Entrepreneurs are the rock stars of the business world. They're irreverent thought leaders who take an unorthodox approach to business and life. It's why they're successful -- and it's why they're a lot of fun to know.
With this in mind, we're proud to introduce the HuffPost Small Business Board of Directors -- a world-class group of entrepreneurs and members of the entrepreneurial community, who will regularly sound off on a variety of issues, offer advice to their fellow entrepreneurs, and create a smart, ongoing conversation not found anywhere else on the Web. From clothing to cupcakes, from a private island in the Caribbean to right around the corner here in New York, they hail from a variety of industries and locales and bring a wide range of entrepreneurial viewpoints. We first began the conversation on AOL Small Business and look forward to an even richer dialogue here on The Huffington Post, one of the most engaged social-media communities in the world.
You might notice they're represented by catchy nicknames and comic book avatars. That's because we like to think of them as our entrepreneurial superheroes, who we routinely turn to for help. So whether it's highlighting the challenges facing startups, analyzing the impact of policy decisions on entrepreneurs or simply opening up about their daily routines, we think you'll find them inspiring and insightful -- and will hopefully get you talking too.
Rod KurtzExecutive Editor, HuffPost Small Business
Rod is executive editor of HuffPost Small Business. In his role, he oversees all editorial content, including news, features, Board of Directors, and video. He is also the host of Ask Rod. Rod joined AOL in 2010, after nearly seven years as a staff writer and senior editor at Inc. and Inc.com, where he created and oversaw some of the site's most popular franchises, including "30 Under 30: America's Coolest Young Entrepreneurs," which received a Folio Eddie Award for Best Online News Coverage. Prior to that, he served as small business editor for BusinessWeek.com. A frequent commentator on TV and radio, including NBC, ABC, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, Fox News Channel, and Fox Business Network, Rod is also a guest lecturer in entrepreneurship at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Sir Richard BransonFounder and Chairman, Virgin Group
Richard is the founder and chairman of Virgin Group -- and considered one of the most respected and accomplished entrepreneurs in the world. His entrepreneurial journey began in 1970, when he founded a mail-order record retailer and record shop, which blossomed into Virgin Music Group and eventually sold in a $1 billion deal. Since then, Virgin has expanded into aviation, hospitality and leisure, telecommunications, financial services, health and wellness, and clean energy, through more than 200 companies worldwide, employing approximately 50,000 people in 29 countries, making it one of the world's most recognizable brands. In 1999, Richard was awarded knighthood for "services to entrepreneurship," has been involved in a number of world record-breaking attempts, is active in social, philanthropic, and entrepreneurial causes, and has written several successful books on entrepreneurship.
Bob ParsonsFounder and CEO, The Go Daddy Group
Bob is the charismatic and visionary founder and CEO of The Go Daddy Group, which has become the world's top Web-hosting provider and one of America's fastest-growing companies since its founding in 1997. Bob has developed a tremendous following thanks to a popular video blog and successful series of Super Bowl commercials that have generated countless hours of water cooler buzz. A decorated Marine veteran and serial entrepreneur, Bob started his first company, Parsons Technology, in his basement in 1984 and later sold it to Intuit for $64 million.
Rob DyrdekPresident, Dyrdek Enterprises
Considered one of the best professional skateboarders of all time, Rob has parlayed a 20-year career into more than a dozen successful business ventures, including the Rogue Status and DTA clothing lines, the Wild Grinders toy line and animated series, and his newest project, Street League Skateboarding, a professional skateboarding league drawing some of the sport's biggest names, who compete for more than $1 million in prize money. He has also starred in and executive produced two successful MTV series -- Rob & Big, and his current show, Rob Dyrdek's Fantasy Factory, which showcases day-to-day entrepreneurial life at his 25,000-square-foot superoffice in downtown Los Angeles.
Lexy FunkCo-Founder and CEO, Brooklyn Industries
Lexy is a New York-born, European-raised artist-turned-entrepreneur, who began making messenger bags out of used billboard vinyl 12 years ago, and has gone on to build a full men's and women's lifestyle clothing and accessories retailer with 14 stores in five states, along with a successful e-commerce site. Under Lexy's leadership, the company -- which is one of America's fastest-growing -- remains committed to sustainability powered by creativity, independence, and an anti-bureaucratic culture.
