20 under 40 CLaSS C LaSS O Off 2011
Cynthia trevino Lights, Camera, Responsibility! Martin olesky Eco-Marketing Cedar Lake
Breanne Mitseff Teacher, Clark Middle School
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Contents Cover story
Made in Northwest Indiana: Crown Point company performed millwork on new Indianapolis hotel.
Prosthetics a growing field: Merrillville-based Bionic Prosthetics & Orthotics adds two locations in last year.
from the Class of 2010
Importance of the Top 20 Under 40 award: The challenge is not complete; winning the award is only the beginning.
An environmental approach to marketing Cedar Lake: How a town can change a reputation and an environmental cause can gain awareness.
Business calendar: Check out upcoming events in your area
Top 20 Under 40: Mitchell Blosky, Mohamed Farhat, Matthew Glaros, Jennifer Khadivar, Tyler Kent, Shontrai DeVaughn Irving, Candice Kouros-Logue, Wesley Kotys, Geoff A. Laciak, Breanne Mitseff, Kelly McFaddon, Joshua Lybolt, Nick Meyer, Dan Plath, Celina Weatherwax, Brett Riley, Jared Tomich, Rachel Smeja, Dean Ricci Jr., Gail Zurek. Photos by Tony V. Martin
fall 2011 | 1
Publisher’s Letter fall 2011 Volume 7, Issue 7
Strong families at home and in the workplace are key to success
A By Bill masterson jr. Publisher, BusINess, The Times Media Co.
We want to hear from you E-mail bill.masterson @nwi.com or write to BusINess Magazine, The Times, 601 W. 45th Ave., Munster, IN 46321
2 | In Business
year ago we started collecting nominations for this year’s group of 20 Under 40s. The achievement award we give to encourage these outstanding professionals has continues to be more sought after every year. The 20 Under 40 alumni are a star-studded group that includes Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott, U.S. Representative Todd Rokita, Porter Hospital CEO Jonathan Nalli, Valparaiso’s Special Events Director Tina St. Aubin and NWI Forum Marketing Director Karen Lauerman. We have also honored a highly-skilled surgeon, an autocompany’s regional marketing director, a regional manager at Starbucks who started as a barista in Merrillville and numerous small business entrepreneurs. We had many nominations to consider this year. Once again the 2011 class has the team thing going. Every single one of our winner’s talks about the importance of their immediate and extended families and how critical those who are closest at home and at work have helped them along the way. Former NFL player Jared Tomich started a foundation to raise funds for children with cancer to attend Circle of Friends Camps. He learned about Circle of Friends from his friend Jerry Wunsch, who was a player with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Wesley Kotys saw a need for financial planning education and holds free seminars for local companies including community organizations and non-profits. Her work for the Better Business Bureau in Northwest Indiana takes her into many industries, but for Gail Zurek it is more than a job, “When I’m working with a business owner,” she explains. “It may be someone I worship with on Sunday or work with at a service club.” The favorite part of Celina Weatherwax’s job for Senator Lugar is good, old-fashioned helping out anyway she can. “Many people don’t know where to go or where to turn. I am able to help them navigate,” she says. Every 20 Under 40 award winner has already demonstrated perseverance, luck and an ability to recognize and make the most of every opportunity. But they have something to teach the rest of us: We may take the role we provide as mentors for granted, but the super- achievers do not. They know that they could not have done it without their parents, their spouses, their employees and friends. And they never stopped thanking the people who have helped and will continue to support them along the way. Next time, we will be looking at a year of innovation and achievement in Northwest Indiana. Until then, Bill Masterson Jr.
Publisher Bill Masterson Jr. Founding editor William Nangle Associate Publisher/Editor Pat Colander Director of Product Development Brett Riley Associate editors Karin Saltanovitz, Matt Saltanovitz Design Director Ben Cunningham Designer April Burford Contributing writers Heather Augustyn, Cal Bellamy, Keith Benman, Dan Carden, Ed Charbonneau, Lu Ann Franklin, Jeremy Gantz, Carmen McCollum, Kathleen Quilligan, Bill Thon, Brian Williams Contributing photographer Tony V. Martin Advertising Director Lisa M. Daugherty Advertising managers Deb Anselm, Eric Horon, Jeffrey Precourt Business Advisory Board Dave Bochnowski, Peoples Bank; Wil Davis, Gary Jet Center; Nick Meyer, NIPSCO; Barb Greene, Franciscan Physician Hospital; Tom Gryzbek, St. Margaret Mercy Hospital; Stephan K. Munsey, Family Christian Center; Bert Scott, Indiana University Northwest; Bill Thon, Ivy Tech State College; Sonya Dactelides, Majestic Star Casino Copyright, Northwest Indiana/Chicagoland BusINess, 2011. All rights reserved. Reproduction or use of editorial or graphic content without permission is prohibited.
Award-winning health care Franciscan Alliance northern Indiana
hospitals continue to receive accolades from health care ratings organizations and readers of local newspapers and business magazines. The honors reflect the hospitals’ ongoing commitment to providing the best patient service, using the most modern technology, and most of all, compassionate care.
Accredited by the Healthcare Facilities Accreditation Program Franciscan St. Anthony Health • Crown Point Franciscan St. Anthony Health • Michigan City Franciscan St. Margaret Health • Dyer and Hammond Franciscan Physicians Hospital • Munster
BKD Indiana Excellence Award
For improved health outcomes using best practices and teamwork.
Global Six Sigma and Business Improvement Award
For improvement in care through using best practices and teamwork. FRANCISCAN ST. ANTHONY HEALTH • Crown Point
HealthGrades • National Health Care Ratings Organization
Orthopedic Services Ranked among the Top 5 in Indiana for Overall Orthopedic Services in 2010. Gastrointestinal Ranked among the Top 10 in Indiana for GI Services three straight years (2009-2011). Ranked among the Top 10 in Indiana for GI Surgery three consecutive years (2009-2011).
Post-Tribune Neighbors Choice Awards 2011
Franciscan St. Anthony was voted Best Hospital.
Northwest Indiana Business Quarterly 2011 Best of Northwest Indiana Business awards
Franciscan St. Anthony was voted Best Hospital in the Region. Franciscan St. Anthony was voted Best Place to Work.
Franciscan St. Anthony’s Emergency Department ranks in the top 10th percentile in the nation for patient service and satisfaction, according to surveys done by the industry’s recognized leader in health care performance improvement.
Dyer 2009/2010 and Hammond 2009-2011
FRANCISCAN ST. MARGARET HEALTH • Dyer and Hammond
The American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer Approval Dyer and Hammond
Accredited by the Society of Chest Pain Centers • Dyer and Hammond The region’s first accredited centers and the only with Cycle III accreditation (Hammond)
HFAP Primary Stroke Center Certification • Dyer HealthGrades • Cardiac Surgery Excellence Award
Hammond – The region’s* only recipient, 2010 and 2011
HealthGrades • Women’s Health Excellence Award
Hammond – Three years in a row, 2009/2010, 2010/2011, 2011
HealthGrades • Pulmonary Care Excellence Award Dyer 2009/2010; Hammond 2009-2011
FRANCISCAN ST. ANTHONY HEALTH • Michigan City
COLA Lab Excellence Award • Dyer and Hammond American Cancer Society’s Bronze Level Five Star Investor Award
National Patient Safety Foundation Stand Up for Patient Safety Management Award 2011
HealthGrades • Cardiac Care Excellence Award
Dyer and Hammond – for participation on Workplace Solutions Program
The only recipient of this national award for outstanding patient safety initiatives.
Hammond – the region’s* only award recipient, 2011
American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer Outstanding Achievement Award
FRANCISCAN PHYSICIANS HOSPITAL • Munster
One of only three hospitals in the state of Indiana to receive this prestigious award.
American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer Full, Three-year Approval with Commendation HealthGrades • National Health Care Ratings Organization
HealthGrades • National Health Care Ratings Organization
Five-Star rated for the Treatment of Heart Failure three consecutive years (2009-2011). Five-Star rated for Treatment of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (2011). * Gary, IN region as defined by the federal government’s Office of Management and Budget.
Critical Care • Ranked among the Top 10 in Indiana for Critical Care in 2011.
2010 Anthem Successful Practice Award
For the successful implementation of our outcomes-based patient-centered quality initiative, “Quality Rounding.”
FranciscanAlliance.org Physician Referral • 800.931.3322 fall 2011 | 3
Better Health is Everything.
Of all the Northwest Indiana institutions, Methodist Hospitals attracts the most complex cases across a wide range of specialties. Methodist Hospitals has been the Northwest Indiana leader in high level, complex acute care since 1923. From our award-winning Womenâ€™s Services program and our Neuroscience and Oncology Institutes, to our growing cardiovascular program, top-flight emergency services, Spine Care Center, Bariatric ReStart Center of Excellence, and Breast Imaging Center of Excellence, Methodist consistently sets the standard for specialty care in the Region. For example, Methodist is the first Northwest Indiana hospital with advanced 3D mammography technology. Our dedicated physicians, nurses and staff also deliver unmatched excellence in a wide range of inpatient and outpatient services, from orthopedics and behavioral health, to rehabilitation and home health services. We also offer state-of-the-art diagnostic techniques, and innovative programs in bloodless medicine and wound care. In short, maintaining the highest standards of care is what leading the way to better health is all about.
Let Methodist Hospitals help you f ind the right physician for you and your family. Visit www.MethodistHospitals.org, or call -888-909-DOCS (3627).
888-909-DOCS (3627) METHODISTHOSPITALS.ORG 4 | In BusIness
Leading the Way to Better Health MIDLAKE CAMPUS
BizWorthy Made in Northwest Indiana
Wood work with family C.P. company performed millwork on Indy hotel By Christine Bryant Times Correspondent CROWN POINT | Nearly 20 years ago, Bob
Ligda began his millwork business in an 800-square-foot shop with his father. Today, the business that designs, fabricates and installs custom architectural millwork now operates out of a 20,000-square-foot space that 25 employees occupy. “I started with no money but a father who helped me out and asked for nothing in return,” Ligda says. “People underestimate the importance of what passion will do for success.” With clients throughout the U.S., D&L Wood Products Inc. has generated a buzz among the hospitality industry, with one of its most recent projects garnering international attention. In February, the world’s largest JW Marriott opened in Indianapolis, owned by Merrillville’s White Lodging. D&L Wood Products fabricated and installed all the woodwork in the lobby, restaurants, convention center and guest rooms. “The JW hotel was a two-year project that had two full-time project managers along with my son, Adam Ligda, as the superintendent on the job,” Ligda says. “We had approximately 50,000 man hours on that hotel alone.” Ligda’s company also did the millwork on three adjoining hotels that added another 660 rooms. “We have been one of a select few millwork contractors in the United States that Marriott has preapproved for their Courtyard renovations.”
Jon L. Hendricks | The Times
D&L Wood Products owner Bob Ligda started his custom millwork and casework business in 1992 in Crown Point.
D&L Wood Products When opened: 1992 Location: 615 N. Indiana Ave., Crown Point Phone: (219) 662-9177 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: dlwoodproductsinc.com Type of business: Millwork company specializing in hospitality and food industries Owners: Bob Ligda Number of employees: 25 As a business owner, Ligda says he enjoys working with the customer through the entire construction process – from design to installation.
“I wanted the ability to control the products that the customer wanted such as custom cabinets and moldings without waiting three to four weeks from a lumberyard,” he says. The bottom line, he says, is the quality of the company’s work needs to be of museum standards, whether it is a single cabinet or an entire hotel. Getting to the level his company has achieved started first with one customer and building a reputation, he says. “Like any new business, the challenges are the same,” Ligda says. “You perform once and have to keep proving yourself over and over until it becomes second nature and everyone working for you buys into the mindset that they want to be a part of a successful team.”
fall 2011 | 5
Barden dies after long illness Entrepreneur, whose company owned Gary’s Majestic Star Casino, revered as iconic black business leader Founder of the Majestic Star Casino company and prominent businessman Don Barden, 67, died May 19 of complications from lung cancer at a cancer treatment center in Detroit, said Darci McConnell, a spokeswoman for Barden. Barden had a variety of business interests, including casinos, cable TV and real estate. As the ninth of 13 children, Barden grew up in Inkster, Mich., near Detroit. He dropped out of college at Central State University in Ohio but stayed in Lorain, Ohio, working a series of jobs before opening a record shop at age 22. Barden started a weekly newspaper, the Lorain County Times, bought real estate and became the first black member of the Lorain City Council in the 1960s. He also worked as an on-air television personality for 11 years in Ohio.
Barden also helped build his empire through o p e ra t i n g a c a b l e television franchise in the Detroit area for more than a decade before selling it to Comcast Cable in 1994 for more than $100 barden million. He also owned and operated five Illinois radio stations in the 1990s. Barden launched the Majestic Star Casino company in December 1993, to get a gaming license in Gary and, less than three years later, opened the gaming facility at Buffington Harbor. The company expanded in December 2001 with the purchase of Fitzgerald casino properties. In late 2005, Majestic Star Casino bought the former Trump Indiana vessel and 300-room hotel. Barden was the first black national casino company owner in the country. Viewed as an iconic black businessman, B a rd e n h a s re c e ive d awa rd s f ro m publications such as Black Enterprise magazine and accolades from celebrities, municipal officials and business leaders around the country. Last year, his companies and their affiliates had
A bionic business Prosthetics is a growing field, which is one of the reasons a Merrillville–based company has added two locations within the last year. Bionic Prosthetics & Orthotics was started by prosthetist orthotists Vikram Choudhary and Sumesh Saxena in 2007. In order to accommodate a growing patient base with accessibility issues, the pair opened a Munster
6 | In Business
$400 million in revenue. Gary Mayor Rudy Clay said he was saddened by the news of Barden’s death. “ M r. B a rd e n wa s a n exce p t i o n a l businessman and a pioneer in the gaming business as an African-American. He is to be commended for his success,” Clay said in a written statement. “Although I did not have an opportunity to work with him directly on initiatives related to the city, I often thanked him for his support of Gary and this region.” Gary Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Chuck Hughes also said Barden was a “pioneer” by owning one of Gary’s first casinos and complimented the work and investments his community organizations have made in the city. “Unquestionably, his boats have been extremely significant to the economic well-being of the city of Gary, and one only hopes that trend will continue,” Hughes said. Barden is survived by his wife, Bella Marshall, son Don Barden Jr., daughter Alana Barden, his siblings and other relatives. By Times Staff Times staff writer Bowdeya Tweh and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Prostheist Orthotist Vikram Choudhary, left, of Bionic Prosthetics and Orthotics, stands with patient Dave Hoefferle at the company’s office in Munster.
office near Community Hospital and a Valparaiso location as well. “It’s needed and because we’re dealing with patients who are amputees — who have typical issues — we want to be more accessible to them,” Choudhary said. “If someone who lives in Michigan City has a prosthetic and something goes wrong with which attract patients from provide in–home care. the region along with Chicago, it, it’s good to be closer.” “That’s what sets us apart Choudhary said the offices, South Bend and Lafayette, also from other people,” he said.
photo by Jonathan Miano | The Times
Promoting local business: People who are climbing the professional laddder
Credit repair, debt settlement business opens in Merrillville
Derek Duhon, of Munster, has been promoted to senior vice president at Centier Bank. Duhon manages the Risk Management Division. Lauren Hageman, of Valparaiso, has been promoted to bank officer at Centier. Hageman is branch manager of Centier’s Valparaiso grocery store branch inside of Town & Country Food Market. Jill Hasiak, vice president of cash management at Citizens Financial Bank, has been elected chairperson of the town of Munster’s Plan Commission for 2011. Liza Hilliard, of Crown Point, was recently hired as a sales associate at Diversified Marketing Strategies Inc. Gaye Andersen, of Alpha Beta Gamma, employed at University of Phoenix Merrillville campus, recently attended the annual council meeting of the Association of College Honor Societies. Andersen was elected to vice president on the Board of Directors. Please submit the following photo and description below for the CEP certification of John Kostecka: John Kostecka, outside sales account executive at Wesco Distribution in Hammond, has earned the Certified Electrical Professional credential. Dr. Donald Pesavento has opened a family practice office in Crown Point serving Family Life Clinic patients located in Pinnacle Hospital.
