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Friday, Dec 8, 2023

40 Professionals Who Are Leaders in Their Industries

40 Professionals Who Are Leaders in Their Industries Justin Aldi CEO, First Security Lending Age 29 When Justin Aldi and his best friend from high school, Ronnie Da Motta, decided to start a mortgage loan company, each had about $1,000 to chip in of what was “essentially our life savings,” Aldi said. Back in 1998, the pair set up shop at Aldi’s home, made the dining room into an office and hired six telemarketers. Since then, their business has done pretty well to the tune of $450 million well. That was the amount of loans processed by their Burbank-based First Security Lending, which has also grown in employees from 2 in 1998 to 90 in 2004. “Our goal (is) to eventually become a landmark in the local community,” Aldi said. The recipe to success, according to him, is very basic. “Honesty contributed to our success, dedication to our clients and good old-fashioned hard work,” Aldi said. When Aldi is not working, he enjoys his hobbies sports and collecting British cars. He was turned on to the cars because his first car was an “old Triumph (and) it grew from there.” Vicki Robledo, a Burbank homeowner, is a fan of Justin’s. She bought her first house in Burbank with a loan from First Security and is now in the process of refinancing for the third time to do an add-on to the house. “Justin is one of those people that age doesn’t matter,” Robledo said of Aldi, who is 29. “He lives and breathes this stuff. I’m constantly recommending (First Security).” Slav Kandyba Josh Barinstein President, Red Frog Inc. Age 38 If Josh Barinstein wasn’t an advertising executive, he might be a computer programmer or a musician. Those are the worlds Barinstein has lived in during his 38 years and he seems to use the skills he gained from all of them. But the advertising executive part of him, specifically the focused businessman, is mostly in control these days. Barinstein co-founded and owns Red Frog Inc., a Newbury Park-based multimedia advertising and marketing firm that in less than a decade has managed to capture some high-profile clients that go to the company for its innovative approach to the industry. “If you give people enough time and treat them right, they will come back for more,” says Barinstein about his approach to business. Red Frog develops and implements advertising and marketing campaigns that use technology in concert with traditional methods to help build brand awareness. The firm deals with everything from direct response and e-mail advertising campaigns to e-commerce sites and CD-ROM presentations. Clients such as Amgen, the Independent Film Channel and large publishers such as McGraw Hill, Prentice Hall and Delmar Learning have signed on. Creativity abounds at Red Frog. For instance, the company created for Amgen a realistic online calculator for use by doctors on the Internet and created an e-campaign to boost subscription to the Independent Film Channel’s IFCRant. Born in Israel, Barinstein’s family moved to Argentina when he was 2 until eventually moving to the U.S. when he was 11. Barinstein had studied computer science and engineering at UCLA where he loved computer programming, a passion he developed while he was in junior high school. While at UCLA, he was the lead singer of a rock band called In Sync, believe it or not. The group routinely played the Sunset Strip. But computers were his real love and he eventually worked for Tekelec as a software engineer. While there, he went back to school at California State University Northridge and studied music composition. But he eventually returned to technology as a profession and Barinstein and his wife Cecilia started Red Frog out of their home which was not air conditioned in 1996. He knew computers and she knew graphic design so the couple figured if they combined their skills they could create an effective multimedia company. Jason Schaff John Baumann Treasurer, Semtech Corp. Age 36 The “wunderkind” seems to fit as a description of John Baumann. At all of 25 years of age in 1994, Baumann became the treasurer of a publicly traded company, Camarillo-based Semtech Corp., a semiconductor manufacturer. “It was somewhat of an honor to be 25 and be an officer of a public company albeit a small one” at the time,” Baumann said. When he joined the company in 1994, its stock was worth cents per share now it’s more than $15 per share. Not to mention, Baumann has a lot of cash to manage. “We’ve got $280 million in cash that I manage,” he said, adding Semtech was the fourth best-performing company on NASDAQ in the 1990s. At 36, the Loyola Marymount University alumnus is one of the longest-tenured officers at the company, having been there a decade. While working full-time at Semtech, Baumann completed an MBA at Pepperdine University and received an accounting certificate from University of California, Santa Barbara. Baumann said he acts as the company’s spokesman and talks with Wall Street analysts on a regular basis. When he’s not at work, Baumann spends time with his wife and two children. “Family is important to me. I like to fish and play golf and spend time with family and friends,” he said. And although he may be treasurer at Semtech, he’s not the one in charge of finances at home, he said. “Surprisingly my wife manages the checkbook,” Baumann said. “For what it’s worth I handle the brokerage account.” Slav Kandyba Claudia Bill-de la Pena City Councilwoman, Thousand Oaks Age 37 Claudia Bill-de la Pena has worked in front of and behind the camera for more than a decade, but her biggest stage at the moment is the dais of the Thousand Oaks City Council. Bill-de la Pena, 37, is midway through her first term on the city’s five-member panel, where she is the first Latina and only the second Spanish-surnamed resident to ever serve. “Cultural background