In the ever-evolving realm of business, certain individuals stand out for their relentless drive to succeed. A new wave of entrepreneurs emerged in 2023, leaving a lasting impact on the entrepreneurial landscape of the United States. These five entrepreneurs have captured our attention and admiration, from their unwavering passion to their innovative ideas. Join us as we delve into the remarkable journeys of the Top Five Entrepreneurs of 2023, and discover how their steadfast mindset and laser-sharp focus have propelled them to the forefront of American business.
David Rao began his insurance career at GEICO in Fredericksburg, VA. Always wanting to own his own brokerage firm and fueled by a desire to help others navigate the intricate insurance landscape, he established Guru of Insurance in 2019. Recognizing a gap in the small business sector, his firm specializes in employee benefits utilizing a very unique preventative care management program. This program allows businesses to save on their FICA tax contribution while also allowing their employees to get benefits such as disability, life insurance, etc., at no out of pocket cost to the company or its employees.
David’s tech-savvy nature allows his firm to utilize census enrollments, giving his firm an edge because a typical open enrollment is not needed, which saves his clients time and money. While primarily operating in the DMV area (DC, Maryland, Virginia), Guru of Insurance serves small and large businesses nationwide, and has become a leading solution under David’s guidance.
David credits his entrepreneurial spirit to his father, who always reminded him to remember his roots, despite his incredible success. Those same principles extend to his client relationships – he’s there to help and assist, not just sell. David Rao remains grounded amid the success, keeping the values his father taught him close to his heart and remembering the saying his father always told him, “never forget where you came from son;” whether he’s assisting a friend or providing unparalleled service to his clients, he is committed to maintaining his core values, making him a true industry guru.
Brad Malchuk, a native of Vancouver, Canada, began his career as a military infantryman before transitioning into the realm of entrepreneurship. He joined a small company named Fastik as the fourth employee, initially working in sales. Seizing an opportunity for partnership offered by the owner, he unexpectedly found himself taking over the business entirely just a few months later.
Fastik is a manufacturing company specializing in food packaging materials most commonly found in the local grocery store produce section. Brad, an ambitious and creative risk-taker, is constantly reinventing the company by discovering and inventing new products to adapt to an ever-evolving market. Over time, he grew the team from just a handful of people to nearly 100 employees.
Under Brad’s leadership, Fastik ventured into an innovative and sustainable niche – producing resealable film for the produce industry. Starting with cherry tomatoes and later expanding to lettuce packaging, this invention greatly reduces plastic consumption, responding to the growing consumer demand for sustainability. This endeavor contributed significantly to Fastik doubling its business twice in the last nine years, achieving 400% growth.
Though Brad Malchuk wasn’t initially planning to become an entrepreneur, he found that his natural proclivity towards innovation, risk-taking, and opportunity-seeking served him well in this role. Today, he continues to lead Fastik, continuously evolving and innovating in response to market trends and sustainability needs.
Michaela Falco is the founder and agency director of ME3 Digital, a leading digital marketing agency. Inspired by the power of social media, Michaela established ME3 Digital in 2019 to focus on its impact on businesses. With a background in customer service and leadership roles, including her time as a Hooters Girl featured in national commercials for Hooters, Michaela shaped the agency’s foundation with valuable skills and a people-first approach.
Motivated by the lack of institutional resources in digital marketing, Michaela became a leader in the industry. She took her education into her own hands, gaining accreditations online and becoming well-versed in social media and digital marketing. ME3 Digital is a women-owned agency specializing in social media and influencer marketing, supporting national and local brands. ME3 Digital was awarded “Brand of the Year” with Hooters by the NIL Summit in June, 2023.
ME3 Digital focuses on social media and influencer marketing at scale. Since the company’s inception, they now provide hands-on service to over 500 social profiles on a daily basis. The team at ME3 provides boots-on-the-ground in major markets across the US, as their team is located nationwide. Michaela Falco’s leadership style, influenced by her mentors and defining moments, is heart-centered and emphasizes collaboration, transparency, and people-first values.
ME3 Digital fosters collaboration and innovation within the agency, providing opportunities for team growth through cross-training and recognition programs. ME3 Digital’s impact on the digital marketing industry is driven by their innovative campaigns, participation in industry events, and dedication to empowering women in the field.
Derrick Grahn, the founder of The Coveted Group, is carving an impressive legacy in the landscape of real estate. Derrick kick-started his career in Chicago, initially making his mark as a designer of and eventually owning restaurants and nightclubs before venturing into real estate development.
In the mid 2000s, Derrick moved to Mexico and co-founded Cabo Social, a successful luxury lifestyle magazine in Los Cabos.
Derrick sold Cabo Social in 2011 to launch The Coveted Group, the real estate arm of Flora Farms—a burgeoning startup and domain to one of, if not themost iconic restaurant in Los Cabos, the Field Kitchen. A secret to most of Flora’s patrons is their vast Insta-worthy farm and gardens are also home to private low-density communities featuring charmingly crafted Cottages and Haylofts—which The Coveted Group was instrumental in molding.
The Coveted Group’s niche is deeded fractional real estate, offering owners a titled asset that can be utilized, rented, or sold. Most recently, The Coveted Group has opened limited private funding to fuel its expansion into property development. They are currently involved in projects on Cabo’s East Cape, a 120-acre farm in Wisconsin, a 200-acre butte in northern Arizona, a 400-acre ranch near Baja Sur’s Todos Santos, and beyond.
As an artist who attended The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Derrick Grahn’s zeal for creating unique experiences is deeply ingrained. That, combined with his business acumen, has made The Coveted Group a significant player in redefining real estate assets for owners and investors alike.
Paula Panagouleas Miller, a Harvard graduate and the tenacious founder of Karmascore, is revolutionizing how we manage our interpersonal relationships. Through the app, she and her team combine expertise in technology, finance, psychology, and communication to guide users towards healthier, more valuable relationships.
Paula Panagouleas Miller’s journey started in corporate finance while simultaneously being a serial entrepreneur. She then pivoted to become a certified relationship coach. She was inspired to create Karmascore after realizing the number of individuals who struggle to balance what they give versus take in their social relationships.
The app provides a tool that lets users monitor their social and monetary investment with others, as well as the investments that other people have made in them. The app then generates a “Karmascore,” which provides a clear, objective measure that lets users know the relationships from which they derive the most value, as well as the relationships that are the most out of balance (e.g., one party contributing more than the other). These Karmascores empower users to make better decisions because their actions are now backed by objective data that are less affected by decision-making biases and flawed recall. Allowing users to make better decisions regarding their interpersonal relationships embodies Paula’s belief that healthy relationships are the cornerstone of a positive, productive life.
The journey to launch the proof of the concept has had its challenges. However, the new version of the app with improved features will launch in January 2024. Paula’s steadfast belief in Karmascore’s potential to transform lives remains unwavering. As she readies for the latest app update, her journey stands as a testament to the transformative power of technology and the incredible potential of a resilient team. Her passion for making a difference resonates in every feature of Karmascore, revolutionizing how we perceive and manage our relationships.