40 Under 40: Class of 2013


Kate Allen

In four seasons at the University of Nebraska, Kate Benson and her Cornhusker basketball teammates went 2-7 against the University of Kansas. Two decades later, she’s Kate Allen, and she’s got scoreboard where it matters most: She’s the executive director of the foundation at the largest college in Kansas, with undergraduate enrollment exceeding even that of the program in Lawrence.

A Kansas City native and graduate of Shawnee Mission South High—she was an honorable mention All-America pick of Street & Smith’s, the basketball bible—Allen demonstrated early that she was deadly serious about education. She earned her bachelor’s degree in political science in just 2½ years, and less than four years after arriving in Lincoln, she had her MBA, as well. All while playing through the rigors of Big XII basketball. And the whole NU-KU thing was clearly confined to the basketball court; Allen earned her law degree from KU in 2002.

She’s been just as serious with her work at the foundation. “In my first year, we doubled the sponsorship income from our scholarship gala to $600,000, and we awarded the most scholarship funds in the 40-year history of the foundation, passing through nearly $1 million in student support,” she says. But she deflects the credit for that to the roughly 130 community leaders she’s worked with through the foundation’s board.

Allen and her husband, Josh, have two boys, Luke 5, and Ben, 4.


Jeffery Anderson

He had a good thing going with Capital One Bank: vice president and director of sales and operations, leading a team of more than 350, creating a platform for $1 billion in residential lending. Then came The Lunch. The concepts Jeffery Anderson and his dining companions sketched out around that table became the framework for Spring Venture Group, where Anderson served as chief operating officer before SVG begat United Medicare Advisors, where he’s now the chief executive. “Leaving a Fortune 500 company and taking the lead into entrepreneurship has been the most exhilarating experience I’ve been a part of,” says Anderson, 36.

Eighteen months after it was formed, United was already generating multimillion-dollar revenues, helping consumers shop to find the best prices for Medicare supplemental insurance. Rapid growth and an ambitious goal of increasing revenues by 400 percent can’t be achieved, Anderson says, without creating a platform that allows employees to succeed. “It is important to me that our company culture creates an atmosphere with the freedom to share all ideas, has minimal hierarchy, and fosters the desire to continually improve,” he says.

As important as his own success and the company’s has been on a professional level, Anderson relishes what it’s done for him in personal terms. “Proving to my children that one must take risks in life in order to truly accomplish their dreams drive me every day to ensure that what we’ve created stands the test of time,” he says. He and his wife, Anne, have two sons, Fletcher, 6, and Morley, 4.


Jesse Barnes

History. The arts. Drawn to both even as a child, it might have been entirely predictable that Jesse Barnes would end up where he is now: As executive director of the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center. There, the 38-year-old Barnes is fulfilling a passion for telling the stories of African Americans who played key roles in the development of Kansas City. “The cultural center was built to celebrate the history, arts and culture of African Americans in Missouri and beyond,” says Barnes, and was named for the former Kansas City mayor who, earlier in his career, had followed the path of Martin Luther King Jr. to help change public-accommodation laws.

Some of Barnes’ most memorable contributions to the center’s programming involved exhibitions from iconic figures like the Tuskegee Airmen and the gowns worn by Motown’s Supremes. Dialing into such popular cultural lines has helped raise the profile of the center while on his watch—and tripled the revenues. “I feel that each exhibition should provide ‘edutainment’ for a diverse audience of youth and adults,” says Barnes.

In addition to his day job, Barnes is a board member for Awesome Ambitions, a youth advisory group, is a member of the Mayor’s Task Force for the Arts, and is a board member for Kappa Alpha Psi, the fraternity. He’s also a member of 100 Black Men of Kansas City, a civic group with a focus on mentoring youth. A graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta, he holds a master’s degree from UMKC. He and his wife, Mary, have been married for seven years.


Annie Brock

“Have a Purpose.” It’s the family motto, says Annie Brock. “When I was growing up, my father was sick, which ultimately led to a heart transplant,” says the 39-year-old vice president of sales and business development for Arsalon Technologies. “I realized early that hard work and preparation for the future were important, because life is precious and at the snap of your finger, circumstances can             change.”

Circumstances have certainly been changing at Arsalon, a Lenexa-based Web-hosting company that has enjoyed growth of nearly 600 percent since Brock joined the company. Arsalon first became eligible for consideration in Ingram’s Corporate Report 100 list of fastest-growing area companies, in 2005, and had since logged eight straight appearances, including three Top 10 finishes. “It has been extremely fulfilling to be a part of a small growing business where everything you do, every day, contributes to the bottom line,” she says.

Outside of work, a favorite cause is the Kansas City Autism Training Center, where she’s been involved as board member and volunteer since 2009. “People always ask me if I have an autistic child” because of those efforts, she says, “and I respond, ‘No, but the parents that do have their hands full.’ I’m fortunate that my husband (Dwayne) and my children are healthy and I can volunteer, she says.

Perhaps that’s why she says she doesn’t believe the world owes you any favors. “You have to work hard to achieve success,” says Brock, and that all goes back to having that purpose. “With all the distractions created by advancements in technology today,” she says, “it is important to have a purpose and stay focused.”


Travis Carpenter

Half a lifetime ago—remember now, he’s just 33—Travis Carpenter strapped on the apron in the Martin City kitchen of Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue and started hand-breading livers and gizzards for the fry cooker. “Although I’m vice president now,” he says, “my heart and passion still resident in the kitchens of our restaurants.” Note the use of the plural. Carpenter has been along for the ride as the company has grown from that south Kansas City outpost into a metro-wide brand as the region’s premier—only?—white tablecloth barbecue joint. “I’ve been blessed,” he says, “to be able to be a part of a family-focused, values-driven company.”

His service with the company was interrupted when Purdue University came calling with a full scholarship. He answered that call and earned a degree in hotel and restaurant management, and he hasn’t forgotten what the Boilermakers gave him. “I have stayed very close and involved with the school since graduation,” he says. “I serve on a board that helps plan the future of the program, and have a scholarship in my name that I created and have funded since 2002.” But his education hasn’t stopped there; Carpenter is on track to pick up his MBA from the University of Kansas later this year.