or ethnic background shouldn’t matter,” said Bill-de la Pena, a member of the news staff at KCBS Television in Los Angeles. “I don’t think voters in Thousand Oaks made their decisions based on my last name I think they voted for me because of my qualifications.” That being said, Bill-de la Pena, a strong advocate for slow growth and protecting neighborhoods in the affluent Conejo Valley suburb, is proud the city she has called home for nine years proved some naysayers wrong. “There was a political consultant who said ‘with your last name, you’ll never get elected in a city like Thousand Oaks’, “she said, with some satisfaction. “But I’m here.” Bill-de la Pena’s background is probably unique: her father, an officer in the German Air Force, met her mother, who is of Mexican ancestry, while training with the U.S. Army in the United States. She was born at Ft. Sill in Oklahoma but lived in Germany for the first 18 years of her life. She came back to the United States to attend college and graduated from the University of Texas-El Paso with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Bill-de la Pena has worked as an on-air reporter, anchor, or producer for stations in El Paso, San Diego, and Los Angeles. “I enjoy the behind-the-scenes work because you can spend more time with a story than you can as a reporter, where you’re rushing from one live shot to the next,” she says, in an American accent with just a hint of a precise, somewhat European “clip” to her voice. “It really allows you to try and do justice to a story that deserves it.” Despite her status as a political pathfinder in Thousand Oaks, Bill-de la Pena minimizes the importance of her background. “De la Pena is my husband’s surname; come on, my last name before I was married was ‘Bill’ hardly the first name one thinks of when someone says ‘Latina,’ ” she said. “I firmly believe that the best person for a job should be the one who is hired but I do think my background gives me some perspective that not everyone may have.” Bill-de la Pena was only elected to the council in 2002, but she and husband Dr. Ronald de la Pena, an obstetrician who practices at Los Robles Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, made their home in the Conejo Valley almost a decade ago. She chose to get involved in politics, including a term on the city’s planning commission, as she watched the city approach build out and saw conflicts arise between residents and business. “We chose to make our home here and we want to stay here,” Bill-de la Pena said. “And I think we can protect the quality of life, and provide for good jobs, here.” By Brad Smith Raul Castillo Executive Director, Los Angeles Valley College Patrons Association Age 36 Raul Castillo is giving back to his alma mater in a big way everyday. As executive director of the Los Angeles Valley College Patrons Association, Castillo oversees the organization which raises funds for students and school services. And since assuming his post in 2001, there’s been a huge increase in revenues and money distributed by the organization. For instance, in the Patrons’ last fiscal year, there was a 34 percent increase in scholarship distribution, 61 percent increase in department and project distributions as well as a net revenue increase of 79 percent. Assets and revenues are the highest they’ve ever been. It’s a job that presents huge challenges for Castillo, a 1988 Valley College graduate. But those challenges were attractive to him, he said. He has only one office assistant and the school has nearly 20,000 students. Before coming to the school, Castillo was involved in fund-raising for the L.A. Music Center, but his career actually began after leaving Valley College and enrolling at Cal State Dominguez Hills. There he got a job in fund-raising at the university and was advised to explore a career in non-profits. “I found out that fund-raising was really a science,” he said. Castillo was born in the Philippines. His family immigrated to the U.S. when he was six and he grew up in Arleta. He has fond memories of going to school at Valley College and is glad he can contribute something to the school in his Patrons job, he said. “I’d like to be here until I retire,” Castillo said. His long-term goals for the Patrons? Have a staff of 30 people and an endowment of at least $20 million, he said. Jason Schaff Christopher L. Conte Vice President Marketing, Telesis Community Credit Union Age 37 Christopher L. Conte figures folks have three basic needs: family, health and money. And ever since he began his career in banking as a teller at the age of 18, Conte has been helping out with one of them. “I got a job with Bank of America at 18 and I asked a lot of questions and was one of their top tellers for many years and really enjoyed it,” said Conte, who is now vice president of marketing for Telesis Community Credit Union. “And I noticed how a lot of people are uninformed about financial products and services and how much pleasure I got out of explaining it to people.” Since joining Telesis about one and one-half years ago, Conte has developed a membership drive and he has been reviewing products and services to find ways to better serve what he calls the “small saver.” While his infectious enthusiasm has energized the management team of the credit union, it has also helped the company in its community outreach efforts. When Conte, 37, took over as co-chairman of the credit union’s AIDS Walk LA team, participation jumped about 50 percent to 30 people, and Telesis collected over $5,000 for the cause. “We had more walkers and more money than we’ve ever raised,” said Richard W. Cooper, vice president of government and community relations at Telesis. “He really lent a lot of enthusiasm and energy to getting everyone involved. People brought their families, and a lot of it was because Chris had brought a lot of energy to it.” Conte