Kraig Clark’s dream of starting his own business began at Sac State

Sacramento State alumnus Kraig Clark accepts his Distinguished Service Award, during the annual Distinguished Alumni Awards event held in April. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

While at Sacramento State, Kraig Clark ’91 (Accountancy) and his roommate Steve Schroeder ’93 (Business Administration) already were dreaming about the company they one day would start.

“Half of the time we were supposed to be studying, we were talking about different businesses and what might work from a scaling perspective.  A lot of our discussions were related to building a company that could scale.” Clark says. “I don’t think we knew exactly what we were going to start, we just knew we were going to start.”

In 1997 they founded CoreLogic, a data analytics firm for the mortgage banking industry, which they grew into a multimillion-dollar business that eventually resulted in a profitable merger. Today, Clark is the co-founder of JLM Energy, an energy technology firm, and eScreenLogic, an environmental consulting firm.

Clark sees his work as an entrepreneur as being similar to that of a contractor who takes an empty lot of land and turns it into a building, shopping center, office, or something else that becomes used and enjoyed by others.

“You start with nothing, you have a concept and an idea,” he says. “I like building things, “things” meaning companies. You bring a collection of people together, you have a strategy and a concept, and you see if you can turn that into something that’s scalable or livable.”

His current companies merge his lifelong passion for entrepreneurship with another of his interests, sustainability, something he was able to foster while a student at what now is one of the nation’s “greenest” campuses.

“At Sac State, I remember Earth Day, and I had a solar cooker that I experimented with,” Clark says. “In the back of my mind, it was always something that I wanted to explore and the opportunity presented itself and I jumped in with JLM Energy and eScreenLogic.”

Clark, who grew up in Lodi, transferred to Sacramento State in 1989 from Delta College in Stockton and decided to major in accountancy, believing it would give him a solid financial foundation he could use to start his first business. The fact that his courses actually were taught by faculty members, and not teaching student assistants, he says, was a huge benefit to attending, as was a curriculum designed to prepare him for the working world.

His first job after graduation was working in the finance department of a Suisun City-based aerospace company. He eventually became the assistant controller, but left after 4½ years to pursue his longtime dream of starting his own business, which became CoreLogic.

In 2011, he and business partner Farid Dibachi founded JLM because they saw an opportunity to make their mark in the burgeoning renewable energy industry. One year later, they branched into energy storage, meaning they were ahead of the game when Tesla CEO Elon Musk made his own, much-publicized foray into the technology in 2015.

“We were like, ‘Great!’ ” Clark says. “It really helped cut down the time that it took to educate the client. He educated the public, and we were already selling our systems.”

Starting and running his own businesses, however, never has been easy – “There are challenges all the time,” he says – but one thing Clark says that Sacramento State does well is teach students how to be resourceful. He also is pleased that students now can major in entrepreneurship and encourages anyone who wants to follow his career path to be patient, break the rules, and not be afraid to fail.

“If you’re not failing, you’re not trying,” he says. “You have to go through a lot of intelligent trial and error. You’re not going to get there if you don’t try and work hard and put your whole focus into what you’re trying to achieve.”

Clark was one of seven Sacramento State alumni to be honored at the Distinguished Alumni Awards, held last month. He received a Distinguished Service Award, given to University graduates who have achieved prominence in their chosen field and brought distinction to Sac State and/or the community through their accomplishments.

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Alumnus Garry Maisel to receive President’s Medal at Commencement

Garry Maisel, seen above at an event held this month in his honor, will receive the President’s Medal for Distinguished Service.

When Garry Maisel ’80 (Business Administration) graduated from Sacramento State, he was named the most outstanding undergraduate in finance. It was the first in a long line of honors for Maisel, and at Commencement on Saturday, May 20, he’ll receive another: the President’s Medal for Distinguished Service.

Maisel is the president and CEO of Western Health Advantage, an organization dedicated to improving health care access and affordability, as well as a member of the University Foundation at Sacramento State’s board of directors and the co-chair of the Campaign Leadership Committee.

The President’s Medal for Distinguished Service is awarded at Spring Commencement ceremonies to recognize outstanding service to Sacramento State. The medal is not awarded every year and is reserved for individuals who have made the highest, and most positive, impact on the University.

Maisel also received a Distinguished Service Award from Sacramento State in 2013.

“One of the first lessons I learned at Sac State was, no matter which career field you’re in, it’s your interpersonal communication skills that can set you apart,” he told Sacramento State in 2014. “Occasionally I talk to students and I always stress that you need to be a good communicator in how you interact and deal with people.”

Founded in 1996 by Maisel, Western Health Advantage provides customer service to more than 135,000 members in Northern California and has a current annual revenue of $750 million. The company is regularly featured in the Sacramento Business Journal’s annual list of the top 50 fastest-growing companies.