Patrick Leser has been promoted to assistant director of K-12 Initiatives at the Gary campus of Ivy Tech Community College. Leser previously was associate director of student development at the East Chicago campus. Once Upon A Child Annual Conference Energizes Local Small Business Owners Michael Williams and Christina Williams plan to use conference insights and strategies to create a favorite shopping destination for Valparaiso families Michael Williams and Christina Williams, owners of Once Upon a Child of Valparaiso, recently attended the company’s annual conference and trade show. Sarah Kiger joined Mixdesign in Schererville as the director of operations and new business. She has experience in brand development and management for Chicago area businesses. Porter Health System recently named Sarah Grcich, BS, RN, BC, CWOCN, as Porter’s 2011 Associate of the Year. She is a Certified Wound Ostomy Continence Specialist and provides clinical care, education and support. Karen Nelson, of Crown Point, has been promoted to branch manager and bank officer. Nelson works at Centier’s Crown Point South branch. She has been with Centier since 2001. Dakita L. Jones, of Portage, has been promoted to assistant vice president. Jones is currently branch manager at Centier’s Gary office in the city’s Midtown neighborhood.
MERRILLVILLE |Guardian Credit Solutions
is moving Sunday to a new location, 8101 Polo Club Drive. The credit repair and debt settlement service is owned by Kyle Vottero. For more information, call (219) 2629999. By Times Staff workplace safety
Portage steel processor gets trade group’s safety award A Rockford, Ill.-based metal fabricators trade group presented Feralloy Processing in Portage with a 2011 Safety Award of Merit. The awards are open to all company m e m b e r s o f t h e Fa b r i c a t o r s & Manufacturers Association International and the Tube & P ipe Association International for showing excellence in safety. Companies received the award for posting an injury and illness incidence rate for the 2010 reporting period that is better by 10 percent or greater than the published U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics rate. Data is based on their North American Industry Classification System code. Winners were selected by an FMA safety committee sponsored by CNA Insurance Group and designed to promote safety in the industry. By Times Staff grand opening
New bicycle shop opens in Cedar Lake CEDAR LAKE |A new bicycle shop, Sports
Plus Bicycle Shop and Repairs, has recently opened at 13134 Lake Shore Drive and will host a grand opening Saturday. The business is owned by Ed and Mary Jane Nowdomski, who are also the track operators of the Freedom BMX track in Lowell. For more information, call (219) 3745722. By Times Staff
fall 2011 | 7
Promoting local business: People who are climbing the professional laddder
Employment in the Calumet Region
Garry Manous has been to the Society for Protective Coatings Board of Governors. Manous, formerly of Highland, is the Senior Project Manager for Atsalis Brothers Painting Co. Manous based in Warren, Mich. Trish Sarkisian has joined 1st Source Bank as vice president and trust personal administrator in Valparaiso. Sarkisian joins 1st Source from the Public Education Sarkisian Foundation of Valparaiso, where she was executive director. Nicholas Ring, of Schererville, a chiropractic physician, recently joined Renew Physicians chiropractic group in Schererville. Matt Kasper has been promoted to director of sales for the communities U.S. Cellular serves in Indiana. Kasper has been with the company for nearly 5 years. Paul Diamond has been named to the President’s Council at The Western and Southern Life Insurance Company for high performance in sales and service. Diamond works in the Valparaiso office. The following probationary Indiana State Police troopers recently reported to the Lowell District: Davonne Barlow, from Lake County; Corey Dupuy, from Jasper County; Danielle Elwood, from Whitley County; Brandon Henderson, from DuPage County, Ill.; and Ryan Hovarter, from Starke County. Lia sophia has recognized Debbie Urban, of Highland, and Joann Keck, of Griffith, as Monthly Achievers for their jewelry sales efforts. The company also announced top honors for its Excellent Beginnings Program Achievers for Josie Ferguson, of Crown Point; Lori Johnson, of Merrillville; and Mandy Connaway, of Chesterton.
8 | In Business
Lake County May ’10
Percent of workforce unemployed 9 percent
Porter County May ’10
Percent of workforce unemployed 7.2 percent
LaPorte County May ’10
Percent of workforce unemployed 9.4 percent
Cook County May ’10
Percent of workforce unemployed 10.2 percent
Will County may ’10
Percent of workforce unemployed 10.1 percent
Sources: Indiana Department of Workforce Development, Illinois Department of Employment Security
People who are climbing the professional laddder Indiana. At Lake Area United Way’s Whittaker & Company New officers and members annual meeting, the following PLLC; Marketing & were recently elected to Lake retiring board volunteers were also Communications - Paul Area United Way’s 2011 volunteer recognized for their service: Vince Board of Trustees. Heading Mullaney, managing Lake Area United Way’s Board editor, The Times. To fill Catania, CPA, Oak Partners Inc.; of Trustees as Board Chair will retiring and vacant posts, Ray Kasmark, business manager, be Daniel Lowery, chancellor board members were IBEW #697; Ed Livorine, division elected: at Calumet College. Officers manager, HR and labor relations, Larry Buck, Lowery Spajer include vice chair/vision council, ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor; and senior vice president and general manager Michael Davis, retired from Gary Olund, executive director, at Majestic Star Casinos NIPSCO; and secretary - Kay Northwest Indiana Community & Hotel; Jill Hasiak, Action. Nelson, director of environmental affairs at the Northwest Indiana vice president - cash Ann Higley has joined Forum. Committee Chairs include: management at Citizens Indiana University Health LaPorte Allocations - Jeremy Miller, vice Financial Bank; Allen Physicians as the new clerical supervisor for Founders’ Square in president/regional manager at M. Spajer, manager Young-King LaPorte. March, 2011 Centier Bank; Development - Tom Buck of employee relations, U.S. Steel Corp. Gary Keilman, Whiting general Jen Hill, of Griffith, has become Works; and Tamara Young-King, Director, manager , BP Products North America; an independent consultant with Tastefully Finance - Curtis Whittaker, CPA at Simple Inc. External Affairs - Northwest Indiana, AT&T To submit an item for Salute, send information and a photo, if available, to 601 W. 45th Ave., Munster, IN 46321, email to email@example.com or fax to (219) 933-3249.
Creating relationships that energize business. BP is dedicated to connecting with the most innovative and performance-driven Minority and Women Business Enterprises, which in turn reflect the diversity of BP’s community. By working with M/WBE, we create powerful opportunities for diverse suppliers who operate safely and are of scale, competitive and efficient. Find out more at bp.com/supplierdiversity
© 2011 BP Products North America Inc.
fall 2011 | 9
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Learn more about what Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield has to offer at anthem.com/connects2
Life and Disability products underwritten by Anthem Life Insurance Company. Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield is the trade name of: In Colorado: Rocky Mountain Hospital and Medical Service, Inc. HMO products underwritten by HMO Colorado, Inc. In Connecticut: Anthem Health Plans, Inc. In Indiana: Anthem Insurance Companies, Inc. In Kentucky: Anthem Health Plans of Kentucky, Inc. In Maine: Anthem Health Plans of Maine, Inc. In Missouri (excluding 30 counties in the Kansas City area): RightCHOICE速 Managed Care, Inc. (RIT), Healthy Alliance速 Life Insurance Company (HALIC), and HMO Missouri, Inc. RIT and certain affiliates administer non-HMO benefits underwritten by HALIC and HMO benefits underwritten by HMO Missouri, Inc. RIT and certain affiliates only provide administrative services for self-funded plans and do not underwrite benefits. In Nevada: Rocky Mountain Hospital and Medical Service, Inc. HMO products underwritten by HMO Colorado, Inc., dba HMO Nevada. In New Hampshire: Anthem Health Plans of New Hampshire, Inc. In Ohio: Community Insurance Company. In Virginia: Anthem Health Plans of Virginia, Inc. trades as Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Virginia, and its service area is all of Virginia except for the City of Fairfax, the Town of Vienna, and the area east of State Route 123. In Wisconsin: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wisconsin (BCBSWi), which underwrites or administers the PPO and indemnity policies; Compcare Health Services Insurance Corporation (Compcare), which underwrites or administers the HMO policies; and Compcare and BCBSWi collectively, which underwrite or administer the POS policies. Independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. 速 ANTHEM is a registered trademark of Anthem Insurance Companies, Inc. The Blue Cross and Blue Shield names and symbols are registered marks of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.
10 | In Business
urtain honoring 20 under 40
calling Mitchell Blosky  Mohamed Farhat  Matthew Glaros  Jennifer Khadivar  Tyler Kent  Shontrai DeVaughn Irving  Candice Kouros-Logue  Wesley Kotys  Geoff A. Laciak  Breanne Mitseff  Kelly McFaddon  Joshua Lybolt  Nick Meyer  Dan Plath  Celina Weatherwax  Brett Riley  Jared Tomich  Rachel Smeja  Dean Ricci Jr.  Gail Zurek 
honoring 20 under 40
Executive director, The Love Crunch Co.
It’s always crunch time for maker of Love Crunch Bars By Julie Dean Kessler BusIness Contributor
SOMETIMES ONE MAN and one idea can turn into a helping hand for thousands. W h e n M i tc h e l l B l o s k y re t u r n e d from Paris a couple of years ago, “I was questioning everything,” he says. He was particularly concerned with so many people facing hunger here and abroad. “I’d see the commercials asking for help for various causes and wondered just how the money helped, where it went,” says Blosky. “I studied architecture at ITT and was working in the profession for about five years before realized that I could better serve my community by doing this.” “This” is The Love Crunch Co., a nonprofit brainchild of Blosky’s that turns out nutrition bars. D u s h o n N i ko l ovs k i , d i re c to r o f Entrepreneur Success at Purdue University Calumet, recalls when Blosky took a business course at Purdue Cal 1 1/2 years ago, “He had an idea but didn’t know how to start.” Armed with knowledge from the business course, Blosky analyzed the content of 40–plus nutrition bars already on the market. “Then I took their best ingredients and put them together with some of my own recipe.” The result, according to Blosky’s website, www.lovecrunch.org, is a crunchy bar “containing 26 vitamins and minerals which reverse the effects of malnutrition and hunger.” The ingredients are all organic and the wrapper is recyclable, “making Love Crunch the most socially responsible product on the market.” Blosky’s appeal for people to buy a bar proclaims, “For every Love Crunch Bar sold, the other half is given to a hungry person” 12 | In BusIness
seems to be taking hold. The product is sold at various coffee houses in Chicago, Blosky’s major market, and at Lifestyles In Valparaiso. “We’re growing retail store by retail store. Now I’m meeting my sales quota and I’m looking forward to expanding my operation. Clients re–order the next month and the next month. That helps us to donate and still be financially responsible,” says Blosky. The donations of Love Crunch bars are now on a regular quarterly basis, and to make it personal, people purchasing the bars can create a profile on the Web site and track the number of bars they’ve contributed. The Web site reminds them that “Each Love Crunch bar you purchase equals 1 Love Crunch point/people you’ve fed.” Blosky says Love Crunch is the only one– for–one food movement, and the company slogan is big and bold: “Feeding the world’s 1 billion starving people one Love Crunch bar at a time.” Carly Oberg, director and volunteer of the co–operated nonprofit Love Crunch World Hunger Relief Organization, says that as an entrepreneur, Blosky has a passion she’s never seen before. “He has worked tirelessly to create a product that is not only unique, but something that could change the lives of others. Love Crunch has helped feed over 1,000 people who are starving and malnourished in our very own country.” Says Nikolovski, “Especially in this economy, there’s a need to help the needy. (With the Love Crunch bar) it’s not like they’re getting a full meal, but it’s a step in the right direction; it gets others interested in social responsibility.” Oberg agrees. “I’ve made several Love Crunch deliveries around the U.S. ,and it’s
devastating to see how many starving people are living in our own country. I’m hopeful that in the near future, Love Crunch will be able to assist not only on a national level, but on a global level as well.” For now, the operation is small and time– consuming. Until a manufacturer is found, all the product is made by hand, by Blosky himself and a small corps of volunteers that include his mother and girlfriend. Blosky says the company is “really getting off the ground – I can start paying them now,” but still, “I work about 18 hours a day. I sleep four to six hours, and work on this the rest of the time. I learned that persistence in school, how to work on one thing for long periods of time. I’m glad I can apply that to something that’s beneficial.” And it may be that no one else will manufacture the product, either. Others see potential, too. Just a year after starting his business, he won Purdue University Calumet’s Big Sell competition for Entrepreneur Success, and The Illinois Institute of Technology awarded The Love Crunch Co. its Innovation and Entrepreneurship Academy’s Idea Challenge 2010. A St. John native, Blosky notes “many families with children skip meals at a time; others skip entire days without eating. The importance of the Love Crunch bar nutrition will make the difference. “ Says Oberg, “Mitch has made sacrifices to build Love Crunch to its current scale. I can see that it’s all worth it by the look on his face when he’s able to deliver Love Crunch bars to someone who’s not sure where their next meal will be coming from. “Love Crunch started as just an idea Mitch had, but it’s truly become a company that can change people’s lives.”
