Congratulations to this year’s fast 15 winners!
In a typical year, the Fast 15 Awards recognize Bloomington’s fastest-growing businesses and MVP employees. But 2020 was no typical year, so we paused the business awards to focus on MVP individuals. We all know who they are: those indispensable people who make great things happen, no matter what. In a year like 2020, their ingenuity, drive, and leadership were more essential than ever. Thanks to all who sent in nominations!
The winners hold a variety of roles across very different businesses and organizations in our community, but wherever they are, they inspire others with their achievement and energy. We asked each of them to tell us a little about themselves and about their greatest successes in the workplace this year. Click on a person to read their story, and get inspired for the possibilities in 2021 and beyond.
Business Relationship Manager, MetroStar Systems
I’ve been a Bloomington resident for over 10 years. I’ve spent the majority of my professional career fostering the growth of Bloomington businesses through building relationships and connecting local government, nonprofit organizations, and the business community. My responsibilities as the Business Relationship Manager for MetroStar include strategic outreach efforts to foster connections between MetroStar and the broader Bloomington community. I am focused on growing our relationships with community organizations, educational institutions, and potential customers in Bloomington, Indianapolis, and Crane.
The knowledge shared, and relationships built between the Bloomington community and the broader MetroStar team, has been my biggest success from this past year. Our success in Bloomington over the last year has matured the perspective of Bloomington as a “satellite location” to a strategic, second headquarters for our company. We’ve had great success introducing MetroStar to the broader Bloomington community engaging with several community events and projects like The Combine, Innovation Week, and mock interviews for The Mill Code School. I’ve also had success sharing with the entire internal MetroStar team our strategic vision for growth in Bloomington and the many benefits of staffing some of our current contracts with highly talented people in Bloomington. This has resulted in a 75% increase in the number of employees we have based in Bloomington.
HR Manager & EEO Officer at Weddle Bros. Construction
I’m an Indiana native and IU grad who moved back to Bloomington with my husband. I have always loved helping people and found my calling in Human Resources very early. It has been exciting to work in different aspects and serve in various roles, from an HR Consultant helping businesses without HR expertise, to being focused on benefits and policies for a local online marketing company, and now as the HR Manager and EEO Officer for a local construction company. I’ve also served on two boards and have enjoyed mentoring young HR professionals just starting in their careers. This summer I received my SHRM-CP certification despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic.
Reflecting on the year, I am most proud of my ability to shift gears and still focus on the core needs of the business and employees. I started the year with a three-way merger and jumped at the opportunity to learn about all three companies and the benefits employees valued, and to create an integrated benefit package that kept the best of each culture while keeping company costs the same and addressing employee concerns about changes. It was a huge project with a tight timeline, but I absolutely enjoyed learning about each company, collaborating with others, and coming up with a full suite package that addressed concerns and identified meaningful wins for everyone. In the middle of that project, the pandemic hit, and we shifted very quickly to a fully remote workforce. I immediately began checking in more frequently with employees and providing resources and support based on their feedback and needs. In October, I accepted a position with a new company in a very different industry and have quickly adjusted. I have been proud of my ability to step in and add value in tangible ways right off the bat (coaching/development opportunities, tools and processes to better serve employees and streamline communication internally across departments).
I have truly appreciated the opportunities to support individuals in meaningful ways while also helping to drive the company forward and ensure compliance and consistency in the ever-changing landscape that COVID has created for us all this year.
Cofounder, Secretly Group
I’m one of the co-founders of Secretly Group, which includes independent record labels Dead Oceans, Jagjaguwar, The Numero Group, and Secretly Canadian, as well as music publisher Secretly Publishing. These labels are home to such acts as Bon Iver, The War On Drugs, Mitski, Moses Sumney, ANOHNI, Phoebe Bridgers, Angel Olsen, Whitney, comedian Tig Notaro, Khruangbin, Dinosaur Jr., Phosphorescent, and Sharon Van Etten. In 2018, I took on the role of Chief Operating Officer of Secretly Group. I also co-founded Secretly Distribution in 1998, which has since grown into the preeminent independent label distributor in the U.S.