The restaurant, and its president-CEO, Case Dorman, “have also taught me the importance of giving back to the community,” he said, leading to participation with Hope Faith Ministries, City Union Mission and the Red Stocking Breakfast, among others. He and his wife, Kelly, are the proud owners of Chloe, who—considering the scraps potential from Carpenter’s work—might be the happiest golden retriever in Kansas City.


Ted Chartier

He came out of Wichita, a city known for its wide-open entrepreneurship and its hard-work-makes-anything-possible culture. Ten years ago, Ted Chartier made the move to Kansas City as a newly minted financial adviser, but unlike a lot of others who enter that field, he had no family money to use as a foundation. Cue the background: “I learned early on the value of hard work,” says Chartier, 34, who has just been elevated to vice president-wealth management for UBS Financial Services. That work ethic helped him build a business from nothing to a $100 million line of investments for high-net-worth families.

At UBS, he’s received the Leader’s Circle Award for top performance, and last year, he ranked as the firm’s fastest-growth adviser in both Kansas City and the state of Kansas. His production growth ranks in the top 10 percent of comparable advisers in the country, UBS officials say, and his growth in his assets under management—52 percent—puts him in the top 5 percent nationwide. Put those numbers into context: Chartier is doing all of that from a mid-level market that lacks the kinds of potential client wealth found in larger cities. He’s also one of the youngest officers in the firm.

This 34-year-old father of two also volunteers with various charities, and plans to attend the FBI Citizens’ Academy this spring. “I love Kansas City and feel blessed to have established my career in this wonderful community,” he says.


John Clune

John Clune is one of those rare executives who succeeded by taking the career ladder down—about 12 stories down. There, beneath what the rest of us know as Lenexa, is a sprawling, 3-million-square foot subsurface business park that is home to Cavern Technologies, where the 38-year-old is president and oversees day-to-day operations. Cavern develops, leases and operates build-to-suit data centers that serve more than 70 companies in the region with a safe, secure, reliable and cost-effective site. Among those clients are Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City, the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System, VinSolutions and CyteWorks.

This past year, Clune says, “was incredible for me professionally and for Caver Technologies, as we took our state-of-the-art data center and co-location facility from 30,000 to 60,000 square feet.” Before joining Cavern, Clune was a producer for Universal Underwriters Group, Thomson West and the Lockton Companies’ office in Atlanta. His experiences taught him about operational efficiencies and team-building, and those who know him say his ability to work in and motivate teams has been a foundational element of the success at Cavern.

Clune, who earned his degree in accounting at the University of Missouri, is on the advisory boards of Ah-Ha Tree and BigWebApps.com, and he’s and active supporter of Catholic Charities, the Foundation for Inclusive Religious Education, and of the Rev. Jerry Waris, a Catholic priest from Kansas City who works on mission trips to El Salvador to improve living conditions there. He and his wife, Angela, make their home in Kansas City.


Tom Collins

For Tom Collins, the career has always been the means to a greater end: “As a native Kansas Citian, one of my most significant achievements has been giving back to the community in which I was raised,” says Collins.

At 36, he’s vice president of Portamedic operations for New Jersey-based Hooper Holmes, which provides underwriting support, medical testing and other services for the insurance industry. Portamedic is the largest business unit in the publicly traded company, and Collins is charged with leading a team of more than 5,000 employees and contract examiners. Before joining Hooper Holmes three years ago, he was principal and owner of Preferred Finance Partners, which provided accounting and consulting services to businesses, and previously worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers and Grant Thornton.

His success has been a tool he wields to make a difference, not just with volunteer efforts on behalf of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the Chordoma Foundation, but with a non-profit start-up of his own—he helped found the Supporting Kids Foundation in 2009, and it has donated more than $70,000 to local families touched by childhood cancer and cancer-related illness.

“I am fortunate,” says Collins, “to have not only owned my own business in this community, as well as been part of starting a local charity, but am now also raising my family here and serving as a senior leader of a publicly traded company.” He and his wife, Maggie, have a son, Freddy, 2, who will have a brand new little brother or sister this summer.


Ken Conklin

Long commutes aren’t unusual in Kansas City, and even extended international travel is part of the job for some. But two years in London? Ken Conklin did that time, and his service helped put the “Global” in BATS Global Markets. His work there was instrumental in successfully launching BATS Europe in 2008 as the Lenexa-based firm continued its shakeup of the world’s equities trading architecture, taking its innovative technology to a second continent.

Conklin, 39, is at it again as senior vice president and global head of business development and marketing—he’s spearheading the firm’s exploration of entry into markets in Brazil. He’s has been there at virtually every step since the founding of BATS, which sprang from the fertile mind of Dave Cummings, who also had founded Tradebot Systems and employed Conklin there, as well.

Just five years after its launch in late 2005, BATS hit the billion-dollar revenue mark, and it now stands as the world’s third-largest trading platform, behind only the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ. Conklin, who started as a software developer at BATS, is now helping close the gap on those legendary names in stock-trading, and maintaining the company’s brand by ensuring consistent messaging across all media.

In addition to his work-related Series 7, 63 and 24 licenses, he holds a degree in economics and business from K-State, and a master’s in computer science—with honors—from KU. He and his wife, Karen, have two children: Ben, 7, and Annie, 6.


Todd Crossley

Fifteen years ago, Todd Crossley went to work at his father’s Ford dealership. But he’s done a lot more than just sell cars. After becoming operating partner in 2005, he orchestrated a move for the longtime Liberty dealership, relocating into Kansas City, North. Since then, the growth has been explosive, the dealership has earned Ford’s Triple Crown Award (the automaker’s highest) and Crossley bought the company from his dad in 2011.

Not a bad track record, but factor in this: While all of that was going on, Todd Crossley and two partners set up a $500-a-month office rental, developed software to help dealers find customers more effectively and retain them at higher levels—then sold that start-up, VinSolutions, to Autotrader.com for $150 million in 2011. Leading up to that sale, VinSolutions had climbed to No. 33 on the Inc. 500 list of the nation’s fastest-growing companies.

Crossley’s entrepreneurial zeal didn’t stop with that deal. He’s also owner of Midwest Green Fuels, which specializes in propane-conversion kits for vehicles, and he’s getting ready to lift the curtain on Extreme Grand Prix, a family-oriented indoor go-kart venue in Raytown. He’s also been a partner in Trade Cycle Management and has opened TDR Auto Plaza in Kearney. Crossley, 39, and his wife, Carey, have two daughters, Camey and Carley.

