Young Professionals to Know in Columbus: Class of 2014

YPs to Know 2015

Photos by Andrew Matre / CityPulse Columbus

Everyone has heard the saying, “It’s not always what you know, but who you know.” This is true in business, in life, and in Columbus. With this in mind, we have compiled our second annual list of young professionals who you should know. This year’s group ranges in age from 22 to 45 and represents a variety of wonderful people, ideas, and organizations. They are well respected in their fields and, much like you, are looking to make their mark.

Our vision for this year’s list is to tell the Columbus story through 12 specific themes that best represent Columbus’ population of young professionals, including: Food, Fashion, Music, Networking, Community, Education, Politics, Marketing, Multi-tasking, Athletics, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation. By focusing our interviews on the interests, industries, and inspirations of each of our featured young professionals, we gained a better understanding of the role that each play in the grand scheme of life in the Columbus region. We have also included their Twitter handle – if they have one – so you can directly connect with each one.


Taste – one of the most basic of senses – finds no reprieve in the greater Columbus area, as a wide range of truly delectable fare is readily available. With a reputation for farm-to-table, first-rate dining, breweries, micro-distilleries, unique dining concepts, and more, Columbus serves up a plethora of opportunity for local foodies. The city nurtures this culture as talented chefs, restaurateurs, mixologists, and hobbyists come together to share their love of food, drink, and the making of memories. Although Buckeye fans are known to be a bit bacchanalian at times, we’re focused on highlighting the more refined side of food and drink in Columbus through seven of our YPs to Know.

The food and beverage industry in Ohio is big, with revenues expected to reach $17.8 billion in 2014; Columbus is responsible for a big piece of that pie. The industry is also a large contributor to the Ohio job market, creating nearly 535,000 jobs according to the National Restaurant Association. Memories are often made over drinks or while sharing a heavenly, savory, or otherwise exquisite meal, and we’re proud to highlight local young professionals contributing to the industry in unique and innovative ways.

“We fell in love with what we found; the city here was unexpectedly young in its energy level. It was also diverse ethnically, affluent, and educated in a way we didn’t expect,” recalled Brady Konya, 40, Owner & Co-Founder of Middle West Spirits. He and Co-Founder Ryan Lang, 35, were among the first out of the gate in the early 2000s, working to give spirits a foothold in Columbus. “Not until the opening of Middle West [Spirits], has there been something back in this region in terms of being a small, commercial producer in crafting spirits from scratch here in Columbus,” said Konya. It was their combined effort to, in Lang’s words, “put Ohio back on the map for craft distilling.” This has paved the way for a wave of new distillers around the state of Ohio. “For us, Columbus has been and will continue to be our backbone for growth,” said Lang. Recently, the pair has teamed up with Chef Jonathan Sawyer of Cleveland’s Green House Tavern to create a line of new, unique barrel-aged culinary vinegars under the Tavern Vinegar moniker

Greg Lehman, 36, and Dave Rigo, 35, began exploring their passion long before the duo created Watershed Distillery, but it wasn’t until 2010 that their dream of producing locally crafted spirits became a reality. “We kept coming back to the brewing industry and we loved what was going on there, [the] local support and the variety that you see in the marketplace,” said Lehman. For them, it was a conscious choice to specialize in spirits. As they began to research the possibility, the excitement of starting a new venture continued to build. One of their first steps was seeking out experienced professionals. With hindsight always a sharp 20/20, Rigo offered that those looking to start a company should “always try to seek out people who have done it before. Find a mentor, find a couple mentors to kind of guide you along the way.” Columbus natives, Lehman and Rigo have always aimed to give back to the community, and that proved to be a founding principle of their business. “I think our whole idea of starting a company was to be more involved with Columbus,” said Lehman. The two micro-distillers have done exactly that, as the community has watched their product offering and local distribution grow over the last four years.

Geoff Towne, 36, Brewer and President of Zauber Brewing Company, saw an opening in a relatively untapped (all pun intended) market and jumped all over it, opening his microbrewery in 2012 specifically catering to local beer aficionados. Towne had already amassed years of experience working for some of the larger workhorse breweries in Ohio. With a solid foundation in all things hops, yeast, and fermentation – beginning with his education at University of California-Davis “in the art and magic of making beer” – Towne opened his flagship Grandview Heights location in January 2014. When asked about his choice to open his location in Grandview, he replied, “Here in Grandview, we get the special care and touch because we can be close to and certainly help out the Grandview Chamber and the city of Grandview a lot easier. [We can] have an impact for them as positive resources for the community.”

What’s behind the name Zauber and what does it have to do with beer, anyway? “Zauber means magic or enchanting in German. Just out of reach, illusive, not quite understood,” Towne explained. “All fermented beverages are a belief in magic because you’re setting a scene and trusting a single-celled microorganism called yeast to make beer on your behalf. But you still have to have that leap of faith.”

The adult beverage industry as a whole is a social one. In years past and to this day, it has started with like-minded home-brewers joining together, discussing, learning, and getting excited about their new brews. “Brewing is a very social business,” Towne said. “As one brewer gets better at his craft, all his colleagues do, as information is shared.” This rings true in the spirits industry as well.

“We really are all trying to get our voice together so that we can raise awareness for the industry itself,” said Lehman. The aim of a local microbrewery or micro-distillery isn’t to take the glory from the big shots like Budweiser or Sam Adams (although the profit margins might be nice), but instead, they’d rather cater to the one-percent who appreciate and enjoy the craft scene. Most restaurateurs would likely agree, in that they would prefer to prepare a culinary experience for the one-percent than for those whose appetites would be just as satiated with a quick pit stop at the drive-thru.

Exclusive beverage offerings find their match easily in Columbus, a city home to a vibrant, and growing, food scene. Bethia Woolf, 39, Co-Founder of Columbus Food Adventures and Columbus Brew Adventures, capitalized on the interest in and availability of great food in Columbus. “We started doing research on food tours and decided that we would give it a try,” Woolf recalled. Originally created to enhance awareness of the great places to eat in and around the city, she later added Columbus Brew Adventures to her portfolio of offerings as a growing number of unique, local options for libations took root around town. While well-suited for out-of-towners looking for new experiences, the real treat is for the locals. “We’ve been quite fortunate with our business that it’s had quite a lot of appeal for people within Columbus,” Woolf explained. The great thing about Columbus Food Adventures is the company’s ability to offer a varied menu of tours; those of the food persuasion can find tours by Columbus neighborhood or by cuisine. With endless possibilities, Woolf offers great options for those groups of friends who can never all agree on just one culinary experience. As more and more offerings become available, she believes the golden years of Columbus lie ahead. “I think there’s that real feeling in Columbus that our best is yet to come. I think there’s a lot of optimism and I think Columbus is going through a dynamic phase.”

