2023 Columbus Smart 50 Awards recognize region’s top leadership

Effectively building and leading organizations is not a simple task. I am pleased to recognize business leaders who have undeniably achieved that goal. Thank you, Smart Business, for allowing us to be part of the Smart 50 awards.

On behalf of Hylant, I want to personally recognize and congratulate all the honorees.

This year’s honorees have demonstrated commitment and passion for making a noticeable impact on the communities, industries and organizations that they work and live in. The level of community giving is phenomenal, despite some of the adversity within your own business. The results of your hard work are evident across Columbus and Central Ohio.

Becoming acquainted with the honorees as more than businesspeople, but as individuals who cherish this community, continues to be my favorite part of Smart 50. Each leader is unique, but all share the same drive to make a difference. I remain humbled and inspired by the work of our honorees as our region continues to set an example.

When founding Hylant more than 80 years ago, Edward Hylant promised to treat our clients and employees like family — with honesty, respect and trust. Today we are among the largest privately held, full-service brokerage firms in the United States and an 11-consecutive-year winner of Best Places to work in Insurance. We offer business insurance, personal insurance and employee benefits services to protect the people and things you care about most. ●

Chris Godley
CEO – Northeast Region
Hylant Columbus








Smart 50 honorees

(Honorees listed in alphabetical order by last name)


Dr. Frederic Bertley
President and CEO

When the pandemic closed COSI to the public from March 2020 until June 2021, President and CEO Dr. Frederic Bertley found numerous ways to keep the science museum and research center open to the community. He challenged the team to create online programming as an alternative to on-site museum experiences, and within days, the COSI Connects website was born. Originally featuring online activities and videos, the digital doorway to science grew to include tools to help serve youth impacted by school closures and the digital divide. Two years after reopening, these innovations are now mainstays in COSI’s offerings.

Dr. Bertley and COSI have accumulated numerous achievements and accolades. Earlier this year, COSI was named the best science museum in the country by USA Today’s 10Best.com for an unprecedented fourth consecutive year.


Tim Bezbatchenko
President and General Manager
Columbus Crew

Currently in his fifth year, Tim Bezbatchenko was named Columbus Crew president and general manager in 2019 and leads the club’s soccer operations, including for the First Team, MLS NEXT Pro reigning-champion Crew 2, Crew Academy and all coaching and player support staff. In 2021, he was named to the Forty Under 40 by Sports Business Journal, an annual honor celebrating the best young talent in sports business.

Since joining the Crew, Bezbatchenko has overseen several club milestones, including winning the 2020 MLS Cup and the 2021 Campeones Cup — the Crew’s first international trophy. He has also made several significant signings, including Colombian forward Cucho Hernández, whose transfer transaction represents the Crew’s largest acquisition transfer fee in club history.

Bezbatchenko’s accomplishments include directing the opening of Lower.com Field and the OhioHealth Performance Center — the Crew’s training center.


Alec Broadfoot

CEO Alec Broadfoot is the visionary behind VisionSpark, reshaping the hiring landscape with his innovative approach to finding and placing “the Right People for the Right Seats.” With his unwavering commitment to organizational success through strategic talent acquisition, Broadfoot is a trailblazer revolutionizing the hiring process.

Throughout his remarkable career, Broadfoot has demonstrated an unmatched ability to identify the unique skills, talents and personalities that align with specific roles within an organization. He has reimagined the hiring process to tap into the core essence of what makes a candidate truly successful in a position. Broadfoot believes that success lies not only in skills and qualifications but also in aligning values, aspirations and working styles.


John A. Brooks
Managing director
BTTS Holdings

John A. Brooks, managing director of BTTS Holdings, takes running a smart organization to heart. BTTS Holdings owns and operates six iconic event venues throughout Columbus, Brookshire (Lewis Center), The Ellis (formerly Edison777, Italian Village), The Estate (New Albany), WatersEdge and The Cove at WatersEdge (Hilliard) and The Fig Room (Short North). Recently, the company entered a strategic partnership and assumed operational responsibility for Vue Columbus.

Brooks and his team are on a mission to make BTTS Holdings Central Ohio’s leader in beautiful spaces and unforgettable hospitality for weddings, social events, charity galas and corporate meetings. Established in 1998 by his parents, John and Joy, Brooks took over running BTTS in 2017, leading to remarkable growth. He is committed to ensuring his hospitality business is a beacon of good in the community.


Elizabeth Brown
President and CEO
YWCA Columbus

Since starting as YWCA Columbus’ president and CEO in January 2023, Elizabeth Brown has demonstrated excellence and efficiency in pursuing a better world. Other nonprofit leaders and advisers have begun noticing the impact she is having on furthering the organization’s mission and addressing issues impacting the region.

