SBN Staff

With 25 regional EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ programs, making the cut to become a finalist in one of the 11 national award categories is tough — you’re competing against more than 200 of the nation’s top entrepreneurs. So landing three national finalists and one national category winner is something worth talking about.

Last year, the Gulf Coast Area region landed four of its 11 regional EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ winners on the national stage: Steve Pate, chairman and CEO of Strike LLC; Kenneth L. Robison, CEO of Crest Industries LLC; Peter M. Duncan, founder, president and CEO of MicroSeismic Inc.; and David Dunlap, president and CEO of Superior Energy Services Inc.

Duncan was the 2013 national winner in the category of Energy, Cleantech and Natural Resources. Dunlap was a finalist in the same category. Pate secured finalist recognition in the Real Estate, Construction and Lodging category and Robinson was named a finalist for the Family Business Award of Excellence.

Smart Business caught up with Dunlap, Pate and Duncan to discuss innovation, overcoming challenges and the impact of participating in the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ program. You can read more of the interview online at


David Dunlap

President and CEO

Superior Energy Services Inc.

How is your organization innovative?

Our company is comprised of businesses that have been acquired through the years — all within oil and gas services.

Rather than integrate, homogenize and sterilize these very successful entrepreneurial efforts, we have created an environment where the founders stay on board after selling their companies, and continue to provide leadership to the very businesses that they founded. This gives us what we describe as a “founders’ mentality” in which decision-making is largely decentralized and the businesses are given the freedom to form themselves in a way that is most acceptable to their local customer base.

We all agree to standards of governance, compliance, safety and environmental protection but field execution is a function of local customer requirements and the businesses are free to form themselves to suit the customer.

The result is an atmosphere of independence and even though we are a large company we retain the air of a smaller independent business.

Describe your involvement in the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ program and its impact on you and your organization.

I was pleased and surprised at the positive response in our organization to this award. We are all very proud of what we are achieving at Superior Energy Services and the Entrepreneur Of The Year™ recognition really helped to validate the progress that we are making.


Steve Pate

Chairman and CEO

Strike LLC

How do you approach challenges you and your organization face — such as economic shifts, market changes, etc. — in such a way that you’re able to adapt and overcome them to succeed?

All great leaders face adversity and obstacles. Over the course of my career, I have faced many unknowns, whether financial or legal in nature, which challenged my decision-making. I always stick to my core principles and the word impossible has never been part of my vocabulary.

Strike’s 58.4 percent year over year compounded annual growth rate (2009-2013) is testament to our ability to take risks during times of uncertainty. In 2009, while many companies were hoarding cash due to the instability in the market place, I gave approval to the IT department to invest significant resources in the creation of a state-of-the-art cost-tracking portal. This portal has proven to be a competitive advantage and differentiator for Strike as it provides complete transparency to our clients’ job cost.

Additionally, Strike launched Campaign for Change in 2012, representing Strike’s philanthropic endeavor. The primary purpose is to create approachable opportunities for employees to get involved in our community.

Campaign for Change exists to (1) raise awareness and educate Strike employees, family and friends on the significance of giving; (2) provide opportunities to give time and resources to local communities and throughout the world; and (3) to impact others by changing ourselves.

In 2013, the Strike family volunteered more than 11,000 hours in addition to financial support to make a difference in the lives of others. A collection of organizations supported include Habitat for Humanity, Freedom Place Shelter,, Sky High for St. Jude’s, the U.S. Army, KaBoom and disaster relief efforts for the cities of West, Texas, and Moore, Okla.

I strive to take every opportunity, good or bad, to raise the bar higher.

Describe your involvement in the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ program and its impact on you and your organization.

My journey with the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ program began in spring 2013. It was a true honor to be named the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ 2013 Gulf Coast Region Award for Construction and Industrial Services. I am so thankful that God has given me the opportunity to lead the Strike team. A true success story is never only one person — I have six incredible partners and more than 2,500 talented and dedicated employees that have made Strike what it is today.

At the EY Strategic Growth Forum® in November, I was very impressed by the program that was presented. I was able to meet many leaders from other states and listen to inspiring and informative presentations. I was honored to be named a finalist in the category of Real Estate, Construction and Lodging at the National Awards Ceremony.

I am very thankful for the contacts I have made, the speaking opportunities that have come my way and the business ventures I have learned about from being a part of the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ program.

This program includes names of many highly regarded and successful individuals that I looked to for guidance and inspiration. It is an absolute privilege to be included in this program and recognized for my role in leading an incredible working family whose dedication makes a difference, not only in the energy industry, but in the lives of others as well.


Peter M. Duncan

Founder, president & CEO

MicroSeismic Inc.

How is your organization innovative?

We began with an innovation — hydraulic fracture monitoring using surface arrays. The legacy providers of this service said it could not be done, but I had done the math and believed it could.

For the first five years of our company we had a dragon to slay — the belief that fracture monitoring had to be done with downhole arrays. That mission drove us to innovate on field array design and data processing so that we could produce a superior product at a competitive cost, and then convert the clients to our vision, one geophysicist at a time.

The innovation was certainly technical, but there was also a marketing and messaging innovation required as we strove to convince the market that this “new” technology was not only real but an improvement over the old way of monitoring.

Describe your involvement in the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ program and its impact on you and your organization.

The EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ program has had a huge impact on me personally and my management. I have attended two of the annual events in Palm Desert. These have been, without a doubt, the most inspiring, invigorating and instructive conferences I have ever attended. The “can do” atmosphere at this conference is so thick you can cut it with a knife.

There you are in the midst of 2,000 motivated business adventurers who don’t even know how to spell the word fail. Just networking with these individuals and sharing their stories of challenge and success is enough to justify the trip. But then there are the guest speakers and roundtables with hugely successful people who have “been there and done that” in all sorts of enterprises from sports to banking to, well, even yogurt manufacturing. Each session gives you a multitude of lessons to take away. After each event I have returned to my company empowered and able to empower my team to reach even higher.

PANELISTS: Laura Bennett, Sheila Dunn, Kristen Morris and Lindsay Sims

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield is proud to sponsor the Perspectives 2014 Women Who Excel Conference, and over the past several years, the pace of change has certainly increased, especially in health care. In my 30 years in the industry, I’ve never experienced so much change in such a short period of time.

Women business leaders are facing important and increasingly complex decisions about the health care coverage they offer to their associates. Not only is health care coverage one of the biggest expenses in many companies’ budgets, it can have a meaningful impact on the health, well-being and productivity of all its employees.

Creating a culture of health — in our organizations, our communities and our country — is critical to keeping up and pulling ahead as the pace continues to quicken.

At Anthem, we believe collaboration is the foundation of a culture of health. That’s why we work closely with our clients to develop and deliver personalized solutions that help their employees get healthy and stay healthy, and we work closely with health care providers to ensure broad access to quality, affordable care.

We also partner with community organizations to help improve health and well-being — including Radio Disney for the Anthem Get Active, Get Fit School Challenge, the March of Dimes for the Centering Pregnancy prenatal care program and the Boys and Girls Clubs’ Triple Play wellness program.

One of the reasons I have chosen to spend most of my career with Anthem is its commitment to improving health in our community. Alongside other women leaders in our organization — including Erin Hoeflinger, president of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Ohio — I’m energized by helping leaders like you achieve success by keeping both your employees and your business healthy. ●


Denise Tomechko is regional vice president of account management for Anthem National Accounts. Reach her at (800) 928-2902. To learn more about Anthem, visit www.anthem.comor like its Facebook page



Diane Ayres has no fear in overcoming obstacles as she leads Porchlight Rental Services 

Diane Ayres has learned to take adversity and turn it into success, having risen through the ranks to prominence in the relocation industry.

She joined Corporate Lodgings as its first employee in the late 1980s as director of sales. Ayres showed her business acumen by growing Corporate Lodgings from one location to nine.

After serving as regional vice president and then director of national sales, she opted to found PorchLight Rental Services rather than be transferred out of Ohio. PorchLight would be the first national rental assistance company in the U.S.

But being the first was challenging. While renters had been used to free services from rental service companies, PorchLight was a pay-for-service model. With Ayres’s hard work and commitment to deliver excellent service, she won over customers and they were willing to pay.

Then, after giving a competitor a run for their money, PorchLight was acquired by a national real estate investment trust. Another change was made in the business model, but after three years, Ayres led it to profitability. It was later sold off and had a record-breaking 2013.


USI Insurance’s Kate Bang motivates sales to award-winning high figures 

In the male-dominated health insurance industry, Kate Bang rises to the top by not trying to be “one of the boys,” but by using her skills to identify and implement ways she and her team can redefine and exceed client expectations.

