When Mike Zhang was a teenager, he never made it to Washington, D.C., to visit the White House and the national monuments as many students do. He was too busy starting his own business.

Zhang, now 22, founded

Airsoft Megastore in Irwindale when he was 14.

He finally made the trip to D.C. this month. That’s because his company, which sells low-velocity pellet guns, gear and accessories, made the Empact100 List, which recognizes the top 100 companies started by young entrepreneurs.

It’s the second year Airsoft made the list, and the second time Zhang was invited to visit D.C. to accept the award. He didn’t go the first year; things were just too busy at the office. But he went this time.

“I decided that the couple of days I’d lose at work were not as significant as being able to meet so many likeminded entrepreneurs,” he said.

He’s glad he went. Not only did he get to meet dozens of young entrepreneurs, but he toured the White House.

“I thought the tour would be limited, but we walked through seven or eight different rooms,” he said. “I really enjoyed seeing the things they had on display.”

But for Zhang, the trip was educational in more ways than one.

“I learned that you have to step out of the office sometimes to really grow personally,” he said.

Cup Kiss

Erik Thompson has dreamed about the Stanley Cup for most of his life and earlier this month his dreams were fulfilled.

An advertising director in the Valencia office of Mercury Insurance, Thompson traveled to company headquarters in Brea for a meeting with the cup Oct. 3. Mercury is a sponsor of the Los Angeles Kings, which won the National Hockey League championship in June.

About 1,000 Mercury employees showed up to get their picture taken with the trophy, which had just returned from a trip to Slovenia with Kings center Anze Kopitar. Thompson, 44, has cheered for the Kings since before Wayne Gretzky and Luc Robitaille took the team to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1993. So he was happy to wait in the line that snaked through the building until his moment arrived.

“You are allowed to touch it, hug it and kiss it; you just can’t drink out of it,” he said. “There is something different about the Stanley Cup than other trophies. It’s a connection that’s deeply personal.”

Thompson said he gave the cup a “little bit of a kiss” and got the all-important photo with the prize.

After the Gretzky era, Thompson remained a loyal Kings fan despite frustrations.

“That’s what being a fan is all about – you stick with your team through the good and the bad,” he said. “When they win, you are rewarded for the passion you put into them all those years.”

Staff reporters Bethany Firnhaber and Joel Russell contributed to this column. Page 3 is compiled by Editor Charles Crumpley. He can be reached at ccrumpley@labusinessjournal.com.

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