In contrast to Woolf, some local restaurateurs keep people coming back for any combination of food, hospitality, ambiance, or even mixology offered by their local talent behind the bar. Sheila Trautner, 34, President and Owner of Taste Hospitality, is one such person, managing several local, well-known food and beverage establishments – such as Hubbard Grille, Mezzo, and Wine on High – that keep people coming back. Part of her success has been in her ability to bring together a winning team. “The people I surround myself with are the ones that have longevity within our organization, [and] are those that truly care. It’s not about the money for them, it’s about making an impact,” Trautner said. She emphasizes that it’s important for each cog in the wheel to feel personally invested in the company. Although a small part of the larger Columbus food and beverage scene, Taste Hospitality is a vital one, working with local partners to create shared successes. As Trautner points out, “the stronger the industry is as a whole, the better off everybody is.” – Angela Less and Erica Post


Did you know that Columbus is the third largest fashion city in the country, behind New York City and Los Angeles? It’s true. Columbus employs more than 500 fashion designers, putting our city third in the per-capita rankings of major U.S. cities. It should come as no surprise, then, since we’re also the corporate headquarters for so many well-known fashion brands like Abercrombie & Fitch, DSW, Lane Bryant, The Limited, and Victoria’s Secret.

Creatives power not only how we dress; they have a significant impact on our region’s economy. According to the Greater Columbus Arts Council (GCAC), Central Ohio’s creative economy sector employs 25,000 people, generates over $3 billion in business receipts, and attracts nearly 6 million people to events each year. These next four forward-thinking YPs to Know stand out from the crowd with their sense of fashion and devotion to creativity in Columbus. They are doers who don’t seem to stop or have any boundaries of what is possible.

“Creatives are the ultimate problem solvers,” said Stephanie Rond, 40, owner of S. Rond Creative. The freelance street artist, gallery owner, and arts advocate believes that young professionals need an artistic side to think outside the box. “That’s what we do on a daily basis. We’re thinking outside the box.” Although the arts are often the first to get cut when budgets are made, people with an arts background should be the most valued if not for this trait alone. Rond’s work is particularly interesting as it surrounds multiple themes such as size, scale, environment, and accessibility. Her goal is to spark conversation. “It’s about you making an impression on other people’s lives and how they’re experiencing their lives,” she said. Even if viewers do not see what she initially developed the work to be, it still spans over-arching themes that all people have the opportunity to discuss. Rond also co-founded CAW: Creative Arts of Women with artist Helma Groot five years ago. “There needed to be a safe space for women artists to talk about the needs and the differences in our careers as women.”

Thomas McClure, 37, Founder & Executive Director of CMH Fashion Week, embodies the excitement of the fashion community here in Columbus. A transplant from West Texas, McClure was surprised by what Columbus had to offer. “I found that Columbus is very open to re-creating yourself or creating something,” he recalled. By rebranding Columbus’ fashion week as CMH Fashion Week, he has aided in developing the notoriety of fashion as seen in Columbus and across the country. “CMH is our airport code, of course. We felt like it was fitting for Columbus because we’re quirky that way. That’s Columbus for you; to do something that’s a little bit quirky, but completely trendy.” In 2013, the Finale Show brought in about 800 people and is expected to grow to 1,200 in attendance this year – not to mention the nearly 3,000 attendees throughout the entire week.

Kareem Jackson, 31, began his fashion foray with Abercrombie & Fitch and now pushes the envelope at Milk Bar Boutique, a Short North shop he co-owns with Eric Hayes. “I couldn’t find anything I wanted to buy and one day I just decided to do it myself,” Jackson said. “I want to sell the stuff that I want to buy and that my friends wanted to buy.” Inspired by a hard-working father, Jackson always has a hand in something. Whether that is being active on a board, creating meaningful events, or constantly being active in the community, he stays busy. He believes his actions are sourced from his peers. “It’s really about who you surround yourself with.” Jackson spans the gamut of what creative people can do and what inspires them.

The amazing part of creativity is that anyone can be involved if they have the passionate. Take Currecia Gamble, 30, for example. By day, she is the Executive Assistant to the President and CEO at the Central Ohio Workforce Investment Corporation (COWIC). By night she articulates the CMH Fashion Week brand as “the voice behind the scenes,” connecting with the fashionable people around the city and maintaining the brand via social media. Her passion led her to become involved in the event and, after three years on the board, now serves on the marketing committee. Gamble reminds young professionals that they do not have to consider themselves fashionistas to be fashionable. “It’s about what stands out to [you]. If you do a bright pink and tailor it with a neutral color, you can make it all work and be yourself. Even though we’re in corporate America we can still be ourselves and still show our personality.” Stay creative, Columbus. – Derek Grosso and Angela Less


As the theme would suggest, our overachievers and multi-taskers naturally thrive under pressure, they love being involved, and they generally do not skip a beat. Each has his or her own techniques and tricks-of-the-trade to stay balanced and focused, but it all circles back to the rewarding nature of accomplishing as much as possible. Success for these young professionals is not in the task of getting things done or simply getting paid. They are inspired to do more.

First up is Charles Erickson, 36, an Event Marketing and Consumer Engagement Specialist, who recently left Columbus Underground to pursue the freelance path. “It was totally bittersweet. I loved working at Columbus Underground.” He began his career traveling regularly for work, but now calls Columbus home. Along with his unique skill set, he brought his passion for creating unique, engaging experiences for loyal consumers to local culture. “The defining nature of my work presently, professionally, and personally is understanding marketing from a very consumer-focused, consumer-driven standpoint from working with local businesses.” Through the creation of moments, social to business, Erickson aims for attendees to get the most out of their involvement through interactive measures. He’s also one of the brains behind a successful event series that combines networking with performances called motive. And like most things he is involved with, it is winning over his target audience. “The most memorable experiences you have going out from social perspective are the ones where you engaged yourself personally, where you have something to do.”

