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Class of 2009

40 Under 40 Class of 2009 Cover Story
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Back in 2007, when BusinessWest’s inaugural 40 Under Forty honorees gathered for a group photograph outdoors, the sky was clear and bright — appropriate, since the clouds that now darken the nation’s economic outlook were a long way off.

It was an impressive group of entrepreneurs, innovators, and community leaders — in short, success stories that any region would be proud to tout. Last year’s group of honorees — in the second go-round of our annual celebration of the region’s young talent — was equally impressive, even if the economy was growing shakier by the week.

This year, economic bad news is everywhere, and the clouds only seem to get darker by the day. But guess what? Our third 40 Under Forty class shines just as brightly as the first two.

Not that this should come as a surprise to anyone with a finger on the pulse of the region. In fact, the vibrancy of the area’s young achievers — and getting younger; this class includes more 20-somethings than either of the previous two — gives those who care about Western Mass. plenty of optimism about the future. Even in the midst of perhaps the worst recession in 70 years, these individuals are starting and expanding companies, growing profits and creating jobs, seamlessly taking the reins of family businesses … and, in most cases, staying intimately involved in their communities through service on boards and volunteer efforts with charitable organizations.

Better yet, they’re creating lasting legacies that will inspire others to follow in their footsteps. Check out Kathy LeMay, this year’s highest-scoring honoree, who is cultivating philanthropic connections that will make a difference throughout the region for years to come. Brenda Wishart has worn a number of hats over the past decade, all aimed at building the next generation of entrepreneurs. Corey Murphy takes time away from his insurance agency to help kids read and do well in school — maybe giving a leg up to a future 40 Under Forty winner along the way.

By most expert accounts, the clouds will clear. And when they do, what will be left standing are the 40 Under Forty and others like them, who are working hard to build a buzz — and a foundation for long-term economic health — in the Pioneer Valley and beyond.

And now, we’d like to tell their stories, so you can be inspired, too.

—Joseph Bednar

The Class of ’09

40 Under 40 Class of 2009
Age 29: Owner, Minuteman Press

Michael Weber knows a secret about how to succeed in business.

“It’s such a cheesy statement,” said the 29-year-old, who owns and operates Minuteman Press in Enfield, Conn. with his wife Lindsey. “It’s the more you give, the more you get. Givers gain. If you want to succeed, you have to help out and contribute something.”

The formula has worked — the Webers have increased sales by 450% in the five years since they purchased the business.

Weber takes his volunteer work seriously. He is vice president of the North Central Connecticut Chamber of Commerce, a director of the Young Professionals Society of Greater Springfield, and a member of the Home Builders Assoc. of Western Mass. and the Affliliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield.

He joined these organizations immediately after moving from Boston to Connecticut and taking over the Minuteman franchise. His motivation was to make friends, make a difference, and form relationships that would result in business accounts.

Although his approach has worked, Weber’s intent is always focused on the greater good. “I want to do my part by helping people out and genuinely contributing,” he said, adding that he has supported beneficial initiatives even when they were not good for his business.

Many of his volunteer activities involve working with people who are much older, so Weber especially enjoys his affiliation with the YPS.

“It’s refreshing to be on board with so many like-minded people. I truly have good intentions and try to contribute,” he said.

His background is in information-management systems, and his wife was an assistant buyer for Filene’s Corp. prior to their venture with Minuteman, but both know the value of networking.

“We don’t wait for people to come in,” said Weber. “You have to get to know people. We set quality standards, volunteer, and participate on committees. You have to get involved, and if you show up to help, you get to know everyone.”

—Kathy Mitchell

40 Under 40 Class of 2009
Age 29: Co-owner and Co-founder of Jackson & Connor

Tara Tetreault says she’s flattered by comments from those who applaud her entrepreneurial spirit and her first-year success with the men’s clothing store Jackson & Connor in Northampton — especially with the economic downturn and the negative impact it’s had on all types of retail.

But she’s more proud of the feedback she’s getting for her work within the community, and how it seems to be generating momentum and more energy for causes and organizations ranging from Best Buddies to the Northampton Chamber of Commerce; from Clarke School for the Deaf to Northampton Area Young Professionals.

“I think that my actions have, in some ways, spawned other people to act,” she said. “I’ve seen it amongst my peers, with people saying, ‘I never thought to do that,’ or ‘I never thought to get involved with that.’”

Elaborating, Tetrealt said she and her partner, Candace Connors, have taken the attitude that, if they are going to do business in the Greater Northampton area, they need to be actively involved with that community.

This mindset has translated into actions ranging from hosting a Northampton Chamber ‘Arrive at 5’ event coinciding with their first anniversary in business, to active involvement with Best Buddies, a group that is committed to enhancing the lives of those with intellectual disabilities.

“It’s all about making connections,” said Tetreault, who told BusinessWest she is humbled by those who remark on her success in business to date, but is more energized by the words and actions of those who want to work beside her within the community.

“It’s nice to see other people get motivated by what we do — it gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling,” she explained. “It comes when other people decide to act in kind — to look in the mirror and see not just themselves, but also the larger picture, and how it’s not just about you, it’s about all of us being in this together and supporting each other, making it work, and making the area a better place.”

—George O’Brien

40 Under 40 Class of 2009
Age 32: Operations Manager, United Personnel

Michelle Sade grew up in Ohio, near where that state borders West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

“You could see all three states from the house where I grew up,” she said, adding, in a voice tinged with diplomacy, that people are “more neighborly” there than they are here in the Northeast.

“I’ve been living on my street in Springfield for four years,” she continued, “and I still don’t know some of my neighbors; people keep to themselves here.”

Sade credits her upbringing and the ‘more-neighborly’ attitude that prevailed in the Bible Belt with her many and varied attempts to bring some of that hospitality to the 413 area code, especially in her work with the Young Professionals Society of Greater Springfield. She is credited with co-founding the group in 2007 and helping turn it into a powerful force in efforts to engage young people (those under 40) in the goings-on in the Pioneer Valley — and, hopefully, convince them that they don’t have to leave it to find personal and professional fulfillment.

“I see myself as being a real cheerleader for this region,” Sade, the operations manager for Springfield-based United Personnel, told BusinessWest, noting that she had that role in a literal sense while she was growing up in Ohio. “It’s a great place to live and work … we just need to promote it more.”

Still a member of the YPS board, among many other community-based activities, including work with the American Cancer Society and Children’s Study Home, Sade said she is actively involved with helping to take YPS to the proverbial ‘next level.’ This refers to membership, visibility, and influence in Western Mass. — and also finding it a home, meaning a small office, preferably in downtown Springfield.

If Sade has anything to do with it, YPS will be a good, friendly neighbor — wherever it lands.

—George O’Brien

40 Under 40 Class of 2009
Age 27: Founder, Stinky Cakes

Stinky Cakes, Stinky Cakes, Stinky Cakes …

It’s a mantra that 18-month-old Aidan Connelly launches into when he sees a pile of disposable diapers rolled into the arms of a stuffed animal.

It’s a mission for his father, Mychael Connelly Sr., who had long had entrepreneurial urges, and experienced the sweet smell of success one day when his older son, Mychael Connelly Jr., walked into the room and announced, “I did stinkies.”

“I knew it was what I was born to do,” said Connelly, adding that people expecting babies need practical gifts.

The former graphic artist handles the marketing and dresses in a baker’s suit to deliver stacks of Stinky Cakes to homes and businesses. The diapers are formed into towers of fun — complete with personalized, colorful ribbons — by his wife, Adrienne, in their Springfield home.

Connelly, who grew up in the Bahamas, always wanted to own his own business, and became motivated to do so after Mychael was born.

“Everyone should be able to get a Stinky Cake,” he said, adding they keep their prices reasonable.

But no one should have to use diapers before they are ready, and Connelly is also working to address the issue of teen pregnancy.

He and his wife have been foster parents to two children, and are still involved in their lives. “We are dedicated to doing foster care and devote a lot of time to it,” he said. “These kids really need help and need to be in a loving home.”

