Stay tuned to hear who made the list when it’s announced this spring, and don’t miss the 2020 application opening in June.
Steve Palmer is the managing partner of the hospitality and consulting company, The Indigo Road Hospitality Group. Founded in 2009 in Charleston, SC, when Palmer began working with the celebrated restaurant Oak Steakhouse on historic Broad Street, Indigo Road now owns and operates more than 16 concepts throughout the southeast.
In January 2017, The Post & Courier named Palmer the second most powerful food and beverage industry player in Charleston. He was recognized not only for his growing presence in the hospitality business, but also for his charitable and community efforts. Palmer is a longtime supporter of Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry and Charleston’s Feed the Need coalition. In 2016, Palmer founded Ben’s Friends, the food and beverage industry support group offering hope, fellowship, and a path forward to professionals who struggle with substance abuse and addiction. He has been recognized by The New York Times, NPR, Southern Living, Atlanta Magazine and Charleston Magazine for his work, and has presented at TedX Charleston and the Charleston Wine + Food Festival
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Matt is the second generation President of Choice One Engineering where their focus on everything beyond the numbers has perennially made them the Nation’s #1 Best Civil Engineering Firm to work for. Matt is a recovering engineer, who has always had a passion for business and enjoys living his passion of helping people by leading those around him to become their best version of themselves. He believes that when you are comfortable, you aren’t learning, and uses his desire for continuous learning to challenge the status quo and push others to get out of their comfort zone.
Matt has had some amazing people in his life that have shaped who he is today and desperately hopes he can have that same impact on the people he is fortunate enough to connect with.
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From an early age, Behfar has always had a true passion for technology. His parents always made sure he had access to the latest gadgets, and he immersed himself in everything tech. Fast forward to the present, and Behfar continues to mix together his passions for technology, entrepreneurship, and business. For those that know him, they will regularly see him toting multiple gadgets, business magazines, and financial statements. “Organized chaos” might be a term that best describes him, but he’ll readily admit that’s the way he loves it.
Behfar loves the business, but his family takes priority. He always finds ways to bring the best of both worlds together.
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Loren Feldman is the Chief Content Officer at the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs and former senior editor at Forbes. He also co-hosts a call-in show for business owners, Mind Your Business, on Sirius XM’s Wharton business network. His previous job was small-business editor of The New York Times, where he created the You’re the Boss small-business blog. He has also been editor of the Web sites at both Inc. and FastCompany. Before going digital, he was a top editor and writer for print magazines such as Inc., Philadelphia, Manhattan,inc., the American Lawyer, Money, and George. He has also written for GQ, The New York Times magazine and The New York Times Sunday Business section. And he has spoken and conducted interviews at numerous conferences and seminars on entrepreneurship. On Twitter, he’s @lfeldman.
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Jean Pitzo is the CEO of Ace Metal Crafts, a stainless steel manufacturer of fabricated and machined components parts. Ace serves OEM’s in the food processing, packaging, pharmaceutical, and environmental industries and is located in Bensenville, IL. She has been with the company since 1983, joining as a sales rep and progressing over the years to Vice President of Sales and Marketing, then to President and to her current role in 2003.
Throughout her tenure, Jean’s passion for developing conscious leaders and helping team members thrive has advanced the success of the company, and produced a culture with a foundation built on trust. Her extensive sales and leadership experience has taught her that taking great care of customers on the outside starts with taking good care of people on the inside. Every day at Ace, she asks team members for their opinions and advice. She relies on them, trusts them and supports them. ACE Metal Crafts purpose is to inspire and connect with people to unleash their potential. Everyone on the team understands that to succeed both individually and collectively, they must share, learn and grow together.
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Carl is the CEO and co-founder of Atomic Object, a software product development company with offices in Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor. He likes solving problems and questioning the status quo to innovate and create value. He believes strongly that work matters, that companies should be a force for good in their communities, and that everyone should have a job which provides fulfillment beyond a paycheck. Atomic Object has been his platform to develop these ideas and put them into practice.
Carl sails a Snipe at the Grand Rapids Yacht Club, enjoys owning interesting cars, loves to snowboard, and plays Swedish floor ball in the winter.
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Ray Brown is Senior Director of Pricing and Contracting at Medtronic PLC, the world’s largest medical device company by revenue. His outstanding team of 44 is responsible for pre- and post-sale support of offer development, contracting, global pricing governance, asset operations, pricing operations, and contract compliance for the company’s $3.2B Minimally Invasive Therapies Group in the US.
Ray has been at Medtronic (which acquired his former employer, Covidien) since 2006. He has held positions with the company in Boulder, CO, and Zürich, Switzerland. Prior to his time at Medtronic, he worked for Qwest Communications (now CenturyLink) and AT&T.
Ray lives near Boulder, CO and is married with two adult children. In his spare time he enjoys flying, running, reading, and German language. He earned a BA in history from the University of Michigan, and an MBA from Purdue University.
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Jessica Rovello is the CEO and co-founder of Arkadium, which provides interactive, visual content to more than 450 of the world’s best-known brands and publishers. Founded in 2001, Arkadium has developed products ranging from games (notably Microsoft Solitaire Collection, one of the most played games of all time) to dynamic editorial tools allowing journalists to embed visual data and interactive content in their articles. Previously, at just 24, she pioneered modern digital viral marketing when she produced the website for The Blair Witch Project. A fierce proponent of evergreen business building and living a full life, Jessica was recently featured on the cover of Inc. magazine. She lives in NYC with her husband and three sons.