Varun Ramanujam, 23, Marketing and Communications Specialist at the Columbus Metropolitan Library, is part of an environment that fosters continual education and life-long learning. As one of the newer members of his team, Ramanujam began on his first day with the same positive attitude that served him while participating in a multitude of student activities at The Ohio State University. “You learn as you’re doing it… Every event and every opportunity was one to grow from.” Being in the marketing and events world, he has the opportunity to stay involved in events at the library as well as others happening around Columbus. Inspired by his co-workers, Ramanujam is further motivated to provide his best work. “They’re all really working passionately and working really hard. And that’s incredible to see.”

Constantly surrounded and inspired by entrepreneurial spirit, Erin Corrigan, 35, takes adventure under her wing to create exciting opportunities. “There is this mentality of ‘if you want to run with it, go,’” she said. Wearing many hats herself as a graphic designer at JP Morgan Chase, an event organizer and marketer, and the incoming President of Cap Square Rotary, Corrigan urges young professionals to get involved. Living by the Rotary motto of service above self, Corrigan believes it is important to be an integral part of every process. “Ownership is really important when people really believe they are making an impact. I think it’s easier to get excited about things when they’re your baby.” Self-awareness and understanding have been crucial as she strives to be the most efficient person possible. In order to carry out her goals to completion, Corrigan caters to her own frame of mind. “Figure out the method of balancing what your fun time actually consists of and what it is that actually relaxes you, because they aren’t always the same things.”

Cause-based life experiences like Bike & Build – where cyclists travel cross country and stop for a day to build something for the less fortunate – helped Denis de Verteuil develop strong leadership skills that he uses everyday working for Compton Construction. The 27-year-old vice president endeavors to grow the company through business development and marketing. Above all he values the community aspect of their work and the positive change they affect in the surrounding areas. “We differentiate ourselves from the competition because we focus on community service and community involvement,” he said. A strong passion for city planning, startups, and arts organizations keep de Verteuil involved in the neighborhoods and the communities, which he says he values most. “The job has afforded me [the opportunity] to run programs like Design Rolls… and Pinchflat: A Bike Poster Blowout.” With a vast array of community-building experiences to share, de Verteuil’s advice to young professionals is simple: “you’re your own barrier.” – Angela Less and Simran Taneja


This category is an interesting one as it features those involved with the music and performance scene rather than spotlighting musicians and performers themselves – who are also numerous in the Columbus community. The next four young professionals are incredibly passionate about their craft and seek help from Columbus to support artistic people in their own backyard. These YPs to Know creatively innovate within practical means when it comes to creating content, working with tight budgets, or raising awareness for the respect of musicians and performers everywhere.

Spreading awareness of the Gateway Film Center to film lovers and movie buffs around the city is no walk-on role. For Johnny DiLoretto, 43, Director of Communications, it’s one part he seems born to play. “It’s really exciting to be a part of it. One of our major goals here at the Gateway Film Center is to let the city know that we are a local, independent theater.” He also serves as co-host of Columbusland, a series of pre-film shorts intended to get audiences more acclimated to the city through the use of local celebrity cameos, site visits to well-known locales around town, and DiLoretto’s special brand of humor. For DiLoretto, entertainment like music and movies are the equivalent of understanding one’s self and passion. “I’ve always been drawn to film… Then I saw It’s A Wonderful Life when I was 16. And that changed my life because that was the movie that made me understand my love for this art form.” Through his work, DiLoretto is able to share his passion with all who attend. He reminds patrons that film is not just entertainment, but art. “We are devoted to the medium of cinema as art and we’re trying to cultivate a new, independent movie-going audience.”

Patrick Roehrenbeck, 45, leads the Columbus Gay Men’s Chorus (CGMC) as Executive Director, often taking what his team wants to do and problem-solving to figure out how to make their ideas work. “Non-profits don’t have meaty budgets. So I always want to hear the most outlandish ideas and concepts and themes for concerts because you need to start with something. And then you work as a group to make sure that it happens.” Formed in 1990 as a reaction to the AIDS epidemic, CGMC provides joy to all by bringing the chorus together and emboldening the audience. Roehrenbeck’s passion for the chorus – and their mission of increasing awareness and acceptance of the LGBT community – illustrates hisown range of talents in creating amazing performances with each new concert experience and welcoming new friends each time. “Every Sunday it’s like a family reunion.”

In Columbus there are plenty of genres of local music to choose from, however, it’s never a bad thing to read up on a few before checking them out. Enter Josh Weiker, 29, a jack-of-all-trades writer for Columbus Avenue. Often writing reviews of local bands, events, food, and venues, Weiker evokes emotion from his readers. “People are like, I’m so happy [you wrote that], that article made my mom cry, and eventually people begin seeking you out.” From bartender to Co-creator and Co-Host of Damn Girl Dance Party, Weiker provides yet another reason to experience life in Columbus. However, it’s not all wine and roses; it takes time and effort. He advises young professionals to think things through to execution. “I’ve come to find a lot of people can have ideas, but not really think about all the things that it takes to do this and that. Once you get into actually doing it you’re in over your head because you’re suddenly swamped with too many things.” Look for more from Weiker at ColumbusTheAvenue.com.

April Kulcsar, 32, Manager of Music, Art and Entertainment at Brother’s Drake Meadery, demonstrates what it truly means to be a supporter of the arts. Kulcsar continuously serves as a liaison between the public and the creative community. She strives to raise awareness for professional artists and musicians who require more than just compliments. “Things that are important to me are artist’s rights and the way they are treated and respected. There’s a severe imbalance in the industry at all levels… of artists being screwed over,” Kulcsar lamented. She works to provide the best entertainment she can while treating the entertainers well in return. Kulcsar leads by example. Although she didn’t see herself in the music and booking arena initially, she has developed her talent overtime through the belief and support of those with whome she works. “They wanted me and they recognized value in me that I didn’t even recognize that I had… I didn’t believe in myself, but they believed in me.” – James Deline and Angela Less


To be well connected can mean very different things. Some people find employment based on their connections, whereas others utilize their networks to build their book of business. These next four YPs to Know understand that it’s not just about knowing people, it’s about knowing what function each person serves in the big picture, understanding where personalities and goals align, who may work well together, and how they will help each other. They don’t simply make connections, they strategically increase the value of all those within their network. And that makes each of their networks that much more powerful.

