Dan Drake, chairman of upstart manufacturing firm MoJack, has been named a regional finalist in Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award competition.
The native of Atlanta, Kan., is competing against 41 other entrepreneurs in a region Ernst & Young calls the Southwest Area North, which also includes north Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.
Drake, 41, will travel to Dallas next week for additional interviews by contest judges. Winners in different industry categories will be announced at a black-tie dinner on June 23 in Dallas, and will go on to compete for national awards.
“Thanks to the great team of people here and the great growth we’ve had, I was lucky enough to be nominated,” Drake said.
MoJack’s patent attorney in Kansas City nominated him, Drake said.
The nomination comes at the same time the company, which employs about 20, continues to grow and add new products.
Drake founded the company with Nate Gregory, a 2010 Kansas Pipeline Innovator, in 2007. MoJack’s launch product was a lift for do-it-yourself repair of riding lawnmowers. Drake said in 2010 the company got its lifts into Tractor Supply Co. and Home Depot stores. In the past year the company successfully negotiated deals to get its lifts into Lowes and Sears.
“We’re now in about 3,500 retailers, up from 1,500 a couple of years ago,” Drake said. The company also sells its products through a network of independent dealers, which Drake said has grown 500 percent in the past year.
MoJack, which occupies 60,000 square feet of an 86,000-square-foot building it owns at 3535 N. Rock Road, is also adding to its product line, with the manufacture of small trailers, aerators and other accessories for riding lawnmowers as well as hand trucks.
“We’re looking at categories that haven’t seen innovation in some years,” he said.
The addition of new products also “allows you to leverage your relationship with retailers,” Drake said. “It allows you to leverage your in-house capabilities.”
Drake is the only entrepreneur from Wichita who has been nominated for the award. Five other Kansans in the Kansas City area have been nominated in Ernst & Young’s Central Midwest region.
“It will be good exposure for us, and it’s a nice honor,” Drake said.