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The Class of 2012

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Project Manager, R & R Windows

Tsitso-JasonJason Tsitso has worked on countless projects large and small during his decade-long tenure with R & R Windows, but there was noting quite like the work undertaken at Springfield College last year in the weeks after the June 1 tornado roared through the campus.
Facing tight and extremely challenging deadlines, the Easthampton-based company, with Tsitso acting as project manager, played a critical role in enabling International Hall, a 12-story dormitory damaged extensively by the twister, to reopen on time for the fall semester.
The International Hall project, as well as Tsitso’s ongoing contributions to the company’s recovery from several years of struggle in the wake of the Great Recession, help explain why he is a member of this 40 Under Forty class and now part of several teams of spouses to earn the distinction (his wife, Sarah, was a member of the first class in 2007). But his exploits in business tell only part of the story.
Another intriguing chapter — one still being written — is his extensive work within the community. Perhaps the best example is his work to take his passion for bicycling and shape it into a successful fund-raiser he created and managed for Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity. Called Trails for Nails, the initiative, started in 2009, involves a mountain bike ride through Robinson State Park, with riders securing pledges for the miles they ride.
Through Tsitso’s leadership, the event has grown tremendously in each subsequent year, in terms of both ridership and dollars raised. In 2011, he took it to another level, creating a series of family-friendly activities known as Fitness for Families. These include the Hike for Habitat (to the top of Mount Tom); Trails for Nails, which now includes a 5K run as well as the 20-mile bike ride; and the Tour de Habitat, a 25-, 50-, and 100-mile road bike race. For all of this, Tsitso, now a board member for Habitat, was named the organization’s Volunteer of the Year for 2011.
Given the line of work he’s in, you could call all this a reflection of his strong commitment to the community.
— George O’Brien

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Director of Multicultural Affairs and Executive Assistant to the President, Westfield State University

Lugo-DeJesus-WaleskaThat colorful tree in the painting Waleska Lugo-DeJesus took with her to her photo shoot is called a flamboyan in Puerto Rico, and she joked that it’s “colorful and bold, just like me!”
Many roles have defined her professional career, she said, in both the public and private sector. But it was her grandmother who inspired her on the path she now treads. As the matriarch of her extended family, who moved them from Puerto Rico to Springfield, her grandmother instilled in her children and grandchildren a sense of personal responsibility.
“In my family, some are teachers, some are civil service, some are police officers,” Lugo-DeJesus said. “Every one of us in some type of role is giving back to our community because of what she taught us.” Such inspiration gave her the goals of becoming active in education, civic engagement, and diversity. Fortunately for many, her role at WSU gives her a chance to shine in all three.
“As the director of Multicultural Affairs, I am now lucky enough to use the skills and knowledge that my education provided me to help others have the same opportunities,” she said. “And a community is only as good as the relationships we develop. For me, community is enriched when people move beyond their differences to contribute, help make positive change, and inspire others. In my life and in my career, I have come to understand how a community is enriched when the similarities and differences of others are acknowledged and celebrated.”
The number of boards, committees, and charities to which Lugo-DeJesus devotes her time is so lengthy that she laughed and said, “I need to write things down on a chart, so I can know how to invest my time!”
Responding to her 40 Under Forty award, she called it a mark of great pride. “I’ve been recognized by Latino groups,” she explained, “but this recognition is special to me because it helps in making me more of a role model to other aspiring leaders.”
— Dan Chase

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
President, TommyCar Auto Group

Consenzi-CarlaAs she talked with BusinessWest upon receipt of notification that she was not only a member of the 40 Under Forty Class of 2012, but the highest scorer, Carla Consenzi was making final preparations for a trip to Wolfsburg, Germany and the headquarters of Volkswagen.
This was to be a fast-paced, three-day visit that would include a tour of the company’s manufacturing facilities and several meetings with VW hierarchy about 2012 and 2013 models and the sales year ahead. The trip puts an exclamation point on the continued growth and expansion of the TommyCar Auto Group, which Cosenzi serves as president and main spokesperson, and, more specifically, the opening of Northampton Volkswagen earlier this year.
“We had been looking for opportunities to expand and to challenge ourselves,” said Cosenzi. “The timing was right, and the circumstances were right; it was too good to pass up.”
This addition to the lineup now gives TommyCar four dealerships in Western Mass. — the others being Country Nissan in Hadley, Country Hyundai in Greenfield, and Patriot Buick GMC in Charlton — and it adds another chapter to the compelling story being written by Cosenzi and her brother, Thomas, as they continue the legacy of their father, Thomas E. Cosenzi. He created TommyCar, and was grooming his children for the business when he was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2007, a battle he fought bravely, but would ultimately lose two years later.
Sharing responsibilities with her brother, Carla Cosenzi has played a lead role in promoting and expanding the TommyCar brand — she is the face and voice of the company in radio and TV commercials — and making the company one of the leaders in the local automotive market. Meanwhile, she remains active in the community, continuing the Thomas E. Cosenzi Driving for the Cure charity golf tournament, which has to date raised more than $200,000 in support of brain-cancer research.
She also lends her time and energy as a volunteer at Baystate Children’s Hospital’s cancer center, and supports a number of organizations and causes ranging from the Food Bank to Toys for Tots to the Ronald McDonald House.
— George O’Brien

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Director of Public Relations and Social Media, Winstanley Partners

Stevenson-JacklynJaclyn Stevenson knew she would be a writer when she grew up.
“As soon as I was old enough to put sentences together, that’s what I wanted to do,” she said. “I had a little typewriter, and I was always making storybooks and newsletters. I had my mom take me to the store to make copies so I could deliver them to all my relatives.”
Indeed, the press passes she has collected over her career testify to one adventure in writing after another, whether covering Lebowskifest in Kentucky, chronicling Boston College’s first Frozen Four hockey title since 1952, or interviewing the likes of chef Anthony Bourdain or legendary hoops coach C. Vivian Stringer. Last year, the Mass. Council on Compulsive Gambling tapped Stevenson as a blogger for the National Conference on Problem Gambling, held in Boston at the peak of the casino debate.
As an English major, she heard all the warnings that writing wasn’t the best path to a secure career. “But it’s completely different now,” she said. “People with communication skills are in higher demand than ever before. I was able to become a writer, and even though my current position title isn’t specifically writer anymore, it’s still a huge part of what I do.”
A frequent speaker on blogging, social media, and other topics, Stevenson calls herself an early adopter of social-networking tools like blogging, Twitter, and Flickr, and they’re a big part of her work for Winstanley Partners, where she increased public-relations business for the firm by 117% from 2009 to 2010.
She also co-founded and organizes PodCamp Western Mass., a yearly conference that attracts the brightest lights on the new-media scene, and hosts Social Media Circuit, a biweekly Web broadcast on the Businews Channel.
In short, Stevenson — whose creative journey also included a stint as vocalist, violinist, and songwriter for the Cape Cod band Singer Bad Dancer — continues to find plenty of outlets for her boundless energy.
“As a kid,” she said, “I was a dreamer. I daydreamed and imagined things, and whatever was in my brain, I’d put on paper. And I still do that.”
— Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Vice President of Operations, O’Connell Care at Home & Staffing Services

Lord-DanielleA friend and colleague of Danielle Lord called her “a dangerous business person with a very big heart.”
Laughing as she explained that dichotomy, Lord admitted, “I’m very no-nonsense, and I’m not shy about getting to the point.” But, she added, as the director of an organization overseeing the home health care needs of hundreds of clients, with an out-call staff of 250 nurses, “we have a big responsibility; we’re taking care of people at the end of their lives. It’s very important to be doing the best you can.”
Lord arrived at O’Connell upon completion of her master’s in Health Care Management from Springfield College. “But I never thought I’d work in elder care,” she said. “When you’re getting that type of degree, you’re expecting to work in a hospital. I didn’t even know something like this existed. And now I basically run the whole company!”
And runs it quite well. Under her leadership, O’Connell’s has doubled both its visiting nurses and administrative staff. Once a presence only in the Greater Holyoke area, the company has branched out to Hadley, and there is currently an office getting underway in Franklin County.
The company’s president and CEO, Fran O’Connell, has high praise for Lord. “Whether it’s an employee, customer, or patient, Danielle never forgets that these folks are people, and that they deserve respect and dignity. She has the amazing ability to balance the needs of the business with the needs of the individual.”
Balance is a word that figures prominently in Lord’s life as well. While advancing her career in the health care field, she is also becoming more active in the community; she’s currently vice president of the Holyoke Rotary Club, which means she’ll lead that organization next year.  “We’re active globally,” she said of that organization, “but also very invested in the Holyoke community.”
Meanwhile, her home life is important to her as well. Lord and husband, Brett, have two dogs, Boggs and Layla, with whom she chose to share the spotlight at her 40 Under Forty photo shoot.
— Dan Chase

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Public Relations and Marketing Coordinator, Reliable Temps Inc.

