Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine Business Review July 2006.
Net-Flow Internet Solutions
By Craig Smith
Despite boyish good looks and an easy smile, there is intensity in Dean Bowen’s eyes. He cracks jokes easily, but is always paying attention, analyzing every situation. He knows when to listen, when to ask questions, and when to take charge; traits that have made him a successful business owner, husband, and father of three. His ten-year-old Napa based business, Net-Flow Internet Solutions, is doing well, as is his family life. No wonder he smiles a lot.
Born at Queen of the Valley, he is the youngest of six. For generations, most of the men in his family have been plumbers, a career his older brother firmly counseled him not to follow, advising him to instead pursue computers, a relatively new field at the time. In high school, he excelled in the classes he liked, while almost flunking geometry, one he didn’t care for. A high school teacher and his first mentor, Dorothy Brown, wouldn’t have failure, and instead designed a curriculum for him in computer accounting, simultaneously insisting that he concentrate on all his subjects and not just his favorites. Within two weeks Bowen was programming and troubleshooting accounting software on mainframe computers, which was his focus for the next several years. Since then, Bowen always pursued what interested him without neglecting the things about which he didn’t care.
His college education was not the typical straight line to a degree, and it took him seven years to graduate. He spent six months in London studying the genealogy of America, in order to better understand his roots. Because he grew up in a construction family (his Dad has either built or done the plumbing on tens of thousands of homes in the area) Bowen got involved with BOMA, the Building Owners and Managers Association. There he met Mark Herwitz, VP of the organization and Bowen’s second mentor. Herwitz allowed him to work in literally every department in the organization in order to get a well-rounded education, and because of his influence, Bowen strongly considered teaching real estate after graduation.
While in school at Brigham Young University, he came to Napa for a visit, and reconnected with Rhonda Boyd, who he had known for years, the day before he was to return to school. Five years his junior, Boyd had been much too young for Bowen when they were kids, but now as young adults, that age difference wasn’t as important. The two took a quart of Ben & Jerry’s chocolate brownie yogurt to Alston Park for a night walk. Bowen was smitten. He did go back to Utah, but the two began writing back and forth constantly. He finished school, returned to Napa, and they were married.
He decided to teach, and spent time doing so at both Napa and Vintage High and Silverado Middle School for the next five years. He began putting his lesson plans on line, and helped students create web pages. Some of those students asked him, on behalf of their parents, if he could help them with their businesses. Although Bowen enjoyed some aspects of teaching, he thought he could be more of an asset outside of the classroom, and began to think about his own business. In 1995, Net-Flow was born. The company goes way beyond just designing web sites, and instead helps customers create Internet solutions to better run their businesses and increase sales. Net-Flow has a strong and diverse Napa client base, including The Bounty Hunter, the Napa Chamber of Commerce, North Face, Blue Oak School and Far Niente Winery, as well as clients all over the country. Bowen is still committed to education, and has been a staunch supporter of New Technology High, personally working with almost twenty interns over the years. In fact, Stephanie Chu, his first intern who started with him as a high school junior, is still working for Net-Flow eight years later.
He and Rhonda work to instill the same values in their three children that each learned growing up. The kids own and operate a business – raising chickens, collecting the eggs, and selling them. They are responsible for all aspects of the operation, even though the “president” is only nine years old. Rhonda recently began dental school in San Francisco, and the family has had to adjust to Mom being gone Monday through Friday. Extremely family-oriented, they are making that work as well.
When Bowen looks at the future of technology, he sees smart houses. “What you see in corporate America is coming into homes. For example, people already have high-speed Internet access at both home and work. In the next five to ten years, we will all call home to start the oven or the air conditioner on the way home from work, or run any audio or video equipment. It’ll be there.”
As Bowen speaks, the intensity returns to his eyes. Listening to him, it’s easy to believe that it will be there, and that net-Flow will be there helping customers maximize the opportunities it brings.