Girl About Columbus, a popular local blog written by Amanda Hamman, 27, provides readers with personal accounts about things to do and places to see in Columbus. Hamman is always out and about experiencing anything and everything that Columbus has to offer – a landscape she feels constantly ebbs and flows. Hamman blogs in order to share those experiences with her loyal fans. “It’s a creative outlet. Basically I was taking a lot of pictures and I wanted to share them.” She may be a Speech-Language Pathologist at RehabCare during the day, but night brings her closer to her passion: connecting people with the city. “I’m just an average girl [who is] really enjoying Columbus and loves sharing it with other people.”

Nick Seguin, 29, Partner at Dynamit, allows his and the company’s reputation to stand for itself. Structured around core values such as responsibility and drive, Seguin not only teaches these principles, but he lives them. “We’ve really leaned on the quality of our work, the passion for engagements, our relationships, our clients. To the point that one of our core values is: drive.” Seguin is constantly illustrating the importance of these core values and the impact they have on the number of clients they bring in and their bottom line. With a recent expansion under their belt, they seem to be doing something right. The company began with a simple idea in high school that was supported by their founding ideals. “The way that we grew the company and the way that we gained the next client was delivering high quality. Caring enough to make sure that things happen, they happen right, and we deliver.”

In quite a different realm, Nicci Sprouse, 39, seeks to be a screening agent when making connections of the heart. “I consider myself a connector or a conduit. All I’m doing is introducing people.” Primarily working to provide opportunities for singles, it is Sprouse’s duty to be a good judge of character. Although each city she visits provides its own unique take on romance, “in Columbus it’s about attraction,” she said. She learned early on that making connections was her passion and she hasn’t looked back since. Sprouse is motivated by learning to understand people and helping people in the community to find new friends – and possibly that special someone – to share a connection. “It’s about serving the community… There are so many restricting factors that keep [people] from putting themselves out there and meeting people,” Sprouse explained. She is now pursuing further opportunities through her venture, The Single Life where Sprouse serves as the President and Co-Founder. The free, lifestyle event resource for Columbus singles connects singles with opportunities, such as events, across the city.

Steve Baldzicki, 40, Owner and Founder of Big Fish Networking, Networking Leaders Alliance, and Monarch Title Services, holds his peers to high standards in order to promote networking in Columbus. “It is growing and not because of me, but because of the values and morals and professionalism we seek. And I demand it. I demand people to be respectful and nice and kind.” He makes it his job to know or find out what he can do for others in order to get what he ultimately needs. It’s not simply trading favors, but strategically reaching out to his connections. “[Columbus is] one of the best networked cities in the countries, in my opinion.” Baldzicki reminds young professionals that having a network
and being involved will expand horizons. “There over 55 networking organizations in Central Ohio, so there’s just a ton of opportunities.” – Angela Less


For the more than 50,000 students in Columbus City Schools and 145,000 undergraduate students enrolled at over 50 colleges and universities in Columbus – including The Ohio State University – imagine the impact that great educators have on all the industries we’ve featured in CityPulse. Often found behind the scenes, educators and advisors help shape the future. This statement certainly rings true for the students who learn from and are impacted by four of our YPs to Know. These young professionals possess character, resolve, and a vested interest in helping to develop the next generation. With these YPs at the helm, the future of education is looking bright.

Hannah D. Powell, 33, Executive Director of KIPP Columbus, not only makes work in the classroom a priority; she strives to uphold the quality and strength of character. She believes it can be as simple as illustrating how to be considerate of others. “One character strength that we explicitly teach here, for our kids and also to ourselves, is gratitude. There’s always something to be grateful for and that’s a really powerful motivator and inspiration,” she explained. The 320 students at the KIPP school – ranging from grades 5-8 – have often gone through more life-altering tribulations than one person experiences in a lifetime. It was not an easy path that she chose. Powell chose it because of her experience working at inner city schools in Philadelphia. “[Through] my time in Philadelphia as a teacher, two things happened: one is I got really angry about the inequities that existed for kids… and, at the same time, got inspired about what was possible when kids are given what they need to be successful.”

At the City of Columbus’ Department of Education, Education Policy Advisor, Tina Nguyen, 28, helps structure and execute new programs to provide better education for children in public schools. Two initiatives the Department of Education is currently focused on are education and workforce development. The Fast Path initiative partners with Columbus State Community College and Nationwide Children’s Hospital to train and connect Columbus’ unemployed and underemployed adults to the workforce. The second initiative is the Mayor’s Early Start Columbus Universal Pre-K program, an initiative to expand high quality pre-kindergarten forall foour-year-olds in Columbus. Mayor Coleman’s dedication to improving education in Columbus has given Nguyen much needed support.

“We have a wonderful mayor who is very involved in education. I think the city of Columbus is primed to make a really good impact in education,” Nguyen said. She was originally inspired when she traveled to France in her early college days to learn about alternative governing practices. “I think it really changed the way I think about what is possible.” Nguyen then studied education and policy in D.C. for three years before moving to Boston to pursue a Masters in Education Policy and Management at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and ultimately settling down in Columbus.

Maintaining work-life integration is a hot topic for young professionals who are new to the workforce. However, the spiritual side of life often goes overlooked. Stacie Klein, 25, Atid Columbus Director of the Jewish Federation of Columbus, works to connect young professionals in a religious setting. “Engagement most often happens around a shared experience,” said Klein. Klein provides a way for YPs to connect on this level through honest, open discussion – a discussion that may not take place in any other realm. “I think it’s really neat to see people from such different places come together for one cause.” When she began her involvement with the organization, they had about two events per month that quickly grew to six or eight. It was not the need for events that caused the demand for and increase of programming, but the opportunity to meet new people and build on current foundations, “yes it is event planning, but the Federation’s purpose is to build a strong community. Events themselves don’t make a community. It’s relationships.”

