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Class of 2007

40 Under 40 Class of 2007
Age 36. Owner, Bueno y Sano and Rolando’s restaurants

It all started with a late-night stop at a Mexican joint on Nantucket.

Bob Lowry, then a recent graduate of UMass-Amherst, came away from that visit with more than a full stomach. He also took some inspiration for an entrepreneurial venture. Upon returning to Amherst, he noticed a ‘for rent’ sign in a storefront, and began putting some numbers together in his head.

“I figured I needed to sell $600 worth of burritos a day to break even,” he said. After that, Lowry’s plan unfolded rather organically. He said he’d never made a burrito in his life, but had a sense that he could make a good one. He’d never considered being a restaurateur before, but thought he might make a good boss.

His hunches turned out to be right on the money. He opened his first location in Amherst in 1995, and the healthy, hearty burrito eatery was a hit — especially among the late-night crowd.

“When I opened Bueno y Sano, I thought, ‘this is me. This is exactly what I was meant to do.’ And I love what I do.”

Today, Lowry has two Bueno y Sano locations, in Amherst and Northampton, and is in the process of opening a third restaurant with a new theme in Amherst. It will be called Rolando’s, named for his long-time general manager, and will specialize in roast beef and falafel. In addition, his brother is planning to open a third Bueno y Sano in Burlington, Vt.

The business has opened the door to community service for Lowry, who began working with local nonprofits, initially providing fundraising dinners. He now sits on a number of local boards, including Northstar: Self-directed Learning for Teens, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Hampshire Health Connect.

Even with so much on his plate, Lowry maintains a laid-back view of the world.

“I have it pretty good because I have a great staff,” he said. “I’m not a slave to my places.”

Looking ahead, Lowry said he hopes to maintain that peace of mind, and to keep having fun at work. That said, Lowry is still one of the busier ‘Type B’ personalities you’re likely to meet.

“People who know Bueno y Sano know I’m hard to find,” he said. “I’m usually out finding some other crazy project.”

40 Under 40 Class of 2007
Age 39. President, Cowls Lumber Co.

Today, Cinda Jones heads up the oldest family business in Western Mass. — but she didn’t exactly begin at the top.

“I started in the family business at age 10, cutting plastic yellow triangles for foresters to use as boundary markers,” said the ninth-generation president of Cowls Lumber Co. in North Amherst. Not surprisingly, that wasn’t enough experience for Jones, who went on to hold natural resource non-profit management positions in Maine and Washington, D.C. for a decade after college, before returning home to take the reins at Cowls. “The family insisted I get useful before coming back,” she said.

Now, as president, Jones oversees natural resource management on the company’s timberland in 31 towns in Hampshire and Franklin counties. She also manages the company’s real estate division, as well as its sawmill and planing mill that manufacture up to 3 million board feet of pine, oak, and hemlock annually.

In addition, this often blunt-spoken libertarian — well-known these days for her efforts to protect private timberland from federal government regulation — is helping other business owners by trying to make Amherst a more, well, useful resource for businesses. As the current president of the board of directors of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, she’s working to help local companies be more competitive with Internet and big-box competition, and to jump-start a “buy local” campaign. 

“It’s really not a hard sell,” she said, “because local folks are really dedicated to protecting our local flavor. They know if big boxes put their downtowns out of business, they won’t like the look or feel of what’s left.”

Her favorite cause, however, is promoting the availability of “workforce-attainable housing” in the Pioneer Valley, noting that “it’s unbelievable to me that people who protect and teach our families can’t afford to live here.”

Jones herself won’t be chased away, not even by the lightning strike and fire that burned Cowls’ old sawmill in 2002. She and her brother and business partner, Evan, have since built a new mill, turning what she calls “my most awful experience since returning home” into a positive. Features in the new mill include interpretive panels about sustainable forestry and lumber manufacturing, and an observation deck from which visitors can watch logs turn into lumber.

As for Jones, she’s come a long way from turning sheets of plastic into triangles.

Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 Class of 2007
Age 32. Founder and Owner of V-One Vodka

Paul Kozub was captain of the basketball team at Skidmore College.

A small forward, he could shoot a little (he scored 35 points in two different games while in prep school), but his forte was, and still is, defense. “I could jump pretty high, and I’m left-handed. Most people shoot right-handed, so when they get in the shooting position, my hand is right there,” he explained. “So I was often called on to try and shut down the other team’s top scorer.”

More often than not, he did. And he believes his exploits on the court have helped him achieve success with one of the Pioneer Valley’s more intriguing entrepreneurial ventures — a vodka label, V-One, that started in his bathtub, was perfected (and is now produced) in Poland, and now adorns shelves in liquor stores and bars across Western Mass. and one region in California.

