When Mark Wilkins, the CEO of Stampede, moved to the United States in 1997, he did it to start a business. Having founded one of the largest distributors of audiovisual equipment in the United Kingdom, he viewed the United States as a great place to expand the operation — especially since the country boasted one of the largest markets in the world. “Coming here was an exciting challenge for me and my company,” says Wilkins, who originally immigrated to the United States to form an affiliate of his British firm on U.S. soil. He was also attracted to the United States’ entrepreneurial spirit. “In Europe,” he says, “you can encounter a lot of closed doors.”
Today, over a decade later, Wilkins hasn’t found many doors closed to him in America. Thanks to a financing deal, he was able to buy out the original investors, and he turned Stampede into a separate entity headquartered in Buffalo, New York. Stampede — which sells video conferencing, digital signage, and Pro AV equipment to integrators and installers for use in corporations, churches, government, and schools — employs more than 120 people and is on target to generate $180 million in revenues this year. Mark says he’s particularly proud that, even in an economic recession, his firm had expanded and continued to provide good jobs to its workers — including many positions paying six figures per year. “Our success is based on our people,” Mark explains, “And I’m proud that we’ve stayed steady for them.”
As the son of a British Navy pilot, Mark grew up all over the world, and his global perspective is no doubt a boost to his company, too. Immigrant-owned businesses are over 60 percent more likely than non-immigrant owned firms to export their goods and services, and Stampede is no exception. In 2002, the company began offering distribution services in Canada, and it is now aggressively expanding into Latin America. As recent trade agreements increasingly make exports to countries like Colombia easier, Mark says he’s able to step up his business, a development that has allowed him to create more sales jobs on U.S. soil.