Where would we be without our alma maters? Columbus is full of colleges and universities striving to maintain our status as one the world’s smartest communities. The Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) – an economic and social development think tank – named Columbus a Top7 Intelligent Community two years in a row (2013 and 2014). Hali Buck, 27, has a hand in helping make this happen. As the Student Involvement Coordinator in the Office of Student Life at The Ohio State University, she aids the inner-workings of the school. It’s a daunting task for a campus of more than 57,000 students. Looking back, Buck finds that her experiences in college led her to working in higher education. “I think it’s kind of ironic that I was that student who was searching for what I wanted to do and now I get have a role in help students figure that out.” She takes pride in helping students along personal journeys to help them make the most of their time in a college setting. With the hope that students will become assets to their future communities, Buck continuously encourages students to get involved. “At the culmination and sum of those experiences, [I hope] to create someone who is really engaged and able to give back to society.” Columbus is indeed smart (and fortunate) to have an amazing resource like Buck working for us. – James Deline and Angela Less


These next five are not only YPs to Know, they are YPs in-the-know. They thrive on raising awareness, managing expectations, and developing the right tools to handle whatever comes their way – from PR disasters to riding the wave of a perfect campaign. Marketing masters make themselves known throughout their networks, gaining momentum from social media all the way to word-of-mouth promotions. One of the cool things discovered with this group was that each had various mentors to help guide them along the way and establish their foothold as masters of marketing.

Taylor Ray Orsbon, 24, Account Manager at Geben Communication, got her start working with prTini’s Founder (and one of last year’s YPs to Know) Heather Whaling. Orsbon’s small town Ohio roots in Van Wert, provided her a unique start to her career and a valuable mentor through Shane Haggerty. Accruing PR experience traveling between Columbus and Bowling Green, she was drawn to the Columbus region where she was put in touch with Whaling. “I had followed her blog, PR-Tini, so it was nice to work under one of my digital mentors at the time.” Orsbon has been described by peers as a rising star in the industry, with the ability to go wherever she chooses. “I still think I will invent something sometime in my lifetime,” she said. “I have an ongoing list of bright ideas I always wish I could create.”

Director of Marketing for the Gateway Film Center, Patrick Locy, 28, divides his time between the Film Center and being an adjunct professor at Capital University teaching courses relating to broadcasting and radio as the Director of University Radio. Locy’s background at CD101.1 (now CD102.5FM) gave him the opportunity to work with his true mentors. “I had the tremendous privilege of working with Andy Davis, who was known to the city as Andyman.” With Andyman’s leadership and support, Locy began creating opportunities for himself eventually networking and meeting people he works with today. Andyman’s constant advice was, in Locy’s words, “If you think you’re really good, don’t stay here. I encourage you to go anywhere else and be better than what I can provide for you.”

Alexis Perrone, 33, began making connections by volunteering at events such as Independents’ Day – Columbus’ celebration of independent culture, commerce and creativity – held in September. She now sits on the board of directors after leading the charge as Captain in 2013. She says her greatest accomplishment was taking Independents’ Day from a one day event to a three day festival – from being a volunteer to managing the entire thing. “Everything else I’ve done has come from that little bit of volunteer work that I did.” Gradually she gained more responsibilities that led her to be hired at Columbus Alive. “I got my start helping them plan events in the gay community. It was just such an amazing training ground for everything else I’ve done.” With all the experience she has gained at Columbus Alive and Independents’ Day, she landed a gig at Edwards Communities where she now serves as the Lifestyle Manager, marketing apartment communities such as Tribeca and 570 Lofts to downtown young professionals. Perrone is happy to share all the opportunities to explore downtown Columbus because she loves “integrating the people who live here to the downtown… and what happens!”

Allison Lehman, 26, and Adam Lehman, 28, together own and operate The Wonder Jam. As a team, the Lehmans are inspired to aid businesses akin to their own and inspire others to do the same along the way. “We really love working with individuals, [especially] entrepreneurs who are just starting up, small businesses, and specifically within that I would say tiny businesses because we are those folks,” Adam said. Everything they do is focused on the client, not the bottom line. Adam described saving funds and reducing their own personal budget not only for their peace of mind, but for their clients. “It kept us from having to turn clients into just dollar signs we’re chasing, but actually looking at people as people we can help. It’s huge.” Throughout their experiences, the team is constantly working and inspired by the advancements their clients are making. Allison explained: “That same type of success is happening for our clients where they have the means and the time to improve upon some of the things they had maybe ignored in the past. That’s encouraging.” – Angela Less


According to the Ohio Association of Nonprofit Organizations (OANO), there are a total of 1,966 nonprofits in Franklin County alone, and 14,010 organizations that file a Form 990 in the state of Ohio each year. With so many causes to choose from, it can be difficult for these organizations to compete for consumers’ time, money, and dedication. And when the economic downturn hit Columbus, it was expected that nonprofits would follow the trend. Luckily, nonprofits held strong, mainly due to the care and confidence the surrounding communities put forth. There was also another reason. Workforce experts are seeing a growing trend among young professional workers. Millennials are seeking careers in the non-profit sector – or more specifically – “careers with meaning.” Working for a nonprofit has been described as rewarding, exciting, and has major impact on the lives of those who depend on them. And so we turn our attention to four of our YPs to Know who are impacting Columbus as community advocates.

Heather Aker, 29, Program Director at the OSU Comprehensive Cancer Center, puts together the pieces of a puzzle through her work in epidemiology, the branch of medicine that deals with the patterns, causes, and effects of disease and health-related conditions in defined populations. “I kept asking questions like, ‘how did this happen,’ ‘why did that happen?’ And my mentor at the time said, ‘Well if you want to know how and why, then you need to be in public health.’” Aker explained how this conversation with her mentor led to a career in her industry, helping cancer patients and their families. If this wasn’t rewarding enough, she has always been enthusiastic about the energy for volunteerism: “I just love the level of excitement for it in Columbus.” Aker helps provide valued experiences for YPs through volunteer programming as the Volunteer Coordinator for the Columbus Young Professionals Club. She has also ridden the Pelotonia bike race. Her experiences in the latter were unique in that the ride is so close to her heart. “It’s so inspirational. The entire ride, there are people cheering you on. The entire 50 miles you had people outside of their houses holding signs saying, ‘Thank you, I’m a survivor.’”

Despite his challenging beginnings living on the streets of Columbus, Dan Hurst, 40, Executive Director of the Community Computer Alliance, has turned from desperate times to a well-deserved happy ending. In true entrepreneurial style, Hurst borrowed five bucks from a friend and turned one used computer purchase into a chain of computer repair shops. But something else happened. He saw a need for recycling of electronics coupled with the need for jobs. And the lack of affordability of computers in some areas prompted him to decide it was time to change. “There’s another population out there where giving them a computer is not going to help. So how else can I help?” The idea behind Community Computer Alliance was born. Hurst’s vision was to serve as an electronics recycler that also provides jobs for people with autism and disabilities, and he is succeeding by helping others. “It’s time to make even more of a difference in the community,” he said. “I really enjoy helping people.”

