Adelaida Severson, 48, leads a growing business that fills the niche between companies that make satellites and those that use the communications that satellites deliver.
She and her husband, Barry Severson, are co-founders of Bushtex Inc., a Gilbert-based company that provides the people and equipment for remote satellite transmissions. Their customers are television networks that need to broadcast sporting and news events from around the world, corporations wanting to set up teleconferences, and government agencies that need to communicate via satellite.
Instead of satellite trucks, Bushtex fits its equipment into easily shipped suitcases. “We’re small, we’re nimble,” Severson says. “We can get to places within 24 hours because we have resources all over the world. We have our equipment stored in strategic areas … and we have a Rolodex of people we call on a project-by-project basis.”
The company grew out of the Seversons’ common background in television broadcasting. Adelaida was working in television news when a friend told her about a job gathering news and handling logistics for a satellite-communications startup in Los Angeles. Barry worked for the same company in its Phoenix office, and when he left to freelance for CBS News during the Gulf War, she headed to her native Hawaii.
In between Barry’s globetrotting assignments, the couple married and settled in the Valley. Adelaida went to Arizona State University for graduate school, eventually getting a job in then-President Lattie Coor’s office.
“We started our company on the side because it was lucrative and there was a need,” Severson says. They picked the name Bushtex because it conveyed the idea of working in remote locations, also known as “the bush,” and the idea of technology. Television networks were calling, and the couple turned to their own network of contacts for freelance help.
Their side business reached the next level when Severson was finishing her doctorate and became pregnant with twins. The couple decided to ramp up the business, hang out their shingle and start hiring employees.
“We didn’t know how big we wanted to get,” she says. “We wanted to be comfortable, we wanted to be flexible … but the train kept going.”
The company added the government sector to its client base when it was approached by a federal agency that knew the end result it wanted but less about how to get there. Bushtex worked with big names in defense contracting to simplify the process, integrate systems and make them transportable.
Today Severson’s husband handles the broadcast side of the business while she tackles the growing government side. As president and chief executive officer, Severson oversees day-to-day operations of 20 full-time employees and 150 freelancers around the world. The workforce is heavy on satellite-uplink operators and project managers able to be resourceful overseas, meet deadlines and use sophisticated technology.
The Seversons, who have three boys, moved to Gilbert for its family-friendly atmosphere and located their business there. Severson served on the Gilbert school board and now is president of the Gilbert Education Foundation. She teaches at ASU when she can, a challenge given that Bushtex’s business has tripled in the past four years and there is always a need for satellites.
“If we have to, not necessarily think outside of the box, but think of a new box, we will,” she says.