A Different Breed of Cat

Entrepreneur Awards Recognize Business Owners Who Risk All for Success

By Sara Gavin | Photography by Turner Photography Studio | Posted on 07.01.13 – Diversions, Lifestyles, People & Places

Awards are lined up prior to being presented to recipients at the Entrepreneur Council of Frederick County’s annual banquet.
Don Linton, this year’s winner of the Master Entrepreneur Award.
Sharon and Charles Riser of The Temple—A Paul Mitchell Partner School receive their award in the Small Established Business category.
Wyatt Farmer, a recent graduate of Catoctin High School who started his own company, Maryland Bio-Fuels, was honored as a Youth Entrepreneur.
Josh Hough was the second winner in the Youth Entrepreneur category.
Heidi Gerding, president and CEO of Heitech Services, was the keynote speaker for the entrepreneur awards banquet.
Ed Robinson, Entrepreneur Council president (left), Karlys Kline, Entrepreneur Council board member (middle) with Don Linton.

It was in 1953, while serving as a U.S. Army combat medic in Japan, when Don Linton realized his plan to make a career out of the military wasn’t going to pan out the way he thought. “I remember thinking to myself: I don’t belong here. Maybe I need to do something else,” says Linton.

Fast forward 60 years and that 18-year-old Frederick High School graduate searching for a path in life is a fixture in the business community who employs dozens of people at an accounting firm that bears his name. He’s also this year’s recipient of the Master Entrepreneur Award, the coveted honor handed out annually by the Entrepreneur Council of Frederick County to a business owner who has been established for more than 20 years.

While Linton’s story is certainly one of success, he’ll tell you the road wasn’t always easy. Growing his firm and earning the respect of clients was a gradual process that sometimes consumed his life. “You can’t just walk away from the office at 4 or 5 o’clock. You’re always thinking about it,” he says.

Despite his early struggles, Linton says he never once considered quitting. “You never tell an entrepreneur, ‘No,’ because that makes it a challenge,” he says. “Entrepreneurs are just a different breed of cat.”

Each year, members of the entrepreneur council select from a diverse pool of applicants and nominees for awards that honor small, medium and large established businesses.

That is precisely why the Entrepreneur Council of Frederick County was created: to encourage and support this “different breed” of risk-takers willing to put it all on the line to follow their dreams and start their own businesses. Formed in 1995, the Entrepreneur Council is a not-for-profit organization with a mission to help business owners in Frederick County succeed. The council hosts networking forums and coordinates an executive roundtable series but its premier event is the annual awards that serve to celebrate both emerging and existing business owners in various categories of development.

“It’s a way to acknowledge these people who nobody really ever acknowledges—the ones who get up every day and take the risks that keep our local economy going,” says Ed Robinson, president of the Entrepreneur Council. “A lot of entrepreneurs just put their heads down and work and you don’t even know who they are.”

Each year, members of the Entrepreneur Council select from a diverse pool of applicants and nominees for awards that honor small, medium and large established businesses, as well as youth entrepreneurs.

This year the council decided to create a new category to recognize a business that isn’t following a traditional growth path. Crossroads Animal Referral and Emergency (CARE) was the recipient of the first-ever “Fast Growth Start-Up Award.”

“You never tell an entrepreneur, ‘No,’ because that makes it a challenge. entrepreneurs are just a different breed of cat.”—Don Linton

Veterinarians Stephanie Phillips and Kelly Gellasch started CARE, a 24-7 veterinary hospital, in 2010. Starting out with a staff of just 12, the animal-loving duo has been continually adding employees to keep up with the demand for services. In just three years, CARE has grown to a staff of more than 40 and serves an average of 600 patients a month. “We knew there was certainly a need for it and we expected it would grow, but our growth plan was really along the plan of five years. It’s grown twice as fast as we expected,” says Phillips, who grew up in Frederick County and is a Brunswick High School graduate.

Sharing unique stories like CARE’s is part of what makes Ed Robinson so passionate about the work of the Entrepreneur Council.  “Every business is like a snowflake,” he says. “There are no two that are the same. They are a reflection of their leaders and founders.”

That’s what makes the Entrepreneur Awards dinner such an inspiring event, he says. This year, the banquet was held at historic Walker’s Overlook to accommodate the event’s record number of 240 guests.

For 18-year-old Wyatt Farmer, one of two winners in the Youth Entrepreneur category, the awards provided motivation to stay on track and pursue his own business interests. “To see the other business [owners] who had been in my shoes just a few years before and to see how successful they’ve become, to see it’s really possible, was so inspiring,” says Farmer, who graduated from Catoctin High School this spring.

“Every business is like a snowflake. “There are no two that are the same. They are a reflection of their leaders and founders.”—Ed Robinson; President, Entrepreneur Award Council

After learning how to create biodiesel through a Future Farmers of America project, Farmer decided to start his own company called Maryland Bio-Fuels. He collects used cooking oil from restaurants and turns it into biodiesel using a process called transesterification. He then markets the more efficient and environmentally friendly fuel for off-road uses such as home heating or farming equipment. He says some of his clients refer to his product as “patriotic fuel.” “I think biodiesel really is the answer to America’s energy independence and energy crisis. Biodiesel isn’t going to be the only thing but it’s going to be a huge part of that,” says Farmer.

Whether just venturing out into the business world or reflecting on decades of success, each entrepreneur in the 2013 awards class had a similar piece of advice for other budding business owners: Find your passion. “If you’re truly doing what you love, you’re going to be successful but I think you need to know how you’re going to measure your success and you have to do your homework,” says Phillips.

As far as a suitable location to start a new business, these honored entrepreneurs were hard-pressed to find fault with Frederick. “I think we’ve got everything anybody could want,” says Linton. “I can’t imagine opening a business anywhere else.”