Sunshine Enterprises release additional information on last months plane crash

Sunshine Enterprise, Inc. has released the following statement:

Our company extends its sincerest thanks to the Millington-Memphis Airport for caring for the loved ones of our employees involved in Thursday’s plane crash. The airport staff provided comfort to the family members during the rapidly unfolding tragedy. They worked persistently with medical staff in Fulton County, Georgia, to expedite the positive identification of our beloved colleagues and allow their remains to return to their families. Our company handled all costs associated with bringing Wei, John, Danielle and Bruce back to Memphis.

During the next two weeks, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will work to release their preliminary Synopsis Report, which will state basic facts regarding Thursday’s accident such as time of take-off, weather conditions and aircraft involved. Once it is released, we will share additional details.

In the remainder of this statement we’ll share background information about the important impact Wei, John, Danielle and Bruce had in our company, followed by a look at our company structure and the people leading our company into the future – all of whom have had existing tenures with the Sunshine Enterprise family of companies.

Just last week, all leaders and employees came together in a company planning retreat to align on one-year, three-year and 10-year goals and strategies. We also celebrated the strong performance of our company in 2018. The planning retreat solidified our approach to entering 2019 strongly as a team united under our core purpose, which is: “We elevate our employees, customers and industries to safely build and maintain the world.”

The business trip that Wei, John, Danielle and Bruce were returning from when the accident took place was an executive council strategy meeting with a group of Sunshine Enterprise advisers. The meeting also included StepUp Scaffold LLC (a Sunshine Enterprise company) President Mike McAnnally, who had alternate travel arrangements and was not on the plane.

Nothing can replace the brilliance and impact Wei, John, Bruce and Danielle brought to our company and customers. We miss them greatly.

Wei Chen, Founder & CEO, Sunshine Enterprise Inc.

“Wei was the true definition of the American dream,” said Mike McAnnally. “That’s how he should be remembered. I will be forever grateful to Wei for demonstrating to all of us at Sunshine Enterprise what a caring servant leader looks like and inspiring us all to learn and seek ways to be the best version of ourselves.”

Wei Chen was born and raised in Changsha, Hunan Province, China, and moved to the United States in 1995 at the age of 24 to attend graduate school. Wei founded Sunshine Enterprise, Inc. after he earned his International MBA degree at the University of Memphis in August 1998. He grew the company from a one-man operation to 400 employees in less than 10 years through organic growth. Wei was 47 years old. He is survived by his wife Isabel Xu; daughters Elisabeth, Stephanie and Sabrina Chen; parents Xianjie Chen and Peiming Li; and brother Li Chen. A memorial fund benefiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has been set up in Wei’s name. (Wei Chen Memorial Fund)

John Chen, Chief Operating Office, Sunshine Enterprise, Inc.

“John was the jack of all trades at our company. There was nothing he couldn’t learn or do,” said Mike McAnnally. “More than that, he was loved throughout the company for his selflessness. He was an incredible listener. He was patient with everyone. He was always smiling.”

John Chen helped Sunshine Enterprise start operation in 1998 at the early stages. After he earned his B.S. in Electrical Engineering at the University of Memphis, he held technology-related roles during a six-year tenure at Memphis Light, Gas and Water (MLGW). He joined Sunshine Enterprise as chief operational officer in 2004 and headed day-to-day operations and e-commerce. John is credited throughout the company for leveraging his technology expertise and his deep understanding of both U.S. and China business cultures to create a well-run, respected operation at Sunshine Enterprise. John was 44 years old. He is survived by his wife Jiali Gu; son Ian Chen and daughter Mia Chen; and father Liangqing Chen.

Wei Chen and John Chen have no familial relation to one another.

Danielle Mitchell, Corporate Controller, Sunshine Enterprise, Inc.

“From the moment Danielle walked through our door to interview with Sunshine Enterprise, it was as if she were made for the controller position in our company,” said Mike McAnnally. “It’s very hard in business to find people who are a great cultural fit and who are able to rise to the duties of their role from day one. Danielle was both. She was a born executive. And just like Wei, she had a
tremendous zest for life.”

Danielle began her tenure with Sunshine Enterprise as Corporate Controller in September 2018. She was responsible for all financial reporting and transactions in StepUp Scaffold USA, StepUp Panama and StepUp UK Limited, as well as Heli Americas. She reported directly to CEO Wei Chen, whose vision was for her to become CFO of the company with time and experience. Though her time at Sunshine Enterprise was short, her intelligence and caring nature were felt by all and she quickly showed her natural leadership skills.

