The Class of 2011
Executive Director, Rockridge Retirement Community
Beth Vettori didn’t always plan to work in senior living. But her perspective changed while on vacation.
“My graduation gift from my parents was a trip to Switzerland with my grandmother, on a tour bus with other retirees,” she said. “Everyone was in their upper 60s, 70s, and 80s, and we toured Switzerland, Italy, and France. I bonded with the seniors without realizing it.”
After college, she went to work for Orchard Valley at Wilbraham and started up its Harbor program, an assisted-living neighborhood for elders with various types of memory impairment. “It was very challenging and a great experience to put that together,” she said. “It’s a great, caring atmosphere.”
She was later hired by Rockridge Retirement Community in Northampton and was promoted to executive director at age 27. At the time, the community had an operating deficit of nearly $1 million, but she led a restructuring effort to bring it to profitability within two years.
“My task is running the campus, so I oversee all the operations,” she said, noting that she especially enjoys the contact with both employees and residents. “It’s challenging, but it’s exciting. There are some great, great people who live here and work here with me.”
For her work at Rockridge — including opening its 42-unit assisted-living community and its memory-support neighborhood before being named executive director — Vettori earned the Emerging Leader Award from MassAging in 2010.
“While the [restructuring] task was difficult, especially for a young, new executive director,” said Paul Hollings, chairman of the MassAging board, “Beth pulled it off with grace and dignity and made everyone feel positive about the changes.”
In her spare time, she stays active with several nonprofits, including Steph’s Wild Ride, an organization launched five years ago to assist children with cancer; it was named after Vettori’s cousin, who died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 21. “I want to help other local families by providing children with funds and gift cards, things that can really help them out,” she said.
It’s just one more way Vettori is helping to improve lives — both young and old.
— Joseph Bednar
Manager, Stop & ShopJoan Maylor used a picture of her parents in her 40 Under Forty portrait because, she said, “they truly represent who I am today.”
She recalled something her father always told her. “Once a task is begun, never leave it until it is done. Be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all.”
Well, Maylor certainly has lived up to that. She started her career with Stop & Shop as a bagger 21 years ago, “then worked every single department throughout the stores, through three levels of management, to the position I’m in now as store manager.”
When she started out in her entry-level position, she didn’t see supermarket work as a long-term career. But, she said, as she continued to grow and mature, she saw the many opportunities that can come to someone who sets her mind on a goal and works hard to achieve it.
Maylor is active in her church and, through her faith, committed to being a role model for younger generations. “I see that the young people these days can have trouble with focus or have a lack of purpose,” she said, “and I believe that, if I can show them how I grew up and became who I am, they can see possibilities.
“I’m hoping, through my position as store manager, that I can reach out to the community and get them interested in working in my field,” she told BusinessWest, “so they can see that there’s more to grocery stores than just stocking shelves.”
There were people at every stage of her career at Stop & Shop who would act as mentors, “teaching me what I didn’t know, but also what I needed to move on to the next step,” she said. “I still talk about all of them, and they have each given me a piece of who I am today.”
For Maylor, that’s what is most important, for her nieces and nephews and all the youths she works with: to help them understand, she said, “and to get the word out that you can make it.”
— Dan Chase
Resource Development Director, Pioneer Valley Habitat for HumanityOn her climb to the top, Monica Borgatti said she was left gasping for breath. That is, as a volunteer for the American Lung Assoc. (ALA) Fight for Air climb held in the stairwells at Monarch Place, where she has been a fund-raising tour de force in the last three years.
Since earning a bachelor’s degree from Bay Path, Borgatti has worn many hats — she has licenses in auctioneering and real estate, and worked for a heating and cooling company. “I’ve even worked in a hotel and coffee shop,” she said.
But, she added, “none of those things were calling out to me, telling me what I needed to be doing. It was always working for someone else, making money for someone else, and it never felt amazing.
“I’ve got a pretty loud voice, and I’m fairly outgoing. I have strong opinions, and I’m not afraid to fight for what I think is right,” she continued. To channel that voice in the working world meant a return to her alma mater, where she finished a master’s degree in nonprofit management and philanthropy in 2010.
In the months since then, she has quickly proven herself an invaluable asset to the regional chapter of Habitat for Humanity. “When people ask me what I do for work,” she said, “often I see them recoil — like they’re thinking, ‘you ask people for money?’
“But it’s more an opportunity to have people give their philanthropic dollars in a meaningful way for them,” she explained. “At Habitat, we can offer those people a hand up to achieve something better for themselves. We all share this community, and we need to do the best we can to make it welcoming and healthy, to make it a good place for everyone.”
And with her team at the ALA, the Little Engines, Borgatti has been helping to raise awareness and funds for lung cancer. With her team of no more than four other volunteers and 24 flights, they have raised more per capita in the last two years than any of their fellow climbers — one step at a time.
— Dan Chase
Regional Director, Mass. Office of Business DevelopmentMike Vedovelli draws a number of parallels between coaching basketball, which he’s done at both Cathedral and Agawam high schools, and his day job as regional director of the Mass. Office of Business Development.