fall 2011 | 13
honoring 20 under 40
Medical oncologist, Michiana Hematology Oncology Inc. Advanced Center for Cancer Care, and assistant professor, Rush University Chicago
Family tragedy leads physician to oncology specialty By lu ann FranKlin BusIness Contributor
MOHAMED FARHAT KNEW he wanted to be a doctor, but his specialty – the treatment of patients with solid tumors and blood disorders – is the result of a family tragedy. “When I was in my second year of medical school – in fact in an oncology class –my aunt called from California and said my uncle had recently been diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia,” Farhat recalls. “He died two weeks later. It was such an aggressive disease. We all felt helpless, so sad and angry, such despair,” he says. “He was such a gentle, generous man. We wondered why it had to happen to him.” His uncle’s illness and rapid death from leukemia in 2000 changed Farhat’s focus in medicine. “I wanted to give others the chance my uncle didn’t have. That focus has been there ever since,” he says. “My goal is to give hope to others, to open people’s eyes and hearts to appreciate how precious life is.” Every year since refocusing his efforts has been better than the next, Farhat says. “I no longer feel helpless.” A native of Beirut Farhat fled Lebanon with his mother and siblings because of the country’s civil war. His father eventually joined the family in France, where they lived until he was 14. Immigrating to the U.S., the family made California their home. Those life 14 | In BusIness
experiences helped shape him, Farhat says. “My mother, Kathy, showed us true devotion and compassion and working values.” Farhat graduated from high school at age 16, but didn’t have the funds to attend college right away. He put that work ethic into practice immediately. “My mom is a nurse and my dad is a lawyer and they both worked, but they had the older children in college at the same time. I worked for four years in the fast food industry and then worked in construction, in sheet metal. Eventually it was my turn to go to college.” He relocated to Chicago to attend Loyola University. He received his bachelor’s degree in biology in 1998 and entered Chicago Medical School of Health and Science. Farhat served his residency in internal medicine, and his hematology and medical oncology fellowship at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. During his residency, he received awards for Resident of the Year and Teacher of the Year. Following his three–year fellowship at Rush University, he joined Michiana Hematology Oncology Inc. Advanced Center for Cancer Care, which has clinics in Westville, Plymouth, Mishawaka and South Bend. Farhat is board certified in medical oncology, hematology and internal medicine, and is the author of several published articles on his specialties. The physician also serves as an assistant professor at Rush University Medical Center
where he is involved in clinical studies and medical trials to improve programs for the treatment of tumors and blood disorders. Farhat currently rotates between the center’s four locations. Michiana treats those ages 18 and older who have solid tumors and blood disorders on an outpatient basis. In all, 90 percent of patients undergo chemotherapy. The team of physicians also do consultations for hospitalized patients. “We follow our own patients wherever they are,” he says. Solid tumors and blood disorders – including lymphoma, leukemia and clotting problems – present many challenges, Farhat says. “Most solid tumors we treat are in the lung, breast and colon. There are more than 37 different types of lymphoma,” he says. On Oct. 1, he will bring the services of Michiana Hematology Oncology Inc. to Crown Point. “The group is opening a new facility in the professional building at Franciscan St. Anthony. I’m very excited. I really want to go back to the suburbs,” says Farhat, who currently lives in South Bend. “This is where the most help is needed. We’re bringing ‘big city’ to the suburbs.” What Farhat will bring with him to the new clinic is the philosophy of Michiana Hematology Oncology Inc. Advanced Center for Cancer Care. “We’re not just treating the patient. We’re treating the whole family,” he says. Crown Point appeals to Farhat and the practice because, “it has a big heart. It really takes you in and makes you feel welcome,” he says. He and his wife, Lauren Cerullo, will move to Valparaiso. The couple married in August 2009. Farhat calls his wife “the best thing that ever happened to me. She is a beautiful and smart woman. She has changed my life forever. She is my rock.” Cerullo is a doctor of dermatology and is on staff at the South Bend Clinic. Another member of the family will also be joining them in Northwest Indiana. “We have an Australian cattle dog/Corgi mix dog that’s a rescue. Sassy is 3–1/2 and came with a name,” Farhat says. “We got her from a shelter about three months ago. She’s wonderful.” fall 2011 | 15
honoring 20 under 40
Partner/insurance broker, Employer Benefit Systems
Coming home with no regrets By anDrea holeCeK BusIness Contributor
FORTUNE AND FAMILY brought Matthew Glaros back to Northwest Indiana, and it’s a move he hasn’t regretted. “I think the Northwest Indiana community is a great place to grow and become a good businessperson, and a good community stakeholder,” he says. “There are a lot of opportunities here.” Glaros, 27, says he decided to leave the Region to attend college at the University of Denver in order “to learn more about the rest of the country.” “The university has a very good business school,” he says. “And the lifestyle in Colorado pulled me out there.” After graduating with a degree in finance and economics, Glaros worked as a financial analyst for Three Palms Alternative Investments in Denver. But after about a year, Glaros decided working for a hedge fund just wasn’t for him. “It was a little before the financial markets crashed and everything seemed to be running out of control,” he says. “I had a very good opportunity to come back and work with my dad in our insurance agency. It was always in the back of my mind. I was always told ‘to shingle your own roof rather than someone else’s,’ and that always resonated with me.” Plus, family is important to Glaros and his wife, Kelly. With their extended families living in Northwest Indiana it’s where they wanted to be. “Family is one of the driving forces 16 | In BusIness
Passionate By Diane Poulton BusIness Contributor
bringing me back,” says Glaros, of Munster. “It was a huge pull for of us. We miss Colorado. It’s a beautiful place, and we spend most of our vacations there, but we don’t plan on leaving The Region.” Working with his father, Will, at the agency the elder Glaros founded in 1977, has been “fantastic.” “My father is the best boss I could work for,” Glaros says. “What people could learn in 10 years, I learned in four because he allows me to be very hands on with the clients.” Continued on Page 19
ENNIFER KHADIVAR has quickly risen through the ranks at the University of Phoenix Northwest Indiana Campus in Merrillville. Khadivar was hired six years ago as the campus accounting manager. She has been promoted twice to learning center director and her current position as associate campus director. Her success, leadership and community commitment have earned Khadivar the honor of being included in the Class of 2011 20 under 40 award winners. Khadivar is excited about receiving the award and hopes her story can inspire others to use their talents for the betterment of the community. “All I want to achieve in my life is to inspire other people to do great things with what they are given,” Khadivar says.
Associate campus director, University of Phoenix Northwest Indiana campus
e about helping others As director, Khadivar is responsible for campus operations for both classroombased programs in business, education and technology, and the online program. Her duties include participation in the University of Phoenix’ Midwest Community Investment Steering Committee. This group decides how to spend thousands of dollars the school makes available for community organizations. Since the program began in 2010, its beneficiaries include the Northwest Indiana Literacy Coalition, Boys and Girls Clubs of Northwest Indiana, Success by Six, Distribution Education Clubs of America (DECA), and Valparaiso Public Library, with preference to group promoting literacy and education. “She has not only helped our students achieve their educational goals but teaches them to become contributors to their community,” says Anne M. Gillespie, state vice president of the University of Phoenix. “She understands that an educated work force can help Northwest Indiana.” Gillespie was
one of four people who nominated Khadivar for the award. “She is truly deserving,” Gillespie says. “She is truly an inspirational leader. She does a phenomenal job balancing her career, family commitments and community service. Her children are just amazing.” Gillespie interviewed Khadivar, who graduated from Purdue University with a degree in business management and finance, when she applied for the position. “I have never interviewed someone so early in their professional career with such a passion for education and commitment to excellence in all areas of life,” Gillespie says. “At first I thought Jennifer was too good to be true, but the more I interacted with her the more I saw that she was incredibly genuine, inspirational and had a way of overcoming any challenge placed in front of her.” Gillespie says Khadivar is an inspirational person who leads her team by setting an incredible example of what high standards of
behavior and work ethic can accomplish. One of Khadivar’s favorite projects involves the book “Three Cups” by Hoosier author and businessman Tony Townsley. This is the second year the book’s life lessons, which Khadivar says are simple for children to understand, will be taught to first graders at Iddings Elementary School. Khadivar says she eventually hopes to expand the program to other schools. “I love the ‘Three Cups’ project; it is one of my favorites,” Khadivar said. “It’s about teaching them balance. This is really my campaign in life.” Khadivar and the university also are helping Valparaiso Library create a new reading center for children based on Success by Six, a childhood literacy program with a goal for all children to have access to books. Khadivar said her parents have been her role models and inspiration. “Both are immigrants who came to this country not speaking English with only $500,” Khadivar said. They put themselves through college. They taught me how to save and make good decisions. My values and goals come from my parents’ work ethic.” Khadivar said her husband, Jeremiah, is supportive. “It takes a team to raise a family,” Khadivar says. “You need a teammate, and if you have a good teammate and spouse support, you can have it all.” Gillespie says Khadivar and her husband spend Thanksgivings working in a soup kitchen. “The best thing about Jennifer is that when you are around her you want to be a better person,” Gillespie says. Khadivar says of her community giving, “The more you give, the more you get and the more selfless you behave the more you get back - more than you ever thought you could. I would like to put that on a bumper sticker.” fall 2011 | 17
honoring 20 under 40
City planner, City of Valparaiso
Family values, life lessons translate from farm to city By lu ann FranKlin BusIness Contributor
GROWING UP ON a small family farm in Michigan taught Tyler Kent responsibility. His family also instilled a strong work ethic and gave him the encouragement he needed to pursue his dreams of making a difference in an urban setting. Today this 32-year-old serves as assistant city planner for the city of Valparaiso and oversees two bus transportation lines that carry passengers around the municipality and into Chicago. “I came to Valparaiso for the job opportunity,” says Kent, who joined the city’s administrative team in 2005. Similar to the area of south central Michigan near Battle Creek where he grew up, Porter County has a blend of urban, suburban and rural areas, he says. “I raised beef cattle — Angus and Maine Angou, which is a crossbreed that is more muscular — for 12 years, from age 10 to 21,” he says. “My grandmother used to show and so did my father.” It takes a great deal of dedication and hard work to raise cattle from calves to full-grown adults, Kent says. “My parents taught me to go above and beyond what was required.” In addition to the responsibilities of raising beef cattle, Kent played basketball for his high school and community college teams. After attending Kellogg Community College, he enrolled in Ferris State University in Grand Rapids, Mich., majoring in public administration. Kent 18 | In BusIness
was awarded his bachelor of science degree in 2004. “I picked public administration because I enjoy politics and government and I like working with people,” he says. In his current position as Valparaiso assistant city planner/transportation manager, Kent oversees the city’s V–Line and the ChicaGo Dash express commuter bus service. “In 2007, the city decided to offer a bus line within the city and asked me to oversee it. One of my jobs has been creating and working with the Mayor (Jon) Costas and the city council on the V–Line,” he says. When the Valparaiso Redevelopment Commission and the Northwest Indiana R e g i o n a l D e ve l o p m e n t A u t h o r i t y established the ChicaGo Dash that takes commuters from Valparaiso to Chicago in 2008, Kent was asked to manage the new system. “My job is to make sure we continue these transportation services. I work on grants to fund the systems, advertisements to draw riders and maintenance programs to meet federal guidelines,” he says. Every weekday will find Kent at the bus depot where the ChicaGo Dash departs to make certain every rider is issued a ticket. “There has been continuous growth on both services and we’re looking to add buses on both lines,” he says. In May, for example, ridership on the three ChicaGo Dash routes set a record with the average number of daily passengers at 91.6 and a total ridership of 3,846. Kent says total ridership on the three
buses topped 100 a total of 17 times, 11 on the morning commute and six times in the evening, in May. In 2010, Valparaiso won the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence for the transit system’s work to identify and implement innovative environmental practices into its programs and facilities. A new green initiative was also added this year, Kent says. Those who bicycle to the Village Station at Lincolnway and Campbell Street and catch the bus can store their bikes during the day in one of 10 new bike double locker structures installed at the station. “What we are trying to do is get vehicles off the road and reduce emissions,” Kent says. Kent participates in a number of community events as part of the Valparaiso city administration. He and his wife, Jody, make their home in the city. High school sweethearts, Tyler and Jody went together all through college. Jody also is part of the Valparaiso business community with her own company that creates wedding invitations. His position as assistant city planner has given him both experience and perspective on urban administration, Kent says. “I hope to pursue more education,” he says. “Someday, I hope to be a city manager.”
Continued from Page 16
The agency, which specializes in the health insurance industry, is a “great place to work.” “It allows us to help businesses control their health insurance costs,” says Glaros, who has held a license to sell insurance since 2005 and is a member of the Northwest Indiana chapter of the National Association of Health Underwriters. Glaros, who says he is concerned about the welfare of the Region, its people and its businesses, is active in several business groups and in charitable organizations in order to “give back to my community.” He is a member of the Legacy Foundation board of directors and a board member of Campagna Academy. The Foundation’s board members are selected to represent a broad spectrum of diversity in the areas it serves. Members establish the policies and procedures of the Foundation and ensure the Foundation has the funding, staff, facilities and resources to fulfill its mission. “It’s taught me a lot about our communities and their needs,” Glaros says.
Being on the board of Campagna Academy is especially rewarding because it allows “you to see a lot results of your actions and decisions through the kids there.” Harry VandeVelde, CEO of the Legacy Foundation, who nominated Glaros for the 20 Under 40 honor, says Glaros represents thousands of other young professional in Northwest Indiana. “We have a real true goldmine of talent in the younger demographic that we need to find ways to connect with and engage,” VandeVelde says. “Matt exhibits that behavior of being engaged and connected, and wanting to make sure his peers have an attachment to the Region through his Emerge South Shore program.” Glaros is the youngest member of the Legacy Foundation board, yet “holds his own in the boardroom” among others who are generally older and served longer, VandeVelde says. “That says a lot about him,” VandeVelde says. Glaros is one of the founders of the Emerge South Shore, an organization for young professionals in their early 20s
to late 30s promoting leadership and personal development through networking, community involvement and educational opportunities. His wife, Kelly, also is involved in the organization serving as a one of its co–chairs. The mission of Emerge South Shore is “to identify the emerging leaders and young professionals of Northwest Indiana, connect them with each other and current leaders in the community, develop their ability to serve as community trustees and engage them within the community.” Glaros says the organization divides its efforts into four areas: identify, connect, develop and engage. One of the philanthropic efforts is building homes for Habitat for Humanity of Northwest Indiana. It also raises money for cancer research, the Nazareth home and other charitable causes. “It’s my pride and joy,” he said. “I think everyone we talked to has said it’s something the area has needed for some time. There’s a lot of support from established community leaders to see the organization thrive. It’s bringing together tomorrow’s leaders today.”
