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Class of 2018

40 Under 40 Class of 2018 Cover Story

Announcing the 12th Annual Cohort of 40 Under Forty Honorees

40under40-logo2017aWhen BusinessWest launched a program in 2007 to honor young professionals in Western Mass. — not only for their career achievements, but for their service to the community — there was little concern that the initial flow of nominations might slow to a trickle years later.

We were right. In fact, 40 Under Forty has become such a coveted honor in the region’s business community that the flow has turned into a flood, with more than 180 unique nominations arriving this year, making the job of five independent judges tougher than ever.

They did their job well, however, as you’ll find while reading through the profiles on the coming pages. The format is a bit different this year — instead of being interviewed, the winners were free to craft and write out their own thoughts — but, collectively, they speak of a wave of young talent that is only getting larger during what can only be described as an economic renaissance in Western Mass.

As usual, they hail from a host of different industries, from law to banking; from education to healthcare; from media to retail, just to name a few. Many are advancing the work of long-established businesses, while others, with an entrepreneurial bent, created their own opportunities instead of waiting for them to emerge.

40 Under Forty Class of 2018

Amanda Abramson
Yahaira Antonmarchi
Lindsay Barron
Nathan Bazinet
Andrew Bresciano
Saul Caban
Jamie Campbell
Crystal Childs
Nathan Costa
Jamie Daniels


But there are, as always, some common denominators, including excellence within one’s profession, a commitment to giving back to the community, dedication to family and work/life balance, and a focus on what else they do in each of those realms.

The class of 2018 will be celebrated at the annual 40 Under Forty Gala on Thursday, June 21 at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke. A limited number of tables are available, and a number of individual seats and standing-room-only tickets are available as well — but they will sell out quickly.

The gala will also feature the announcement of the winner of the fourth annual Continued Excellence Award, a recognition program that salutes the 40 Under Forty honoree who has most impressively added to their résumé of accomplishments in the workplace and within the community, as chosen by a panel of judges. Nominations are still being accepted through Monday, May 14 at businesswest.com/40-under-forty-continued-excellence-award.

Speaking of judges, we thank those who scored the more than 180 nominations for this year’s 40 Under Forty competition (their story HERE). They are:

Ken Carter, member of the UMass Amherst Polymer Science and Engineering Department;
Mark Fulco, president of Mercy Medical Center;
Jim Hickson, senior vice president and commercial regional president for the Pioneer Valley and Connecticut for Berkshire Bank;
Angela Lussier, CEO and founder of the Speaker Sisterhood; and
Kristi Reale, partner at Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C..

Presenting Sponsors

nortwestern-mutual peoplesbank-logo


hne_logo_cmyk_stack-page-001 isenberg



Photography for this special section by Leah Martin Photography

40 Under 40 Class of 2018

Owner, Ohana School of Performing Arts; Age 32; Education: Wagner College, UMass Amherst

Ashley Kohl

Ashley Kohl

Born and raised in South Hadley, Kohl is a graduate of Pioneer Valley Performing Arts High School and has danced for the majority of her lifetime. Her six years of experience as a co-host and associate producer of WWLP-22News’ NBC weekday morning lifestyle program Mass Appeal allowed her the chance to discover what fuels her soul and what her true purpose is: to bring joy to people of all ages and abilities through dance. She says her two children, Summer, 6, and Brody, 5, are her heart, soul, and purpose.

What did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to dance on the castle stage in Disney World. And be a mom.

How do you define success? True happiness. Bringing joy to other peoples’ lives.

What three words best describe you? Positive, compassionate, energetic.

What do you like most about Western Massachusetts? This community is down-to-earth, sincere, and caring. I love being part of a community of artists and big-hearted heroes.

Who has been your best mentor, and why? My parents, for believing in me and my dreams, supporting my journey, and raising me to value family over everything — life starts and ends with family. I’ll never forget that.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? To make a positive difference in someone’s life. To be kind, always. And to work hard, each day, at building a legacy that inspires people to do the most good and love one another.

What are you passionate about? Spreading a message of inclusion and celebrating difference. We are each born with gifts to offer this world — we need to celebrate each other! I’m also passionate about my children — and all children. Their innocence, love for humanity, sense of wonder, imagination, and boundless energy inspires me every day. While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.

What goals have you set for yourself? I want to leave a legacy of love. I want my children to be kind, treat everyone with love, and know they can change the world.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? That I loved with my whole heart and lived my purpose. That I was put here for a reason, and I fulfilled my mission and lived it passionately and fully.

