Michael Happe of Winnebago Industries named Entrepreneur Of The Year

Hail to the Chief

Ernst & Young LLP announced that Michael Happe, President and CEO of Winnebago Industries has been named the Entrepreneur Of The Year 2023 National Overall Award winner. For nearly four decades, the program has honored and elevated the ambitious entrepreneurs who think big and act boldly to transform our world.

winnebago michael happe

Happe was selected by an independent panel of judges from 224 Entrepreneur Of The Year regional winners from 197 companies across the US. He has transformed Winnebago from a single brand motorhome company to a leading North American manufacturer of outdoor lifestyle products. He has solidified Winnebago’s future by building trust with employees, creating a culture of ownership and making investments to support the company’s longevity. Happe is fortifying the company’s future as a competitor in the outdoor lifestyle products space through his strategic leadership choices, such as recently acquiring a lithium-ion battery solutions producer and establishing the Advanced Technology Group to focus on improving the company’s ability to identify, evaluate and deploy industry-changing products and services within each of its brands.

“Entrepreneur Of The Year celebrates ambitious leaders who disrupt markets, revolutionize industries and transform lives,” said Andrew (AJ) Jordan, EY Americas Entrepreneur Of The Year Director. “Michael redefined the iconic RV brand from a product-oriented manufacturer into a broader outdoor recreational lifestyle company while creating a sustainable business and thriving culture. Michael leads with focused ESG priorities, keeping employees and the community at the forefront. We are so excited to celebrate him as the Entrepreneur Of The Year 2023 National Overall Award winner.”

Founded in 1958, the company flourished until the 2008 financial crisis, when revenue plummeted. Winnebago, a name synonymous with recreational vehicles, was stuck in neutral. Revenue growth had stalled, and while employees were proud of the brand, they didn’t have a stake in the company’s future. Recognizing the Winnebago brand’s inherent value, Happe quickly set to work reenergizing employees and revitalizing the company from a product-oriented manufacturer to an enabler of outdoor experiences. Today, the company has nearly 7,000 employees and has had a 500% revenue growth since 2016.

In a competitive talent environment, Happe has put a focus on employee engagement. He has also implemented safety protocols that helped to decrease safety incidents by 70%. He established an employee stock ownership plan for employees to share in the company’s success. Since he took over as CEO, the results of employee surveys have elevated the company to the top quartile of employee engagement within the manufacturing industry. Happe has also led a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion at Winnebago from its board of directors all the way to its customers.

Winnebago Industries also has a commitment to volunteerism and giving. During Happe’s tenure, Winnebago’s community giving has increased 20-fold. The company has also implemented programs to support employees and their families during hardship. Michael has consistently championed corporate responsibility and planning for the long-term sustainability of Winnebago Industries across ESG priorities.

In addition to Michael, EY US recognized 11 additional Entrepreneur Of The Year National Award winners from nine companies in 2023, including:

Cheri Beranek, President and CEO, Clearfield, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Jason McGowan, Co-Founder and CEO, Crumbl Cookies, Lindon, Utah
Felipe Hasselmann, President and CEO, Cuisine Solutions, Sterling, Virginia
Wemimo Abbey, Co-Founder, Co-CEO and Samir Goel, Co-Founder, Co-CEO, Esusu, New York, New York
Dr. Sohail Masood, CEO, KabaFusion, Cerritos, California
R.J. Melman, President, Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants, Chicago, Illinois
Tom Brennan, CEO and CTO, Sol-Ark, Plano, Texas
Dr. Gaurab Chakrabarti, Co-founder and CEO and Dr. Sean Hunt, Co-Founder and CTO, Solugen, Houston, Texas
Josh Meyerowitz, Founder and CEO, SupplyHouse, Melville, New York

Winners were selected by a panel of independent judges made up of entrepreneurs and other notable business leaders from across the US. The candidates were evaluated based on their demonstration of building long-term value through entrepreneurial spirit, purpose, growth and impact, among other core contributions and attributes.


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Winnebago Industries







(800) 537-1885


605 West Crystal Lake Road

Forest City, IA 50436

ABOUT Winnebago Industries®

Winnebago makes products that help its customers explore the outdoor lifestyle, enabling extraordinary experiences as they travel, live, work and play. Winnebago Industries, Inc. is a leading U.S. manufacturer of outdoor lifestyle products, such  as motorhomes, travel trailers, fifth-wheel products and boats, under the Winnebago, Grand Design and Chris-Craft brands. Winnebago Industries has multiple facilities in Iowa, Indiana, Oregon, Minnesota and Florida.