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honoring 20 under 40
Attorney, State Farm Litigation Counsel
Demonstrating leadership at work and in community By Diane Poulton BusIness Contributor
SHONTRAI DEVAUGHN IRVING is a prominent attorney who believes in serving his State Farm clients well and giving back to the community. Irving has been a foster parent to more than 30 children during the past five years. His success, leadership and community commitment have earned Irving the honor of being included in the Class of 2011 20 under 40 award winners. “I’m really excited to be recognized in the community where I live,” Irving says. “The best honor is to be recognized at home. That means I am doing the right thing and encourages me to continue on the road I am on.” “I think it is important to give back to the community. I do believe that definitely in Lake County, Indiana, and probably in Northwest Indiana as a whole, that there is a brain drain in which many of the talented people in our community leave and go elsewhere for other opportunities,” Irving says. “It is very important for those of us who remain that we invest in the youth where we are to help make our community better. I think from a very young age, my parents and grandparents always instilled in me how important it is to give back. I was fortunate that I always had people who encouraged me and it is important that I give back to help others along the way.” Irving says his mother, Renee Brazelton, was supportive, encouraging him to do well in his education. Another inspiration was Keith Ramsey, of Gary. While in high school, Irving was mentored by Ramsey in a career 20 | In BusIness
connections program the doctor ran. Attorney Deanne Sasser, who nominated Irving for the award, says his personal motto is derived from Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court Justice: “None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because somebody — a parent, a teacher, an Ivy League crony, or a few nuns, bent down and helped us pick our boots.” Irving has been a foster parent since 2006 when, at 32, he took in a family of four siblings ranging in age from 2 to 8. They are still under his care. Irving has provided a home for more than 30 other children through respite care and placement. For his service, Irving was selected as the 2007 Foster Parent of the Year by the Indiana Foster Care and Adoption Association. Irving says he became involved in foster care after taking a class while he was a Lake County Deputy Prosecutor. He was prosecuting defendants for abuse and neglect of children. “My mom was taking foster parent classes and asked me to take them with her,” Irving says. “I initially told her ‘no,’ but I thought about it and decided it would give me a better understanding of how it affected the people and what they are going through.” Irving was featured on the Star Jones television show. Sasser says he has been recognized by the Indianapolis Colts, the Indiana General Assembly and the president of the United States. Irving was the 2008 recipient of the Honorable Viola J. Taliaferro Award by the Indiana State Bar Association. Sasser says the award is given to a lawyer who
exemplifies Judge Taliaferro’s courageous, visionary leadership in addressing the unmet legal needs of children. Attorney Irving is house counsel for the State Farm Litigation Counsel. In this capacity, Irving defends in the areas of bodily injury, property damage and premise liability. His primary responsibilities entail defending State Farm policy holders in lawsuits arising from automotive and homeowners’ claims. “When a person is sued it can be very stressful,” Irving says. “People don’t know what to expect.” Sasser says Irving’s legal skills have also been recognized as he was selected as the 2010 Outstanding Young Lawyer by the Indiana State Bar Association. He was named the 2007 Outstanding Young Lawyer by the Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana and was a recipient of the 2007 Leadership in Law Award. Irving is on the board of directors of the Gary Community Improvement Association, Purdue Club of Northwest Indiana and Purdue Alumni Association–Calumet. Irving says the Gary Community Improvement Association helps community members develop their work and parenting skills. Irving graduated from Indiana University Bloomington with distinction in 1997 with majors in Criminal Justice and Afro American studies. He earned his Indiana University School of Law degree in 2003 while pursuing his master’s degree in Business Administration from Purdue University in 2009, where he was named the outstanding student by the faculty.
â€œThe best honor is to be recognized at home. That means i am doing the right thing and encourages me to continue on the road i am on.â€?
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honoring 20 under 40
VIce president and Munster Banking Center manager, Peoples Bank
Her family inspires success, hard work By lu ann FranKlin BusIness Contributor
CANDICE KOUROS–LOGUE credits two generations of her family — her grandfather and her parents — with inspiring her to plan ahead, go to college, follow her dreams and succeed through hard work. The 28-year-old Cedar Lake resident serves as a Peoples Bank vice president and manager of the Munster Banking Center at 9204 Columbia Ave. “I’m 100 percent Greek. My grandfather, George Kouros, was the oldest of six siblings who came over to get things started in America,” Kouros–Logue says. While growing up in Munster, she says was fortunate to have three generations of her family living together when her grandfather moved to her parents’ home. “I had the chance to sit down and have conversations with my grandfather. He told stories of the struggles of coming to a new country,” Kouros–Logue says. “He worked so unbelievably hard, along with my grandmother.” Attracted by work in Northwest Indiana’s steel mills in the early 1900s, George Kouros also opened a restaurant in East Chicago to help support his family. “He provided the stability for his family,” she says. Kouros–Logue says her grandparents’ strong work ethic were passed down to her father, Chris. By example and their verbal encouragement, those lessons continue to echo into the third generation, she says. Those lessons include “nothing comes in life without a struggle. Nothing can be handed to you. You have to fight for it, 22 | In BusIness
work hard for it,” Kouros–Logue says. “You achieve by blood, sweat and tears.” Her parents, Chris and Jenny Kouros, of Munster, also inspired her by working while furthering their own education. “My mother’s family still lives in Greece. They definitely have the same mentality and drive as my father’s family,” says Kouros–Logue. Her parents also taught her the value of education. “There was no choice about going to college. It was just a matter of where,” she says of her parents’ influence. After graduating from Munster High School in 2001, Kouros–Logue enrolled at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond and also became a part–time teller at Peoples Bank while attending college classes full time. She earned her bachelor’s degrees with double majors in marketing and human resources in 2005. “I picked up my second major in marketing the last semester of my senior year at Purdue Calumet,” says Kouros– Logue. Her counselor pointed out that she had taken enough classes and earned nearly enough credits to also major in marketing. Following her graduation from PUC, she stayed with Peoples Bank and applied to the bank’s management development program. Accepted in February 2006, Kouros–Logue says the program takes participants through all departments at the bank. She completed the program in June 2007 and was promoted to assistant manager at the Munster Banking Center. Continued on Page 24
President, founder and senior financial adviser, The Kotys Group
Spreads wealth of resources back into NWI, abroad By Mallory Jindra BusINess Contributor
Wesley Kotys knows that his true love of financial planning is a rare hobby to have. But as the financial industry has taken a turn for the poignant since the recession, Kotys has tried to create positive change in his community for at-risk youth through his financial expertise and his heart. After attending Purdue University, Kotys worked for 10 years as a financial adviser at Prudential Financial and then later at Edward Jones. While at Edward Jones, he opened the company’s Valparaiso branch and earned several awards, including the Pacesetter Award, an exclusive honor bestowed upon those showing outstanding performance in their first three years of business. But Kotys wanted to be able to provide completely unbiased guidance to the people he worked with, which is a difficult challenge at a bigger company. So when he opened his own independent, boutique financial planning firm in Valparaiso in 2007, he says there were no skewed thoughts about how to run his business. “I’ve always had good mentors in the financial planning industry, and I didn’t have a glamorous picture of what financial planning was because of them,” Kotys says. “I was more interested in helping people and companies to plan their next generations. I wanted to help them live out all of their goals and dreams.”
Kotys’ passion for his work and smart business plan has served his company well. The Kotys Group was featured in the April edition of Forbes magazine under the Indiana Financial section, and Kotys is currently a member of the exclusive LPL Financial Director’s Club, which is a distinction reserved for only the top 15 percent of the more than 12,000 LPL financial advisers nationwide. Kotys truly loves what he does for a living, so any chance to help people in the Continued on Page 24 fall 2011 | 23
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Continued from Page 23
Additional promotions followed. In November 2008, Kouros–Logue was named banking center manager. She became assistant vice president in April of 2009, and in April of this year, she was promoted to vice president. As the team leader of 12 staff members, she is responsible for the operational functions of the Munster Banking Center. “I assist customers and am the community contact for the bank to promote People Bank to the community,” she says. As part of her community connections for Peoples Bank, Kouros–Logue serves on the board of directors of the Munster Chamber of Commerce and is in her second term as a member of the board of directors of the Munster Rotary Club. She is also a member of the Dyer Chamber of Commerce. In July, she became president of the Friends of Hospice, the fundraising auxiliary for Hospice of the Calumet Area. Kouros–Logue’s participation as a volunteer for Junior Achievement brings her in contact with elementary school children to encourage them to put their education to good use and succeed. Junior Achievement is a nonprofit a organization that brings the real world to students through hands–on curriculum delivered by a trained classroom volunteer, she says. JA empowers young people to own their economic success. The volunteer– delivered kindergarten–through–12th grade programs foster work–readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills, and use experiential learning to inspire kids to dream big and reach their potential. As a Junior Achievement volunteer, Kouros–Logue presents the “JA in a Day” program to kindergarten through 5th grade students in East Chicago, Gary and Lake Central schools. “Depending on the age group, I will present different programs. ‘My Community’ is one I do with the younger students. I take over for the teacher for the day and do activities with the kids,” she says “My grandfather and my parents taught me to plan ahead, to work hard and give back to others,” Kouros–Logue says. “They are the source of my core values and my inspiration.”
community through his financial expertise is inspiring for him. He often organizes free educational workshops and seminars for local companies, such as NiSource, ArcelorMittal and NIPSCO, as well as nonprofits, and the general public. The seminars he opens up to the public are usually 2-1/2 comprehensive sessions that have been held at Strongbow Inn, which tackle all aspects of financial planning, including investment, retirement, estate, education and tax planning. “We’re in a very critical moment in our country, and I believe education is very important to our success,” Kotys says. “We need to be a more critical thinking society, not an easy–thinking one, and my goal is to bring really close–to–center information to people so they can see how they can positively impact their own lives directly.” Kotys Group Operations Manager Jennifer Reed says that while nationally, everyone is on pins and needles with the financial market’s current volatility, Kotys is doing a lot to promote pragmatic thinking and positive action. “The thing about Wes is that he is such an honest person,” Reed says. “He addresses problems head–on, and he’s very good at communication.” Aside from lending his talents in the financial sector to people in the community, Kotys says he and his wife, Sarah, who also works at Kotys Group as the company’s team leader, try to dedicate their time and resources to both international and local efforts they find important. One effort they’ve identified strongly with and invested deeply in is helping kids at risk. Kotys is an advocate for Heroes of the Nation, a nonprofit organization based in Africa that brings in orphaned children of AIDS victims and sets them on a path to become leaders in their communities by developing their education and work skills. Through microenterprise development, Heroes of the Nation is helping hundreds of children excel in their own lives and cultivate their communities of self–sufficient people. And while Africa is halfway around the world, Kotys says he believes there is a place for similar programs a little closer to home. “These kids are thriving, and I’d love to see that type of strength–based entity in the United States,” Kotys says.
24 | In BusIness
Good for his word, Kotys is helping start a similar program locally by becoming an advocate for LegacyNowUSA, which runs a project called Heroes. Heroes aims to help kids in grades six through 12 develop a healthy self– image through an educational development program grounded in problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, and mentoring. As an advocate for LegacyNowUSA, Kotys has provided financial support, financial planning advice, such as helping the organization file for nonprofit status, and getting the attention of those in the community who can help bring the program to its full potential. “He loves being a connector of people,” Sarah Kotys says. “He loves when he can connect people that have come into our lives to their dreams and passions. What gives him the most joy is helping make their goals happen in any way he can.” T h e K o t ys e s a l s o a t te n d l o c a l philanthropic events and support local nonprofits as much as possible, such as Meals on Wheels of Northwest Indiana. Kotys has been a Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce board member since January, and he’s eager to become even more involved there in the next 12 months. “I want to make my time there meaningful,” Kotys says. “I want to help provide the infrastructure that would make our community a sought–after place for businesses. I would like to see a more educated workforce and more mid to large companies coming from Chicago. But I think we’re doing the right things.” “He strongly believes in the people behind building this community, in the people who are creating things in the community,” Sarah Kotys says. Kotys says faith has also always been important to him and Sarah. He sits on the advisory team and financial board at Bethel Church in Valparaiso, where he has been active in many of the church’s religious programs, such as leading small groups in biblical studies and daily Christian living and community projects. In the interim of his church’s search for a new youth minister two years ago, he and Sarah both stepped up to serve as youth ministers. “My belief system is one where you do pour out,” Kotys says. “You don’t just maintain your life. You grow and you give back. It’s a revolving door.”
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26 | In BusIness
Accounting manager, Laciak Accountancy group
Knowledge beyond the numbers Laciak educates business owners on financials, finds place in community
By lesly Bailey BusIness Contributor
WHEN GEOFF LACIAK answered the call to return to The Region in August 2008, he was ready to connect with clients on a new level and join his father, Joe, at the family business, Laciak Accountancy Group. “The region always draws you back. If you do move away, there are always some connections to home,” Geoff says. “I believe it comes from the mentality of our families. Everyone is always so rooted to the region.” A more substantial link is part of what he was seeking in his position as accounting manager at Laciak. He had worked in Chicago at Deloitte & Touche LLP and at Harris Associates LP after graduating summa cum laude from Notre Dame in 2000 with a Bachelor of Science in accounting with a minor in finance. He also earned his master’s degree in business administration from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in 2007. “Brian (my twin brother) and I always heard about the business and being involved in the community from my dad,” Geoff says. “In Chicago, you are not always involved in the community and dealing with everyday people. There was no personal fulfillment to make a difference
in an individual’s life.” Geoff transitioned into his position at Laciak right before the economic downturn and believes he has learned lessons he would have missed in Chicago. “I have seen companies persevere through it all and companies that have gone through the most difficult time in their history, almost coming down and trying to turn it around,” Geoff says. “That is not something I would have gotten in Chicago. “The most fulfilling aspect has been seeing people persevere through it all,
weather the storm and look toward bigger and better opportunities in the future.” The Laciak staff seeks to connect to clients beyond numbers by taking on the role of consultants and taking the time to educate business owners. The team is building on the foundation Joe laid in 1983 when he launched the company along with a partner. Joe acquired sole ownership in 1992 and Brian rounded out the family theme, joining the group a year after Geoff in 2009. “We try to not only look at the numbers but also help business owners understand
their businesses. The numbers provide a story for the company and business owners need to understand what is on their financial statements,” Geoff says. Geoff says his dad has always emphasized a team approach: within the company, community and as part of their work with clients. “If there is better communication between all of our clients’ professionals, including lawyers, bankers and us, our clients are better off,” Geoff says. “We are helping the community be more productive overall if our clients succeed.” Geoff also works with local chambers of commerce, including as co–chairman of the small business committee for the Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce, and he serves on the school board at Bishop Noll in Hammond. He wants to expose more students to the kind of experience he had at Bishop Noll, where he graduated from in 1996. “We are emphasizing that Bishop Noll is an alternative to public school with an education based on the Catholic faith,” Geoff says. “I grew up in Highland but at Bishop Noll I had interactions with people from all over. It was almost an early exposure to college. I always had that home atmosphere to bounce back on, but I was out of my comfort zone and had to make new friends as I was with different classmates. I had to find my own place.” Geoff also will soon be on the Porter County Community Foundation board as another avenue to get involved in his community. “In Chicago, we were like cattle going through everyday life and it is hard to distinguish yourself,” he says. “In Northwest Indiana, there are opportunities to get involved and work with others. I am trying to help others achieve their goals and make Northwest Indiana a better place for our children to grow up.” Brian says he has seen Geoff’s desire to give back develop over the years and it is evident in his work with clients, who he takes the time to help even at 8 or 9 at night. “He tries to be a sounding board and trusted confidante as he deals with clients on a daily basis. He goes above and beyond to help people,” Brian says. “If his schedule and time allows, he will do it. There aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything he wants. He gives back as much as he can and tries to do whatever he can to help whoever he can.” fall 2011 | 27
and the other deserving recipients of this year’s
“20 under 40”award.