In 2013, she led the USI Cleveland office to achieve a 35 percent increase over the last two years in top-line revenue. In addition, it was the only office to achieve USI’s Five Diamond status in 2013, which highlights excellence in new business development, client retention and profitability.

As one of only three women who are office presidents in the 34-office USI national Employee Benefits practice, Bang is dedicated to excellence for her clients and employees, which helps ensure success of not only the office, but also her team members.

“Kate inspires me every day, and I feel so fortunate to have been given this opportunity to learn and grow with her,” says Mike Sicard, USI chairman, president and CEO. “She is one of the most influential, yet absolutely selfless, people that I have ever met: driven, compassionate, eloquent and kind. There is an aura of motivation around her at all times — personally and professionally — which is nothing short of contagious.”


Jennifer Bell rises to top leadership at Aon Risk Solutions, empowering her female colleagues

In the historically male-dominated industry of risk management and insurance, Jennifer Bell is the only woman to be a regional managing director in Aon Risk Solutions’ U.S. operations. Today, she oversees management of the Philadelphia, Boston, Pittsburgh, Cleveland/Akron, Columbus and Cincinnati offices, which have more than 400 employees.

Bell has more than 25 years of experience in the risk management consulting business and in designing insurance programs around her client’s unique needs. Upon joining Aon in 1991, she focused on global heavy manufacturing risk and association programs, which would prove instrumental in building the Northeast Ohio region.

Bell also is a true leader in Aon’s ongoing diversity and inclusion initiatives, wanting to open doors for qualified people. As a result of her initiatives, which have been replicated throughout the industry by competitors and insurance markets, Aon’s Northeast Ohio Executive Committee is now comprised of 40 percent women.

In addition, Bell is highly active in the community, serving on many boards, including the Sisters of Charity Foundation, the American Heart Association, In Council with Women and the United Way of Greater Cleveland. 


Mimi Dane set ambitious goals at Flying Horse Farms and then met each one

Mimi Dane made a decision not everyone would have made when she chose to leave a successful 21-year litigation career at Squire Sanders in 2012.

She left to become the CEO at Flying Horse Farms, a camp for children with serious medical conditions. The camp, located on 200 acres in Mt. Gilead, serves hundreds of children and families each year.

Within days of taking on her new role, Dane led the charge to make Flying Horse Farms a full member of the SeriousFun Children’s Network, an international family of camps founded by the late actor and Ohio native, Paul Newman.

The process to get accreditation includes implementing and documenting more than 200 points of criteria focused on program and safety standards. Dane also set out to hire strong people in key positions such as CFO, medical director, nursing director, vice president of advancement, camper recruiter and database manager.

The hires have made it possible for the camp to expand its programs and provide better service to its children and their families. The hard work paid off when Flying Horse Farms became a member of the SeriousFun Children’s Network, the only camp of its kind in the Midwest. 


Buffy Filippell excels as the headhunter for TeamWork Consulting

You might say sports have been an important part of Buffy Filippell’s life. Make that the sports industry. Her career is a shining example to women with similar aspirations.

Graduating with a degree in physical education from Indiana University in 1976, she started working for Wilson Sporting Goods in the tennis products promotion department.

After a promotion that took her to work in London, the International Management Group wooed her to Cleveland in 1978 to be its first female executive/agent.

She racked up a number of successes, including discovering and representing the then No. 3 ranked tennis player Andrea Jaeger.

After six years, she joined Korn/Ferry International to do executive recruiting. Two years later, she left to launch her own executive search firm, TeamWork Consulting, focusing solely on sports.

Through her initiatives as an entrepreneur, her persistence and grit, she has built her firm into one of the nation’s leading executive recruiting firms serving professional sports.

TeamWork Consulting has filled hundreds of positions, including senior executives of professional teams.

A digital version of her firm, TeamWork Online, was founded in 1999. Today, 780 sports organizations use TeamWork Online exclusively for their recruiting needs. 


Patricia Gajda recognizes her mentors as aiding her climb at Brouse McDowell

Patricia Gajda has developed her corporate transactions and general counseling law practice at Brouse McDowell for more than 15 years. Along the way, she overcame the challenge of being one of the few women in the corporate practice area, and attended networking events where only a handful of women were present.

She also has taken on a leadership role at the firm, chairing the Associate and Paralegal Review Committee for 10 years before stepping down in 2003. She has chaired the Corporate Practice Group since 2005, spearheading practice and marketing initiatives.

Gajda credits her success to working with great mentors who helped her develop. She now works to mentor associates and help female associates with advice and work opportunities.

Brouse McDowell believes in giving back to the community, which Gajda does by serving on several charitable boards. She serves on the Corporate Leadership Committee of the “Go Red for Women” campaign of the American Heart Association. She also serves as vice president and trustee for the Ohio Women’s Bar Foundation.

Gajda graduated from Case Western Reserve University Law School in 1990, and has a bachelor’s degree in economics from John Carroll University. 


Skoda Minotti’s Dani Gisondo espouses a balance between work and life 

Dani Gisondo joined Skoda Minotti in 1998 as a senior staff accountant and now leads the firm’s Employee Benefit Plan group. A mother of three girls, she has embraced the challenge of balancing professional responsibilities and family time.

Two years ago, she and colleague Christa Lenko founded the Skoda Minotti Women’s Initiative, a program designed to help women learn how to build networks, earn continuing education credits and achieve career growth.

Gisondo supervises 18 professional staff, serves as a performance adviser to six and a career coach to three.

She suggests that women think outside the box concerning flexible work arrangements and overcoming obstacles when juggling work and family.

Gisondo approached management in 2001 with a nontraditional work schedule that would benefit the firm while allowing her to be involved in her children’s activities. That led the firm to extend the idea to other employees, and placed an emphasis on work/life balance.

A graduate of The Ohio State University, Gisondo has a bachelor’s degree in business administration, specializing in accounting. She serves as treasurer of the St. Francis of Assisi Athletic Booster Club, and is a member of the John Carroll University Accounting Advisory Board and Beaumont School Finance Committee. 


Constant upward progress defines career of Park Place Technologies’ Patricia Kilroy 

Patricia Kilroy started in the accounting department at Custom Products, eventually getting promoted to an operations manager position. She then became a sales support representative with Pioneer-Standard Electronics, which would become Agilysys Inc. During her 16-year tenure, Kilroy rose through the ranks from an inside sales manager to the director of several business units.

In these roles, Kilroy led and directed managers and employees in several departments, and was part of a project team that led the closure of a major sales and customer service facility — transitioning 75 customers and $189 million to another facility.

In 2007, Arrow Electronics acquired the distribution business from Agilysys Inc. During the transition, Kilroy organized and lead a formal employee engagement team to build morale across multiple facilities and business units.

When Arrow closed one of the sales and customer service facilities, Kilroy completed the transition by moving the workload of 400 customers for her business unit, developing and deploying a home office program that would retain high-potential employees.

In 2013, Kilroy joined Park Place Technologies as the vice president of channel development. Kilroy’s leadership has drastically improved all indirect sales channels and sales operations within the company. 


Pam Kozelka has been central to the growth of Content Marketing Institute 

Pam Kozelka’s career has taken a few distinct turns. After college, she supervised the Batterers’ Intervention Unit for Cuyahoga County, then left the workforce to raise her children. When she returned, she switched from social work to media, becoming Content Marketing Institute’s vice president of operations in 2008 and its second employee.

Since then, CMI has made the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing private companies in both 2012 and 2013. The company also made the Weatherhead Upstart list of Northeast Ohio companies for its sales growth, landing the No. 1 spot in 2012 and the No. 2 spot in 2013.

Kozelka’s core responsibilities revolve around CMI’s bellwether event, Content Marketing World, which brought more than 1,700 marketers from 46 countries to Cleveland in 2013.

In addition, she has been central to the success of CMI’s annual Golf for Autism charity event, raising more than $100,000 in seven years for speech therapy assistance for children with autism.

Kozelka’s success has earned her the position of COO. According to founder Joe Pulizzi, the reason CMI has been, arguably, the most successful startup in Cleveland during the past three years is her leadership and vision. 


Kelly Loebick-Frascella rises to meet her own challenges at Main Street Gourmet 

Kelly Loebick-Frascella did not set out to be a role model for other women when she began working for Main Street Gourmet in 1997. She took a job on the production line and was simply trying to work her way through college before pursuing a more long-term career.

She quickly gained the respect, admiration and trust of her co-workers, and got an idea. She wanted to establish a HR department for the company, which was still in its infant stages.