Crossley has also served on the 20/20 Committee for the Liberty school board, and his work with the Dream Factor of Kansas City has helped raise $25,000 over the past three years.


Taira Garvey

When Taira Garvey was growing up as a middle child, she learned how to blend in. Until she became a mother, at the age of 18. Then, she said, “I stood out. From that day forward, I made it my mission to stand out and be successful in all aspects of life—career, family and community.” Mission accomplished: Today, she’s a CPA and manager for CliftonLarsonAllen, the nation’s eighth-largest accountancy, a one woman tour de force for civic and community involvement in St. Joseph, and—again—in full mother mode. Last fall, she added a pair of twins, Ike and Bo, to a line-up that includes 19-year-old Jacqueline, Nicholas, age 4, and 3-year-old Katherine. For those who aren’t accountants, that’s four children under the age of five.

A lot of us might consider that schedule a hall pass for sleeping in, but Garvey is up at least three times a week for her 6-mile run—starting at 5:15 a.m. Then it’s off to work at the firm, where she specializes in work with contractors and casinos, among others, “helping them reduce income taxes, improve financial ratios (such as working capital to increase bonding or obtain credit), and ultimately obtain their business goals,” she says.

Her civic call to action includes work on behalf of Clean Air St. Joe, promoting smoke-free workplaces; board membership for the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art and Cathedral Early Childhood Center and Church; and membership in the Junior League. Still not enough? “I am currently training for the 2012 Chicago Marathon, in an attempt to not only improve my physical health, but also my mental capacity to stay the course.”


Bill Grant

“I love to help build businesses and create a work environment that people truly enjoy,” Bill Grant says, with no small amount of understatement. Take, for example, his time as vice president of the former LabOne, a medical-testing company, when his Midwest Clinical Division saw revenues rise from $5 million to $75 million in just five years.

After CEO Tom Grant—Bill’s father—orchestrated LabOne’s sale to Quest Diagnostics for a cool $934 million, the family invested in SelectQuote Insurance Services, where Bill co-founded a subsidiary, SelectQuote Senior. Since its launch in March 2010, the company has created 75 jobs in Kansas City—that’s a new hire roughly every 10 days, for three years—and it’s now the nation’s fourth-largest direct-to-consumer health-insurance brokerage for seniors.

“As a long-time Kansas City resident,” he says, “growing these businesses and adding great jobs and true career paths within the community is very important to me, and satisfying as it becomes a reality.” But his current role also combines two key interest—work and family. “I am fortunate to be able to work with my father and both of my brothers,” says Grant, 38. He and Sarah have three children—Will, Remley and Mary—under age 10 and he says, “I spend as much time as I can with them and enjoy coaching my son’s basketball team, traveling with family or just spending as much quality time as I can with them


Brian Hagenhoff

Like most chief financial officers, Brian Hagenhoff is a busy guy. Unlike most, he’s got numbers coming at him from all directions. His primary role is monitoring financials for Grassmere Partners, a private investment firm in town, but this 35-year-old St. Louis native is responsible for all financial and accounting aspects not just for that firm as well as its controlled operating companies—Box Office Analyst, Sweet Creations and Grassmere Acquisition Corp. The latter is a special-purpose acquisition corporation that he took from formation to filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission in less than four months.

He also is heavily involved with Dineplex International and its new-concept dinner/movie venue Standees. “We’ve created every aspect of Dineplex and Standees from scratch,” he says, “and that is one accomplishment I’m quite proud of.” Before joining Grassmere in June 2010, Hagenhoff spent two years working for Euronet Worldwide, the Leawood specialist in global payment processing, and previous worked in both the assurance and tax units of KPMG and Arthur Andersen.

A University of Kansas business school graduate, he holds degrees not just in accounting and business administration, but East Asian languages and cultures. Spent a year abroad teaching English to Japanese students, in fact. And he has logged service on the board of Comfort the Children International—all while raising three of his own with his wife, Meaghan.


Hayley Hanson

Her specialty is law, but make no mistake: Hayley Hanson’s primary interest is children. Like most mothers, that starts at home, where she and husband Todd McGuire are raising six-year-old Campbell and his sister, Alaina, 2. But her work on behalf of kids follows her to the offices of Husch Blackwell, where she started as an associate in 2000 before becoming a partner within just six years. “I’m fortunate to serve the interest of children as a lawyer specializing in education law,” says Hanson. Representing public school districts and universities throughout the state, she’s been able to expand the firm’s education-law practice, while helping those clients “develop and enforce policies to protect children,” she says.

Before joining Husch, she graduated magna cum laude from Northwest Missouri State University, then earned her law degree—with high honors—from the Drake University Law School, where she also served as executive editor of the school’s law review. The balance she’s deftly struck between law career and family duties has allowed her to devote personal time to causes like the Kansas City Friends of the Kansas City Zoo, where she’s been a board member since 2008, her alma mater’s foundation board in Maryville since 2012, the board for Teach for America/Kansas City. And, since 2005, on the board for Debate Kansas City, working to help students develop their critical thinking and oratorical skills. “Students, by participating in debate, become more analytical, studious and better communicators,” Hanson says, “skills that will unquestionably enrich their lives and expand their opportunities.”


Tyler Henson

His stepfather’s work in construction took Tyler Henson around the country when he was growing up, but that industry didn’t get its hooks into him until his own professional toolbox had a law degree in it. After graduating from law school at Wake Forest, Henson did construction law for firms in Texas and Virginia before connecting with J.E. Dunn in 2004.

Today, the 38-year-old is vice president and division general counsel for the region’s biggest construction company and—dare we say it—quite likely the only 40 Under Forty applicant who has ever interned for a member of the British Parliament. That gig coincided with his undergraduate work in political science, studying abroad for year at the London School of Economics and Political Science. In his current role with Dunn, Henson advises senior executives on risk-management tools dealing with insurance, safety, quality and other issues. He’s also the compliance officer, national records manager and oversees crisis-response planning.

A biking fanatic, Henson was on the executive committee that brought the Tour of Missouri international race to fruition in 2009 and was a founding member of BikeWalkKC. He also served as board president for Kansas City B-Cycle/BikeShareKC, working with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City and others to raise more than $1 million and put in place a privately funded bike-sharing system in Downtown Kansas City—and did that in less than six months.