Corriveau-ErinErin Corriveau says she likes to “connect the dots” — to make connections between businesses and individuals. And she has found plenty of ways to do so over the years.
Early on, she worked as a customer-service representative in the MassMutual call center and then at Baystate Health in administrative support and community relations, giving her a firsthand look at two of the region’s largest employers. At Baystate, the man she calls a mentor, Steven Bradley, who handles government relations and public affairs for the health system, cultivated in her a dual passion for business and the community.
As if to prove it, Corriveau moved from there into the director’s chair of the West of the River Chamber of Commerce. “I truly loved it, and I got to meet so many business people, and helped make those connections. I was able to be a resource to businesses while fostering my commitment to the community.”
These days, she’s making such connections in a different way, working for Reliable Temps. “I honestly think I’m in the best place possible for me,” she said. “We help connect companies that need a workforce with people who need jobs. Seeing both sides be completely satisfied is absolutely thrilling.”
She also writes a monthly column for Lioness magazine and hosts the local Businews Connect show online — two more ways of forging relationships and creating awareness of the local business scene.
The passion for community manifests itself in many ways outside of work as well; Corriveau is a board member of the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield, as well as a board member for the Western Mass. chapter of Best Buddies and an executive council member of the Jimmy Fund.
Of the latter two groups, she said being a parent has given her a heart for organizations that help young people. “I’m lucky to have two very healthy children, but a lot of parents aren’t as lucky. For kids with cancer or kids with developmental disabilities, as a parent myself, I want to be as helpful in any way as I can be.”
— Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, Western New England University College of Pharmacy

Spooner-JoshFor Joshua Spooner, taking a position at the nascent WNEU College of Pharmacy was a chance to get closer to home, as he and his wife both grew up in New England.
“I was working at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy when I learned they were going to open a college of pharmacy here at Western New England, and I was very excited about that,” he said.
Once on board, he was part of a group that built the program from the ground up. He helped develop the faculty-student advising program, the student handbook and college organizations, and various marketing and promotional materials. More recently, “my role focuses on the admissions aspects, developing criteria for evaluating candidates for admission,” resulting in an initial class of 75 last fall.
“I also teach a couple of classes to first-year students: Introduction to Pharmacy, showing the different career avenues a doctor of Pharmacy degree can provide for them, and I also teach Health Policy and Delivery, which ties into my master’s degree in Health Policy,” he noted.
Spooner finds time for civic involvement, including support of food drives at his church, where he’s an assisting minister, and he also runs a sports Web site. But he devotes most of his time to building on the early promise of WNEU’s newest major.
“I have fun. No two days are the same,” he said. “I love being with the students — their energy is infectious. I’m not that old myself, but being around them keeps me feeling young and vibrant.”
He also recognizes the vibrancy of his chosen field; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts the need for an additional 70,000 pharmacists over the next decade, a 25% increase. That potential can’t hurt his efforts to draw top pharmacy students to WNEU.
“I’m very happy where I am right now,” he said, noting that health care in general is heading into a challenging but exciting new era. “As the population ages, there’s always going to be demand for skilled individuals in the health care field, whether it’s in pharmacy, medicine, nursing, whatever.”
— Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Chiropractor and Owner, Laprise Chiropractic & Wellness

Laprise-RonaldDr. Ronald Laprise was raised with strong moral values and believes that, if everyone did the right thing, the world would be a better place. He became an Eagle Scout at age 15, and his mission is to help people live healthier lives.
Laprise enjoyed watching James Bond and Indiana Jones flicks when he was younger. “The good guys always win, and when you do the things that are right and noble, the Hollywood ending can occur, and life can be happy,” he said.
He has a logical mind, graduated 10th in his high-school class, and decided to become a chiropractor at age 16, which he considers “the best decision of my life.” Laprise is in the process of becoming a board-certified wellness practitioner, and is passionate about health and wellness. “Chiropractic is a holistic profession, and I talk to people about their entire body and how the choices they make influence its function,” he said.
He is also dedicated to civic and charitable endeavors. Laprise is a second-term board member of the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield. He serves on its Ambassador’s Committee and financial task force, and is the co-creator, organizer, and an event sponsor of the group’s annual dodgeball tournament, which raised more than $4,000 last year for nonprofits.
He is an active member of the Business Networking International Profit Partners Chapter, received several of its Notable Networker Awards, and has numerous professional affiliations. He serves on the Rotary Club, has volunteered at the Friends of the Homeless shelter, and is on the Trails for Nails committee of Habitat for Humanity, where he was the top fund-raiser in 2010 and 2011.
His newest venture came after his son, Massimo, was born with Down syndrome. He organized a team that raised more than $2,200 for the Down Syndrome Resources Group of Western Mass. during its 2011 Buddy Walk.
It’s a cause that Laprise, who is married with twin 4-year-old daughters, knows he will be involved with into the future. But today, like every other day, he is “doing my part to help others in a way that is right and noble.”
— Kathleen Mitchell

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Assistant Director of Information Technology, Center for Human Development

Conrad-ScottScott Conrad joined the IT department at the Center for Human Development eight years ago and quickly started taking on more responsibility. It wasn’t too hard to find some.
“We’re actually a rather small department for an agency of our size and geographic location,” he explained. “We’re spread out wide, with a lot of locations, and to have an IT department as small as we are, we have to wear a lot of hats.”
Those hats include overseeing the support and administration of all data and network systems for more than 90 sites where CHD offers services, as well as strategic planning for the agency’s technology future.
“We’re kind of the architects of what our computer infrastructure is going to look like, and we also do a lot of troubleshooting,” said Conrad, who takes pride in providing that support for an organization known for meeting difficult needs.
“We help people when they’re at their worst or have got nowhere else to go. We run the gamut with all kinds of social services, making sure people are able to function as a society,” he said.
“We all have a responsibility to others who do not have the luxuries of good health or other things that many of us take for granted, to help them out,” he added. “I came from private industry, where everything was about dollars and the bottom line. Now I’m in a place where the money aspect is important, to be sure, but only to make sure it stretches as far as it can go to serve the client. And that’s a refreshing thing.”
As refreshing as a scuba dive, one of many outdoor activities Conrad enjoys. He is an accomplished Eagle Scout who has helped other Scouts with their community projects and personal development, both on a personal level and through service on the Eagle Boards.
“My experience with Boy Scouts and the lessons I learned there have truly shaped me into the person I am,” he said. “They gave me the confidence to handle any situation that comes up, and gave me the leadership ability to deal with people.”
— Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Medical Director, Center for Human Development

Somers-NateSince being board-certified in both general adult psychiatry and child and adolescent psychiatry, Dr. Nate Somers has worked at some of the area’s most noted mental-health hot spots, from Providence Behavioral Health Hospital in Holyoke to the Carson Center in Westfield.
But his role as medical director of the Center for Human Development, which offers a variety of social and health services at numerous locations across Western Mass., has been his most challenging assignment yet — and one he has relished since accepting the job last fall.
As a doctor, he deals with patients — mostly young people, but adults as well — struggling with a variety of issues, from mental illness to substance abuse. “But, in terms of my administrative role, I’m trying to take this big agency and help everyone communicate internally better so we can coordinate services and serve people more effectively,” he said.
“What I find gratifying about this work is that we’re able to help people who have significant needs find a way to get through their lives in the face of very significant challenges,” Somers added. “It’s a good feeling when someone comes into my office and they’re clearly struggling, in tears, and they talk to me about the whole litany of difficult goings-on in their life, and I’m able to listen and get them some support and help them think through some ways they can make things better.”
Somers also stays busy with four children of his own, as well as teaching Sunday school at his church and coaching first- and second-grade basketball and teeball teams in West Springfield — in other words, impacting lives in a positive way outside of work as well.
Meanwhile, he takes a hopeful view of his job. “Many times, people leave my office feeling they can get through the next day, the next two days, the next week … they leave with some hope that things will get better for them over time.”
If he didn’t have the optimism to expect such outcomes, “I wouldn’t be able to do this every day,” he said. “It’s a very difficult job.”
— Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Founder and President, Kellner Consulting, LLC