28 | In Business
and the other deserving recipients of this year’s
“20 under 40”award.
fall 2011 | 29
honoring 20 under 40
Teacher, Clark Middle School
Nurturing others with her faith By lu ann FranKlin BusIness Contributor
BREANNE MITSEFF’S FAITH in God and strong family ties have guided her throughout her life. “My faith is very important to me,” says the 24–year old Schererville resident and lifelong member of First Christian Reformed Church in Highland. “I have been taught to put others first.” She and her husband, Chris, are active church members and volunteer as part of the fellowship team to welcome others. They attended Indiana University in Bloomington together and were married soon after graduation in 2009. In fact, Breanne Mitseff says that year was a whirlwind of activity. The couple also closed on a house and started their careers in 2009. “Chris is a financial auditor in Chicago. He is laidback and kind. He balances me,” Mitseff says. “He puts in long hours and has a long commute. We cherish our time together,” Mitseff’s nurturing spirit and skills made her choice of a teaching career a natural. After graduating with honors from Highland High School in 2005, she enrolled in the education program at Indiana University. There, Mitseff also was an 30 | In BusIness
honors student and earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and special education. Her college program provided the training to work with students with mild learning disabilities. Now in her third year as special education resource teacher at Hal E. Clark Junior High School in St. John, she works with 20 fifthgrade students who need some assistance in math and reading. Collaborating with the classroom teachers is vital, Mitseff says. “This is a team effort. Students come to my room, and we work on counting, math and reading. It’s to help them catch up with their classmates and close that gap they experience in these areas,” she says. Mitseff’s degree would also allow her to teach a general education class. Many school systems, including the Lake Central School Corporation, use an inclusion model that blends students with disabilities into general education classes. “I would be open to general education especially with the inclusion model,” she says. “I like my job and teaching in this school system. I see it as serving God to foster His children.” Scott Graber, principal of Clark Junior High School says Mitseff is “a great educator.” “She works exceptionally well with the
kids and is an asset to the school,” he says. When it comes to nurturing, Mitseff extends her abilities to help dogs. “I am a foster mom for All Breed and Rescue. We rescue dogs from puppy mills and local high–kill shelters. All of the dogs within the organization stay in foster homes to help with training and socialization, as well as to provide a loving family until a permanent home is found,” she says. “All Breed Rescue and Adoption (ABRA) focuses on ending the bias against bully breeds and promoting responsible pet ownership. We have adoption events on most weekends at Pet Supplies Plus in Dyer.”
Mitseff has had several foster dogs in the past two years and is currently fostering a Pomeranian named Briar. “We has also adopted three rescue dogs. One has epilepsy and would likely have been put down if she had remained in a shelter. Another has severe separation anxiety stemming from the trauma of being in a pound,” she says. Her love of rescuing dogs also fueled her interest in following the Internet exploits of Patrick, through the dog’s Facebook page, The Patrick Miracle. An emaciated red pit bull mix dog was discovered in a trash bag at the bottom of a
Newark, N.J., apartment building garbage chute the day before St. Patrick’s Day this year. Named by the Humane Society, Patrick has become a global Internet star, and a favorite of Mitseff. Mitseff’s nurturing nature started in her childhood home, with her family guiding her to become the person she is today, Mitseff says. “My grandparents immigrated to the United States from Holland in the 1960s. They owned their own business, a bakery, and are still very middle class. That work ethic was passed down,” she says. The oldest of four, Mitseff says raising
children was an important job for her parents. “My mom taught me early on how to change diapers,” she says with a chuckle. “My dad is my number one role model,” Mitseff says of her father, Highland Assistant Police Chief Patrick Vassar. “He’s taught me to set goals, work hard and put others first,” she says. Mitseff’s interests outside the classroom and beyond fostering dogs include drawing, painting, ballet and scrapbooking. “I have been taught to live my faith, to practice it,” she says. “Those are lessons I’ll pass on to my own family when we have children.” fall 2011 | 31
honoring 20 under 40
Litigation and health law attorney, O’Neill, McFadden and Willet
Converging career paths lead to success By Julie Dean Kessler BusIness Contributor
Having her former and present careers dovetail so successfully came as a surprise to Kelly McFadden, one of this year’s winners of the 20 Under 40 Award. The law partner at O’Neill, McFadden, and Willet spent some years as a registered nurse, caring for others and making sure protocols were met. Those who know her aren’t surprised she continues to care for others and ensure important compliance in her current position as litigation and health care lawyer. Don Sippel, financial administrator for federal courts in Chicago, should know: He is McFadden’s husband and nominated her for the 20 Under 40 Award. “She focuses totally on her clients; she wants to do the best for them,” says Sippel. When she was a registered nurse at the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago, McFadden worked in surgical intensive care, then rotated among eight intensive care units. She brings the same energetic intensity to her law practice. “What amazes me about her is her ability to multitask, handling a wide variety of personal and professional activities,” says Mike O’Neill, fellow law partner at O’Neill, McFadden, and Willet. “She’s able to handle simultaneously an extremely 32 | In BusIness
busy trial law practice and still find time for her three young children and a number of community–based charities.” Sippel agrees. “Kelly has only one speed while working – top speed,” and you can hear the smile in his voice. As McFarland reflects on her career path, she says after working in the health field, “I went to law school and said, ‘I don’t want to do hospital law’; I just felt it was time for a complete change from my work in health care.” But her extensive background in medicine gave her a distinct edge in understanding legal issues facing medical practitioners and facilities, so her first years as an attorney were in health care organizations in an impressive number of roles, including in–house counsel, corporate compliance officer, regional director of risk management and a key contributor in the development and implementation of HIPAA compliance programs. It was clear her knowledge was an advantage in legal issues cases. “I went back and got my master’s in health law (at Loyola University), so that now I also review physician contracts and help doctors set up compliance with their practices, because there are so many health laws.” In July 2010, McFadden left a prestigious national law firm with a few other attorneys to open their own practice O’Neill, McFadden, and Willet.
“When you have three kids and you’re leaving a nice job – I still have good feelings for the firm we left – it’s a little surreal to see my name on the door of our own firm.” The firm has doubled in size since its opening. “With attorneys joining us from a very well–known firm that’s closing, we can do what we want, and that’s provide a really strong legal team to our clients.” McFadden’s practice and trial work are focused on the defense of health care professionals and their organizations. “I like feeling that I’m making a difference in people’s lives,” says McFadden. In handling malpractice cases, “I feel I am truly helping the health care system and the justice system, making sure our clients are good physicians and that they are treated justly within the system, making it better all around for doctors and patients.” McFadden is committed to making a difference in her community, too. She makes sure her family contributes to the well–being of people in her own town of Schererville and in the broader community. That means doing the Susan G. Komen Walk for the Cure for breast cancer at Chicago’s Grant Park on Mother’s Day, and finding sponsors for and hosting teams for the March of Dimes for six years. “We make it family event,” says McFadden. “The kids come with us. We want to impart to them that you should never take anything for granted, be thankful for everything you have, and share with others as much as you possibly can.” The kids — 4–year–old twins and a 6– year–old — embrace the message, selecting from their toys items to take to Nazareth House in East Chicago. “It helps to have the kids help pick out what to donate, so they can begin to understand there are people less fortunate and that we need to help out as much as we can.” McFadden is active in the children’s school. One child has a peanut and tree nut allergy, so McFadden has developed a program to ensure safety for all the students. A close experience with prematurity in the family has left McFadden “thankful for what we have.” She’s also active in the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network event in Chicago’s Lincoln Park. “Kelly’s a very giving person. At work, if she understands someone has an issue, Kelly does extra work so they can be with their family,” Sippel says. “And it’s the same at home — she does everything she can to help out with the kids if she has to go to a meeting.” For husband Sippel, “It’s an amazing life with an amazing person.” fall 2011 | 33
honoring 20 under 40
President and co-founder, Prime Real Estate Co.
Entrepreneur, leader, teacher, local advocate By Diane Poulton BusIness Contributor
REALTOR JOSHUA LYBOLT is a “visionary who builds partnerships and creates opportunities for many people” says Pat Obi, a professor in the department of finance and economics Purdue University Calumet. Lybolt was nominated for the Class of 2011 20 Under 40 awards by Obi, who describes him as “entrepreneur, community leader, teacher and community advocate.” “What stands out is his vision in terms of the kind of partnerships that he would like to create between business in Northwest Indiana and some of the institutions here,” Obi says. Obi says Lybolt, who was his graduate assistant at the university, played a key role in finding ways to link Purdue University Calumet with the private sector to create job opportunities. “In addition, Joshua has very good ambitions in terms of how to better the lives of people,” Obi says. “He has involved himself in various charitable foundations and organizations; that is why I find him to be such an amazing individual.” Lybolt is co–founder and president of Prime Real Estate Company in Schererville, with an office also in Chicago. The company is planning to open a Porter County office this fall. Company services include residential and commercial sales, property management, new construction and 34 | In BusIness
auctioneering. Obi describes Prime Real Estate as “the most innovative, proactive and aggressive real estate firm in Northwest Indiana region.” In six years, Prime Real Estate has dramatically increased in size during one of the worst real estate economies, Obi says. “The firm now boasts 79 real estate agents and is considered one of the five largest real estate firms in Northwest Indiana.” Lybolt was the regional director for the Indiana Small Business Development Center from 2007 until 2010. The organization is a public/private economic development organization sponsored by the Indiana Economic Development Corp. and Purdue University Calumet. It assists small businesses in a seven-county region. From 2001 to 2007, Lybolt was a visiting faculty member at Purdue University Calumet. During his tenure at the university, Lybolt taught a variety of courses including corporate financial management, personal finance, micro and macro economics, and real estate courses. “Lybolt’s greatest achievement during this time was the development and accreditation of two undergraduate real estate courses that are still offered today,” Obi plans. Lybolt says he believes the complexities of today’s real estate transactions require more substantial education and testing for agents. He serves on the boards of the Lake County
Advancement Committee, Northwest Indiana Business Quarterly, Partners in Contracting Corporation, the Regional Development Co., Hammond Innovation Center, Greater Northwest Association of Realtors Political Action Committee, Purdue University Calumet’s Center for Entrepreneurship Success, and Purdue University Lake County Cooperative Extension Service. He’s also an active member of several community and trade organizations. Lybolt says the Lake County Advance committee brings real life issues in Lake County to the forefront. Community leaders meet on a monthly basis to strategize actions for projects to head off problems or capitalize on the good.
Obi says Lybolt regularly gives back to the community in many forms. Lybolt and Prime Real Estate sponsor and participate in events for the Susan G. Komen Foundation for breast cancer awareness and the Pink Ribbon Society. Lybolt and his wife, Maggie, volunteer a full day of serving at the society’s annual luncheon. “It is very delightful,” Lybolt says. “You walk away knowing that you actually brightened the day of the people you served.” Lybolt is also involved with Kids Alive International. Lybolt says it is a phenomenal group out of Valparaiso which provides schooling, food, water and homes for children in bad situations in Africa and Central America.
Lybolt and his wife donate to the Northwest Indiana Habitat for Humanity and employees will volunteer as laborers in the organization’s fall project. He and wife and their infant son, Xavier Joshua, are members of Faith Church in Dyer where they help sponsor events. Lybolt’s awards include the 2008 State of Indiana Governor Award for Tomorrow’s Leaders; Building Indiana News Who’s Who of Northern Indiana, and 2010 Purdue University Calumet Alumni Leader’s Award. Lybolt has a bachelor’s degree in finance and a master’s in business administration from Purdue University Calumet. He is a 2009 graduate of the Indiana Leadership
Forum in Indianapolis, and 2008–09 Leadership Northwest Indiana Class 25. Lybolt describes Maggie as his best friend. “She is my wife and my business partner,” Lybolt says. “We keep each other grounded. I wouldn’t be successful without her nor she without me. We are a fantastic team.” Another mentor has been Obi, Lybolt says. “He is one of my best friends and I would not be where I am today without his support.” But most of all, Lybolt says he is thankful for God’s guidance. “Obviously my goal here isn’t my goal; it’s God’s direct guidance,” Lybolt says. “To leave this place better than I found it, I’m just following his path.” fall 2011 | 35
honoring 20 under 40
HooSIER FoR L By anDrea holeCeK BusiIness Contributor
LOVE BROUGHT NICK MEYER to the Region, and it’s that love, the love of his job and his community, that’s keeping him here. Meyer, 30, came to the area after graduating from Indiana University in 2003. His girlfriend, Colleen, who is now his wife, grew up in the Michigan City. “We met on a blind date and that was it,” he said. “She was my main reason for coming here. I was on a track after graduating to go to Southern California work in the film industry, but was sidetracked by Colleen, who was taking a job in Chicago. I put California on hold and pursued a girl.” Meyer, who was born in New Orleans and reared in northern Kentucky, quickly found a job with a Chicago public relations firm. “I have worked at a television station in Cincinnati and as a pit reporter at the Kentucky Speedway, so public relations was an easy transition for me,” Meyer says. “On my first job at a PR agency I worked on many well-known, name brand consumer products.” The Meyers were married in 2006, living in Chicago’s South Loop area. “Needless to say it was the right decision,” Meyer says. “At the time I moved here I thought California was on hold, but now it’s no longer on my radar screen.” Meyer was hired by NIPSCO four years ago. ‘When I began my search for a job in public relations and communications, NIPSCO was the first place I looked,” he says. “Because of the size I knew it had a department in my field and the timing happened to work out. A position became available at the right time.” Taking the position is a decision Meyer’s never regretted. “When I came to NIPSCO it was a place I wanted to stay for the rest of my career,” he says. “I had looked at a number of available opportunities and this in one which stood out as a company that was very involved in community and one that 36 | In BusIness
is headed in a very positive direction. It’s a great company to work for.” Don Babcock, director of economic development for NIPSCO, nominated Meyer for the 20 Under 40 honor. “Nick has been a great asset to NIPSCO since we hired him,” Babcock says. “He’s done a phenomenal job representing the company and its employees.” Although utility issues are very complex, Meyer has a wonderful way of simplifying those complexities, he said. “And he has a wonderful way of relating the challenges NIPSCO has serving its customers in the best way possible,” Babcock says. The Meyers recently had a baby daughter, Riley, and bought a home in Michigan City. “It’s been our ultimate goal to move to region,” Meyer says. “We just closed on the deal. It’s an older home and there’s a lot of renovation work that has to be done. We’re making the transition from Chicago to
Director of external communications, NIPSCO
Age: 30 Michigan City.” Colleen Meyer, a former Chicago teacher, now is a stay-at-home mom. She plans on getting her Indiana Teacher certificate and eventually going back to the classroom somewhere in the Region. Despite commuting from Chicago for the past four years, Meyer says he actually thinks of himself as an Northwest Indiana resident. “I have grown to love Northwest Indiana. Not being from area, my eyes have been opened up. Through my role at the company and the organizations I’m involved with I’ve been exposed to parts of the Region I didn’t know existed, such as the wealth of arts and culture that exist, to the expansive networks of parks and trails throughout the Region. When he first started with NIPSCO, Meyer got involved with the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana and now serves on its board. He also serves on the marketing committee for Lake
Area United Way, and he has participated in Leadership Northwest Indiana and in other industry-related organizations. “It’s absolutely important to provide your time and support to those efforts that make the organizations successful,” Meyer says. “Organizations like the Food Bank and United Way provide such important services to the community and they rely on local businesses and their representatives to make them thrive.” Despite choosing to attend Indiana University, Meyer never expected to be a “Hoosier for life.” “But it’s something I’m proud to say I am,” he says. “The people of Northwest Indiana are what make the area great. Having been part of some terrific organizations and working with business leaders in the community, I know there’s a lot of passion to improve the area and continue building on the great things we have here.”
