Where are they now? Checking in with high-growth gazelle companies

Candyrific Marvel candy dispenser | Photo by Candyrific

Candyrific Marvel candy dispenser | Photo by Candyrific

Gazelles are fast-paced growth companies of any size, usually ones that have seen revenues increase by at least 20 percent annually for four years or more, starting at around a million dollars. Greater Louisville Inc. has put a big emphasis on supporting gazelles during the past few years, and with good reason: According to a Kauffman Foundation report from 2010, “High-growth firms account for a disproportionate share of job creation in the United States.”

The report goes on to say that “fast-growing young firms, comprising less than 1 percent of all companies, generate roughly 10 percent of new jobs in any given year.” Not to mention the fact that educated, ambitious job-creators are that rare, coveted demographic you want to attract and retain in any city, particularly second-tier economies.

So IL decided to check up on some local gazelle companies, starting with those that have been recognized in GLI’s annual Fast Dozen awards. We’ll be doing this from time to time as a way to keep tabs on how the local economy is growing — or not — in key areas.

In the past two years, two of the 2013 Fast Dozen award winners were acquired by much larger companies — both for undisclosed sums. OPM Financial was acquired by ARGI Financial, a Louisville-based wealth management firm, in early 2015. OPM’s seven employees were integrated into ARGI, and they recently moved into a brand-new 37,000 square foot headquarters on High Wickham Place. OPM was owned by GLI President Kent Oyler and Chuck Todd.

Stonestreet One, a Bluetooth engineering company founded in the late 1990s, was acquired by Qualcomm for an undisclosed sum in 2014. All 20 employees were offered positions at Qualcomm, and founder Tim Reilly came on as senior director of business development for the company. Qualcomm has around 31,000 employees and total assets in the neighborhood of $48 billion. Stonestreet One’s acquisition was lauded by the local tech community — it’s a boon to have a Qualcomm office in Louisville — and was very favorable to the company’s investors.

Other gazelles on the 2013 list have continued to grow. Artemis Electronics, an electrical engineering and repair company, was founded in 2005 and occupies more than 40,000 square feet in Prospect. In the past 10 years, its sales volume has increased by more than 600 percent and unique customers by 900 percent, according to figures provided by the company.

“Sales, orders, capability, employees, facilities, quality certs … all up from 2013,” said Andrew Kupersmith, director of sales and marketing for Artemis. “We received our largest manufacturing order to date this year, acquired new customers working on new platforms, hired an in-house counsel and a few more technicians, about to hire an intern from the Speed school.”

Did you know that the owner and founder of Rainbow Blossom Natural Food Market is also the founder and owner of CandyRific, a wildly popular maker of novelty candy? Rob Auerbach’s company has appeared on the Inc. 500 and Inc. 5000 lists of fastest-growing companies in the U.S. consecutively for the past seven years. Because who doesn’t need a “The Elf on the Shelf Candy Fan with Light,” right?

CandyRific sells candy and novelty product combinations like wands with candy or flashlights with candy, and partners with mega-popular brands like Star Wars, Marvel, Warner Bros., and Disney. In 2014, the company won the “best new product” award in Convenience Store News for its “Cinderella Light & Sound Wand with candy.” The company acquired another novelty candy company, Hilco, in 2014. Hilco deals in lower-cost candy.

CandyRific manufactures its products overseas and has distribution to most of the major retailers in the U.S. and most major markets around the world. Auerbach said last year the company’s annual revenue could hit $60 million in 2015.

Vision Dynamics is still chugging along at 1966 Production Court, making eyeglass lenses using digital technology. It’s the parent company of Vision Dynamics Laboratory, Optical Dynamics Laboratory, and Optical Dynamics. The company is also the principal supplier for a potential future Fast Dozen company, LensFactory.

The company brought in roughly $9 million in revenue in 2014, processing close to 700 prescriptions a day. It employs upwards of 70 people.

In late 2014, Vision Dynamics greatly increased its number of processing machines to meet a rise in demand and also added a second shift to its workforce.

“We are thrilled with increasing demand for our lab services and products,” said John Dippold, the company’s president. “Greater-than-ever interest had begun to stretch delivery times beyond acceptable limits, adding equipment along with a second shift allows us to accommodate this growth.”

Also in 2014, the company was named one of the Vision Monday’s Top 20 Independent Labs.

Stay tuned for more gazelle updates.

Correction: The original version of this story listed the wrong figure for Qualcomm’s assets, which total $48 billion.