Henson and his wife, Amy, have three children: Ellie, 7; Cooper, 4; and 1-year-old Thomas.


Stephen Hopkins

Every day must be like Christmas for Stephen Hopkins, director of the Innovation Lab for Dimensional Innovations. The Overland Park design and fabrication firm that has brought you the Downtown library’s “book shelf,” the distinctive Children’s Mercy Hospital clock tower and the jaw-dropping interactive video display for the K-State basketball program—among many others.

Hopkins gets to direct efforts to create unique, eye-catching and innovative ways for companies and organizations to reinforce their brands, often in ways that produce a common one-word response from people who see them: “Cool . . . ” After starting his career with Gould Evans and Populous—and factoring in the startup of his own a concrete countertop business—Hopkins landed at Dimensional Innovations in 2011. He earned his degree in architecture from the University of Kansas, and the ink is still wet on his MBA from the Bloch School of Management at UMKC, which, according to company President Tucker Trotter, has made Hopkins an exceptional business strategist as well as a talented designer.

And did we mention that Hopkins has all of this going for him at the age of 32?

In addition to his design work, Hopkins served for 4½ years on the Environmental Management Commission for Kansas City, reviewing policies and activities for the way they impact the regional environment. That interest dovetailed with his own goals of promoting sustainability in his design work. He also served for three years as co-chairman for fund-raising and planning of the Community Treasures Fund-Raising Gala at Community Christian Church. Hopkins and his wife, Sarah, have a 1-year-old daughter, Eleanor.


Jake Jacobson

June 2008. Barely a year after a company called Twitter gains traction in an emerging field called social media, Scott Jacobson is in the back of a van in rural France. A manager in the communications department for Garmin International, he needs a way to promote the company’s pro cyclists on tour there. And inside that van, @Garmin is born, and the company enters the Twitterverse. A little more than four years later, Jacobson had been given the keys to Garmin’s social media hot rod, Runner’s World had designated Garmin as one of just four brands to follow, and the concept was no longer just a digital shot in the dark on a little-known platform. “That evolution marks my proudest career achievement: Building a voice for global corporation, representing its employees and helping its customers,” says the 39-year-old Jacobson.

From zero to 32,000 @Garmin followers, from a dormant Facebook page to one with 165,000 people interacting, from a blank slate on YouTube to more than 100 tutorial videos—the top five yielding nearly 2 million views—Jacobson’s work has defined what it means for companies to engage in social media and make it work. “I’ve enjoyed bringing my passion for authentic interaction to our evolving channels,” he says.

He says he relishes sharing that same positive energy and enthusiasm for other causes he believes in outside the office, such as his work on the boards of the Arthritis Foundation, the MS Society and the YMCA’s brand advancement council. Jacobson, who earned his bachelor’s degree in advertising art and design, and a masters in professional communication, both from Iowa State, makes his home in Leawood with his wife, Jocelyn.


Matt Jennings

Husband. Father. Salesman. Uncle. Coach. Volunteer . Co-worker. Friend. No matter what he is—and he’s every one of those—Matt Jennings believes that “today is the best day to be the best you can be at whatever you’re doing.” That philosophy, says the 39-year-old, has served him well as senior account executive for MedTrak Services, the pharmacy benefits manager from Overland Park. His unbridled optimism and positive energy, no doubt, correlate to his success there. He was MedTrak’s 2011 Account Executive of the Year, generating roughly $35 million in top-line revenues.

Impressive as that is, Jennings says his greatest achievements can be found at home, in both family and friends. “I am lucky enough to be the husband of Katy Jennings and the father of Ally, 9, and Grant Jennings 7,” he says, and his feelings for them are never hidden. “Life’s too short to hold anything in or to wish you could’ve said something or done something,” he said. “My late mother”—Sue Jennings—“taught me this, and I now know why she had such a magnetic personality, and why she always seemed to be smiling not only on the outside, but on the inside.”

Jennings has an impeccable business pedigree; Katy herself was a 40 Under Forty selection in 2010, and his father is Drue Jennings, the former CEO of Kansas City Power & Light. Taking a cue from Dad—who would encourage young executives to excel as spouses, parents and neighbors before even thinking about community service—Jennings also serves on the corporation board for the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity at the University of Kansas, his alma mater, and volunteering with both his church, Rolling Hills Presbyterian, and at Mission Hills Country Club.


Ben Jones

Winston Churchill died at 90, nearly a decade before Ben Jones was even born. But the English statesman’s influence on Fulton, Mo., was strong enough to reach Jones as a student there, at Westminster College, and it stays with him today: “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen,” Jones says, citing the man who delivered the historic Iron Curtain speech at Westminster in 1946. That’s where Jones’ own interest in politics took shape. Since graduating and moving to Kansas City, Jones has worked in various government or political venues, but most recently took those skills to the private sector as director of public affairs for Union Pacific Railroad.

He has a passion for public policy—and for understanding the divergent viewpoints that can lead to conflict in it. Jones honed those skills by completing the Senior Executives in State and Local Government at Harvard University’s prestigious Kennedy School of Government. What he learned there also helps, he says, in his dealings as president of the Missouri Railroad Association.

“At the end of the day,” says the 38-year-old, “I hope to set the best example possible” for Roger and Warren, the two boys he has with his wife, Susan. “I want them to grow up and understand the importance and an education an actively seeking additional opportunities for personal growth. I want them to be able to follow the principals of the Churchill quote I learned in college.”


Leslie Kostner

What does field hockey have to do with successful insurance brokerage? Allow Leslie Kostner to connect the dots. “I believe the coaches who motivated me to always be better are the cornerstone to my personal and professional success,” says Kostner, senior vice president and producer for Lockton Companies—and former Division I field-hockey player for the North Carolina Tar Heels. “Having a competitive nature and loving to win, while learning from loss, continues to fuel my passion to achieve success through teamwork.”

She’s not doing too badly with individual stats, either. Since moving into a sales role in 2008, her annual performance at Lockton, the world’s largest privately owned independent insurance broker, has beaten her established revenue goals every year—including 30 percent growth over the past sales year. In addition, she says, “I have mentored three new producers and continue to serve in a strategic role, consulting clients and collaborating with associates.”