Brown is relentlessly pursuing justice and dignity for Central Ohio’s most vulnerable populations, fighting for women and children and ensuring the funding and services they need to thrive remain a priority at the city, county and state levels. She sees her role as providing support around current strengths while strategizing future growth that will complement the organization’s rich history. Under her leadership, YWCA Columbus will continue to be an important voice for racial and gender equity in the community.


Ryan Burgess
President & CEO
Goodwill Columbus

Ryan Burgess leads Goodwill Columbus with the belief that all individuals should be embraced as dignified members of the community. Named CEO in 2021, Burgess took on a bold goal of equipping 100,000 people with the tools needed to advance economic mobility through the power of work by 2030. Thanks to his fervent leadership and the efforts of 1,100 Goodwill employees, more than 65,000 people have been helped over the past two years.

Central Ohio faces a significant but solvable paradox; 19 percent of the region lives below the poverty line, while businesses struggle to fill thousands of jobs with qualified workers. Goodwill Columbus is the community partner positioned to close this gap, creating a future in which individuals achieve economic stability and businesses are bolstered by a reliable pipeline of workers.


Dain Bussewitz

Dain Bussewitz joined MedVet as CFO in May 2022. He is responsible for supporting the development and execution of organizational plans, driving financial strategy and optimally deploying capital in support of the organization’s healthy growth and overall sustainability. Bussewitz is a well-regarded leader with more than 20 years of experience in accounting and finance. He is known for his positive energy, growth mindset and highly collaborative approach.

Since joining the organization, Bussewitz has consistently shown up as an authentic servant-leader and elevated the caliber of the finance team. Beyond influencing best practices and professional development, he is guiding stronger financial stewardship throughout the organization with clarity and conviction. By all measures, he has quickly and successfully transitioned to a veterinary health care organization with care and service as the bottom line.


Frank Carsonie
Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff LLP

Frank Carsonie is a partner at Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff LLP, the Am Law 200 firm founded in Northern Ohio with offices, clients and influence stretching around the globe. Carsonie brings three decades of experience to his role at the helm of Benesch’s Columbus operations.

For nearly 20 years, the lifelong Columbus resident has served in multiple capacities within the firm and has been integral to the establishment and growth of Benesch’s Columbus office. Opened in 1986, the firm now has a team of 42 attorneys serving some of the region’s most notable clients, including Cardinal Health. Widely recognized as a powerhouse attorney and business adviser, Carsonie counsels individuals and entities operating at the intersection of health care, business and regulatory policy.


Chip Chapman
Integrated Building Systems

At just 26 years old, Chip Chapman founded Integrated Building Systems with his father in 1993. As the company celebrates 30 years, Chapman has shaped and guided a truly smart business. That word even appears in the company’s mission statement: “To make buildings smarter in order to help people communicate better.” With his leadership, Integrated Building Systems has bettered the community and its employees with impactful, innovative work.

The company has worked on thousands of projects for a wide variety of Central Ohio organizations, including corporate headquarters, hospitals, schools, restaurants and distribution centers. As president, Chapman maintains a hands-on role. He is a trusted consultant for clients and lends a listening ear to help design technology solutions that meet their needs and budget.


Lisa Courtice
President and CEO
United Way of Central Ohio

Lisa Courtice has been a leader in Central Ohio’s nonprofit community for over 30 years and is serves as president and CEO of United Way of Central Ohio. Courtice is deeply committed to the nonprofit community and focused on creating systemic change that improves the lives of all Central Ohio residents.

In her initial year, she conducted a listening tour to hear the needs and concerns of corporate and community leaders and began responding to forces impacting United Way’s business model. Recently, she seized on an opportunity to align the sale of United Way’s headquarters with the organization’s values to address the shortage of market-rate housing, overseeing the selection of the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority and a nonprofit developer to transform the prime downtown property into mixed-income affordable housing.


Tanny Crane
President and CEO
Crane Group

Tanny Crane is president and CEO of Crane Group, a Columbus-based family business. Over its 75-year history, Crane Group has launched or held 30 companies, passionately investing in organizations whose core values align with its own, with a privately held, diversified portfolio. The company has helped power successful businesses from Able Roofing to TimberTech by providing strategic leadership, flexible capital and an in-house team of experts.

Primarily serving home building and commercial markets, real estate investments and equities, Crane Group recently honed its strategic direction to focus on portfolio companies specializing in home or pet services. With a freshly minted strategic plan, Crane Group is leaning into the value it provides and growing its operating business portfolio more ambitiously than ever.