Many of the childen in foster care are born to teens, Connelly said, and his next goal is to start a foundation to combat teen pregnancy and provide teens with life skills to help them secure a bright financial future.

“Stinky Cakes is more than diapers. It’s about empowering parents and mothers. It’s a movement,” he said.

Not such a stinky idea.

—Kathy Mitchell

40 Under 40 Class of 2009
Age 36: President, Owner, and Sales Manager, Park Square Realty

Ted Cassell jumped right from college into his mother’s family business, joining Park Square Realty in 1994 as a sales agent. Apparently, he was a quick learner.

“After about seven years,” he said, “I purchased the company from them with the idea of taking it to the next level.”

For starters, Cassell moved the Westfield office from East Silver Street to Elm Street, effectively doubling its space and increasing visibility and traffic, while also recruiting more agents and building market share. Then, at the end of that first year, he got a call from one Barry Boccasile, who had worked with a local Coldwell Banker office before it was sold off.

“He liked the idea of working with a locally owned company, so together we opened up an office in Feeding Hills,” said Cassell. “Overnight, we doubled from 12 to 24 people. At the time, I was still wearing a lot of hats — I was an owner, active in the field, managing … it was a hectic time.”

That’s when he made a key decision to be a non-selling manager-broker-owner, with Boccasile playing a similar role managing the Feeding Hills site.

“I think that’s been fundamental to our growth,” said Cassell. “We’re not competing against our own agents; we help problem-solve, grow the company, recruit, train, and manage the direction of growth and development.”

In doing so, Cassell saw Park Square grow from a $10 million company to $138 million between 2000 and 2005. He attributes part of that success to his enthusiasm for his work.

“It’s a great field because it’s always challenging, and every day is different,” he said. “We really enjoy helping people accomplish their real-estate needs. Right now, it seems like the market is starting to pick back up. Interest rates are low, and first-time buyers get an $8,000 credit from the government. We’re seeing a lot of activity. It’s an exciting time.”

—Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 Class of 2009
Age 35: Marketing Director, GetSet Marketing

Everyone has a story of how they found their rhythm in life. Dan Bessette found his through music. In college and during the years after, he played drums with his brother in a blues band.

The Wayfarers, as the band was called, played in venues all over Springfield, with frequent appearances at the downtown club Theodore’s. Bessette, who earned a degree in Business Administration at UMass Amherst, managed and promoted the band, while his brother, a graphic artist, designed the outfit’s eye-catching posters, which became the envy of all the other bands in town.

To support his drum habit, Bessette held down various day jobs. He worked three years as a marketing director at Falcetti Music, a company that sells musical instruments, and later sold airtime at radio station WRNX, until one day he, his brother, and a Web developer friend decided to launch their own gig.

“We started working for the music market,” said Bessette. “I spun that into other businesses, and it grew from there.”

In 2003, the trio rented some hip office space in an old mill building in Springfield (where the first monkey wrench was made) and formed Get Set Marketing, a full-service firm that keeps prices low by printing multiple jobs on a single press plate. The company’s slogan, “Apart from the Herd,” is personified by a rubber cow that travels around the world.

Bessette is a board member for the Young Professionals Society of Springfield, and was an Eagle Scout, the highest rank in Boy Scouts. “It’s something I’ve always been proud of,” he said.

While he may not be in the music business anymore, Bessette still keeps a set of drums in his office for whenever he needs to let off steam.

“My music,” he said, “keeps me sane.”

—Amy Castor

40 Under 40 Class of 2009
Age 39: Senior Relationship Manager, NewAlliance Bank

Brandon Braxton hasn’t forgotten the excitement of buying his first home.

It happened in 2004, about a year before his adopted daughter, Caterina, was born.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” he said. That meaning has been hammered home to Braxton since he joined Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity in early 2007 and met some of the grateful homeowners.

“Knowing where your children will grow up is something many folks take for granted,” he said. “But for those who don’t have that luxury, it’s life-altering.” The graduate of Amherst College signed on with Habitat when he heard his alma mater was donating land for four homes, with the goal of having up to 10 classes of students work on their construction. “It seemed like a great project, and the mission of providing affordable housing and home ownership is something I believe in,” he said.

By September of 2007, Braxton was president of the board of directors. He is dedicated to the progam’s expansion, which has taken on personal meaning as he has gotten to know and witness the excitement of the homeowners and their children. “The mission becomes very tangible,” he said. “We are making the community a better place, but it’s far more personal.

When you ceremonially hand over the keys, it’s an amazing feeling. And it’s nice to have 0%-interest mortgages, which I can’t do in my day job.” His position as senior relationship manager at NewAlliance Bank in West Springfield makes him acutely aware of developments in the area housing market and the difficulty of finding affordable housing in the Pioneer Valley.

He is dedicated to Habitat and says he is lucky to work for an organization that supports his volunteer work. His wife, A. Rima Dael, is also dedicated to making a difference and was in BusinessWest’s inaugural 40 Under Forty class in 2007. “We are proud to be a 40 Under Forty couple,” said Braxton.

—Kathy Mitchell

40 Under 40 Class of 2009

Scott MacKenzie

Age 33: President and Owner, MacKenzie Vault Inc.

As sure as we are born, we all have to go sometime. That somber fact explains the livelihood of Scott MacKenzie’s business. He owns and operates MacKenzie Vault, an East Longmeadow-based family business that makes cremation urns — and wasn’t exactly his first choice for a career.

Indeed, as a young man, MacKenzie wasn’t sure whether he wanted to get boxed into the family business. After graduating from high school, he was itching to get out of Western Mass. He envisioned lights, cameras, and himself on stage, so he headed to California to take acting classes.

Eventually he returned to the Bay State, not to push urns, but to go to college. He earned a Communications degree at Boston University and took a job as an account supervisor with the public relations outfit Schwartz Communications in Boston.

He was content in that role, but when his father began looking for an exit strategy in 2001, MacKenzie realized he couldn’t sit back and watch the business expire. Plus, after four years of working for others, he was ready to be his own boss. He moved back to Western Mass., spent a year thinking about it, then got onboard.

As it turned out, MacKenzie found the family urn business to be a tremendous outlet for his creative energies. In a relatively short period of time, he tripled sales, increased the employee headcount from seven to 18, expanded the company footprint from 5,000 to 20,000 square feet, and updated the brand.

“I essentially put a new twist on an old classic,” he said. He also added services, such as custom laser etching and engraving.

In his spare time, MacKenzie also volunteers for the Make-a-Wish foundation, Ronald McDonald House, and DARE.

As far as that theater career goes, “that’s dead,” joked MacKenzie. “I found out I enjoyed working behind the scenes more than being in front of the camera.”

—Amy Castor

40 Under 40 Class of 2009

Paul Stallman

Age 39: Owner and Creative Director, Alias Solutions

Paul Stallman can tell you a thing or two about Hummers. After all, he compiled a welding specifications handbook “a mile thick” for the armored parts of the military vehicle — not what you’d expect for someone who now runs a marketing outfit.

Stallman, who grew up in the Midwest, kicked his career off as a mechanical engineer. He wrote the Hummer book in 1990 as an engineer for GMP Metal Products in St. Louis. Later he switched over to Ford Motor Co. in Detroit, where he also met his wife, who happened to be from Chicopee.

Working five years at Ford gave Stallman a taste for Web development. He left to co-found a Web design company with several partners. They worked for big guns like Anheuser-Busch and Boise Office Supplies, but eventually the partners parted ways.

Stallman relocated to Western Mass. to be closer to his wife’s family, and launched Alias Solutions in 2003 to serve the design needs of smaller businesses.

“I don’t need the ego boost of big-company names,” he said. “I would rather be more important to my clients.”

He has since grown his company from a one-man operation to a full-service design agency with five employees and an office in Indian Orchard.

Amidst his busy schedule, Stallman, who has three young boys (including a set of twins), still finds time for the community. He an assistant scout leader for Chicopee Scout Pack 138. He’s also involved in a school program called Crash! that teaches kids responsible driving habits via science. His company, Alias, has also contributed its services to local nonprofits, including YEAH! Network, which works to stem the tide of teen pregnancy.