In addition, she serves on the boards of the Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired and Girl Scouts. She has also held leadership positions with Harvesters, Operation Breakthrough, Ronald McDonald House and Children’s TLC. But “more than anything,” says Kostner, 39, “the fulfillment and joy I have from being a wife and mother of three amazing children provide me with the momentum to cherish an dmake the most of all the experiences in my life.” She and husband Tim are parents of 9-year-old Lucy, 7-year-old Helen Kate, and Fritz, 4.


Greg Kratofil

Ten years ago, Kansas City was taking its first uncertain steps toward life-sciences prominence. At that time, the firm known today as Polsinelli PC had exactly zero attorneys with practice concentrations in science and technology. Greg Kratofil was among the first to draw the straw for those new duties, and today, that practice group and its team of nearly 40 lawyers is a reflection of just how far the firm—and Kansas City itself—have come in that realm. Two of the technology areas he specializes in were naturals in this market—information security and health-care information technology. Kratofil, 39, has held key roles in working with FishNet Security in the former space, and Cerner Corp. in the latter. He has also assisted local tech clients in their efforts to raise capital, not just within the Kansas City market, but in major population centers with bigger investment fish.

His commitment to the transformative power of technology has most recently been on display with the Google Fiber project; Kratofil is the lead local counsel for the “Fiber for Communities” initiative, working with municipal leadership on each side of the state line. He’s also a co-founder of KC Next-The Technology Council of Greater Kansas City.

“I love working with technology entrepreneurs,” Kratofil said after being named Service Provider of the Year by Silicon Prairie News. “Quite frankly, they inspire me. Technology entrepreneurs envision the world as a better place. They envision it faster, more efficient, more entertaining and more secure. The technology entrepreneur puts his time, talents and resources on the line every day, and I’m honored to have the opportunity to help.”


Melissa Lavin-Hickey

If you want to be the best you can be, work with others who already are. For Melissa Lavin-Hickey, director of the Burns & McDonnell Foundation, it’s that simple. “I’m surrounded with world-class talent at Burns & Mac—they inspire me to help mentor the next generation of engineers, to teach youth to nurture and grow their own food, to provide for those less fortunate than myself and to encourage others to find the philanthropist within.”

Since moving from community relations to the foundation office in 2007—and assuming leadership of the engineering firm’s philanthropic wing in 2011—Lavin-Hickey, 35, has worked with CEO Greg Graves to refine firm’s philanthropic strategy and align donations from its $16 million in assets with key community initiatives. That meant a focus on educational outreach, environmental responsibilities, human services, and arts and culture. It also meant building on a corporate culture that encouraged board service; members of the firm serve on more than 20 boards, such as those for Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics to March of Dimes, and Junior Achievement.

Much of her drive is viewed through the prism of her daughters’ future. Lavin-Hickey says she wants them to grow up in a world with more female engineers, doctors, scientists, entrepreneurs and technology experts, drawn from the inner city as well as suburban schools.  Husband Shawn and the girls, Kate and Claire, “inspire me every day,” Lavin-Hickey says. “They remind me that life is pretty simple: Love your life, believe in yourself, continue to learn and great things will happen.”


Brian Leitner

Talk about hitting it off: Brian Leitner was in Kansas City to visit family in 2010, and a mutual friend helped arrange a 10-minute meeting with Marty Bicknell, CEO of Mariner Holdings. The meeting lasted four hours. “I knew that I wanted him on my team,” Bicknell says. Leitner immediately added firepower to the Leawood firm’s efforts to embrace holistic wealth planning, bringing an approach to building wealth influenced by two key factors: Jake, who’s not quite 4, and Cole, delivered earlier this year by Melissa. “The perspective they bring into my life helps me understand what’s truly important,” Leitner says, “and makes me want to help others through my work.”

Leitner began his career with a Wall Street private bank. Then came the epiphany. He “quickly realized that the best investment returns in the world cannot ensure the most important thing—an individual’s ability to live the life he or she wants.” People, he said, need wealth partners, not investment advisers. “It seems simple today,” he says, “but 10 years ago, client-focused wealth advice was a novel concept.”

At Mariner, the 37-year-old Leitner is senior vice president whose charge includes driving that particular client focus across the firm by mentoring younger advisers. With acquisitions of four more wealth advisory firms in 2012, Leitner has no shortage of new people to bring into that culture, and Bicknell credits his work for helping Mariner achieve Top 10 Advisor status from Barron’s. A board member for Giving the Basics, Leitner is also an active supporter of the MS Society and the Mariner Foundation, the firm’s philanthropic wing.


Susan Leonard

If you have a child on a waiting list for Pembroke Hill’s Middle School, give Susan Leonard the credit, not the blame. Oh, she’s principal there, all right, and she’s had a key role in creating the learning environment that has boosted demand for the fixed number of slots available each year. But she was motivated to do so by a desire to create a better learning environment for all students—even the prospective ones. “I hope my faculty would say that I have made them better in their classrooms and with their students, that I push them to be the best they can be while also being a supportive coach they can go to for help and good advice when needed,” the 39-year-old Leonard says.

But her biggest achievements she says, can be found in the small stuff, like the early-morning conversations she used to have with a student who felt cursed, not blessed, with her high academic potential. That student is now a freshman at Stanford University and a pinnacle moment for Leonard was “the day I knew she had decided that it really was her life she was living, and no one else’s. … If I am making a difference for one, two, a dozen, maybe even more students, then I know I can retire fulfilled and happy one day.”

Two other children she’s making a difference for every day are right there with her and Matt Leonard at home—C.J., 8, and Maggie, 6. “The very best part of every one of my days is at the dinner table,” she says. “Despite hectic days, we almost always find time for each other as a family.”


Matt McFadden

The Web site for Zimmer Real Estate Services notes that Matt McFadden and his wife, Elizabeth, live in Kansas City with their three active sons. How active? McFadden is running out of fingers counting the household’s flat-screen TVs that, alas, carry no warranty against flying toys. All the more incentive for the 39-year-old McFadden to help his employer end the real-estate doldrums that set in—however inconveniently—about the time he left Honeywell Inc. to come here. “In hindsight,” he says, “the timing wasn’t the best, but the opportunity to shape and grow a corporate services division from the ground up was simply too exciting to pass up.”