Barrett Crook
Quantum Services

Barrett Crook, president of Quantum Services, runs his firm with a lean and nimble mindset, excelling at customer service through smart processes and systems. Since 1971, Quantum Services has completed over 2 million inventory audits for leading convenience stores nationwide. The largest inventory audit service firm focused solely on the convenience store market, the firm has approximately 250 employees and understands how to solve clients’ inventory challenges.

The firm saves clients time and money through accurate, tailored reporting and actionable insights that reduce and control shrink. Crook fosters a culture of continuous improvement, ensuring Quantum Services employees have access to the tools and systems needed to perform at their best. He has expanded the firm to reach 75 markets in the U.S.


Matt Davis

COhatch CEO Matt Davis is committed to strengthening communities and equipping people to be greater in all aspects of their lives. COhatch started in 2016 with six friends who wanted to reinvent how they work, meet and live. Offering coworking, private office and event spaces with endless amenities, the company has expanded throughout five states with 36 locations open or under development.

Throughout this expansion, Davis and the COhatch team have remained true to their original mission — keeping a local and people-driven focus, renovating underused or unused buildings and helping startups, nonprofits, and civic leaders through scholarships. Davis and his team have a vision of building communities of people who help one another, share resources and develop quality of life, all while giving back locally.


Sandy Doyle-Ahern

Sandy Doyle-Ahern is president of EMH&T, Ohio’s largest professional services firm operating in the A/E/C industry. She leads a team of more than 350 engineers, surveyors, planners and scientists. A tireless and selfless leader, Doyle-Ahern has been pivotal in growing business by 73 percent since taking the helm in 2012.

Doyle-Ahern asserts an exceptional aptitude for facilitating infrastructure improvements in the communities the company serves, providing sound and sensible solutions that create vibrant workforce opportunities, temper housing shortages for all and foster greater economic health. She has strategically positioned EMH&T to function as a one-stop-shop for wide-ranging clients by offering 15 specific disciplines that cover virtually any need or requirement in land use development or public infrastructure.


Nichole E. Dunn
President and CEO
Flying Horse Farms

Nichole E. Dunn, president and CEO of Flying Horse Farms (FHF), runs a smart organization by enhancing and strengthening FHF’s capabilities as a medical specialty camp and regional asset for holistic healing for children and those who support them. Participating campers are living with serious illnesses and/or primary or co-occurring mental health diagnoses. FHF makes it possible for children and their families to heal, grow and thrive.

Dunn is fiercely dedicated to the camp’s core value, “With Trust Comes Relief,” which serves as the foundation of her leadership. She spends significant time building and striving to maintain trust with staff, board members, donors, volunteers and camper families. Dunn drives success, nurtures community and elevates the delivery of medically and emotionally safe and equitable experiences for campers.


William Ebbing
President and CEO
The New Albany Company

Led by President and CEO William Ebbing, The New Albany Company has focused its efforts on meticulous strategic planning, staying disciplined and collaborating with civic leadership.

The company was established in 1987 as a real estate development firm focused on New Albany, Ohio. While the original intent was to develop limited residential space, the company broadened its focus to undertake a more robust, strategically planned community that enhances the living and working options for the Greater Columbus market.

New Albany has over 11,000 residents and has been ranked 25th among “America’s 50 Best Cities to Live” by USA Today, named “America’s Number One Suburb” by Business Insider Magazine, “Best City to Live in Ohio” by Wall Street 24/7 and the “Safest City in Ohio” by safety.com.


Abbi Failla
Vice president Business Operations
EASE Logistics

Abbi Failla, vice president of Business Operations of EASE Logistics, is a natural leader who drives continuous improvement. EASE is a smart organization thanks to Failla’s strategic impact that extends far beyond revenue-generating operations.

Before her 2021 arrival as Strategy and Innovation director, EASE had earned a reputation as an industry disrupter that was pushing the limits on transportation with an entirely different approach to freight.

During her first 18 months, Failla made incredible strides in innovation, brand awareness, and community and industry impact. She helped cement the company’s identity as a forward-thinking organization that embraces creativity and drives change. By identifying opportunities and putting ideas into action through strategic partnerships, she has led EASE to rank top in transportation on Forbes’ 2023 list of America’s Most Innovative Companies.


Lindsay Fork
Founder and CEO
Luxe Redux Bridal

Lindsay Fork is founder and CEO of Luxe Bridal, the parent company of La Jeune Mariee Bridal Collection and Luxe Redux Bridal. Enhancing the bridal gown shopping experience and bringing accessible luxury to brides across the Midwest has driven her success.

Fork purchased La Jeune Mariee, a special-order bridal boutique, from its previous owners in 2008. Luxe Redux Bridal enables La Jeune Mariee and other boutiques around the country to purge underperforming or discontinued designer gowns, creating inventory space and additional cash flow. Since 2011, Luxe Redux Bridal has grown to six locations nationwide, with a seventh opening this summer in Detroit. The company employs more than 45 successful women in sales, management and executive-level roles.


