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Love’s Entrepreneurship Center to Leap Into 2012 Entrepreneurship Day

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma City University’s Love’s Entrepreneurship Center will host four dynamic leaders from the business community at the Spring 2012 Entrepreneurship Day from 8 a.m. to noon Feb. 29 in the Kerr-McGee Auditorium at the Meinders School of Business.

            “We are absolutely delighted to have such a wonderful group of entrepreneurs and successful business leaders tell their stories at this year’s Entrepreneurship Day”, said Steven C. Agee, PhD, dean of the Meinders School of Business.

            The four featured speakers are Stan Clark, president of Stan Clark Companies and founder of Eskimo Joe’s;  Bart Conner, gymnast and Olympic Champion; Paula Marshall, author and CEO of Bama Pies; and John K. Penton, president of Canaan Energy LLC.

Clark is president and founder of Stan Clark Companies, which owns Eskimo Joe’s and other restaurants in Stillwater. A native of Tulsa, Clark graduated from Oklahoma State University in 1975 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.  He had $1,200 to his name when a friend suggested they should open a bar.  Eskimo Joe’s opened on July 21, 1975.

            After two years as partners, Clark bought his partner’s half interest to become the sole proprietor of Eskimo Joe’s.  Mexico Joe’s opened in 1987.  The company opened its first retail location, Joe’s Clothes World Headquarters, later that year.

            In 1993, Gov. David Walters appointed Clark to the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation commission.  He was reappointed by Governor Frank Keating twice and served for nearly nine years under three governors.

            Clark opened Joseppi’s Italian Kitchen in 2000 next to Mexico Joe’s.  In 2002, he incorporated his latest operating company, Eskimo Joe’s Promotional Products Group.

            One of the company’s legacies is its support of the Stillwater community, particularly the Stillwater Area United Way.  Eskimo Joe’s has sponsored and hosted the Juke Joint Jog for more than 20 years and has been the title sponsor of the Three Amigos’ United Way Golf Classic for 16years.  It has sponsored or contributed to the Special Olympics of Oklahoma, the Stillwater Public Education Foundation and the Coaches vs. Cancer Program.

            Conner is the only American male gymnast to win gold medals at every level of national and international competition. Conner has been a USA Champion, NCAA Champion, Pan-American Games Champion, World Champion, World Cup Champion and an Olympic Champion.

            Conner was a member of three Olympic Teams in 1976, 1980 and 1984. It was during the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics that he made a dramatic comeback from his second torn biceps injury to win two gold medals, one as a member of the US team. Conner earned his second gold with a perfect ten on the parallel bars.

            Conner’s interest in gymnastics began in grade school gym class, when he excelled atacrobatic moves. As a child, he participated in many sports, but at every opportunity, Conner could be seen trying handstands. By the time he was a teenager, he had a set of parallel bars in his back yard and a pommel horse in his basement.

            In the fall of 1976, Conner moved to Norman to attend the University of Oklahoma and work with Coach Paul Ziert on the gymnastics team. While at OU, Conner earned 14 NCAA All-America honors and led his team to two national team titles.

            After graduating with a degree in journalism in 1984, Conner went into business with Ziert. Today, they own several gymnastics-related business interests including the Bart Conner Gymnastics Academy, where more than 1,000 gymnasts train atevery level, from beginning motor skill development to elite athletes aiming for college scholarships and spots on the US national team.

            In 1992, Conner and Ziert took over International GYMNAST magazine, the premier international gymnastics magazine. IG marked its 50th anniversary in 2006 and ships to more than 15,000 serious gymnastics enthusiasts in 70 countries.

            In 1996, Ziert and Conner formed Grips, Etc., a gymnastics supply company.  That same year, they opened a new office building and factory in Norman to produce gymnastics grips, T-shirts and tumbling shoes.

            Conner still enjoys high visibility as a TV color commentator and public speaker. He has worked as an expert announcer for every major television network. Conner’s production company, Perfect 10 Productions, has produced gymnastics TV shows for ESPN, Fox Sports Net, Oxygen TV and the World Championship Sports Network.

            Conner has appeared in television and feature films, including, Rad, about BMX bike racing, Peaceful Warrior and the 2006 Disney gymnastics feature, Stick It, starring Jeff Bridges.

