May 24, 2015

Trendsetters: Feb. 2010

Tammy Kovar and Eric Kriss

Mike Vogel | 2/1/2010

Tammy Kovar

Tammy KovarTammy Kovar
Biological Tree Services and Sustainable Landscape Supply

Owner / Lakewood Ranch

Claim to Fame: As a seventh-grader in 1974, Kovar, a member of her junior high cheerleading squad in Charlotte, N.C., made news when she played on the boys football team. “There’s such a joy to working together with others to accomplish something.”
Not long after graduate school, biologist Tammy Kovar took a job with Monsanto that she expected to be forever. It wasn’t. Among other stops, she wound up working in Costa Rica and in habitat restoration for the South Florida Water Management District. In 1999, she joined Pittsburgh-based Plant Health Care to sell its living fungi and bacteria soil-building products in Florida as an alternative to chemical treatments.

She found landowners willing to try the products, but they couldn’t find someone to apply them. Thus in 2004 was born her Biological Tree Services. “I wasn’t planning to have my own business,” she says. In 2008, she founded Sustainable Landscape Supply to sell landscaping materials online and is trying to crack the international market.

Kovar, 48, is fluent in Spanish, conversant in Japanese, holds a tae kwon do black belt and expresses herself with casual enthusiasm: A professor was “amazing,” Oregon is “awesome,” plants “captured my heart,” habitat restoration work “was just prime.”

Her nine-employee company posted $700,000 in revenue in 2009. She pitches her products and services as a superior natural alternative to chemicals. “We’ll be one of the little companies that could. I took a lot of bumps along the way. I’m real fortunate my team stuck with me.”


Entrepreneurial Spirit

Eric Kriss
Eric Kriss
University of Miami
Entrepreneur in residence
Coral Gables
Eric Kriss played piano on a Grammy-nominated blues album, later founded a record company and still later co-founded private investment firm Bain Capital. He also started a healthcare company, directed the financial rehabilitation of two Massachusetts cities and, under then-Gov. Mitt Romney, helped balance the state budget and restructured its turnpike administration after a tunnel roof collapse.

It’s safe to say University of Miami students, regardless of their interests, will find something in Kriss’ background to draw on in his new role as the business school’s first entrepreneur in residence. He advises students, talks to classes, participates in seminars and assists with a business plan competition, among other things. Says Kriss: “What I really want to work on is creating the entrepreneur environment in south Florida that already exists in other parts of the country,” namely his native Silicon Valley and Boston’s Route 128. Miami is an obvious candidate, he feels, with its financial infrastructure, gateway status and UM.

Kriss became a Florida resident in 2005. He never reconciled to Boston winters, and one of his sons was a UM student. Despite the university job, Kriss, 60, these days is more than an Ivory Tower entrepreneur. He has an automotive-devoted IT company, krissmotors.com. Hobbyists can custom-build a car on the site. He has one of his own in Boston, a V8-powered replica of the 1965 AC Cobra 427 that won Le Mans.

Tags: Trendsetters, Agriculture, Environment

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