Eric RyanCo-Founder and Chief Brand Architect, Method
"The Soap Guy"
Eric makes soap. Really nice-smelling soap that's non-toxic and good for the planet. Soap that's really beautiful, too. He started Method in 2001 with his high school buddy Adam Lowry and has since built Method into a $100 million brand -- making it one of America's fastest-growing companies. Today, Method has more than 150 planet-friendly cleaning and personal care products that can be found in stores across the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
Dylan LaurenFounder, Dylan's Candy Bar
A Willy Wonka-themed party on her sixth birthday helped inspire Dylan to build her own real-life chocolate factory. Since its founding in 2001, Dylan's Candy Bar has become one of New York's favorite tourist destinations and the largest candy store in the world. Dylan's has evolved into a candy-inspired lifestyle brand that now includes T-shirts, jewelry, hats, totes, gift baskets, pillows, spa products like birthday cake-scented body wash and even a Dylan's Candy Bar version of the classic board game Candy Land. Dylan is also the author of Unwrap Your Sweet Life, which encourages readers to celebrate special occasions with candy. Willy Wonka aside, Dylan grew up with another pretty good entrepreneurial role model -- her father, fashion icon Ralph Lauren.
Clint GreenleafFounder and CEO, Greenleaf Book Group
A natural-born entrepreneur, Clint gave up on a short career in accounting to launch Austin-based Greenleaf Book Group, which has become one of the industry's leading book distributors and one of America's fastest-growing companies. He has represented more than 1,000 titles, four New York Times bestsellers, and six Wall Street Journal bestsellers. An accomplished author himself, Clint is a regular speaker at events across the entrepreneurial community, has been featured by The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Money, Inc., and Men's Health, and appears regularly on the Fox Business Network.
JJ RambergHost, MSNBC's Your Business and Co-Founder, GoodSearch
JJ serves as host as host of MSNBC's popular Your Business, the leading TV news program focused on entrepreneurs. It's a role she is uniquely suited for -- as the co-founder of GoodSearch, a New York-based search engine that donates 50 percent of its sponsored search revenue to the charities and schools designated by its users, she is a TV anchor who truly practices what she preaches, drawing on her own entrepreneurial experiences to help share advice and lessons with her fellow entrepreneurs. She started GoodSearch in 2005 with her brother Ken, and since its founding, the company has donated nearly $8 million on behalf of its users' favorite charities. JJ has also served as a correspondent for CNN and the director of marketing for Cooking.com. She "GoodSearches" for the Food Allergy Anaphylaxis Network, on behalf of her nephew, who suffers from a peanut allergy.
Ken YanceyCEO, SCORE
As CEO of SCORE, Ken is considered one of the nation's leading advocates for entrepreneurs and an expert on all things small business. He is responsible for developing the organization's business plan and vision, coordinating national program efforts, and managing the association's operations. He also oversees the SCORE headquarters staff, to serve and support its 364 chapters across the nation.
Tom SzakyFounder, TerraCycle
At the ripe old age of 19, Tom launched TerraCycle as an organic fertilizer company, which made plant food from "worm poop," as he likes to say. Since then, it has become one of the most talked-about green companies on the planet and one of the fastest-growing in America. A pioneer in the "upcycling" movement, TerraCycle now makes affordable, eco-friendly products from a wide range of non-recyclable waste materials -- messenger bags made from Capri Sun juice pouches, speakers made from Fritos bags, and more -- that are sold in major retailers like Walmart, Target, The Home Depot, and Whole Foods Market. In 2006, Tom earned the No. 1 spot on Inc.'s inaugural 30 Under 30 list.
Warren BrownFounder, CakeLove and Love Cafe
Warren left a career practicing law to start a bakery in 2002. Since then, his CakeLove and Love Café have developed a cult following, and his baking empire now includes seven retail stores in the Washington, D.C., area. He has been featured on the Today show and The Oprah Winfrey Show, has written two successful cookbooks, and served as host of Sugar Rush on The Food Network. He is also a board member at Kid Power, a local non-profit organization that conducts after-school arts programs for kids, and speaks regularly to young students and rising entrepreneurs about business development and finding one's passion.
Jodie and Danielle SnyderCo-Founders, DANNIJO
"The Sniper and Lil' Snipes"
Sisters Jodie and Danielle took a childhood jewelry-making hobby and turned it into a fast-growing, high-end retail brand that has become a favorite of celebrities like Beyonce, Natalie Portman, Katy Perry, and Blake Lively. Their unique bracelets, necklaces, and other accessories can be found on the shelves of Bergdorf Goodman, Henri Bendel, and other boutiques across the country, and have been featured by the Today show, Elle, InStyle, and Glamour. In 2009, Danielle and Jodie were recognized as members of Inc.'s 30 Under 30 list, and recently opened a design studio and showroom in New York's always-fashionable Meatpacking District.
Rob AdamsDirector, Texas Venture Labs at the University of Texas
Rob is something of an entrepreneurial Renaissance man -- investor, author, consultant, and member of the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin's McCombs School of Business, where he teaches in the MBA program and is director Texas Venture Labs, which hosts one of the world's premier business plan competitions. Throughout his venture and operating careers, he has been a founder, founding investor, or involved with the public offering, merger, or acquisition of more than 40 companies. He currently serves as a board member or adviser with a number of technology and life sciences companies.
