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BusINess » 2010 Professionals To Watch

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2010 Professionals to Watch

What makes a leader a top professional?

The list used to be standard: dedication, loyalty, the ability to listen to the staff and the clients. But there is nothing standard about business in the year 2010. Whether you have been steadfastly climbing the ladder to the goal you set for yourself, struck out on your own to test the dream of building the business you have always wanted, or learned the business from the ground up from your parents and grandparents, professionals today live and love their work like never before. The new breed of professionals are innovators, creators, inventors and transformers who make disasters into opportunities and shake solutions from problems turned upside down. Whether they have a straight career path or have taken the road less traveled, they have found success and continue to make their way up, turning obstacles into open doors as they go.

The Times and BusINess magazine present 15 such professionals to watch in 2010. Their stories may be as different as their businesses, but each shares the same ending: success.
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Lynn Eplawy

(Photograph by Robert Wray.)

(Photograph by Robert Wray.)

Lynn Eplawy grew up around aviation. Her father, Wil Davis, is a pilot and owns the Gary Jet Center at the Gary/Chicagoland International Airport. “While we were growing up, he was even a crop duster,” she says. But, Eplawy adds, she never really considered working in the family business. Her education and career path, in fact, took her in very different directions.

Eplawy graduated from the Miami University in Ohio in 1995 with a degree in finance and moved to Dallas to sell paper to commercial printing operations for a large paper manufacturer. A transfer to Chicago took her from selling paper to a job as an account manager for a large national graphics firm. Her clients included Coca Cola and Harley-Davidson.

“I was basically a liaison between the clients and the graphic designers,” she says.
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Karen Vogelsang

(Photograph by Jon L. Hendricks.)

(Photograph by Jon L. Hendricks.)

There’s something about the monkey mug Karen Vogelsang has her morning coffee in that doesn’t quite fit with her smartly-appointed business suite.

It seems too informal, too fun—at first. But then the visitor realizes the mug identifies Vogelsang as more than a financial advisor. She’s a real person, too. And that’s key to her calling, which she sees as more than simply managing clients’ money. Hers is a relationship business, Vogelsang says.

“I like people—a lot,” says Vogelsang, senior financial advisor and registered principal at Vogelsang Asset Management in Valparaiso. “I know a lot about my clients—sometimes more than their doctors know.” That intimate connection with clients even led one—an 85-year-old lady—to ask Vogelsang to be maid of honor at her wedding.

Raised in Kankakee, Illinois, Vogelsang earned a business degree at Valparaiso University in 1980. She went into insurance sales and estate planning, with some part-time helping out in her husband’s pizza restaurant. When children came along, she took a “sabbatical” for several years to raise them, but also owned and ran a dress shop during that period.
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Rob Grill

(Photograph Robert Wray.)

(Photograph Robert Wray.)

Many small business owners rightly feel threatened by “big box” stores, but not Rob Grill, co-owner of Gus Bock’s Ace Hardware store in Dyer. The way Grill sees it, his store has developed a loyal customer base by offering unique products and services—things even sprawling home improvement stores like Home Depot or Lowe’s don’t carry.

“You want to make big purchases, [so] I understand you’ll want to go to the big stores,” Grill says. “But they’re not going to be able to fix things,” Grill says. “We have a service department where customers can get items fixed.” With a licensed mechanic on staff and unusual product lines in stock—the store offers hundreds of work boots, plenty of work clothing and rentable equipment—Grill is confident that Gus Bock’s can co-exist with the big boxes.

Some of that confidence might come from having worked closely with his father and brothers during the last 30 years to keep the business going. It’s done more than survive the arrival of bigger stores during those years—it’s thrived.

“We have tons of loyal customers, ranging from homeowners, contractors, handymen and custodians that have been with us for years” he says. “It’s nice to see the friendships that have been made at our stores.”

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Dr. Rachael Ross

Keeping others healthy seems part of Rachael Ross’s own DNA. A family practice physician at the Tatum Family Health Center, Ross has followed in her father’s footsteps at the clinic David Ross, M.D., founded decades ago at 1619 W. 5th Ave., Gary.

Medicine was “a safe choice. I grew up just a few blocks from the clinic,” she says. “No matter what, my mom stressed, especially to the girls, that they become educated and be able to take care of themselves. My two sisters and a brother are also doctors.” A graduate of Vanderbilt University, Ross earned a medical degree from Meharry Medical College. A resident of Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, she brings her medical expertise to many pursuits.

Part of Ross’s professional life revolves around the Gary-based health care clinic where she sees patients on a regular basis. “Our focus is on preventive care to keep families healthy. We show people how to take care of themselves,” Ross says.