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fall 2011 | 37
honoring 20 under 40
Water program leader, NiSource
Environmental education By lesly Bailey BusIness Contributor
DAN PLATH SEES Region waterways as one big classroom. He believes first–hand exposure and outdoor experiences are paths toward environmental awareness and appreciation. Through the Northwest Indiana Paddling Association, he has found an avenue to promote his philosophy. It was launched in 2009 as not only a paddling club but also a way to connect communities to their waterways through education and experiences. “Our mission is three-fold: to organize paddling events; to clean up rivers, develop water trails and increase public access through our Blueways Stewardship program; and to teach people how to paddle and about the environment,” says Plath, who is a founding member and president of the association. “One of the biggest contributions we can make is getting people on the water to see for themselves what their actions can do.” Plath especially wants his efforts to reach the region’s children. The association works with the Dunes Learning Center, parks programs and Boys and Girls clubs to expose kids to environmental issues. “We are trying to reach inner city urban youth who have never had the opportunity to get on rivers, streams and lakes,” he says. “We want to get kids out in the water and the environment. This is key to getting people to appreciate the environment.” He sees issues down the road if children aren’t engaged today. He cites the phenomenon, Nature–deficient Disorder, which was coined by Richard Louv in his book, Last Child in the Woods. “Kids are removed from the environment. They are consumed with texting, TV, games, the Internet. We are losing the next generation of people to protect the environment. If we don’t have the next generation to care, there is nobody there to stop things that are potential threats to the environment.” 38 | In BusIness
Plath’s own childhood helped steer his career and passion for the environment. He grew up on the water and raced canoes and kayaks across the state. “I got a good chance to see Indiana’s rivers and streams,” he says. “By being on the water, I was seeing first–hand the interaction between waterways and the people in the surrounding communities. This led me to go into the environmental field with a water focus. “The idea early on was to try to do something to better our waterways, rivers and streams. I wanted to do something to reconnect communities to the waterways.” Plath went on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in public administration/ environmental policy through the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs. He worked in various roles for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management before taking on his current position with NiSource as its water program leader in the Corporate Environmental, Safety and Sustainability Department. “What attracted me to the company was it is committed to sustainability,” Plath says. “NiSource has a major effort under way to manage its pipeline in a manner that will have the least impact on endangered species and the environment by managing through a habitat conservation plan. That is a good example where the company is on the leading edge of protecting the environment.” Plath’s vision of connecting communities to waterways also was solidified with the designation of the Lake Michigan Water Trail as a National Recreation Trail. The association collaborated with various communities, leaders and organizations, collecting 46 letters of support as part of the application process and leading the outreach efforts. The 75–mile stretch of shoreline, from Chicago to New Buffalo, Michigan, is the first step in what Plath hopes is the creation of a four-state, 1,600-mile-long trail around all of Lake Michigan.
“This is a unique chance for industry, environmental groups and municipalities to create something bigger than themselves,” Plath says. Northwest Indiana Forum President and CEO Mark Maassel cites Plath’s commitment as key to why he deserves the 20 under 40 honor. “He showed a great deal of creativity to recognize an opportunity like the water trail and persistence, diligence, dedication and wisdom to go ahead and work through the network of federal and state agencies, cities and local groups to get this thing accomplished,” Maassel says. Plath also is a board member and former vice president of the Shirley Heinze Land Trust, a charitable trust that preserves and protects the ecosystems of the Indiana Dunes region, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Northwest Indiana Quality of Life Council. “Besides river conservation, I am passionate about protecting natural resources and lands, especially where they touch rivers and streams,” Plath says. “It is very fundamental that we have open space, green space and clear waterways.” Plath says two individuals have inspired him along the way: Lee Botts, a key figure in the environmental community, and Indiana University Northwest professor Mark Reshkin. “Lee has been my mentor for several years now,” Plath says. “Reshkin’s whole idea is that communities in Northwest Indiana need to work together. The regionalism concept is key to what motivates me and what I have been involved in.” Plath looks to continue creating access to waterways through collaborations and partnerships. “We are looking to the development of the East Branch Little Calumet River Water Trail, completion of the Lake Michigan Water Trail loop and new ways to collaborate to develop water trails along other smaller rivers and streams.”
fall 2011 | 39
honoring 20 under 40
Director, Sen. Richard Lugar’s Northwest Indiana office
Community connections By Lesly Bailey BusINess Contributor
Through her roles at U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar’s office, Celina Weatherwax is creating connections and serving as a liaison within the political world. As director of the Senator’s Northwest Indiana office, she is a source of information and direction for region residents. “Many people don’t know where to go or where to turn; I am able to help them navigate,” she says. “I am able to facilitate communication between local, state and federal governments.” She also travels the state to reach out to Hispanic Hoosiers and leaders — a role she finds exciting and challenging. “I quickly realized within the Hispanic community, we are not as connected as we could or need to be. There is some division within my own community,” she says. “It is really unfortunate because we could be such a force if we collaborated more and contributed to each other’s causes.” Weatherwax’s outreach efforts include giving presentations to the community and meeting with Hispanic leaders and constituents, who she encourages to become more involved. “I connect H ispanics throughout the state with other organizations that otherwise would not have been. I think that just reaching out has been key — bringing leaders together and inviting them to be a part of what is happening.” Weatherwax faced challenges early on when she moved to Hobart from Nicaragua at age 7 and did not speak English. Her family joined her grandmother, Norma Harkins, after she became a U.S. citizen. “We came to this country because of
the civil unrest taking place (in Nicaragua) and the economic hardships we were experiencing there were too much to bear.” She remembers sitting in her class in second grade and not knowing what was happening as she didn’t speak English. Her teacher helped by putting signs on the windows and doors and labeling everything around the classroom so she could start learning. “There was no ESL (English as Second Language program) — talk about being integrated,” she says. After graduating from Hobart High School in 1998, Weatherwax started out as a business major at Purdue North Central in Westville. She switched to an organization leadership and supervision major after seeing the students were involved in different leadership opportunities on campus. “I am the first of my family to attend and graduate from college,” she says. “I was afforded opportunities that my family didn’t have.” Weatherwax took on her position at Senator Lugar’s office right after college seven years ago, at first as assistant director. “The director had been in the position over 20 years and decided to retire,” she recalls. “I was promoted to director within a year.” Watching Weatherwax grow as a leader prompted HealthLinc CEO Beth Wrobel to nominate her for the 20 under 40 honor. For the past two years, Wrobel has collaborated with Weatherwax on the Back to School Health and Wellness Fair, which is hosted by the Senator’s office and HealthLinc at its locations in Valparaiso, Michigan City and Knox.The fair provides immunizations, physicals, backpacks and school supplies to area children as well as an opportunity for families to connect with area nonprofits.
“I’ve had the privilege to work with her for five or six years now,” Wrobel says. “It’s a neat thing to be able to see her grow into her position and really take on a leadership role not only at Lugar’s office but in other areas as well. “She is the first of her family to go to college and she did it on her own — that takes a lot of fortitude and drive,” Wrobel adds. “Maybe people out there in their 20s will look at her and say ‘I can do this too.’” Weatherwax has continued her education, recently graduating with a Master of Business Administration from PNC, where she serves on the advisory board. “The group consists of community leaders throughout Northwest Indiana who work with and advise Chancellor Dworkin on the happenings on campus,” she says. Looking to the future, Weatherwax feels her greatest accomplishments are still ahead, but she is proud of recent honors the Senator’s office received. Senator Lugar was honored by LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens) when he received the National Legislator Award and the office was recognized by the Indiana Latino Scholarship Fund program. “It is a moment of great accomplishment for me personally when our work had been recognized by Hispanics across the country,” she says. While her goals are always modifying and changing, she looks to “continue working with the Hispanic community to develop and empower strong community leadership.” “I also want to continue working for Sen. Lugar making sure that we continue serving Hoosiers.” While many people have come into her life in different aspects over the years and left an impression, it is her parents who have been an inspiration as well as Senator Lugar. “Throughout my life, many people have influenced me in some way, but at the core of it are my parents (Silvio and Olimpia Arauz). They sacrificed so much to give my sisters and me this great opportunity to be part of this country,” she says. “The Senator is so positive and optimistic; it rubs off on all of us. That too has had a great influence on me as a young professional and as a person.” fall 2011 | 41
honoring 20 under 40
Director of audience development, The Times Media Co.
multi-faceted media man By lu ann FranKlin BusIness Contributor
“WHEN I WAS GROWING up, I had everything I needed. Of course, I had lot of things I wanted, but my parents made sure we had what we needed,” says Brett Riley, 39, director of audience development with The Times Media Co. in Munster. Riley was raised in the small town of Eagle Grove, Iowa, as part of a working class family and says he witnessed the dedication to job and family displayed by his father, Lynn, and mother, Linda. “We lived paycheck to paycheck. They had a strong work ethic. They are my role models,” he says. “My dad was an Air Force sergeant, then has done everything in the trucking industry. My mom is a legal secretary.” Riley says he has that same goal of providing for the family of two daughters and a son he and his wife, Andrea, are raising in Portage. Ten-year old Abigail, Delaney, 7, and Andrew, 6, attend Jones Elementary School and give their parents abundant opportunities to become involved in sports and other activities, he says. Soccer is one of those activities that Riley devotes time to with his children. Both Andrea and Brett are board members of the Portage Soccer Club. Abby plays for NWI United FC and Drew plays in the Portage Soccer Club. “I coached Abby the last two years. She’s gotten too good for me,” Riley says with a chuckle. “When I was growing up in a small town, we never played soccer. Now everyday we have either a soccer game or practice.” 42 | In BusIness
Daughter Delaney prefers cheerleading and gymnastics, so Brett and Andrea also divide their time and energies to these activities. “Our lives revolve around our kids,” he says. “We want to demonstrate a strong work ethic to our children and give them every opportunity to follow their dreams.” Other life lessons Brett and Andrea Riley want to pass on to their children include their examples of furthering their education and setting career goals. Riley had always been in the sales industry, he worked for Frito Lay and RJ Reynolds, and he spent a couple of years in the mortgage industry before joining Lee Enterprises, the media company that owns The Times. “As the family grew, I was in need of a steadier income since both Andrea and I were in the same field,” he says. “I was fortunate to become part of Lee family.” His tenure at The Waterloo/Cedar Fall Courier in Waterloo, Iowa, led to a promotion and a transfer to the Times Media Co. in Northwest Indiana. Riley began in the Munster headquarters as circulation sales and marketing manager. Later he was named circulation director. His promotion to his current department head post came this past January. As director of audience development at The Times, Riley is responsible for growing all Times Media Co. initiatives including its newspaper, magazines, specialty publications, NWI.com, community websites and mobile applications for smart phones and tablet devices. A critical area Riley oversees is the Times Media’s development of numerous
interactive products. This network of online audiences paired with, and targeted to, online readers and advertisers on multiple digital platforms is the future of consumer media in general. Riley’s mission is to move forward as the Times leader in Northwest Indiana’s rapidly advancing digital marketplace. Other e-product expansion efforts include developing customer bases through social networking websites, using digital coupons, email marketing and e-newsletters and a fast-growing targeted and branded events schedule. Riley has also been the key manager in launching hyper-local community sites under the nwi.com/communities umbrella and has started hyper-local initiatives
at several other Lee properties as well. Twenty sites have been launched this year in Northwest Indiana alone. Riley is also instrumental in promoting the Times Digital Media Marketing program at numerous seminars for business owners and managers held throughout the area. The rapid evolution of the media industry from the printed newspaper to electronic delivery systems presents challenges and opportunities, he says. “My responsibilities are to grow our audience and provide all the platforms so people can read our content in the way they want whether it’s in the printed newspaper, online or on a mobile device,” he says. When Riley was promoted to director
of audience development, Times Media Co. Publisher Bill Masterson Jr. praised his accomplishments during the last five years. “Brett continues to meet and exceed my expectations on many of his assignments,” Masterson said. The move to Northwest Indiana opened up new opportunities for the entire family. For example, Andrea Riley enrolled in the bachelor’s degree program in nursing at Indiana University Northwest. “Andrea received her bachelor’s degree in nursing in May and is an RN at the ICU at St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago,” Riley says. “I am very proud of her accomplishment.” Riley’s own career goal is to become a publisher with Lee Enterprises. One step he
is taking toward that goal is learning more about other parts of the media business. The limited spare time Riley has is now devoted to training for the grueling 26.2-mile Chicago Marathon that steps off Oct. 9. He will represent Opportunity Enterprises, a Porter County-based organization that works with individuals with disabilities throughout Northwest Indiana to provide support and create meaningful opportunities for clients in the community. “I’ve run two half-marathons before. This will be a challenge,” Riley says. “I run five days a week. I’m up to 16 miles. Running in this summer’s heat was really difficult, but you have to keep going.” fall 2011 | 43
honoring 20 under 40
Co-owner, Fuel Fitness Center
Promoting physical fitness, helping families By Diane Poulton BusIness Contributor
FORMER NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE player Jared Tomich, who owns several Northwest Indiana businesses, founded and runs an organization dedicated to helping young cancer victims and their families. Tomich also promotes physical fitness for all ages and ability levels. His commitment to helping these children and emphasis on physical fitness has earned Tomich the honor of being included in the Class of 2011 20 under 40 award winners. “It is an honor to receive this award,” Tomich says. “I’ve read about it in the past. It recognizes being involved in the community. When you get recognition for working hard, it is always a good thing.” Tomich was nominated by Roxanne Olejnik “for his devotion in every day life to helping those in need.” “He has the biggest heart of anyone that I know,” says Olejnik, Classified Advertising Specialist for The Times. “He truly is a hero to these children and their families. He deserves to be recognized for all the lives he has changed and the smiles he has put on children’s faces throughout the years.” Tomich owns and operates Fuel Fitness, with locations in Cedar Lake, Winfield, Crown Point and Crete. He also co-owns 44 | In BusIness
Zuni’s House of Pizza in Cedar Lake and The Engine Room Alehouse in Dyer with his partner Deb Trembczynski. Tomich says his business philosophy is “feeling good is important no matter who you are or what level you are at or what level you are striving for.” “You have the power to feel good,” Tomich says. “You are in control of your physical fitness and awareness.” Tomich says Fuel Fitness Center is family oriented and helps everyone from young athletes who need to learn the basics, Olympians, collegiate and scholarship recipients to seniors with disabilities, special needs students and those who have never worked out in a gym before. Fuel Fitness conducts youth programs at the Ignite Sports Performance and Athletic Centers in Highland and Cedar Lake, which contain indoor fields and tracks. These classes focus on training both current athletes and children who want to become active and healthy. Fuel Fitness programs include cardio and strength training machines, personal t ra i n i n g , g ro u p e n e rg y p ro g ra m s, supplement sales, daycare and tanning. Seven years ago, he founded the Jared Tomich Halo of Hope Foundation, which is a nonprofit organization devoted to providing emotional, financial and educational support to children with life threatening illnesses and their families in