Life, he says, is about taking calculated risks, and with Zimmer’s history in the region, “I felt it was less a risk and more a recipe for success.” The numbers would agree. He’s taken the beginnings of a corporate services unit and delivered growth of 1,200 percent over those five years. All while fully engaging with the community, completing Kansas City Tomorrow, the city’s leadership development program; volunteering with Prep-KC and Metropolitan Community College’s Five-Star Gala committee; and holding a board seat for 3&2 baseball, while also coaching his sons’ teams.

McFadden also sports a nearly coast-to-coast educational background, with a degree in political science from James Madison University in Virginia, a law degree from Washburn in Topeka, and an MBA from Arizona State. With all that going for him, everything is clicking, but “most important,” he says, is that “in the five years since we’ve been back in Kansas City, I’ve seen my family absolutely thrive.”

Doubtless, the folks at Magnavox would agree.


JoAnne McMillen

Two unpleasant encounters—one with a cow, one with an electric fence—suggested to Joanne McMillen that her future lay somewhere other than in veterinary work. The animal kingdom’s loss was the gain of veterans who aspire to home ownership, and McMillen is making their dreams come true every day. She’s the Kansas City market manager for Veterans United Home Loans, recognized by Inc. magazine last year as one of the nation’s fastest-growing companies.

Her contribution to that growth has come in the Lenexa office, which she launched with 17 employees in 2007. Today, more than 200 people work there, where the 34-year-old native of Los Angeles oversees compliance, culture and production. “I have been given opportunities and responsibilities that not only affect my personal life, but also the lives of those I have the privilege of working with, the veterans and the individuals I get to share an office space with,” says McMillen. That’s why she lives by the biblical admonition that says to whom much is given, much is expected. “I’m blessed,” she says, “that I’m able to work for a company that gives back to a group of Americans who deserve so much more than we can ever give them.”

The support she finds at work with a company that values collaboration and a mindset that challenges ideas is matched by the backing she gets from home, she says, in her husband of seven years, Kevin. They are raising two sons, Jake and Ian.


Chad Moore

Chad Moore knew that health care would be where the action is. After graduating from Truman State with a degree in political science, he earned his law degree in 2002 with a health-law certificate, from St. Louis University, then added master’s in health administration the next year. Even when he was in school, he was plying the trade, first as law clerk and then as associate attorney with the law firm of Lashly and Baer, where he litigated Medicaid appeals on behalf of Missouri and out-of-state hospitals, earning millions of dollars in settlement. He followed with a two-year stint at Centene Corp., the publicly traded Medicaid managed-care company, before the western half of the state came calling and he became director of risk management for Research Medical center. His next move was right across the street, when he became director of government relations and public affairs for Children’s Mercy Hospital’s Family Health Partners in 2007. 

Now with the hospital’s Pediatric Care Network, an accountable-care organization, he’s responsible for contracting with managed-care organizations, and represents 200 pediatricians and more than 400 pediatric specialists and sub-specialists. And creating the network, he says, ranks atop his professional accomplishments. He and his wife have two boys, William, 4, and Matthew, 2, and he also serves on the REACH Healthcare Foundation board, giving him greater insights into safety-net providers and the challenges facing them.   


Brian Numrich

He was an MIAA All-Academic Team linebacker for Pittsburg State in 1996—which means Brian Numrich is smart enough to read a developing double-team. That skill will come in handy at home, where Numrich is clearly outnumbered: “First and foremost,” he says, “I’m committed to being a good husband and a good father to our four girls”—all of them under 10 years old. The flurry of activity he manages at home with his wife, Jamie, must be a good warm-up for what Numrich must tackle at the office, where the 37-year-old is director of inventory and management and distribution for Overland Park-based Ferrellgas.

There, he’s responsible for managing the company’s nationwide propane inventory. That includes negotiating supply contracts and the physical distribution of hundreds of millions of gallons of propane every year, as well as managing and hedging the fixed-cost risks. “It’s an exciting job where no two days are ever the same,” Numrich says. And he’s done well at it, earning both the Ferrellgas Corporate Service Award and the Ferrell North America Operating Cashflow Award. Those honors, recognition for both service to co-workers and his success in improving the company’s bottom line, might look good book-ending any hardware from his all-academic days.

Outside the office Numrich is, quite predictably, drawn to causes that benefit children, including three years of board service for the Dream Factory of Kansas City and serving as a youth basketball coach. “I try to impart on young athletes the importance of both exercise and education,” he says.


Mark O’Donnell

When he joined Lansing Trade Group in 2005, the commodities merchandiser already had annual revenues of nearly $1.2 billion. By last year, when Mark O’Donnell had risen to executive vice president and chief financial officer, Lansing Trade Group was one of the largest private companies in the Kansas City region, just shy of $7.2 billion in 2012 revenues. “Lansing’s culture of empowering its employees in an entrepreneurial environment has provided so many opportunities for success,” O’Donnell says.

Just a year after coming on board, he was elevated to officer status for Lansing Ethanol Services, at the age of 28. Two years later, he was sent to Buenos Aires to establish trade operations in Argentina and Brazil, an experience he considers invaluable. “Traveling to and understanding different countries and cultures and developing business in those regions,” he said, had been key to his own success. After coming back to the mother ship in Overland Park, he was named to his current role in 2011.

Of paramount importance in his professional life, he says, is “surrounding myself with driven people who are passionate about what they do and always looking for ways to do it better.” The same zeal is at work at home, where the 35-year-old focuses on making the most of his relationship with his wife, Karen, and their three children, ages 7-10. His civic contributions have included service with his church, St. Michael the Archangel, coaching youth sports, and he’s a longtime supporter of various local, national and international charities, from the United Way of Greater Kansas City to the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging.


Cara Olson

Exactly one digital marketing provider on this planet is a two-time winner of Agency of the Year by ExactTarget , the world’s largest platform for a technology known as SaaS, or Software as a Service. And exactly one person has built that line of business from the ground up—Cara Olson of DEG. Since launching the Digital Direct unit at Overland Park-based Digital Evolution Group nine years ago, she has grown it into a team of 35 strategists, coordinators and engineers, providing smart, relevant marketing strategies for client companies.

Her unit now accounts for nearly $10 million in revenue—more than half of DEG’s annual billings. She takes pride in working with flagship national brands, even international brands, with a client roster that includes Cabela’s, Hallmark Cards, Helzberg Diamonds, Lee Jeans and Crocs—“Brands that count on us,” she says, “to execute extremely technical and nuanced approaches to digital marketing.”