“Having an attitude of not being afraid of the big guy has definitely helped me,” he said, drawing a direct parallel between the taller players he defended in college and the giants in the vodka business. “Companies like Grey Goose and Belvedere have all this money to develop and market their product; how the heck am I going to compete with that?

“I’ve competed by just not being afraid.”

This ‘no fear’ approach should serve Kozub well as he prepares to take the training wheels off a business he has grown through small, measured steps. He recently hired his first full-time employee, a salesperson who will help the company penetrate the Connecticut market and move on from there.

The addition to the staff should also help relieve some of the burden from Kozub’s shoulders. He has been a virtual one-person show since launching V-One in late summer 2005, and still services some 300 clients personally. That doesn’t leave much time for things outside work, but Kozub makes time for his church, a few men’s basketball leagues, and 13 nieces and nephews.

They were all in attendance at Uncle Paul’s wedding on Cinco de Mayo — he took that day off, but the honeymoon will wait until the winter, when the vodka business slows down — an event that no doubt featured some seriously good martinis.

40 Under 40 Class of 2007
Age 31. Attorney (Associate), Robinson Donovan

Tony Dos Santos can draw a number of parallels between winning public office and building a law practice. And he should know — he’s an associate at Springfield-based Robinson Donovan and a selectman in his hometown of Ludlow.

Success in both realms comes down, in part, to contacts, he explained, noting that having friends and family in Ludlow and acquaintances that go back to grade school and Little League helped him become the top vote-getter among candidates for selectman during the election of 2006. Similarly, contacts can help an attorney grow a client list, and this was the reason he returned to the Pioneer Valley after working in Hartford upon graduation from law school.

But having contacts alone isn’t enough — both in law and town government, he said, adding that, with regard to both constituencies he serves, listening is a required talent, as is looking out for the clients’ long-term interests. Dos Santos has been doing that since he launched his career in law — something he always envisioned himself doing — in 1999.

When he made the move from Hartford to Springfield and Robinson Donovan, he became a memorable part of the firm’s new advertising campaign. In a play on words, the advertisement announcing his arrival focused on the fact that he no longer had a commute, and said he had “lots of talent, but no drive.” He’s still taking some ribbing on that spot, but it has greatly subsided.

When he’s not working or serving his community as selectman — the latter requires often long hours and work ranging from budget meetings to ribbon-cutting ceremonies for new businesses — Dos Santos likes to play golf. He’s an 18-handicapper who plays mostly at Ludlow Country Club, which is also a business client (again, connections). And he knows he had better get some rounds in now, because he and his wife, Shelley, are expecting their second child in August.

Dos Santos said there is talk of changing the governmental structure in Ludlow, with one option being a move toward a mayor, a step taken by many area communities. What such a development might mean for his political career, he’s not sure. He’s focused on today — and on making more of those connections he spoke of.

George O’Brien

40 Under 40 Class of 2007
Age 35. Managing Director, The Jamrog Group

Amy Jamrog took out her first small-business loan at age 7.

The financing was from her mother, and was used to purchase yarn and crochet needles to create hand-crafted Easter bunnies — a talent she learned from her grandmother and spun into a seasonal job.

“I would start in January,” Jamrog remembers. “I crocheted like a maniac, and went door-to-door, selling bunnies.” Her first year in production, Jamrog netted $50 after repaying her mother, and proved at a very early age that she innately possessed a number of key business skills, including creativity, perseverance, and that hard-to-acquire entrepreneurial drive.

She’s since tailored those skills into a successful career in financial planning, founding the Jamrog Group, the Northampton office of the Northwestern Mutual Financial Network, in 2006, and tripling the company’s size since that time. She is also a motivational speaker with a national reach, another talent she’s enjoyed since childhood.

“I just love motivational speech in front of large crowds,” she said. “I speak a lot within my industry, encouraging people to think more holistically about planning, how we teach people to be empowered by their money, and how to have fun doing it.”

Jamrog also speaks on the topic of philanthropy, another passion, and her engagements have taken her to Toronto, San Francisco, Jacksonville, New York City, and several other markets.

Her next goal is to publish some of the concepts she typically speaks about and uses to help counsel her clients, perhaps by penning a book. “I feel like I can take my creative side and my entrepreneurial side and create something extraordinary,” she said, adding that her life is one that includes a few different worlds.

Indeed, in addition to financial planning and public speaking, Jamrog also has two sons and is active in community service, having received Northwestern Mutual’s Community Service Award twice.

“But my life has become a wonderful Venn diagram,” she said. “I don’t struggle with balance because I see no separation. It’s not work and home, it’s just my life. There is no between.”

Still, she said it’s inspiring to be recognized for her achievements to date, and for those yet to be sewn up.

