Forty Under 40 Class of 2014

Class of 2014

Aaron Soward

Aaron Soward copy

 

Age: 38 | CEO | Provision Concepts

Aaron Soward provides hospitality at every turn, directly impacting the civic growth of Oklahoma City. He created Provision Concepts — which includes Broadway 10 Bar & Chophouse and Sidecar Barley & Wine Bar — in 2013. Both restaurants are under construction and slated to open this December in historic Automobile Alley.

“I have positioned my company to directly impact the civic growth of Oklahoma City. This will be done through nearly 150 jobs created in the area because of Broadway 10 and Sidecar Barley & Wine Bar. We are located in the Downtown business district, and our restaurants will directly support local retailers and local district residents. With the help of the individuals we are currently working with, such as Midtown Renaissance, Mason Realty Investors, Automobile Alley Association and Downtown OKC, Inc., we are on track to not only improve one of Oklahoma City’s core neighborhoods but also offer Oklahoma City truly exceptional hospitality in the restaurant industry,” explained Soward.

Soward, had previously been the general manager of Redrock Canyon Grill and is a graduate of Oklahoma State University with a degree in restaurant and hotel management. He is also a member of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber and Oklahoma Restaurant Association.

“With humble beginnings at Oklahoma State University and over 20 years of restaurant experience, I have had the opportunity through my professional relationships to create a company that will impact the city I call home. To those willing, it will provide jobs, and to those hungry, an exceptional locale to dine,” he said.


Adam Sampson Edwards III

Adam Edwards copy

 

Age: 38 | Chairman and Brand Ambassador | Waters Edge Winery

From football to the grape fields, as chairman and brand ambassador for Waters Edge Winery, Edwards makes sure business is conducted in a successful and winning fashion.

Edwards, who has a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration, health promotion and criminal justice from Oklahoma State University, began his career in the National Football League, playing for the Dallas Cowboys. He then traded his jersey for a suit and went into marketing. As well as owning a winery, he is assisting in the restructure and rebuilding of Ther-RX Corporation.

Edwards is a certified franchise executive, certified medial representative, certified sales trainer, corporate management developer and certified wine maker.

In addition to these business activities, Edwards actively participates in his community and around world by volunteering with a medical mission in Nairobi, Kenya, and is a Pink Tie Guy for the Susan G. Komen foundation. Those selected to be Pink Tie Guys are typically influential leaders in the community.

Edwards is an active member in many organizations, including NFL Alumni Association, Better Business Bureau, Black Chamber, Urban Land Institute and many others.


Amanda Bradway

Amanda Bradley copy

 

Age: 32 | Owner, Curator, Product Designer | DNA Galleries

It is thought by some that artists don’t make good business people. However, the millennial generation is just that: creative, civic-minded, independent and business-oriented. And so is Amanda Bradway, owner, curator and product designer of DNA Galleries located in the Plaza District in Oklahoma City.

She is an artist, an active member of the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition and Plaza District Association and a business entrepreneur. The Plaza District Association has even named her a Young Urban Pioneer.

So what is Bradway’s inspiration, her driving force?

“When I was in high school, I worked at Java Dave’s on 10th and Broadway. I used to drive the city before and after work for hours and wonder why all the buildings on Broadway were empty … Midtown Plaza to Automobile Alley to the Plaza District — I never understood why these amazing buildings and districts were not being utilized,” explained Bradway.

Bradway then made a commitment to remain in Oklahoma City and not only be part of building the creative community and her own career as an artist but initiating or sparking the revitalization of the Plaza District area, which she accurately described as “a once blighted district.”

“In 2007, before we opened the shop, the Plaza District had virtually no foot traffic from outside the district and surrounding neighborhoods. When I joined the Plaza District Association, a few of the business owners, residents and board members got together to brainstorm how we could drive traffic to our district. We had to prove to ourselves and others that business could survive and people would come to the area before we could convince future businesses and investors of our potential,” explained Bradway.

It started as a small art walk the second Friday of each month with a hand-made pop-up shop in a vacant building, which later become Collected Thread. More artists/entrepreneurs followed, and the vacant space next door became Dig It, followed by a dance studio and more.

“We opened up our space, which was solely a living space at the time, and hosted an art exhibit. There were maybe 100 people who showed up for that first art walk. Today, four thousand plus attend every month. I am proud to have been part of this group of creative business owners that are drawing a crowd and market to a once blighted district,” said Bradway.


Amber Sharples

Amber Sharples

 

Age: 38 | Executive Director | Oklahoma Arts Council

Amber Sharples is an advocate of the arts for the entire state of Oklahoma. She served in several positions at Oklahoma Arts Council before accepting her current position as executive director.

She did so in a down economy, when many lawmakers did not consider the arts essential to the lifeblood of the state.

“My most significant achievement has been to oversee the state government agency on the arts during very difficult economic times. Due to the economic downturn and revenue shortfalls, there have been numerous bills in the state Legislature to privatize, eliminate financial support and/or consolidate the Oklahoma Arts Council. In addition, there have been additional bills introduced to impact other arts-related projects such as Oklahoma Art in Public Places. This last legislative session, none of the bills impacting the arts sector passed and the moratorium on the Oklahoma Art in Public Places program expired. I believe that the best days for Oklahoma’s thriving arts and cultural industry are ahead and look forward to celebrating our agency’s 50th anniversary serving the citizens of our great state in 2015,” she explained.

Sharples has many educational degrees from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and the University of Oklahoma. She is a member of many groups, including Creative Oklahoma, Friends of the Capitol, Friends of the Mansion, Mid-America Arts Alliance, Native American Cultural & Educational Authority, Oklahoma Art in Public Places and many more.

She counts among her most significant creative contributions to the community the inaugural exhibition of the Oklahoma State Art Collection in the Betty Price Gallery at the state Capitol.

“Part of the state’s centennial celebration, my first project at the Oklahoma Arts Council was the design, curatorial vision and exhibition of the 4,400-square-foot museum-quality gallery in the Capitol, which permanently houses the Oklahoma State Art Collection. This was the first time the majority of the collection had been exhibited publically, and the gallery continues to showcase the collection with rotating exhibitions, which are visited by thousands of schoolchildren and visitors each year,” said Sharples.


Ana Herrera

Ana Herrera

 

Age: 31 | South Oklahoma City Community Organizer | Neighborhood Alliance of Central Oklahoma

Before accepting her current position, Herrera worked for the Greater Oklahoma City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, where she served as project coordinator. As project coordinator, Herrera wore many hats; she worked in public relations, as event coordinator, in accounting and in human resources.

Herrera has a master’s degree in adult education and training and a bachelor’s degree in business, management and business administration from the University of Central Oklahoma.

She serves as an advisor to the Bilingual Customer Service Program at Francis Tuttle Technology Center and is co-chair of Latino Leadership OKC. In addition, she volunteers for Dream Act Oklahoma, Suited for Success and many other organizations.

“My most significant business achievement has been my involvement with Viva Oklahoma Hispanic Chamber Expo and Career Fair. I was in charge of planning and organizing this great event. Being the largest Hispanic business expo in the Oklahoma, it is an event that benefits a large portion of the local Hispanic community,” said Herrera.

She is also extremely proud of being a founding member of the first Latino leadership program in Oklahoma City.

