Page 24 - BusinessWest 40 Under Forty 2024
P. 24

     As a freshman at Longmeadow High School, Joe Lepper was not feeling very good about how things were going in his life. There was
some bullying and a distinct lack of direction. And then ... he found the school’s Key Club, a program of Kiwanis, a service organization with
chapters around the world, designed for young people. And it changed his life.
“I found a community of people
that just cared about others,” he explained. “It didn’t matter who you hung out with ... if you were passionate and you cared about
helping other people, you could be a great Key Club member; you could make a difference.”
The club certainly made a difference in his life, instilling
a strong sense of community involvement and helping others that in many ways defines not only his life, but his current work as senior Community
Responsibility consultant for MassMutual.
“Kiwanis is the reason I have the career that I have,” Lepper said, adding that, with the help of the Springfield Kiwanis Club,
he was able to attend an international Key Club conference, at which he became riveted by a
speech from the international president — and
inspired to take that same title someday.
“I came home, and I changed my email signature
from ‘club treasurer’ to ‘international president’ just to see what it would feel like, he said, adding that he later ran for New England district governor as a sophomore, got elected, then ran for international president as a junior — and, yes, got elected.
He missed 50 days of school his senior year because he was on the road giving speeches and running workshops, but said the learning experience was incredible.
Fast-forwarding, Lepper, a graduate of Western
New England University, has kept Kiwanis in his life, joining the Springfield club when he was just 21 and eventually becoming its president. And the sense of community involvement instilled in him remains ever- present in his work at MassMutual, where he leads the community-responsibility strategy for the MassMutual Financial Advisors national sales force, work that includes oversight of community-impact, education, volunteer-engagement, and recognition programs.
In addition to that role, he has designed and led several programs, including the firm’s Community Service Awards recognition program and Community Responsibility Business Partner strategic consultative program.
An avid golfer, Lepper has a Scotty Cameron collection that he’s quite proud of. But he’s much more proud of his work at MassMutual, and of all that he has done with and for Kiwanis — and what Kiwanis has done for him. BW
—George O’Brien
 Kenny Lumpkin
Owner, Dewey’s Jazz Lounge and All American Bar, Grill & Patio: Age 28
Like most people, Kenny Lumpkin found the pandemic to be a time of reflection and figuring out what’s really important.
And while doing that, he concluded that being a consultant for Big Pharma just wasn’t working for him, and he needed something else. After some research — and soul searching — he determined this something else should be a return to
his roots in Springfield accompanied by
an entrepreneurial gambit, an effort to replicate the kind of jazz establishment he found, and came to love, while living in the Boston area — Wally’s Café Jazz Club.
And he did, with Dewey’s Jazz Lounge on Worthington Street, an establishment he opened in 2021, when there were still many COVID after-effects and other challenges to overcome.
Three years later, Dewey’s has become a downtown staple, attracting visitors from Springfield, across the 413, and beyond. And in 2023, Lumpkin doubled down on
his dream, opening a second venue — All American Bar, Grill & Patio, a sports bar on Dwight Street. The two sites complement each other well and have attracted different audiences.
“My biggest worry about opening two restaurants a block from each other is that they would cannibalize each other,” he said. “But we haven’t seen that; we’ve been able
to hit both sides of the market. We have an older, more mature crowd at Dewey’s that will come to see live music, and we get a younger crowd at All-American that will get down with a DJ.”
Lumpkin, who is also active in the community, with a turkey drive at Thanksgiving and a Christmas clothing and toy drive, said being an entrepreneur is essentially what he thought he would be, a roller-coaster ride replete with challenges and rewards.
“Every day is a learning experience,
and every day is something new,” he told BusinessWest. “That’s what I love about it.”
His philosophy, about life and business and their myriad challenges, is best summed up with a tattoo he wears proudly, reading ‘Find the Sun.’
“It means to find the bright side of things,” he explained. “I try to remain optimistic and see what good is coming from all the hard work you put in. And it’s amazing when people pull you aside and say, ‘you’re an inspiration to this community,’ or offer a simple ‘thank you’ for bringing this concept to Springfield.”
He’s heard a lot of that since that COVID- inspired reflection of four years ago, which helps explain why he’s a member of the Forty Under 40. BW
—George O’Brien
 A24 2024
Joe Lepper
Senior Community Responsibility Consultant, MassMutual: Age 35

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