40 Under 40 Class of 2007
Age 31. President and Founder, Atalasoft Inc.

Bill BitherBill Bither says he doesn’t really have anything he’d call “free time,” just time spent doing many different things.

When he’s not running his software development firm, Atalasoft, in Easthampton, which is growing at an astounding rate of 75% annually, he’s working to recruit technology talent to Western Mass. through his involvement with the Regional Technology Corp. He’s also a prolific blogger at BillBither.com, and encourages the practice among his employees.

But Bither isn’t always chained to his keyboard; he’s also a competitive cyclist who commutes to work by bike, and celebrates a healthy lifestyle within his company, too; Atalasoft’s team meetings are often held in motion on nearby bike paths.

“Sometimes I need to come up for air,” he joked, adding quickly that any down moments are usually spent with his family — his wife Kim and two children, Abriana and Alex. “I just love them, and having two young children to play with is a blast.”

Bither moved to Western Mass. after graduating from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a degree in Electrical Engineering. He started his career at Hamilton Standard, but as a side project began developing a software application called EyeBatch, which processes several images at one time, often for use on the Web.

He said EyeBatch began to generate a nice side income, which in turn motivated him to start his own business. Now, Atalasoft sells six core products worldwide and employs 15 people. Bither expects that number will be closer to 100 in just a few years.

“That’s all organic growth — we hire people as we need them,” he said.

The fast pace at which Atalasoft is evolving has also allowed Bither to make philanthropy a major part of his business. After losing his father to brain cancer, he and his family became involved with BrainTrust, a nonprofit organization focused on improving the quality of life of those with brain-related conditions. To give back, Bither donates 100% of the profits of EyeBatch to the group.

“They offered my family a lot of help, and BrainTrust is a small charity, so it really benefits,” he said.
And, it’s just one more way Bither stays busy — a business owner, bicyclist, blogger, and now, benefactor, as well.

Jaclyn C. Stevenson

40 Under 40 Class of 2007
Age 39. Senior Vice President, Tighe & Bond

You don’t think sitting down for dinner as a family makes an impression on kids? Well, turn off the TV and consider the Hoey clan.

“I’m the youngest of 10, and my father was a civil engineer who went to Worcester Polytechnic Institute,” said Francis Hoey III, senior vice president of Tighe & Bond in Westfield. “Seven of us are in engineering or public work to some degree, and three of us went to my Dad’s alma mater. It’s what we talked about at the dinner table. I got pointed in that direction and found I really enjoyed it, and I did internships all through college.”

Since joining Tighe & Bond 15 years ago, Hoey has worked on a number of high-profile projects throughout the region, including serving as project manager for both the Churchill housing redevelopment project in Holyoke and the Village at Hospital Hill, the redevelopment of the 124-acre site of the former Northampton State Hospital.

“I do a lot of land development work,” he said. “My typical client these days is more likely to be a developer than anything else. There’s a lot of mixed-use development, a lot of brownfields work, and redevelopment of derelict properties.”

Speaking of revitalizing properties, Hoey takes a special interest in recent improvements in his hometown of Holyoke, where he serves as vice chair of the Holyoke Gas & Electric Department board, among other forms of community involvement, including a past stint as vice chair of the Planning Commission.

“I think Holyoke is a great city and a great place to live, but it gets a terrible rap,” he said. “Those of us who are able to polish its star a little bit need to do that. I’m proud to be from Holyoke.”

Hoey brings a similar sense of pride to his work with Tighe & Bond. “I like seeing a finished project,” Hoey said. “I like being able to point to something, whether it’s a building, a dam, or something else, and say, ‘hey, kids, I was involved in taking that from a concept on a drawing board to an actual, physical structure.’”

As for those kids — Hoey and his wife have three of them — they had better keep their guard up at the dinner table. Dad’s career could start to look mighty tempting.

40 Under 40 Class of 2007
Age 34. Director of Branding and Licensing, Spalding

Christy Hedgpeth says she has a sports analogy, or lesson, for almost every occasion, including just about every business situation she finds herself in.

And she should. She has played basketball professionally for the Seattle franchise of the American Basketball League and, in fact, played a lead role (manager of player development) in getting that pioneering league off the ground. And she was the starting shooting guard on a Stanford University team that went to two Final Fours and won the national title in 1992.

Hedgpeth, director of branding and licensing for Springfield-based Spalding, has made endless references to that championship season, which provided countless lessons in teamwork, continuously striving to get better, and just plain old hard work.

“We had talent, but we also had great chemistry … we had five starters in double figures that year,” she explained. “But we were also incredibly well-conditioned. We paid our dues on the track in the summer when it was really hot. When games got tight, we knew we had an advantage because we had prepared more thoroughly than anyone else.”