Columbus SOUP is a relatively new non-profit seeking to aid philanthropic ventures in out-of-the-box ways. “We invite local people and organizations [with] ideas that need funding that might not be able to get traditional methods of funding,” said Executive Director, Liz Martin, 32. Through her experiences launching a new business, Jackpot Treats for Lucky Dogs, she began tapping into the small business community. That eventually lead to the creation of Columbus SOUP. “[Starting a business] gave me the confidence and the knowledge that Columbus really embraces things like this,” she explained. It’s all about making Columbus a better place not just from a business angle, but for all residents and guests. “Everyone who attends has that little part in making a difference.” The ventures who seek funding are then given the opportunity to receive funding and increase awareness for their cause. Martin constantly strives to shape the future of crowd-funded events that benefit philanthropic activity.

Sara Mitchell, 26, is the Communications & Engagement Manager for the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio. Mitchell got her start attending events hosted by the women’s club and becoming invested in their message. “While I was in the audience it really connected with me and I thought, ‘I want to work for them.’” She reached out to the CEO, Nichole Dunn, who quickly became her mentor. Through her work with the Women’s Fund, Mitchell has seen the impact women can have and the opportunity they have in the community. “Women pay into the family which affects families which affects children. So there’s a huge ripple effect.” Working from inside the organization is a method of support and communication that is a key to their success as a nonprofit organization. “Celebrating instead of competing makes all the difference,” Mitchell said. – James Deline and Angela Less


From demographics to psychographics, Ohio really is a perfect cross-section of American culture. Why else would the Buckeye State be the test market for so many new products and innovations? It stands to reason that politically, Ohio is fairly across the board. That being said, the YPs chosen for this theme were not selected based on their party affiliations, but rather for the impact they are making in Columbus and within their respective neighborhoods. Each and every one of these four YPs to Know has a firm eye on what the future of Columbus will resemble. Whether they are able to witness the outcome of their actions remains to be seen; they are public servants working for the future. And although the ground work being laid may not be an immediate benefit, it has begun.

Niel Jurist, 41, serves as the Public Information Manager for the City of Gahanna. Like many parts of the Columbus region, it is a growing city working to demonstrate a commitment to its citizens. “We’re really working on different ways to engage the public and we want to know what kind of Gahanna they want their city to be. So there are some exciting things happening.” Jurist’s day-to-day operations help her connect with the community through Twitter and other social media to find out what is needed. The challenge lies in both the constant change inherent in technology and providing consistent messaging. “You have to remain current,” she explained. “Our government is changing. Specific to my profession, communications is changing. I think social media has transformed that landscape.” Jurist continues to work for a better Gahanna that is in line with the wants and needs of the neighborhood.

Liz Brown, 30, has gone from the fast-paced campaign environment to the slower, long-term planning side as the Downtown Development Manager for the City of Columbus. Her experience has led her to work with major players on behalf of Downtown Columbus, but Brown has found that she is not alone in working to fulfill its potential. “We have an incredible group of stakeholders who care about downtown and work to create a better downtown. It’s been a real thrill,” she said. Learning to plan for the future has been the most exciting part for Brown because it is such a different time frame than the brevity of campaigning. “We talk in five, 10, 25, 50 year returns. It is such a long term prospect to think about how we grow our region. How do we make decisions now that are going to pay off long term for when my kids are around?” Like Jurist, Brown’s work is for the benefit of the future of one of Columbus’ brightest neighborhoods.

Where Jurist and Brown work internally to prepare for the future, Reese Neader, 31, has created a new business based around politics. Neader is the Founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Forge Columbus. The son of civil servants, Neader has long had roots in the political scene to bear witness to issues rampant in a small town. “I grew up in Lancaster being very aware of all the problems that small town America and the country is facing because those are the problems that my family was experiencing.” After working in a variety of locations from Washington, D.C. to New York (and briefly in Egypt in 2011), Neader came back to Lancaster before making a specific and conscious decision to move to Columbus. “I decided to move back home and get involved with public service here in Columbus because at the city level, both locally and globally is how you can affect change.” Neader described the local government as a place where change can begin. “It’s where things are built, it’s where problems are solved… all of those fights are happening at the city level.” While Neader is well on his way to affecting change in the community, he is dedicated to one overarching principle: “All I care about is fixing problems.”

Community is also a driving factor for Brooke Wojdynski, 24, Executive Director of Democratic Voices. She believes that friends, family, and neighborhoods influence decisions. “Everything you build should be done through community because we’re fortunate enough to have such a large city that is so closely knit.” Wojdynski began her career in California, but quickly found Columbus to be a place where she could develop a nonprofit to demonstrate her commitment to her new home. “To be able to jump into Ohio politics right out of college and be able to be running a nonprofit already is pretty awesome. I don’t think I would have ever had that opportunity if I had stayed in California.” What is of most importance is connecting with key decision-makers; the barrier to entry is so low that it is easy to get involved and make an impact. “It’s so accessible. People don’t realize that.” – Angela Less


Innovation is a gut feeling – an instinct. Sometimes diving in is the best way to begin. For others, it’s developing relationships and gradually gaining insight into niche markets. Represented in this category are young professionals who test the boundaries of their respective fields, seeking to light the way for those who follow. Our four innovators and visionaries exemplify Columbus’ culture of collaboration and vision, lending their talents to develop a progressive culture in the city.

Former squash player Chris Olsen, 35, received his BA in Political Science from Yale and was living on the west coast before eventually coming to Columbus for an opportunity with Jobs Ohio. He initially hesitated when offered the opportunity, as he saw California as a hub for the start-up community; he took the leap and moved to Columbus anyway. Preconceptions aside, he realized that Columbus was the perfect place for a start-up. Now Co-Founder and Partner of Drive Capital, Olsen saw the potential for the region. “I think there’s direct impact for Columbus by investing in entrepreneurs that otherwise wouldn’t see investments. And their impact, Columbus will feel it.” He has faith that the success of innovators, like himself, will increase the hope and resiliency of the up-and-comers looking to the future. “If more people will start a company and then people see success stories, that starts drive and innovation in Columbus.” Whatever the passion – whether it begins with a small idea or a big idea that exceeds anything imaginable – Olsen encourages its pursuit. “If [you] have a dream [you] should pursue it; don’t wait until you get a degree or other experience, just go out and do it.”

