SXU Alum Excels as Award Winner, Business Owner and Philanthropist
Ehab Sweis '98, '05 has many incredible accomplishments under his belt: He's a two-time Inc. 5000 "Fastest Growing Company of the Year" recipient and a Ernst & Young (EY) "Entrepreneur of the Year" finalist, as well as a successful business owner and community-driven philanthropist. An SXU alum, Sweis plans to continue pushing forward to accomplish even more.
Through his strategic vision and extensive knowledge of wireless, retail and real estate selection, Sweis, who graduated from SXU's Graham School of Management (GSM) with degrees in marketing and management, has built successful business models from the ground up. With 23 total years of retail and business management experience, Sweis spent the past 10 years as CEO of Amtel, LLC, a T-Mobile premium retailer operating 152 retail stores in nine markets. Amtel, LLC, is the largest T-Mobile retailer in Texas and the third largest in the nation, and its mission is to be a valued retailer by delivering world-class service and a total solution for each of its customers.
Though Sweis recently sold Amtel, LLC, it was a huge part of his professional growth. When he first decided to start Amtel, LLC, he put a five-year business plan together. The plan called for $3 million to start the business, but he and his business partners only had $1.5 million. They decided to throw caution to the wind. Though it was a risky move given the economic state in 2009, he found his business to be immune to the impact, as phones are considered essential products and recession-proof. Sweis was able to build multiple locations on the east and west coasts and saw plenty of acquisitions and organic growth. The business grew top-line to over $70 million in revenue and double-digit EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) growth. "It's a people-driven business. I enjoy growing markets. My mission is to grow an asset to build into a platform company and monetize it – that's my passion," said Sweis.
In addition to his business ventures, Sweis' philanthropic efforts have greatly benefited St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, with Amtel, LLC, donating over $500,000 to the hospital over the past five years. They have been the hosts of the "Evening Under the Stars" event, which is a private fundraising party for the hospital. "Bigger than profit is our mentality to give," said Sweis. "We built a people-driven organization with over 1,000 employees from different backgrounds, and we were all committed to giving back to the community. People are looking to be part of something that is bigger than what they are doing and look to companies who are thoughtful about critical issues, and we pay it forward by doing more."
Named an "Entrepreneur of the Year" finalist by EY, a multinational professional services firm that covers a range of topics including assurance, audit, tax, financial and business advisory services, and also making the list as one of Inc. 5000's "Fastest-Growing Companies in America" twice, Sweis is incredibly proud of the way Amtel, LLC, grew during his ownership. "It was great to be named twice. The percentage of making it twice is rare because your business' revenue would have to outpace the previous year, and you'd have to grow exponentially to make it on the list, so it's a huge accomplishment. It helped us to meet a lot of people and open doors for connections and networking opportunities," said Sweis.
Sweis finds that SXU was integral in preparing him for his career, crediting the professors and courses of GSM with providing him the fundamentals for business success, especially critical components of finance and leadership behavior and skills. "You need street smarts and book smarts to succeed in business, and I wouldn't have gotten to where I am without that foundation, which is why I chose to earn both my degrees from Saint Xavier," said Sweis.
Sweis' favorite part about attending SXU was the people he got to be around each day, enjoying the sense of community and smaller class sizes. "I liked that you knew everyone by name, and they knew you too. You're not just a number; you're an important person," said Sweis. He also found a great mentor in Faisal M. Rahman, Ph.D., GSM professor.
"I have always encouraged my students, particularly those from immigrant backgrounds, to consider becoming entrepreneurs and to not fear the possibility of failure. Ehab was always curious and unafraid to think outside the box, and I was sure that he would be a success as an entrepreneur. I am very proud of his achievements and glad that GSM provided him with a solid education both at the undergraduate and MBA level," said Rahman.
When asked what advice he has for current GSM students interested in starting their own businesses or becoming entrepreneurs, Sweis encourages them to be flexible and dynamic. "You need to find something you're passionate about, stick to it and grow it. Take pride in what you do, believe in what you do, and don't be complacent. That's an evil word in the world of business. Being uncomfortable is how you learn and how you grow," said Sweis.
As he looks to the future, Sweis hopes to continue to build and connect with more businesses he can acquire and grow. He also plans to explore new investment opportunities, volunteer more, join more boards, and spend time learning and engaging in self-growth.