Women have a natural nurturing spirit and are often the ones who take care of their families. But many times they go it alone, and these caregivers don’t always take care of themselves, she says. “We strive to help them mentally and physically,” she says.
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Teresa Eineman

(Photograph by John Luke/The Times.)

(Photograph by John Luke/The Times.)

Teresa Eineman doesn’t see herself as a hard-nosed business professional but rather a dedicated and passionate educator. A recurring statement from Eineman since she began her duties in Crown Point in April 2006 is that she intended to develop a plan to take the school corporation from good to great, and she’s remained steadfast along that path.

For many years, Eineman says people have compared Crown Point to local school districts but she said it was necessary to widen that lens and compare Crown Point to students across the nation.

“Our students come to school above average,” she says. “We needed to change the benchmark. We needed new comparable schools. We looked at school corporations with similar socioeconomic levels, performance and populations across the state.”
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Sharon Owen

According to Sharon Owen, there’s a saying at U.S. Steel: steel gets in your blood. Employees might say it as they stand in the plant, watching the raw material be heated until it turns into the liquid that eventually becomes car hoods and the top of washing machines. That moment still fills Owen with awe.

For Owen, the general manager of Gary Works for just over a year, the saying is especially true. When her grandfather came over to the United States from Poland, he worked for U.S. Steel, as did her late parents.

Owen believes they’d have a hard time grasping that their daughter now runs the show. Owen, 55, was born in Gary but grew up in Merrillville. Growing up, she knew that steel was a dominant focus in the region, but it wasn’t until she graduated from Andrean High School and was well into her chemical engineering major at Purdue University’s West Lafayette campus that she began to consider that steel might become her focus too. She was a member of a co-op program where students worked at a company every other semester, and she applied for and was hired at U.S. Steel as a college student. She never left.
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Tom Hayes and Sean Fadden

(Photograph by Kyle Telechan.)

(Photograph by Kyle Telechan.)

Cigarettes have been thoroughly demonized during the last few decades, but somehow cigars’ reputation has survived these anti-tobacco times intact. A symbol of refined prosperity, cigar aficionados have managed to avoid accusations of snobbery—and being a public-health threat.

Tom Hayes and Sean Fadden enjoy smoking cigars, and for the last 18 months or so, they’ve also enjoyed selling them. In October 2008, they opened Omni Tobacconist in Schererville, catering to aficionados living in Northwest Indiana and beyond. The timing may not have been perfect—the recession was peaking and unemployment began to soar in late 2008—but the uncle-nephew team has stuck with it and slowly attracted a clientele.
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Erik Schneider

(Photograph by Robert Wray.)

(Photograph by Robert Wray.)

In January 2005, Erik Schneider fell on a building site, breaking two ribs and effectively ending his carpentry career. He had spent more than half a decade working in the residential and commercial construction industries, beginning right after he graduated from Lake Central High School in St. John. Now it was time to find something new.

What Schneider quickly settled on—the home appliance retail industry—both builds on his construction experience and makes him happy. This year, he decided to finally act on a dream first hatched while working as a manager at Nason’s Appliances in Crown Point. Schneider, 32, struck out on his own and opened Hometown Appliance & Electronics, located on busy Route 41 in St. John, in mid-March. It’s been open seven days each week ever since.

“I had the idea of going out on my own and getting back to the roots of what the business is: customer service, being forward with people,” says Schneider, who still lives in his hometown. “The customer service end of things is really going to be the key to our business.”

Thus the new store’s name—the idea being to combine “Big Box” store savings with classic small-town friendliness. “I’m trying to have some of the best trained and skilled sales people answer your questions to ensure the decision-making process is a smooth one,” he says. (His 10 employees together have nearly 50 years of experience in the industry.)
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Joy Colwell

(Photograph by Robert Wray.)

(Photograph by Robert Wray.)

Sometimes people know exactly what job they want from a young age. Others start out in one profession and serendipity leads them to another. Both happened in the life and career of Joy Colwell, assistant dean for graduate studies and associate professor of organizational leadership and supervision at Purdue University Calumet.

“In first grade I thought I would be a teacher because I had a wonderful teacher. I got there, but I didn’t take the straight path,” says Colwell, 52, of Munster.

A graduate of Indiana University Bloomington, the Columbus, Indiana, native earned an English degree and enrolled at the IU School of Law. After law school graduation, she relocated in 1984 to Northwest Indiana to join a law firm. Colwell also trained lawyers in civil mediation through the Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum. In 1992, the ICLEF asked Colwell to speak at an event attended by Carl Jenks, school of technology organizational leadership professor at Purdue University Calumet.

“Carl Jenks invited me to teach here as a guest lecturer,” says Colwell, now a tenured associate professor. “Soon teaching became what I do. I’ve been full-time here since 2000.”
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