The Hummer tome, however, is unfortunately no more. “My wife made me throw it out,” said Stallman. “She asked me when I was planning on welding up a Hummer.”

—Amy Castor

40 Under 40 Class of 2009

Marco Alvan

Age 36: Owner and Coach, Team Link Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Marco Alvan was introduced to martial arts when he took up judo at age 7. But at age 15, he made a switch that changed his life.

That was when he learned Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under the tutelage of the Gracie family, whose forerunners founded the discipline about 80 years ago. He proceeded to earn a black belt and win national tournaments in his native Brazil.

But he had other goals in mind, and in 2001 he came to the U.S. and settled in Ludlow, where he has family, to open a school.

“After so many years of fighting Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I realized I could help fans learn what I had learned,” he said. “The sport was growing, but there wasn’t anyone teaching it around here.”

He launched Marco Alvan Jiu Jitsu in the basement of a friend’s house, and now boasts several locations in Massachusetts and Connecticut. In 2007, a good friend from Brazil, Gabriel Gonzaga — a heavyweight title contender in the Ultimate Fighting Championship — joined him at the school, which underwent a name change to Team Link Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

“It’s a fantastic martial art,” Alvan said, noting its emphasis on grappling and the use of leverage and proper technique to overcome size differences between competitors. “The Gracie family showed that smaller guys could defeat bigger guys using Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. After that, a lot of people started to practice it.”

Team Link was New England champion three years running, and has boasted several fighters ranked in the top 10 worldwide, competing regularly against top international fighters. Alvan also conducts workshops for law-enforcement officials on the effective defensive tools inherent to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu — and he’s introduced his kids to the sport, too.

“Ludlow used to be known as a soccer town,” he said. “Now it’s recognized for mixed martial arts. I’m happy to take this reputation to Ludlow. The town helped me a lot and supported my school. I’m very happy here.”

—Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 Class of 2009

Tony Maroulis

Age 36: Executive Director, Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce

Tony Maroulis likes to tell a story — a long one.

Early in his career, this former New Jersey boy wanted to be a novelist, so he moved to New York City and began work on a science-fiction piece that went on, and on, and on. “It was experimental fiction,” he confessed. “I was obsessed with it.”

To support his literary efforts, Maroulis took a job at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “I started off as a security guard and wound up working in the Operations department as an exhibitions assistant,” he said. The job fueled a passion for art and introduced him to the woman he would later marry. The couple settled down in Pelham, where Maroulis continued to work on his novel while staying home to raise their first child (they now have two).

By the time the baby was walking, Maroulis found a new outlet for his passion: local arts and culture. In 2004, he held a marketing role at the Emily Dickinson Museum. Later he served as project coordinator of Museums10, a consortium of museums associated with the Five Colleges. And last year, Maroulis took over as executive director of the 600-member Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, introducing successful new programs like the ‘brown bag’ series.

“We invite members to present on topics on their expertise without doing it in any hard-sell way,” he said.

In 2007, Maroulis and his wife co-founded Wünderarts gallery in Amherst. He also serves on several boards, including the Amherst Walk Committee, Art Show Amherst, and the Amherst Club, to name just a few.

These days Maroulis writes to promote the local economy. As for his original piece of fiction, it was published somewhere, “but it’s impossible to find,” he said. “It’s not that bad — the main problem is it’s dense.”

—Amy Castor

40 Under 40 Class of 2009

Renee Stolar

Age 28: President, J. Stolar Insurance Agency Inc.

After Renee Stolar’s father passed away suddenly in 2005, she wasn’t about to let his dream die, too.

After all, she and her brother remembered the humble beginnings of J. Stolar Insurance Agency in Three Rivers — a business their father launched from his basement in 1980.

“My brother and I grew up with it. We spent our whole childhood watching him build this business, and we felt very strongly that we should continue it, not only for Dad but for the family. Our father was active in the community, and this was a way to continue that.”

At the time, Stolar was teaching middle school in Palmer, and her brother was still in college, so she had a decision to make. Having suspected she might eventually work in the family business anyway, she made a quick career switch and took over as president of the agency.

In doing so, she has managed to introduce some fresh ideas and grow the company — which certainly wasn’t a given early on, when few of the agency’s clients were familiar with the founder’s daughter.

“We have a phenomenal client base — really loyal people who stuck with us after my dad passed away and they weren’t sure what was going to happen,” she said. “I love taking care of the things that are important to them — their business investments, homes, sentimental jewelry, cars, the toys in their garage.”

Stolar acknowledges that she left teaching before she expected to, and still keeps in touch with some of her former students. “I loved dealing with children, and I’ve always been passionate about that,” she said, “but you never know what’s coming down the road ahead.”

Sometimes, it’s a motorcycle — specifically, one that a man named Joe Niedziela came in to have insured with the agency last spring.

Today, he and Stolar are engaged to be married — proving, of course, that some unexpected curves are blessings indeed.

—Joseph Bednar

 

40 Under 40 Class of 2009

Gina Barry

Age 36: Shareholder Attorney, Bacon Wilson, P.C.

Gina Barry wasn’t one of those kids who always knew she’d be a lawyer. In fact, she was more interested in marine biology or horse training — until a guidance counselor saw some legal aptitude in her and coaxed her into law.

It took her awhile, but she eventually found a niche she loved.

“In law school, I started to gear myself toward elder law and estate planning because I’ve always been someone who wants to champion the underdog, and protect individuals who often — not always, but often — need a strong advocate on their side,” she said.

“I see people in the middle of great family turmoil,” Barry added, noting common challenges like paying for nursing-home care. “We can devise a plan so that they see the light at the end of the tunnel. I like being able to resolve those issues so the family remains intact.”

And not just people. Her love for animals has led Barry to cultivate an aspect of her practice that handles estate planning for pets. Because Massachusetts law does not allow money to be bequeathed to an animal for its future care, she creates monetary trusts that benefit a specific caregiver with instructions to care for the pet — whether a dog, a cat, a horse, even (in at least one case) a llama.

But Barry doesn’t stop there. She recently launched a nonprofit called The Joy of Jasper that rescues at-risk horses and provides care for them for the remainder of their lives, and also involves at-risk youth in that care.

“When I was a girl, I had a horse named Jasper who was literally my best friend and helped me through a lot of teenage issues, including self-esteem and even discipline issues,” said Barry. “I wanted to bring horses back into my life in such a way that I could share that experience with other teenage girls.”

Sounds like they need a strong advocate on their side.

—Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 Class of 2009

Seth Mias

Age 27: Owner and Executive Chef, Seth Mias Catering

While studying restaurant management at UMass Amherst, Seth Mias never figured he’d one day own a successful, fast-growing catering operation. He assumed he’d gradually forge a solid career in the management side of food service — which he did at first, managing the Northampton Elks Club in Florence about seven years ago.

What happened next was sort of a happy accident in moonlighting.

“They allowed me to do my own catering as well,” said Mias. “I started doing 75 to 100 parties a year — more a side job than anything else. But it took on a life of its own and grew to the point where I stopped managing the Elks and ended up doing catering full-time.”

Nowadays, Leeds-based Seth Mias Catering books about 400 parties a year — weddings, retirement parties, class reunions, corporate events, you name it. Largely by word of mouth, Mias has developed a reputation that placed him second in last year’s Best in the Valley poll in the Valley Advocate.

“It’s been a cool experience,” he said. “I’m able to meet a lot of people, network, and get involved in the community” — efforts that include donating goods and services to many community organizations.

Describing himself as a “hands-on type of guy,” Mias is involved with all facets of catering, from cooking to scheduling to meeting customers. Although he’s not trained as a chef, he’s a constant learner, picking up skills with each new challenge — like the clients who wanted a traditional Chinese buffet for their bar mitzvah.

“I enjoy the cooking most,” he said. “You’re able to learn something every day. But a close second would be meeting the clients and spending time with people. That’s the kind of person I am.”

Mias expects the business to continue growing, and why not? “It kind of started as a hobby, and it turned into a career that I didn’t expect.”

—Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 Class of 2009

Tara Tetreault

Age 29: Co-owner and Co-founder of Jackson & Connor

Tara Tetreault says she’s flattered by comments from those who applaud her entrepreneurial spirit and her first-year success with the men’s clothing store Jackson & Connor in Northampton — especially with the economic downturn and the negative impact it’s had on all types of retail.

But she’s more proud of the feedback she’s getting for her work within the community, and how it seems to be generating momentum and more energy for causes and organizations ranging from Best Buddies to the Northampton Chamber of Commerce; from Clarke School for the Deaf to Northampton Area Young Professionals.

“I think that my actions have, in some ways, spawned other people to act,” she said. “I’ve seen it amongst my peers, with people saying, ‘I never thought to do that,’ or ‘I never thought to get involved with that.’”

Elaborating, Tetrealt said she and her partner, Candace Connors, have taken the attitude that, if they are going to do business in the Greater Northampton area, they need to be actively involved with that community.

This mindset has translated into actions ranging from hosting a Northampton Chamber ‘Arrive at 5’ event coinciding with their first anniversary in business, to active involvement with Best Buddies, a group that is committed to enhancing the lives of those with intellectual disabilities.

“It’s all about making connections,” said Tetreault, who told BusinessWest she is humbled by those who remark on her success in business to date, but is more energized by the words and actions of those who want to work beside her within the community.

“It’s nice to see other people get motivated by what we do — it gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling,” she explained. “It comes when other people decide to act in kind — to look in the mirror and see not just themselves, but also the larger picture, and how it’s not just about you, it’s about all of us being in this together and supporting each other, making it work, and making the area a better place.”

—George O’Brien

 

40 Under 40 Class of 2009

Maggie Bergin

Maggie Bergin Age 36: Owner, The Art of Politics

Maggie Bergin is passionate about the future and Holyoke, where she lives and has established her business, The Art of Politics, after serving in Washington, D.C. as the legislative director for the International Economic Development Council.

She was hired for that position after graduating from Smith College with a bachelor’s degree in Government and working for Congressman John W. Olver. The Grand Rapids, Mich. native decided to leave Washington to return to Western Mass., where she felt she could make a great impact working directly with area residents, agencies, and organizations.

“Information is power, and I have valuable information to give people about the political world,” she said. “I know how to move things forward and know where the levers and push points are in the political world.”

She also knows where the money is and how to get it, and is teaching her clients how to navigate political waters and get results. “I love my work and clients. It’s such a pleasure to help them.”

She also loves the urban nature of Holyoke and says it doesn’t take much to make a real difference there.

Bergin serves on the board of directors at Wistariahurst Museum. “It physically sits at an economic crossroads representing different parts of the community and is one of the city’s economic-development resources,” she said.

Bergin also helped create the Friends of Pulaski Park, a group that is working with state and environmental officials to clear the grounds between the park and the Connecticut River to make it as visible as it was during the Victorian era.

She views Wistariahurst and the park as valuable entities in the revitalization of Holyoke.

So, in many ways, Bergin’s passion is for the past, present, and future. “I look forward to helping Holyoke figure out what the next 50 years will look like,” she said.

—Kathy Mitchell

40 Under 40 Class of 2009

Marjory Moore

Age 33: Guidance Counselor, Chicopee Public Schools

Every now and then a fresh-faced kindergartner at Bowie Memorial School in Chicopee looks up to see Marjory Moore walk into the classroom with her puppets: ‘Patient Puppy,’ ‘Be Calm Bunny’ and ‘Slow Down Snail.’

The fuzzy friends are part of a program called Second Step, which Moore, a guidance counselor, uses to coach young children on how to deal with frustrating emotions that can occur in certain situations, such as two kids wanting to play with the same toy at once.

Moore is proactive in seeking out kids who need help. “I like to deliver the program in the classroom so the kids can associate me with someone who can help them solve problems,” she said. It’s just one aspect of the work she does working with kids in kindergarten through grade 5.

Moore was once a kindergarten teacher, so it’s no surprise she has a special fondness for the little ones.

“I realized when I was really young I wanted to work with kids,” said Moore, who demonstrated her organizational skills at an early age, too. “When I was 16, I started a babysitting club. I used to organize all the girls my age and matched them with families I knew.”

Moore puts her empathy, understanding, and boundless energy to work in the community as well. During the holidays, she takes time to serve food to the needy.

In addition, she recently organized a mentor program between students and military personnel at Westover Air Reserve Base, helped organize a citywide fund-raiser for Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen, and also volunteers her time to Faith in Action for the elderly.

“I’m a happy person, and I like to make other people happy,” she said. “So I want to do whatever I can to help other people out, because people have helped me.”

—Amy Castor

40 Under 40 Class of 2009

Chris Thompson

Age 29: Director of Sales & Service, Springfield Falcons Hockey Club

Chris Thompson has a large collection of hockey memorabilia in his office at the MassMutual Center, from assorted pucks and sticks to a framed copy of that famous photo of Bobby Orr flying through the air as he scored the winning goal to cap off the Boston Bruins’ dramatic charge to the Stanley Cup in 1970.

Maybe his favorite, though, is an old hard hat with the Springfield Falcons logo. It’s a leftover from a strange chapter in the team’s history — the renovation and expansion of the old Springfield Civic Center and the resulting hardships for fans. Those season-ticket holders who made a two-year commitment to the team during that trying time five years ago were made members of the so-called Hard Hat Club and given one of the collector’s items.

Thompson found one of the hats while going through some old boxes in Falcons headquarters, kept it, and gave it a place of honor in his office. He says it speaks to his general job description — “building relationships” — better than maybe any words could.

“That’s essentially what I do,” he told BusinessWest, adding that he takes what might be considered an unusual title in sports management (director of sales and service), but this line on his business card says it all. “Service is just as important, if not more important, than sales. I make sure people enjoy the overall experience.”

This service is provided to fans, sponsors, and other types of clients, said Thompson, and constitutes the ideal job for someone who loved sports while growing up, and wanted to make this field his career.

While not working for the Falcons, the energetic Thompson is involved with a number of community activities, especially the Young Professionals Society of Greater Springfield, which he serves as a board member, and the West Springfield Park and Recreation Department.

With those groups, as with the Falcons, his job is to build relationships.

—George O’Brien

40 Under 40 Class of 2009

Dan Bessette

Age 35: Marketing Director, GetSet Marketing

Everyone has a story of how they found their rhythm in life. Dan Bessette found his through music. In college and during the years after, he played drums with his brother in a blues band.

The Wayfarers, as the band was called, played in venues all over Springfield, with frequent appearances at the downtown club Theodore’s. Bessette, who earned a degree in Business Administration at UMass Amherst, managed and promoted the band, while his brother, a graphic artist, designed the outfit’s eye-catching posters, which became the envy of all the other bands in town.

To support his drum habit, Bessette held down various day jobs. He worked three years as a marketing director at Falcetti Music, a company that sells musical instruments, and later sold airtime at radio station WRNX, until one day he, his brother, and a Web developer friend decided to launch their own gig.

“We started working for the music market,” said Bessette. “I spun that into other businesses, and it grew from there.”

In 2003, the trio rented some hip office space in an old mill building in Springfield (where the first monkey wrench was made) and formed Get Set Marketing, a full-service firm that keeps prices low by printing multiple jobs on a single press plate. The company’s slogan, “Apart from the Herd,” is personified by a rubber cow that travels around the world.

Bessette is a board member for the Young Professionals Society of Springfield, and was an Eagle Scout, the highest rank in Boy Scouts. “It’s something I’ve always been proud of,” he said.

While he may not be in the music business anymore, Bessette still keeps a set of drums in his office for whenever he needs to let off steam.

“My music,” he said, “keeps me sane.”

—Amy Castor

40 Under 40 Class of 2009

Corey Murphy

Age 37: President, First American Insurance Agency Inc.

“You become a Marine; you don’t just join,” says Corey Murphy.

He should know, having spent four years in active service and another five in reserve duty. Earning the rank of major, Murphy knows something about leadership — a trait he employs as president of First American Insurance Agency in Chicopee, a job he grew into.