She convinced Main Street Gourmet’s co-owners that the company had taken a number of steps improving its overall sales, market share and manufacturing processes. The HR department was another step and Loebick-Frascella was confident it was an important one for the co-owners to take.

So without a blueprint, she set out to develop such things as an employee handbook, a formal and annual performance appraisal process, a structured compensation program and a comprehensive benefits package.

There was also a standardized hiring system, employee recognition programs and leadership development.

Each of these initiatives has played a part in Main Street Gourmet’s success. It also has demonstrated what one person can do to make a difference. 


SueAnn Naso pioneers creative solutions at Staffing Solutions Enterprise

As 22-year-veteran employee of Staffing Solutions Enterprises, SueAnn Naso has championed work/life balance amongst employees, implementing a flexible and effective strategy for the all-woman workplace she now leads.

In 1995, three years into her career with Staffing Solutions, Naso was finding it difficult to balance full-time work with full-time parenting. Instead of resigning to find part-time work, she presented a part-time work model to her employer. That creativity and flexibility paid off for both parties as Naso worked her way up to president.

Naso also played a key role in fostering women’s professional development in the HR industry and Northeast Ohio business community. She co-founded the Executive HR Women’s Network, a networking group that was created as a venue for leading HR women to come together.

The group now boasts more than 100 active members and host’s events with award-winning panelists and hot topics, such as employee engagement and work/life balance issues. Members meet each other, network, have fun, and discuss HR and women’s leadership challenges.

Naso currently serves as a board member of ERC Advisory Council and Engage! Cleveland. She served as the president of the Cleveland chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management from 2011 to 2013.


Rahika Reddy achieved the American dream as an entrepreneur with Ariel Ventures

Radhika Reddy came to the U.S. in 1989 with $20 and a one-year International Rotary scholarship — by 1995 she had founded her own company, Ariel Ventures LLC.

It took working 80 to 90 hours a week to launch and expand her business. During that time, she also earned a second master’s degree in accounting and taxation. Her business has since grown into a successful and respected 100 percent woman-owned professional services firm.

Her work as an entrepreneur in international business, real estate and economic development finance fueled another dream to create an international center in Cleveland, bringing together international businesses, arts and culture, foods and events.

She rehabilitated a vacant, dilapidated historic building into the Ariel International Center — overlooking Lake Erie and the Cleveland skyline — a one-stop center for international business development and cultural events.

Reddy wanted to give back to Cleveland and help other entrepreneurs with ideas that lack access to capital, so she created the Ariel Economic Development Fund and since 2011 has provided equity investments or loans to small startup businesses.

She has also organized and participated in programs, seminars and inbound and outbound trade missions. 


Rita N. Singh sparks global change through S&A Consulting Group and Elite Women Around the World 

Rita N. Singh, a native of India, arrived in Cleveland in 1979 with little money, no friends and no business experience. After completing her CPA in 1989, she started S&A Consulting Group in partnership with her husband Nipendra in the basement of their home, later expanding to a commercial space servicing Fortune 500 companies around the world.

As an executive coach and leadership strategist, her focus has been to help women develop skills in entrepreneurship and leadership in the various levels of their career, which are offered as part of an ongoing curriculum, individual coaching sessions, workshops, seminars, lecture series, forums and conferences.

Singh also had a vision to empower women. In 2005, she used her personal savings to create the nonprofit Elite Women Around The World®, which is a worldwide platform to enhance the economic position of women globally. Through the nonprofit’s conferences and forums, Singh has been instrumental in bringing thought-provoking women and leaders to Cleveland.

In her free time, Singh works part time at Ursuline College, teaching in the master’s in business administration program. She was instrumental in the development of its Center of Excellence in Ethical and Entrepreneurial Leadership. 


Kristin Tull has the tools at PRADCO to help people maximize their potential 

Michelle Gaertner was struggling. She started a women’s leadership initiative at her firm, but found few female executives she could turn to for guidance and support.

Through a mutual contact, Gaertner reached out to Kristin Tull. That’s when things began to turn around.

“Kristin provided a sounding board and shared her expertise as well as her personal experience,” says Gaertner, vice president and director of sales at Oswald Cos. “Working with her, I was able to define the objectives of a burgeoning women’s initiative as well as understand my role and develop my personal leadership style.”

Tull is the president of PRADCO, which works with people to improve their hiring and maximize their management potential.

Tull’s colleague, Lawrence J. Borodkin, also is a fan.

“To Kristin, there is nothing like teaching others and seeing them master their areas of responsibility,” Borodkin says. “The exponential gain that the company has experienced through her coaching and developing PRADCO staff has been extremely rewarding to her and to the employees she has mentored.”

The best part is that Tull is even more passionate about what the future holds.

“Kristin does not consider herself to be a finished product,” Borodkin says. 


Rebecca White burned the midnight oil to advance at Western Reserve Partners 

Rebecca White was the first in her extended family to receive a college degree, and it put a lot of pressure on her to prove it was the right career path. That didn’t mean her challenges were over.

After paying her own way through graduate school, she entered the world of investment banking, where she had an arduous time in the traditionally male-dominated industry. White spent many nights in the office well past midnight.

When an opportunity came to leave the relatively safe confines of KeyBanc Capital Markets to join Western Reserve Partners LLC shortly after its founding in 2004, she took it. Working for a small startup firm allowed White to develop quickly as a professional.

She rose to the challenge and is the perfect example of an employee climbing through the ranks of an organization. White is currently a director in the firm’s industrial practice and is responsible for managing transactions from sourcing to closing. Being one of the few senior-level female investment bankers in Northeast Ohio and recognizing the opportunities associated with that role, she also launched and manages Western Reserve’s women-owned business initiatives.  




Law firm developing women in leadership roles  

Brouse McDowell is a leader in supporting and developing women within its organization. Of the firm’s 75 attorneys, 31 are female — 19 of which are partners. That ranks Brouse second among Northeast Ohio law firms in the number of female partners. 

Additionally, half of Brouse McDowell’s associates are women. 

The firm is dedicated to women’s initiatives, professional advancement and career development, and provides a family-friendly workplace. 

A new initiative is the Women in Law Program, in which leaders facilitate a women-centric event each quarter. Events include internal conferences on business development and networking, and external functions designed to cultivate relationships with peers in the business community. 

Brouse McDowell’s female employees are invested in their communities, volunteering, advocating and participating in more than 150 professional, civic and nonprofit organizations where they work and live.  


Internal programs at Oswald Cos. help women climb the corporate ladder  

Oswald Cos. recognizes the unique challenges women face as they work to advance their professional careers and has launched a number of initiatives to help. 

In 2013, the company introduced its Oswald Women’s Leadership Council to support and promote the advancement of women leaders in the organization, setting clear objectives, timelines and metrics to achieve these goals. 

Female leaders from the organization now have the opportunity to advance their skills in the areas of communication, collaboration and professional connections. 

Member benefits include company-sponsored leadership training, joint events with other Greater Cleveland professional women’s groups and monthly meeting touch points.

The company aims to make the council available across all units, supporting programs such as cross-mentorship, networking events, speaker series’ and professional development.

Already, the council has received attention and commendation from major insurance industry trade organizations. 

Oswald’s Women of Oswald Helping Out Others gives every female employee the opportunity to contribute to initiatives throughout the year, including charitable events, volunteer work and networking. 

The company is also seeking to aid working parents by offering technology to permit mobile access when working from home, flextime and flex-schedules, family-based events and outings, and an overall awareness and support of family needs. 


Monica Daniely Green works for more than money at so Curly so Kinky so Straight  

Monica Daniely Green, CEO of so Curly so Kinky so Straight, is dedicated to fostering women’s initiatives and providing career development for women.

A licensed managerial cosmetologist and instructor with more than 25 years experience in the beauty salon industry, Green has channeled her tenure as a C-level executive in the corporate, nonprofit, medical construction and communications industries into a company dedicated to more than just hair. 

Green champions what she calls the natural hair movement, which aims to increase the sense of beauty, pride and self-esteem of African-American women. In addition to hair and beauty services, Green’s salon also offers services such as workshops and events, including the annual Happy to be Nappy picnic at Forest Hills Park. 

Green also has secured more than $1.5 million in funding for nonprofit pursuits such as scholarships. 

To further her mission of giving back, Green is launching the Flawless Beauty Academy, which will offer courses in the styling and care of natural hair — the only course in the state to do so. Students can obtain Ohio State Board of Cosmetology licensing as a natural hair stylist through the course. 