Joel Furno
Founder and CEO

Joel Furno is the founder and CEO of Citrin, a highly successful hospitality company specializing in valet parking and mobility services for restaurants, hotels and auto dealerships. Raised in Clintonville, Ohio, Furno’s entrepreneurial drive was evident from a young age. He founded Citrin at the age of 19 with just $200 while pursuing his degree at The Ohio State University.

Under his leadership, Citrin has grown into a thriving enterprise, with a dedicated team of more than 750 employees. Headquartered in Columbus, the company has expanded its reach to encompass 12 cities across the country. Recognized as the No. 6 CEO nationally for companies under 1,000 employees on Glassdoor and a Top WorkPlace USA recipient, Furno’s leadership is a reflection of the collective values he instills within the organization.


Matthew Goldstein
Founder and CEO

Matthew Goldstein had a successful career at Abercrombie & Fitch, but the weekend calls he took as a suicide hotline volunteer were crushing him. He wanted to do more and connect with the city he loved and realized that many colleagues wanted the same thing. However, they struggled to find opportunities, so Goldstein began dreaming up a way to build a bridge between the two.

He eventually left corporate America and in 2012 founded Besa, a Columbus nonprofit dedicated to reimagining civic engagement and supporting those who need it most by connecting people and businesses with community service. Lift one, he believes, and you lift all. Under Goldstein’s leadership as CEO, Besa has evolved from a startup with one unpaid leader to a smart, game-changing nonprofit making an incredible and measurable impact.


Derek Grosso
president and CEO
City Venture Holdings/CYP Club

Derek Grosso, president and CEO of Columbus Young Professionals Club (CYP Club), successfully runs the nation’s largest membership association for young professionals. The organization serves as a regional hub for social and business networking, rec sports, leadership and giving back. Founded in 2005, CYP Club advances careers, community, conversations and culture for emerging professionals throughout Central Ohio.

As CEO, Grosso oversees operations, focuses on leadership and attracts and maintains clients. Fifty percent of new members have lived in Columbus for three years or less, and the club helps people engage in the community and add excitement to their lives. Grosso truly enjoys bringing people together and providing opportunities to thrive personally and professionally.


Greg Guy
Air Force One

Dublin-based HVAC service provider Air Force One was founded in 1984 by Bill Guy and remains under the leadership of the Guy family. As president, Greg Guy has expanded the company to include eight regional locations across Ohio. Guy is always striving to enhance Air Force One through his exceptional creativity and vision.

During his 27-year tenure, the company has grown from eight associates to more than 400. As the company continues to advance, leaders remain devoted to its founding values: integrity, humility, intelligence and hunger.

Organizations including Forbes magazine, Columbus CEO magazine and Contracting Business magazine have acknowledged Guy and the extraordinary team he has built as a result of their dedication to quality work and unmatched professionalism.


Kristin Harper
Driven to Succeed LLC

Kristin Harper, CEO of Driven to Succeed, builds successful brands while helping people accelerate their careers. Harper created Driven to Succeed to help Fortune 500 companies and leading brands grow sales, profit and market share. Her team of 28 people from California to India has developed over 50 proprietary tools that dive deep into the hearts and minds of each target audience. They use EQ Analytics to uncover an unmet need, pain point or desire.

Harper created two divisions of Driven to Succeed: Imaginologie, the market research division, and Kristin Harper & The Expert Collective, the speaking and training development division. A marketer at her core, Harper is an award-winning businesswoman with over 30 years of brand and business experience, from grassroots startups to global iconic brands.


Susan Hasseler, Ph.D.
Muskingum University

During President Susan Hasseler’s seven-year tenure at Muskingum University, she has exemplified the mission of educating the “whole person for the whole world.” Muskingum welcomes 2,700 students each academic year, and Hasseler is committed to serving students who are from the region, nation and world by ensuring affordability and access to individuals from all backgrounds.

Nearly all full-time undergraduates receive assistance, making Muskingum’s cost of attendance comparable to area public institutions. The university’s commitment to affordability has been recognized by U.S. News and World Report, which ranked Muskingum second among Ohio universities in both Best Value Schools and Top Performers on Social Mobility for the Regional Midwest in the 2022 and 2023 issues of the Best Colleges Guide.