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

40 Under 40 Class of 2018

President, Springfield Thunderbirds; Age 35; Education: BA, Northeastern University

Nathan Costa

Nathan Costa

Born and raised in Springfield, Costa has spent his entire decade-plus career in the American Hockey League, starting as an account executive for the San Antonio Rampage after graduating from Northeastern, and later as a founding member of the league’s Team Business Services department. He joined the Thunderbirds franchise at inception as executive vice president, was promoted to team president and owner after the conclusion of the inaugural season, and has led the Thunderbirds to explosive business growth.

What did you want to be when you grew up? I always knew I wanted to work in sports, and originally, I wanted to be a reporter or a broadcaster.

Who has been your best mentor, and why? I’d say my grandfather, Charles Wright. He taught me there is no such word as ‘can’t’ — there is only ‘can,’ and that has stuck with me my entire life. I have had many people tell me that what I’ve done in my career was impossible, specifically having a successful AHL franchise in Springfield — but I never allowed that to take over.

What actor would play you in a movie about your life? Adrian Grenier from Entourage.

Whom do you look up to, and why? Like many people, my parents have been two individuals that I have always looked up to. There have been ups and downs along the way, but the one constant has been their love and support, and they’ve always encouraged me to chase my dreams. Professionally? I’d say AHL President David Andrews. I learned so much during my time with him. He is a true professional, and having a chance to work with him day in and day out for a number of years provided me with a foundation to be successful.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? That I was fair, and that they felt fulfilled in their roles, and learned the value of working hard. I’ve tried to create a culture within our office that allows people to be themselves and enable that to shine through in their work. They deserve just as much credit for this award as I do, because without them, none of our success would be possible.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? I’d say Bruce Springsteen at the moment. My mom was a big Springsteen fan, so I got to listen to him a lot growing up. It’s not until recently that I have found so many similarities between his music and my own life. His journey was a lot like my own, leaving home at a young age to find himself and chase his dreams, just like I did.

40 Under 40 Class of 2018

Director of Kehillah, Springfield Jewish Community Center; Age 26 Education: BS, Springfield College; MS, Bay Path University

 Bethany Young

Bethany Young

Young grew up in Upstate New York with two older sisters and an older brother. She earned her undergraduate degree at Springfield College, where she ran on the track and field team. After graduation, she began working at the Springfield Jewish Community Center, and through Kehillah, a JCC program that offers programs for individuals with special needs, her eyes were opened to a special population of people with different abilities. Young is currently working toward her master’s degree in applied behavior analysis with an eye on becoming a board-certified behavior analyst. She loves spending time with friends, playing ‘name that tune,’ sweets, and learning.

What did you want to be when you grew up? My first career choice when I was really little was to be a brown bird like the ones in my backyard. My family likes to remind me of that often. I contemplated being a pharmacist, a teacher, and an athletic trainer. The one desired career that has remained a constant for me is to be a hospice nurse.

How do you define success? Success is putting a smile on someone’s face without them telling you they needed it.

Who has been your best mentor, and why? I am incredibly fortunate to have met several beautiful, fierce, and strong people in my life that have lent me their guidance. I’ve learned so much from them all and continue to be inspired by their merits.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? To not press ‘snooze’ one more time.

What goals have you set for yourself? I hope to make my parents proud, my siblings feel loved, and my friends feel confident in what they are. I also want to better my community by giving as much of myself as I can to it. My community includes my family, friends, career, and geographical location. I hope to make a difference that lasts over time.

Whom do you look up to? There are no better people, or parents, than my mom and dad. Those two are my best (and favorite) role models.

Photography by Leah Martin Photography




40 Under 40 Class of 2018

Branch Supervisor, Springfield City Library; Age 30; Education: BA, Hampshire College; MLS, Simmons College

Caitlin Kelley

Caitlin Kelley

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Kelley initially pursued librarianship, thinking she could read all day. Not the case! After stints at Northeastern University’s Snell Library and the Nantucket Atheneum, she landed at Springfield’s Mason Square branch in 2013. Since then, she’s had the good fortune to collaborate with community members, nonprofits, and local librarians on a variety of projects, from setting up community gardens, health programming, and legal clinics to job-training programs, kids’ art classes, and jazz festivals. She lives in Easthampton with her partner, Nick Borges, and enjoys puttering around their vegetable garden.

What did you want to be when you grew up? For a long time, I wanted to be an architect or interior designer, which probably explains why my boyfriend and I often spend our weekends demoing and renovating parts of the house.