graduated from California State University Fresno and joined the Air National Guard before returning to Fresno to take a job as marketing research analyst for ValliWide Bank. He also worked as marketing director at Fresno County Federal Credit Union and vice president of marketing and technology systems at State Center Credit Union, both in Fresno, before joining Telesis. Since joining Telesis he has also become involved in that credit union’s Community Committee, which works with a number of social and education programs in Southern California. He recently began helping with fundraising for Valley Community Clinic. Shelly Garcia Trae Cotton Associate Dean, California State University Channel Islands Age 32 Trae Cotton has 350 brand-new new tenants moving into his brand-new complex on Aug. 27, and he has the same worries as anyone responsible for a new real-estate project. “Everyone who has ever purchased a home should know the feeling,” Cotton said. “There will be a toilet that doesn’t work, or a microwave that explodes, or a thing exploding out of the garbage disposal but what you do is you fix it and roll with it and move on.” But Cotton, who speaks with a hint of an a Texas twang, is not a Sunbelt developer or a builder mining the green spaces of Ventura County for real estate opportunities. He is, instead, Associate Dean Cotton of California State University Channel Islands, responsible for student life and director of the brand-new 2,000-student college’s equally brand-new student housing complex. And the days are counting down. “The complex gets turned over to us from the contractor Friday and we start the staff training and the R.A. training on Saturday, and the students move in at the end of the month,” he said last week. “And classes’ start Aug. 30th so that’s not so far away, is it?” Cotton has been through the growing pains of a brand-new campus before; he fulfilled a similar role regarding student housing at Florida Gulf Coast University, which opened in 1997 near Ft. Myers, Fla. At FCGU, however, Cotton was merely on the staff, not the dean. “I had an opportunity to help open that university, and this was an opportunity again to work on such a project,” Cotton said. “I was involved with things we were doing in housing in Florida, but now I’m the administrator responsible for it today it’s a little different.” Because of those responsibilities, Cotton chose not to move his family into Camarillo; instead, the dean, his wife Silvia, and their two-year-old daughter Ebony will be moving into the student housing complex on campus, right alongside the undergraduates. “May as well be right in the middle of it all,” Cotton said. “I’m sure we’ll be getting calls at 2 or 3 in the morning, but I’ve been involved in student life since I was in school; it’s part of the job.” Cotton, who earned an B.A. in communications at the University of North Texas and an M.A. from New Mexico University, is a Ph.D candidate at Walden University in Minneapolis. He also expects to be teaching speech communications at CSUCI as the campus grows, mixing teaching and administrative responsibilities. “The things that could be seen as the difficulties are also the blessings, from a personal and professional standpoint as well,” said Cotton. Brad Smith Deborah Cours Associate Professor of Marketing, Director of Graduate Programs California State University Northridge School of Business and Economics Age 37 It is said that those that can’t do, teach. Then there is Deborah Cours. An associate professor of marketing at California State University Northridge and director of graduate programs at CSUN’s College of Business and Economics, Cours has also played a key role in establishing and nurturing several programs geared to helping businesses grow and prosper. Cours, who is 37, was instrumental in establishing CSUN’s Wells Fargo Center for Small Business and Entreprenuership. She helped to set up an offsite program with Countrywide Financial Corp. to train the company’s employees with MBA preparatory classes, and she is in the process of launching an MBA program at Countrywide which will begin this fall. Perhaps most significant, thanks to Cours, CSUN, and with it, the San Fernando Valley, is the site of the Small Business Administration’s regional Small Business Development Center, one of just six in the state. Working with Judy Hennessey, chair of the marketing department, and Michael Fronmueller, the former dean of the business college, Cours wrote the winning proposal for the center and developed the program for its operations. With $2.9 million in funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the SBDC provides free business consulting, planning, marketing and training programs to business owners in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. “I think what was recognized was our expertise in small business and entrepreneurship and partnerships with business,” said Cours. The successful bid helped enhance the school’s credibility in the field, but just as important, it provides a local engine for one of the Valley’s most important economic contributors. “I would say she’s done a really fine job of, first and foremost, persuading the university about the value of small business development and the role that institutions of higher education have in that development,” said Alberto G. Alvarado, district director of the Los Angeles office of the U.S. Small Business Administration. “Ultimately, it is the small businesses that are leading the way in the economy and creating jobs.” Cours, who joined CSUN in 1994, began working with what was then the school’s small business institute about seven years ago and became its director about five years ago. It was then that she began working on the idea of establishing a larger center that would offer training focused on small businesses and entrepreneurs. In 2003, the center received a $500,000 endowment from Wells. The centers she has helped establish speak not only to her strategic prowess, but also her style, say those who work with Cours. “Debbie is a great human being,” said Alvarado. “She brought a personal sensitivity to this effort which we all appreciated.” Shelly Garcia Ronnie Da Motta President, First Security Lending Age 30 Ronnie Da Motta and his business partner Justin Aldi are president and CEO, respectively, of a mortgage lending company that closed in on a half-billion dollars in loans last year. Burbank-based First Security Lending was founded in 1998, but before mortgage loans, Da Motta had a lucrative auto repair business. Co-founded with his father and called ColorTech, he was still a student at Burbank’s John Burroughs High School when working there. Several years after high school and at the counsel of his sister, who worked in real estate, Da Motta decided to go a different route. “I didn’t want to get dirty every day,” he said. His first position was with Weyerhauser Mortgage (now WMC), where he was an office assistant at a brand new and fast-growing branch. He developed a close relationship with the president and effectively learned by watching, he said. Da Motta departed Weyerhauser to start his own business with Aldi. The two initially set up an office at Aldi’s home with some startup capital and help from an independent mortgage broker. They had six telemarketers calling potential clients out of Aldi’s dining room. First Security rapidly grew because Aldi and Da Motta were putting money away. In just six years, the company grew to 90 employees and $450 million in processed loans in 2003. Da Motta is happy with how First Security turned out, but puts family first. “I’m starting to enjoy the fruits of my labor,” he said. “Personally I just want to balance life. My priority is my family. Success is really trying to keep a balance in my life.” Slav Kandyba Bill Davis CEO, Davis Research Age 34 Bill Davis had a tough act to follow his mother Carol Davis. She was founder of the family-owned Davis Research in Calabasas and she “was” the business. Clients trusted her and employees loved her. So in 1998, when Carol was getting ready to retire and a transition plan needed to be put into place, Bill could have turned away from such a daunting task rather than coming on board to lead the way. But instead, in his first three years, he tripled the company’s revenues and with the help of his brother Bob has successfully completed the transition to the company’s second generation. Carol Davis is still around for advice but has stopped active day-to-day participation in the company as her sons take control. In this new generation of Davis Research, Bill has helped the market research firm diversify into multiple markets to rise to the top in a competitive industry. In addition to its traditional phone research, the firm has now expanded into focus group research. He believes that overall his company offers something different to its clients that being the advice that his firm is willing to give throughout the research process. Rather than just executing a survey like many research companies do, the firm will suggest improvements in the survey. Most clients appreciate this, he said. Bill is actively marketing the business as his brother Bob deals with the technological side of the company and its internal organization. Bill is active in the CSUN Family Business Center and provides pro bono research services for the university’s San Fernando Valley Economic Forecast publication and conference. An avid horseman, Bill is on the board of directors of the Will Rogers Polo Club. Jason Schaff Bob Davis CIO, Davis Research Age 32 Bob Davis followed his older brother Bill to their family-owned Davis Research to help put in place a transition plan for them to take over the company. And quickly it became apparent that Bob’s technical skills were crucial for the company if it was ever going to grow. “I never thought I’d be involved in the business,” he said. The company was involved in market research and Bob had a computer science degree and was happily working in that profession. But with the family business in need, Bob said he thought he’d give it a try and attempt to make a difference in the firm. That he has. Since arriving in 1999, Bob has revamped the company’s entire technical infrastructure and Internet strategy. This involved setting up a common computing platform for all employees, establishing the Davis Research website, e-mail addresses and a full-time technical support department. “The company was growing and the infrastructure wasn’t there to support it,” he said. Now, Bob manages four departments, all supporting technological development at the firm while brother Bill deals with the market research part of the business. It’s a division of responsibilities that works well, Bob said. “We don’t always agree, but in the grand scheme of things, we watch out for each other,” he added. The two brothers’ styles are different. Bill said that Bob provides the long-term strategical thinking that is needed at the firm where he is the one who gets things done “today.” Bill had high praise for his brother. “I think he is one of the top five smartest people I know,” Bill said. Since joining the firm, Bob has started a Charitable Event program on behalf of Davis employees. The program donates money to a different charity each month. “This company is a tremendous vehicle to give back to the community,” Bob said. Jason Schaff Alan Edrick Executive Vice President and CFO, Biosource International Age 36 For Alan Edrick, who was appointed to the position of executive vice president and CFO of Biosource International in Camarillo in May, dealing with Wall Street investment bankers is an aspect of the job he said he enjoys. After all, he was once on the other side working for Price Waterhouse LLP as senior