“It’s all about relationships,” he said. “Both provide different situations, different scenarios, each day, and you have to respond. In coaching, you’re put in some difficult situations where you have a kid who’s trying really hard and giving to the best of his ability, but not able to really compete; you have to explain why he’s not playing, but that he’s still part of a team. It’s similar with businesses: they’re coming to you asking for the sky, and you can only realistically give them so much.”
Vedovelli’s had considerable success on the court — Cathedral teams he served as assistant coach won four Western Mass. championships in six years, and two of his Agawam teams won sportsmanship awards — and within the broad realm of state-supported economic development. Indeed, he’s had his picture in several press outlets, including BusinessWest, for his work helping companies such as Titeflex and Smith & Wesson, both in Springfield, gain the state and local support needed to expand. But ultimate success isn’t measured in photo ops, but rather with jobs created or retained, he said, adding that the number was 225 with Smith & Wesson and more than 100 with Titeflex.
What he likes best about his work is the diversity. “Every day is different; one day I’m dealing with a tiny manufacturing company in Conway, a nine-person operation that’s going to create two jobs, and the town is going crazy because they think it’s great, and the company is very excited because it thinks this will open doors to new business. The next day I’m dealing with a Fortune 25 company that could potentially add 100 new jobs.”
The hardest parts of this job, he continued, are managing the expectations of those seeking help, and saying no, which he has to do on many occasions.
Vedovelli is married to Sarah, and has two sons, Cameron, 6, and Ryan, 4.
— George O’Brien
Co-founder, Chief Strategist, and Creative Lead, Gravity SwitchIn 1996, Jason Mark was a teacher. His future wife, Christine, worked for Microsoft, and another friend was making video games for Fisher Price and Nickelodeon. Together, they decided they’d rather work for themselves.
“We pooled our resources and decided we didn’t want to deal with bureaucracy,” Mark said of the origins of Northampton-based Web-development firm Gravity Switch. “It’s been a learning experience.”
The company, named after a Shel Silverstein poem — appropriate, since Mark has gone on to write two children’s books — at first concentrated mainly on animation and CD-ROM development, but quickly evolved to become one of the region’s most notable Web-design firms. “We’re on the forefront of defining what it means to develop a successful Web project,” Mark said. “And it’s been a really exciting time; over the past four years technology has taken a big jump.”
Gravity Switch has contributed its own advances, from creating the iBracket — used by hotels, museums, retail outlets, and others to securely lock an iPad in a public location — to developing Blitz Build, a patent-pending process that dramatically cuts the time required to create a Web site, thereby minimizing client time and expenses.
But Mark and his team have also been at the forefront of socially conscious business practices in the Valley, donating 15% of the company’s annual profits to various local and national charities.
“As a community member, that’s what life is all about,” he said. “You have to look at priorities; work is important, but you have to do stuff you believe in, and to give back in any way you can. That’s something that’s always been important to us.”
Gravity Switch is environmentally aware, too, with about 25% of its staff (including Mark) bicycling to work every day and about half carpooling. It’s another way he and his team live what they believe while doing what they love.
“As a business owner, you want to be around people who are inspiring, and we inspire each other,” he said. I’m a big believer in doing what you like. You have to follow your passion.”
— Joseph Bednar
Community Engagement Coordinator, ACCESS Springfield Promise ProgramGrowing up in Springfield gave Delania Barbee the realization of how her professional life would be dedicated. “We can’t strengthen a community unless we can strengthen the young people and our young adults,” she said.
With the wisdom of someone decades older than she, Barbee said her life has been about breaking through polarizing statistics. One of the most important of those distinctions, she said, was graduating from Smith College cum laude, on the same timetable as her peers — as a single mother.
After college, she was one of the pioneering members of her hometown’s ACCESS program, an organization committed to helping students in need find ways to matriculate into higher education. The program was the first of its kind outside Boston, and Barbee was instrumental in tailoring this outfit for Springfield.
“Financial barriers are one of the main reasons why people don’t go to school,” she explained, “and my role is to meet people in the community wherever they are, to help them with those barriers.”
Working with the city’s financial-aid advisors, Barbee is doing her part to help break another statistic — the current graduation rate of 53%.
But there’s even more work to be done, she said. “While we don’t have an educated workforce the way other communities do, I want to make sure that people can work in the communities where they live.”
To that end, Barbee has set her sights on law school, so that she can better help people through the process of starting businesses in Springfield — “not just as an attorney,” she said, “but as a counselor for them.”
Add to her goals the book she’s working on about hip-hop culture and black feminism, and it’s safe to say that Barbee will be making a change in her community for many years to come. “By raising the economic and educational qualities in Springfield,” she said, “this will add to the proud history that we have here.”
And for this local hero, that’s a pretty good rap.
— Dan Chase
President, the Sandri CompaniesTim Van Epps remembers the conversation vividly.