Northwest Indiana and the Chicagoland area. The organization also raises funds for these children to attend week-long Circle of Friends Camps across the United States twice a year. The camps bring together children with cancer or blood disease from 11 hospitals nationwide, including Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Tomich says the winter camps are usually held in Wausau, Wisconsin, with 60 to 80 children participating. The children are taken sledding, skiing, and snowmobiling. The 2012 summer camp will be in Tampa, Fla. Tomich says his friend Jerry Wuncsh, a former NFL player with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, introduced him to the children’s camps. “I had just retired from the NFL,” Tomich says. “He started the camps a few years before and invited me to attend one. I loved being around the children who have personalities larger than we can imagine. It was something that really resonated with me. It changed my focus.” Tomich says his interest in the camps blossomed into raising funds to help families of young cancer victims better their lifestyles. For instance, Tomich says Halo of Hope might donate an Xbox or iPad to a bed-ridden child. “It is very rewarding,” Tomich says. This year, Halo of Hope raised more than $9,000 at the 2011 Fuel Fitness Community Day in Cedar Lake and Winfield. The 2011 annual Hackers and Halos golf outing raised more than $20,000. In September, Tomich will participate in the Husker Hog Ride which starts at the Omaha, Neb., Harley dealership and ends at Boulder Creek Amusement Park, where participants will meet patients from Omaha Children’s Hospital. A 1992 Lake Central High School graduate, Tomich played football four years and was chosen to play on the Indiana All State football team. The school recently retired his number 75. He played college football for the University of Nebraska, where he majored in business and communications. Continued on Page 52 fall 2011 | 45
honoring 20 under 40
Owner and team director, Perpetual Motion Fitness and Sports
youth programs innovator keeps kids on move By Mallory JinDra BusIness Contributor
A TRULY REMARKABLE person is often one who makes their personal work inseparable from her community’s needs. Valparaiso native Rachel Smeja always knew that she wanted her career to have a positive impact on the youth in her community. She was a fierce competitor in sports as a child, and she recognized early on the confidence and strength of active, healthy kids. She competed as a gymnast through high school, earned her college degree from Valparaiso University in sports administration and dance in 2005, and in the meantime accrued 15 years of experience working with kids at a local gymnastics center. But Smeja felt like she could offer the youth in her community a better experience in whatever they chose as their extracurricular activities. She wanted kids to have more fun and more confidence as they faced physical and educational challenges . In March 2008, Smeja founded Perpetual Motion Fitness and Sports, offering sports instruction, education and entertainment programs for children of all ages and abilities. “I always knew that things could be done differently and better, and that motivated me,” Smeja says. “I’m a constant learner, and I thrive on innovation. I wanted the freedom to try things differently.” 46 | In BusIness
Smeja and her team of instructors now work with more than 350 kids each week. Since its inception, Perpetual Motion has outgrown two buildings and has expanded from three part–time employees to five full–time and more than a dozen part–time employees. Perpetual Motion’s classes appear to be an odd, unconventional mix of physical and educational offerings. Gymnastics, tumbling, and cheerleading classes for kids ages 1 to 18 coexist alongside academic preschool and pre–K, foreign language classes for kids ages 4 and older, and a special needs kids program. But this makes perfect sense to Smeja, because she wants to give busy families the financial ease and convenience of having the choice to go to all of their activities under one roof. And she believes kids get the most out of learning, movement and play when they do all three together. “Any activities that kids want to do, we want to be able to offer,” Smeja says. “We choose our programing based on what our instructors can teach and what we think is a need in the community.” After starting to offer Leaping and Learning academic preschool in the fall of 2009, Smeja and her husband, Brad, began thinking about what to do with the classroom outside of preschool hours. They both strongly believe in the value of the ability to speak two languages and recognized that small children were not
getting that opportunity. In summer 2009, they started an foreign language program called Global Kids, which now offers lessons in German, Spanish, French and Mandarin Chinese. “We think there’s such a need for it,” Smeja says. “Before 7, kids are like a sponge. They can absorb all of the sounds and tones of a second language so much easier than when kids usually start in middle school.” Perpetual Motion’s fitness classes also get to learn a bit of each foreign language, sometimes counting their exercises in French or German for the day. During the 2008 Summer Olympics in China, kids were able to learn Chinese in all of their programs. Smeja also recognized the absence of affordable extracurricular activity options
for kids with special needs. Since Perpetual Motion’s inception, she and her instructors have offered a set of classes designed especially for kids with special needs and their parents. They also open their doors to DAPE/SPED classes from schools, community agencies and organizations, and awareness groups. “Kids with special needs are so important to me because I know that they always have to pay extra money for anything they do with all of their special programs and schools,” Smeja says. “I don’t believe any child should be excluded just because they can’t keep up.” Smeja’s mother Debbie Moore, who is Perpetual Motion’s full time EMT and who nominated Smeja for the 20 Under 40 honor, says that her daughter’s great instincts and
overall vision has helped her accomplish so much in the short 3-1/2 years since she opened her own business. “She has always been interested in education for children and always looked for ways to do that,” Moore says. “She has an innate feeling for how to help each child.” Smeja is a member of the Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce member, and she uses her business to sponsor and promote local kids’ activities as much as she can. Perpetual Motion sponsors Valparaiso Parks league soccer and also holds a booth and participates in the parade at the Popcorn Festival. Through Perpetual Motion, she has donated money and supplies to places such as The Caring Place, an organization
that provides shelter and recovery services to victims of violence and their children. She’s also organized fundraisers for local organizations like this past December’s cleaning supply drive for The Caring Place. “Whenever we can, we try to help out organizations that have similar goals,” Smeja says. “I want to help people who could potentially help our customers down the road. You never know when you’re going to be put in a position where you’re going to need help.” Smeja is also still very involved with USA Gymnastics, the national governing body for gymnastics in the United States. From 2008 to 2009, she held a volunteer position as one of three representatives for the State Board Continued on Page 52 fall 2011 | 47
honoring 20 under 40
Owner, Ricci’s Landscape Management, Inc.
FRom LaWN moWER to BuSINESS oWNER By Diane Poulton BusIness contributor
DEAN RICCI JR. started mowing lawns in Lakes of the Four Seasons when he was 10. Several decades later, he has grown from a little boy pulling a lawn mower behind his bike to the owner of a multimillion dollar landscaping management company. A highly successful entrepreneur, Ricci believes in giving back to the community he serves through education, by providing internships, coaching and sponsoring youth sports programs. Ricci, owner of Ricci’s Landscape Management, volunteers as field director for the Lakes of the Four Seasons Little League, keeping the grounds in excellent shape for the participants and their families. He has donated time as assistant coach for Pop Warner Football for three years and this year will be assistant coach for a Crown Point Junior Bulldog team. Ricci also helped coach the Crown Point Junior Bulldog wrestling team for three years. Ricci finds coaching youth football most satisfying. He has sponsored numerous youth sports teams. On three occasions, Ricci has assisted Eagle Scouts with landscaping projects for their final badges. Ricci aided with demolition, planning and drainage work for these projects at two churches and an elementary school. Ricci’s wife Jamie nominated her husband for the award. “I am very proud of what he has done as a business owner, what he has done to develop himself, his business, his employees,” Jamie said. “He typifies to me what the award is about.” Jamie says her husband has worked hard to better himself. She says he is an 48 | In BusIness
accredited master horticulturist, serves on many boards, has spoken at trade shows and teaches seminars at Valparaiso’s Taltree Arboretum. Ricci’s Taltree classes focus on landscape construction, drainage and Japanese stone setting. At Taltree, Ricci’s company was responsible for most of the work on the Hitz Family Memorial Rose Garden and worked on the native prairie garden and outdoor education trail. “Not only does Dean seek to better educate himself but he also encourages the growth of his employees offering off season training courses and incentives for certifications and not smoking,” Jamie says. Founded in 1994, Ricci’s Landscape Management Inc. in Hebron provides landscape design and construction, lawn care and maintenance, tree service, irrigation installation and service, snow plowing and removal, outdoor lighting, and mosquito misting systems. The company, an authorized Uni Lock installer, employs 30 people and has 14 trucks, nine of which serve double duty as snow plows. Ricci enjoys the work and being outdoors. Focusing on his job during high school, Ricci describes himself as a “varsity grass cutter.” “I lettered in it every year,” Ricci says. Ricci offers a college internship program in landscape architecture and pays for schooling for his employees to complete backflow certification for irrigation technicians. Ricci graduated from Indiana University Northwest in 1994 with a degree in Business Management. He received the Albert and Margaret Gallagher Scholarship designated for “an outstanding student with interest in entrepreneurship and small business.”
Ricci says he has been encouraged along the path to success by several people. “My wife has been very supportive,” Ricci says. “Without her, I would never been able to accomplish what I have done. She has been there for me emotionally and financially.” Ricci said Dan Kukulski recruited him to coach football and help with the Lakes of the Four Seasons baseball field. “He was born to coach and it is his passion,” Ricci said. “He is the one who inspired me.” Also, Ricci says his dad, Dean Ricci Sr., worked side by side with him from 1997 to 2005. “The company didn’t do well the first few years,” Ricci said. “He was supportive and encouraging.” Ricci also considers Joe Allegretti, a client whom he calls “Uncle Joe,” a mentor. “I have lunch with him once a month,” Ricci says. “He is a mentor; he is very good sounding board for me.” The two men belong to Proof Management, which is a business group from which they receive both individual and group advice. Ricci says Allegretti is also an inspiration because of his philanthropic work. Most satisfying for Ricci is seeing his business grow, meeting with clients, using his creative talents and seeing the results of a completed project. Ricci says he also enjoys seeing his employees grow within the company. One employee, who has been with him for 15 years, Ricci says, could at first barely work a wheelbarrow, but now runs the landscape division schedule and product management. In his spare time, Ricci is a member of Cross Fit Crown Point, competitively ballroom dances with his wife and enjoys hunting and fishing.
fall 2011 | 49
honoring 20 under 40
Area director, Better Business Bureau of Northern Indiana
Helping make the community better By anDrea holeCeK BusIness Contributor
Gail Zurek, area director of the Better Business Bureau of Northwest Indiana, says the BBB is instrumental in building a better community and her job is to let the community know it’s there to help. “I believe that when consumers can trust that businesses do what they say they’re going to do and when they are places consumers can trust, it makes the community stronger,” she says. “It’s important that I directly serve the community, which is why working at the Better Business Bureau is very rewarding.” Zurek, of St. John, is the face of the BBB in the Region, and although she’s been with the agency for only a year, she already has made her mark. “Because of what she’s done there, the Better Business Bureau has been able to create marketplace trust in Lake, Porter and La Porte counties,” says Mike Coil, CEO of the BBB of Northern Indiana. “We’re really excited about having her on board.” Coil, who nominated her to be a 20 Under 40 selection, says Zurek is doing a fantastic job for the BBB. “We look at inquiries from consumers for the area and we’ve have had a huge increase since Gail’s been there,” Coil says. “Gail challenges everyone in our organization because she makes us think differently than we did before.” By taking the BBB message to local business organizations such as the contractors and builders associations, Zurek got it involved in new areas. 50 | In BusIness
“We’ve started copying that in the other counties we serve in Northern Indiana,” Coil says. “It’s been very successful.” Zurek, who formerly worked for Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago, originally hails from Southern California. She attended college at California Lutheran University and is married to her college sweetheart, Michael. “I married a man who thought graduate school in Chicago was a good idea,” she says. “We came out to the area and fell in love with Northwest Indiana. The sense of community, the people — it felt like home to us, especially now that we live in St. John.” Zurek said she likes going to the local grocery store or to church and bumping into a neighbor. “Even here when I’m working with a business owner, it may be someone I worship with on Sunday or work with at a service club.” she says. When she joined the St. John Lion’s Club, Zurek was following a family tradition. “My grandpa was a Lions club member,” she says. “When we moved to St. John it was important to be in a club that gave back to the community. The Lions do a lot of projects that help the community.” Beside the Lions, Zurek is a member of the Business Networking Group. Comprised of business owners, the organization’s members help each other with referrals and information, plus they share their business experiences in an effort to make each other’s businesses grow. Zurek also was recently accepted in Leadership Northwest Indiana. “Service is very important to me,” she
says. “I have a very strong faith. For me helping people is core to who I am because of my faith. My parents have a strong faith. My sense of community and being an active participant comes from parents and the example they set when I was growing up. I was taught well and I need to do well.” Her husband is the associate pastor of Holy Shepherd Lutheran Church in St. John. Although Zurek shares her husband’s religious beliefs and is proud of his career, she doesn’t want to be thought of as the traditional and often stereotypical “pastor’s wife.” “When you tell people you’re a pastor wife they assume you wear a doily and love music and children and tend to be pretty refined and proper,” Zurek says. “I don’t like being classified that way.” Instead, Zurek says she believes one practical way she can put her faith to work is by helping people in the business community. “I come from a family of small business owners,” Zurek says. “My dad was a small business owner. He sold real estate in the ’80s. I know the challenges business owners face.” The Zureks have two children, Sammy, 7, and Joey, 2. “Is it is hard to work and have little ones,” she says. “I love them completely, but I don’t have the fortitude you need to be a stay-at-home mother. It’s tough and I miss them when I’m working, but I like my job and they like what I do. And they benefit from what I do both directly and indirectly.” Directly, she laughs, because she appears on TV and radio on behalf of the BBB when
“It is hard to work and have little ones. It’s tough and I miss them when I’m working, but I like my job and they like what I do. And they benefit from what I do both directly and indirectly.” it sends out an alert about a local business fraud, which gives her son “bragging rights on the playground.” “He thinks it’s the coolest thing ever,” Zurek says. And more importantly, it helps her offspring indirectly because the “mission of BBB is to make a community better by having a trustworthy marketplace.” Zurek says she enjoys the satisfaction her position with the BBB brings her. “It has a lot of satisfying components. There are two things especially satisfying. The first is when we have information that a fraud is happening in our community being able to alert the community and keep others from becoming a victim.” Secondly, Zurek says she gets to talk to business owners every day. “I hear what’s working and I help them connect with consumers, and really help trustworthy businesses in the community raise their profiles,” she says. “It’s nice when they need help and I can say I can.” fall 2011 | 51
honoring 20 under 40 Continued from Page 45
Continued from Page 47
A finalist for the Vince Lombardi Award, Tomich was active in the community and earned a spot on the College Football Association Good Works Team in 1996 and Brook Berninger Citizenship Team at Nebraska University. In 1996, Tomich was drafted by Coach Mike Ditka to play for the New Orleans Saints. He also played for the Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs. Another project close to Tomich’s heart is training Special Olympians. The past two years, Fuel Fitness brought the most participants to the Indiana Special Olympics. His Special Olympics team will be a big part of the Covered Bridge Festival at the Lake County Fairgrounds this fall, Tomich says, showcasing their achievements. For the past four years, Tomich has worked to start a Cedar Lake-based youth football team, seeing those efforts pay off this year with the new Hanover Pop Warner Football League. “This year I am just a consultant on sidelines,” Tomich says. “They are doing a great job. We want to have football back at Hanover Central High School.” In August, Tomich was appointed to represent Dyer on the board of directors of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority. Tomich says he is excited to be involved in the organization and hopes it will be a huge learning experience. “So many people want to get involved in their communities but don’t know where to start.” Tomich says. “I hope I can be a part of getting them involved.”