Our artists were nominated for 7 Grammys, including Phoebe Bridgers, Bonny Light Horseman, and Courtney Marie Andrews. Our artists made many successful collaborations in 2020, including:
- Bon Iver + Aaron Dessner on Taylor Swift’s two new records this year (Folklore + Evermore)
- Phoebe Bridgers “Saviour Complex” video, directed by Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag, Killing Eve) starring Paul Mescal (Normal People)
We navigated COVID relatively unscathed and are very grateful to have 2020 be a growth year for our companies.
Program Specialist, Banneker Center, City of Bloomington
Born and raised in Washington, DC, I have lived in all four corners of the United States and have been in Bloomington since May 2018. My wife and I just welcomed our first baby girl, Maya, in September. I have degrees in Environmental Studies and Political Science and often serve in roles that allow me to wear many hats, from welcoming the public, to working with community partners, to fundraising, to playing basketball with a group of teenagers after school. The common thread is always that my job is more than a “job.” I want to have an impact that my daughter and her generation can be proud of.
I feel proud that in all the twists and turns this year, I have made lasting strides to better our shared community space. In the waning hours of 2019, the Bloomington Parks and Recreation’s Banneker Community Center was awarded a $199,600 grant from Regional Opportunity Initiatives to grow the Center’s capacity to serve as a cultural center, including renovations, equipment, and technology. I determined the scope of work, negotiated bids, managed the budget, coordinated with contractors and consultants, and supervised all aspects of project construction. I pride myself on my attention to detail and accuracy, as well as flexibility when unforeseen issues occur. In the year of a global pandemic, I was able to successfully manage a complete kitchen, library, and storage area renovation in addition to adding all new seating, workspace, and technology to the facility.
I have also been a part of a multi-organization team that was awarded an $80,000 national grant for the Parks as Community Nutrition Hubs: Expanding Access to Healthy Foods. As the pandemic has illuminated disparities in our community, this funding allows us to connect, in a new way, on the topic of food insecurity and turn needs and wants into reality.
Additionally, I have been a member of the first Innovation Team for the City of Bloomington, a cross-departmental group of city employees who collaborate with residents. This group meets weekly, and the ideas generated there have oozed into almost every facet of my work in a constantly pivoting year.
I’m a full-stack developer with experience in web and mobile technologies. Currently, I’m an engineer at Chexology, an innovative software company based in NYC (founded at IU!), where I’m responsible for building features that drive core business growth. Prior to joining Chexology, I worked as a developer with a consultancy in Indianapolis, where I worked with startups and enterprises to build a variety of web and mobile applications. I co-taught 150+ college students in Techpoint’s XTERN bootcamp and was also a teaching assistant with General Assembly, where I completed an immersive full-stack web development program after changing careers.
I’m a 10 Under 40 Young Professional Award Winner, Secretary of the Board of Public Works for the City of Bloomington, a member of the board of the Indiana University Credit Union, a member of Indy Hackers, and I helped organize Hoosier Women in Tech. When I’m not coding or serving on a board, I’m usually cooking food or thinking about it.
My biggest workplace success this year was learning iOS development on the job. My company was entering a new vertical market and we needed a mobile-only MVP (minimum viable product). At the time, we only had one iOS developer on the team to build a full application from scratch with a tight schedule. I volunteered to learn and with his mentorship and some training videos, I was able to start independently contributing to the project within weeks. We met our timeline goals and were able to sign on new beta customers with the app I helped build and now maintain.
CEO and Cofounder, Civic Champs
I’m a serial entrepreneur with a keen interest in social impact. As the CEO and co-founder of Civic Champs, I ensure that nonprofits that do good, receive the technology that they deserve. Civic Champs aims to streamline volunteer management for nonprofit organizations and help them deepen their engagement with volunteers to help them build a vibrant digital community of supporters.
Prior to Civic Champs, I co-founded two companies: RentJungle.com and Community Elf, both companies were sold respectively in 2014 and 2017. In addition, I previously worked for McKinsey & Company as an advisor to senior executive clients at Fortune 500 companies—helping them solve their most pressing strategic and management issues. I hold an MBA from Harvard Business School and two BAs from Michigan State University.
Within the past year, Civic Champs has continued to rapidly grow despite the pandemic. I led the team to 10x revenue from 2019 including doubling revenues since the start of COVID-19. In addition, I pitched and won multiple accolades for the company in 2020 in including placing 3rd place for the UpPrize Social Innovation competition ($50,000), winning the Gold Award at MassChallenge ($50,000), and successfully participated in the inaugural cohort of Techstars Iowa. I also helped the company raise over $500,000 from investors including the IU Angel Network, Elevate Ventures, and the Flywheel Fund.