Kellner-KristenBefore embarking on her own business, Kristen Kellner said that her professional history was long and varied. “I worked pretty much in the media and finance industries,” she explained, from Wall Street to NBC, where she was an operations manager, to producing special projects for Star Jones.
After a stint in the venture-capital world, another of those career twists and turns, Kellner was recruited to be billionaire businessman Ted Forstmann’s personal project manager, where she oversaw many facets of his estate. “It was a pivotal point in my career to work for someone like him,” she remembered. “He was a brilliant businessman and leader, and that’s where I first got my sense of how powerful philanthropy is, in finding a passion and then doing something with it.”
During that time with Forstmann and in her first years back in Western Mass., Kellner experienced a series of life-altering events. She was misdiagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, and was one day away from chemotherapy before she discovered the truth. “I realized then that life is too short,” she said.
Working at MassMutual, she and her husband were looking forward to their first child, but, “14 weeks into my pregnancy, we found out that our son had Trisomy 18 — three chromosomes. It’s not compatible with life,” she said.
But, Kellner proudly added, “I’ve been able to take adversity and traumatic experiences and turn them into something positive, by finding their special meaning.” What that translated into was an enduring involvement with the March of Dimes, where she is now vice chair of the board, and the successful implementation of an internal program at MassMutual designed to help with issues of pregnancy in the workplace.
She noted that her desire to help others wasn’t learned from Forstmann alone. She gives credit to her parents, Anne Marie and Ralph Ferraro of Springfield, 2003 winners of the Servian Award from the Italian Cultural Center for services to the community. “I’ve learned so much from their example,” she said. “I want to acknowledge them for who I’ve become.”
— Dan Chase

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
President, Foley/Connelly Financial Partners

Connelly-ChristopherRight out of college in 1998, Christopher Connelly went directly into financial planning. And he knew there were several ways he could proceed in this business.
“You can go to work for a larger financial corporation, or you can become an independent,” he said, adding that, like most, he worked for a large firm with the goal of later becoming independent, which he did. “In 2004, through some networking and strategic planning, I partnered with Brian Foley, who owned a property and casualty insurance agency. We decided to build a strategic alliance, where you get a partner with a group of clients who isn’t in the same field as yourself, but similar.”
Jokingly, he added, “if I wanted to be what I thought was mediocre, I’d be in a large branch and have them pay for my hard costs. But what I wanted was to have my own world, and have my own company. I knew that, if I wanted to be extraordinary, independent was and is the way to go.”
It wasn’t long before the firm branched out itself. Connelly jointly founded the partner company Foley/Connelly Benefits Group, focusing exclusively on employee benefits. At the same time, he knows that life isn’t just work and no play.
Recognizing the abundance of charity golf tournaments held every year, Connelly and his friend Rob Desilets, owner of local screen-printing shop Pro Style Graphics, decided to capitalize on what he called his “fraternity of hockey-league friends.” Playing off the name of the NHL trophy, the two started the Stanley Keg Tournament, a fund-raising event that takes place annually at the MassMutual Center, and which donates thousands every year to a local charity decided upon by the member players.
Past recipients have included the American Cancer Society/Leukemia Lymphoma Society, Shriners Hospital for Children in Springfield, and Griffin’s Friends at Baystate. To acknowledge those who might prefer the links to the rink, the Stanley Keg has grown into a summer golf tournament, and there are plans to add poker to the events.
Independent and extraordinary — that’s an award-winning combination.
— Dan Chase

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Senior Environmental Scientist, Tighe & Bond

Rukakoski-DanAs a first-year student at UConn working toward a degree in business, Dan Rukakoski said he had a moment of insight into his future.
“I got to thinking about what I was studying for,” he remembered, “and I asked myself, ‘do I want to be sitting at a desk my entire life?’ So I took a look at my own values and interests to see what I could do that would ultimately keep me from burning out on a career.”
This exercise in introspection led to a profound change of course into natural-resources management. Straight out of college, he took a job with TRC, an environmental-engineering firm in Connecticut, and there he fine-tuned his environmental-science background into the field of wetlands management. When the opportunity arose to move to Westfield-based Tighe & Bond to become a wetlands scientist, he dove right in. In the five years that he’s been there, Rukakoski has quickly risen to the position of manager for Wetlands and Ecological Management Services.
The president of Tighe & Bond credits him as a key contributor to the company’s development in areas of complicated environmental permitting. But others are also happy he made that move to Western Mass. A resident of Southampton, he’s been a member of that town’s Conservation Commission, and is currently consulting on the Greenway Committee in town on efforts to transform and link an old rail spur into the network of bike paths across the region.
But that memory of the student who was unsure of his future also informs his daily life, and Rukakoski is an active speaker in sophomore Environmental Science seminars at UMass Amherst on the employment marketplace for graduates in the field. “I had no idea what I was going to do after I graduated,” he said. “Those options weren’t laid out to me. The seminar is an opportunity to let students know what they could be doing right now to ready themselves for the workforce marketplace.”
In other words, he’s helping the next generation to get their feet wet — literally and figuratively.
— Dan Chase

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
President, Jennings Real Estate

Jennings-KevinLooking back nearly a decade, to the day he decided to open his own business, Kevin Jennings recalls that it was an exciting, but also quite scary, time.
He had one young child, and a second on the way. Meanwhile, the commercial real estate market, which had been enjoying relative prosperity 10 years after its precipitous fall, was in what amounted to a holding pattern after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“It probably wasn’t the ideal time to leave the comfort of a job and go out on your own,” Jennings told BusinessWest. “But I had that entrepreneurial spirit within me; this was something I thought I could do — and something I had to do.”
So he left the comfort of the R.J. Greeley Company, and has never had any reason to look back. And while this entrepreneurial spirit is one of the big reasons why Jennings is a member of the 40 Under Class for 2012, there are many others, including his success with that venture he called Jennings Real Estate.
Indeed, starting with the sale of a small bakery building in downtown Holyoke within just a few weeks of setting up shop ‘— a modest sale that nonetheless provided Jennings with the needed cash flow to get a firm footing — he’s enjoyed steady growth, and had his best year in 2011, when the market was still struggling to recover from the lingering aftereffects of the Great Recession. He’s also handled  a number of significant transactions, including the deals that brought Home Depot and Preferred Freezer to the Campenelli Industrial Park in Westfield.
But there’s also his contributions of time and talent to the community, especially his work on the board of directors for Gray House in Springfield’s North End, an organization that provides services ranging from literacy programs to a food bank; from after-school programs to citizenship preparation. He’s also on the board of the Alden Credit Union, and supports a number of charitable organizations, including the American Cancer Society and Chicopee Boys & Club.
— George O’Brien

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Graphic Designer

Biggs-Allison“I love being creative,” Allison Biggs said, “and graphic design is something that allows me to be creative and support myself at the same time.”
But success as an entrepreneur didn’t happen overnight. Frustrated by the job market early in her career, she landed a position she wasn’t happy with — which ended up being eliminated anyway.
“I figured, if I wasn’t finding a job, it was as good a time as any to start working for myself,” she said, so she launched Allison Biggs, Graphic Designer in May 2007. Five years later, the enterprise continues to grow steadily.
Biggs — who teaches a class in Computer Graphics at Westfield State University — focuses her company mainly on branding and print design; she’s also writing a book titled Discovering Your Identity — Aligning Your Brand with Your Values. Her client base is mostly small businesses and new entrepreneurs, ranging from tradespeople, accountants, and manufacturers to hypnotists, massage therapists, and life coaches.
“I feel that’s where I can make the most difference, with people who are just starting their business and are passionate and excited about it,” she explained. “Sometimes, when you work for large corporations, you do something that ends up almost disposable. But when you work with someone brand-new to their business, every little thing you do is so integral to their success.”
The struggling economy, she said, has not slowed her down. “People are always saying, ‘we’re in a recession; haven’t you seen a drop in business?’ But my business has only grown since I started it. In fact, in the entrepreneur community, you almost don’t notice a recession because so many new businesses are starting.”
Biggs is active with organizations such as the Women’s Business Owners Alliance of the Pioneer Valley — she maintains the group’s social-media presence and markets its events — and the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield.
“One of the things about being an entrepreneur is that, if you’re not careful, you can become isolated,” she said. “Networking isn’t just about going to events and getting business; it’s about meeting people in the same position as you, with the same mindset.”
— Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Tax Manager, Meyers Brothers Kalicka

Reynolds-JenniferJennifer Reynolds joked that the next time she takes part in the Mass Dash — during which relay teams raising money for the Jimmy Fund run more than 200 miles as they traverse the state in a 30-hour window — she will likely be a little more selective when it comes to the geography she is to cover.
“They gave me all the worst legs because I was new and I said I didn’t care,” she recalled with a laugh, noting that her 22-mile contribution included a climb up Ashfield Mountain at 2 in the afternoon in 90-degree heat. “I made a note to myself not to do that again, but it really doesn’t matter — I just like being part of it.”
Reynolds is part of many things when it comes to community service, a commitment that has included membership in Rotary International, work with an organization called Children in the Country, and a leadership role with the Women’s Fund of Western Mass. She balances all this with a growing list of professional responsibilities in her role as a tax manager for the Holyoke-based accounting firm Meyers Brothers Kalicka, a position she’s held since 2007, and one that enables her to deploy abilities attained over a lengthy career in public accounting, and also a law degree she earned at Western New England University.
She said that, contrary to popular opinion, accounting is about much more than crunching numbers, and there is actually a good deal of variety in her work. “I like the fact that you’re working with different clients all the time,” she explained. “Every day is different, and each client situation is unique.”
In recent years, Reynolds’ crowded schedule has become even more so as she added involvement in higher education to her résumé. She is now an adjunct professor at Elms College, and designed the Corporate Tax class, creating a hybrid classroom environment that blends in-class work and online components.
Add all this up — that’s an industry term — and it’s clear that Reynolds is always on the move, and in many different ways.
— George O’Brien

