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Interviewing 40 achievers

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Robert Kalesse, Special to Delaware Business Times.

When I was contacted about some freelance work for the newly launched Delaware Business Times, I was excited about the opportunity and eager to get to work. Little did I know the first project would be quite the undertaking.

The task? To scour the state and find nominees for their first 40 Under 40 class, a diverse group of achievers, entrepreneurs and go-getters all under the age of 40, who represent the best
of what all three counties have to offer.

Finding a legitimate group of nominees took weeks of calling and emailing industry executives, heads of business and state, directors of commerce, community leaders and curators of the arts. When the list was finally compiled, one thought came to mind as I looked over myriad résumés and LinkedIn accounts: I was impressed.

I was impressed with the fact there are leaders in business, technology, education, non-profit, politics and the arts, right here in our home state. I was impressed that these people, despite their relatively young age, really have it together, know what they want, and know how to get things done.

I was also impressed with how these leaders, whose schedules and calendars are seemingly filled at all hours of the day with different projects and full-time work responsibilities, still mange to find the time to give back to their communities and partake in charitable organizations and functions.

Although each of the DBT40 honorees are well deserving of the award, there were several that stood out during the reporting process. And so, I’d like to take some time (and space) here and recognize a few that left impressions
on me during the interview process.

First, there’s Bryan Shupe, Mayor of Milford, and Justin King, Mayor of Camden-Wyoming. Whether or not you want to consider the towns they run as “small” really doesn’t matter. To run a business (Shupe as owner of Milford Live, King as president of Kent Propane) takes time, patience and perseverance. To run a town takes all three and presents the challenge of keeping fickle constituents happy on a day-to-day basis. No easy task, for sure.

Todd Roselle, a partner at Blue Rock Financial Group, gets up at 6 a.m. six days a week to do CrossFit, an aggressive strength and conditioning program, while most of us are just inhaling our first cup of coffee.
Mona Parikh spends most of her days running Start It Up Delaware, but in her “free time” teaches at both Widener University and the University of Delaware, while representing a handful of clients through her own law practice.

Sasha Aber and Nic DeCaire have a firm footing in the City of Newark, Aber with Home Grown Café, a restaurant she has co-owned with her husband, Eric, for more than a decade, and DeCaire through Fusion Fitness, which he opened in 2006 to “help clients and the community feel better about themselves.”

But both have more to offer than just their business acumen. Aber is involved with Local Flavor Fundraising, in which she reaches out to area public and private schools to help students and their families improve their diets. DeCaire, on the other hand, took his love of physical fitness and started the Main Street Mile, which this year raised more than $15,000 for the Newark Police Department’s canine program.

And then there’s John Fannin IV, executive director of the Delaware Safety Council, whose job is to put the safety of others first, something that
carries over into his personal time as a 15-year veteran of the Claymont Fire Company. It’s one thing to talk the talk when it comes to one’s career and job responsibilities, but to walk the walk ““ sometimes through a burning building, no doubt ““ is truly inspiring.

In all, from 1 through 40, these folks take the approach that just being good at their jobs is never enough, and they spread their infectious personalities and abilities to their communities at large.

For us at Delaware Business Times, being able to highlight these folks who make a difference in our community is an honor and privilege we take seriously. In fact, throughout the year, we plan on keeping up with our first class of  40 Under 40 to update how they’re doing with particular projects, and to get their input on qualified candidates for the 2015 class.

Some projects we’re excited to see come to fruition include Wilmington City Councilman Darius Brown’s “TweetMyJobs” program, Michael Vanderslice’s participation in Delaware’s Brownfields Development Program, Dr. Dan Young’s TEDxWilmingtonUniversity program, Jeni Barton’s work with the 2015 Fringe Wilmington Festival, and Laura Stimson’s role in the next installment of the MidAtlantic Wine + Food Festival.

Their work and the work of our entire first annual 40 Under 40 is a testament to what Delaware has to offer. It’s our pleasure at Delaware Business Times to be the ones who tell their stories in the coming year. 

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