            In 1996, Conner married Romanian Olympic champion Nadia Comaneci in a lavish state wedding in Bucharest, Romania. Today, Conner and Comaneci are involved in several charities, including the Executive Board of Special Olympics International and the Board of Directors of the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

            In 1991, Conner was inducted into the US Olympic Hall of Fame, and in 1997, he was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame. In 2006, Conner’s Olympic Gold medal winning team was inducted into the US Olympic Hall of Fame.

            Along with some of their fellow Olympic medalists, Conner and Comaneci contributed a chapter to an inspirational book called Awaken the Olympian Within.

            On June 3, 2006, Conner and Comaneci welcomed their son, Dylan Paul Conner, into the world.  Dylan, who was born a few weeks early, was 4lbs. 10 oz. and 17 and 1/2 inches long at birth and is doing well. In fact, Conner boasts, “He already has a pretty good set of biceps!”

            Today, Conner and Comaneci continue to travel the world delivering inspirational speeches as well as promoting their charities, gymnastics, fitness and healthy lifestyles.

            Marshall was named the CEO of her family’s business, The Bama Companies, in 1985. Bama provides frozen baked goods to large-scale restaurant chains including the nation’s largest hamburger chain, the nation’s largest pizza chain and the nation’s largest retailer. Marshall received a Bachelor of Science in Business and Doctorate of Commercial Science from Oklahoma City University.

            While at the helm of Bama, Marshall has grown the organization to a $300 Million organization all while putting a precedent on quality. Bama won the prestigious Malcolm Baldridge Award for Quality in 2004 from the United States Department of Commerce, and has been hailed as a leader in the baking industry. Marshall has served as chairman of the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce, and is active on many boards such as the Tulsa Education Fund, Philbrook Museum of Art, Girl Scouts, Ronald McDonald House, the Salvation Army, the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, The University of Tulsa and Oklahoma City University.

            Paula was one of the first women asked to join the Young Presidents Organization Oklahoma Chapter in 1990. Paula was named as one of the 1992 Outstanding Young Americans by the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce. In 1993, she was named one of the Top Ten CEO’s by Industry Week Magazine. She was selected Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young in 1997. In 1998, she was named to the Oklahoma Department of Commerce Business Hall of Fame. In 2009 Paula wrote her first book“Finding the Soul of Big Business” and in 2011 her fourth book, “Sweet as Pie, Tough as Nails: How a Teen-Mom Turned CEO Faced Giant Obstacles in Her Life and Business” was released.

            Penton is a principal of Canaan Natural Gas Management LLC (CNGM), the continuation of a management group cofounded in 1987 by Penton and Leo E. Woodard. Messrs Penton and Woodard have managed eight prior fully cash realized funds that generated an overall gross IRR of 25 percent and 3.0/1 ROI. CNGM is the manager of Canaan Natural Gas Fund IX, a private equity, natural gas focused limited partnership with$200 million equity commitments.  CNGM’s investor group includes university endowments, foundations, corporate pensions, institutional fund-of-funds, insurance companies and institutional level family offices.  The fund is considered fully invested through the primary investment phase and currently in development of the assets it has acquired.  Fund raising efforts were completed in summer 2008 for Canaan Natural Gas Fund X with $300 million equity commitments.  Fund X is in its primary investment phase, having deployed 26 percent of equity committed thus far.  For the past 24 years, Messrs Penton and Woodard’s efforts have focused on the acquisition of predictable, long-lived natural gas reserves that have an extensive, low risk drill-bit component for further development. In addition to Penton and Woodard, Canaan employs a staff of 45 energy professionals, located in Oklahoma City.

            Penton received a BS in Economics from Oklahoma City University in 1978 and an MBA from the University of Central Oklahoma in 1980.  He resides in Oklahoma City and Florida with his wife, Lisa, and is the father of four children – Jillian, Jerid, Danielle and Desirae.  

 “The Love’s Entrepreneurship Center and the Meinders School of Business are excited to be hosting this event.  These four individuals have overcome challenges on their path to success and have amazing stories to share,” said Bob Greve, PhD, director of OCU’s Love’s Entrepreneurship Center. “The passion and energy that each brings promises to make Entrepreneurship Day motivating, informative and entertaining.  Anyone interested in success or wishing to be inspired should plan on attending.”

            Corporate sponsorships and individual tickets are now available.  For more information or to make a reservation, visit msb.okcu.edu/news-events/events/register, or contact Greve at (405) 208-5437 or rgreve@okcu.edu.