“The Hispanic Chamber had a vision for this program many years ago, and it finally became a reality in 2013. Being a co-chair for this program allows me to use the knowledge I acquired while being a participant in Leadership OKC-LOYAL to benefit other members of the community. During the first class, students had the opportunity to meet the Oklahoma governor, the Oklahoma City mayor, state senators and many other leaders that acknowledged their participation in the program and encouraged them to be more involved citizens,” explained Herrera.


Britt Gotcher

Britt Gotcher

 

Age: 37 | Regional Manager of Strategic Partnerships | Feed the Children

As a human connector, Britt Gotcher joins underserved communities with businesses that can help them. As a graduate of the University of Oklahoma, Gotcher focused his studies in organizational leadership. He uses those skills to approach his work in a variety of ways, such as the creation of a community event pairing a local energy company with an Oklahoma City school to serve over 800 families with food and essential items or services.

“I believe I’m the best connector in Oklahoma City. I am successful in my industry due to my ability to advocate for the nonprofit sector creatively, outside the box. I am able to find ways to build those relationships and help businesses find success in a desire to change their own community,” said Gotcher.

Gotcher and his organization focus on sustainability versus one-time giving for families ensuring their physical and mental health and longevity by connecting them with organizations to get free health screenings and food throughout the year.

“It is important to me and Feed the Children to connect families to long-lasting sustainability rather than one-time gifts of food and other items. I help kids be kids by feeding them today and addressing the root causes of poverty so they won’t go hungry tomorrow,” explained Gotcher.

In addition to his work, Gotcher is involved in many community and civic activities, including Red Andrews, Infant Crisis Services, Apartment Association of Central Oklahoma, Red Andrews Christmas Dinner and many more.

“I am deeply rooted with several local charities and professional groups. Because of multiple and varied interests, as well as the many organizations requiring support, I strive to diversify my efforts and available time,” said Gotcher.


Charles Martin

Charles Martin

 

Age: 38 | Creative Director | Literati Press Comics & Novels

Charles Martin is sowing the seeds of art growth in Oklahoma. He works alongside other local artists, writers and others to “make Oklahoma’s literary scene cool and vital.”

“Growing up as both a reader and writer in Oklahoma, I never understood why our most innovative talents often felt compelled to uproot and move to the coasts to find success. I established Literati Press Comics & Novels to foster community among the state’s most unique voices: People who could help change the public perception of writers and artists living in the American heartland,” Martin said.

Martin earned a journalism degree from Oklahoma Baptist University, and he puts those skills to use in his company. Martin also helped start a traveling book fair and and an artist cooperative to stage and promote member artists. Today, he also serves as creative director at Literati, which publishes and promotes subculture fiction and comics. He travels nationwide and produces five to 10 new titles a year. Twice a year, his company also publishes the anthology Literati Presents. On the company website, readers also will find exclusive web comics, flash fiction and cultural essays.

“Over the last four years, I have worked with over 20 artists and writers to create a line of novels, comics and graphic novellas that have readers, retailers and critics across the country taking notice of our growing community,” Martin said. “I don’t see Literati as the beginning and end of the movement but rather a model that proves Oklahomans don’t have to expatriate to create high-concept stories. At its core, Literati is about the state’s creative culture. We are heartened to see more small publishing companies taking root every year, all driven by the simple joy of storytelling.”


Elena Troya

Elena Troya

 

Age: 39 | Adult Instructional Coordinator | Metro Technology Centers

As a graduate of Jefferson College in Ecuador, the University of Central Oklahoma and the University of Oklahoma, Elena Troya takes education seriously.

“I evaluate and adjust curriculum based on national standards and industry needs, teacher interviews and student needs. We integrate technology into traditional classroom subjects, find a way to bring arts education into the curriculum or suggest interactive learning, such as Interactive Welding or Command English. Additionally, we are responsible for ensuring that teachers are properly trained in the implementation of any new curriculum. We focus on community development by creating citizens,” explained Troya.

Troya explained that although she feels her most significant achievement is yet to come, she feels blessed being a part of some experiences bigger than herself.

“It came first as a business owner. It was the knowledge that I was providing the means for people to support their families and felt absolutely amazing. The second time is when my students are ready to question and figure out for themselves what is the right class for them. It is no longer me telling them the best way, but it’s the knowledge they can choose for themselves what is best … it is amazing to see that light in their eyes and given the opportunity to be part of their decision,” she said.

She believes her biggest community contribution has been her decision to include art in the curriculum.

“This group has given me the opportunity to integrate the Hispanic aspect of my heritage and form links within minority groups. The opportunity to bring restaurant owners and enable them to see their product (food) as their art is my most significant contribution,” Troya explained.

Troya is a member of several organizations, including Habit for Humanity, Oklahoma City Animal Shelter, Oklahoma Brain Tumor Foundation, Integris Health Hispanic Initiative and many more.


Elizabeth Newton

Elizabeth Newton

 

Age: 26 | Development Officer | Children’s Hospital Foundation

Having a passion for children’s health, Elizabeth Newton is now the new development officer for the Children’s Hospital Foundation. She is responsible for fundraising efforts and the Starlight Ball.

Prior to her current position, Newton worked for Downtown OKC, Inc. where she served as marketing coordinator, planned all of the events, wrote the weekly newsletter and assisted with general marketing activities.

In that capacity, she helped organize new events promoting downtown, which has experienced a renaissance over the past six years.

“Without a doubt, my most significant achievement is the production of the first annual Starlight Supper event at Bicentennial Park in April 2013. This outdoor dinner fundraiser was a brand-new event for Downtown OKC, Inc. We encountered nearly every obstacle possible from ABLE commission permitting restrictions, timing the plating and delivery of four courses, to roping off an entire park for a 21-and-older event,” explained Newton.

She said the event was a huge success, sold out in two weeks and gave her confidence in her abilities as an event coordinator.

Newton says she’s most proud of her creative involvement with the Wiggle Out Loud festival, a family event with live outdoor music, food and activities. In addition to Wiggle Out Loud, she volunteers for several other organizations, including Safe Kids Oklahoma, Educare Ready Buddy and United Way of Central Oklahoma.

Newton has a bachelor’s degree in entertainment business from Oklahoma City University and is a certified tourism ambassador for Oklahoma City. She has been awarded the Downtown Achievement Award, Merit Award in Events and Programming and Central Oklahoma Frontier Country Award for Outstanding New Event and Outstanding Food Festival.


Emily Frosaker

Emily Frosaker

 

Age: 29 | Owner and Creator | Dry/Shop Blow-dry Bar and Boutique

Remember the days of the once-a-week hairdos of your mother’s or grandmother’s time? Well, like everything vintage vogue, the blowout has become a fashion must. Owner and creator Emily Frosaker describes her followers/clients as “blowout believers.”

Who doesn’t like getting pampered? Nowadays, men even join in the fun. Frosaker’s vision was to create a space with balance for her clients.

“My vision was to create a place where women could enjoy a fun, upbeat environment and get pampered, but not a spa. I wanted there to be balance, a unique space with a big-city vibe and energy without the intimidation factor,” Frosaker explained.

Frosaker is no ingénue when it comes to business. She was dreaming of opening her own boutique growing up, as she was inspired by her mother’s clothing store, Allyson’s Closet. She worked hard to plan and design her shop.