manager, capital markets. He worked there from 1989 to 1998. The transition to executive management came about because he wanted to get his hands on something tangible like a publicly traded biotech company and steer it to financial success. “The opportunity to really work at a company is (about) building value,” Edrick said. “I like dealing with the capital markets, Wall Street and the challenges that it presents.” Before Biosource, Edrick, 36, was senior vice president and CFO of North American Scientific, a Chatsworth-based medical device and specialty pharmaceutical company. He was attracted to and eventually joined Biosource because he wanted to work the company’s then-new CEO Terrance J. Bieker. Biosource primarily manufactures research tools that are used in research of Alzheimer’s disease, as well as other biotech products. Slav Kandyba Michael Farris Planning Commissioner, City of Thousand Oaks Arete Associates Age 35 Michael Farris works for the kind of company where he literally can not say much about what his co-workers do during the course of the day. Farris, who earned a Ph.D in space physics from the University of California at Los Angeles, is corporate senior scientist at Arete Associates in Sherman Oaks. The company, with offices in Tucson and Arlington, Va., does research and designs software for the Defense Department, including the Air Force. “The old joke is `I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you,’ “Farris said. “It is defense contracting, so we have to be understandably vague on some of the technology areas, but we are effectively an innovator in sensor recognition.” The translation is that Farris and his co-workers look for ways that space-based and aerial sensors can be used to detect patterns in the ocean and atmosphere that would otherwise essentially be invisible to or at least difficult to detect with existing radar, sonar, and similar sensor technologies. The nuts and bolts of the company’s DOD work are vague, but some of the commercial spinoffs optical measurement of fingerprints for biometric recognition purposes or computer-generated imagery for the motion picture industry are not. Farris, for example, was honored in 2003 by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers for his work in analysis of color correction and color enhancement of digital video. Some of the technology Arete has worked on simulating the movements of the ocean’s surface, for example has found its way into Hollywood, in blockbuster and in not-quite blockbusters. “Our knowledge of physics went into software to allow us to simulate photo-realistic images of the ocean moving we worked with movie producers first for ‘Waterworld’ and then for ‘Titanic’ and we’ve since created software that allows other graphic designers to utilize the technology themselves,” Farris said. Along with his scientific work, Farris is also active in community affairs. He and his wife Stephanie, a teacher, live in Thousand Oaks with their daughter Monroe, 4. Farris serves on the city’s Planning Commission, including service as chairman of the panel, and is running for a seat on the Thousand Oaks City Council. “I love the city we live in and want to preserve its quality of life,” Farris said. “If you think the decisions need to get made correctly, sometimes you have to be involved in making them, so I think public service is important.” Brad Smith Jon O. Fetveit Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer, United Online Age 34 Before there was United Online, there was NetZero, which entered the fray of Internet service providers in the late 1990s and staked its claim to fame by charging nothing for Internet access. Jon O. Fetveit was helping run that company as director, strategic planning and subsequently, vice president, strategic planning, from May 1999 to July 2001. When NetZero and Juno merged, and were renamed United Online, Fetveit became the executive vice president and chief strategy officer for the Westlake Village-based company. One of Fetveit’s responsibilities was to oversee the merger. “The most challenging part is getting everyone included and making them feel like a piece,” he said. “It was a unique point in time everyone was willing to set their problems aside.” Following the merger, United Online has blossomed. The company’s subscriber base has grown, it began offering its software at Best Buy and Radio Shack stores, and it has performed well on the market. It has acquired seven companies, and Fetveit oversaw most of the acquisitions. “The long-term question is what to do after dial-up (Internet),” he said. “We’re looking at something other than dial-up. We bought a consumer Web hosting (firm).” Prior to joining NetZero, Fetveit, an alumnus of Stanford University with a degree in symbolic systems, was an investment banker in the corporate finance department of Hambrecht and Quist LLC. Slav Kandyba Hector Galvan Owner, Prime Building Materials Age 35 Two things are considered practically indispensable to business success: tenacity and a passion for one’s job. Hector Galvan, the 35-year-old owner of North Hollywood’s Prime Building Materials has plenty of both qualities. Starting as an employee at another building materials store, Galvan decided to open his own business when his younger brother was killed in a carjacking and he decided to rethink his priorities. A year later, the Northridge Earthquake also struck and created a huge need for building materials. Nearly a decade later, Prime Building Materials has three stores scattered across the Valley and yearly revenues upward of $10 million. “I’ve been very lucky and I never gave up. I gave 100 percent all of the time. I enjoy what I do and the best part is I get paid for it. I love my job and I’d do it for free if I had to,” Galvan said. “I’ve had a good staff and I’ve been able to be generous with them. We offer medical and a 401(k) for