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Senior Vice President, St. Germain Investment Management

Hutchins-BrendanWhen Brendon Hutchins considers the view from the window of his office on the 25th floor of Tower Square in downtown Springfield, he is inspired to change the landscape.
He dedicates countless hours of professional and personal time working to make a difference, because he is concerned about the number of businesses that have left Springfield over the past 25 years due to the economic environment. “I have sought out projects to help Springfield change that trend,” said the father of three. “My wife and I grew up in Longmeadow, and we love the people and everything about the area. So, I have structured my career and charity work around causes I feel are most important to Springfield.”
He is a board member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, which he believes is the “cornerstone” of Springfield. He is also active on the board of Springfield School Volunteers, recently joined the board of the YMCA of Greater Springfield, and serves on the board of the March of Dimes. “Since I have joined, about a dozen people I know with premature babies have benefited from the organization,” Hutchins said.
He takes great pride in his work at St. Germain Investment Management as a certified financial planner and senior vice president, and is proud that the company focuses on doing business in the area. “I love helping people, and one of the greatest feelings I have is watching people learn about their finances. It is a very difficult concept that can overwhelm people.”
Hutchins is also grateful to his employer for encouraging his charitable endeavors. “They have created an environment,” he said, “where giving back to the community is fostered.”
The Longmeadow native lived in Cincinnati, Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles before choosing to move back to Western Mass. “I could work anywhere, but this community is special,” he said. “When there is a tragedy, like last year’s tornado, everyone stands together. It’s something I have never seen anywhere else, and I would hate to lose that, so I am working to help the area thrive.”
— Kathleen Mitchell

40 Under 40 Cover Story The Class of 2012
The Young Business and Community Leaders of Western Massachusetts

In 2007, BusinessWest introduced a new recognition program called 40 Under Forty. It wasn’t unique — business journals across the country have similar initiatives — but it was new to this region.

It was designed to enlighten the region and introduce it to 40 rising stars in the realms of business, nonprofit management, and community service. It was also created to inspire others to become leaders and find their own ways to join the ranks of 40 Under Forty winners. Five years later, the program continues to succeed on all levels, and a 40 Under Forty plaque has become a coveted prize across the four counties of Western Mass.
It has become a symbol of excellence, an honor that speaks to the energy, drive, passion, and commitment to help others that all the winners share.
With that, we introduce the Class of 2012, a diverse group that includes entrepreneurs, professionals, nonprofit managers, a state senator, and a police sergeant. The stories are all different, but the common denominator is that these young men and women possess that most important of qualities: leadership.

2012 40 Under Forty Winners:

Allison Biggs
Christopher Connelly
Scott Conrad
Erin Corriveau
Carla Cosenzi
Ben Craft
Michele Crochetiere
Christopher DiStefano
Keshawn Dodds
Ben Einstein
Michael Fenton
Tim Fisk
Elizabeth Ginter
Eric Hall
Brendon Hutchins
Kevin Jennings
Kristen Kellner
Dr. Ronald Laprise
Danielle Lord
Waleska Lugo-DeJesus
Trecia Marchand
Ryan McCollum
Sheila Moreau
Kelli Ann Nielsen
Neil Nordstrom
Edward Nuñez
Adam Ondrick
Gladys Oyola
Shardool Parmar
Vincent Petrangelo
Terry Powe
Jennifer Reynolds
Jessica Roncarati-Howe
Dan Rukakoski
Dr. Nate Somers
Joshua Spooner
Jaclyn Stevenson
Jason Tsitso
Sen. James Welch
Karen Woods

Photography for this special section by Denise Smith Photography

Meet Our Judges

This year’s nominations were scored by a panel of five judges, who accepted the daunting challenge of reviewing more than 110 nominations, and scoring individuals based on several factors, ranging from achievements in business to work within the community. BusinessWest would like to thank these outstanding members of the Western Mass. business community for volunteering their time to the sixth annual 40 Under Forty competition. They are:

• Scott Foster, partner in the Business & Finance Department of the law firm Bulkley Richardson, develops practical, cost-effective legal strategies that complement the goals of the business and the business owner. His clients range from startups seeking venture capital to established businesses preparing for a transition to the next generation or a transfer to new owners. Foster, a member of the 40 Under Forty Class of 2011, is the co-founder of Valley Venture Mentors, an organization that provides critical mentoring to early-stage, pre-seed companies. He also serves on committees of local organizations focused on growing the business and entrepreneurial community in the Pioneer Valley.
• Jaimye Hebert is currently a vice president of Commercial Lending at Monson Savings Bank. Previously she worked for People’s United Bank (formerly known as the Bank of Western Massachusetts) as a vice president of Commercial Lending and various other positions, including credit officer and portfolio manager. A graduate of Springfield Technical Community College and Western New England University and a 40 Under Forty honoree in 2011, Hebert is a lifelong resident of Western Mass. and serves on the STCC Foundation board of directors. She is also actively involved with local organizations, including the American Cancer Society Relay for Life and the Pioneer Valley Junior Soccer League.
• Lynn Ostrowski is the director of Brand & Corporate Relations at Health New England. Her role includes oversight of brand, marketing and advertising, graphic design, communications, community relations, sponsorships, public relations, and government affairs. She recently joined the faculty of Elms College, appointed program coordinator for the Health Services Administration undergraduate degree. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Health Fitness and her master’s degree in Health Promotion & Wellness Management from Springfield College, and her doctorate in Health Psychology from Capella University.
• Kirk Smith is president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Springfield, a position he took just over a year ago. He has been an operator of residential facilities and a nonprofit executive, minister, and motivational speaker for more than 17 years in Ohio, Florida, and Massachusetts. Smith holds a bachelor’s degree in Science of Human Services and a master’s in Organizational Management and Leadership from Springfield College. Smith has been featured on several national and local television shows and in news publications and magazines discussing YMCA work in urban communities and professional staff development.
• Jim Theroux is the Flavin Professor of Entrepreneurship at UMass Amherst. He had a business career in the cable-TV industry that began with Time-Warner Cable. After several years there, he went out on his own by raising $20 million in venture capital to start a new cable company. That company was sold in 1991, at which time Theroux joined the faculty at UMass Amherst. There, Theroux has partnered with scientists to form new companies. He is a co-founder of two biotech ventures and a food-science company. In addition to angel investing, Theroux is an advisor to many area businesses. He received his MBA at Harvard University and his doctorate in Educational Technology at UMass.

Sponsored by:
40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Principal, Elias Brookings Museum Magnet School

Powe-TerryThe signature statement on Terry Powe’s e-mail is “teamwork makes the dream work.” It’s a principle she believes in and one she heard frequently from her father as a child.
Powe employs the concept in every aspect of her life, which is devoted to helping children succeed.
The decision to leave her job as a literacy coach for the Springfield school system in its reading program and become principal of Elias Brookings Museum Magnet School in 2009 was difficult due to its history and the challenges she knew she would encounter. When she took the job, the school was deemed underperforming by state standards. But this year, double-digit gains in math as well as significant gains in English-language arts raised its status to ‘adequate’ for the first time in eight years.
It has not been an easy task, and Powe’s days are filled with difficult decisions. “But everyone who knows me knows that I get my strength from the Lord Jesus Christ,” she said, explaining that her father was a minister and she grew up in the church.
Her strong spiritual core has helped make her an “adventurous and multi-dimensional person,” evidenced in the variety of civic and volunteer activities she has engaged in.
Powe is a basketball coach for the Longmeadow Parks and Recreation Department, and was director of a Better Chance program in Longmeadow. In that capacity, she and her family — her husband, Maurice (a 40 Under Forty honoree in 2011), and children Tamira, Maurice Jr., and Maya — joined other members in giving young inner-city youths from New York and New Jersey a home while they went to school in Longmeadow.
She has also been involved in the Leadership Emergence and Development Program in Springfield that connects professionals with nonprofit volunteer opportunities, was a Cornerstone Coach, and has conducted school reviews across the nation.
“I dedicate a lot of my time and energy to helping children,” she said. ”It’s been a passion from the time I was little. I’ve always loved to help little people.”
— Kathleen Mitchell