Bryce Ungerott, 33, was a self-taught program designer who first created Xcelerate Media twelve years ago. Soon, he and Mikey Sorboro (one of last year’s Young Professionals to Know), conceptualized Mikey’s Late Night Slice over a beer. “I started as investor for the initial capital to get moving and after about a year, we realized we were onto something. We bought the first truck and the rest is history.” Initially realized as a late-night alternative to hot dogs and “street meat,” Mikey’s Late Night Slice now has a food truck plus five locations and counting. Ungerott may have taken a chance over a beer, but taking that chance has paid dividends. In true entrepreneurial fashion, Ungerott advises up-and-coming entrepreneurs to take the wheel and go for it, saying, “Drive fast, take chances, but wear a seatbelt…You’re not going to get to the next level by not taking chances, but you can’t be reckless.” With that in mind, the daring duo have developed yet another idea – over a beer, of course. Look for Oddfellows Liquor Bar coming soon to the Short North.

Associate Publisher and Director of Marketing and Business Development at Outlook Media, and Publisher of Outlook, and High Street Neighborhoods, Chad Paul Frye, 33, manages to stay busy. Originally from Florida, Frye thoroughly enjoys his home here in Columbus due to its air of collaboration and genuine support of ideas. “We’re a culture of ‘yes.’ The thing that sets us apart is that other people have passion for another person’s ideas here. It’s collaborative.” Frye gains his inspiration from his family, from which business-minded people span multiple generations. “My grandmother was an executive at a plastics company, and if there’s anybody I’ve tried to model my habits after, [it’s her].” Frye follows some of his grandmother’s advice to this day: “Don’t be afraid to tell people no. ‘No’ is a great word; it brings closure. It’s ‘maybe’ that brings ambiguity.” He is genuinely inspired by the future of Columbus, grateful to serve a part in the success of the Columbus region among entrepreneurs and innovators. “What inspires me is this critical mass that we have in this community where everyone works in tandem, where everyone works together to make this a great city in the Midwest. That devotion to Columbus as a city makes me want to get up in the morning and do my part to contribute.”

Aiko Yonamine, 43, lived in several different places prior to putting down roots in Columbus and becoming a Buckeye. As an Instructional Design Specialist at the OSU College of Medicine, Yonamine spends her time developing relationships between teachers. “My job is to be a guide and encourage our teachers to grow and change together.” Yonamine has honed her skills to read people, searching for traits common in innovators and visionaries, helping to find the right person for the job. “With our educators too, it’s like, who’s going to be this person, who’s going to push this technology? Who’s going to be that innovator [or] that creative person?” Yonamine has a remarkable understanding of people, how they think and act, and applies her talents to Pecha Kucha Night, where she serves as a Volunteer Organizer. “[With Pecha Kucha] it’s that same energy. It’s not a job, but I’m looking for people to shine.” Delving into psychology, Yonamine described her view of commonalities among people, saying “There’s the spirit of reinventing reframing… people have that common core that makes them want to be better and create and change and reinvent. And it’s so powerful.” – Angela Less and Rae Reed


Since 2002, the Greater Columbus Sports Commission estimates that sports and sporting events have garnered $285 million in visitor spending. This sum includes visitor spending in categories such as retail, food & beverage, and more. Financially, sports and sporting events greatly impact the welfare of the Columbus region. Home to The Arnold Classic, professional teams such as the Columbus Crew, Columbus Clippers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Ohio Machine, and collegiate notable, The Ohio State Buckeyes, Columbus is quickly becoming known as city of athletes and fitness professionals.

Jason Yun, 36, Owner of Improvement Warrior Fitness as well as Yun Strength and Fitness Systems LLC, has been involved in athletics and fitness for as long he can remember. Gaining his initial inspiration from Sylvester Stallone, he turned a life-long passion into a business in 2007. Through his experience, Yun has found that a dedication to the physical self is of utmost importance. “Working out is the most important thing you can do for your life. I don’t believe you can lead your life at your full potential if you’re not working out.” In addition to preaching the importance of health and wellness, Yun also lives it. He understands that reaching full potential is something everyone strives to achieve. People exist across the spectrum of heath and wellness, where caring for one’s physical self is a monumental task for some, and for others it may only require one or two minor adjustments. Regardless of where people are along their path, Yun is here to help. Since his humble beginnings, he has trained boot camp classes, served as a backyard trainer, offered youth services, yoga, and online programs, and continues to help others in their pursuit of fitness. He reminds young professionals and others that fitness is not just about a weekly routine, but also about nutrition, noting, “The things you put in your body affect your actions.” Eat well, live well, and add a dash of healthy decision-making to achieve total body wellness.

With his background in corporate transactional law, John Algie, 33, took a leap of faith when an opportunity presented itself to expand the Ohio Major League Lacrosse to Columbus through an expansion team. As President and General Manager of the Ohio Machine, Algie had the opportunity to mold the organization from the ground up. He finds sports to be an important connector, bringing together people from diverse backgrounds. “The great thing about sports is that it gives everyone something to rally around, a common interest to share. No matter your work, political views, or hobbies, everyone can come together,” he noted. Regardless of venue or team (Algie is a former player for University of Pittsburgh), he takes pride in building a community around the game. “It’s special to be able to bring that experience here. From going to games and creating memories, to having games in a bar and being about to talk about it, things like that are really important for a city and we’re happy to be able to add that experience.” Algie’s passion for the game and the team helps to bring people together, saying that he couldn’t imagine life without the people involved. He is inspired by their dedication to the game and the enthusiasm for the players. “Two different groups inspire me. First are our players… Second it’s all of our fans.”

