Page 36 - BusinessWest 40 Under Forty 2024
P. 36

Jenna Rahkonen
President, Iron-Lift LLC: Age 39
      Shavon Prophet
Founder and Principal, BroadLeaf Advisors: Age 36
Shavon Prophet is a big believer in employee ownership of businesses.
“It’s a way that we can ensure that legacy
businesses can continue on into the future and create more wealth for more people,” she said. “In the studies of employee-owned businesses, they have performed better on every outcome — recruitment and retention, employee engagement, and the stark contrast when it comes to how much wealth people have been able to build when they have an ownership stake in where they work.”
Long story short, she has made employee ownership a big part of her life’s work, the latest manifestation of which was the founding of BroadLeaf Advisors to help more businesses become owned by their employees.
Prophet has taken an intriguing path to this place in her life and career.
“I’ve always been really motivated by social impact — doing good for the world
— ever since I was a child,” she explained, adding that her undergraduate degree was in
environmental studies, and she started her career at green building firms.
But she ultimately felt pigeonholed by such work and eventually earned a social impact MBA and learned about social enterprise and designing
businesses that were not only successful for their owners, but lasting in the community. And she would eventually focus on “democratizing
“It’s been interesting every single day, waking up and learning something new, overcoming
a new challenge,” she said. “And I have an incredible team behind me.”
Active in the community,
Rahkonen also volunteers with
HomeFront Strong, a nonprofit
organization that works to
build resilience in veterans and
military families. As the daughter
of a Vietnam veteran and the
granddaughter of a Korean War and
World War II veteran, she wanted to give back to those who have served this county.
Specifically, she’s HomeFront Strong’s treasurer and auditor; coordinates the food-distribution program, which delivers boxes of food to homebound veterans in the Palmer and Ware area; and serves on the board of directors, where she’s involved in the annual golf-tournament fundraiser, the annual Veterans Day breakfast, and fundraising for Suicide Awareness Month every September.
“It really puts a focus on family members of veterans as well, because they all go through similar things,” Rahkonen said. “We also do storytelling, where veterans and surviving family members tell their stories to volunteers during an interview. We’re trained in PTSD and mental health, and it’s therapeutic for them to tell their story.” BW
—Joseph Bednar
the workplace,” as she put it.
As an advocate and educator of employee
ownership, Prophet — a proud Filipino- American, hence the flag in her photo — has presented at several national conferences and led educational sessions for business owners and economic-development professionals across the Northeast. She has helped hundreds of business owners explore succession planning and employee-led buyouts, with a special
focus on worker cooperatives and democratic business models.
In 2023, she was appointed by Gov. Maura Healey to serve on the MassCEO advisory board for a four-year term following passage of the act that enabled the organization. That same year, she was appointed to the advisory board of the Center for Women & Enterprise for the Western Mass. region. A strong supporter of the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, Prophet has also mentored entrepreneurs through local business accelerators, such as EforAll Pioneer Valley and Valley Venture Mentors.
And as a social entrepreneur herself, she co-founded All Good Cooperative, a multi- stakeholder cooperative made up of farmers, healers, and artisans in Western Mass. that won first place last year at the EforAll Pioneer Valley pitch contest and sold produce and goods from nine small businesses at local farmers markets. BW
—George O’Brien
 Jenna Rahkonen said she developed a unique set of skills during her career in manufacturing and construction — and used them to launch a business last year.
Rewinding a couple decades, she joined her family’s business, Alden Manufacturing, right out of college and eventually became director of Operations there.
“I learned a lot being involved in projects from start to finish and being in the factory when things were made,” she recalled. “I fell in love with the job, which was shocking to everyone, including myself.”
After her family sold the business, Rahkonen moved into the construction world, working in the Finance department at Northern Construction in Palmer, and later helping her husband, Alex, start his own crane-rental company, Northern Crane LLC, in the same town. There, while maintaining her financial role at Northern, she aided in the completion of 10 wind-turbine projects across
the U.S. But she craved the challenge of running a business of her own.
“That’s how Iron-Lift LLC was born,” she said, explaining that the steel-erection company, which specializes in bridge construction, operates two branches out of its Monson headquarters: one that works on the state level with the Department of Transportation, the Department of Fish and Game, and other agencies; and a federal branch that has secured significant contracts, including
a major current project performing lock and dam repairs for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
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