Jennifer HillStartup Advisory and Venture Lawyer, Gunderson Dettmer LLP
Jennifer is an eloquent (in Spanish too!) advocate for all things entrepreneurial. She's an international venture attorney advising technology and digital-media companies and investors as they start, finance and scale their businesses in the United States, Latin America and the Middle East. A longtime techie, she cut her teeth in senior business development and operational roles in the software industry. A frequent speaker about small business, she regularly appears on MSNBC and serves on the advisory boards of three startup companies. Dedicated to the advancement of women entrepreneurs, she also serves on the advisory boards of Women in Wireless and Astia, which she launched and led in New York.
Lawrence GelburdLecturer, The Wharton School
"The Rock 'n' Roll Professor"
Following an extensive entrepreneurial career in the technology sector, Lawrence now serves as a consultant to an array of technology start-ups, helping them craft business plans and strategic visions. He also teaches several courses in entrepreneurship at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Collaborating with faculty at Wharton and the American University of Cairo, Lawrence helped create the curriculum for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Initiative, a five-year investment designed to foster shared economic growth to 10,000 underserved women around the world. He is also an accomplished record producer, working with Grammy winner Phil Nicolo.
Gary WhitehillFounder, The Relentless Foundation and Entrepreneur Week
Gary got his entrepreneurial start selling candy as a kid to help pay for football cleats. Since then, he has parlayed that passion into The Relentless Foundation, a non-profit initiative that seeks to catapult entrepreneurship as a driving force in education and economies around the world. In 2009, he launched New York Entrepreneur Week, which has fast become one of the Big Apple's premier entrepreneurship events, drawing speakers and attendees from around the world. The series has since evolved into Entrepreneur Week, a global platform that brings entrepreneurs together in 11 cities across four continents.
Phil TownInvestor and Author of Rule #1 and Payback Time
Phil is not your typical Wall Street investing guru. An ex-Green Beret and former river guide, he is a self-made investor, motivational speaker, and author of the New York Times No. 1 bestseller, Rule #1. His latest book is Payback Time, which focuses on active investing strategies. He regularly appears on the same stage with Bill Clinton and Rudy Giuliani as part of the "Get Motivated" success conference, and is a frequent guest on CNBC and MSNBC.
Rieva LesonskyFounder and CEO, GrowBiz Media
Rieva knows entrepreneurs -- and entrepreneurs know Rieva. Considered the grande dame of small-business journalism, she is the co-founder and CEO of GrowBiz Media, a Lakewood, Calif.-based provider of information and resources for business owners. She is also the author of HuffPost Small Business' "Survey Says" column. As the longtime former editorial director of Entrepreneur, Rieva has worked with entrepreneurs for more than 25 years and is considered one of the nation's leading experts on the subject. She is a frequent guest on TV and radio, including MSNBC's Your Business, and is the author of Start Your Own Business. She maintains Diet Coke is the key to entrepreneurial success.
Steve StraussColumnist and Author of The Small Business Bible
"The Mr. AllBiz"
Steve is often referred to as "America's small business expert." He is an internationally recognized author, lawyer, and speaker, who serves as senior business columnist for USAToday.com and AOL Small Business, and his "Ask an Expert" is one of the most highly syndicated business columns in the world. He is the author of 15 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible.
Julie JumonvilleCo-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer, UpSpring Baby
"The Mad Scientist"
When she's not wakeboarding or playing in an all-mom rock band, Julie is the co-founder and chief innovation officer of UpSpring Baby, which develops creative and convenient solutions to improve health, wellness, and safety for parents and young children. Julie started the company after developing Milkscreen, the first-ever home test to screen breast milk for alcohol. With several patents pending to her credit, Julie has since branched out to other products, including Walking Wings, which help teach babies to walk more naturally -- without the risk of falling.
Tate ChalkFounder and CEO, Nfinity
Nfinity is the first athletic footwear company to create a team shoe specifically for the female physiology. When founding the company in 2003, Tate chose to fill a glaring void in the marketplace -- sneakers designed exclusively for women, to encourage peak performance and reduce risk of injury -- rather than follow the lead of industry giants and their one-size-fits-all approach. As a result, Nfinity has become a leader in the cheerleading world, and has since branched into the basketball and volleyball markets, making it one of the nation's fastest-growing companies.
Elizabeth Busch, Anne Frey-Mott And Beckie JankiewiczCo-Founders, The Event Studio
"The Clipboard Queens"
Elizabeth, Anne, and Beckie are the dynamic trio behind The Event Studio, a fast-growing event planning, conference, and production company with offices in New York, Las Vegas, and San Francisco. With decades of experience in the industry and a unique focus on business and innovation, they have helped create events drawing thousands of attendees for the likes of Fortune, Inc., Fast Company, the Women's Leadership Exchange, and HarvardBusiness.org.