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Sergeant, Westfield Police Department

Hall-EricBeing a police officer in your hometown has a lot of challenges, said Eric Hall. “It can be easy for police officers to get cynical,” he explained, “because 90% of the time you’re dealing with 10% of the population.”
Five years into his job with the Westfield Police Department, Hall was a member of the Community Police Unit (CPU), which has a mission “to get out into the neighborhoods, have them set the agenda for which direction the police need to go — and do the will of the people.”
During that time, he successfully organized small, local crime-prevention units, established a Neighborhood Day event, worked closely with the Westfield Youth Detention Center to assist in job placement, and frequently could be found having lunch with students at the elementary school in his neighborhood — all with the intent to give back to the city which held such prized childhood memories for him. “Being in the CPU reminded me that there were people who wanted to make a difference, to make their town a nicer place to live, and that struck a chord.”
Hall calls himself “a Y man through and through,” and, indeed, most of his fondest memories as a boy were at the YMCA of Greater Westfield. “I had a great family structure growing up, but I still spent a lot of time at the Y when I was younger. And if I can help further an organization that will give other kids the same opportunity, I should be doing that.”
Currently, he’s the chairman of the board at his hometown Y, and for his efforts there, Hall has been awarded the organization’s Character Award. For his community outreach, he has been honored by American Legion Post 454 with its Outstanding Dedication to the Public Award.
For Hall, it all comes back to childhood, though. He remembers the Westfield where he grew up, and with his wife, Dena (herself a 40 Under Forty award winner in 2007), and their two small children, he wants the city to be the same place for them.
— Dan Chase

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Branch Manager, Raymond James Investments

Petrangelo-VincentVincent Petrangelo derives great satisfaction from helping people achieve their financial goals through investing. He also enjoys meeting people from all walks of life and building relationships with them and their families.
In addition to his role as branch manager at Raymond James Investments, he is a partner at DeVillier Petrangelo Wealth Management of Raymond James in Springfield. “It’s gratifying when people are faced with an obstacle or challenge and I can help them,” he said, adding that the knowledge he shares gives them “one more tool in their toolbox of life skills.”
Petrangelo is also vested in the city of Springfield. “I want our microcosm to become self-sufficient and successful, and want to help to break down walls and bring people together,” he said.
That goal, coupled with his desire to help young people, inspires his work on the Advisory Board of the YMCA of Greater Springfield. “The Y is about human development and learning life skills. As a parent, it’s important to me that people realize the depth and breadth of the Y and what it can do for every child,” said the father of Jake, 6, and Mia, 4. In that arena, he is also an active member of a committee tasked with building a new Y Express in Agawam, where he grew up.
Petrangelo also volunteers his time and expertise to Junior Achievement’s annual Stock Market Challenge each year. “Children are lacking in the area of basic financial management, and although this is a small sliver of the topic, it gives them a chance to become exposed to the stock market and how it works.”
He is a 3rd-Degree Master Mason at Elm Belcher Lodge, a volunteer and a title sponsor for the Western Mass 911 Tribute Golf Tournament, a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity, and a former member of the Young Professional Society of Springfield.
Since childhood, he has enjoyed riding ATVs, dirt bikes, and other four-wheel vehicles. Today, his passion for motors and speed still runs strong — so he balances his conservative role at work by riding snowmobiles and motorcycles.
— Kathleen Mitchell

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
President, Ellis Title Company

Ginter-ElizabethElizabeth Ginter believes that, if a person is successful, he or she has an obligation to give back to their community. It’s a code of ethics she lives by, and her involvement in the community is impressive.
She loves Springfield, and although her family moved to Pennsylvania when she was a freshman in high school and she earned a bachelor’s degree from University of Pittsburgh, she couldn’t wait to return to the City of Homes. “It is a unique community with a lot of diversity, and I think it’s a really good place to live,” she said. “There are so many things to do in the area.”
Ginter’s career at Ellis began before she graduated from Western New England University School of Law. Although she wanted to become a tax attorney, she answered an ad that contained the word ‘taxes,’ and was hired by the title company as a law clerk. She worked full-time there while studying for the bar exam, and discovered an immediate affinity for the work.
“I found the perfect job. I was a history major in college, and it suits me well,” she said. In fact, she did so well that she was promoted to president before the age of 30.
Ginter is also on the board of directors for the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield, and serves on a committee that is rewriting YPS’ mission and vision statement. “Part of my quest is to get young professionals to stay in the area and want to work here. It’s important to me,” she said.
She has taken part in a number of charitable endeavors connected to YPS that include Habitat for Humanity, Junior Achievement, and Keep Springfield Beautiful. “I’m on the community outreach committee and co-chair of the golf committee. If there is a committee that needs help, I feel compelled to volunteer. I get a good feeling from it,” Ginter said.
“I am not the loudest person in the room,” she added, “but I am always behind the scenes helping.”
— Kathleen Mitchell

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
President, Pioneer Valley Hotel Group

Parmar-SharoolShardool Parmar has been working in the hospitality industry for about as long as he can remember.
He said he was 10 when he started working in hotels owned and managed by his parents, learning the business from the ground up — literally. “While the other kids were out having fun on their summer vacations, I spent mine cleaning rooms and checking people in,” he recalled.
This early work experience helped provide Parmar with a base of knowledge and understanding of all aspects of this business that has served him well as he’s led the Pioneer Valley Hotel Group (PVHG) to continued expansion and diversification over the years, and made it into a major player in the large and highly competitive hospitality sector of the local economy.
Today, the chain, which he serves as president, includes Comfort Inn & Suites in Ludlow; two facilities in Hadley, Comfort Inn and Hampton Inn; and City Place in Springfield (formerly the Holiday Inn), which is soon to be rebranded under the La Quinta flag. That facility, purchased by the PVHG in 2010, is undergoing extensive renovations, with the work expected to be completed later this year. It’s an example of how the group mixes new construction with acquisition, revitalization, and modernization of older properties.
And even as that work continues, Parmar is shifting his focus to the group’s next major initiative — creation of a conference center in the Village Barn Shops next to the group’s Hampton Inn in Hadley. The project, currently in the planning and financing stage, would create a venue for banquets, meetings, and conferences that would complement the hotel and bring a new dimension to the PVHG’s portfolio, he explained.
Parmar balances his heavy work schedule with community involvement and family time — he and wife, Bhakti, have a daughter, Shivani, and son, Siddharth. He is currently serving on the executive board of the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, and is also on the boards serving the United Way of Hampshire County, the UMass Fine Arts Center, and Lathrop Communities.
— George O’Brien

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Executive Director, the Alliance to Develop Power

Fisk-TimTim Fisk was asked to provide a concise explanation of what the Alliance to Develop Power (ADP) does, and, more importantly, how it goes about that assignment. He chuckled at first, because explaining it isn’t easy, but then he managed to effectively sum up this grassroots organization, now with more than 5,000 members in low-income areas and communities of color in Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties.
“What ADP has done is develop an alternative economic model,” he noted, “that puts power in the hands of those who have historically been cut off from civic life.”
Elaborating, he quoted the ADP mission — to “create a sustainable community economy that leverages power, relationships, and resources,” and said this work manifests in many different ways.
“ADP addresses racial and economic inequalities,” he explained, “ and we do it in three very distinct ways — first, through community organizing, changing policy locally, statewide, and nationally on many issues such as workers’ rights, affordable housing, immigration, and more. And we also do it through community-building initiatives, whether it’s youth-tutoring programs, peer groups, access to health resources, our four food cooperatives, and others.
“And then, the one that’s getting a lot of national attention is our economic-development initiatives,” he continued, adding that ADP owns a number of assets, including 770 units of affordable housing, worker cooperatives, and its most recent initiative, the Bodega Project, which involves neighborhood grocers that will open across the region.
Fisk brings to his job boundless energy, imagination, and skills honed through years of work in the arts, first with the Foundry Theatre in New York City, where he tripled revenues, and later with On the Boards, a renowned contemporary performing-arts facility in Seattle, where he managed the bottom line while also handling marketing, branding, development, and creation of new revenue streams.
Today, he’s taking center stage himself, through innovative, nationally acclaimed work to create and maintain local wealth. In other words, his achievements have always been a work of art.
— George O’Brien

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Election Commissioner, City of Springfield