all employees. It makes them proud and happy to be here and it provides the energy for all the employees. I also attribute much of the success to my natural talent to have a good character in dealing with people.” The father of four, who has been married for 15 years, sees a bright future for his company. Jeff Weiss Howard Grobstein Partner, Grobstein, Horwath and Co. LLP Age 33 A CPA with an acute sense of community awareness, 33-year-old Howard Grobstein balances an onerous time commitment at his firm Grobstein, Horwath and Co. LLP, with aiding a variety of altruistic organizations. Starting at Grobstein, Horwath as a 20-year-old college student, Grobstein rose from being a lowly intern to becoming a full partner at only 29. Meanwhile, he immersed himself in the Development Committee of the Heart of Los Angeles Youth, a non-profit organization that seeks to enrich the lives of inner city children. Additionally, Grobstein is a member of Bet Tzedek, also known as the House of Justice, as well as the Los Angeles World Affairs Council and the American Jewish Committee. “Heart of L.A.’s youth helps kids in the Rampart district to stay out of gangs and gives them alternatives for after-school opportunities. It also helps kids who’ve dropped out, to get back into school. It’s a great organization and I care a great deal about it,” Grobstein said. At his firm, Grobstein works on large fraud cases and as a special litigation accountant to large public corporations. He has been appointed and acted as a Chapter 11 and Chapter 7 trustee in the Central and Northern Districts of California. Grobstein also provides forensic accounting and litigation support services. “I’ve been given good opportunities and worked hard at making them happen,” Grobstein said. Jeff Weiss Michael Higby Corporate Communications Manager, Investors Management Trust Real Estate Group Inc. Age 39 Michael Higby was thrilled to learn he had been selected as one of the Business Journal’s “40 Under 40,” not because he wanted the recognition but because he saw it as an opportunity to get some press for some of his favorite causes. As newly named president for the California Junior Chamber, he had recently made a trip to Crescent City, where a fundraising basketball tournament made headlines. “The first morning there was a story on the front page,” said Higby. “We would never be on the front page because we’re in such a huge city. It’s nice to have the honor, but I’m hoping we can also get some exposure for the Jaycees.” Higby, 39, was instrumental in re-establishing the Universal City/North Hollywood Junior Chamber, which had been dormant for a number of years. And his efforts led to the establishment of chapters in the Conejo Valley and another that will soon get underway in Sherman Oaks as well. Higby helped grow the Universal City/North Hollywood chapter from 26 members to become the No. 1 chapter in California. Through his efforts on a statewide level, Higby helped the Jaycees chapters to raise over $10,000 for the Family AIDS Network and $1,000 for earthquake relief for India. “Especially these days we’ve lost a common civic experience,” said Higby, “and your individual life can be enriched by having interaction with other people in the community and doing things to benefit the community as a whole.” Higby serves as corporate communications manager at Investors Management Trust Real Estate Group Inc. But activism has always been part of his heritage. “Both my grandfathers were elected officials and in addition they’ve been involved in numerous organizations as my mother and father have been,” said Higby. “So that was driven home to me at an early age.” Those who know him say that he possesses an unusual balance between the ability to get things done and instill a spirit of volunteerism in those around him. “The magic of Michael lies in his personality,” said Jason Price, a client service specialist for Yahoo’s Overture division, who worked with Higby to restart the Universal City/North Hollywood chapter of the Jaycees. “He approaches things with a light sense of humor and a mentality that really helps people get through the crisis and come out on the other side together and in a good mood.” Shelly Garcia Andres Irlando President, Cesar E. Chavez Foundation Age 32 At just age 32, Andres Irlando’s resume is lengthy. He currently serves as the President of the Cesar E. Chavez Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit charitable organization established by the family of the late labor and civil rights leader. Yet before taking this post, Irlando previously served as vice president of government affairs for govworks.com, a provider of e-government Internet services and the subject of the documentary film Startup.com, and practiced law with the firm of O’Melveny and Myers LLP. The Harvard graduate has a law degree from Stanford and serves on Los Angeles’ Rent Adjustment Commission, California’s Democratic State Central Committee, and in Los Angeles County’s Young Democrats. He is also a Lieutenant (Intelligence Command) in the United States Naval Reserve where he possesses a top secret clearance and he runs marathons just for fun. “I try to work as hard as I can. Nothing is achieved without perseverance and determination. I’ve also tried to live my life with a sense of purpose and passion and it has made it easy to pursue things that I’ve enjoyed or were challenging and rewarding. I’ve been fortunate to have good mentors, people who’ve pushed me to be as good as I can be,” Irlando said. As the Chavez Foundation’s president, Irlando helped make an organization that previously had no money, no staff, and no budget successful, by applying his entrepreneurial skills to the non-profit world. The Foundation engages in programming based on Chavez’s core values, specifically education, arts, and culture, sustainable communities, civic engagement, and