“Even when I was an undergrad, and when I was in active duty, I wanted to join the family business,” said Murphy, who came on board in 1998. “And over the past 10 years, I’ve had to make more and greater decisions, and had more of a say in what goes on.”

He started as an account executive, but attending a national industry convention in 2001 opened his eyes to the possibilities of the business.

“That’s when I really started a push to take the company to the next level, moving it forward,” he said. “We started adding more structure, formalizing the business plan, as I took a more active role.”

That groundwork ran into a “hiccup,” Murphy said, in 2003 when he was called back to the Marines for a year. “My father was sick at the exact same time and out for a couple months, so it was a challenging year for the people left behind. They could have been stressed to the point of breaking, but they did a fantastic job.”

Soon after returning, Murphy embarked on his master’s degree, and he officially took over the agency’s reins in 2008.

Under his stewardship, First American has continued to support community endeavors, such as reading and behavior-improvement programs at local schools, all the while attending to the needs of a business facing major changes since the opening of Massachusetts insurance markets to competition.

“These are challenging times for independent agents,” he said. “We want to stay active in what’s happening and make sure we continue to advocate for our clients.”

In other words, take the lead. That’s just second nature.

—Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 Class of 2009

Karl Tur

Age 24: Co-owner, Ink & Toner Solutions, LLC

It was the spring of 2007, and Karl Tur wasn’t slacking through his senior year at Bryant University. He was thinking.

“I was beginning to research what I would get into,” said Tur, one of the youngest-ever 40 Under Forty honorees. “I knew I didn’t want a typical job coming out of college. I wanted to go out on my own. And I came across a great opportunity.”

That was Ink & Toner Solutions, a printer-supply shop opened by Serges Lariviere in Amherst the previous year. Tur partnered with Lariviere, and the pair opened a second store in Northampton — and are getting ready to announce a third location soon.

“We supply printer cartridges of all types to households, schools, government offices, and and businesses of all sizes,” Tur said. “We also do printer service and repair.”

But it’s the recycling aspect of the business that has gotten the most … well, ink.

“We recycle old, used cartridges and supply compatible or remanufactured products,” Tur said. “We offer customers a substantial price savings.”

Indeed. For example, an HP color cartridge that might cost $54.99 at Staples or Office Depot costs $20.99 when remanufactured at Ink & Toner Solutions. Considering how much ink companies run through in a year, the savings can really add up — while putting a small dent in the 800 million cartridges being tossed into landfills each year.

The partners also launched Ink Link, an initiative that benefits the Northampton Chamber of Commerce. “Chamber members can take advantage of our discount and learn more about what they can do to create a more sustainable office environment,” Tur said. “At the same time, when chamber members purchase products, we give money back to the chamber as a donation.”

In just six months, the program has raised close to $2,000 for the Northampton chamber, leading to similar partnerships with the Amherst and Quaboag Hills chambers.

Because good ideas get recycled, too.

—Joseph Bednar

 

40 Under 40 Class of 2009

Dena Calvanese

Age 35: Director, Gray House

Dena Calvanese lists travel at the top of her list of hobbies — and passions.

She’s been to India and the Far East, all around Italy, to several cities in the U.S., and, last summer, to Iceland. It was a great trip, but frustrating in one respect. A budding photographer, Calvanese wanted a nice shot of an Icelandic sunset. The problem was, she went there in the middle of summer, when the sun was out 24 hours a day.

“It was great, because you could visit places all day long,” she said. “But no sunset pictures.”

Things are similar, in some respects, at Springfield’s Gray House, now celebrating its 25th year in operation, which Calvanese has served as director for the past two and a half years. She says she keeps waiting for there to be some kind of lull in the action — and level of need — at this community center in Springfield’s North End. But, like a sunset in Iceland in July, one never comes, which is fine with her.

“We’re busy just about all the time,” said Calvanese, who, as she spoke with BusinessWest, was working on projects ranging from collection of prom dresses for underprivileged young women to assemblage of Easter baskets for area families.

“Need is constant, and it’s increasing with the economy,” she continued, listing everything from a surge in requests for food assistance to a rise in enrollment in adult-education programs from people who want to better themselves.

Managing all this has become another passion for Calvanese, who once worked as an analyst for MassMutual, but has made a very successful transition into the challenging world of nonprofit management.

As for her next travel destination? Calvanese has a trip to Chicago on the calendar. There should be some great sunset pictures by Lake Michigan to be taken there.

—George O’Brien

 

40 Under 40 Class of 2009

Joshua Pendrick

Age 25: Owner, Royal Touch Painting

It was several days after the fact, but Joshua Pendrick was still celebrating, and reliving, Boston University’s national collegiate hockey championship.

“I was standing on my couch screaming,” he said while describing his viewing experience of the championship game against Miami of Ohio, during which BU, his alma matter, stormed back from two goals down late and went on to win in overtime. “Coach [Jack] Parker pulled the goalie with three minutes left. There was a lot of time left to be doing that, but the strategy paid off — they came back and tied it.”

This was the same Jack Parker who, during Pendrick’s sophomore year at BU, told him he was no longer good enough to be on the school’s hockey team, a squad he joined as what’s known as a recruited walk-on, meaning he was taking a sizable gamble with regard to playing time and, as it turned out, just staying on the team.

While Pendrick initially viewed his cutting as a serious setback and dream killer — “I wanted to play in the NHL” — he later saw that moment as a turning point in his life. Instead of hockey, he now focused on school, specifically business, and eventually wound up in a program with a national company called University Painters, which essentially sets people up in small commercial and residential painting businesses and forces participants to learn by doing.

Pendrick did it so well, he was named Rookie Student Manager of the Year in 2004, a year before he started his own business, Royal Touch Painting, while still in school. Today, the business is thriving (although challenged by the economic times) and is “bridging the gap,” as Pendrick put it, with regard to companies that offer quality work but poor customer service, and those with the opposite imbalance.

He’s also active in the community. He’s hockey coach at Springfield’s Central High School, and is involved with several organizations, including the Young Professionals Society of Greater Springfield.

No, he’s not in the NHL, but he’s made other, quite different, dreams come true.

—George O’Brien

 

40 Under 40 Class of 2009

Brenda Wishart

Age 36: Director of Recruiting, Aspen Square Management

Brenda Wishart has played many roles over the past several years, with one clear streak running through all of them: entrepreneurship.

For example, at Bay Path College earlier this decade, she developed the college’s Entrepreneurial Program, not only mentoring students in how to start their own businesses, but also forging educational partnerships between the college and area companies.

“Rather than lecture them about entrepreneurship, we wanted to get them out visiting local entrepreneurs,” she said. Students were directed to examine actual challenges those companies faced and develop ‘living case studies’ to tackle them.

From there, Wishart directed the Entrepreneurship Institute for the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation in 2005, leading a committee of faculty advisors from 13 area colleges with the goal of advancing entrepreneurship education and activity in the Pioneer Valley. The following year, she launched Wishart Associates, an executive-search and project-management-consulting business.

“An unintended consequence of my role at Bay Path is that it gave me the inspiration to jump off a cliff and go out on my own,” she said. “We spend an extraordinary amount of time at work — probably more than with our families. So I’ve always been passionate about helping people find the right match for them.”

Wishart returned to Bay Path in 2007 to launch a satellite campus in Eastern Mass. After studying possible locations and leading a comprehensive marketing campaign, she oversaw the opening of the Burlington campus that fall.

These days, she’s taking a break from working for herself, leaving the company she started to become director of recruiting for Aspen Square Management. But her work with Wishart Associates lives on.

“I’m in the process of phasing out of that and passing the baton along so a new director can run with it,” she said.

Meaning that, because of Wishart’s efforts, at least one more person found the right job.

—Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 Class of 2009

Karen Chadwell

Age 37: Associate Attorney, Doherty, Wallace, Pillsbury & Murphy, P.C.

Karen Chadwell knows a lot about dreams — both those with happy endings and those that never come to fruition.

As a patent attorney, Chadwell works with and for people who come to her with vague ideas, sophisticated plans, and everything in between.