SueAnn Naso and Staffing Solutions Enterprises advocates women’s professional development

As a certified women’s business enterprise, Staff Solutions Enterprises and its President SueAnn Naso foster women’s professional development and work/life balance by tailoring solutions according to employees’ needs. 

Work-flex has been part of the company’s internal strategy for more than 18 years. This initiative has weathered various economic conditions and proven highly effective at maintaining top talent. Staffing Solutions fosters creativity and innovation by offering many work/life solutions, such as telecommuting, phased retirement, part-time and adjustable hours. 

The company also offers a strong mentorship program for younger employees, encouraging staff to attend networking and partner events, training support for career development, volunteering in the community and additional professional seminars. 

The past two years, under Naso’s leadership, Staffing Solutions received the prestigious Alfred P. Sloan Award, a research-based initiative to highlight how effective and flexible workplaces can yield positive business results and help employees succeed at work and home. 

According to the award’s benchmarking report, 79 percent of employees strongly agreed they have the flexibility needed at work to manage personal/family responsibilities, and 93 percent strongly agreed that supervisors or managers are supportive when the employee is having a work problem.




Emma Day puts a British fashion foot forward at Carnaby Street Style

At age 24, Emma Day followed her dream and opened her own company, Carnaby Street Style, based on a business plan she developed for an entrepreneurship course in college.

In May 2012, she approached project developers with the plan, which combined her passion for British fashion, retail experience and desire to start her own business. She justified the plan, secured funding and designed the store layout.

Carnaby Street Style opened in December 2012, named after the London street famous for fashion boutiques. In its first year, it was awarded Akron Life and Leisure Best of the City awards for Best New Business (first), Best Shoe Splurge (second), Most Customer Friendly Boutique (third) and Best Local Entrepreneur (second). The store also was named Best Women’s Boutique on the Akron Canton Hotlist.

About 250 people attended a runway fashion show at the store in September 2013. This year, Day was chosen as a judge for Kent State University’s Rock the Runway Fashion Show.

She serves as a mentor to her employees and provides opportunities for them to explore their talents and collaborate on projects.

Day is a 2010 graduate of Bowling Green State University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. 


Nichelle McCall built BOLD Guidance to take the stress out of applying to college

Nichelle McCall is always thinking about what she can do to help people. BOLD Guidance, the company she leads as founder and CEO, is the latest symbol of that effort. BOLD provides a mobile app that makes the college application process less stressful.

The platform she developed has won a number of awards and McCall is securing significant funding that would help her continue to grow the business.

McCall had a number of experiences that paved the way to her success.

At the Cleveland Foundation’s Civic Innovation Lab, she counseled more than 300 social entrepreneurs on how to strengthen and grow their companies.

She was a liaison to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on a $20 million college completion project and served as an adviser to several social enterprises. McCall founded Community Strategies Consulting LLC in 2010 to focus on developing college access programs for schools and nonprofits.

Community Strategies Consulting was selected as a finalist in the inaugural cohort for Bad Girl Ventures, an educational and micro-finance organization dedicated to supporting women entrepreneurs in business. Within its first year, the company was selected to organize Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson’s Higher Education Compact Symposium highlighting college access best practices. 



Despite their vital role in the global economy, entrepreneurs are often misunderstood.

“By developing new businesses, they create jobs, increase economic activity and drive innovation,” explains Maria T. Pinelli, global vice chair, Strategic Growth Markets, EY.

Yet, she says, decades of academic research into the topic have produced no universal definition of entrepreneurship, and no agreement about the precise traits and behaviors that characterize entrepreneurial leaders.

As founders of the EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year™ program, the world’s most prestigious business award for entrepreneurs, EY undertook its own research to unlock the entrepreneurial DNA.

“Although entrepreneurs operate across a highly diverse range of sectors and regions of the world, we have found they share a number of common behaviors and characteristics,” Pinelli says.

EY’s research included a survey of 685 entrepreneurs and in-depth interviews with winners of the Entrepreneur Of The Year™ Awards. Here are the key findings from the report:


Entrepreneurial leaders are made, not born.

Although many entrepreneurs start at a reasonably young age, the experience they gain through education and time spent in a more traditional corporate environment is vital to their success. More than half the respondents described themselves as “transitioned” entrepreneurs — meaning they previously spent time in traditional employment before setting out on their own.


Entrepreneurship is rarely a one-off decision.

The majority of respondents consider themselves “serial entrepreneurs,” having launched at least two companies. Entrepreneurial leaders who embark on more than one venture gain valuable insight and lessons into how to make a new business successful. They learn from mistakes made and use that experience to create more companies.


Funding, people and know-how are the biggest barriers to entrepreneurial success.

Among the six out of 10 respondents who experienced obstacles in their ventures, the most common barrier is lack of funding or finance. Despite the gradual easing of credit conditions in most countries, access to financing remains a top issue. The two other most-cited obstacles are people and expertise.


Entrepreneurs share common traits.

Entrepreneurs typically exhibit a strong locus of control — a belief that events result directly from an individual’s own actions or behavior. This is complemented by a mindset that sees opportunity where others see disruption, along with an acceptance of calculated risk and a tolerance of failure.


Traditional companies can learn from entrepreneurial leaders.

Employee incentives and fostering innovation are good places to start. It is no coincidence that fast-growing entrepreneurial companies tend to place larger amounts of share ownership in the hands of employees.

For more information, or to read the entire report, visit


What was the make-up of the people interviewed for this extensive survey?

  • 685 entrepreneurial leaders.
  • More than 30 countries and 25 industry sectors represented.
  • Majority of companies have revenues between $10 million and $20 billion.
  • 58 percent of the respondents achieved annual revenue growth in excess of 20 percent in the previous year.

Who are some of the entrepreneurs who participated in the study?

  • Howard Schultz, chairman, president and CEO of Starbucks, the world’s most famous coffeehouse company.
  • Wally Fry, co-founder of Fry Group Foods, manufacturers of a range of vegan products.
  • Ronald J. Kruszewski, chairman and CEO of Stifel Financial Corp., a full-service regional brokerage and investment banking firm.
  • Denys C. Shortt, chairman and CEO of DCS Europe plc, the UK’s leading distributor of health and beauty brands.
  • Khudusela Pitje, co-founder and executive director of New Gx Capital, a South African infrastructure advisory and funding company.
  • Yuliasiane Sulistiyawati, President Director PT Pazia Pillar Mercycom, a chain of one-stop IT shops based in Indonesia.


Businesses are familiar with the notion that written employment contracts can be a source of rights and liabilities in the event of a split with an executive employee.

However, businesses 
are often not as familiar with other potential sources of employment liability in those situations, including the Wage Payment and Collections Act, sometimes called the Wage Payment Act.

Smart Business spoke with John Haarlow Jr., an attorney at Novack and Macey LLPto discuss the relationship between this statute and executive compensation.

What is the act and why is it important?

Generally speaking, the Wage Payment Act requires Illinois employers to pay the final compensation of separated employees. Employers need to be conscious of the act because it applies to all employees, from hourly wage earners to top executives. It also provides a range of powerful remedies for separated employees, including attorneys’ fees and potential personal liability. 

What are the elements of a claim?

To prevail on a Wage Payment Act claim, a separated employee must demonstrate that he or she has been denied final compensation in violation of an ‘agreement’ with an employer. Under the act, an agreement is broader and less formal than a traditional contract. For example, an agreement can arise from the pattern or practice between the employee and employer, such as payment of a fixed amount at regular intervals, or from a conversation between an employee and employer.

under the act are brought, and sometimes won, solely based on an executive employee’s testimony that the employer promised a payment it later refused to make.

What types of compensation may an employee seek under the act?

Final compensation is essentially any payment due and owing pursuant to an agreement between the employee and employer, including salary, wages, commissions, bonuses, vacation pay, stock options, severance pay and pension contributions. In the event of mid-year separation, some of these payments must be made pro rata.

Calculating these payments 
can be complicated and expensive when dealing with executive separations that include substantial commissions, bonuses or golden parachute packages that vest at various times.

When is an employee entitled to receive a bonus under the act?

Whether executive employees are entitled to a bonus upon separation under the act has been heavily litigated. Generally, if an executive can show that the employer made an unequivocal promise to pay a bonus and that the conditions for payment have been met, a bonus may be awarded under the act. Such an award is still possible even though a bonus is within the employer’s discretion and is typically awarded at year’s end.

When may a separated employee recover attorneys’ fees?

A recent amendment to the act provides that employers are liable for the attorneys’ fees of any employee that brings a successful claim under the act. The relatively easy access to attorneys’ fees provides departing executives a key bargaining chip in connection with their claims and makes claims for smaller amounts feasible to bring.