Hedgpeth has been applying lessons she learned on the court, on the running track, and in the weight room (and encouraging others to the same) in a career that has effectively blended her areas of expertise — sports, marketing, and business. At Spalding, she wears many hats in her current role, and is essentially charged with ensuring brand consistency across all of the company’s businesses. Often, she works in concert with Dan Touhey, Spalding’s vice president of Marketing and another of the Forty Under 40.

Like Touhey, Hedgpeth is active in the community, donating time and energy to several causes and groups, especially the fight against breast cancer, which took the life of a friend a few years ago.

Hedgpeth said she will always have fond memories of that championship season, the other years at Stanford — including 1994, when she was team captain — her three years with the Seattle Reign, and even an ESPY nomination in 1993 for best women’s player of that season. But the memories are just part of the equation.

There are also the lessons — especially those about working with others to clear hurdles and achieve common goals. Like the memories, her championship ring, and that piece of net she cut down that April night in 1992, she’ll have those forever.

40 Under 40 Class of 2007
Age 31. President and Founder, Atalasoft Inc.

Bill Bither says he doesn’t really have anything he’d call “free time,” just time spent doing many different things.

When he’s not running his software development firm, Atalasoft, in Easthampton, which is growing at an astounding rate of 75% annually, he’s working to recruit technology talent to Western Mass. through his involvement with the Regional Technology Corp. He’s also a prolific blogger at BillBither.com, and encourages the practice among his employees.

But Bither isn’t always chained to his keyboard; he’s also a competitive cyclist who commutes to work by bike, and celebrates a healthy lifestyle within his company, too; Atalasoft’s team meetings are often held in motion on nearby bike paths.

“Sometimes I need to come up for air,” he joked, adding quickly that any down moments are usually spent with his family — his wife Kim and two children, Abriana and Alex. “I just love them, and having two young children to play with is a blast.”

Bither moved to Western Mass. after graduating from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a degree in Electrical Engineering. He started his career at Hamilton Standard, but as a side project began developing a software application called EyeBatch, which processes several images at one time, often for use on the Web.

He said EyeBatch began to generate a nice side income, which in turn motivated him to start his own business. Now, Atalasoft sells six core products worldwide and employs 15 people. Bither expects that number will be closer to 100 in just a few years.

“That’s all organic growth — we hire people as we need them,” he said.

The fast pace at which Atalasoft is evolving has also allowed Bither to make philanthropy a major part of his business. After losing his father to brain cancer, he and his family became involved with BrainTrust, a nonprofit organization focused on improving the quality of life of those with brain-related conditions. To give back, Bither donates 100% of the profits of EyeBatch to the group.

“They offered my family a lot of help, and BrainTrust is a small charity, so it really benefits,” he said.

And, it’s just one more way Bither stays busy — a business owner, bicyclist, blogger, and now, benefactor, as well.

40 Under 40 Class of 2007
Age 28. Attorney, Lyon & Fitzpatrick LLP

With degrees in Political Science and Law — and experience campaigning for political candidates in Massachusetts — Michael Gove is enthusiastic, to say the least, about politics. Just don’t ask him to run for office.

“I’ve always been a big believer in the political process, and I’ve always had a blast campaigning,” he said. “There are so many issues out there that can only be resolved through the political process, so it’s important that people stand up and tell the people representing them what they believe.”

That said, “I could see myself on a board of selectmen, something small, but wouldn’t want to be governor. I don’t like the horse trading, or trading away my principles and making compromises. I’d rather focus on an issue I believe in and work for that.”

In many ways, Gove is working for the public right now, one person at a time, as an attorney with Lyon & Fitzpatrick LLP who specializes in business law, estate planning, and housing law.

“I originally wanted to be a prosecutor,” he said, “but I found I really enjoyed working with people planning ahead for things” — a job description that ranges from helping businesses plan 10 or 20 years down the road to making sure young couples with children plan a secure future for their family, or helping senior citizens protect assets when preparing for nursing-home care.

Gove is planning on a larger scale, too. A member of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, he was asked by PVPC Director Tim Brennan to co-chair the Valley Development Council, a board hard at work on Valley Vision II, a comprehensive land-use plan for the region.

“It’s a huge project, and it has taken two years to get to where we are now,” Gove said. “We’re going to urge the commission to support it and push principles of smart growth, energy conservation, mixed-use buildings, mixing residential and commercial building, and mass transit.”

The first Valley Vision endeavor, he said, was released several years ago and then “left to collect dust.” The current council intends to make the second effort a living document, to be updated as the years go by.

After all, to succeed in the future, you have to work at it now — whether you’re a politician, a city planner, or a retired grandmother who doesn’t want to lose her life savings.