Maisel personally and professionally supports a number of local organizations, including chairing the board of the B Street Theater and the Health Plan Alliance. He also currently serves or has prior service on several boards, including Women Escaping a Violent Environment (WEAVE), the California Association of Health Plans, the Mercy Foundation, the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, the American Heart Association, the Greater Sacramento Area Economic Council, and Valley Vision.

His many honors include the 2015 Humanitarian of the Year Award from UCP Sacramento, the 2014 Executive Leadership Award from Community Link Capital Region, the 2011 Individual Arts Leadership Award from the Sacramento Arts and Business Council, and the 2010 Sacramento Metro Chamber Businessman of the Year.

At Sacramento State, Western Health Advantage has a room named at the University’s Center for Health Professions as a result of its contributions to the Campaign for Nursing.

For more information about Spring Commencement, visit csus.edu/commencement.

Streetwise: Skateboarders turn lifelong passion into design success

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How did two skateboarders, working out of a bedroom, end up running advertising campaigns for some of the world’s biggest brands?

By being really good at guessing celebrity emails, apparently.

While that isn’t the whole story, it’s the way Sac State alumnus John Davidson (’11, Business Administration) and friend Barton Damer, founder and creative director of the motion graphic and design company Already Been Chewed (ABC), landed one of their biggest clients on the way to international renown creating marketing content for the likes of Vans, Nike, and the Dallas Mavericks.

“My view is that if you can be on time every time and have pretty good work, you can be very successful,” says Davidson, ABC’s business manager. “But if you can be on time every time and have amazing work, the sky’s the limit.”

Since his first ride at age 11, Davidson knew he loved skateboarding. He wasn’t so sure about anything else, and he bounced around jobs – at a telemarketing company in Orlando, a cell phone kiosk in San Francisco, a tax firm in Washington, D.C. – before returning to California to study business and marketing at Sac State.

John_Graduation
John Davidson, business manager for Texas-based design company Already Been Chewed, graduated from Sac State in 2011 with a degree in Business Administration. (Photo courtesy of John Davidson)

“I was really in the right place, mentally, to go back to school,” he says. “I love encouraging young people to pursue a degree in business, especially from Sac State, because what it enables you to do is learn how to make money doing what you love.”

It was during his time in D.C. that Davidson met Damer, a fellow skateboarder and freelance artist. After Davidson graduated in 2011, Damer invited him to join his burgeoning freelance company as business manager.

Davidson moved to North Texas in 2012, and after a “very steep learning curve,” he says, things started to take off.

ABC designs still images and videos for every visual medium – print, broadcasts, live events, web, in-store displays. Initially, Damer handled all the design work, while Davidson employed his business sense to handle clients and market the company.

Two weeks after starting, Davidson landed his first major contract: an internal project for Nike Skateboarding and Nike Surfing. For two self-described “skate rats,” it was right in their wheelhouse.

“It was great because we know this stuff, and we’re part of the culture,” Davidson says. “If you’re not, you can make mistakes that the audience can easily pick apart and say, ‘Wait a minute, you don’t really know what you’re talking about, you’re faking this, and now I don’t want to buy your product.’ ”

That shared love of skateboarding – and serious persistence – ultimately nabbed ABC one of its biggest clients, skateboarder and television star Rob Dyrdek (Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy FactoryRidiculousness). Davidson and Damer always wanted to compose motion graphics for Street League Skateboarding (SLS), a televised international skateboarding tournament founded by Dyrdek.

To get Dyrdek’s attention, the duo took a shot in the dark: They guessed his personal email address, sending out their pitch to about a dozen possible addresses.

One of them got there.

As a result, ABC took over the entire TV package for SLS, which it still produces today for Fox Sports, and it continues to work closely with Dyrdek, producing content for various episodes of his shows on MTV as well as other projects.

Today, Already Been Chewed – a play on the common skating phrase “already been done,” referring to never wanting to repeat the same trick in the same spot – has grown into a staff of seven, moved into actual offices in downtown Allen, Texas, and tripled its revenue in the past four years.

It’s hard to fathom how such a small team has managed such an expansive portfolio, which includes work for: Vans, for which it produced the mega-brand’s 50th anniversary campaign; the Dallas Mavericks, for whom ABC produced an in-stadium home game intro video; and celebrities including Dyrdek, Desean Jackson, and Lil’ Wayne.

Davidson’s role as business manager has been crucial to the company’s growth. He attributes his tenacity and business sense to his time at Sac State, which, in addition to years and years of skateboarding, shaped him into the professional he is today.

“The falling, the getting back up, the trial and error: That absolutely has a lot to do with business as a whole,” Davidson says. “Continuing to persevere through difficult times and through challenges is related to skateboarding; the learning curve I had to go through was not easy.

“So your choices are either to work hard and continue to learn, or quit. And quitting was not an option.”

Check out the gallery at top for examples of the company’s design work, and click below for a highlight reel their recent motion graphic work.