It was Christmas night, 2004. He was enjoying a single-malt scotch with his father-in-law, W.A. (Bill) Sandri, when the conversation turned in a direction he wasn’t expecting. “He asked me if I would be interested in coming to his office, taking a look at the family business [the Sandri Companies], and giving my opinion on things. That was the first time he had ever raised the subject.”
And thus began more conversations — and some hard vetting on the part of company executives — that would eventually prompt Van Epps to leave a lucrative job as a portfolio manager for Sovereign Bank and take the helm at one of Franklin County’s largest employers, a deeply diversified, $200 million company involved in everything from gas stations (116 of them under the Sunoco flag) to photovoltaic installations; from a host of clean-energy ventures to three semi-private, high-end golf courses.
It is Van Epps’ goal to continue this diversification, thus further expanding a company currently boasting 500 employees — and counting. “Right now, we can’t build office space fast enough for new people.”
Many of these employees wouldn’t know Van Epps by face, which is good because he likes to pop into his gas station/convenience stores and other businesses while on the road in a form of Undercover Boss work that, he said, keeps him in touch with things happening on the ground.
While working to continually expand the family business, Van Epps is also busy within the community. He’s on the board at Franklin Medical Center and the Greenfield Community College Foundation, and is a member of the Western Mass. Chapter of the Young President’s Organization. He’s also a big supporter of Big Brothers Big Sisters, for which he helps organize a golf tournament that has become a key fund-raiser.
Meanwhile he travels extensively with his wife, Wendy, and children, Aiden, Aaron, and Ashley — Singapore was one recent destination — leaving Van Epps with little time for golf on his company’s courses, including Crumpin-Fox in Bernardston.
Which, at this moment, is his only regret.
— George O’Brien
Attorney, Bulkley, Richardson and Gelinas, LLPWhile recognition as part of the 40 Under Forty might be the latest addition to Kelly Koch’s trophy case, it certainly isn’t the first.
She laughed when describing the three things that she really wanted to do when she graduated from college. “I wanted to do sports TV, I wanted to teach — that was one of my minors — and at some point I wanted to do something with law. I’ll admit that I wasn’t really mature enough to do the last one, so I figured the sports route would be the best first choice.”
Apparently, it was.
While working at ESPN for nine years, she produced features for SportsCenter and worked on various documentaries. For her efforts, she won a CableACE Award and a Sports Emmy. While at ESPN, she coached and taught at a high school in Connecticut, but there was still that last goal to fulfill.
“I thought that a good time for a career change was right around when I turned 30,” she explained, “and when I was in law school at Western New England College, I had the luxury of getting involved in a lot of student activities.” That’s how she modestly described her role as president of the Student Bar Assoc. and winning the prestigious Dean’s Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Law School.
While the list of her successes sets Koch apart from the crowd, there is one award that doesn’t come with a statuette, yet it’s the one for which is most proud. For the past four years, she has been a Big Sister to a girl named Chelsea.
“After I took the bar and got settled,” she said, “I went over and signed up at Big Brothers Big Sisters. I wanted to have the interaction with a kid who needed someone to help with homework, or just to play sports with.
“She’s grown up to be a part of my family, and I’ve become part of theirs,” Koch continued, adding that this partnership has proven to be what she calls a “perfect match for both of us.”
— Dan Chase
Project Manager, Tighe & BondBriony Angus admits to being a bit of a policy wonk when it comes to land use and the environment.
“I’ve always been interested in environmental issues,” said Angus, who started her career in the public sector, including a stint as a Mass. Environmental Policy Act analyst for the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
“I like law and regulations, and I liked administering laws and regulations and enforcing laws and regulations,” she said. “Now, at Tighe & Bond, I’m happy to be working on the other side of the table.”
Her interest in land-use planning started in graduate school; “I got a lot of very interesting work opportunities and internships that jump-started me into the field,” Angus said. Today, her role is equally varied. “I do an enormous amount of different things and wear a number of hats; it’s a pretty diverse work experience.”
Most notably, Angus is what Tighe & Bond calls its “wind-energy champion,” and is heavily involved in growing the firm’s renewable-energy market. She manages several wind-energy projects underway at the firm, including Holyoke Gas & Electric’s plans to develop a renewable-energy project on Mt. Tom, and she frequently provides expert guidance to clients on regulatory, technical, policy, and financing issues related to such efforts.
“My earliest start in the energy field came from when I did greenhouse-gas-emissions inventories for a couple of New England municipalities,” she said, “and there has always been an energy-efficiency or clean-energy focus to my professional career.”
Angus says she has been continually inspired by her mentors — “I’ve always been very lucky to have extraordinary bosses my entire career” — and is proud to be keying innovative projects at her firm during its centennial year.
“I’m excited to be helping the team expand into new areas like renewable energy,” she said. “The fact that Tighe & Bond is interested in developing these new services is a testament to how successful it’s been over the past 100 years. And it’s personally fulfilling to know that I’m at least getting people to think about their energy choices.”
— Joseph Bednar