While facilitating the growth of the company, I took on a new project to make a local community impact. The Helping Hands project was formed to assist seniors and immunocompromised individuals with everyday tasks that have become difficult due to the pandemic. In alignment with the goals of the company, employees worked together to design an app that pairs volunteers with those in need. Although this project was not intended to generate revenues, I believed the project was crucial to stand in solidarity with the community and further form a tighter bond among employees wanting to make an impact. To date this philanthropic initiative has helped over 700 individuals across the Bloomington community.
Associate Vice President, IU Ventures, & Executive Director, IU Angel Network
The primary focus of my work is the development and execution of the IU Angel Network, a collection of angel investors who are investing in IU-affiliated early stage startup companies. This network saw tremendous growth throughout 2020 despite the pandemic, thanks to great national partners and a strong desire to continue to develop a meaningful program. In addition to the IU Angel Network, I help conduct diligence on incoming inquiries to the IU Philanthropic Venture Fund and have companies within that portfolio that I am responsible for maintaining relationships with. I am also involved with a myriad of programs locally, statewide, and nationally, which all are focused on continuing to develop and grow the IU-affiliated entrepreneurial ecosystem.
This year, we accomplished many things:
- We launched the IU Angel Network, which grew over 100% in membership and invested $1M in capital during the pandemic.
- We organized and hosted the IU ASEAN Pitch Event, which featured 12 IU-affiliated startups pitching in SE Asia to 60 alumni in the region. It has now evolved into a year’s worth of planning and a collaboration with IU Alumni Association and IU Office of International Affairs.
- We launched new educational membership for the IU Angel Network that allows non-accredited investors and opportunity to engage with the programming and have a more learning-focused experience, to make better future financial decisions.
- We designed and launched the IUAN Sports Innovation Initiative, which developed a subcommittee for the IU Angel Network focused on supporting sports-focused startups and developed a working relationship with IU Athletics.
- We launched the IU Angel Network Founders Fireside Chat Series, which engages students with alumni founders to talk about their experience, ask questions, and enhance their educational experience at IU.
- We hosted numerous webinars throughout the US and Internationally to recruit new IU Angel Network members/founders and to spread the message of the IU Ventures brand.
Opera Singer, Founder & CEO, Stagetime
I’m an opera singer and the founder and CEO of Stagetime, a professional network for the performing arts. Currently, Stagetime is primarily focused on making a career in the arts industry affordable and accessible to all, and to communicate the value of the individual artist to the rest of the professional world. Prior to Stagetime, I led a small team at creative studio Jennie Moser Design, where projects included the design of over 100 websites for professional artists and arts organizations, as well as other large print and digital projects. I hold a degree in Voice from Northwestern University and a Master’s of Music from Indiana University, and am managed professionally by New York-based Stratagem Artists.
My biggest workplace success this year was definitely doing a lot with a little. The potentially risky decision to build a robust, aesthetically compelling MVP on a low-code platform with our limited capital for development ended up being the best decision for Stagetime. It meant that the core value propositions—the network, the design, and the experience—were mostly in my hands instead of outsourced to developers, and we were able to validate and iterate often within hours or days (instead of weeks or months). Instead of the scope increasing tenfold for function we simply wanted to test, we instead got to really nail those core elements from the jump. Once we could show potential investors the experience (instead of talking about it), the value and potential in the MVP did the talking for us.
Director of Research Programs, Rockman et al
Rockman Et Al is an employee-owned, educational research and evaluation firm that works with some of the leading universities and museums, the country’s largest school districts, and the world’s top media producers, including Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology, Radford University, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, The Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago), New York Public Schools, San Francisco’s Unified School District, PBS and PBS Kids, and KQED and Twin Cities Public Television. As Director of Research Programs, it is my responsibility to ensure the quality of work that our employees deliver to all of our clients, and set forth internal policies that help us stay on the cutting edge of research methodologies and support technologies.
My greatest professional accomplishment over the course of the past year was leading a team of two dozen individuals to complete a Randomized Control Trial of a new online professional development program for teachers in Appalachia. This study had just over 600 participants within the Appalachian region and included a mix of survey and interview data in addition to course participation data. The logistics of a study that size are challenging even under normal circumstances, but all the more amazing given that we had to recruit and work with teacher-participants during a time that was extremely abnormal. We are working on publications of our findings, which demonstrated that the professional development program we were studying did have a positive impact on participants that was statistically significant.