Lisa Hinkelman, Ph.D.
Founder and CEO
Ruling Our eXperiences (ROX)

“I have never seen an organization do so much with so little,” says Draper Richards Kaplan CEO Jim Bildner about Ruling Our eXperiences (ROX). The venture-philanthropy firm invested in the tenacity, grit, hustle and vision that ROX Founder and CEO Dr. Lisa Hinkelman harnessed to scale a concept into a national movement. A nationally recognized researcher, best-selling author, licensed professional counselor, keynote speaker and social entrepreneur, Hinkelman is a foremost authority on educating and empowering girls and creating environments that foster confidence, self-esteem and successful decision-making.

Hinkelman has spent nearly 20 years researching and counseling girls and educating adults, first as a professor at The Ohio State University. During her 12 years at ROX, she has helped more than 500,000 adults support and encourage girls to reach their fullest potential.


John Huston
Chief innovation officer

Chief Innovation Officer John Huston joined RevLocal in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and despite adverse circumstances, he immediately began making an impact. As the executive leader of the RevTech division, he reorganized the department structure to facilitate companywide innovation. The result has been seven teams taking ownership of various areas within the organization to partner with internal stakeholders, ensure proper project prioritization and communicate consistently across functions.

Huston also initiated “What If” days, where employees are invited to see presentations of innovative — and sometimes borderline-crazy — ideas. A rapidly growing digital marketing company, RevLocal is in a constant state of rapid change. Huston has been a great champion for this culture of innovation that has delivered terrific results and that promises to do so well into the future.


John  Johnson, MD
Founder and CEO
Access Ohio

John A. Johnson, MD, is a board-certified psychiatrist with over three decades of mental health care experience spanning three continents. He is credited with launching several behavioral health care businesses.

Johnson is founder and CEO of Access Ohio, Central Ohio’s largest behavioral health care provider reaching over 50,000 often-overlooked Ohioans. Connecting patients to more than 35 psychiatrists and employing more than 1,000 health care workers, Access Ohio serves Medicaid beneficiaries with psychiatric and/or substance abuse disorders through an interdisciplinary team format.

Johnson recently received the 2023 “Spirit of Medicine,” awarded by the American Medical Association, which recognizes the work of a U.S. physician who has demonstrated altruism, compassion, integrity, leadership and personal sacrifice while providing quality health care.


Brian King
Executive Vice President of Product Management and Marketing
Advanced Drainage Systems

Executive Vice President of Product Management and Marketing Brian King joined Advanced Drainage Systems (ADS) nearly three years ago as chief brand leader. One of the largest manufacturing companies in Central Ohio, ADS was founded in the 1960s to manufacture pipe, chambers and other materials that help manage stormwater runoff in agricultural fields, cities and neighborhoods. The company is the country’s largest manufacturer of high-density polyethylene pipe.

A transformational thinker with an appetite for pushing the company and society forward, King led a rebranding effort that included a deep dive into ADS’ core values and quickly realized that the company revolved around a singular mission: protecting rainwater. Beyond manufacturing pipe, ADS captures and treats rainwater, helping manage watersheds and water sources.



Kevin King
Donatos Pizza

As Donatos Pizza celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2023, the family-owned company is not content to rest on its successful foundation as it heads into the next 60 years. The company initially opened in a plumbing store on Columbus’ South Side before moving across the street on Thurman Avenue. From those humble beginnings, Donatos has grown to a nearly $300 million business.

President Kevin King leads franchise operations and continued growth of Donatos, whose pizza is now served in more than 450 locations across 27 states. A firm believer in utilizing technology to improve and increase business, King guides efforts to drive online sales and increase membership in Donatos’ Rewards program. He is also a brand evangelist, differentiating Donatos from competitors with a consistent, premium product.


Cheryl Lebens
President, Personal Lines
Grange Insurance

Cheryl Lebens, president, Personal Lines at Grange Insurance, is a remarkable senior executive and insurance industry veteran who embodies the qualities of an engaged, dynamic, forward-thinking leader. Lebens joined Grange in 2014 as chief risk and strategy officer and was named president in 2022. She has over 25 years of insurance leadership experience, with roles in finance, corporate strategy, sales and marketing. Her expertise has been pivotal in Grange becoming a high-performing company.

Lebens has emerged as a champion for moving the organization from a product-centric mindset to a customer-focused way of thinking and decision-making. Under her leadership and influence, Grange is weaving customer thinking into its organizational DNA and driving a companywide mindset around the customer experience and the enablement of its independent agents.


Rick MacDonald
President and CEO
Lynk Packaging Inc.

Rick MacDonald is president and CEO of Lynk Packaging Inc., a privately held ISO-certified designer and manufacturer of custom corrugated products. Founded in 1985, Lynk — which sources materials from SFI-certified paper mills and services customers with a company-owned and managed fleet of trucks — has recently started the transition to second-generation ownership. A key differentiator separating Lynk from its competition is the high level of service it offers after creating clients’ custom solutions.