“It’s by no means easy, but nothing worth doing is easy. Dry/Shop is for any girl or woman who wants to feel great. Our customers range from age 5 to 95,” she said.

Frosaker has a bachelor’s degree in fashion marketing from the University of Central Oklahoma; is a member of many organizations, including the Female Entrepreneur Association; and participates in many community service and civic endeavors, including Girl Scouts Western Oklahoma, Allied Arts, OKC Beautiful and many more. Dry/Shop Blow-dry Bar and Boutique, along with Fitzsimmons Architects, have received an Institute Honor Award for Interior Architecture by the American Institute of Architects.


Emily Rothrock Tate

Emily Rothrock Tate

 

Age: 33 | Marketing Project Manager | Kimray Inc

Emily Rothrock Tate is a self-described creative problem solver. In her current position, she helps find creative solutions for communicating change at Kimray, Inc. But she used to work in the nonprofit realm.

“During my five years with Science Museum Oklahoma, I was tasked with restructuring several underperforming departments with the goal of increasing revenue and creating and marketing new revenue-generating events for the Oklahoma City community,” she said.

Rothrock Tate has a degree in journalism and public relations from the University of Central Oklahoma and is a member of many professional and civic organizations including the Plaza District Association, the Arts Council of Oklahoma City and deadCENTER Film Festival.

The Arts Council of Oklahoma City needed a group of young volunteers much like they had in the late ’80s and ’90s called The Arts Commandos, whom they could call on to volunteer for a wide variety of projects.

Rothrock Tate worked with the arts organization to create the Artisans, and in their inaugural year, they attracted 150 members with over 70 filling leadership rolls.

“My most significant creative contribution to our community is the recent creation and founding of the Artisans, a young professional group of the Arts Council of Oklahoma City,” said Rothrock Tate.


Emily Williams

Emily Williams

 

Age: 35 | Young Adult Services Coordinator | Metropolitan Library System

Emily Williams coordinates, plans and supports events for Oklahoma teens throughout Oklahoma County’s 19 libraries.

With a degree in art history from Oklahoma State University and a master’s degree in library and informational studies from the University of Oklahoma, Williams is well suited for her profession.

“In 2010, I fulfilled a long-term goal by successfully obtaining funding for an ongoing series of after-school art programs that I designed and coordinated at multiple library locations. After School at Your Library targets at-risk youth in our community who may be in need of constructive outlets and a nonjudgmental, creative environment. Our free program strives to include numerous kinds of artistic expression beyond visual art, including film and video production, modern dance, comic book drawing and hip-hop lyric composition. In 2013, I was able to expand this program to include even more library locations to reach underserved children and teens in our community,” explained Williams.

Williams is also an artist and lover of animals. She paints custom pet portraits and serves on the boards of many organizations, including Hounds of the Heartland and the Central Oklahoma chapter of Greyhound Pets of America, and often donates her artwork to nonprofits for their fundraisers.

“Over the last few years, I have worked to become more active in Oklahoma City’s thriving arts community not only as an arts administrator and advocate but also as an artist myself. I have had half a dozen solo art shows and participated in numerous groups’ shows since 2011, I teach art classes part-time with Wine & Palette. Oklahoma’s artists and arts community have been so supportive and encouraging that I try to give back whenever possible. I love animals and support nonprofit humane organizations like Pets and People Humane Society, The Bella Foundation and Hounds of the Heartland by donating artwork to auctions and fundraisers. I have also supported Rainbow Fleet, Deluxe Winter Market, OKC Midtown Rotary and other well-deserving local organizations with donated artwork,” said Williams.


Erin Rosas

Erin Rosas

 

Age: 32 | Interior Designer and Project Manager | Krittenbrink Architecture

Erin Rosas is a design maven who can keep a project on track from beginning to finish. She oversees every aspect from space planning, construction documents and construction for new and renovation of commercial and residential properties.

“I work on all projects from the beginning phases of programming all the way through construction management. In addition to project production, I also help coordinate projects within the office, ensuring a flow of communication and maintaining deadlines,” explained Rosas.

Rosas has a degree in fine arts/interior design from the University of Central Oklahoma and is a member of the National Council for Interior Design Qualification and is an Oklahoma Registered Interior Designer.

Melding the old with the new, many of Rosas projects have involved the renovation of historic spaces such as Hadden Hall and Cline Hotel in the Midtown district of Oklahoma City, the Armory in Marlow, First Baptist Church in Norman and the new Oklahoma State Board of Pharmacy in the state Capitol complex.

When she’s not working, you might find her advocating for the Mid-Del Special Olympics swim team, which she coached for ten years.


Estela Hernandez

Estela Hernandez

 

Age: 37 | Owner | Lone Star Construction LLC

From construction to politics and beauty and being a mother and wife, Estela Hernandez is a wonder woman. For the past three years, Hernandez and her husband, Ezequiel, have owned Lone Star Construction LLC, specializing in renovation, remodeling and new home construction.

She leads in the Hispanic community by serving as the spokesperson for MundoFox in Oklahoma City and a board member of the Oklahoma Hispanic Political Action Council.

Speaking of politics, on a grassroots level, Hernandez serves as chairman of the Community Engagement Committee for the Oklahoma Federation of Republican Women and Oklahoma County Republicans. She also encourages new citizens to register to vote by speaking with them at monthly nationalization ceremonies. Moreover, she was chosen as one of a five-woman delegation to represent Oklahoma at the Women’s Summit in Washington, D.C. hosted by the Republican National Committee.

And last but not least is her latest involvement with the Miss Oklahoma Latina Organization. Hernandez aims to embolden young women to “achieve the American dream while preserving their Hispanic heritage.”


Gilbert Magdaleno

Gilbert Magdalene

 

Age: 29 | Festival of the Arts Director | Arts Council of Oklahoma City

Helping plan the city’s largest arts festival takes creativity, flexibility, juggling and the assistance of one Gilbert Magdaleno. A graduate of the University of Central Oklahoma with a bachelor’s degree in public relations, Magdaleno redesigned the Artist Market at the festival, which had previously seen a steady decline in sales for over five years.

“As staff liaison, I began looking into ways to revamp the area to increase sales and artist participation. I saw two major programs with the area: location and aesthetics. I worked with the director to map out an area that would give the tent more visibility and a close proximity to the artist row,” explained Magdaleno.

He then set about decreasing the tent size for, in his words, “a more intimate, boutique-type feel” and worked on carving out money for new lighting and other renovations.

“After the completion of the redesign, the end results were a 100 percent increase in sales and a 50 percent increase in artist participation. This catapulted Artist Market to a top-selling art area at the Festival of the Arts, with sales exceeding $40,000,” said Magdaleno.

In terms of going above and beyond, Magdaleno is dedicated both on and off the time clock to the mission of the Arts Council of Oklahoma City, which in part is “dedicated to bringing the arts and the community together.”

“Most people are not aware that the Festival of the Arts is not just our largest event, it’s our largest fundraiser. The Festival of the Arts helps provide funding for all our other programs,” he explained.

Those programs include Art Moves, Community Arts Program, Sunday Twilight Concert Series and the Oklahoma City Storytelling Festival, just to name a few.

