Westmont Magazine Growing a Business and a Family
Entrepreneurship runs in the Grotenhuis family. Dave ’63 got his son, Dan ’89, involved in his business as a child. While at Westmont, Dan worked as a real estate agent and sold a house in Montecito. After graduating with a degree in economics and business, Dan spent three years at Dave’s company, Santa Barbara Capital. Then he followed family tradition and went into business for himself.
For his first enterprise, Dan became a partner in Santa Barbara-based Sharp Signs, helping the company regain profitability. “I learned most of the business basics there, including accounting,” he says. “I learned by doing.”
After his success at Sharp, he sold out and spent two years traveling with his wife, Shanna Moore Grotenhuis ’89. They lived on Chesapeake Bay, traveled to Fiji, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand, and spent a year in Australia. While there they helped start the first Australian Parliament National Student Leadership Forum on Faith and Values.
When he returned to Santa Barbara, Dan looked for a new challenge and found several. In just a few years, he has become the owner of three different businesses, and the Pacific Coast Business Times has identified him as one of the region’s 40 up-and-coming business leaders under the age of 40.
Having learned the surplus equipment business while working for another company, Dan decided to try it himself. “I can’t refuse a deal,” he says. “I’m willing to take risks others won’t take.”
Founding American Communications in 2001, Dan began buying and reselling telecommunications equipment used by Internet service providers and large data centers. At first, he worked out of his Goleta home with a small staff, stocking equipment in his garage. Two moves and two years later, he employs 28 people, maintains a large warehouse and has tripled the business each year.
While Dan has his own office, he spends most of his time out on the floor with his sales staff. “I find it very stimulating to work with smart people,” he says. His partner, Phil Grace ’90, is a fellow Westmont alumnus, as are several of his employees.
Dan’s second business has a completely different focus. He co-founded IF Research to develop a topical solution to treat cataracts, which afflict millions of people. Dan is also a partner in Pacifix Technologies, a San Diego firm that sells Unix-based servers.
While his businesses have grown, so has his family. His five children (age 6 and under) include twin girls not yet 1 year old. A near-fatal case of meningitis left one of the twins legally blind and severely brain injured. Her survival and improving health have been blessings. “She has given us so much joy,” Dan says.
An artist, Shanna gets little time to paint these days. “My wife has to work out her schedule in Outlook every day to get the kids to their music lessons, sports practices, school and other activities,” Dan says. “Shanna has been the backbone of all my efforts. Without her help and support, I would definitely not be where I am today.”