As a member of the Longmeadow Conservation Committee, Chadwell sees people whose dreams of putting an addition on their home or adding a swimming pool can be realized, as well as those whose proposals would adversely affect the environment and wetlands.

The mother of 3-year-old Jimmy and 2-year-old Catherine finds her work and civic involvement fascinating, satisfying, and worthwhile.

Chadwick spends a lot of time educating prospective clients, without charge, about what is involved in taking an invention from idea to market and making it profitable. Her desire to help has spurred pro bono work, including help finding manufacturers or marketing firms for clients.

“I’m a conduit for people to manifest ideas into something that will have worth and value,” she said, adding that many people have no idea just how lengthy and complex the process of bringing an idea to the marketplace can be. “These people are supporting families, and it’s an expensive process with no guaranteed results. I don’t want them to be shocked and disappointed if things don’t go quickly or work out.”

Chadwell’s original life goal was pharmaceutical research, but after earning her bachelor’s degree from Loyola University, a stint in the lab changed her mind, and she returned to Loyola’s law school.

“Helping people is very important to me,” she said, adding that she describes herself as “very analytical” but also someone who does a great deal of hand-holding.

Her work on the Conservation Committee also involves education. “It’s important for people to know how everyday activities impact the environment and have long-term effects,” she explained. “I spend a lot of time trying to ground people.”

And also, helping them fly off the ground with ideas that work.

—Kathy Mitchell

40 Under 40 Class of 2009

Christopher Prouty

Age 39: Founder, Studio99Creative

Chris Prouty tells the story of a photographer who came to him armed with ideas for her Web site. “I came back to her and said, ‘No, I think this might be the Web site you want.’ And she fell in love with it.”

As it turned out, Ludlow-based Studio99Creative — which assists businesses with not only Web design but also total branding efforts — helped this client open up new opportunities in corporate and industrial photography. “So she came back to me to build a Web site for that side of the business, too.”

For the first four years after launching his company in 2002, sales were essentially flat, although Prouty was enjoying working for himself and seeing clients reach their goals. But his wife, Amy, saw more potential than that.

“I love to grow things for my clients. I crave to grow their Web sites, grow their public perception, just help them be better at things,” he said. “Amy told me, ‘why don’t you do that for yourself and see what happens?’”

So he turned his own marketing strategies inward and starting aggressively growing his client base. After two years of doubled sales, Prouty quadrupled his business in 2008, and in the first quarter of 2009, in the midst of a struggling economy, he recorded a 38% increase over the year before.

“Everyone who works with me in the studio is goal-oriented,” said Prouty, adding that he considers clearly defining goals as perhaps the number-one reason people succeed. “Amy and I do that as often as possible. If you know where you want to go and what it will take to get there, how can you not make it?”

Often, he said, success requires clients to look beyond their own limited expectations, like the photographer who thought she had some pretty good Web site ideas.

“Sometimes you’ve got to tell someone their baby is ugly,” Prouty said. “But we’re going to make your baby beautiful.”

—Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 Class of 2009

Kate Ciriello

Age 33: Executive Development Program Consultant, MassMutual

Kate Ciriello says she learned what counts in life from her grandmother.

“She was a person who did things for others,” said Ciriello, who recalls how, on May Day — a holiday that was more-celebrated a few decades back —“my grandmother would bake cookies for the whole neighborhood. She did things like that all the time.”

Ciriello, who was named after her grandmother, gets a similar satisfaction from helping others. “I guess it’s in my genes or something,” she told BusinessWest. “It’s what makes me feel connected to others and gives me a sense of satisfaction in my work.”

As an executive-development program consultant at MassMutual, Ciriello, who earned her MBA at Babson College, learns the ropes by trying on a lot of hats. The company rotates her to a different position each year. Ciriello prefers jobs that involve advising agents on how to better sell a product or serve a select constituency, such as women or retirees.

“When I got here, I quickly learned that I needed to be in a role that was making other people’s jobs and lives easier,” she said.

Ciriello’s giving extends beyond the workplace. Last year, she was active in MassMutual’s United Way fund-raising campaign. She also helped orchestrate the company’s United Way Day of Caring, a campaign that gets workers out of their cubicles and onto the streets to volunteer at local nonprofits.

Since then she was elected to serve on the board of directors for Square One, an organization that supports low-income families in Springfield. She also sits on the advisory board for GoFIT, helping kids stay in shape through running.

Whatever her role, Ciriello has never forgotten the simple lessons learned from her namesake. And yes, she’s also been known to put a tray of cookies in the oven now and then.

—Amy Castor

40 Under 40 Class of 2009

Adam Quenneville

Age 37: Owner, Adam Quenneville Roofing and Siding

Adam Quenneville has June 18, the date of this year’s 40 Under Gala, circled on his calendar. Problem is — and it’s not really a problem — there’s a bigger, bolder circle around June 19.

That’s the day his wife, Rebecca, is due to deliver a baby boy. “I’m hoping he arrives a little early,” joked Quenneville. “If he does, we might just bring him with us to the party.”

If the newest member of the Quenneville member is present, he’ll witness his father being honored for a combination of entrepreneurial spirit — Quenneville first went into business for himself at age 10, selling nightcrawlers — and community involvement, including work with several area chambers of commerce and the Chicopee Rotary Club.

At 25, he was working in Quenneville’s Sons Roofing, the business started by his father, when he decided to work for himself. He started with a truck given to him by his father, a few critical leads, and a good amount of entrepreneurial pluck. Over the past 12 years, he’s grown and diversified the company, which now boasts 50 employees, a siding division, and a relatively new gutter-protection component with a colorful mascot, ‘Bucky.’ Meanwhile, Quenneville, who started with residential work and still specializes in that area, is also making strong inroads in the commercial-roofing sector.

And while the company is expanding, it’s also taking the lead in ‘going green,’ with a shingle-recycling effort that has given the company another edge in a highly competitive field.

Over the years, Quenneville has been helped by a catchy jingle in his radio commercial and an easy-to-remember phone number that is part of that tune — 1-800-NEW-ROOF — but his success has come mostly from his own vision and drive to succeed.

Hopefully, he’ll be in attendance on June 18 at the Basketball Hall of Fame, but if not, it’s because he has more important things to attend to.

—George O’Brien

40 Under 40 Class of 2009

Kamari Collins

Age 33: Academic Counselor, Springfield Technical Community College

Kamari Collins knows firsthand the importance of after-school programs. When he was a kid, they kept him busy with opportunities to play basketball, learn about business, and achieve his career and academic goals.

After-school programs had such an impact, in fact, that Collins has since made a career out of giving back. “Knowing how various programs helped me, I wanted others to get some of the same benefits,” he said.

He started early by coaching. When he was only 18, Collins and his father organized a traveling AAU basketball team for youths, coordinating games throughout the states. “Sports can motivate young people to want success,” he told BusinessWest. “I know — it had that impact on me.”

After earning a bachelor’s degree in Sport Studies and a master’s in Human Services, Collins joined Springfield Urban League, an organization that supports minorities. He stayed nine years, eventually becoming director of the Youth and Education Services program.

In 2005, when Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) offered him the position of academic counselor, Collins made the switch.

“I do more than simply offer academic advice,” he said of his current role. “I try to help the students be as successful as they can be.”

Extending his influence to the basketball court, Collins also serves as academic coach for STCC’s men’s basketball team, reminding team members to keep their eyes on academic goals as well as the ball. “You can’t have one without the other,” he said.

In his spare time Collins serves on several boards, including New Leadership Charter School, Springfield College of Human Services, and the Pioneer Valley Health Education Center, to name just a few.

“I was fortunate in my life to have people who gave back to me,” he said. “And now I get a deep, personal satisfaction from doing the same.”

—Amy Castor

40 Under 40 Class of 2009

Michael Ravosa

Age 32: Associate Vice President, Financial Advisor, and Certified Financial Planner Certificant, Morgan Stanley

Michael Ravosa is bullish about life.

“I’m in the stock market, and the bull and bear are always going at it. The chips are not always stacked in your favor, so you have to work through adversity and go forward,” he said.