Lynk provides the perfect package with innovation, design and creative solutions. Through decades of experience and collaboration, the company has synced its relationships with customers, employees and its supply chain to create a sustainable, respectful network that consistently provides quality and service while minimizing its environmental footprint.


Alison Marker
President and CEO
Marker, Inc. dba Marker Construction

Alison Marker leads Marker Construction, a smart third-generation, family-owned commercial construction firm. She is thoughtful, compassionate and committed to the organization and its people, which ultimately drives success.

Marker loves the buildings her company creates and renovates, but the people are what truly inspire and excite her. Through her leadership, the company is committed to performing high-quality work and going above and beyond to build strong relationships with internal teams, clients and subcontractors.

Marker Construction has been a family business for 67 years since its founding in 1956 in Bellefontaine, Ohio. In 2021, Marker bought majority shares and became president and CEO.

When she joined the company in 2012, it had 90 associates; today, it has 140.


Elizabeth Martinez
President and CEO
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio

The definition of a mentor is not derived from professional accolades, awards or degrees. Rather, it is determined by the lives touched, connections built and futures fueled. Elizabeth Martinez, president and CEO of Big Brothers Bigs Sisters of Central Ohio (BBBSCO), takes advantage of every opportunity to unapologetically advocate for the empowerment of people.

An effective strategist and change agent, she successfully led BBBSCO through the COVID-19 pandemic, often remarking, “You can’t quarantine relationships.” Martinez focused her team on collaboration and garnered unwavering support in a time of extreme uncertainty, remaining focused on the fact that the organization had systems in place to lift and support the next generation of leaders. Over the past 18 months, Martinez has worked diligently to redefine some popular narratives surrounding the mentoring of the youth BBSCO serves.


Cameron Mitchell
Founder and CEO
Cameron Mitchell Restaurants LLC

Cameron Mitchell Restaurants (CMR) will celebrate its 30th anniversary this October. Since 1993, Founder and CEO Cameron Mitchell has built a diverse portfolio of restaurants, ranging from multilocation, upscale destinations to single-neighborhood favorites. Today, he operates 45 restaurants under 20 concepts, with 23 locations in the Columbus area.
Called “a dish room to board room story,” Mitchell began his career in the restaurant industry washing dishes at a local steakhouse as a high school junior. Throughout his life and career, he overcame numerous obstacles and embraced high-risk opportunities to better himself and his company. With an entrepreneur’s energy, vision and passion, his sights are set on expanding CMR’s local and national footprint. His largest and most extravagant restaurant, Ocean Prime Las Vegas, opens this summer on the Las Vegas Strip.


Sophia Mohr
Chief innovation and technology officer
Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA)

As the Columbus region experiences a population explosion expected to reach 3.15 million residents by 2050, the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) serves as a mobility solutions provider for the entire Central Ohio region. Offering more than point-to-point transit, COTA plays a role in delivering economic mobility, equity and access to jobs, health care, food and entertainment.

Sophia Mohr, chief innovation and technology officer, is leading COTA in making significant strides to adapt and prepare for coming changes and ensuring that transportation across the region will meet the needs of all of its residents, particularly in providing economic opportunities. Under Mohr’s leadership, COTA focuses on innovations and partnerships that will help deliver equitable, accessible public transit services and push Central Ohio and COTA to the forefront of smart mobility innovation.


Kevin Oakes
Capitol Citicom Inc.

Kevin Oakes, president of Capital Citicom, is the talented leader of a fast-paced, culture-focused printing and sign creation company. Today, Citicom has 55 employees, compared to 11 when Oakes and his brother purchased the company from their parents in 2012. A highly philosophical leader, Oakes instills motivation and confidence in employees by empowering people and delegating tasks that enable the company to excel in automation and technology.

Citicom currently serves over 4,000 customers and has expanded into inventory and warehousing. When the company welcomed its first influencer, developers integrated automation with her existing Shopify store, allowing for on-demand order processing, printing and shipping. By serving as a true partner and fully understanding clients’ goals and requirements, Citicom creates solutions that streamline processes and reduce the stress of manual work.


Suresh Rachuri
Founder and CEO
Maven LLC

Maven CEO and Founder Suresh Rachuri started his journey in software development and built a wide range of experiences throughout his early career, including innovation in technology, national defense, manufacturing and supply chain management. In 1999, he began consulting in talent acquisition for large companies including JP Morgan Chase, Cardinal Health and Battelle and saw firsthand the needs within the technology industry.

In 2010, Rachuri founded Maven, following his passion for finding talent with the right motivation to fit his mission. Truly a people and technology company, Maven’s behavior-driven process ensures that the right people are in the right seats. Rachuri now leads an amazing team of talented, motivated and like-minded professionals and looks forward to continuing to serve the talent acquisition and IT solutions communities for years to come.


