Trendsetters: Feb. 2010
Tammy Kovar and Eric Kriss
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.”
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.”
University of Miami
Entrepreneur in residence
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.