The former captain of Longmeadow High School and American International College football teams knows that getting to the goal demands change. “Most people get nervous when they hear the word,” he said. “But change is a good thing.”

Ravosa went to college via a football scholarship and has forged ahead on and off the playing field as president of the board of directors of American International College’s Varsity Club, the only non-trustee of AIC’s Capital Campaign Fundraising Committee, a member of the board of the YMCA of Greater Springfield, and at Morgan Stanley in Springfield, where he serves as an associate vice president, financial advisor, and financial planner certificant.

AIC’s Varsity Club is composed of athletic alumni, and its annual Spring Fling was born under Ravosa’s leadership, along with other valuable initiatives. Ravosa believes in supporting students and says that, in order for Springfield to regain its vitality and for positive changes to occur in Western Mass., people need to focus on youth.

That’s why he spends so much time working with the YMCA and AIC.

The 32-year-old has received numerous awards from a variety of organizations, including the March of Dimes. But his focus is always on the next game. “I want to help out and be part of things getting better and better,” he said.

He is thankful for his wife, Theresa, who is his “backbone”; his 9-month-old daughter, Caterina; and his parents, who served as role models and taught him to engage in daily self-examination.

“I always like to push myself to do more,” he said. “I evaluate myself on a daily basis and ask, ‘what did I accomplish today?’”

Which is most certainly a bullish attitude.

—Kathy Mitchell

 

40 Under 40 Class of 2009

Mychael Connelly Sr.

Age 27: Founder, Stinky Cakes

Stinky Cakes, Stinky Cakes, Stinky Cakes …

It’s a mantra that 18-month-old Aidan Connelly launches into when he sees a pile of disposable diapers rolled into the arms of a stuffed animal.

It’s a mission for his father, Mychael Connelly Sr., who had long had entrepreneurial urges, and experienced the sweet smell of success one day when his older son, Mychael Connelly Jr., walked into the room and announced, “I did stinkies.”

“I knew it was what I was born to do,” said Connelly, adding that people expecting babies need practical gifts.

The former graphic artist handles the marketing and dresses in a baker’s suit to deliver stacks of Stinky Cakes to homes and businesses. The diapers are formed into towers of fun — complete with personalized, colorful ribbons — by his wife, Adrienne, in their Springfield home.

Connelly, who grew up in the Bahamas, always wanted to own his own business, and became motivated to do so after Mychael was born.

“Everyone should be able to get a Stinky Cake,” he said, adding they keep their prices reasonable.

But no one should have to use diapers before they are ready, and Connelly is also working to address the issue of teen pregnancy.

He and his wife have been foster parents to two children, and are still involved in their lives. “We are dedicated to doing foster care and devote a lot of time to it,” he said. “These kids really need help and need to be in a loving home.”

Many of the childen in foster care are born to teens, Connelly said, and his next goal is to start a foundation to combat teen pregnancy and provide teens with life skills to help them secure a bright financial future.

“Stinky Cakes is more than diapers. It’s about empowering parents and mothers. It’s a movement,” he said.

Not such a stinky idea.

—Kathy Mitchell

40 Under 40 Class of 2009

Kristi Reale

Age 37: Manager, Audit and Accounting Division and Business Valuation Department, Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C.

Kristi Reale says she has two “anniversaries” to mark and celebrate. One is her wedding date (August 8), and the other is the day (May 3) she donated a kidney to her husband of 12 years, Joe.

“They determined that I was the most effective match, better than either of his sisters,” said Reale when discussing how she was the chosen to be the donor, thus giving her another date to circle on the calendar.

There are many such circles to track, given Reale’s personal life and the birthdays of her seven nieces and nephews, but especially her chosen field — accounting, which keeps her busy all year long, moreso in the winter and early spring — and the large volumes of work she does within the community, particularly with the Advertising Club of Western Mass.

And recently, more was added, as Reale was chosen by the partners of Meyers Brothers Kalicka to participate in a three-year leadership program that has been limited mostly to partners and senior managers, a clear sign of the firm’s confidence in her leadership abilities.

Based on the tenets of Stephen Covey, the program is “intense,” said Reale, who used that word early and often to describe her experiences thus far.

All these activities and dates to track do not bother Reale, a self-described workoholic who told BusinessWest, in no uncertain terms, “I don’t like to be bored.”

Suffice it to say, she isn’t, not between her work, which involves everything from business consulting to corporate tax planning; her travel (“I like any place that’s warm”); her 100-pound Akita, Kira; and extensive work in the community.

In addition to her duties with the Ad Club, where she’s known as the “creative accountant” and is heavily involved with the Pynchon Awards, she also donates time and energy to the American Heart Assoc., the Springfield Boys and Girls Club, Holy Name Church, and many other organizations and causes.

—George O’Brien

 

40 Under 40 Class of 2009

Todd Demers

Age 35: Owner, Family Wireless

Todd Demers figures he’s been working for himself since he was about 12.

Actually, his working life started even earlier, when he was essentially digging ditches for the church he belonged to and making about $1 an hour.

“I decided this was nuts,” said Demers, who proceeded to start what amounted to his own landscaping business. Later, after getting a job as a DJ at 13 years old, he took some seed money from his father and started another business spinning records, and did that for a dozen years before a series of events put him at the helm of a mobile-phone franchise that he has since expanded into the 11-store chain known as Family Wireless.

“I was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug early,” said Demers, noting that he segued into the wireless-communication business as an employee, but simply wasn’t comfortable, or happy, in that role. “I’ve always liked working for myself.”

While growing Family Wireless into a regional chain, with locations in Agawam, Amherst, Chicopee, East Longmeadow, Longmeadow, Lee, Northampton, South Hadley, Southwick, Westfield, and Wilbraham, Demers has also become an entrepreneurial role model of sorts as he sets a tone for his employees.

“As CEO, I don’t really have a job description,” he told BusinessWest. “I do whatever has to be done, from painting walls to cleaning toilets to answering the phones — which I do from 9 to 10 a.m. every day. I like to stay involved in all aspects of the business; that’s how I stay grounded.”

As the name on the business venture might suggest, family plays a big part in Demers’ life. Much of his non-working time is devoted to his wife, Tessa, and his two children, Tanner, 9, and Sydney, 7. He doesn’t miss any of the kids’ sporting events — and there are many — and since he’s bought them both guitars, they spend ample time jamming together.

You might say he’s tuned in — and in about every way possible.

—George O’Brien

40 Under 40 Class of 2009

Amy Royal

Age 33: Attorney; Partner and Co-founder of Royal & Munnings, LLC

Amy Royal says it has long been her dream to start her own law firm — not a practice, but an actual firm with several lawyers.

When she finally took that bold step last fall with friend and now-partner Amy Griffin Munnings, she did so with nearly equal doses of confidence and trepidation.

“I had a good, secure job,” she said, referring to her work as an associate for the Springfield-based firm Skoler Abbott & Presser. “I was a wife and mother with two young children; I was afraid, especially given the state of the economy.”

Six months into her new venture, which now boasts five lawyers, Royal’s fears have generally subsided. The economy is still quite shaky, but she has a solid client base, capped by East Longmeadow-based Lenox, and a steady flow of work in her specialty — employment-law work on behalf of corporate clients — due in large part to the economic downturn.

“My only regret is that I didn’t do this sooner,” she told BusinessWest in reference to her entrepreneurial gambit, noting that she and Griffin-Munnings are making great strides in the creation of what she considers a rather unique niche in business law — specializing in assistance to women- and minority-owned businesses.

In fact, the partners recently won a contract with the city of Springfield to provide certain services to minority- and women-owned ventures, including legal assistance with obtaining state and federal certification.

A product of what she called girls’ and women’s education — she graduated from Springfield’s MacDuffie School and Smith College in Northampton — Royal said that background has helped her in many ways, and also made her more sensitive to the needs of women in both society and business.

Active in the community, Royal is a trustee of the MacDuffie School, a board member with the Center for Human Development, and former board member of Child & Family Service of Pioneer Valley.