The work in itself is rewarding; having co-founder Neal Sharma’s blessing to make it happen was ever more so. “Hand-picking this team, mentoring its members, guiding its decision-making and managing its engagements has been the most rewarding chapter of my professional life,” Olson says.

That kind of output at the office sounds all-consuming, right? Not for Olson. This 36-year-old Kansas City native and faithful Royals fan is married to Kevin Olson, and they’re raising two children, 8-year-old Annika and 6-year-old Carter. And she still manages to finds time to train for half-marathons and volunteer at school, where she’s a room mother and PTA member.


T.J. Preuss

Avandia. Celebrex. Ephedra and Vioxx. They’re well-known in product-liability circles, and the judgments involved against their makers have run into the hundreds of millions of dollars for clients of Wagstaff & Cartmell. T.J. Preuss had a hand in those cases and more, as a partner for the Kansas City law firm. And the sums involved are humbling for this son of a single mother, who cashed in her retirement fund to get him through prestigious University High in St. Louis, then college and law school. “She gave nearly everything she had to put me through school,” says Preuss, 34. “Each day, I remind myself of the values she taught me while working to help those who can’t help themselves.”

That means working both locally and nationally, most recently in a series of complex pharmaceutical and medical-device cases. “I’ve found nothing more rewarding than helping victims who’ve been injured by America’s largest corporations,” says Preuss. “These victims feel hopeless when they come to me. Many live at the poverty level, and due to their injuries, they are unable to work or pay bills. Some are on the verge of homelessness.” Securing judgments on their behalf, Preuss says, “has brought tears of joy; it’s saved Christmases, homes and families.”

He joined the firm right out of UMKC School of Law in 2003, and did his undergraduate work across Troost Avenue, at Rockhurst University. Preuss and his wife, Jane, have two children, 6-year-old Taylor and Peyton, 5.


Chuck Searle

You’d be hard-pressed to categorize the staff at VML as . . . grizzled. Yet even within a comparatively young, hip work force, Chuck Searle stands out. And not just because he’s the youngest members of the firm’s executive management team. He’s also executive director of client services for the digital marketing giant, which means he’s the guy driving collaboration and innovation among more than 100 people on the account-management team. In nearly 13 years with the company, he’s been part of the rapid growth that’s come from exploring new frontiers in cross-channel marketing.

Among the clients he’s worked with are national and global brands like Gatorade, Wendy’s, Southwest Airlines, Burger King, Western Union, Hostess Brands, H&R Block, and AMC Theatres. While successes with those companies and other metrics are important, Searle says, “more notable is the growth and development of those VMLers who I have had the privilege of mentoring.”

His success, colleagues say, comes from a background in traditional advertising approaches, combined with his understanding of and appreciation for what digital channels can do for a brand through content integration, site development, social media, search marketing and analytics.

In addition to his work with the company, this Colorado native has forged a strong collaboration with his alma mater, Rockhurst University, where he earned both a degree in marketing and his MBA, with its emphasis on international marketing and management. He’s worked to help set up the VML EMBA program there, and serves as a strategic consultant for the Helzberg School of Management there. Searle and his wife, Kristin, have two daughters, 5-year-old Amelia and Julia, 3.


Mike Sinatra

“A handshake,” says Mike Sinatra, “means something.” And that’s why he says his highest priority in his professional dealings is maintaining a reputation for keeping his word. Combine that commitment to integrity with the pride he takes in crafting a respectful workplace for employees—as well as in keeping commitments to family and friends while outside the office—and you have a recipe for achievement for this 37-year-old president of Carey of Kansas City.

Transportation services weren’t his original destination; he spent six years with UMB, rising to the rank of vice president, before the entrepreneurial bug bit—hard. He scratched just as hard, starting Sinatra Limousine in 2004, when he was just 28, and selling it to his largest competitor just two years later. He remained on board with both the Kansas City Transportation Group and its successor when KCTG was sold to a French firm. With a fleet of 100 vehicle and 100 employees, he’s grown the top line from $2 million to $6 million.

He and his wife, Katherine, have two boys—Luke, 5, and Jack, 3—and they are the source of his greatest pride: Spending time with them, Sinatra says, “brings me joy and keeps me humbled.” For six years, he’s been on the board of the O.E. Ellis Foundation, relping raise more than $300,000 for the Ronald McDonald House. And in 2008, he paid tribute to his late father—a devout tennis buff—by launching the Paul Sinatra Memorial Fund, introducing the sport to children in the urban core.


Ryan Swartz

“The role does not define the individual,” Ryan Swartz maintains. “You can lead from any position, no matter what your business card says.” And lead he has, during both an eight-year stint at Fidelity Investments, where he was one of the youngest to make vice president at a firm with 38,000 employees. He also earned President’s Circle honors for being in the top 5 percent of managers, along with recognition as the top regional planning executive and a host of other awards.

By 2011, Creative Planning’s president, Peter Mallouk, had seen enough to know he needed bring Swartz into the fold. Good call: In just 15 months, Swartz posted a firm-best $270 million in new client assets there. Not surprisingly, the 35-year-old Swartz has been assigned duties mentoring younger wealth managers for the Leawood firm.

Deeply involved in community service outside the office, Swartz maintains strong ties to his alma mater, Bethany College, working to raise funds that allowed the NAIA basketball program to compete in tournaments in Hawaii, as well as $6,000 to help buy a new shooting machine for the men’s and women’s teams there. He takes volunteer, contributor and participant roles in the Tom Moore Memorial Scholarship fund-raiser in Wellsville, works in the annual Backpacks for Hunger program through his church, and assists with the firm’s efforts to help Higher M-Pact distribute 500 Thanksgiving meals to families throughout Kansas City.

A wealth manager by day, he knows true wealth when he sees it: “My family, who greet me every evening: wife Amy, and daughters Rowan and Remy.”


Qiana Thomason

Be a doctor, she heard the adults tell the kids. Or a lawyer. An engineer. Social workers, she heard over and over, wouldn’t make any money—dead-end career. Perhaps they want to check in on Qiana Thomason these days. Less than three decades after rejecting that career advice, the 35-year-old is senior director of clinical operations at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City, the region’s largest health insurer. Her inspiration to get there was a passion for the art of helping, she says, and motivation from Proverbs 18:16—“A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before the great.” “My ‘gift’ is affording me the privilege of making significant contributions in the health-care landscape through non-traditional social work roles,” she says.