In addition to the work that I do professionally, I also lead TEDxBloomington, an all volunteer-run organization. We managed to host one face-to-face event this year (miraculously just before everyone started social distancing) and two online events. We are now in the final stages of planning for a virtual event on January 16th that will feature new talks by area youth. I also serve as president of the Board of Directors for the Monroe County History Center and, over the course of the past nine months, have been helping that organization find ways to share events and exhibits more effectively online, as well as take more of our fundraising efforts online.
Founder & President, Switchyard Brewing Company
An unshakable optimist, I believe that business can and should be a catalyst for positive change within a community. Discovering homebrewing just a year after moving to Bloomington in 2006, I fell in love with the hobby, which quickly became an entrepreneurial obsession. Trained in pre-hospital emergency medicine, I ignited my dream of opening a brewery by writing down eight guiding principles. With an unconventional and innovative view on business and leadership, these guiding principles direct every decision made at Switchyard Brewing Company and the 29 co-workers I work alongside every day.
Undeniably, the biggest success we have achieved here at Switchyard is remaining safely open and weathering the storm of COVID-19 while supporting other area independent small-businesses as well. We added a new pizza kitchen to help supplement taproom sales and began to distribute our core brands, Orange Blossom Blonde and West Coast IPA, in Big Red Liquors and Fresh Thyme Market stores across Indiana.
Global Visual Brand Manager, Cook Medical
Intentional design is my lifeblood, whether I’m helping the corporate and clinical product teams at Cook Medical bring an idea to life or driving a community project that will have broad impact. At Cook, I lead a team of designers and design interns who are focused on informing, engaging, and inspiring employees, customers, and communities. I also help Indiana University design students understand the career paths available to them and mentor them through a design case study program. My high energy and passion for design carry on outside my work at Cook, to help small businesses across the country find their voice, express their values, and achieve their business goals with creativity. This freelance work includes creative consulting, brand development, and design services.
As a community volunteer, I serve as creative director of the Combine, a tech and entrepreneurial conference hosted annually in Bloomington.
My 2020 highlight was to help launch the Stride Crisis Diversion Center, which helps those in crisis situations connect to local support services. I led a team that created the brand identity, designed the look and feel of the space, and then orchestrated the ribbon cutting ceremony, which was livestreamed. I felt honored to contribute to such an impactful community project that addresses very real needs in Bloomington, using design for doing good.
Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, MCCSC
I am responsible for ensuring that the corporation-adopted instructional program is implemented in every school and that all students are receiving quality, grade-level instruction. Our office provides specialized supports and services for children experiencing homelessness, students with disabilities, students who are gifted and talented, and students who speak a language other than English. We administer several grant programs that support students experiencing poverty and other unique needs, and manage the delivery of various therapy supports. I am truly blessed to lead a cross-functional team of high-performing educators committed to making sure that each and every child in every school and classroom receives what they need to achieve.
The thing that consumes me and every educator every day is our response to this pandemic. In March, we had less than 10 days to figure out how to “do school” in a pandemic. Our team created a contingency learning plan along with sample lessons to get us through the first few days. Our tech team orchestrated the distribution of hundreds of devices. The digital divide was exacerbated by this pandemic; fortunately, we were able to distribute Mi-Fi devices and park buses with internet access throughout our communities.
There is no road map for this type of crisis. Our schools teach children with varying abilities and needs, and we had to quickly figure out how to provide meaningful learning opportunities over a computer for all students. We serve children who are deaf, hard of hearing, or visually impaired; children who exhibit challenging behaviors; children who struggle maintaining attention to tasks; and students who require hand-over-hand learning support. Our teachers and paraprofessionals did an amazing job over the past nine months. We are better today than we were in March, but we are not satisfied.
We pivot daily in response to the changing needs of our children and their families. And yet, our teachers continue to rise to the challenge. They are the real heroes and sheroes. I play a small part in this journey. My job is to remove barriers so that others can do their job. The fact that we have given each other and ourselves just a little grace during this unpredictable journey is the real success of 2020!
