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Sunday, Aug 14, 2022

Smile Brands Executive, Other Entrepreneurs Honored

Steve Bilt, cofounder of Irvine-based dental services company Smile Brands Group Inc., was honored along with five others at the Business Journal’s 10th annual Excellence in Entrepreneurship Awards in Irvine.

In the late 1990s, Bilt helped start Smile Brands, which now has yearly revenue of about $455 million. He’s been the company’s chief executive since 2000 after serving as chief financial officer since the company’s inception.

The other honorees:

  • Brothers Ryan Steelberg and Chad Steelberg, founders of Irvine-based Brand Affinity Technologies Inc., an advertising startup that looks to hook up celebrities and athletes with online advertisers.
  • Heath Clarke, chief executive of Irvine-based Local.com Corp., which runs online search engines that target local business.
  • Hayes Drumwright, chief executive of Irvine-based technology consultant Trace3.
  • Mari Kurtz, chief executive of Santa Ana-based Cal Pac Sheet Metal, Inc., a supplier of sheet metal to developers and others.

Steele Platt, founder and chairman at Irvine-based Yard House Restaurants Inc., was the event’s keynote speaker.

He talked about how entrepreneurs have to constantly “press the reset button.” He recalled thinking he was at the peak with a successful Denver nightclub “and a mullet” in the late 1980s.

Then the nightclub closed after noise complaints to his landlord. He paid off taxes and employees but not some vendors.

Platt said he left Denver for California in a leased Mercedes with $80,000 in cash in a suitcase and a 9 millimeter handgun.

He worked as a bartender here before starting up Yard House, which sold a 70%, $200 million stake to San Francisco private equity firm TSG Consumer Partners in 2007.


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