“These events, along with the Festival of the Arts, help bring the community together and open up the idea that arts are all around us and part of our everyday lives, “ said Magdaleno.

When he’s not involved in promoting the arts in Oklahoma City, Magdaleno also devotes his time to City Rescue Mission and the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.


Jacqueline Sit

Jaqueline Sit

 

Age: 33 | Account Executive | Candor Public Relations

Working for a firm representing Oklahoma’s largest health care system, financial institution, senior living enterprise and Native American tribe is no small feat, but if anyone is up to the challenge, it’s Jacqueline Sit.

She joined the firm a little more than a year ago and has increased its client base by nearly 50 percent. How does she do it? She’s driven by passion.

“My most significant creative contribution to date is my public relations work with the new downtown Oklahoma City school, John Rex Charter Elementary School. Being the lead on this client account for Candor PR has given me the opportunity to express my passion for education through the telling of the school’s story,” she said.

In this project, Sit had the opportunity to tell the school’s story via written and visual communication.

“I’m part of a team that helped the new school by encouraging parent participation and student enrollment, collaborated with local community organizations and neighborhood associations to spread the importance of diversity at the John Rex School. I have developed a fun and informative social media campaign #WeChooseJohnRex and produced its Facebook efforts from scratch while increasing its presence by nearly 700 percent. It is a blessing to be able to work with some of Oklahoma’s visionary leaders, educators and a community that deeply supports the success of this one-of-a-kind urban school. It is an honor to celebrate the grand finale of the MAPS for Kids project in these ways,” explained Sit.

Sit is a graduate of California State University and is a member of many organizations, including Infant Crisis Services, Oklahoma FIRST Robotics, Y Achievers — YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City, Christmas Connection and Big Brothers Big Sisters. She has also received many awards, including two Emmy nominations for her work as a general assignments television reporter.


Jeff Kline

Jeff Kline

 

Age: 26 | Associate Attorney | Bays Law Firm, P.C.

Jeff Kline is a fighter and defender of the people and a graduate from Oklahoma City University School of Law. He has been working at Bays Law Firm, P.C. since before he was an attorney. Before law school, he attended the University of North Texas and graduated with two degrees, one in political science and a second in history.

“I practice family law, adoption, criminal defense, personal injury, probate and bankruptcy and handle over one hundred active cases in over fifteen countries,” explained Kline. “I represent mostly low-income individuals in divorce, criminal defense, personal injury and bankruptcy cases. These people have significant issues, and it is my goal to ensure their rights are upheld, that they receive a fair hearing and feel valued as individuals. In many cases, my clients come to me figuratively broken, and it is my duty to help them put their lives back together.”

When Kline is not practicing law, he is actively supporting and participating in organizations such as the Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City; the Oklahoma City Young Jewish Professionals, known as the Jew Crew, of which he was a founding member; and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

However, he believes his most significant business achievement happened while still an undergrad at the University of North Texas, where he was elected as student body president.

“During my tenure, I secured funding for a new $78.1 million football stadium and athletics complex. To do this, I planned, organized and led a campuswide campaign to support a new athletic fee. We not only received 56 percent of the overall vote, but we had the largest turnout ever in a student-wide election,” explained Kline.


Jeremiah Rivers

Jeremiah Rivers

 

Age: 30 | President/CEO | Rivers’ Edge Countertops, Inc.

“I’ve been a dreamer all of my life. As a result, Rivers’ Edge Countertops has been a dream of mine for many years,” said Jeremiah Rivers, owner and CEO.

Not only is Rivers a dreamer, he’s an artist when it comes to custom countertops and takes great pride in his work. What began as a means to pay for college became a passion to create a product both beautiful and environmentally friendly.

“My company has been honored with several notable awards, the most recent being the Metro 50 award, which recognized my company as one of the most profitable and fastest growing in the greater Oklahoma City area,” said Rivers.

Rivers’ company has grown from a staff of six to 22 and is the first fully digital nature stone manufacturer in the metro area.

“In 2013, I was able to increase our revenue by 380 percent, making our revenue just under $2 million. By the end of July 2014, we had surpassed our total sales for 2013,” explained Rivers.

Rivers isn’t only about growing his business, he is also about giving back to his community and contributes often to local, national and global fundraising efforts.

“We were very excited to donate the countertops for last year’s St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway in Edmond, Oklahoma. The event raised almost $770,000 for St. Jude Hospital, and our employees donated their time and skills to building the house,” said Rivers.

He went on to convey that the company also donates to Manna Worldwide, a nonprofit involved in breaking the cycle of poverty through nutrition, education and spiritual growth. To date, the company sponsors 18 children.


Jessica Gwinner

Jessica Gwinner

 

Age: 30 | Director of Sales and Marketing | Gwinner Studios Ltd. Co.

Jessica Gwinner is a jack-of-all-trades. As the sales and marketing director of Gwinner Studios Ltd. Co., she books talent for local and regional venues, teaches speech and drama for Norman Public Schools and is the event coordinator for Live Music on the Canal via Gwinner Studios Ltd. Co. in Bricktown.

Gwinner holds a double major in theatre and communication education from the University of Northern Iowa. She is a member of Professional Educators of Norman; Oklahoma Education Association; and Songwriter Association of Norman, an extension of the Norman Arts Council and is a board member of the Oklahoma Blues Society.


Jonathan Fowler

Jonathan Fowler

 

Age: 32 | Vice President of Operations | Fowler Holding Company

Norman born and bred, Jonathan Fowler not only leads a legacy in the automobile industry as a third-generation owner but has become the top business-savvy millennial to proclaim the importance of arts and culture as a driver for enhancing quality of life and commerce.

As a small child, Fowler was exposed to the arts and music. He also minored in film at the University of Oklahoma, where he received the Ned Hockman Filmmaking Award. As he grew older, his business acumen developed, but he has always been inspired and influenced by the arts, music and culture that surround him.

He was a founding member of Norman Music Festival and the Norman Public Arts Board, has served on the Norman Arts Council board and has received the Business Person in the Arts Award. He has served on numerous panels, has participated in Leadership Arts Oklahoma and was named Oklahoma City Ad Club 2014 Advertising Person of the Year.

In addition to his awards and accolades, Fowler created The VDub Sessions, Live on the Plaza in the Plaza Arts District, H&8th Night Market in Midtown and many other activities and events promoting local musicians and artists.


Joshua Hinkle

Joshua Hinkle

 

Age: 30 | Assistant Vice President | First American Bank

At age 29, Joshua Hinkle witnessed crisis in his community and immediately moved into action. Oklahomans will never forget the tornado outbreak of May 20, 2013, and Hinkle’s community in Moore, Oklahoma, was hardest hit. As president of the Moore Public Schools Foundation, Hinkle was able to act as a facilitator between his employer and the school district.

“The Moore school district was without power, making their website and communication systems inoperable. With the help of First American Bank, we were able to setup a website for people from around the world to send donations. Through the website and fielding phone calls, the Moore Public Schools Foundation was able to raise nearly $1 million for the recovery efforts of the district,” explained Hinkle.

In addition, the foundation was able to give funding to teachers to replace their classroom materials and install security systems in all 24 elementary schools. Hinkle also helped raise funds from a grant-writing project and was able to renovate the junior high stadium.

