Our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy have changed.

By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

A CEO who relaxes by blowing things up

Pillar Data Systems founder Mike Workman unwinds at his hobby fireworks factory.

Subscribe to Top Stories
google my aol my msn my yahoo! netvibes
Paste this link into your favorite RSS desktop reader
See all CNNMoney.com RSS FEEDS (close)

mike_workman.03.jpg
fireworks.03.jpg

(FORTUNE Small Business) -- Mike Workman likes to blow stuff up.

When he's not running Pillar Data Systems, the data-storage company he founded in San Jose, Calif., with investment from Oracle (ORCL, Fortune 500) founder Larry Ellison, Workman designs custom fireworks at his hobby factory outside Oatman, Ariz. And we're not talking sparklers.

In 2003, at Ellison's request, Workman orchestrated a massive show in San Francisco Bay that consumed 6,000 shells in 28 minutes, at a cost of $250,000.

"The permits alone were $40,000," he says.

Though most of his shows are for personal enjoyment - out in the desert with a cigar, a glass of wine, and his dachshund, Clams - Workman competes in annual pyro­technic conventions across the West. His pièce de résistance this year? An aerial shell that will rise to 2,000 feet and shower colors across a quarter mile.

In addition to building fireworks, Workman bottles wine - 400 to 500 gallons a year of reds, from cabernets and merlots to his favorite petit syrah.

"What I found in starting a company is that it really has to be an obsession," says Workman, 51. "So I need alternative distractions that I can be equally obsessed over. I need something to give my brain a rest."  To top of page

Do you unwind from business pressures with an exotic hobby? Tell us about it.

Fireworks clampdown: An explosion in regulations is smothering small fireworks-makers.

Pyrotechnics: Another CEO with a passion for fire.
To write a note to the editor about this article, click here.

Photo Galleries
10 logo changes that drove people crazy When companies change logos, the backlash is often fierce. More
Hottest new Star Wars toys unveiled BB-8 can now be yours. So can interactive Yoda, a three-pronged lightsaber and other toys from the Star Wars movie. More
Google's logos through the years Google changed its logo for the fifth time in 17 years this week. Here's what the old ones looked like. More
Sponsors