Oyala-GladysGladys Oyola says she has been “lucky and privileged to have had some great mentors in my life.”
Growing up in the Brightwood section of Springfield, she named many people with a formative experience on her professional development, including Cheryl Coakley-Rivera, the first Latina state representative, who grew up a block away.
Oyola herself is the first Latina to hold her title in Springfield, and she is proud to be another member of the community blazing the way in her hometown. She credits the city with inspiring a grassroots, activist spirit, and said that volunteerism is important if one wants to be actively involved in their community. “Before I was old enough to work, I was volunteering my time, answering phones.”
Where she once helped as a youth, at the Springfield Neighborhood Housing Service, she now sits on the board, in addition to her active roles at the New North Citizen’s Council and Springfield’s Spanish Language Advisory Committee. “It’s an obligation, really,” she said. “Anyone who is in a position such as I am should take part in those types of civic roles for the betterment of where they live.
“And it’s equally important to mentor youth to understand the necessity of these organizations in our lives,” she continued. “I do this with my daughter; I make sure that she comes with me on volunteering opportunities, so that she can see this, and when she’s old enough, that she understands the importance.”
Oyola encourages everyone to examine their lives and to find an outlet to give back. “Whatever field you love — education, sports — become involved in that area and volunteer in your city and town. It just naturally allows you to be connected better to your community.”
Just as many others inspired her as a girl, she said that it’s an important part of her job to lead by example for young women. “This is what others did for me, whether they meant to or not. I want to be a mentor for the cultivation of more females into the world of politics.”
— Dan Chase

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Law Clerk, Shatz, Schwartz & Fentin, P.C.; Springfield City Councilor

Fenton-MichaelMichael Fenton has wanted to be an attorney since he was a young child. “I have a passion for justice and truth and a desire to fight for those ends,” he said.
The Springfield native is an Oliver Wendell Holmes Scholar at Western New England University School of Law and a member of its prestigious Law Review panel. He earned an MBA in December and will graduate with a juris doctorate degree in May. He plans to take the bar exam in July, and currently works as a law clerk at Shatz, Schwartz & Fentin, P.C.
“I have been developing my legal skills through different pathways with the end goal of becoming an effective business/corporate attorney,” Fenton said.
That effectiveness is put to use in a variety of volunteer and civic arenas as Fenton is determined to use his knowledge to make a difference in the community.
At the age of 22, he was elected to the Springfield City Council, then re-elected to a second term in Ward 2, where he has lived for most of his life. He is a trustee at his alma mater, Cathedral High School, and has dedicated countless hours to help rebuild the school, which was heavily damaged by last June’s tornado. “I really believe in Cathedral’s mission,” he said.
Fenton also belongs to the Ward 2 Neighborhood Council in Springfield and is a graduate of the Springfield Citizens Police Academy.
“The opportunities I’ve had have helped me to become more savvy about local issues,” he said. “I want to help people solve problems and achieve desirable results, whether I’m working as an elected official serving constituents, an attorney serving clients, or as a volunteer giving back to the community. I’ve been given a lot, and I’m incredibly fortunate to have had so many academic and professional opportunities at such a young age, and want to help others have the same opportunities.”
— Kathleen Mitchell

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
President, Ondrick Natural Earth

Ondrick-AdamAdam Ondrick’s grandfather started the family of companies that bears the Ondrick name 75 years ago. That’s a long time — but not too old to grow and change.
Take Ondrick Natural Earth, which Adam founded six years ago. Where the original Ted Ondrick Co. grew over the years to be an industry leader in concrete, asphalt, and contaminated soil recycling — providing materials mainly to construction professionals — the new venture serves smaller contractors, architects, landscapers, and do-it-yourselfers.
Ted Ondrick Co. “does a lot of work outside the area, and we wanted to give our company a more local presence, so we came up with the idea of opening a landscape and mason-supply company,” he said.
The public has responded, as the new company has grown by about 25% per year and increased its initial staff of four to 10. It also survived significant early challenges, launching just as ominous economic signs were starting to gel into the Great Recession.
“It was a tough time to start a new company,” Ondrick said. “But we didn’t just wake up one day and decide to start Ondrick Natural Earth; the process of getting the company off the ground took years. It just so happened that the economy was slowing down by then, and we really got the business off under heavy fire. But surviving that has helped us run the business better, really putting the emphasis on the customer and not just the materials. Their needs are foremost.”
Ondrick says he likes working with his father (pictured) and brother, while also working for himself. “I enjoy being in charge of the creative end of the process; that really drives me.”
He also stays active outside of work with his church and groups ranging from the Springfield Rescue Mission to Friends of Chicopee Senior Citizens, as well as supplying the Pioneer Valley Christian School with landscaping materials and labor.
“Three things drive my life — my family, my faith, and my job,” he said. “I don’t think you can be a good business owner without giving back to the community; by giving back, you help provide a good place for your family to live.”
— Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Principal, Brainstream Design

Einstein-BenBen Einstein says it takes “a certain kind of crazy” to work as he does.
And by that, he means the life of a combination serial entrepreneur and inventor, someone who has worked on virtually every aspect of product development, from concept initiation and refinement to prototyping; from small-scale production to full-scale manufacturing.
He does all this through a venture called Brainstream Design, which, Einstein says, brings ideas to life. Such concepts, developed in collaboration with clients looking to bring products to the marketplace, have included everything from a folding chair and ottoman inspired by pop-up books to something called the Unity Remote, a smartphone accessory that, as the name implies, allows people to operate a host of devices with a single remote. And then there’s the Wine Bottle Table, which is sold as a single piece of acrylic with no legs. It is the user’s responsibility to drink wine and to decide how to create their own table.
And Einstein is taking his entrepreneurial flair to another level with a new business venture called Bolt, a Boston-based accelerator program that will focus exclusively on entrepreneurs who want to design physical products, rather than Internet-related concepts.
Einstein cultivated his passion for entrepreneurship and inventing at the Hampshire College Lemelson Center, which focuses students on art, design, and “innovation for social change,” through concentration in such areas as applied design, social entrepreneurship, and art and technology. Einstein said this project-based learning process appealed to him and helped get Brainstream, now based in Northampton, off the ground.
And while he’s made his own serious strides in entrepreneurship, Einstein is also committing large amounts of time and energy to helping others get their start and promoting a culture of innovation in the region. Indeed, he’s taken a lead role with a program called Idea Mill, a conference staged last fall that showcased emerging young businesses and attracted more than 300 attendees from across the Northeast.
Many of them, like Einstein, have that aforementioned certain kind of crazy, which is good for a region striving to become an innovation leader and create jobs.
— George O’Brien

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Business Development Officer, Freedom Credit Union

Nonez-EdwardAt Freedom Credit Union, Edward Nuñez said his primary role is working with the managers of the branch locations to maximize the offerings for their many types of customers, and also overseeing a program to offer benefits to member businesses for their employees. He loves the work that he does, but he said there’s another component that makes this the job of his dreams.
“One of my responsibilities here at Freedom is to oversee our financial-literacy program,” he explained. “What that allows me to do is go into various schools in Western Mass. and educate our young people about credit, the importance of making wise financial decisions, and how to budget. This is something that’s extremely important to me — not only that this message is coming to them, but that it’s coming to them from a member of the Latino community. They leave feeling empowered, and that they, too, can be successful.”
The schools he visits often have an overwhelmingly minority population, and he pragmatically noted that, often in our area’s cities, “a lot of our youths don’t always have good role models. So I’m very passionate about making a positive impression on these kids.”
His efforts in the region outside of his 9-to-5 job are tireless. He’s a vice chair of the Franklin and Hampshire County Regional Employment Board, a member of the advisory committee for the Finance and Marketing Program at Putnam Vocational Technical High School, and he participates in the Springfield School System’s Read Aloud program.
When asked what he enjoys most about his multi-faceted work within the community, Nuñez said it’s the ability to perhaps make a difference in a young life. “Some of these youths have no idea what to expect when they go into the ‘adult world,’” he noted. “So when a kid comes up to me and thanks me for teaching them something, that to me is the most gratifying thing about my job.”
And for those youths impacted by Nuñez’s financial-literacy programs, that makes a lot of cents.
— Dan Chase

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Author, Motivational Speaker, and Playwright, 4King Edward Enterprises Inc.

