Best of Madison Business 2022: The Roots Run Deep
Since we named the last class Best of Madison Business in January 2020, the pandemic has dramatically changed the way we work. Entire industries were forced to implement new strategies, delivery methods and day-to-day operations, while some businesses were completely shut down for much of the year. What stands out amid so much change are the local leaders who have remained steadfast, both in business and in their commitment to the Madison community.
This year’s winners also happen to be couples who’ve been through more than the ups and downs of the business world — they’ve been married life partners for more than 20, 30, and 40 decades.
The magazine has officially recognized exemplary business leadership since 2000, highlighting those who are making an impact beyond the walls of their business and making Madison a better place to live and work. This year’s Best of Madison Business award winners have weathered the storm of COVID-19 while staying grounded in their values and principles.
“They didn’t just overcome it because they had innovative ideas,” says Zach Brandon, president of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce. “They resisted because they invested in the community and that community returned that investment.”
The roots run deep in these Madison-born companies with local, national and global reach, led by leaders who are partners in both life and business. Their marriages have grown alongside their businesses, no doubt helping them stay focused on what’s most important, especially during a pandemic: caring for the people and the city they love.
Get tickets to the Best of Madison Business Awards here.
Bring back the music
Larry and Marla Frank | Frank Productions
Audiences and revenue have all but disappeared for Frank Productions for over a year due to COVID-19, demonstrating how sad life becomes without live entertainment. But the show goes on for the concert promoter who made Madison a destination for big names. Prior to its 2018 joint venture with Live Nation, Frank Productions was the largest independent concert promoter in the United States. Today, he has partnered with the largest concert promotion company in the world. Larry and Marla Frank are part of the founding family of Frank Productions who have called Madison home since Larry’s parents, Herb and Sylvia Frank, moved here in 1963 to run the Capitol Theater. Then the Colosseum was built in 1967 and Herb Frank Enterprises was contracted by Dane County to operate the box office. Frank Productions was established a few years later as a concert promotion company. Larry Frank says it’s very unusual for a national concert promoter to be headquartered in a small market.
“Madison is the Frank family home and we never considered moving our operations,” he says.
They built the Sylvee and operate it through FPC Live (a division of Frank Productions), and Frank Productions acquired the operations of the Majestic Theater as part of its merger with Majestic Live in late 2017. Frank Productions also operates The Orpheum Theater for the Live Nation account. , which has a long-term lease on the venue, and Frank Productions also acquired Cathy Dethmers’ High Noon Saloon in early 2017. “The city itself has always been very important to us,” says Larry Frank.
It’s also a personal sentiment, demonstrated in the many roles he and his wife have held on community and nonprofit boards. The couple and their children were the first donors to the Center for Black Excellence and Culture, and the couple has devoted considerable time to the center’s board of directors, as well as the boards of directors of the Children’s Theater of Madison, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Capital City Theater, YWCA, Temple Beth El and Wingra School.
Both are now in their succession phase at Frank Productions and look forward to spending summers in the Madison area (near their daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter who live in the Milwaukee area), and winters in Nashville ( near their son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter).
Buy Local champions
Carol “Orange” and Dean Schroeder | Imports of orange trees
COVID-19 was unexpected, but it’s not the only major challenge Carol “Orange” and Dean Schroeder have faced. Owners of Orange Tree Imports, a local gift and kitchenware retailer since 1975, weathered the effects of competition from big box stores, then Amazon, then a major construction project on Monroe Street. Then 2020 brought a pandemic and a health scare – Dean Schroeder suffered sudden cardiac arrest which landed him in hospital for a month. (He has since recovered.)
Through it all, the couple learned strengthened lessons of gratitude and flexibility. Their company turns 47 this year and they celebrate 48 years of marriage, and Orange Schroeder can be credited with writing its own success story as well as the roadmap for other local retailers around the world. She is the author of “Specialty Shop Retailing: How to Run Your Own Store”, which has four editions and has been translated into Russian. The English version has sold over 40,000 copies worldwide. She has shared tips and best practices in more than 100 columns for National Gifts and Accents magazine and has also written about 650 blog entries.