of USAG who were in charge of planning schedules for the state, running state meets and judging. She attends educational opportunities provided by USAG, travels to teach classes at national gymnastics conventions, and regularly meets with other leaders in the gymnastics field to discuss ideas for new programming and ways to keep gymnastics safe. Smeja credits her sense of community involvement to both of her parents and the way she was raised. She says her mother was always active in volunteer groups. And her dad, Valparaiso University Head Athletic Trainer Rod Moore, always donated things their family didn’t need. “We did not have money growing up,” Smeja said. “I learned to work hard and to do without. And I learned that other people might need something more than I needed it.” Smeja sees only more growth in her future; she has already purchased land to build a new space for Perpetual Motion. But that future also includes expanding the ways Perpetual Motion strengthens her community. She and her staff want to try teaming up with a non–profit to do a 5K run; they also hope to one day bring in a group of kids at risk for a day of fun at Perpetual Motion. And of course, she wants to give kids new and intriguing challenges through more innovative programs. “I think when you see kids succeed every day, you’re reassured about what you’re doing in life,” Smeja says. “I want everyone that comes here to be happy and healthy. I want to teach kids responsibility and strength, and to overcome their fears.”
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From the Class of 2010
Lights, camera, responsibility
M By Cynthia Mose-Trevino Director of New Tech, Calumet New Tech High School
ost people receive awards for the accomplishments they have already completed. The Top 20 Under 40 is a different kind of award. As a Top 20 Under 40 you have been identified by the accomplishments you have made as a leader in Northwest Indiana thus far; but more importantly this award represents the expectations for what you will accomplish in the future. As a Top 20 Under 40 your role as leader in Northwest Indiana is not complete, it is only beginning. “How did I get here?” is what I have reflected upon since asked to write to the Top 20 Under 40 of 2011. It seems like just yesterday that my best friend and I were at home playing “office”. However, we never played typical “office”. No, we were rivaling CEO’s, taking the lead from Alexis and Krystle Carrington from the 1980s hit show Dynasty. Of course we would adlib skills we learned by religiously watching Dallas, Knots Landing, and Falcon Crest as well. We did not just play “office” we played “leaders.” From an early age of 8, we decided we were going to grow up and be world- changers and began honing these skills from our night-time soap mentors. As atypical as my lessons in leadership began, it set in my mind the determination to do something with purpose in my life. As I grew up, I began to then develop a more realistic and ethical understanding of real leadership, as compared to my former mentors, Alexis and Krystle. While attending Lake Ridge Middle School I was able to actually take on leadership roles and responsibilities in groups such as Student Council and National Honor Society. During this time I was able to gain understanding in the importance of taking action to help others and the need for people, even as young as middle school, to make things better. As I continued on throughout high school, my determination to live with purpose and fulfill my duty to make a difference remained steadfast. I continued to be an active member of almost every club and organization, took on leadership responsibilities whenever possible, and attached myself to a few inspiring teacher leaders. However, it was also at this age that I began to realize that not everyone believed life was to be lived with such purpose by everyone. I grew up in an urban area and attended a high school of poverty. Many people were just able to exist through life, not live in it. However, it was not the lack
of belief in ourselves that was troubling; it was the lack of belief in our purpose by some of those leading us that I found the most troubling. An education was our way to fulfilling our purpose, but the bar for expectations on our purpose in life was set so low by some, that many of us were not being given the tools we needed to be able have our purpose fulfilled.
“Long gone are my days of playing a leader. Now it is the real deal not just for me, but for us all. We have been given the challenge to do our part in leading Northwest Indiana.” When I went on to college, I knew my goal was to use everything I had learned so far about both the good and bad leadership I had experienced so far and make sure that I left with the wisdom and knowledge to go back and make a difference in my community. Along this journey, I have encountered both inspiring and uninspiring mentors. There have been times when the challenges and barriers have seemed too great to overcome. But, I believe, and remind myself daily, that if you are not part of the solution, then you are a part of the problem. As a leader, I know there is no grey area to stand. I am here, back in my community, serving as a leader to ensure every student has the tools they need to live a life with purpose. Long gone are my days of playing a leader. Now it is the real deal not just for me, but for us all. We have been given the challenge to do our part in leading Northwest Indiana. As demonstrated by the backgrounds of my Top 20 Under 40 peers, we are an eclectic mix with many diverse backgrounds and talents. However, we have been identified as a collective group with the potential to have lasting impact and transformation in Northwest Indiana. You are ready for this challenge. Your life experiences, just as mine, have prepared you for a time such as this. Together we will lead and transform Northwest Indiana. fall 2011 | 53
An environmental approach to marketing Cedar Lake
T By Martin Olesky Director, Hoosier Wingman Communications
he following is an example of how a town can change a reputation, an environmental cause can gain awareness, and local companies can profit-all by lending a helping hand. The secret? It just has to make sense. Your company may to claim to be one with their community. But every company says that. Sometimes so much it seems that the message is drowned out. Getting involved and sponsoring an event is a positive move. However, it has to make sense. ROI can be easily lost when it comes to sponsoring events. Here’s a free tip: Don’t be one of many. Few companies realize that their sponsor-significance is lessened when their logo is one of 20 on the back of another cookie-cutter event shirt. Or even worse, the company doesn’t believe in the integrity of the partnership. The sponsorship message is muted, because there is no connection. The sponsorship doesn’t resonate because it doesn’t make sense. So when business and a concept “click,” it is a moment to seize. These are the causes and events that wrap themselves in the sponsor’s logo like a proud Olympian and their country’s flag. Integral success is based on logical reasons: the sponsor lends them credibility; says I’m here with you and we’re in this together; and there is not only a financial investmentbut an emotional one. Over a lunch meeting with the high activity of Cedar Lake in the background (boating, runners and cyclists), I was part of a group that “made sense.” We met at Pier 74 restaurant in Cedar Lake, IN. Among the attendees were representatives from Fleet Feet and Trek Bikes of Schererville, along with Subaru of Merrillville. On the table was a healthy lunch selection along with an honest discussion about Cedar Lake. There was a candid admission of negatives, but also the recognition of Cedar Lake’s changing demographics-and reputation. All agreed that Cedar Lake has become a destination for activity and outdoor enthusiasts. With an influx of an athletic market, certain relevant businesses can spot the trend. And the best move to make in regards to a trend is to get ahead of it. Sponsoring an athletic event to raise ecological awareness are great positives. Cedar Lake is a natural resource of beauty and activity just one hour outside of Chicago — with access to similar major markets and media. “Subaru of Merrillville has been approached by
many, many towns to sponsor sporting events, but they were mostly out-of-state. We were looking for great events in our NWI ‘backyard.’ We found that vision, for example, with the CLEA Expo in Cedar Lake,” says Tom Decavitch, Owner of Subaru of Merrillville One of the prerequisites was one of exclusivity. Trek and Fleet Feet have a policy of refusing to be one of 25 logos on an event shirt. This also meant sponsorship in general. We agreed that the three parties present were plenty for the two athletic events associated with the CLEA event. It made sense. So on July 30th and 31st, the prominent logos of Subaru, Trek & Fleet Feet popped on quality competition t-shirts for the inaugural CLEA Expo. (Wave Art & Design, a local T-shirt company, came up with an exceptional event shirt.) The 5K runners and 15-mile cyclists proudly wore the eye-catching orange and blue moisture-wicking garment while making a statement representing their collective demographic. This CLEA demographic was made up of people looking to better themselves through physical activity. They were pushing themselves to draw attention to an environmental issue. They were “racing for the Lake.” We brainstormed that official Subaru of Merrillville Pace Cars be present to lead, encourage, and protect them. Pace cars lend credibility to the event. Subaru is the vehicle for the active lifestyle-why waste an opportunity to brand? It seemed another “make sense” moment. “We want to build upon the NWI region’s momentum and sponsor “A-list” events. [We] want to be a central part of celebrating healthy activity, fun times outdoors and ecological awareness. It’s our demographic. It makes perfect sense and an ideal partnership,” Decavitch says. The quality of the CLEA event was high. The attendees were thrilled to see such an event in Cedar Lake and actually sought out and thanked the sponsors-giving the companies immediate ROI. The media also expanded the vision as CLEA and Cedar Lake received some of the best press it has seen for decades. Cedar Lake is realizing it’s own potential; as a natural destination of outdoor activity and a source where businesses can “get green by going green.” A core group is in negotiations with those who share the vision and with corporate partners, who make sense for Cedar Lake.
Your Automotive Source for Northwest Indiana
Locate Auto Dealers with Ease, in NW Indiana & Chicagoland ACURA
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3 SOUTH HOLLAND
ContaCt your sales representative to feature your 4 business in the times auto DireCtory
CROWN POINT • (219) 662-5300 MUNSTER • (219) 933-3200 5 poRTagE • (219) 762-1397 VaLpaRaISo • (219) 462-5151
fall 2011 | 55
Calendar MONDAYS MERRILLVILLE | The Referral
Organization of Indiana (ROI) Business Networking Group meets Mondays at A.J. Specialties, 1308 E. 85th Ave. Networking starts at 7:15 a.m.; meetings start at 7:30 a.m. For more information, contact Tony Schifino at (219) 736-0367 or John Vurpillat at 219-669-6804. MERRILLVILLE | Toastmasters of
Southlake Club meets from 7 to 8 p.m. on the second and fourth Mondays of the month at the University of Phoenix, 8401 Ohio Street. For more information, call Kim Kosmas at (219) 218-3877. VALPARAISO | The Northwest Indiana Professional Network meets from 8 to 10 a.m. Mondays in the Alumni Room of the Harre Student Union, 1509 Chapel Drive, Valparaiso. For more information, contact Sandra Alvarez at the Center of Workforce Innovations at (219) 462-2940 or salvarez@ innovativeworkforce.com.
HIGHLAND | BNI, Business Networking International will meet from 8:30 to 10 a.m. Tuesdays at Harry’s Grill, 9400 Indianapolis Blvd. Contact Michael Pelz at (219) 427-5933.
WEDNESDAYS CROWN POINT | The Referral
Organization of Indiana (ROI) Business Networking Group meets Wednesdays at Fahrenheit 212, 10805 Broadway. Networking starts at 7:15 a.m.; meetings start at 7:30 am. For more information, contact Debra Corum at (219) 769-77433-8544.
VALPARAISO | The Porter County Business League meets at 7 a.m. Thursdays at the Round-the-Clock restaurant, 217 E. Lincolnway. For more information, visit www. portercounty.com.
VALPARAISO | The Referral Organization of Indiana (ROI) Business Networking Group meets at MERRILLVILLE | The Merrillville 8 a.m. Thursdays at Regional Federal Chapter of BNI (Business Credit Union, 2801 Boilermaker Networking International) will Court (behind Menards). For meet from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. more information contact Kealah Wednesdays at T.J. Maloney’s within Parkinson at (708) 955-5131. the Radisson complex near the intersection of Interstate 65 and U.S. 30. Contact Michael Pelz at (219) 977-2090 or (815) 370-2940. HAMMOND | Free business counseling services are available VALPARAISO | Small-business through the Service Corps of Retired operators are invited to Valparaiso Executives (SCORE) from 9 and 10 a.m. Chapter of Business Network Fridays at the Lakeshore Chamber International from 7 to 8:30 a.m. of Commerce, 5246 Hohman Ave. If Wednesdays at Suzie’s Cafe, 1050 Southpoint Circle. For information, you are starting a business, or having call Beckie Guffin at (219) 462-2771. problems in business, call (219) 9311000 for an appointment.
HAMMOND | BNI (Business Networking International) meets 8:30 to 10 a.m. on Tuesdays at the Jean Shepard Community Center, 3031 J.F. Mahoney Drive, beginning this week. For more information, contact Michael Pelz at (219) MERRILLVILLE | The Merrillville 977-2090. Noon Kiwanis Club meets from noon to 1 p.m. Thursdays at the MERRILLVILLE | Southshore Old Country Buffet off U.S. 30 Business Networking, will meet (1634 E 80th Avenue). For more from 8 to 9 a.m. on the first and information call Aaron Yakovetz at third Tuesdays of the month Cafe Divine, 9000 Taft St. Call Rick Gosser (219) 707-5023, email aaron@goiim. com, or visit www.kiwanis.org. at (219) 808-9888 or visit www. southshorebusinessnetworking.com
56 | In Business
SCHERERVILLE | A BNI (Business Networking International) business development group meets from 7 to 8:30 a.m. Thursdays at the Holiday Inn Express, 1773 Fountain Park Drive in the Fortis A Room. Call Michael Pelz at (219) 9772090 or (815) 370-2940 for more information.
MERRILLVILLE | Northwest Indiana
Networking Professionals meets at 7:15 a.m. Fridays at either Cafe Divine (Inside Living Hope Church, 9000 Taft St.) or AJ Specialties (1308 East 85th Ave.) Check the website for location, nwinetworking.org/ events.php. Contact Carl Watroba at firstname.lastname@example.org or (219) 776-7423 for more information.
We want to hear from you To read more calendar, visit nwi.com/business. To include an item in the local business calendar, send event information, time, date, cost and location to email@example.com.
WORK WITH A BANK THAT KNOWS BUSINESS We run a business too. So we know what it takes to help you grow, to add new locations and to satisfy our customers. Take Ed and Dawn McIver, for instance; owners of MicroWorks, Inc. and our customers since 2008. With our help, the McIvers were able to expand their business from home to a free-standing microbiological consulting, testing and training facility in Crown Point. Working with our customers to satisfy their unique business needs is what You First Banking at Peoples is all about. Itâ€™s business that is built on relationships, not just transactions. And weâ€™re proud of our track record. This year, and for the past six years, Peoples Bank has been named a top 200 performing community bank in America. Hear more about our full range of business banking services by contacting one of our commercial bankers today at 219-853-7500, or visit us at ibankpeoples.com.