Under what conditions is personal liability possible?

One of the most striking features of the act is that an employer’s officer or agent can be held personally liable for the departing employee’s damages and attorneys’ fees. For personal liability to attach, an officer must have knowledge of the compensation arrangement between the departing executive and the employer and knowingly permit the employer to violate the act. This can provide executives tremendous leverage by putting individual officers at personal risk in connection with a Wage Payment Act claim.

How can a business protect itself?

Every business is different, so there is no silver bullet to protecting against Wage Payment Act liability. However, broadly speaking, businesses should make clear what comprises an executive’s compensation package and when and how it will be paid. That way, there are less likely to be disputes about payment upon separation.
John Haarlow Jr. is an attorney with Novack and Macey LLP. Reach him at (312) 419-6900 or
Insights Legal Affairs is brought to you by Novack and Macey LLP 

In our increasingly digital world, meaningful conversation has become a scarcity. However, for those in leadership, discovering the lost art of conversation has perhaps never been more critical.

To harness the power of conversation to strengthen and grow your organization, practice these 10 principles:


1. Converse — even if you think you can’t.

You need not be born as an expert conversationalist. Conversation leadership can be learned and practiced. What’s more, this skill is essential to effective leadership. Practice your conversation skills by beginning conversations with others and seeing them through.


2. Converse across hierarchies.

It is critical that you step outside of your zone to talk to people you oversee — as well as those you answer to. These conversations can lead to valuable insights from different perspectives. Cross hierarchies, silos and barriers to talk to others, and then integrate what you learn into your peer conversations.


3. Converse for intimacy, not efficiency.

If you’re watching the clock, you’re not conversing. Speed encourages an efficient exchange of information, but unhurried conversation bonds individuals and reveals truths. To engage in meaningful conversation, stop watching the clock.

4. Converse as though you are sitting at your kitchen table.

Many of the important conversations had at home offer lessons that can be applied to a business setting as well. Use what you learn at home — such as how to honor traditions, manage conflict and hear both good and bad news — to make your business conversations meaningful.


5. Converse across mediums.

Do not ignore any medium where conversation is happening; instead, embrace it. And beyond that, keep your ears attuned to where the conversation will migrate next.


6. Never stop learning.

Converse with others and watch skilled conversationalists in action as a way to continue learning and growing.


7. The world is our job.

We are part of the matrix that knits humanity together, and we belong in the debates that shape our world. Engage in the global conversation by conversing with people from around the world and exploring other countries as often as possible.


8. The community conversation is ongoing.

Conversation is going on in the communities around you. If you are not participating, you are more than quiet; to the consumer, you are aloof, even uncaring. Engagement is not just an opportunity, it’s a demand. Be sure that you are participating in the community conversation.

9. Time isn’t money; connection is.

Far too often, we assume in business that the bottom line is the driver of all interactions. Everyone wants a great price, it’s true; but everyone needs interaction and connection. Keep your attention focused in the right place: building connections.


10. The best offense is a good conversation.

It’s natural when under attack to want to circle the wagons and go into battle mode. But conversation with an outsider — an individual who can keep emotion out of the discussion and give you the perspective you need to make the best choice — may help you see a new way forward. Call on those outsiders for honest conversations about how to best move forward.


You don’t need an innate gift of gab to put these principles into action. Practice starting and maintaining the conversation, and observe what important insights come to light. As a leader, conversation is a skill you cannot afford to overlook.


Jim McCann is the founder and CEO of and author of the new book, “Talk is (Not!) Cheap: The Art of Conversation Leadership.” A successful entrepreneur and public speaker, McCann’s passion is helping people deliver smiles. His belief in the universal need for social connections and interaction led to his founding of, which he has grown into the world’s leading florist and gift shop, and, a leading website for expert party planning content and advice. 

What’s become one of the most discussed trends in technology and manufacturing may sound more like something from a futuristic movie rather than something that is taking off in the here and now — 3-D printing.

It may even sound expensive. In reality, 3-D printing is becoming increasingly accessible and can help companies improve manufacturing efficiency and cost structure.

Although 3-D printing was conceived and invented more than 30 years ago, investment in the technology has begun to soar in recent years as more businesses see its potential to drive a new industrial revolution, one that enables businesses to get their products to market faster than the traditional manufacturing processes.


Printing in three dimensions

Sometimes called “additive manufacturing,” the popular image of 3-D printing is a machine that prints 3-D objects. Successive layers of material are laid down — in the same way paint is sprayed — creating different shapes. A wide range of materials and techniques can actually be used in 3-D printing. As one of the companies at the forefront of the 3-D printing phenomenon, Rapid Prototype + Manufacturing LLC is expanding into 3-D printing metals in addition to a traditional focus on 3-D polymer materials.

“Three-D printing technology reduces product development time, allowing designers to create more products and get them to market faster,” says Matt Hlavin, CEO of rp+m. Hlavin decided to hit the ground running with 3-D printing back in 2009 after studying and following Stratasys, a leading original equipment manufacturer for Fortus Fused Deposition Modeling Machines, for 10 years.

“We saw the benefits on how this technology would help save our clients time and money,” Hlavin says.

The process differs from machining where successive layers of a solid are cut or drilled away in a subtractive process.The evolution

With 3-D printing, design engineers are now able to touch, feel and test their designs prior to investing in capital equipment, such as tooling, for traditional ways of manufacturing.

When the 3-D printing equipment started being used, the parts coming off of the machines were being used as prototypes. For example, a small household appliance company may use prototyping expertise in order to see a product before spending thousands of dollars on tooling. Over recent years, there has been an increase in end products being used on 3-D printers.

At rp+m, about 40 to 50 percent of parts come straight off 3-D printers as end-use production parts.

Auto parts manufacturers are finding that 3-D printing has shown that it is capable of supplying high quality fused deposition modeling parts within the characteristic time frame of the automotive industry. One such company has saved time creating parts that are less expensive and do not require the tool investment of traditional injection molded parts. A quick turnaround time is ideally suited for automotive industry time-sensitive projects.

With rapid prototypes, it offers the capability of showing the customer a 3-D model of the product at an early stage of the project. Engineers are able to produce prototypes and functional parts capable of enduring harsh factors, making them suitable for testing and validation. With 3-D printing, a company can make more prototypes, reduce design time and lower total cost by yielding less-costly parts.

The most recent game-changing technology for the polymer additive manufacturing users is the Arburg Freeformer, where pellet form polymer material can be used. Arburg integrated traditional screw and barrel processes from injection molding into 3-D printing, which offers an opportunity for quickly incorporating more materials that are already in production processes like injection molding.


Metals are taking the stage

While rp+m’s core business has focused on the polymers’ technology of 3-D printing, it is now expanding into 3-D printing metals. This opens the door for new end-use and industry technology.

With the acceleration of technology maturation in the metals space, all materials classes including metals, polymers, ceramics, electronic and biomaterials can be manufactured using 3-D technologies. Today, the metals technologies are becoming not just performance competitive but cost competitive enough to engage industrial users beyond just the first adopter metal and aerospace companies.

“Contrary to popular belief, the maturation of metals additive is actually supporting expansion of traditional manufacturing rather than substitution,” says Edward Herderick, Ph.D., director of R&D at rp+m. “For example, new approaches to printing high performance metal casting molds by companies like ExOne are leading to growth in the high value end of the supply chain where American manufacturing is the most competitive with other global economies.

“Another example is that the enhanced design capability enabled by metal powder bed fusion technologies like the one made by the EOS company are allowing for higher performance metal powders to be used in greater quantity.

“These powders are manufactured using more advanced approaches that require more metal forming, welding and machining and so it is lifting the overall industry as a whole.

“The materials and processes for 3-D manufacturing will continue to mature to the point where a new paradigm of ‘manufacturing by design’ will emerge to replace the current paradigm of design for manufacturing processes,” Herderick says. 

“This will empower industrial designers of engineering systems to create their machines and components with full freedom to choose approaches based on the end use performance criteria rather than limitations of manufacturing processes.

“As a result, new product designs will increasingly mimic the elegant design of nature, maximizing performance and design content while minimizing waste. In the future, designers may use nature-inspired design to develop lighter, more streamlined parts and products and increase efficiencies in industries such as oil and gas drilling, and aerospace.”


Fostering a future

As the industry continues to grow and improve, students will be needed to learn the processes, since they are the future workers.

rp+m continues to work with local schools, students and teachers to make them aware and knowledgeable of not only the current uses of 3-D printing, but also what trends are surfacing. Tours have increased at the company’s engineering playground due to the encouragement given by teachers to bring their students in for a tour.