“The stadium was very old, and the home side locker room was built underground. Every time a significant rainfall occurred, the locker room would flood, causing loss of equipment and further damage to the facility,” said Hinkle.

In addition, Hinkle is a founding member of Oklahoma Strong Monument Project; a member of the Moore, Norman, Newcastle and Blanchard Chambers of Commerce; and has volunteered with KaBOOM!, a nonprofit that builds playgrounds across the nation. He helped build playgrounds at Emmaus Baptist Church, the temporary school site for Briarwood Elementary, and at the rebuilt sites of Briarwood and Plaza Towers Elementary schools. Both schools were ravaged by the May 20, 2013, tornado.

Hinkle has a Bachelor of Arts degree in human relations from the University of Oklahoma and received the Outstanding Program Award on the behalf of Moore Public Schools Foundation from the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence for tornado response efforts.


Julia Adame LaGace

Julia LaGrace

 

Age: 32 | Senior Bilingual Loan Officer | Bay Equity LLC

In the beginning, Julia Isabel Adame LaGace baited her hook to catch the big fish — bigger loans equaled better clientele. However, she soon realized if she taught others to fish by guiding them through the ins and outs of purchasing their first home, she would be serving her community better.

The need to serve her local community by helping them make smart decisions about their home loans has given LaGace more wealth than money can buy: the wealth of giving back.

She uses her decadelong industry expertise along with the experience of colleagues in the immigration law and nonprofit fields to help coach and educate the community. She also writes a weekly column for El Latino, a local Hispanic newspaper, keeping the community abreast of current real estate issues.

“The Hispanic community is a young society, and educating them is a passion of mine,” explained LaGace. “I’ve made a great living doing what I do, but it was time to repay my community for all they’ve done for me.”

LaGace, who attended the University of Oklahoma, is often a regular speaker for Habitat for Humanity and the City of Oklahoma City’s Housing and Neighborhood programs. She is a graduate of Latino Leadership of Oklahoma City and has either volunteered or financially given of her services to many organizations. She has also received numerous awards, including Ambassador of the Month from the Greater Oklahoma City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.


Kay Robinson

Kay Robinson

 

Age: 37 | Director of Student Engagement | University of Central Oklahoma

What if you could be a professional college student for a living? Or work with college students for a living? Kay Robinson does just that; she oversees all campus activities, parent/family and PanHellenic programs.

“I consider myself extremely lucky to have found my career on the first try — working with college students. It is my passion and what I have been purposefully focused on for almost fifteen years,” said Robinson.

However, she most enjoys training and developing a staff of five who work directly with the students. She mentors them through their careers and is proud when they spread their wings and fly.

“I have no doubt the young professionals on my team will one day be directors of their own staffs and be better supervisors than I. And isn’t that the goal?” asked Robinson.

Robinson also serves on the board of directors for Infant Crisis Services and started a young professionals group that created an event, Bingo for Babies, to raise money and awareness for the organization.

“There are a few things less important in the world than the health and wellness of our tiniest citizens, so to be able to have a fun and festive event while raising money and awareness for Infant Crisis Services in the young professional community is definitely my most significant creative contribution,” she said.

Along with being a member of many professional organizations with a collegiate focus, Robinson is also involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Leadership Oklahoma City, Leadership Edmond, YMCA and Youth Leadership Exchange.


Lindsay Laird

Linsay Laird

 

Age: 30 | Vice President | Saxum

Most folks dream of getting the opportunity to work where they intern, but that’s rarely the case. Lindsay Laird is an exception to that rule. Beginning at Saxum as an intern, Laird not only achieved the reward of employment, she’s now a leader in the company.

“I have always felt very fortunate to be at Saxum. When I reflect on the past eight years, I can think of several big client wins and moments where I think, ‘Is this actually happening to me?’” Laird said. “I can honestly say my most significant business achievement has been working with the 85 plus interns and graduate fellows that have gone through the Saxum program. Twelve of our 47 current employees were once interns. I’m included in that list.”

Laird, who is currently working on a master’s degree in integrated marketing communication at West Virginia University, Morgantown, received her bachelor’s degree in public relations from the University of Central Oklahoma. She is a board member of Citizens Caring for Children and a member or volunteer for several other organizations, including Yukon Public Schools Foundation for Excellence and Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.

In her charge at Saxum, Laird leads the agency’s business development and marketing efforts and a team of public relations professionals and provides counsel in strategic marketing and public relations with emphasis on media relations, crisis communications, event planning and community relations, among other things.

As with most of this year’s Forty Under 40 class, Laird counts her charitable work as her most creative community contribution.

“My most significant creative contribution to the community manifests itself in my board work with Citizens Caring for Children. As a board member and chair of the nonprofit’s marketing committee, I am constantly working to promote the organization through new and existing channels,” explained Laird.


Matthew McLarty

Matthew McLarty

 

Age: 37 | Intern Architect/Designer | Bockus-Payne Associates Architects

Since receiving a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Oklahoma in 2009, McLarty has worked with several firms — currently with Bockus-Payne — to pioneer the urban landscape and work to revitalize historic neighborhoods such as the Historic Paseo Arts District and Midtown.

“My most significant achievement is each time we give the American Dream to a person or family. That sense of pride, comfort and security transforms a person’s life. My work with Positively Paseo has been a lifetime of rewards in only a few years,” explained McLarty.

McLarty is a member of the American Institute of Architects, the Urban Land Institute, Congress for New Urbanism and Urban Neighbors as well as the Oklahoma Army National Guard Association, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled American Veterans. He also served 16 years in the U.S. Navy and currently serves on the boards of the Midtown Redevelopment Corporation and Positively Paseo.

Through his work with Positively Paseo, the organization has received several awards, including the 2012 APEX Award for Housing Revitalization from the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency and a Citation of Merit from the Oklahoma State Historic Preservation Office, and in 2010, the district was named one of the Top Ten Great Neighborhoods in America.

Through McLarty’s work with the Midtown Redevelopment Corporation, the organization has received the 2013 Mayor’s Development Roundtable’s Award for Outstanding Development, Midtown District and the 2014 Urban Pioneer Award honoring Midtown Renaissance.

“After 16 years of military service, my body and mind can’t serve this country in the capacity that I used to. However, I can now use my talents, zeal and passion for my community and serve them just as I have served my country. I hope a day comes when I don’t need to do this work because it will mean we are giving quality affordable housing to those who need it in Oklahoma City. We will have created a true sustainable future for the community. Until then, I’ll keep at it,” said McLarty.


Nancy Perdomo

Nancy Perdomo

 

Age: 25 | Community Outreach Specialist | Girl Scouts Western Oklahoma

When you google “girl scout,” you find words such as organization, promotion of character, outdoor activities, good citizenship and service to others. All of these words and more can also be used to describe Nancy Perdomo, who was born in Honduras and moved with her family to the United States when she was a teenager.

“My parents encouraged community involvement from an early age by exposing us to some of the realities people have to face living in a third-world country. Helping in medical brigades and food drives at an early age helped create a passion for serving people in need,” explained Perdomo.

Perdomo, who has a bachelor’s degree in human relations, began working for Girl Scouts Western Oklahoma right after college.

“After graduating high school, I attended the University of Oklahoma, where I pursued a degree in human relations so I could expand my experiences and study about social changes and working with underserved populations,” Perdomo said.

