’t.   It’s important to put yourself in uncomfortable situations and to fail sometimes too.  It is only then that you learn how to lead

5. We are featuring Rachael Chong — Founder and CEOrachael-chong-headshot-1-min

Catchafire is the leading skills-based volunteering platform connecting high-impact organizations in need with talented professionals eager to give back their skills.  Through Catchafire’s technology, pre-scoped project opportunities, and ongoing customer support, we provide meaningful, transformational volunteer experiences for every volunteer and organization in the community. Catchafire is a community of individuals striving to push the social good sector forward by focusing on efficient and effective ways to give back. One way we do this is by matching professionals with nonprofits based on their skills, cause interest and time availability.

Question: What is a challenge you face in reaching your goals as a business owner?

Answer: There’s a huge gap in the volunteering/nonprofit landscape. There are 2 million nonprofits in the United States alone, 75% of which operate under less than $500K in annual operating budget.

And there is also massive demand from professionals. In 2014, LinkedIn reported that 82% of 440M LinkedIn members want to volunteer their skills.

The hardest part of the problem isn’t matching nonprofits to professionals, instead it’s in helping nonprofits articulate their needs into the form of well scoped, bite sized projects that professionals can participate in. Projects need to be clear and chunked out in a way that people who have full time jobs can easily plug in and help.

Question: What are you most excited about for 2017 regarding your business?

Answer: Catchafire was born from the vision that if everyone could experience how it feels to volunteer in a way that really matters to the receiving party – not only would more people give back, but also – people would experience the joy of connecting with each other in a deeply empathetic way. We are working hard to further this mission by growing. That way, we’ll be able to reach MORE people, and we’ll come closer to making the world a more empathetic place.


6. We are featuring Kenny (Co-Owner + Creative Director) and DeAnna (Co-Founder + CEO) Gravillis


Gravillis Inc. visually communicates thought-provoking advertising campaigns for the entertainment industry. Today, their LA based boutique is filled with a visionary team who are always hungry to tackle ambitious creative concepts.

Question: What continues to drive you every day?

We truly love what we do. We are passionate about working on projects that enable

us to be smart and creative partners with people who call us for what we do best. We

love designing and coming up with innovated ways to communicate our vision for a

project. We stay hungry to bring the best work possible for all of our projects. We

love a challenge!

Question:  How do you overcome obstacles as business leaders?

We are big on communicating with each other. We believe in having a plan

yet staying flexible; pivoting when necessary. We just keep going! Staying on course

while we continue to grow and encourage each employee as well as our clients by

looking at the future and preparing for our goals to be reached.


Please join us in congratulating these winners and thanking them for their efforts! Check back for more details on stories of entrepreneurial success.


Laura loves helping busy entrepreneurs like you find relevant, recent, and relatable information to make better decisions for your business and career. As the VP of Content at Zenefits, she is committed to surfacing the best content for our customers and users.

Category: Zenefits, Entrepreneurship, Small Business Success Stories

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