Dodds-KeshaunWhen Keshawn Dodd was 18, his best friend died from cancer. The loss was severe and catapulted him into what has become his life mission.
“I want people to understand that life is precious,” said the educator, community activist, life coach, husband, and father. He also wants them to know that, no matter what someone’s situation is, “there are people who believe in you, and your faith will carry you through.”
His career has included teaching in two Springfield elementary schools as well as working as an aide for former Springfield Mayor Charles Ryan. He is director of Greek organizations and advisor for the Student Government Assoc. at American International College. He is also a motivational speaker and author of three books and a play titled Who Is On My Side, which are produced through his company, 4King Edward Enterprises Inc.
“My focus with 4King is to develop the minds of youth in education, entrepreneurship, and life,” Dodds said. “I want to make sure today’s young people become better than our current generation. I am big on growth.”
His personal mantra, which he recites daily, “you are better than what you think you are.” He encourages others to adopt it, too.
“It helps me to put things in perspective and know that I can handle anything that comes my way,” he said.
His friend’s death propelled him to write his first book about a character (himself) who morphs into a superhero with overwhelming responsibilities and battles an evil character (the cancer). He read the manuscript to students at Homer Street School when he was teaching there, and their response was so enthusiastic, he ended up publishing it and writing additional manuscripts.
Dodds has been extremely active in civic affairs, is keeper of records for the Springfield Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, and has won a bevy of awards, including the 2012 Springfield Cultural Council Artists Fellowship, the Springfield Public Schools Beacon Award, and the Boston Globe All Scholastic Award.
— Kathleen Mitchell

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Practice Manager and Registered Nurse, Pediatric Services of Springfield

Nordstrom-NeilBeing the practice manager of a growing pediatric group — one that started in East Longmeadow in 1983 and added a second location in Wilbraham in 2005 — certainly keeps Neil Nordstrom busy. But he still craves something more.
“I basically run all facets of the business,” he said. “I do accounting, manage the personnel, basically all the day-to-day operations. I help the billers out. And then I’m a registered nurse, so I also help the nurses out. We have people in each department, but I’m the person they see to put out a lot of fires.
“I enjoy all those aspects of running a business. It’s very challenging, but I look forward to coming to work every day,” said Nordstrom, who has also spearheaded technological innovation in the practice, such as incorporating tablet devices in patient care.
What he craves, however, is more interaction with patients — and he’s doing something about it. “I enjoy the kids, and I love pediatrics, so I’m going back to school and finishing my doctorate as a family nurse practitioner,” he said. “I love business management, but now I’m actually going to get back into the clinical world, and I’ll start seeing patients in 2013.”
But his workplace isn’t the only venue Nordstrom has shown a commitment to young people. He has coached multiple sports in Wilbraham over the years, in addition to five years as baseball coach at Minnechaug High School and a stint as board member at the Scantic Valley YMCA.
When his three boys started growing up, he couldn’t devote time to all those activities, but he’s still active in youth sports, coaching his kids’ baseball and basketball teams.
“Over the past year, I’ve been helping the Wilbraham Recreation Department to build its baseball program,” he explained, including a clinic for coaches on teaching fundamentals to young athletes.
“That’s one of the things I love to do,” he said. “I love to coach, I love kids, and I love allowing kids to get better, getting them the skills they need to succeed.”
— Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Certified Financial Planner and Owner, the DiStefano Group

Distefano-ChristopherWhen asked what he does for work, Christopher DiStefano modestly sums it up: “I specialize in helping people plan for retirement.”
Over his 16 years in that field, he’s not only been actively managing his clients’ futures, but also led the way in educating people on the changing nature of retirement and how they need to prepare. He started with classes at local colleges, preparing thousands of imminent retirees on their specific financial needs.
“Education is an integral part of the planning process,” he explained, “because the most important thing people lack when they’re approaching retirement is the knowledge of what to do. They’re crippled by taking no action because they’re afraid of making a mistake.”
“It’s becoming increasingly important for people my age that we’re investing properly, doing what we need to do now, and knowing how much to save,” he continued, adding that one of the main reasons for this is that traditional pension plans from an employer-based fund are “going the way of the dodo.”
The financial-services industry has taken notice of DiStefano’s accomplishments. The winner of numerous awards for his financial acumen, he said such recognition is flattering, and it’s gratifying to work with adults on preparation for retirement. But even more rewarding is the work he does on behalf of children, and it comes in many forms.
He’s a soccer coach in a league for youngsters, including his two children. Meanwhile, he’s an active supporter of the Mass. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the Children’s Miracle Network, and the YWCA. “I like to think that childhood is a special time,” he said. “There are children in broken homes and abusive situations, and agencies like the YWCA do such a good job to support them. Anything you can do for children is important.”
Taking care of the youngest to the oldest, DiStefano said there are common denominators. “A lot stems back to relationships I had with some teachers growing up. It’s so important to have a good teacher, and also to recognize in students the potential of what they can and should be doing.”
— Dan Chase

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Lead Interventionist, Springfield Academy Middle School

Nielsen-KelliAnnThere is nothing Kelli Nielsen enjoys more than immersing herself in a challenging environment and making a difference.
“My favorite quote is ‘the heart is what makes it great,’” said Nielsen, who is passionate about travel, working with students, and community service. She is lead interventionist at Springfield Academy Middle School and has been moved to progressively more difficult classrooms due to her ability to reach students labeled ‘unteachable’ in a mainstream environment.
“The ones who present the most difficult challenges are the ones who need the most support,” she said, adding that she helped change the environment to a place focused on academics rather than behavioral issues. “The students my team works with have a lot of social and emotional needs. But I love working with this population and have grown along with them. If I could, I’d like to get them out into the world to do community service, because being able to step outside of your environment is an incredible experience.”
It’s something she has done with students at her alma mater, Westfield State University. Nielsen recently co-instructed a Westfield State Global Service Learning Class in Nicaragua where students built a technology classroom in a destitute area in a week. And in 2007, she served as chaperone to university students who helped rebuild a musicians’ village in New Orleans with Habitat for Humanity. “The growth our teams experienced is immeasurable,” she said.
She is also chair of the Membership and Diversity Committee at Westfield State, and the youngest president-elect of the 37,000-member alumni organization. Nielsen served as site coordinator for the Assoc. of College and University Housing Officers International study tour of campuses in New England and Montreal, is a volunteer at the Westfield Soup Kitchen, serves as an aide to the Westfield’s Business Improvement District coordinator, and was progressively promoted at Brantwood Camp for Girls in New Hampshire, where she helped facilitate a creative learning environment.
“Working with a group of students and seeing them learn and grow really motivates me,” she said.
— Kathleen Mitchell

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Supportive Housing Program Site Director, Springfield YWCA

Crocheture-MicheleMichele Crochetiere said that a famous quote from Madeleine Albright has stuck with her over the last several years: “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”
Her jobs over the past decade have been in property management, but there was always something within that drove her to a higher purpose. Moving back to Western Mass. after a successful stint with a nationwide real-estate-management company, she said that she immediately joined the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield and sat on the board for Dress for Success. From there, she said, her involvement in the area “just blossomed.”
At the YWCA, she runs the residential-apartment communities for survivors of domestic violence, and much of her volunteer work is focused on areas of social justice — from her board position at Zonta, helping disenfranchised women, to the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission’s strategic-planning commission for the Knowledge Corridor Project on Fair Housing, to the Rental Housing Assoc. of Greater Springfield, the AIDS Foundation of Western Mass., and many, many others.
“But ‘social justice’ is such a buzzword,” she said. “Everyone has rights, and everyone has needs. What it takes is figuring out what those are. Everyone needs help at some point; sometimes it’s the need for a place to stay, and sometimes it’s a network connection for a job.”
Her colleagues across the board praise Crochetiere as someone motivated to volunteer not for her own professional advancement, but as a genuinely driven participant in making the area a better place for all.  “For me, it’s pretty simple,” she acknowledged. “I do this because I like it. I could come up with some abstract notion about the importance of donating one’s time — but it’s a selfish thing. I meet awesome people, and I always take away great experiences from those people I meet.”
In recognition for her efforts, Crochetiere has been named among the Women Business Owners Alliance 2011 Top 10 Business Women in the Pioneer Valley, and earned the 2012 Western Mass. Women magazine’s Volunteer of the Year Award. And now, she’s one of this year’s 40 Under Forty.
— Dan Chase

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Director of Public Relations, Yankee Candle Co.