Her duties include analyzing health-risk assessment and medical claims data trends, then working with her team of nurses, social workers, nutritionists, coaches, analysts and others to design programs that help BlueKC members better manage their own health. Previously, she was clinical director of behavioral health for Swope Health Services, and health-policy liaison to Sen. Jean Carnahan. Thomason graduated summa cum laude from Florida A&M in 1999, then earned her master’s—both degrees were in social work—from KU in 2001. She’s a native of Kansas City and Center High School graduate.

Thomason and her husband of eight years, Cedric, have two daughters, Zoe and Kai.


Todd Thompson

Todd Thompson isn’t big on maintaining the status quo. That was evident in 2008 when Thompson informed his boss—the county attorney, a 24-year incumbent— that he’d be challenging him in the fall election. Within a week, Thompson was looking for work. But five months later, voters in Leavenworth County bought into his vision of how the office should run. Thompson won with 63 percent of the vote, and matched that last fall, winning a second term.

“Being elected as the youngest county attorney in Kansas, and the youngest in Leavenworth County history, is my significant career achievement,” says the 37-year-old. And the history of that storied county is something Thompson knows about: “I ran because I had seen real issues in the prosecutor’s office and I knew I could make positive changes,” he says. “Leavenworth has been home to my family for more than 150 years, and I wanted to see it protected.” His lone regret is that neither of his parents lived long enough to see him secure electoral victory.

Since taking office, a 30 percent backlog of cases was charged out within six months. The numbers of charges filed have risen 40 percent, producing twice as many trials and convictions, and the county has witnessed a significant drop in crime—more than 20 percent in each of the county’s two largest cities, Leavenworth and Lansing. Thompson also is a whirlwind of activity to support various interests in the legal community, from the county bar association and legal education commission to various community corrections advisory boards for the 1st Judicial District, the local Child Abuse Prevention Council and more.


Jonathan White

For Jonathan White, cancer research isn’t just business: It’s personal. “Unfortunately, I have had to witness family and friends fight this devastating and relentless disease,” says the 38-year-old principal scientist for MRIGlobal. “As a scientist, I wanted to help work toward a treatment for this disease. As such, my graduate, post-graduate and professional career has been spent on researching and developing therapeutic and preventative treatments for cancer.” White is the lead investigator on two separate research initiatives being conducted on behalf of the National Cancer Institute, and he’s an expert in good manufacturing practices , pharmaceutical chemistry, and organic analytical and synthetic chemistry.

White joined MRIGlobal in 2005, coming back to Kansas City after his post-doctoral studies in the Department of Chemistry at Harvard University. His road to Cambridge, Mass., and back began with a bachelor’s in biology from UMKC and a doctorate in medicinal chemistry from KU in 2003. Throughout his research career, cancer has been a primary focus. “At KU and at Harvard, I worked as a National Institutes of Health fellow, where I had the opportunity to investigate novel anti-cancer compounds,” White says. That work paid off with his team’s discovery of two different compounds that could be used as chemotherapeutic agents. And he’s taking the fight to cancer into the preventive approaches, too; MRIGlobal has recently been awarded a new multi-year contract with the NCI to find ways of stopping the disease before it starts.

“While my professional career keeps me busy,” he says, “my family is extremely important to me. It is the support of my wife (Amy) and daughter (Lauren, 6), along with community support, which affords me the opportunity to work in such an important area.”


Greg Wu

When you’re defending complex product liability cases, it’s a given that you’ll be squaring off against some of the legal profession’s best. So Greg Wu takes great comfort in knowing that his employer, Shook, Hardy & Bacon, not only has faith in him, but surrounds him with some of the best attorneys in the nation. A partner in the global product liability division, Wu focuses on tort and products liability defense litigation, with a particular emphasis on defending complex personal-injury cases. He joined Shook in 2002, fresh out of the University of Illinois College of Law, and before that had earned his undergraduate degree in history at the University of Michigan. Coming to Kansas City meant starting from scratch: “At the time, I did not know many other layers and was not active in the greater Kansas City community,” he recalls. But that would change—in a hurry. “Today, I am fully engaged, and believe that my most significant career achievements involve promoting diversity in the legal profession and giving back to our community through pro bono service and mentoring young lawyers.” His pro bono work includes efforts on behalf of the Missouri Public Defender’s Office—Wu was the firm’s choice to take the first appointment. And his work to promote greater diversity within the legal community is paying dividends for Kansas City; last year, as president of the Asian American Bar Association of Kansas City, he worked to secure host-city status for the National Asian-Pacific American Bar Association’s 2013 convention, slated to bring more than 1,200 attorneys to Kansas City in November. Wu and his wife, Sara, are expecting their first child in June.


Scott Zalaznik

In the telecommunications game, Scott Zalaznik is an all-star utility infielder, capable of playing a lot of positions—and playing them well. Just months after earning his business degree from MU, with dual emphasis on marketing and management, he started working for Sprint Corp. in January 1999. Within six years, he was playing at the director level and has been either there or in a vice president’s role, while holding nine separate jobs on his rise through the ranks. Most recently, the 39-year-old was elevated to vice president-digital, with responsibilities across all digital areas of Sprint’s prepaid wireless brands—Virgin Mobile, Boost Mobile and Assurance Wireless—as well as the post-paid brands in the e-commerce, digital advertising, social media and direct marketing realms.

It has been, Zalznik says, “an exciting and rewarding experience marked by diverse roles in high risk-reward spaces.” Risk? Perhaps. Reward—certainly. Zaliznik has been involved with efforts that produced double-digit growth each year since 2008 in the company’s e-Commerce and e-Care initiatives. And he’s helped win four straight J.D. Power Awards for best on-line purchasing experience in the wireless industry. Anyone who’s been on hand to see Dan Hesse beaming during presentation of one of those knows how dearly the company’s CEO values that third-party recognition of superior customer service.

A man who understands branding at its core, Zalaznik has one of his own, identifying himself at once as passionate, competitive, entrepreneurial, innovative, equal parts geek/creative, and team-oriented, with a strong need for humor and fun. He and his wife, Carolyn, have three sons, ages 8, 6 and 4, and their adopted charity is the Ronald McDonald House.