How do you define success? One part of me likes to see positive, quantitative outputs that demonstrate the effectiveness of the library’s services and programs. On a personal level, though, success feels most palpable when it takes the form of a life touched — a participant in one of our job-seeker workshops landing a job in their field of choice or a kiddo telling me, excitedly, how the forget-me-not seeds they got at the library started to germinate in a pot on their windowsill.

What do you like most about Western Massachusetts? I appreciate the sense of community here and the loveliness of the landscape — I’m always struck by the view of the valley from Mt. Tom when I drive home.

Who has been your best mentor, and why? My mother, Ann Marie Rocheleau, taught me to really care about people. She’s a criminologist and a professor, and I’ve always admired the way she sees people as a whole and treats them accordingly. She encourages me to do the best work that I can and to accept and meet the challenges that come my way. “It is what it is,” she always says. And she’s a wonderful listener.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? Oscar Wilde, hands down. Such a mind and a wit. I’d love to hear his perspective on the wild world we live in today.

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

40 Under 40 Class of 2018

Marketing and Creative Consultant; Age 37; Education: Holyoke Community College

Crystal Childs

Crystal Childs

Childs is a graphic designer and marketing consultant with almost 20 years of experience in the field, including 10 years at Balise Motor Sales in various marketing positions and, most recently, as the founder of Splash Marketing and Creative. Childs has continuously sought out opportunities for professional development, training at companies such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter. She currently sits on the board of directors for the Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce and chairs its marketing committee. She is also co-founder of the annual EMBEE Marketing and Business Summit. She lives with her husband and daughter in Westfield.

How do you define success? Success isn’t defined by the dollars in your bank account or physical possessions. If you wake up every morning and look forward to what the day brings, if you’re happy with the work you’re doing, the work you’ve done, if you’re happy with yourself, then you’re successful.

What do you like most about Western Massachusetts? I’ve always loved that the mountains, the East Coast, and two major cities are just an hour or two car drive away — not to mention the states that surround us. I love variety!

Who has been your best mentor, and why? Mike Balise of Balise Motor Sales. This man was a true inspiration to many. Perhaps without knowing it, he took me under his wing and taught me how to remain calm in stressful situations and not sweat the small stuff. He inspired me to give back, to be selfless, and to always do what’s right. He was a constant source of encouragement, and he always had the best advice. He was my mentor, and he’s been missed since his passing in 2015.

40 Under 40 Class of 2018

Meteorologist, Western Mass News; Age 32; Education: BS, Western Connecticut State University

Jacob Wycoff

Jacob Wycoff

For the past three years, Wycoff has been the evening meteorologist with Western Mass News in Springfield. He produces an award-winning segment called “10 Towns in 10 Days,” where he visits local towns to take in the sights and sounds. Wycoff got bit by the weather bug in 1993 during the Storm of the Century. A few years later, Twister was released and solidified his dream to become a weatherman. He is a dedicated husband and proud father, and enjoys giving back to the community through various organizations.

What did you want to be when you grew up? A meteorologist! I’m lucky to have parents and teachers who helped me reach my childhood goal.

How do you define success? The ultimate success in life will be for my daughter to grow up and say I was a great dad. Everything else would be icing on the cake.

What three words best describe you? Caring, funny, loyal.

Who has been your best mentor, and why? I have multiple mentors, mainly from my internship days. Geoff Fox, Bob Ryan, and Vytas Reid were instrumental in helping me shake the nerves and learn the science of TV weather.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? To live my values every day. It’s also kinda important to get my weather forecast correct.

What are you passionate about? Because of my job, I’ve been able to reach a lot of youngsters through school visits. I look to inspire kids to be whatever they want to be in life, but especially the STEM fields.

What fictional character do you relate to most, and why? Charlie Brown. We both have the same hairline.

Whom do you look up to, and why? I look up to my wife, Sujata, a chemistry teacher turned journalist. She’s someone who epitomizes hard work and dedication. She wasn’t afraid to follow her passion of journalism after being a teacher for six years.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? St. Francis of Assisi. He’s been a role model of sorts, so much so that I named my daughter in his honor. He gave up worldly goods and lived very simply.