Students are so fascinated with the technology that they begin coming into school early, they want to be in the classroom during their study halls and will even stay late after school to see the 3-D printer in action.

rp+m’s model has been steadfast in being the expert in ideation through manufacturing. The company’s philosophy is to identify waste and innovation gaps that will transform clients’ business, and develop technologies, materials and processes that drive out the wasteful steps and time to help clients get to market faster.

How to contact: rp+m, (440) 930-2015 or

There are myriad programs available to commercial and industrial real estate users that provide low cost capital and incentives for new investment. In addition to conventional financing, there are nontraditional sources of financing, tax deferral and tax mitigation strategies that can stretch your equity dollar.

Smart Business spoke with Bob Brehmer, CCIM, SIOR, principal at NAI Daus, about financial aid programs that can benefit commercial and industrial real estate users.

What are port authority conduit financing and construction savings programs?

If you are considering an acquisition of property, new construction or redevelopment of an existing structure, you should visit your port authority. It can direct you to financing and other programs that may be of benefit. For instance, one of its programs provides for state and local sales tax exemptions on materials for new construction and expansion projects. This can offer considerable tax savings that can be used to fund equity or be reserved for other investments.

Your port authority can arrange financing at higher loan-to-value ratios and can accommodate other structures such as conventional loans, grants, capital leases and operating leases. Bond fund programs allow borrowers to access capital markets and secure long-term fixed interest rates.

There is an ability to integrate other sources of financing such as those available through state, city and county programs, and other conventional financing methods. Eligible business can be industrial or commercial as well as 501(c)(3) and governmental entities. Funds can be used to acquire and renovate existing buildings or for land acquisition and new construction. The programs have been used to fund student housing, manufacturing facilities and redevelopment projects.

What is PACE and what is it used for?

The acronym PACE stands for Property Assessed Clean Energy. It is a method to finance energy-efficient and renewable energy upgrades to buildings by using special assessments. Cities, villages and townships are authorized to participate with property owners who want to install energy efficient improvements and upgrades.

A special assessment district is formed to finance eligible projects with special tax assessments. The assessments are placed on the property owner’s tax bill and are collected over five or more years.

If you are considering a solar, solar-thermal, geothermal or other customer-generated energy project, this may be a program to consider.

What other programs would you recommend?

The EB-5 program, for example, which allows foreign nationals to receive a permanent U.S. green card by investing in new or troubled U.S. businesses and New Market Tax Credits, can be utilized to help fund new and redevelopment projects. These programs are complicated, but have been used in this area for various high profile projects. Fortunately, we have a number of excellent sources and service providers in the area to assist firms using these programs.

One of the more dynamic, but lesser known, programs is the U.S. Foreign Trade Zone Act (FTZ). Created by Congress in 1934, the program is used as an incentive to encourage companies to keep jobs and investments in the U.S. A FTZ removes certain costs and barriers that do not exist in foreign locations.

FTZs also create a designated area that is considered to be outside the stream of international commerce. This allows certain types of merchandise to be admitted to the FTZ without being subject to customs, duties or some excise taxes. The benefits are numerous, including but not limited to the deferral, reduction or elimination of duties. An FTZ also permits activities such as testing, assembly, relabeling, repackaging and storage of goods. Northeast Ohio has two: FTZ 40 in Cleveland and FTZ 181 located in Summit County.

Your next project may be financed by your traditional lender relationship. You should, however, investigate the nontraditional sources of capital and financing available to business. You may end up receiving more flexible terms while retaining more of your hard-won capital for other investments.

Bob Brehmer, CCIM, SIOR, is a principal at NAI Daus. Reach him at (216) 455-0920 or

Insights Real Estate is brought to you by NAI Daus

Phil Misch, presidentAmerican Roll Form Products
Phil Misch, president
(440) 352-0753 |

Lower labor costs elsewhere has made it difficult for companies with domestic manufacturing operations to compete on price. In order to remain competitive, American Roll Form Products President Phil Misch and his team decided to focus on value and find ways to cut costs along the supply chain.

By evaluating assembly drawings, parts and mating components, ARF can identify areas where material can be reduced and assembly costs cut, with potential savings up to 40 percent.

Working with Chamberlain, which sells garage door openers to many top retailers, ARF redesigned a structural bar section that performed better while saving $550,000 a year in materials.

Using prototype facilities to make samples of new sections and perform load tests, ARF designed a part made of new high-strength material that was stronger and 34 percent lighter, yielding an annual freight savings of $120,000.

Chamberlain also cut costs by working with ARF to develop reusable, “green” containers to ship products. The ability to recycle packaging materials reduced packing costs and eliminated disposal expenses.

ARF also has been a leader in innovating products for the solar market, designing piles used in solar panels that have reduced material and freight costs.

To better serve the solar and West Coast markets, ARF opened a 53,200-square-foot manufacturing facility in Las Vegas in the spring of 2013.

Even in today’s price competitive manufacturing environment, value outweighs cost. By embracing creativity and innovation, ARF found a way to create an advantage over its competition.  


Tom Salpietra, president and COOEYE Lighting International
Tom Salpietra, president and COO
(888) 350-7001 |

EYE Lighting International, lead by President and COO Tom Salpietra, lets innovation guide its path to competition in the global marketplace. Realizing an increased demand for energy saving lighting solutions, EYE Lighting developed more energy efficient luminaires and lamps.

The company’s kiaroLED outdoor LED luminaire line of products has been recognized for its efficiency in controlling backlight, uplight and glare. In 2013, EYE Lighting launched its LEDioc brand of LED upgrade lamps, designed to allow for easy retrofit from an HID to LED light source in post-top and pendant luminaires.

To further strengthen its position in the LED market, EYE Lighting acquired all assets related to LED luminaire products from Aphos Lighting in November 2012.

Growth and innovation have led to increased production, including the July 2012 unveiling of a new design and assembly facility in Mentor. The 2,000-square-foot space was specifically designed for LED storage and assembly. The state-of-the-art cell manufacturing room features anti-static floors and fully digital workstations that have adjustable screens, which display interactive assembly instructions and a bill of materials.

EYE Lighting employees are cross-trained to provide flexibility — employees can be moved along different areas of the assembly line as additional support is needed. Employees may work in several parts of the manufacturing process in the same day.

The company supports engineering and business students through scholarships at Lakeland Community College and Cleveland Technical Societies Council. Employees participate in lighting association activities, including those of the Illuminating Engineering Society.


Patricia B. Setlock, presidentFabrication Group LLC
Patricia B. Setlock, president
(216) 251-1125 |

When the recession dried up sources for capital to fund commercial projects, the Fabrication Group went in another direction and developed a noncommercial product line that would provide balance to the seasonal highs and lows of making custom commercial products made of architectural metals.

The company, led by President Patricia B. Setlock, worked with a premise that the new product should be manufactured economically in the United States — due to import difficulties related to cost and size — and be easy to install.

Setlock, a graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business program in Cleveland, included the launch of the Bright Covers patio line as part of a growth plan developed through the class. Initial processes were outsourced, enabling the Fabrication Group to unveil the new line of products in February 2013.

While the product was being developed, the company’s custom commercial area had rebounded and revenues doubled between 2011 and 2012. The patio cover line and continued growth of custom architectural work led to another doubling of revenue.

This growth period was supported by the company’s ability to improve processes and efficiency through lean manufacturing techniques, an efficient system for inventory management and vendor-financed consignment agreements that eliminated a need for outside capital or loans.

Plans call for two operations to be brought in-house in 2015, which will require additional capital and space. These operations will serve both the commercial and noncommercial lines and bringing them in-house is expected to provide excellent ROI and better quality control. 

Click here to read about this year's winners.

Saturday, 25 January 2014 00:16

2014 Evolution of Manufacturing Winners

Martin Ellis CEOAir Enterprises LLC
Martin Ellis, CEO
(330) 794-9770 

An enterprising solution

Air Enterprises meets the challenges of climate control as demands increase 

The climate in the company data center needs to be controlled for optimum performance of computer servers. More heat is generated all the time and rack density keeps increasing over the years.

That’s just one area that Air Enterprises LLC focuses on to deliver air handling solutions.

For more than 45 years, the company has been a leader in delivering best-in-class air handling solutions to the automotive, medical facilities and high technology, pharmaceutical and manufacturing industries.

Air Enterprises recently joined forces with KyotoCooling, of the Netherlands, acquiring the exclusive license to market, sell, manufacture and commission KyotoCooling technology in North America. This allows Air Enterprises to combine the patented “green” cooling technology of KyotoCooling and the leading energy recovery wheel from Thermotech Enterprises to offer the most energy-efficient data center cooling solutions.