Tracy Gardner, 41, creator and founder of the Tracey Gardner Method, began her career far from her current entrepreneurial endeavors. Gardner studied journalism at The Ohio State University before marrying her college sweetheart and becoming a stay-at-home mom. Influenced heavily by the impact of her divorce, Gardner sought to establish a safe space for those who needed it. The Tracey Gardner Method grew out of her own distaste for traditional workouts and now provides “a one-hundred percent safe space,” she said. “I created it like that, with unconditional love. It’s really like a family there. People have built friendships there.” In her studio, the heat turns up, the music turns up, and the lights turn down, creating an intense workout that challenges the body, mind, and spirit. In many ways it also provides an escape for its devotees. “It’s my place to connect one-to-one. When you’re in the dark and vulnerable, you can let your guard down. No one’s judging you.” Gardner found that she needed to take a step out-of-the-box in order to re-create herself and show others a world of opportunity. Through her students, she finds inspiration and therefore inspires others, creating symbiosis. “For me, it’s about taking a risk, stepping outside of the box. Once I figured out what I wanted and shared it with the world, I became a different person. I had so much inside I wanted to give, that’s what this is about. [Tracey Gardner Method] is that for me.”

Frankie Hedjuk, 39, originally came to Columbus to play for the Columbus Crew after playing professionally in Germany. The two-time Olympian, two-time FIFA World Cup veteran, and now Crew Brand Ambassador, Hedjuk had his doubts about Columbus. His hesitation soon passed, however, when he learned about German Village – a place where he could experience his beloved German culture. Hedjuk quickly learned the ins and outs of Columbus, and can regularly be seen out in the community mingling with fellow Crew fans. “Crew fans are the best of both worlds: both suburban families [with] tons of kids that are big fans, as well as the Short North and more urban crowd.” Clintonville holds a special place for Hedjuk as many Crew supporters call Clintonville home. “A lot of our fan base is in Clintonville, so I try to frequent there. A lot of those people are Crew fans going to games and showing us love, so I like to do the same for them,” said Hedjuk. A true ‘man of the people,’ Hedjuk enjoys being around the really energetic fans, but also around families who are getting their kids interested in the sport. To avid supporters and fans as well as young children, he imparts a piece of advice: “Stay positive and don’t be afraid of failure because that’s how people succeed.” – Angela Less and Rae Reed


Over 9,000 jobs were created in 2013 according to the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) in part thanks to the innovative entrepreneurs who dream of great ventures. These final five “movers and shakers” of the 53 YPs to Know are constantly looking for growth opportunities. They show their passion for Columbus through their actions: connecting people and neighborhoods, developing our downtown for new residents, striving for excellence, and providing fresh perspectives on exciting ideas. These folks are making a difference in Columbus through their ingenuity.

In the central hub of the South Campus Gateway across from the Gateway Film Center, the unassuming pop-up shop, Pursuit, is becoming more than just a pop-up. “When you launch something like this, it’s small enough that the core of Columbus crowd knows about it and supports it,” stated Nate DeMars, 31, Owner of Pursuit. “It’s unique in that way you feel like you can carve out your own space.” The concept for Pursuit was forged at OSU’s Fisher College of Business where DeMars originally envisioned a traveling shop, but instead has seen two years in its current Gateway residence. DeMars believes it serves as a link between the large Ohio State population as well as the Short North and surrounding areas. “I think there’s kind of a perception outside of campus of what students are and what Ohio State is and the people who want to support Short North and Downtown businesses feel like campus is this other world.” He took a chance on his endeavor through the support of mentors, family and friends culminating a success that will both remain in its Buckeye home as well as on the road to connect with similar college towns.

Where DeMars connects the High Street villages, Olivera Bratich, 34, Owner of Wholly Craft!, develops her favorite neighborhood: Clintonville. On the board of Experience Clintonville, Bratich is a constant reminder of how businesses thrive in the right neighborhood. “I can’t imagine the store succeeding anywhere else in any other neighborhood.” Clintonville is home to creative types, young families, and young professionals, and Bratich has loved and been witness to the evolving population. “The heart of our business is Clintonville. We’ve been here 10 years at this point, so we’ve really seen our clientele grow with us.” For her, the people make Clintonville home. It is because of the people that she is now expanding Wholly Craft! to double their current size.

Speaking of expansions, Dynamit recently moved up – literally – to a new floor with larger office space in the Arena District. Although the business has grown tremendously since the idea was first developed in the eyes of a high school boy, the company’s now 29-year-old CEO, Matt Dopkiss, has remained true to their founding beliefs. “The culture comes from shared values; the idea of pursuing excellence and looking for ways to get better.” These core values have been instrumental in the success of the company aiding in the consistency of the brand. It is of extreme importance to Dopkiss to not only understand these values and know what they mean, but to live them. “Work smarter than the last time. There’s an opportunity to prove yourself.” Always in pursuit of excellence, and guiding his team with these principles, Dopkiss now brings clients here to Columbus to experience what the city has to offer. “It’s a privilege to work with groups from around the world. There’s a default perception [of Columbus]. We see how surprised they are; they fall in love.”

Andy Lallathin, 33, Co-Founder and Managing partner of Peak Property Group, is also constantly pursuing the betterment of his business. He surrounds himself with people who are more versed in specific areas of business. In this way, Lallathin illustrates what it takes to be a leader. “Surround yourself with people who are better than yourself,” Lallathin advised. It takes more than just being present. It takes initiative and humility. He sees two types of young professionals who seek employment with his company; those who over-value themselves based on their recent-grad status, and those who vastly undervalue themselves or do not bother to apply. “There’s a sense of entitlement after graduation,” he remarked. Lallathin reminds young professionals that they still have room to grow in their careers to “embrace opportunity.”

Last, not least, but certainly the youngest, is Jacob Taylor. The 22-year-old owner and Director of Client Experience at CivitasNow is a tireless spokesman for living downtown. His limitless praises of the area encourage people and businesses to visit, if not stay, more often. “They’re pouring people into the capital city and into the downtown hub. With tons of transportation options, it’s amazing. I couldn’t imagine my business anywhere else.” He began with Columbus Food Express, a food delivery venture he co-founded with his twin brother Jeremy. It was acquired, allowing him ample opportunity – and the start-up capital – to launch CivitasNow. Currently located in his beloved downtown, the agency focuses on unique methods of advertising. A member of the Create Columbus Commission, a board of young professionals that advocate for the city of Columbus on YP interests and priorities, Taylor urges young professionals to understand the lengths a strong network can take them. “Get involved at the earliest stage possible… get a network right now.” It goes to show that he, much like the rest of his entrepreneurial ilk, not only speak of change. They live it. – Angela Less



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