Woods-KarenMarieIn her nine years at Yankee Candle, Karen Woods has worked in a number of capacities, from human resources to wholesale to public relations. It’s that current role, she said, that most lights her fire.
“I have the opportunity to share the company’s history and products, and create campaigns that resonate with consumers,” Woods said, adding that she also oversees Yankee Candle’s charitable and philanthropic efforts.
“I truly believe I represent a product that evokes memories; it’s an emotional product that makes people feel good. Candles bring light and fragrance, and so many consumers say Yankee Candle fragrances hold real meaning for them. It’s not just a product on the shelf, but it actually brings happiness to people.”
Woods brings that same spirit to her civic involvement, particularly in her extensive work for the American Heart Assoc., including leadership in the annual Go Red for Women luncheon.
“Although I sit on the executive leadership team, I’m more than just a person sitting there,” she said. “It’s not just something for my résumé; it certainly has meaning to me, and I take pride in it.”
That’s because heart disease runs in her immediate family, and that of her husband. “A lot of people have been touched by heart disease in my family. And, although I can’t change my genetic makeup, I can make changes in myself,” she said, which is why she makes an effort to promote a healthy lifestyle both through the AHA and in her own life. “Most people don’t know that heart disease is the number-one killer of women, and they don’t know their numbers and their risks.”
She’s also involved in Link to Libraries, promoting early literacy, and autism-awareness efforts, among other activities.
“Giving back to the community is who we are as a family,” said Woods, who welcomed her first child with her husband, James, earlier this year. “If I can make a difference in one person’s life, it’s worth all the time and effort. It’s not a job, or just a meeting I have to go to; it’s part of my lifestyle.”
— Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Owner and Principal, RMC Strategies; Marketing Consultant, Get Set Marketing

McCollum-RyanRyan McCollum wants to make the world a better place, and uses much of his time to that end. “It is the driving force behind everything I do,” he said.
He said he’s been inspired by strong leaders since he was a child, which led him to the political arena. “I want to help people get elected who will make our lives better and make our communities a better place to live.”
After working on a number of political campaigns in Boston and serving as legislative director for the state’s Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, he returned to Springfield and established his own full-service consulting and government-relations firm.
However, when he discovered many young professionals were leaving the city, he became a founding member of the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield. “In order to retain and attract young people, you need to have social things for them to do and a place where they can network, whether they’re looking for a job, starting a business, or want to move up the career ladder,” he explained. “Plus, having the society here is a great tool for companies looking to attract and retain young professionals.”
He believes in synergy and collaboration, and his involvement in YPS led to a second job as marketing consultant for Get Set Marketing.
McCollum also serves on the board of the Boston-based Irish International Immigration Center and is on the advisory board for Best Buddies of Western Massachusetts, established to create lifelong partnerships between people with and without intellectual disabilities. “I like to be able to help people at the board level,” he said, adding that his parents always stressed the importance of public service.
That passion extends into his online presence. He has almost 3,000 friends on Facebook and uses the social medium to put forth messages about issues he believes in.
And he spends his days — and nights — working to make a difference behind the scenes. “I want to leave the world I better place than I found it.”
— Kathleen Mitchell

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Executive Director, AIDS Foundation of Western Mass.

Crevier-JessicaWhile working toward her master’s degree in Nonprofit Management and Philanthropy at Bay Path College, Jessica Roncarati-Howe was asked by a professor — a trustee of the AIDS Foundation of Western Mass. — to assist with one of that organization’s events.
It turned out to be a life-changing experience.
“When I met with people and saw how dedicated and passionate they were, I was completely hooked,” she said. “After less than a year, I was invited onto the board of trustees.” About five years into that role, that board wanted to hire an executive director, and she got the job.
“I wanted to build a career around working with people with that much passion,” said Roncarati-Howe, who is also an accomplished visual artist. “It was a thrilling prospect.”
And also a challenging one. As the foundation’s only paid staff member, she’s in charge of marketing and development, administering the grant program, co-chairing most events, and overseeing a cadre of volunteers and interns — “everything from vacuuming to major executive roles.”
The AIDS Foundation has three missions: providing financial assistance to about 100 patients a year for expenses like rent, utilities, medications, and other basic needs; educational components, including the training of young peer educators to bring awareness into high schools and colleges; and referral services to help people with the disease access health care and other resources.
Those efforts are making a difference. Greater Springfield has the highest rate of infection in the state, with 1,200 known AIDS patients in the City of Homes alone — many more than that, actually, since typically, only 1 in 5 victims know they’re infected. So Roncarati-Howe knows that her organization’s initiatives are saving lives.
“Every time I’m able to help a person find the services they need, or they receive a grant from the foundation, it could be life-saving or life-altering. It is just unspeakably gratifying,” she said.
“How many people can get out of bed every day and do something they absolutely love?” she added. “Not only that, I’m able to do something that directly affects quality of life for people in our community. I can’t overstate how grateful I am to have that opportunity.”
— Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Massachusetts State Senator, First Hampden District

Welch-JamesThe tornado that roared through Western Mass. last June passed through several communities and neighborhoods. A common denominator for many of them is the fact that they lie in the First Hampden District.
That’s Sen. James Welch’s district, only he would never call it that. He contends that such positions belong to the people, not those who occupy them for two terms or even 20. And this is the attitude he’s taken with him through a career in public service that has also included stints as West Springfield city councilor, state representative (6th Hampden District), and as aide to former state Sen. Stephen Buoniconti before succeeding him in that role.
And while he’s seen and done a lot in public service, nothing fully prepared Welch for what transpired June 1, 2011 — although every career stop helped make him ready to effectively serve his constituents that were affected. And there were many of them. Indeed, the First Hampden District includes all of West Springfield, a community that was hit hard, as well as Springfield’s South End, Forest Park, and other sections that fell in the tornado’s path.
Welch said the twister and its aftermath provided many indelible images of devastation, but also innumerable — and inspiring — examples of people rising to the occasion and working together to help communities overcome adversity. And while he’s proud of the work he and others in the Legislature have done and continue to do to help people get back on their feet, he says his focus is always on the day-to-day aspects of his job description.
“What probably keeps me going every day is the interaction and constituent service,” he explained, adding that it’s been this way since he was a legislative aide. “And when I first got into public service, I didn’t necessarily understand what constituent service was. I’ve learned that it means being as accessible as possible to people when they do have an issue or a problem.”
Succeeding in that mission has made him an effective leader on Beacon Hill — and a member of the 40 Under Forty.
— George O’Brien

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Vice President of Marketing, Member Services, Pioneer Valley Federal Credit Union

Marchand-Trecia“Empowerment” is the word that best describes the driving force behind Trecia Marchand’s personal and professional accomplishments. Her 12-year-old son, Tremar, is her priority, and she wants to empower him so he knows he can achieve anything he is willing to work for.
Marchand has achieved a great deal herself, and takes pride in helping others succeed. She dispenses knowledge gained in her profession by speaking about financial literacy at venues that have included Bay Path College, Westover Air Reserve Base, and Holy Tabernacle Church in Hartford, where she is a member. Faith is key to Marchand, and she is on the board and organizational development committee there. “The church provides my spiritual compass, and it is very important to me to be able to give back to it,” she said. “I enjoy working with organizations that try to meet the greater good of society and empower people.”
Marchand has worked in credit unions for more than 13 years, and is proud to be employed “at a place that gives so much and helps people put their best financial foot forward.” She graduated from the One Day program at Bay Path College while fulfilling her duties as a full-time employee and single mother. “I think Bay Path is amazing; it changed my life and is such a supportive environment.”
Marchand serves on the college’s Board of Trustees, Audit Committee, Student Life Committee, and Alumni Association Council. In turn, Bay Path has recognized Marchand in various ways; she was selected to represent graduate-student alumni in 2011, was highlighted as a success story, represented One Day and graduate students on the Search Committee for the College Provost in 2010, was selected to represent the One Day alumni via a special address to the board in 2009, and was named an Innovation Award winner in 2008 as well as being recognized for her service excellence.
She believes everyone has a purpose in life, and she has clearly found hers. “Your authenticity comes across to others,” she said, “when they see you truly excited about what you can offer the world.”
— Kathleen Mitchell

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Manager of Public Affairs, Baystate Medical Center

Craft-BenYou won’t find it on his résumé, but Ben Craft lists among many work experiences a short stint as “professional sumo wrestler.”
Make that very short, said Craft, noting that he was paid what amounts to $300 for a few appearances in the ring against college-level sumo wrestlers when he was on a one-year teaching assignment in the Japanese coastal town of Kuchinotsu, just outside Nagasaki.
This would be the first of many intriguing business mailing addresses for Craft. Indeed, other stops have been at the Wall Street Journal, where he served for some time as an assistant preparing the daily competition report and later served as editor, and the United Nations building, where he specialized in environmental issues in human development.
Today, he works in Baystate Health’s corporate offices on Chestnut Street in Springfield, but practically since the day he arrived in 2008, much of his focus has been on the $296 million project that used to be called the Hospital of the Future. Now, it’s the hospital of the present, or, more formally, the MassMutual Wing and Davis Family Heart and Vascular Center.
While that project has certainly dominated his time and energy, Craft said there are intriguing stories being written in the many departments within the Baystate system every day, and it is his informal job description to help relate them.
“I’m very fortunate in my job in that I get to tell the stories, and I get to be around the people who really make these things happen,” he explained. “I like to think of myself as a writer, and working here is a writer’s paradise; you have compelling stories, drama, larger-than-life characters, and emotional intensity.”
While his work keeps him quite busy, Craft has managed to find time for work in the community, especially with Best Buddies, which he serves as chairman of its advisory board; he was named champion of the year for Best Buddies of Western Mass. for his fund-raising and advisory leadership.
He saves most of his non-working time, though, for his wife Erin and daughter Emma — a family that will soon be larger, as the Crafts are expecting their second child in June.
— George O’Brien