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Class of 2020

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Owner, Ja’Duke Inc.; Age 36; Education: Fitchburg University (BS)

Williams started Ja’Duke Center for the Performing Arts as a part-time dance studio when she was a junior in college. Hoping for 30 to 40 students at first to cover the rent of her basement space, she had 125 enroll the first year. The studio eventually moved to an 8,000-square-foot space, where almost 400 singing, acting, and dance students now perform in up top 10 shows per year — in a state-of-the-art theater completed last fall. These days, Williams oversees several different branches of the Ja’Duke business — Ja’Duke Center for the Performing Arts, Ja’Duke Preschool, Ja’Duke Theater, Ja’Duke Driving School, and Ja’Duke Backdrops.

Kimberly Williams

Kimberly Williams   Photo by Kortney Fernette at Sugarloaf Studios

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far in your career? I own Ja’Duke Inc. with my father, who is an incredible entrepreneur and businessman. For as long as I can remember, he has wanted to build a theater. This was something I never thought would be possible, but this past year, we took a risk and built a 540-seat theater. This was terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time. It is incredible to know we did something that very few people have done or will ever do, and we did it through so much hard work, dedication, persistence, and patience.

What goal do you set for yourself at the star of each day? Be grateful! I have so many blessings, and I want to make sure I appreciate them every day over and over again.

What three words best describe you? Patient, energetic, crazy.

What are you passionate about? People!

What’s your favorite hangout or activity in Western Mass., and why? I love Flayvors of Cook Farm in Hadley. We take our kids there for ice cream and to see the animals. They love it, and the ice cream is delicious!

How do you relieve stress? Every day, I work out at F45 Training in Hadley. This is an incredible de-stresser for me and allows me to do one thing for me each day. The workouts are planned, and they have trainers on site, so it is the one time each day someone else is telling me what to do.

What will your work colleagues say at your funeral? She never stopped until the day she died — but the one thing I do know is she loved me.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Springfield City Councilor; Actor; Partnerships Associate, Proteus Fund; Age 31; Education: Boston College (BA)

Marcus Williams

Marcus Williams   Photo by Leah Martin Photography

Williams works for the Proteus Fund, a full-service philanthropic organization that brings together like-minded partners to build effective social movements and create lasting change. He’s also serving his third term as a Springfield city councilor, this time as vice president. Meanwhile, he rediscovered his passion for acting, and in 2019 alone, he booked roles on Hulu’s Castle Rock; the film Love, Weddings & Other Disasters, starring Diane Keaton; and commercials for workforce-innovation giant Kronos and Bose audio equipment.

What three words best describe you? Driven, principled, destined.

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far in your career? I am the youngest person of color to be elected to the Springfield City Council and led the charge for the city to hire its first chief Diversity officer. I also authored the ordinance to regulate mobile food trucks in the city for the first time, ending an eight-year stalemate. In my part-time acting career, I have been cast in three motion pictures (New York, I Love You; Love, Weddings & Other Disasters; and Frills), three commercials (AT&T, Kronos, and Bose), and two television shows (Castle Rock and City on a Hill). In my time as a grant writer, I have secured more than $6 million from local, state, and federal sources to combat issues such as intimate-partner violence and housing instability in my community.

What do you do for fun? Fun is always needed. To take a load off, I typically enjoy playing competitive tennis when the weather permits or spending time with friends playing either spades or video or board games.

How do you relieve stress? I separate myself from my phone and social media and focus on being present in the moment in whatever I choose to do. A good day of pampering also never hurts, from a clean haircut to getting a pedicure — all bases covered.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? My grandmother comes to mind immediately. She was the best grandmother anyone could ask for and would give her last to make sure I was first. I would want her to know that she had a lasting impact on my life and that the family misses her humor, cooking, attention to detail, and, most of all, love.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? To let go and let God.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

40under40SMALLNominations for 40 Under Forty Class of 2020 are now being accepted. 40 Under Forty is a celebration of young business and civic leaders in the Western Mass., and an undertaking in which our readership will play a pivotal role. Indeed, the process of selecting this region’s 40 Under Forty begins with nominations. And we urge you be thorough, because 40 Under Forty is a nomination-driven process; the background material submitted on a given individual is the primary source of information to be weighed by the judges who will score the candidates.

Please take a few minutes and help us identify the region’s 40 Under Forty.

If using mobile device to submit nomination, please make sure your phone is in Portrait view mode.

Save the Date

The selected individuals will be profiled in the April 27th edition of BusinessWest and celebrated at the annual 40 Under Forty Gala on June 25, 2020.
For more information call (413) 781-8600

About the nomination form:

• Candidates should have achieved professional success and actively volunteer for civic and/or non-profit organizations.
• Only nominations submitted to BusinessWest on
this form will be considered.
• Fill out the nomination form completely.
• Photocopies are acceptable.
• Supporting information (i.e. résumé) may be sent to [email protected]. Please include nominee’s name in subject line.
Deadline is February 14, 2020. No exceptions.
• Nominees must be under 40 as of April 1, 2020

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