—George O’Brien

 

40 Under 40 Class of 2009

Kate Glynn

Age 27: Owner, A Child’s Garden and Impish

Whether she’s in Washington lobbying for change, selling a baby sling to a new mom, or planning educational classes, Kate Glynn’s heart is with and for children.

The owner of two Northampton stores, Glynn’s mission is to reduce risk in every arena a child enters, and coax parents back to natural practices such as breastfeeding. The graduate of Smith College spent seven summers and about 18 months working with New York preschoolers with emotional and behavioral special needs before settling in Western Mass.

She took over A Child’s Garden about two and a half years ago and opened her second Northampton store, Impish, last fall. “I’ve always been drawn to education, kids, and families,” she said. “I am so blessed to have had a very good education. I was taught to think critically at The Windsor School in Boston and learned to ask ‘why?’”

It’s helped her make a difference on the home front as well as become an advocate for small-business owners and manufacturers across the nation.

Two years ago, Glynn sat on a steering committee at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton whose aim was to bring midwives into the hospital to attend births. “The first baby was born last June at the Cooley Dickinson Center for Midwifery Care,” she said.

Glynn is a founding member of Northampton Area Young Professionals, belongs to the city’s Chamber of Commerce, and recently returned from Washington, D.C. She was there as a member of the board of the Hand-Made Toy Alliance Group, petitioning Congress to amend the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act and provide provisions for natural toys.

Glynn sells only toys made from natural products, and she cites statistics that prove babies do better intellectually and socially if they are carried close to the heart in slings. “Children want to be where the action is,” she said.

And that’s exactly where Glynn has positioned herself.

—Kathy Mitchell

40 Under 40 Class of 2009

Michelle Sade

Age 32: Operations Manager, United Personnel

Michelle Sade grew up in Ohio, near where that state borders West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

“You could see all three states from the house where I grew up,” she said, adding, in a voice tinged with diplomacy, that people are “more neighborly” there than they are here in the Northeast.

“I’ve been living on my street in Springfield for four years,” she continued, “and I still don’t know some of my neighbors; people keep to themselves here.”

Sade credits her upbringing and the ‘more-neighborly’ attitude that prevailed in the Bible Belt with her many and varied attempts to bring some of that hospitality to the 413 area code, especially in her work with the Young Professionals Society of Greater Springfield. She is credited with co-founding the group in 2007 and helping turn it into a powerful force in efforts to engage young people (those under 40) in the goings-on in the Pioneer Valley — and, hopefully, convince them that they don’t have to leave it to find personal and professional fulfillment.

“I see myself as being a real cheerleader for this region,” Sade, the operations manager for Springfield-based United Personnel, told BusinessWest, noting that she had that role in a literal sense while she was growing up in Ohio. “It’s a great place to live and work … we just need to promote it more.”

Still a member of the YPS board, among many other community-based activities, including work with the American Cancer Society and Children’s Study Home, Sade said she is actively involved with helping to take YPS to the proverbial ‘next level.’ This refers to membership, visibility, and influence in Western Mass. — and also finding it a home, meaning a small office, preferably in downtown Springfield.

If Sade has anything to do with it, YPS will be a good, friendly neighbor — wherever it lands.

—George O’Brien

40 Under 40 Class of 2009

Mark Hugo Nasjleti

Age 39: Founder and President, Go Voice for Choice

In one sense, Mark Hugo Nasjleti’s story isn’t exactly unique: tired of being overweight, he made a commitment to fitness and lost 133 pounds. Since then, he has forged a career in public speaking, sharing his story and encouraging others to follow his lead.

“I thought, if I could do this for myself, I could do it for others, and help other people change,” he said.

Words spoken by many a fitness guru, right? Sure, but with one difference: Nasjleti has Down syndrome.

It’s an important aspect of how he connects with his audience, particularly those with developmental disabilities, but in a way, he doesn’t dwell on it. In fact, a brochure for Go Voice for Choice, his series of self-improvement programs, lists eight of his roles, from speaker and workshop leader to expert on self-advocacy and independent living. Listed at the very bottom is “a man who happens to have Down syndrome.”

That’s because Nasjleti — whose fitness workshops include lessons in exercise, making menus, smart shopping, and preparing healthy meals — doesn’t see his condition as a hindrance, and would rather focus on the things in life he can change.

For inspiration, he thinks big.

“When Dr. Martin Luther King spoke in front of huge crowds of people, they really wanted to follow him, and they did,” said Nasjleti. “I know that, when I show people what I did, they can do the same thing I did.”

He keeps a busy roster of engagements, even including one program for would-be entrepreneurs looking for guidance in starting their own business, as he did. And he’s told his story before both small groups and large national gatherings, including a stint as keynote speaker at the National Down Syndrome Congress last year.

But his core passion remains the same: “I want to help people eat healthier and gain a whole new point of view.”

More and more, they’re listening.

—Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 Class of 2009

Scott Sadowsky

Age 32: General Manager, Williams Distributing

Scott Sadowsky is following the footsteps of his grandfather. In fact, he followed them right into the proverbial corner office, which is where he sits today as general manager of the 75-employee Williams Distributing in Chicopee.

It was Sadowsky’s grandfather who started the beer-distributing company 50 years ago. But make no mistake, the office and the title are no hand-me-downs. Sadowsky worked hard to earn his place in the family business.

After getting a degree in Business Economics at Brown University (the same school his grandfather attended), Sadowsky joined Staples Inc. in the Strategic Planning department, where he stayed four years, before going to Harvard for an MBA.

“As I approached graduation, I looked at other jobs, but ultimately, I liked the idea of continuing the legacy my grandfather started,” he told BusinessWest. So he joined his father and uncle in the operation of the business, in a position that has him involved in everything from sales and operations to finance.

In addition to his business skills, Sadowsky shares a few other traits with his grandfather. He’s committed to family — he married his high-school sweetheart; their first date was the prom — and also work in the community. He sits on the board of directors for United Way of Pioneer Valley, the Dana-Farber Leadership Council, and the Pioneer Valley Red Cross.

“This is where I live and work, and it’s important for me to help make the community a better place,” he said. “Revitalizing Springfield is important because it helps our retailers, the people downtown selling beer.”

Sadowsky’s office still holds a few relics of the past — his grandfather’s old Brown University chairs, for example — and a few golf putters. Proficiency in that game is one thing he didn’t inherit from his granddad.

“He was a much better golfer than me,” Sadowsky said. “He would shoot par, whereas my handicap is 12 or 13.”

—Amy Castor

40 Under 40 Class of 2009

Andrew Jensen

Age 22: Owner, Jx2 Productions, LLC

Andrew Jensen says he can’t remember the last time he had a weekend off.

He’s exaggerating of course, but not to any great degree. “Just when you think you have a Saturday night off, something comes up — something always comes up,” he told BusinessWest.

And Jensen wouldn’t have it any other way. A full schedule and no weekend time off equates to continued growth and success for Jx2 Productions, LLC, the company he started with his brother, Erik, eight years ago, when he was still in high school. Erik still works for the company, but Andrew, just 22, runs the show, literally and figuratively.

Indeed, the venture now handles lighting, sound, video, event-planning work, and more, for both individuals and, increasingly, companies of all sizes. Jx2 has handled everything from weddings to corporate annual meetings; from backyard parties to employee-recognition events, and the list continues to grow.

It all started with Jensen’s parents’ 25th wedding anniversary. He and Erik took it upon themselves to provide some background music for that event, and their behind-the-scenes work was noticed, and appreciated, by a few guests who asked them to handle similar events for them.

“And it’s just grown from there,” said Jensen, a Springfield Technical Community College graduate, as he fast-forwarded through eight years of entrepreneurial exploits that have earned him considerable press — and some awards. They include a Small Business Administration Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2006, and, also that year, a Top 25 Inner City Business of USA award, this one in the so-called “Growing Up CEO” category.

In his spare time, what little there is, Jensen is involved with the Young Professionals Society of Greater Springfield. He donates time and pro-bono work to that organization, as well as to the Boy Scouts of America and other groups.

The schedule doesn’t have any weekends off any time soon, which is really music to Jensen’s ears.

—George O’Brien