The Search is on for the Forty 4o Under Forty Class of 2015
“There were so many deserving candidates to choose from that it was really difficult to rate everybody,” said Rothschild, co-owner of the marketing firm chikmedia and a member of the 40 Under Forty class of 2011.
“No two candidates are the same; everyone has different strengths or some sort of leadership role that’s a personal cause, or has done something different from the rest, so it was really tough having to assign a numerical score,” she added. “We had a lot of candidates who were involved in a half-dozen things, serving on committees, where someone else wasn’t as involved in local committees, but had one leadership role that was huge and super impactful in the community. How do you balance that?”
That’s just one question this year’s judges HERE will ponder as they sort through nominations for the class of 2015. Coming off a record number of applicants (more than 150) in 2014, the 40 Under Forty program shows no signs of slowing down as it enters its ninth year.
BusinessWest launched the program in 2007 as a way to spotlight the accomplishments of younger professionals throughout Western Mass. — not only their on-the-job achievements, but their often-extensive volunteer work with organizations that benefit their communities.
There were many motivations for creating the program, said BusinessWest Editor George O’Brien, listing everything from a desire to identify rising stars to encouraging individuals to get involved in the community and, in short, do the things necessary to become a 40 Under Forty winner.
“Within just a few years, 40 Under Forty became a brand, as well as a goal for many young people in the business community, nonprofit sector, and public-service realm,” said O’Brien. “It’s become a benchmark, if you will, a symbol of excellence that, above all, identifies someone as a leader.”
Over the years, the program has highlighted individuals from a wide range of businesses and industries, including nonprofits. In addition, a healthy number of honorees each year are true entrepreneurs, individuals who have taken risks, developed their own business plans, and built companies that in turn create jobs.
“It was very exciting for me to see a ton of people I had never heard of, people who had started businesses,” Rothschild said. “I had a very exciting and positive feeling reading about these talented individuals who choose to make Western Mass. their home. It resonated with me as a small-business owner. It was really inspiring.”
That process begins with individuals nominating the people who inspire them, either online HERE or with a nomination form found in this issue and subsequent issues.
Jim Sheils, partner at Springfield-based law firm Shatz, Schwartz and Fentin, also judged last year’s bumper crop of nominations, and was as overwhelmed — in a good way — as Rothschild.
“It really was a difficult process because all the applications we went through were pretty stellar,” he said. “It was so encouraging to see the type of young talent we have here in the Pioneer Valley, who will be up and coming in the business community. But it was also very difficult to go through them all and figure out who were 10s and who were less than 10s. Winnowing them down, I must have gone through the pile four times to make my final cut.”
In the end, Sheils said, “I was very pleased with the final 40. We’re very fortunate to have the level of talent and dedication we have in the community.”
With competition expected to be just as fierce this year, nominators have to raise their game, said Kate Campiti, BusinessWest’s associate publisher. “That’s where it starts, with the nomination. It needs to be complete, it needs to be thorough, and it needs to essentially answer the question, ‘why is this individual worthy of a 40 Under Forty plaque?’”
The nomination form requests basic information, said Campiti, and can be supported with other material, such as a résumé, testimonials, and even press clippings highlighting an individual’s achievements in their profession or service to their community. Nominations must be received by the end of the business day (5 p.m.) on Feb. 6. The five judges will then score those nominations, and the winners will be notified by mail by the end of the month.
The chosen 40 will be profiled in the magazine’s April 20 edition, then toasted at the annual gala reception on June 18 at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke.
“The gala has become a happening, a not-to-be missed gathering that is also the year’s best networking opportunity,” said Campiti, adding that those who wish to attend must act quickly, because the gala traditionally sells out weeks before the event.
Before people clamor for tickets, though, they tend to get excited about the nomination process, which, again, is fully underway.
“When I was a judge last year, people called me, messaged me, sent me e-mail — ‘did you see my application? I heard someone nominated me. I really want this award,’” Rothschild recalled. “It’s become this goal that professionals in the community strive toward. This is a huge event, a huge award, and I think anyone somewhat tapped into Western Massachusetts wants to put it on their résumé.”
Sheils agreed, and said he’ll be excited to read about the class of 2015.
“The qualifications of people applying, they cross all the fields — people starting businesses, people who have been with large businesses for a number of years, people with social-service agencies, who are very dedicated to what they’re doing and making a terrific impact on the region,” he said. “The talent pool is not going down; it’s going up. We haven’t exhausted it by any means.”
Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]