Perdomo’s community service activities include involvement with the Language and Culture Services Strategic Planning Committee of Oklahoma City Public Schools and Latino Leadership class with the Greater Oklahoma City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. She also serves in the Positive Directions Mentoring program with Integris’ Community Wellness program and in the Department of Corrections’ Leadership Academy.

“The first time I went to juvenile detention was with Girl Scouts. Most people are unaware of the fact that Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma has programs in nontraditional troop settings, such as detention centers, public housing sites and schools with high rates of students living in poverty,” said Perdomo.

In working with the young Girl Scouts, Perdomo uses creative techniques such as visual arts for expression, storytelling and compassion. The girls create paintings representing various stages of their experiences, including their detention. Then Perdomo creates an exhibit of their artwork to share with the community.

“With the unfortunate high rates of female incarceration we face in Oklahoma, it is important that we hear these stories to raise awareness so we can prevent more young women from being incarcerated,” she said.


Philip Wong

Philip Wong

 

Age: 35 | Assistant Vice President | Republic Bank & Trust

Philip Wong is more than a banker; he’s a community builder. He is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma with a degree in finance and is a member of many professional and civic organizations including the Norman Sooner Rotary Club, South Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, Moore Chamber of Commerce and many others. He is also involved in many community organizations, including the Moore Public Schools Foundation, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Bridges Norman.

“After college, I worked in investments with various financial advisory firms. I obtained my Series 7 and 66 licenses, among other investment licenses. I became dissatisfied with investment advising and chose a career in banking with a community bank. This change allowed me the opportunity to become involved in my community and seek a more rewarding lifestyle,” he explained.

Wong considers his most significant business achievement his current role with Republic Bank & Trust and believes it to be one of the best community banks in the nation.

“I have the responsibility to teach my staff and coworkers the values and skills necessary to effectively manage client relationships and maintain a high level of service and accomplishment. My direct and indirect actions affect the reputation and success of the bank and my staff,” said Wong.

As for his most creative contribution to the community, Wong credits his work with locally based nonprofit Bridges Norman. The organization works with high school teens displaced and struggling to succeed and plan for college by offering housing and support.

“I was introduced to Bridges while participating in Leadership Norman. As a class goal, we were tasked with completing a project to benefit our community. I served as co-chair in establishing a scholarship for Bridges students. In just a few short months, we raised $35,000 for the Mary Kay Absher Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship was named after Mary Kay Absher, who was influential in creating Bridges, which was formerly know as Independent Living Services for Youth. When high school is completed, they have the potential to earn up to $2,000 from the scholarship fund for their hard work. I have had the pleasure of witnessing numerous scholarships being awarded to outstanding students who succeeded against all odds. These students continue to be productive citizens within our community,” explained Wong.


Robert Ruiz

Robert Ruiz

 

Age: 35 | Marketing Manager | Plaza Mayor at the Crossroads

Robert Ruiz has accomplished more by the age 35 than most do in a lifetime. His mission is to “bridge the gap between the mainstream community and the Hispanic community.” This guides his professional and volunteer work. He is an artist, an advocate, a promoter, a scholar, a father, a spouse and a cancer survivor.

Ruiz has received many awards for his work in marketing and has worked with businesses such as Ford Motor Company, Chesapeake Energy, Oklahoma Tourism, Sally Beauty Supply and Ocean Dental. He has helped clients grow their share of the Hispanic market in the state. Some of those clients include Michael Brook-Jimenez, PC; Fowler Auto Group; Buy for Less supermarkets; and Lucky Star Casinos.

In his current charge as marketing director of Plaza Mayor, he transformed the former Crossroads Mall, taking its occupancy from 17 percent to over 40 percent in just one year by creating events showcasing the Hispanic culture, such as Fiestas Patrias, Plaza Mayor Fall Festival, La Estrella de Plaza Mayor, Oklahoma Baile, the OKC Cinco de Mayo Festival and the OKC Mariachi Festival (coming soon).

“My proudest achievement was the creation of the Espera Más campaign, a campaign to create higher expectations in order to inspire Hispanic youth to reach higher in their lives for the betterment of the Hispanic community as well as the establishment of several mariachi programs within the Oklahoma City public schools,” said Ruiz.

Ruiz is a member of several organizations and is on the City of Norman’s Honor Roll of Service for his roles in establishing the Norman Hispanic Heritage Festival and Norman Music Festival and for his leadership as a Human Rights Commissioner.

He was awarded a full academic scholarship to the University of Oklahoma as a National Hispanic Merit Scholar and has been a musician since age 12. Ruiz is currently a partner at Oklahoma’s Énye Media and is marketing and program director at the Hispanic commercial and cultural center at Plaza Mayor.

“I recently faced one of the most challenging times in my personal life when I was diagnosed with state IV throat cancer in January 2104. Since then, I’ve battled to overcome this sickness while trying to serve my community with the help of many great people around me both personally and professionally,” said Ruiz.


Russell Johnson

Russell Johnson

 

Age: 34 | Chef/Owner | Ludivine LLC/J3 LLC

Learning to hone his craft under the best — such as two-time James Beard nominee for Best Chef in the Southwest, Todd Slossberg — inspired Russell Johnson tremendously when he worked under Slossberg at Hotel Jerome in Aspen, Colorado. After college, Johnson traveled to Denver and worked at the Brown Palace Hotel, and from there, he went on to Z Cuisine, “Denver’s first true farm-to-table restaurant.”

“During my time at Z Cuisine, we were awarded Best New Restaurant, Best French Restaurant and Best Dinner Destination for Makin’ Babies, among others. We were also named best restaurant in Denver by a local food writer/critic and featured in The New York Times,” said Johnson.

Today, Johnson has his hands full owning and running his own restaurant in Midtown Oklahoma City. In the restaurant, Johnson doesn’t only don a chef’s hat; he also wears the hats of owner, human resource manager, handyman, delivery driver and custodian when needed.

“The chef portion of the job has me coordinating with farmers and ranchers all over the state to maintain a steady supply of local meat and produce flowing into Ludivine, then obtaining these products and finally creating and executing a daily changing menu based upon them. Along with this side of the job also comes an effort to inspire and train our city’s next generation of cooks and chefs, as well as collaborate with other chefs to achieve various common goals for our local food culture,” explained Johnson.

Even after wearing all of these hats, Johnson still finds time to give back to the community. After the devastating tornadoes last year, Johnson, along with other nationally known chefs, organized a series of fundraising pop-up events and collected approximately $120,000 for the community of Moore, the hardest hit city in the metro area. Johnson has also participated in cooking and delivering turkeys to the homeless on Thanksgiving.

“Once I moved back to Oklahoma, I realized that what this city needed was not just a new restaurant, but a new approach to and relationship with food altogether. It struck me that despite the rich agricultural history of our state, chefs did not seem to be taking advantage of it,” Johnson said when asked about his most creative contribution to the community. “I saw a dining public that had traveled, had become exposed to great food and great restaurants in other places and felt frustrated that they were unable to enjoy the same things here.”