non-violent social change. It is also building an education center near Tehachapi that aims to be the national destination to learn about and celebrate the life, work, and legacy of Chavez. Jeff Weiss Pamela Jacobson Executive Director, Hand in Hand Family & Child Development Center Age 39 At a time when most people only understand their intense dislike of trigonometry, Pamela Jacobson already knew her life’s calling. Instinctively gravitating towards education, Jacobson realized that she would become a teacher while only a teenager when she enrolled in a sign language elective course. This passion for helping others carried her to the University of Washington, where she realized that a great need existed for a team approach to speech therapy. Nearly two decades later, Jacobson dreams became a reality with the establishment of the Hand in Hand Family & Child Development Center in Encino. “The company started in my living room nine years ago. I was a speech therapist and was terribly frustrated by the lack of services available to children. In this area the speech therapists worked in a vacuum and didn’t work with other individuals that were working with kids,” Jacobson said. “At Hand in Hand, I built a team of like minded clinicians that weren’t bound by territorial restraints.” Last year, Hand in Hand was granted long-sought-after 501(c) 3 status from the IRS. The organization has faced challenges including proposed budget cuts from the state that would directly impact services provided to children with disabilities, but such impediments only strengthened Jacobson’s resolve. Each month, Hand in Hand’s team is able to service more than 100 local children with special needs and their families to help them reach their full potential. Jeff Weiss Chris Jimenez President and CEO, Full Flight Marketing Age 36 Ingredients of success: money, intelligence, motivation, oh, and a vision, too. With $25,000, clear plans how to manage a company in the marketing industry, and the drive to start his own firm, Chris Jimenez found the right recipe for success which he has called Full Flight Marketing. In 1999, after four years of selling for a marketing firm-turned-competitor, Jimenez trusted himself and his marketing strategies and moved to a nearby office with nobody else but his wife to start his own business. And in less than three years after Full Flight Marketing’s entrance to the market, sales reached just over $3 million, making this promotional marketing firm the third-fastest growing distributor in that industry. Full Flight has clients as large as Countrywide Financial and DreamWorks SKG who have been with the company almost from its beginning. Jimenez hopes to grow to a $15-$20 million business in less than five years. Marissa Greenberg Parveen Kakar Vice President, Superior Industries International Age 38 How many corporate vice-presidents can say they started out at their company 15 years ago as a summer intern working on the shop floor? How many can say they left their home and family and moved half way around the world to attend a state university here in the U.S. rather than one of the premier engineering colleges in their homeland? And how many are willing to relocate from the sunny San Fernando Valley to snowy and wet Michigan in order to strengthen the company’s core business? Parveen Kakar can say yes to it all. Kakar, formerly director of engineering services for Van Nuys-based Superior Industries, has recently left Chatsworth for the suburbs of Detroit to build a technical center for the company in the heart of the American automotive industry, the major customer for Superior’s car and truck wheels. But his professional roots are in the Valley. Fifteen years ago, Kakar was an emigrant student looking for a job. “I was driving down Woodley (Avenue) and saw all the wheels sitting on the rack, so I stopped and took my resume in,” Kakar said. “I walked in and said I was a grad student and was willing to work on the shop floor, and they said `we can take you’ that’s how it started. It’s kind of funny.” Kakar, born in Chandigarh, India, earned a B.S. in mechanical engineering at Punjab Engineering College. He could have gone to graduate school at the Indian Institute of Technology (known as “India’s MIT”). “My parents were saying `Why? Why not IIT?’ but I had developed a fascination with the engineering activity here and the industrial strength of the U.S., especially the automotive industry,” Kakar said. “I landed admission at Ohio State, but a friend said `Go to California’ and I heard the weather is good, so I came to CSUN.” Kakar earned his M.S. in mechanical engineering from CSUN while working part-time at Superior’s Van Nuys plant, which employs 1,200 people. He was hired full-time after graduation as a design engineer. At the same time, Kakar, who speaks fluent English, Hindi, and Punjabi, worked as a translator in the Indian-American and Indian immigrant community. “Living in India you have an opportunity to learn three languages, international, national, and regional,” he said. “So I could help out people who were having a hard time speaking English.” Along the way, Kakar met his wife, Meeta, and the couple married and began their family, including son Nishant, 9, and daughter Nishta, 2. “He’s a great guy, very personable, and a great guy to deal with the customer,” said Jeff Ornstein, chief financial officer at Superior’s Van Nuys headquarters. “He’s an outstanding member of the Superior family.” By Brad Smith Drew Kaplan CEO, ISWest Age 35 Drew Kaplan’s entrepreneurial skills began showing themselves when he successfully operated a lemonade stand when he was 7 years old. At 11, he was detailing cars for his neighbors. And in high school, he was dabbling in real estate. At 35, Kaplan is the CEO of ISWest, an Internet service provider based in Agoura Hills. He founded the company in 1996 with partner Robert Johnson