This patented technology is 70 to 85 percent more efficient than traditional data center conditioning solutions.

Air Enterprises, under CEO Martin Ellis, also installed a new air handling system on the Cleveland Clinic’s bone marrow transplant and leukemia floor.

This features a custom filtering system for the entire floor, which was previously handled by individual equipment in each patient’s room.

Air Enterprises’ proprietary SiteBilt process enables clients across the globe to benefit from the most sustainable and energy efficient air handling solutions in the market, without geographical limitations. They are factory manufactured and assembled on-site of aluminum components, which do not rust.


Eric Hauge, vice president, general managerArcelorMittal Cleveland
Eric Hauge, vice president, general manager
(216) 429-6000 |

Filling the gap

How ArcelorMittal Cleveland is developing its workforce of the future

The U.S. steel industry is facing a critical workforce challenge: Thousands of skilled workers are needed over the next decade and beyond to fill vacancies created by the retiring baby boomer generation and a declining interest in manufacturing careers. ArcelorMittal Cleveland, an integrated steel manufacturer, is projecting it will lose up to 34 highly skilled maintenance technicians a year for the next five years to attrition and retirements.

To address this problem, the company, under Vice President and General Manager Eric Hauge, has partnered with the United Steelworkers Local 979 and local community colleges to develop Steelworker for the Future, a 2 ½-year program in which individuals attend classes at a participating college and gain hands-on training at ArcelorMittal while working to achieve a two-year degree and a sustainable career within the manufacturing sector.

The aim is to facilitate knowledge transfer from experienced employees to new hires, promote manufacturing career paths, overcome misperceptions about manufacturing jobs, balance the development of prospective workers’ real-world technical competencies and their job-readiness skills, and distinguish ArcelorMittal as an employer of choice.

Steelworker for the Future launched with Lakeland Community College in November 2011 and later with Cuyahoga Community College in May 2012. The company has also partnered with Max Hayes High School and other local youth-targeted organizations to introduce the opportunity to high school students.

Approximately 60 students are enrolled in the program and 17 have participated in paid internships at ArcelorMittal’s Cleveland plant. The first graduates are expected this summer.


Darice Inc. Mike Catanzarite, CEODave Catanzarite, CEODarice Inc.
Mike (Left) and Dave Catanzarite, co-CEOs
(866) 432-7423 |

Crafting a plan

How the Catanzarite brothers keep raising the bar at Darice

Mike and Dave Catanzarite have faced plenty of challenges in helping Darice Inc. stay on top of its competition. The nationwide recession forced many consumers to trim spending and that could have been bad news for Darice, which launched in 1954, becoming a leader in the wholesale craft industry.

But the diligence that Mike and Dave, the company’s co-CEOs, bring to every aspect of their work keeps the company going and keeps customers coming back.

Darice opened with one retail store and now has more than 80,000 product SKUs that are supplied to retailers of all sizes. They range from mom-and-pop stores to big-box retailers like Wal-Mart and Target to craft stores such as Jo-Ann and Michael’s. In addition to its wholesale business, Darice also successfully runs the 28-store regional craft chain Pat Catan’s.

To stay on top, Darice has expanded its China operation with 5,000 square feet of work space as well as 21 employees dedicated to merchandising, sourcing and factory compliance, finance, creative design, direct import operation and quality control/product compliance.

Sourcing is another key component in the success of Darice. Each new supplier goes through a qualifying process to ensure that it can provide the quality that the company and its customers have come to expect. Once on board, suppliers are also subject to a scorecard review that includes inspection and testing failures, delivery and capacity.

The scores are then used to determine whether a supplier is worthy of more business.


Grant Cleveland, founder and CEODuneCraft Inc.
Grant Cleveland, founder and CEO
(800) 306-4168 | 

Game on

How DuneCraft gets customers what they want and goes to great lengths to do so 

Grant Cleveland isn’t just trying to sell his customers a product at DuneCraft Inc. The company’s founder and CEO wants to sell them the right product, and he’s willing to go to great lengths to make sure that happens.

“Cleveland and the DuneCraft crew will actually make a product suggestion list, in advance of a meeting, to help focus the customer on key items that are correct for their consumer,” says Jay Jacobson, a sales consultant for University Games/Playroom Entertainment. “This helps the buyers make decisions faster and shows the keen interest that DuneCraft has in making sure that the customer is well-taken-care-of.” 

DuneCraft has become the leader in themed terrariums and a contender in sprouting kits and science novelties. The company is in thousands of mass, online and catalog retailers, and Cleveland is proud that all of its items and subcomponents are made in the United States. 

DuneCraft has developed a proprietary software system, called Steel Stage, that integrates all levels of its manufacturing into an automated system that organizes, stores, tracks and displays information. Steel Stage is divided into 14 different modules and allows managers to see progress and reports in real time, as well as track inventory and quality control and many other aspects of manufacturing. 

The company also uses a ticketing system to ensure that team members complete what is expected of them to allow everyone to move ahead to the next level of productivity. The result is a decrease in cost and a much higher level of productivity.


Roger Sustar, presidentFredon Corp.
Roger Sustar, president
(440) 951-5200 |

Lighting a spark

How Fredon Corp. gets high school students excited about manufacturing

Two Northeast Ohio teachers are grateful for the strong commitment that Roger Sustar and Fredon Corp. have continually demonstrated for getting young people excited about manufacturing.

It began in 1992 with the Cannons of Fredon, an innovative apprenticeship and training program for local high school and vocational school students. The program teaches students about modern machining and metalworking and about the viability of a career in manufacturing. 

The learning continues to this day with the RoboBot competition that Fredon launched in the fall of 2010. RoboBot teams are formed and compete against each other in sanctioned local competitions. They each have the chance to move on to compete against schools from across the United States.

 “Fredon has also worked with each team to provide manufacturing support and capacity with their industry partners,” says Yvonne Schiffer, a career and technical education teacher at Cleveland Heights High School. “I have students who used the opportunity to gain employment opportunities on their way to college and some on their way to employment. They have provided each team with manufacturing mentors who have changed the way our students view manufacturing and engineering.” 

Cleveland Heights High has participated in this competition for three years and has been recognized for sportsmanship, design documentation and design presentation. Beaumont School has taken part with an all-female team and won the Ohio competition last year. Both Schiffer and fellow teacher Gretchen Santo from Beaumont cite numerous examples of the difference that Sustar and Fredon are making in Northeast Ohio in preparing students for success.


Dmitry Shashkov, CEO of the fabricated products business unitH.C. Starck
Dmitry Shashkov, CEO of the fabricated products business unit
(216) 692-3990 |


Green efforts

H.C. Starck embraces sustainability at its Ohio fabricated products facility 

German-based H.C. Starck’s Euclid facility, the company’s fabricated products business unit, continues its development as a leading manufacturer of specialty metal products for the aerospace, nuclear, military and medical industries. One of 12 manufacturing facilities in the global company, the Northeast Ohio facility is led by Dmitry Shashkov, CEO of the fabricated products business unit. 

The year 2013 began with a yearlong contraction project. As the company streamlined physical operations, the Ohio facility still had to maintain past improvements in production efficiency, product quality and on-time delivery. 

At the same time, H.C. Starck expanded its green efforts through an aggressive sustainability program. The business unit’s goal was to have a net reduction in energy usage of 2 percent, and by the end of October 2013, energy per kilogram of material produced dropped 5 percent, well below the targeted goal. 

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency recently commended the company for recycling 100 percent of its former hazardous wastes.

The effort is ongoing. H.C. Starck is working to develop a comprehensive waste-recycling program that will take 98 percent of all wastes generated. In addition, chemical monitors on wastewater are providing a $30,000 per year cost savings in reduced chemical usage. 

The sustainability efforts also focus on employee health, and the types of products manufactured and their end-of-life use. 

With tight margins, the company continues to improve management, manufacturing efficiency and quality, while maintaining steady employment. In 2013, H.C. Starck implemented the Total Production Maintenance program to increase production while increasing employee morale and job satisfaction. ●


Eric Lofquist, co-owner, president and CEOMagnus International Group Inc.
Eric Lofquist, co-owner, president and CEO
(216) 592-8355 |

Growth from sustainability

Magnus International Group turned renewable materials into a sustainable business

In 2007, on an idle 25-acre plant in Painesville Township, Eric Lofquist and Scott Forster started Magnus International Group Inc., a private holding company that soon established three companies in quick succession after converting the plant into a sustainable products manufacturing facility. The companies produced industrial and consumer waxes, alternative liquid fuels, could recover oil and water emulsions, and could make carbon energy for blast furnaces.