Sara Cowan

Sara Cowan

 

Age: 37 | Director/Co-Founder/Art Advocate/Promoter/Event Planner | Deluxe Oklahoma City

Freelance Fact checker | Oklahoma Today

A trend we are seeing with our Forty Under 40 group this year is artistry equals entrepreneurial spirit, and Sara Cowan best exemplifies that spirit. She is co-creator of the Deluxe Winter Market, an event showcasing local artisans and craftspeople from all over the state during the holidays and has also curated and managed the eclectic inventory of DNA Galleries, works as a consultant for various organizations and is the founder of OKC Art Team.

“My most significant contribution to our city has been providing opportunities for creative to get their work in front of the public at retail stores, festivals and in media. I encourage Oklahomans to recognize the homegrown talent around them and support the endeavors of local makers and artisans,” said Cowan.


Sarah Bytyqi

Sarah Bytyqi

 

Age: 37 | Owner, Managing Broker and Real Estate Agent | Verbode

Sarah Bytyqi is an advocate of urban living and local art. Her real estate brokerage boutique in the heart of downtown is located in the TAP Architecture building and has been awarded the 2014 Most Tech Savvy Brokerage by the Oklahoma City Metro Association of Realtors.

“Owning a boutique real estate brokerage in downtown Oklahoma City geared toward building community and advocating urban living has been significant in my life,” said Bytyqi.

When she’s not inspiring a fully paperless brokerage business by bringing technology to her industry, she’s opening the doors to her firm every few months and displaying local artists’ work.

“We partnered with Stephen Kovash and Istvan Gallery to display local works of art on our office walls. And every few months, we invite our friends, clients and neighbors to an opening at Verbode to showcase the artwork. It’s a fun way to get the community together while promoting art and local artists,” explained Bytyqi.

Bytyqi is a member of the National Association of Realtors, Oklahoma Association of Realtors, Oklahoma City Metro Association of Realtors and the Edmond Board of Realtors. She is also a member of the National Association of Realtors’ Green REsource Council and is chairman of the Oklahoma City Metro Association’s Foundation Board of Directors.


Seth Cavin

Seth Cavin

 

Age: 39 | Founder and Principal Owner | Spur Design, LLC

From delivering pizza, raising a young child and officing out of this 900-square-foot home to owning and managing a successful architecture and engineering firm in the heart of downtown Oklahoma City, Seth Cavin is well on his way.

“I feel creating a thriving business that began at the cusp of the downturn in the economy nearly six years ago in a field that has experienced major job reductions is pretty significant,” said Cavin.

The company, Spur Design, LLC, now employs ten with offices in Kansas City, Missouri, and Oklahoma City and is looking to expand.

Cavin received his bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Oklahoma in 2003 and served in the United States Navy before college. He feels that his most significant creative contribution to the community has been working to improve healthcare for veterans.

“As a service-disabled veteran and architect with healthcare design experience, I feel a strong sense of responsibility for improving healthcare facilities for our veterans. I have focused a large amount of effort to the pursuit of work with VA medical centers across the country, but particularly with the Oklahoma City VA Medical Center. We’ve designed multiple projects for this facility and continue to build upon that relationship to improve the facility for our local veterans, their families and caregivers,” explained Cavin.


Shane Jewell

Shane Jewell

 

Age: 34 | Executive Director | Oklahoma City Ballet

Shane Jewell is Okie proud with a goal of bringing the arts into all Oklahomans’ lives. A graduate of Oklahoma State University with a Bachelor of Arts in English with an emphasis on film theory, Jewell has a passion for the arts.

“I am a Native Oklahoman, and I feel very strongly that those of us passionate about the arts have a responsibility to stay in Oklahoma and help grow the wonderful arts and culture we have here. Exposure to the arts should not be determined by your socioeconomic status,” said Jewell.

Jewell intends on growing the Oklahoma City Ballet and believes it is vital for the city to have a strong arts and cultural base to attract new business and members of the workforce.

“All of the top cities in this country have nationally recognized ballet companies, and if we are to compete with these cities for business development and employee recruitment, we must have strong arts and culture offerings,” explained Jewell.

Jewell is a member of Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center, Downtown Education Network and Oklahoma Presenters Network and is an advisory commission member for Oklahoma Film and Music Commission.


Sheena Karami

Sheen KARAMI

 

Age: 30 | Vice President, Office of the Chief Operations Officer | Ackerman McQueen

As vice president to the office of the president and chief operating officer at Ackerman McQueen, Sheena Karami has considerable responsibility overseeing the firm’s account services, new business outreach, personnel and operational duties for offices in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Dallas, Colorado Springs and Washington, D.C.

Equipped with a master’s degree in public administration with an emphasis in management, policy and finance and a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and mass communication from the University of Oklahoma, Karami is the bond that smoothly holds together the operations of the entire organization at Ackerman McQueen.

However, before Ackerman McQueen, Karami was the director of the State Charitable Campaign for United Way of Central Oklahoma. In her role at the organization, Karami achieved her most significant accomplishment.

“My most significant achievement has been working to raise over 104 million dollars for United Way of Central Oklahoma’s annual community campaigns from 2008-2013. During my time in development, the total funds raised grew from 18 million to 22 million,” explained Karami.

Karami also serves on two board committees for the Avant Gardeners at Myriad Botanical Gardens, a group of young professionals dedicated to growing and preserving Myriad Botanical Gardens.

“My role on both committees is to develop a creative, dynamic programming itinerary to help engage and entice current and potential members. This not only helps promote Myriad Botanical Gardens but also highlights the many wonderful outdoor opportunities that exist all around OKC. From hosting themed recruitment events to planning nature hikes and kayak trips in our very own ‘backyard,’ I’ve enjoyed the challenge of developing unique activities that engage and encourage our young professionals,” said Karami.

Karami is involved in many organizations, including Leadership Oklahoma City Alumni Association, Junior League of Oklahoma City and Allied Arts.


Spencer Hicks

Spencer Hicks

 

Age: 34 | Founding Member and Co-CEO | OKCcomedy

During the day, Spencer Hicks works in a consulting firm for ex-Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry, and in his time off, he’s making Oklahomans laugh. As a founding member and co-CEO of OKCcomedy, Hicks is bringing comedy headliners to the state and raising awareness of the local comedy landscape.

He doesn’t just make Oklahomans laugh because it’s fun; Hicks uses his comedy for fundraising efforts to help those in need, such as the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Thunderbird Youth Academy and relief efforts from the 2013 Moore tornado devastation.

Hicks has brought top-notch comedians such as Hannibal Buress, best known for The Awkward Comedy Show on Comedy Central; Rob Delany, who won the Funniest Person on Twitter award from Comedy Central; and Paul F. Tompkins, known for his work on television shows including Real Time with Bill Maher and Best Week Ever, to OKC.

Hicks is also a comedian and won the Looney Bin Comedy Contest and was named on Mandatory.com’s list of 100 best Twitter Accounts. He has a master’s degree in writing from Oklahoma City University and a bachelor’s degree in public relations from Oklahoma Baptist University.


Stacey Pezold

Stacey Pezoid

 

Age: 35 | Executive Vice President of Operations | Paycom Software

Stacey Pezold oversees the operations of an organization that began in Oklahoma City in 1998 and is now traded on the New York Stock Exchange with multiple locations in most of the major metropolitan cities across the nation.

She leads a team of seven directors and sets the cultural tone for the company. Before her current position, Pezold held several positions throughout the company, such as corporate sales trainer and director of training and development. In those capacities, she developed and implemented a program called Paycom U that is both award-winning and a benchmark for the company.