Brian Reynolds
President and CEO
Renier Construction

Brian Reynolds leads Renier Construction with the same level of integrity established by Founder Bill Heifner. This legacy of integrity has built an organization that understands how to create long-lasting relationships in every aspect of Renier’s work.
Reynolds has grown the business and team over the last few years at a pace that allows for steady innovation and change. He invites employees to push for one more degree of excellence — and that one degree can make all the difference.

Renier Construction has grown from 45 employees in 2021 to 68 in 2023 and tripled revenue from 2020 to 2023. The firm generates ideas, identifies new and better service opportunities, and works with team members and clients to create unique solutions.


Andy Rose
President and CEO
Worthington Industries

Worthington Industries President and CEO Andy Rose took the helm in September 2020 and led the company through the pandemic while achieving two consecutive years of record earnings. Headquartered in Columbus, Worthington operates 52 facilities in 15 states and nine countries, sells to more than 90 countries and employs approximately 9,000 people. A leader in industrial manufacturing, the company is pursuing its vision to be a transformative partner for customers and a positive force for the community while earning exceptional returns for shareholders. Worthington’s people-first philosophy led to the company being named a Columbus CEO Top Workplace.

In September 2022, Worthington announced its intention to split by early 2024 to form two market-leading, publicly traded companies positioned for future growth. Rose will continue as CEO of “New Worthington.”


Brett Roubinek
President and CEO
Transportation Research Center Inc.

Transportation Research Center Inc. (TRC) is North America’s most advanced independent mobility testing service provider, fulfilling the world’s leading transportation companies’ complex engineering, research, evaluation and testing needs. President and CEO Brett Roubinek has demonstrated exceptional vision and leadership, evolving TRC from its long-held, industry-respected role as an independent automotive testing center and proving ground to become the go-to incubator for the world’s most advanced transportation technologies.

From lessons learned over 25 years in the industry, Roubinek has developed a remarkable eye for identifying and championing what’s next in emerging technologies that make moving people and products safer, greener and more efficient. TRC has expanded its presence to the West Coast, achieved record revenue and grown the organization to all-time highs, while serving its growing client base.


Michael Schoedinger
Schoedinger Funeral and Cremation Service

Schoedinger Funeral and Cremation Service provides compassionate care to Central Ohio communities, diligently working with families to offer affordable services that honor and remember the special life of a loved one. A family legacy of over 165 years of service, combined with their certified MourningStar funeral directors, create meaningful, healing experiences and help family and friends support each other through the journey of grief.

Michael Schoedinger became president of the company in 2007. Along with his cousin, Randy, and brother, Kevin, he has led the company to significant growth over the past 16 years, increasing the number of families served from around 3,500 annually to over 11,000 today. Fifth- and sixth-generation family members remain active in the funeral home, which employs 180 associates and includes 12 locations.


Ira Sharfin
Continental Office

It takes a special person to steer an office furniture and commercial interiors company through a pandemic-fueled explosion of change to where and how people work. Moreover, it takes a truly smart and savvy leader to make it to the other side thriving, with new endeavors and exciting solutions that are making communities stronger.

Keeping a pulse on clients and markets, Continental Office CEO Ira Sharfin has strategized with hundreds of business leaders to develop new, smarter ways to utilize real estate, from custom-developed flexible spaces and shared work to fully reimagining clients’ workplaces.

Sharfin has long been a champion of innovation, impact and sustainability. His passion for the community, empowering future leaders and creating more sustainable environments is evident through the work he does and the partnerships he supports.


Cheryl Stauffer
CEO and Principal
Crimson Design Group

CEO and Principal Cheryl Stauffer founded Crimson Design Group in 2003 with one simple idea — people’s surroundings influence their lives and sense of being. Stauffer and her team tell people’s stories and create places of well-being by cultivating a sense of transportive wonder in spaces made for daily living.

Crimson Design Group has expanded from a one-person studio to an 18-person team of visionaries and creatives, increasing revenue year after year. The company recently purchased and renovated a 10,000-square-foot space adjacent to Grandview Crossing. Continued growth has brought visibility and opportunity, increasing the company’s capacity while serving clients with the Crimson Experience.

Stauffer is the driving force in all Crimson Design Group has accomplished. She is passionate about creating beautiful lives through design work and giving back to the community.


Mark Tinus
Founder and president
Simple Times Mixers

As the founder and President of Simple Times Mixers, Mark Tinus has built a smart organization focusing on efficiency, communication and adaptability. Tinus and his team are thriving in a tough market by investing in employee professional development and benefits, emphasizing external relationship-building with customers and partners alike, and adopting a “best, not better” mentality.