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

40 Under 40 Class of 2018

President, BKaye Realty and Insurance; Age 38; Education: BBA, Bluffton University

Bryan Kaye

Bryan Kaye

Western Mass. has always been home for Kaye. He has had careers in financial aid, property management, and banking, all while also building his real-estate business. In 2014, he left his position as vice president of Commercial Lending to focus on expanding his real-estate company. Since then, the company has added an insurance division, interior design, and a school for real-estate licensing. Ever-growing, BKaye’s mission is to help clients with all their real-estate needs with quality, integrity, and loyalty. In addition, Kaye has served local organizations including SCORE, Arrha Credit Union, and the East Longmeadow parade committee.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Believe it or not, I’ve wanted to own my own business since middle school.

How do you define success? Getting to the end of the race and hearing, “well done, good and faithful servant.”

What three words best describe you? Quality, integrity, loyalty.

What do you like most about Western Massachusetts? I love the diversity in places, people, cultures, food, and seasons. One minute, you can be in any number of downtowns with the typical inner-city vibe, and within 20 minutes, you can be in the middle of nowhere up in a hilltown or farmland.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? To do something that leaves an impact.

What goals have you set for yourself? To build an organization that helps people achieve their goals in life — whether it be in real estate, financial, or personally focused. We want to teach people to think outside of the box.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? He was unlike any other guy I’ve ever met.

40 Under 40 Class of 2018

Business Development Specialist, Connecticut Business Systems; Age 30; Education: BS, Bryant University

Jamie Campbell

Jamie Campbell

Campbell was born and raised in Springfield and played Division I college basketball on a full athletic scholarship. In her job, she works to help businesses with their workflow and efficiency. Passionate about giving back to her community, she loves to be outside, playing sports, laughing, and spending time with friends and family. She also spends a lot of time supporting causes like the Red Cross, Unify Against Bullying, and the Alzheimer’s Assoc.

What did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a K-9 cop. I love dogs and always wanted to help people.

How do you define success? Success to me is feeling happy and fulfilled. I like nice things and am motivated by the thought of financial freedom, but someone can drive a nice car and travel the world but feel unhappy. I know I had a successful day when I go to bed with a smile and wake up excited.

What three words best describe you? Smiley, compassionate, outgoing.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? To enjoy my journey. My goal is to not let the little things get to me and to live in the moment. It’s easy to get distracted by the little things that may not go your way and to always be focused on the future. I try to let go of things I can’t control.

What are you passionate about? I’m passionate about giving back. I have had help throughout my life to get to where I am, and I often think back on the people who helped me. I want one day for someone to be happy and successful and think back to me as someone who helped them.

What goals have you set for yourself? My goals have always been to live a life without regret — try new things, travel to new places, and not fear the unknown. I go with my gut and trust that what happens is what was supposed to happen.

Whom do you look up to, and why? I look up to my parents. They have always focused on being happy and putting family first, and they have always pushed me to pursue my dreams.

40 Under 40 Class of 2018

Co-owner and Marketing Director, Mercedes-Benz of Springfield; Age 39; Education: MS, Lehigh University

Michelle Wirth

Michelle Wirth

Wirth has spent the past 18 years working for the Mercedes-Benz brand. She started her career in the Engineering department at Mercedes-Benz USA in 2000. She then held positions in PR and marketing before entering retail. She learned to drive stick on a Dodge Neon during an internship at Chrysler Corp. in 1997. That same summer, she got her first (and only) ticket for drag racing a Viper during the infamous Woodward Cruise in Detroit. She and her husband, Peter, have four children.

What did you want to be when you grew up? I toggled between lawyer, doctor, and Oprah Winfrey.

How do you define success? The ultimate symbol of success is time independence. When you can choose how you spend each and every minute of your time without restriction, you’ve made it.

What three words best describe you? Driven, caring, mom.

What do you like most about Western Massachusetts? The people!

Who has been your best mentor, and why? My mom and dad — the best example setters, cheerleaders, and sage advisors on the planet.

What actress would play you in a movie about your life? Sandra Bullock.

What are you passionate about? I believe in the power of every individual, and I am committed to each and every person realizing their true potential, no matter what circumstances he or she may have been born into. This takes shape in myriad ways.

Whom do you look up to, and why? I believe the only person holding you back from achieving your dreams is … you. To all those going back to school to get a higher degree, especially working parents, I have so much respect for your decision and admire the sacrifices you make to achieve your goals. To all the inventors, tinkerers, advocates, and change agents … thanks for making the world a better place for us all.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? There are so many people … John and Jackie Kennedy, Nelson Mandela, John Lennon, Oprah Winfrey … but if I had to choose one, I would love to meet Albert Einstein, just to pick his brain.

Photography by Leah Martin Photography

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