Prior to Sunshine Enterprise she held corporate financial roles at Signify (formerly Phillips Electronics & Phillips Lighting) and International Paper. Danielle graduated from the University of Alabama with her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Finance. She graduated Summa Cum Laude in her graduate class, the highest distinction available to graduates.

Danielle was 32 years old. She is survived by her mother, Jacqueline Shorter; father Daniel Mitchell; daughter Amaya Boyd; son Isaiah Robinson; daughter Carter Robinson; brothers Kwesi Mitchell and Shondriguez James; grandmother Minnie Graham; and fiancé Erik Harding.

Bruce Pelynio, President, Heli Americas (a Sunshine Enterprise company)

“Bruce was a true team leader. He loved his team at Heli Americas. He was there for his employees – not just as a boss. His door was open to them for any matter, large or small,” said Mike McAnnally. “Without doubt, running StepUp Scaffold alongside Bruce while he ran Heli Americas pushed me to become a better professional and a better leader.”

Bruce, along with Dobbs Management Services, founded Heli Americas in 2007 to become the distributor for Heli-brand material-handling equipment in the United States and Central America. Sunshine Enterprise purchased a controlling interest in Heli Americas in 2010 and Bruce then joined Sunshine Enterprise as president of the Heli Americas Forklift Division. His vision and leadership were
critical to growing Heli America throughout the U.S.

Additionally, Bruce had over 35 years of experience in all phases of the material handling industry. His career involved management and ownership of Fortune 500 companies including Allis Chalmers, Maine Rubber International, Toyota Industrial Equipment and Yale Materials Handling. Bruce was 65 years old. He is survived by his wife Laurie Lawler Pelynio; twin daughters Shannon Pelynio (Matthew Brady) and Kelsey Pelynio Stiles (Seth); sister Dr. Jan K. Richardson (Robert); nephew Ryan S. Richardson (Elizabeth Anne and their twins Brooks Robert and Lucy); and niece Kara J. Richardson.

Sunshine Enterprise, Inc. Divisions and Key People 

Sunshine Enterprise, Inc. comprises two main divisions in addition to the corporate function that allows for streamlined operations and shared resources across the business units.

At the corporate level, Mike McAnnally, an existing member of the Sunshine Enterprise executive council in his role as president of StepUp Scaffold LLC (a Sunshine Enterprise company), is assuming the main leadership role during this time of loss and transition. As head of StepUp, Mike has led the division to double in size over the last 10 years. He oversees the entire StepUp logistical supply chain, from initial manufacturing to quality control to final production. He excels in crafting business strategies for different regions and building relationships across cultures and geographies.

Mark Salvatore held the corporate controller position prior to entering retirement in September 2018 and is now returning to Sunshine Enterprise from retirement to assist our company in this transitional period. Mark has over 25 years of financial experience. He is trusted for his expertise and forward-thinking nature. His tenure at Sunshine Enterprise began in 2008 and he is credited for elevating the financial and accounting department to a new level of excellence.

Heli Americas, a Sunshine Enterprise Company

Heli Americas is the North American distributor for Anhui Heli, a Chinese manufacturer of Heli-brand material-handling equipment, such as forklifts and pallet jacks. Bruce Pelynio founded Heli Americas in 2007 and built a strong team and successful company.

Tom De Ridder is now the interim president of Heli Americas and has served as director of product support since the company’s founding in 2007. A 48-year industry veteran, Tom was one of the original team members hired when Bruce founded Heli Americas.

Anthony Busby is the national parts manager for Heli Americas, a position he has held for since the company’s founding in 2007. Paul Plourde is the national service and warranty manager for Heli Americas, a position he has held for five years.

StepUp Scaffold LLC, a Sunshine Enterprise Company

StepUp Scaffold is one of the largest North American importers, distributors and wholesalers of steel and aluminum scaffolding products. StepUp has five locations: Memphis, New York, Los Angeles, Houston and Atlanta, as well as three distributors in North Carolina, New Orleans, and Alberta, Canada.

Sam Reese is the general operations manager for all of North America and has been with StepUp for 10 years. He was instrumental in setting up the company’s first factory in China years ago.

Nicole Doyle is the national sales manager and is driven by delivering quality products and cost-effective services to customers. She is located in Houston.

David Gasull is the managing partner for StepUp Scaffold Latin America, managing the Medellín, Colombia office.

Frank Lee is the managing partner and sales director for StepUp Scaffold UK and Europe and manages warehouse and logistics for European customers.

Together, more than 400 people are employed by Sunshine Enterprise and its business divisions.