“My most significant business achievement has been starting Paycom U. Regardless of my official job title throughout my career, my professional passion has always been training and development,” explained Pezold.

The program today not only trains the employees about the companies products and services, it also professionally develops them. And what began with one trainer has now grown to a department of nine at the Oklahoma City corporate headquarters who train hundreds of employees across 31 locations nationwide.

When Pezold is not focused on work, she’s focused on community. After the devastating tornados of 2013, she founded a group call the Moore Mamas. The city of Moore, Oklahoma, was the hardest hit area in the metro.

“I felt compelled to offer condolences to the mothers who lost a child on that tragic day. I reached out and called on other mothers I knew would want to help. As a group, it was our goal to let these mothers know their children and families were being lifted up in prayer and there was a group of mothers who would ensure the memories of their precious children would live on,” she explained.

The group organized photos, inspirational and spiritual quotes and letters of condolence as well as other mementos of encouragement and made a book to give the mothers something they could physically hold and read to give them hope.

“It was a small act in the wake of such horrific devastation, but it was our hope that mother-to-mother gesture would provide a small level of peace and comfort,” said Pezold.


T.O. Bowman

TO Bowman

 

Age: 29 | Interim Sustainability Director | City of Oklahoma City

Sustainability is the practice of using resources without destroying them, looking for ways to improve efforts impacting the economy, the environment and social health. Sounds daunting, doesn’t it? Well, for T.O. Bowman, its just part of the job.

As the interim director for Oklahoma City’s Sustainability Office, Bowman leads the charge in community education, energy efficiency, grants, finances and administration, and he’s only 29.

After receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in advertising from the University of Oklahoma, Bowman went straight to work for the Central Services Department of Oklahoma. While there, he helped the municipality save on yearly annual energy costs and created and implemented an awareness campaign to educate state agency employees on energy efficient projects and initiatives. He also wrote a grant and was awarded funding for native plants and landscape improvements for Capitol Plaza South.

Bowman then concentrated his efforts on the City of Oklahoma City, where he served as program coordinator for the Sustainability Office and was responsible for community outreach and education, walkability surveys, energy efficiency programs, grants and other programs.

He is affiliated with the Urban Sustainability Directors Network; is certified Lean and Green from the University of Oklahoma’s Lean Institute; volunteers for Oklahoma Green Schools Program and Sustainable OKC; and is a freelance contributor for The Curbside Chronicle, Oklahoma City’s first street paper. The publication, the brainchild of Ranya and Whitley O’Conner, serves as a voice and means of income for homeless and at-risk vendors on the streets of Oklahoma City.

“I am most proud of my freelance contributions to Oklahoma City’s first street paper, The Curbside Chronicle. During college, I spent a substantial amount of time in the Communications building and initially pursued a degree in journalism. This experience allowed them to develop writing and editing skills to produce content that will hopefully continue to generate interest, increase readership and provide additional opportunities to those seeking ‘a hand up, not a handout,’” said Bowman.


Trent Willis

Trent Willis

 

Age: 34 | Vice President | RCB Bank

As a banker, Trent Willis recognizes the importance of a strong and vibrant community and makes sure to do his part when it comes to community service and civic endeavors.

He serves many organizations, including the Tuttle Area Chamber of Commerce, Lions Clubs International, the Oklahoma State Chamber, the Oklahoma Bankers Association, Tuttle Future Famers of America (FFA) and many more.

“While serving as president of the Tuttle Area Chamber of Commerce, we experienced tremendous growth and involvement throughout the last two years. That growth assists in attaining the resources necessary for the TACC to give back to the community in various ways. Most recently, we hosted a Back to School Breakfast for our educators and were able to give away $5,000 in gifts and prizes,” explained Willis.

Willis has also received many awards but considers owning his own business his most significant business achievement.

“Business achievements occur every day in the life of an entrepreneur! Starting Cornerstone Insurance Group from the ground up was my first taste in owning a business. The opportunities I encountered allowed me to build upon my strengths of networking, nurturing a business and developing programs that would benefit both my clients and company,” explained Willis.

After creating that successful business, Willis sold it but still holds a significant amount of shares in the company. He also holds significant amount of shares in a local laundry service. However, he touts his drive to bring opportunities to others and help them advance and achieve their goals as his most significant creative contribution to his community.

“As the president of our local chamber, I am constantly planning, organizing and attending community events to promote local businesses. As a result, encouraging others to maintain their involvement or simply get involved for the increased activity of our chamber consistently drives others to shop local. Keeping that business in town while growing our tax base provides the evidence that my time as president proves worthwhile for the community of Tuttle, Oklahoma,” he said.


Tyler Johnson

Tyler johnson

 

Age: 37 | Vice President of Casino Operations | Remington Park Racing and Casino

Armed with a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Central Oklahoma, Tyler Johnson began his career at Remington Park Racing and Casino working in information technology (IT) over 15 years ago.

As he evolved in his career, the business did too. He not only tackled Remington’s IT needs, but his approach became a point of reference and is now used by other facilities.

“At that time, the racetrack was struggling for community interest and financial investment. I successfully developed the information technology as a benchmark for other facilities on how the operation should be designed, budgeted and enforced,” explained Johnson.

Nowadays, Johnson is working on completing his MBA at Oklahoma City University and improving revenues for the racetrack’s casino operation. When he’s not working, he’s volunteering. Johnson is an active volunteer with the Leadership Advisory Council of NewView Oklahoma, Edmond Public Schools, Allied Arts, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art and the American Heart Association.

“My passion for the Oklahoma City community and its development is true and continues to grow. I actively seek ways to participate and lend my talents to nonprofit and community-driven organizations. I’m a driven professional who seeks continued success leading up to and beyond 40,” said Johnson.


Yenni Vance

Yenni Vance

 

Age: 37 | Digital Communications & Social Media Director | Global Gaming Solutions Remington Park Racing and Casino & Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie

A native of Columbia, Vance came to the United States after forming her own digital company GotSaga.com, a social media site focused on travel and tourism and the first site to offer a multilingual chat feature. It was highly rated by Alexa, a worldwide independent rating system.

“I have established a network with travel bloggers from around the world. I understand the power of multimedia exposure via digital media from blog posts, photos, videos, website content and multimedia exposure via website and multiple social media channels,” explained Vance.

She was sworn in as a United States citizen in 2013 and currently works for Remington Park and Lone Star Park, both owned by Global Gaming Solutions, a subsidiary of the Chickasaw Nation.

“I have created a cutting-edge digital presence by managing all mobile strategies, email campaigns and digital campaigns to create a fully integrated social media agenda,” she said.

She is also the social media advisor and strategist for the Oklahoma City Adventure District, the official entertainment district that includes the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, the Oklahoma City Zoo, Frontier City and, of course, Remington Park.

Vance recently received the World Community Award at World Food Day 2014 in a ceremony at the Oklahoma State Supreme Court Judicial Center, honoring her charitable efforts. She serves as co-chairman of the board for 1040i, which does work in Africa, and holds the same position with NEEDS Foundation, a newly created program that feeds the hungry in Oklahoma. In addition, she has been active with Niños De La Calle De Cali, a charity founded by her mother to provide food and education to the children of the streets of Cali, Colombia.

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