“The vast majority of entrepreneurs, at least in retail, have no business experience,” says Orange Schroeder, who notes that she was among the inexperienced when she started Orange Tree. “I like the idea of having helped other people succeed.” Along with being a generous local philanthropist with her husband, she is one of Madison’s earliest buy local champions, having been an early member of Dane Buy Local and president of the Monroe Street Merchants Association since its foundation almost 45 years ago. .
“The ‘buy local’ movement has become very important,” she says. “The idea of letting people know the role your business plays in our community and why it’s important to maintain the uniqueness of our community by supporting businesses located only on Monroe Street or only in Madison.”
Ride on family values
Chris and Sara Fortune | Sarees
Chris Fortune, who runs the day-to-day operations of Saris, a Madison-based bike rack and accessory maker, says his wife, Sara, and daughter, Heather, are the soul and conscience of the company. Heather runs the business alongside Chris Fortune, and Sara has been with the business since the beginning.
“She’s my partner, my soulmate, and she’s been on this journey with me for over 30 years,” Fortune says of his wife. The couple, married for 46 years in 2022, bought Graber Products in 1989 and renamed it Saris – a combination of their first names. Saris employs 196 people in a 75,000 square foot factory in Madison, and it’s a global company that sells locally made products.
Fortune is above all proud of its team; he often calls it the “tribe of the Saris”. He is also passionate about Saris Foundation Bike Parks for Kids, the non-profit organization created to build bike parks for underserved children around the world. The Fortunes are also huge supporters of the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County. “It comes down to growing up and the values you receive from your family about making a difference in people’s lives,” Fortune says.
Family values are important in both their business and their personal lives – Chris and Sara Fortune were foster parents for several years, acting as a bridge between birth parents and adoptive parents. (Sara herself was adopted.) In addition to raising four children and welcoming nine grandchildren, they have welcomed about 20 babies. Fortune says he and his wife were the beneficiaries of great parents who “showed us the way to what’s important in life and treat others with self-respect and make a difference in the community any way you can.”
An Innovative Pair (for separate nonprofits)
Each year, Madison Magazine selects an innovator from the local business scene to receive the Brian Howell Excellence in Innovation Award, named after the late Madison Magazine editor. We are naming two winners this year. Like the winners of the 2022 Best of Madison Business award, Kaleem Caire and Lisa Peyton-Caire are a married couple who made a big impact on Madison’s life. But unlike the other winners, Caire and Peyton-Caire, who have been married for 29 years, are establishing themselves in very different ways through their respective non-profit work.
Kaleem Cairo’s impact on Madison’s business scene is at its very core. Through One City Schools, a nonprofit school management organization that operates a preschool and public charter schools, Cairo is helping graduate more students who will become vital participants in a community. flourishing business. “I tell people I’m a social architect,” he says. “I’m trying to build structure and systems that help move humanity forward and really focus on our kids.” He is an innovator beyond expectation even in the charter school business of disrupting traditional models in order to achieve better results. In his case, the goal is to graduate more kids, especially kids of color, who will become the householders, entrepreneurs, and business leaders of tomorrow.
Lisa Peyton-Caire is also shaping Madison’s current and future business landscape by empowering Black women who live, work, own businesses, spend money and raise families in our community. The Black Women’s Well-Being Foundation works to ensure the well-being of Black women and to eliminate health and social disparities that impact the lives of Black women and those around them. Peyton-Caire is the founder, CEO and president of the foundation, which opened its physical center on the west side of Madison in January 2020. This lifelong passion stems from the life and loss of her mother, who died at 64. of congestive heart failure in 2006. In 2008, Peyton-Cairo launched Black Women’s Wellness Day, an annual one-day health summit that would later spark the launch of the foundation in 2012.
Get tickets to the Best of Madison Business Awards here.
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