CEO, Genie Supply
I’m Megan from Genie Supply, the beauty lab for entrepreneurs. I’m the founder and captain of the ship. We’re a contract manufacturer of clean beauty products, which we manufacture for over 100 brands, and some of which are sold in national retailers such as Nordstrom and Urban Outfitters.
My background: I’m originally from Bedford, graduated from MIT, started and sold a company (Amalie Beauty), ended up in China for a few years and through plenty of time spent in and out of factories there, decided that my next best step was to open my own back in Indiana.
As for my role, I’m the jack of all trades in the company. I go wherever I’m needed most. I started as the “manager of everything” title and have slowly hired and trained a team, so that now I’m working mostly in overseeing the managers of each department and looking toward future growth and development, answering questions like: How can we grow? How we can stay true to our values? How can we provide more value to our clients?
Still, somedays, you can catch me on the assembly line or formulating in the lab; I go wherever I’m needed (or I think I’m needed), but like to stay connected with what’s going on at the ground level of operations.
We did everything I wanted to do this year and more, but for my personal achievements, two things come to mind: 1. We grew the team to 30+ people, with small but robust teams in each department and 2. I passed the $1M mark in sales. This is great both because we’re a tiny, young lab that’s seeing amazing growth and also because I’m a terminal introvert, so this was no simple feat!
Director of People Operations, Brainlabs
I lead all talent management efforts in the US to ensure Brainlabs intentionally building our culture and empowering our high-performing team to do their best work. In 2020, Brainlabs merged with Distilled SEO Consulting and Hanapin Marketing, as a part of our journey to build the world’s smartest, experimentation-led agency. Outside of Brainlabs, you’ll find me serving on the local Girls Inc. affiliate board, Young Professionals Bloomington Steering Committee, at CrossFit Bloomington, on the volleyball court (in non-COVID times), or trying out a new IPA!
In February of 2020, Distilled SEO Consulting and Hanapin Marketing merged with Brainlabs Digital, a London-based agency. Throughout the course of 2020, our US leadership has been working to bring these three organizations together to operate as one company. To say this has been a challenge amongst a global pandemic and fully remote work-force across the US would be an understatement. However, in less than a year, we are proud to have accomplished the following in our people operations:
- Launched new pay and progression systems
- Created a unified benefits and perks package
- Built an employee-led diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) committee and hired someone to head up this committee to ensure leadership for this our US DEI initiatives
- Despite the impact of COVID on the business, we had minimal (<5) layoffs over the summer. Three were temporary, and we brought them back on before their severance ended
- Hired 37 new team members since September, with a majority of those positions due to growth
I originally hail from Morgan County. From a two-year stint as a snowboard bum in the Colorado Rockies to a couple of years in Asia, I’ve relished the opportunity to expand my horizons and broaden my perspective.
I wound up pursuing journalism as my vocation, inspired by defining words like truth, justice, fairness, service, and of course, the primary pillars of this most noble profession: being a voice for the voiceless and holding those in power accountable, all spurred by the ultimate goal—an informed public. I absolutely love my profession and see good journalism as a true public service that I am honored and privileged to help provide.
At present, I’m charged with serving as editor for two newsrooms that produce three publications, putting out 15 newspapers a week in Monroe and Morgan counties. Amid the challenges confronting our industry, we are on the proverbial front line of the crisis, each of us motivated by the vital task at hand—keeping citizens informed through quality journalism—and it’s an honor to work alongside my colleagues.
Look up any “Top 10 Most Stressful Jobs” list, and newsroom reporters always make the cut—even before multiple recent ownership changes and the pandemic, both of which have added to that load. So my greatest success over the past year is that we’re all still here, despite the very real mental and emotional toll it’s taken.
A more traditional success story, however, is the fantastic work being produced by my newsroom colleagues. At our essence, we serve as documentarians, and our local coverage—distilling down from the global, national and statewide levels—of the ongoing pandemic will serve as a comprehensive record of all that’s transpired in this historic year. Not to mention the summertime protests, the Lake Monroe incident, a massive election year, IU football’s historic year. Despite our shrinking resources, we’ve operated “above our weight class” and continued to produce phenomenal journalism. I couldn’t be prouder of that fact, and it reinforces the vital work we do day in and day out.
2019 Fast 15 Business Award Winners
Bailey & Weiler
Express Employment Professionals
B&L Sheet Metal and Roofing
Weddle Bros. Construction Co.
Upland Brewing Co.
One World Enterprises
Cornerstone Information Systems