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Forbes Lauds NH's "Small Giants"
Published Tuesday, July 18, 2017

GYK Antler in Manchester and W.S. Badger in Gilsum are among ForbesSmall Giants for 2017, the magazine’s second annual recognition of “25 companies that value greatness over growth.”

The list is based on a book of the same name written by Bo Burlingham, a Forbes contributor and author on the topic of entrepreneurship. He writes that this year’s picks “aren’t opposed to growth—just to growth at all costs,” adding that they “have sound models, strong balance sheets and steady profits—all privately owned and closely held. They contribute to their communities. They have been acknowledged as outstanding by others in their field. And they do things any business can learn from.”

Bill Whyte, CEO and co-founder of Badger, says that after they were selected as a semi-finalist, he was interviewed by the magazine "at length to verify the information in our nomination form.”

New Hampshire is one of only 15 states represented on the list and one of just seven with more than one business listed. New England, in general, had a solid showing however. Barefoot Books in Massachusetts and Rhino Foods in Vermont also made the cut.

“A lot of these types of lists have a ton of companies on them, like the Inc. 5000,” says Travis York, president and CEO of GYK, which has worked with national brands like Moxie and Sweet Baby Ray’s as well as local campaigns for the NH Lottery and NH Tourism. “It’s phenomenal to be on a smaller list like this, especially considering the types of companies we’re being recognized alongside.”

Employees at GYK Antler's office in Manchester. Courtesy Photo.

Since taking over in 2011, York has transformed GYK from a regional ad agency to a conglomerate firm housing several different companies. York first decided to broaden GYK’s scope in 2011 with Big Brick Productions after realizing the company was outsourcing much of its TV production.

He brought on an old college friend who had gone on to become an Emmy-winning TV producer to add an in-house video production company to GYK’s arsenal. “It gave us a taste of what happens when you bring likeminded people together with different skills,” says York. “It enhanced results for our clients and helped us attract new business.”

GYK has only further diversified over the last several years. The company’s umbrella now houses Iron & Air Media, which publishes a quarterly lifestyle and motorcycle magazine; Noble & Cooley, a 165-year-old drum manufacturer that York helped transition from a sixth to seventh generation family-owned business; and York Athletics, a sports footwear and apparel company.

And in the process of exploring other ventures like Big Brick, GYK launched Explorics to aggregate marketing data and Thunders & Watt as an in-house music production firm.

“All these entities share the same resources and back office, which significantly minimizes expenses and expands their impact,” says York.

Bill Whyte, second from right, with members of the W.S. Badger team. Courtesy Photo.

Badger landed on Forbes’ list due to consistent growth, its standing as a steward of the environment and its employees, which has earned the company a spot among Business NH Magazine’s Best Companies to Work For list three years in a row.

Badger’s line of skincare products started as a blend of beeswax and olive oil that Whyte used when he was a carpenter battling cracked hands in the winter months.

Two decades later, Badger is now an international brand that became one of the first B Corps in NH and now places a keen emphasis on employee well being, including an organic lunch prepared daily, a babies at work program and annual donations to charities of employees’ choosing.  

“I like people and being nice to people, and I’d be doing that whether I was driving a cab or running a business,” says Whyte. “You’re so much better off when you treat employees with respect. It makes for such a positive culture and experience, and they return that to the company.”

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