A former federal wildland firefighter, Mark Masters regularly rappelled 250 feet out of a helicopter into the most difficult-to-access, catastrophic fires nationwide.
Masters admits he was more than scared the first time he was about to jump off the skid.
“I was thinking ‘why in the world did I volunteer to do this?'” he said.
But then he lived for the adrenaline rush, and continued to work for several years as one of only 400 heli-rapellers in the U.S.
Today, there's only about 200. Masters is no longer one of them, but he continues to set himself apart in the industry.
The U.S. Small Business Administration on Thursday named him national young entrepreneur of the year.
Masters in September 2009 founded Chloeta Fire LLC, which is contracted to fight fires nationwide. The company has a fleet of six fire engines and bulldozers and employs 15 full-time workers and up to 60 additional contracted firefighters throughout the year. Annual revenues hit $1 million last year, Masters said.
From his offices in the business incubator at the Moore Norman Technology Center, Masters, 29, sat down with The Oklahoman on Thursday to talk about his professional and personal life. This is an edited transcript:
Q: Can you tell us about your roots?
A: I grew up in Jay, Okla., which is 80 miles east of Tulsa, with a brother who's three years younger. Our father is a self-employed electrician and our mother, works as a clerk at the Cherokee Nation health clinic there. The population of Jay is only 2,000, but it has the largest consolidated school district in the state. There were 90 in my graduating class. I played football, baseball and track, but basketball is what I enjoyed most. I was a guard.
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• Position: Chloeta Fire LLC, chief executive
• Birth date: Jan. 1, 1983
• Family: Paige, wife of five years and new counsel with Crowe & Dunlevy law firm. They met at Oklahoma State University, where he was a Beta Theta Pi and she, a Kappa Alpha Theta
• Education: OSU, bachelor's in ecology