The organization has averaged 50 percent year-over-year growth during its first five years of operation. Expanding from a single farmers market, sales of the high-quality cocktail mixers lead the category at chains across the Midwest, including Giant Eagle, Meijer, Whole Foods, Kroger and Fresh Thyme. Creating over 30 jobs and multiple revenue streams, Simple Times Mixers is building a sustainable business that includes a 15,000-square-foot manufacturing facility and distribution network.


Doug Ulman

Doug Ulman runs Pelotonia, one of the world’s most successful fundraising cycling events. He was previously director of the LIVESTRONG Foundation for seven years. Dubbed the “Most Savvy Health Care Leader in Social Media,” Ulman focuses on communication, stewardship and innovation, strengthening communities that support scientists and cancer research. A three-time cancer survivor, he and his family also founded the Ulman Cancer Fund for young adults.

The grassroots organization has raised more than $130 million for cancer research at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC). In his role, he is responsible for overseeing the strategic vision and direction of Pelotonia and serves as an adviser to the OSUCCC.


Beth Urban COO IMPACT Community Action

Beth Urban has served as IMPACT Community Action COO for more than five years. During her tenure, she has taken the organization to new places, literally and figuratively. In the first months of the pandemic, she oversaw the agency’s move from Bryden Road to its current and much more fitting space on Southwood Avenue.

Due to unprecedented COVID-related federal funds, Urban’s teams grew from serving about 300 families per year in 2019 to over 30,000 in 2022. While rental assistance has been at the forefront of the media’s attention, IMPACT has quietly grown workforce development programs in the clean energy space and climate justice initiatives. Urban’s ability to scale up projects and drive them where other agencies have not yet stepped up has made her a nonprofit force to be reckoned with.


Patrick Wathen

Patrick Wathen began working at Equity as a construction site laborer while in high school, subsequently interning in different departments each summer. Throughout his 16-year career, he has bucked the status quo and sought innovative and novel ways to serve clients. Bringing new thinking to an industry that has been stagnant has allowed Equity to grow its footprint from a regional company to one that serves sophisticated clients and their real estate needs across 47 states.
Succeeding his father, Steve, in the family business, Wathen became president in 2021 and has worked to restructure the company, driving innovation across service lines to deliver increased quality while the organization scales. As Equity’s leader, he has built a world-class team focused on embodying the company’s core values.


Bob White
The Daimler Group

The Daimler Group CEO Bob White possesses an understanding of market trends, emerging opportunities and potential risks and is well-versed in the intricacies of development, property management, leasing and financing. White makes informed decisions that guide the organization toward long-term success. Four decades of unwavering dedication to meeting the evolving needs of companies have established The Daimler Group as a renowned provider of award-winning solutions and nurturer of enduring client relationships.

During his 25 years, White has played a pivotal role in driving the company’s growth and developing a culture that encourages employees to think outside the box, take risks and connect with the community to foster innovation. This approach has propelled the company to strive for continuous growth and longevity while fostering a strong sense of community.


Johnny Zela
Condado Tacos

The quintessential COO of Condado Tacos, Johnny Zela accomplishes his company’s goals through ongoing engagement and commitment to set the bar higher. A sincere motivational leader, Zela’s team members believe in him and aspire to great heights. Behind the scenes, he keeps the wheels turning and has helped build Condado Tacos into a premier brand specializing in build-your-own tacos, tequilas and margaritas.

Zela constantly drives toward new and higher goals as the company grows the Condado Tacos brand with at least 12 new restaurants annually. Due in large part to his leadership, Condado Tacos was named Breakout Brand of the Year by FSR magazine, made Fast Casual’s Top 100 Movers and Shakers, and most recently, in 2023, was awarded Breakout Retailer by Chain Store Age.


Kevin Zeppernick
Principal, board member and CEO
Thrive Companies

As principal, board member and CEO of Thrive Companies, Kevin Zeppernick plays a strategic role in the organization’s direction while overseeing operations. Since early 2018, he has focused his time and energy on restructuring execution to support Thrive’s repositioning as an “Experience” brand.

Zeppernick uses his expertise in Team/Talent Development, Process Improvement and Product Development to drive Thrive’s efforts to create unique, mixed-use urban resorts throughout Columbus, including Jeffrey Park (60+ acres), Grant Park (20+ acres), 4th/5th (5+ acres), Founders Park (18+acres), Grandview Crossing (60+ acres), Quarry Park (600+acres), Mount Carmel (20+ acres) and West Bend (50+ acres). The full buildout of these communities will result in over $2 billion in market value. The company has received numerous awards, including recognition by Business First as a Best Places to Work. ●