The holding company transitioned out of the petroleum industry and shifted its focus to transforming reusable food industry co-products into renewable materials.

To this end, Magnus constructed a one-of-a-kind prill tower facility that produces, packages and distributes custom animal feed products for the cattle, swine and equine industries, and processes food industry fats, oils and greases that would otherwise end up in landfills.

Its success led to the construction of a second prill tower that was built in 2013 to manufacture exclusive varieties of solid animal feed ingredients.

Sustainability is also important for company operations. For example, its Hardy Animal Nutrition business saves on natural resources by utilizing lake water and running on methane gas recovered from the Lake County landfill.

The company says its manufacturing technology is unprecedented, and it has developed products and processes that are an industry first. The once idle plant now employs 50 people, and the administrative offices employ another eight. Magnus reports revenue growth of 2,700 percent between 2007 and 2011 and it serves clients such as Cargill Inc., Perdue Farms and Land O’Lakes Inc. They also do smaller-scale projects that address individual customer requirements.


Barry Cik, ownerNaturepedic
Barry Cik, owner
(800) 917-3342 |

Building a better bed

The Cik family is turning Naturepedic into a household name 

Ten years ago, Barry Cik, owner of Naturepedic, didn’t want to put his first-born grandchild on any available crib mattress. His mission to create a better crib mattress that incorporated improvements in structural, chemical, allergenic and fire safety, as well as comfort for the baby, led to the creation of a multimillion-dollar company. 

Barry and his sons Jeffrey and Jason built Naturepedic from their garage into a 50,000-square-foot production facility. They also helped change governmental regulations and established GREENGUARD third party certifications for mattresses. 

From a single crib mattress, Naturepedic’s line grew to include 11 models of crib mattresses along with infant pads and accessories, such as sheets and changing pads. The company soon expanded into making certified organic cotton mattresses for older children, and in 2012, developed an adult line. 

As the company continues to expand its lines of mattresses, it has added employees, bought more equipment and completely revamped its production line to handle increasing demands. The company has added a 9,000-square-foot warehouse, opened another warehouse for product distribution in California and is in the process of opening a West Coast showroom in Los Angeles. 

Naturepedic has grown from zero to more than $10 million in annual sales within a decade, and its products are being sold at more than 600 stores nationally and internationally. The company also donates infant pads to more than 100 hospital neonatal units and gives products to the community, organizational and educational groups.


Doug Hartley, President and CEOPortage Precision Polymers Inc.
Doug Hartley, President and CEO
(330) 296-6327 |

A recipe for success

Portage Precision Polymers mixes up record sales growth by adhering to core values 

Founders Doug and Rick Hartley started Portage Precision Polymers Inc. in Ravenna in 2002 with just six employees, producing and selling 1 million pounds of rubber compounds in a single month.

 The company, which develops and produces custom mix elastomer compounds for manufacturing and fabricating businesses, has continued to evolve and grow under the leadership of President and CEO Doug Hartley. The company now has 70 employees. 

Custom elastomer compounding is a highly technical, complex industry, but Portage Precision Polymers has found a recipe for success by adhering to its core values — safety, quality, integrity and customer satisfaction.

 The Ravenna facility’s 179,000-square-foot rubber and elastomeric compound manufacturing operation can mix 60 million pounds annually. It also has a full-service research laboratory and testing department with an on-site team of development chemists. 

In 2013, Portage Precision Polymers celebrated the opening of its new silicone custom-mixing facility in Mogadore. Silicone is a rapidly growing niche market, as customers use it for its sustainable and economic benefits. The state-of-the-art 17,680-square-foot facility has 20 million pounds of annual mixing capacity with a full-service research laboratory. 

The company is the only compound mixer able to blend both organic and silicone compounds. 

In fact, many of Portage Precision Polymers’ customers use the company’s sustainable materials to obtain their desired Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification. ●


Matt Hlavin, CEORapid Prototype and Manufacturing LLC (rp+m)
Matt Hlavin, CEO
(440) 930-2015 |

Paving the way

Rapid Prototype and Manufacturing LLC is at the forefront of 3-D printing

Within the past five years, 3-D printing has become in high demand as a technology that can save time and money. As a result, Rapid Prototype and Manufacturing LLC was founded with CEO Matt Hlavin at the helm.

In traditional manufacturing, a company must purchase tooling that costs thousands of dollars and takes weeks to build prior to sampling a part. If anything was wrong with the tooling, it would need to be shipped out and repaired; again, costing more money and time.

But with rp+m’s technology, customers can create prototypes within hours rather than weeks. Ultimately, this allows manufacturers’ product development time to drop dramatically and permits more time for making additional products.

In addition, rp+m gives customers the ability to 3-D print end-use parts, rather than just prototypes. This is having an impact in the aerospace, industrial, medical, automotive and consumer products industries.

rp+m also has received several grants to help develop new 3-D printing materials for various markets.

It expanded into metals in 2013 and is the first 3-D printing company to be printing tungsten. rp+m is able to additively manufacture (3-D print) metal parts with complex shapes within hours.

Due to high machine usage, rp+m recently purchased two additional 3-D printers to keep up with demand, and the facility runs 24/7. The employment growth rate is more than 600 percent, and the company expects to add even more jobs in 2014. 

Click here to see who got honorable mentions.

Sunday, 26 January 2014 21:07

2014 Evolution of Manufacturing


2014 Evolution of Manufacturing 

The ever-changing field of manufacturing 

The manufacturing industry is changing fast. As the pace of evolution quickens, it is creating new demands for improved operations, new technologies, products or services. As Craig McAtee, executive director at the National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers, says, “Technology and innovation runs through all sectors, including energy, defense, aerospace, automotive, physics, the arts and biomedical — and the manufacturers are at the forefront of all of it, again.

“America was built on ‘making stuff.’ Over the last three to four decades, we have been losing our edge in the global manufacturing world to several other countries. It’s really all about innovation/product ideation that seeds manufacturing (making stuff) and entrepreneurism. Additive manufacturing is fueling innovation once again in the U.S., real time.”

As the needs in manufacturing continue to evolve, Cuyahoga Community College is evolving too. Cuyahoga Community College’s 50,000-square-foot Advanced Technology Training Center features high-bay labs, multipurpose training areas and an energy-efficient and naturally lighted environment for learning. The ATTC links workforce education to the latest technology, and combined with the college’s Unified Technologies Center, it is the largest technology training complex in Ohio. The ATTC provides students with education, hands-on training and employment preparation skills for well-paying jobs.

Cuyahoga Community College is committed to advancing manufacturing training within Northeast Ohio by creating partnerships with employers to meet the needs for workers with advanced training. Many of the programs offered take between 10 and 18 weeks to complete, providing employers with a constant feeder system of job-ready candidates for the in-demand high-tech industry. Among the programs offered are advanced metals joining, the Advanced Technology Academy, alternative energy and sustainability, the Cisco Technical Training Institute, construction engineering and construction technology, information technology, mechatronics, CNC machine operator, bioscience, as well as robotics through the Youth Technology Academy.

I thank you for your support of the 2014 Evolution of Manufacturing event. In addition, I would like to congratulate our 2014 honorees for their contributions to the ever-changing field of manufacturing. You are the future of manufacturing within Northeast Ohio and your innovations will drive the evolution of manufacturing into the future.  

Susan Muha is the executive vice president of the Workforce and Economic Development Division for Cuyahoga Community College.

2014 Evolution of Manufacturing Awards


Air Enterprises LLC
Martin Ellis, CEO

ArcelorMittal Cleveland
Eric Hauge, vice president & general manager 

Darice Inc.
Mike and Dave Catanzarite, co-CEOs 

Dunecraft Inc.
Grant Cleveland, founder and CEO 

Fredon Corp.
Roger Sustar, president 

H.C. Starck
Dmitry Shaskhov, CEO of the Fabricated Products Business Unit 

Magnus International Group Inc.
Eric Lofquist, co-owner, president and CEO 

Barry Cik, owner 

Portage Precision Polymers Inc.
Doug Hartley, president and CEO 

Rapid Prototype and Manufacturing LLC (rp+m)
Matt Hlavin, CEO 

Read about this year's winners by clicking here.


American Roll Form Products
Phil Misch, president 

EYE Lighting International
Tom Salpietra, president and CEO 

Fabrication Group LLC
Patricia B. Setlock, president

Read about this year's honorable mentions by clicking here.

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