after selling off another business, a pre-paid phone card firm. Johnson brought technical expertise and he brought sales and marketing, he said. But Kaplan doesn’t bill himself as a salesman: “I’m an inventor,” Kaplan said. “What drives me is to be able to create and drive ideas for businesses.” His first foray into business was via real estate. At 19, and right out of high school, Kaplan earned a real estate license and helped manage 22 apartment buildings in the Los Angeles area. When a chance came up to develop a farm in New Zealand with a cousin, Kaplan jumped at the opportunity. He wound up spending the next three years, from 1990 to 1993, developing the farm into commercial property and living there. Kaplan describes himself as “a very futuristic guy” who loves concept cars; among his hobbies is car audio customization. Kaplan has installed his own audio systems and has won several national car show awards. Slav Kandyba Kris Kaufmann Partner, Venture Capital Services Group Deloitte & Touche LLP Age 38 If you still think that accountants work alone, holed up in an office crunching numbers, Kris Kaufmann will dispel that notion. A partner in the Venture Capital Services group of Deloitte & Touche LLP, Kaufmann’s job revolves around establishing close ties to the technology community and understanding the needs of emerging growth companies and those who run them as much as it does balancing books and running numbers. “For an accountant, Kris is really into technology,” said Dan Benson, another Deloitte partner in the Technology, Media and Telecommunications practice who works with Kaufmann. “He’s a young partner, but he leads our venture capital initiative in all of Southern California. And he has a really deep knowledge of the financial issues related to technology, not just the accounting. Kaufmann was on the team that took Mannkind Corp. public last month. He worked with eMachines on its public offering, although the effort was displaced by Gateway’s acquisition of the company last March. And he has lent his expertise to Sonoma Systems and Adexa when those companies launched plans (since withdrawn) to go public. Kaufmann specializes in startups that often need a financial consultant and resource as much as they require accounting expertise. “You need to be able to filter down some of the complexity,” he said. “And I think, for me personally, I really enjoy teaching, and there’s a lot of what I do that’s similar to that.” He works with the Software Council of Southern California to help develop workshops and organize networking opportunities and with the council’s VentureNet operation, where he participates in a committee that helps screen business plans for review by venture capitalists. But the avid skier and cyclist and father of one son with another on the way, also has a soft spot for families and sports outside the business community. He is a board member of the U.S. Adaptive Recreation Center, which helps provide people with disabilities with equipment and training to ski. Shelly Garcia Anne Kotake Engineer, Rocketdyne Propulsion & Power Age 38 Anne Kotake’s first assignment as a mechanical engineer for the Boeing Co.’s Rocketdyne Division was a testing specialist for the company’s effort to design a new rocket engine, the first new design built in the United States since the 1970s. The result, the RS-68 engine, which uses liquid hydrogen and oxygen to throw Boeing’s equally brand-new Delta IV satellite booster skyward, was a long way from taking flight when Kotake joined the project in 2000. The team working on the RS-68 pulled lengthy, even brutal, shifts to make the engine a reality. “It was pretty challenging, very demanding work, and the hours were whatever it took,” said Kotake, a Thousand Oaks resident who graduated from Venice High School and California State University Long Beach. “We were here every weekend; we were here every night, past 9 or 10 p.m.” As the program advanced, Kotake’s specific assignment included overseeing tests of the new engine which generates 650,000 pounds of thrust, as compared to the space shuttle engine’s 418,000 pounds at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. These are the final tests for the each engine before it is attached to a booster and readied for launch at the Kennedy Space Center – with a multi-million dollar spacecraft on top. “They’re built here, shipped to Stennis for final assembly and testing, and fired up in the test stand,” Kotake said. “That’s where we come in to make sure each engine meets all the specs; it’s like tuning it up we test it out, it launches, and then it ends up at the bottom of the ocean.” Kotake, whose husband Mark works in the commercial real estate business, is also a mother of two. Her son Jeffrey is now 6 1/2 while daughter Kellie is 20 months old. Kotake’s commitment to the RS-68 project is such that when the Delta IV was set for its initial launch in November 2002, she was at the Rocketdyne plant in Canoga Park, despite being 8 1/2 months pregnant. “I had her two days after we launched,” Kotake said. “The on-going joke was we should have named her `Delta.’ ” Kotake would like to head back east for at least one more launch. In September, the first Delta IV “heavy” rocket, basically a super-sized version of the booster with three RS-68s rather than one is set to be launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The “heavy” version is the largest booster built in the U.S. since the Saturn V that sent astronauts to the moon, and the likely launch vehicle for the next generation of U.S. manned spacecraft after the shuttle. In that sense, the future of the RS-68 program may depend on the big model of the Delta IV. “With the `heavy’ set to go, that will be pretty important,” Kotake said. “I’m hoping they’ll send me over there to see it launch.” By Brad Smith

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