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Jason Fried thinks deeply about collaboration, productivity, and the nature of work. He is the co-founder and CEO at Basecamp and co-author of Rework, Remote: Office Not Required, Getting Real, and the recently released, It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work. You can get to know Jason before he takes the Summit stage through his TED Talk, Get Real Column for Inc. and Basecamp’s Signal v. Noise blog.
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Nicole Sahin’s mission is to make it easy for any company to expand into any country as easily as they hire team members in the United States. Her current focus is building the world’s most competent and trustworthy Global PEO to meet the standards of the company’s Fortune 500 clients. She led Globalization Partners to a ranking of No. 33 on the 2017 Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing private companies in America, No. 6 on the 2016 Inc. 500 list, has been named Entrepreneur of the Year in New England, and has won numerous awards for breaking the traditional corporate mold by building a nationally-recognized company culture.
Prior to launching Globalization Partners, Nicole was a Managing Director at High Street Partners, a firm which provided international HR, tax, legal, and compliance services to CFOs, HR Directors, and General Counsel of fast-growing technology companies establishing subsidiaries and hiring in dozens of countries. Via her experience advising companies ranging from Tesla to HID Global on their international expansions, Nicole founded Globalization Partners to create a legal and technology platform that eliminated the need for companies to set up branch offices and subsidiaries in multiple jurisdictions prior to expanding their global sales footprint.
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Jim Hume is the Founder and Principal of Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Phire Group: a brand research + articulation + activation company. Phire is a fiercely independent agency focused on transforming organizations’ brands, their cultures, and their customers’ experiences. Using the power of research, community, and creativity, they help unleash brands that inspire and impact. With a focused and purposeful team of 25 all-stars, Phire Group has a wide range of experience working with clients ranging from Fortune 100 companies to startups in consumer goods, healthcare, technology, education, business-to-business, the arts, and more.
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Jeff Liscum is an executive business coach and co-founder of Prism Perspective Coaching, specializing in entrepreneurial business owners and leadership teams. Jeff’s expertise lies in combining a client’s Gallup Builder Profile and CliftonStrengths results for targeted professional development and intentional business growth through the lens of his client’s unique talents. With a previous career in advertising and marketing development, Jeff provides the most authentic and individualized experience for each of his clients, as he knows the importance and impact of a tailored growth plan.
In addition to his executive clients, Jeff contributes to the betterment of his coaching colleagues by administering his custom Builder Profile + CliftonStrengths comprehension workshops. Training certified coaches around the country hones his craft while encouraging the growth and continued development of his field. Jeff received his BP10 coaching certification through Gallup, Inc. and his CliftonStrengths training through Strength Strategy Coaching Certification.
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Michael is Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Big Path Capital, a leading boutique, impact investment bank focused on providing Corporate Finance, M&A, and Placement Agent services to impact companies and funds globally. Big Path has worked with over 150 impact and sustainable companies and funds, more than any firm in the sector. In 2007 the old economy driven by the single gear of profit maximization reached a dead end in the financial crisis. It was a moment of reckoning during which Michael left his fifteen-year career in private equity to form Big Path Capital with his partner, Shawn Lesser, leveraging the engine of capitalism for an expansive economy built on natural, social, and financial capital.
Recognizing that impact investing isn’t just a different way of investing but a superior way of deploying capital, Michael is committed to challenging the status quo and to raising the expectation of capital. In this vein, Big Path has created a number of first-in-class initiatives including the Five Fund Forum, Impact Capitalism Summits, and Impact & Sustainable Trade Missions. Michael received his BA summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa from the University of the South in Sewanee, TN and received a joint MBA and MEM (Master of Engineering Management) from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University.
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Heidi Convery is a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach and founder of Flourish LLC, a strengths-based coaching firm focused on putting purpose back in the workplace. Through high energy retreats and intentional one-on-one coaching, Heidi ignites purpose and value in your team where complacency might be looming.
Heidi specializes in improving Business-to-Business connections by aiding your team in understanding the unique Strengths of your business partners and how to tailor communication for intentional relationship development. With a previous career in university administration, she also has in depth experience in motivating Millennial and Centennial employees. Heidi maintains a selective number of executive clients for management-based Strengths coaching – understanding how an individual’s Strengths motivate and discourage the growth of his/her business and people.
Heidi is a co-author of the Amazon International Best Seller, “Turning Talents into Strengths: Stories of Coaching Transformations.” She holds a B.A. in French, an M.Ed. in University Administration, and CliftonStrengths Coaching Certification from Gallup, Inc.
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Corey is the publisher of Conscious Capitalism Press, the founder and CEO of Round Table Companies (RTC), and a speaker, artist, and storyteller. He previously starred in one of the 50 greatest Super Bowl commercials of all time (Mountain Dew, Bohemian Rhapsody), has won 15 independent publishing awards, and has been featured on the cover of the Wall Street Journal as well as in the New YorkTimes, USA Today, Inc. Magazine, Forbes, and Wired. Corey is the creator of the Vulnerability Wall and the Vulnerability is SexyTM card game. His documentary of the same name won 2017 ADDY and HERMES awards for branded content.
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Steven Dyme is the Co-Founder & CEO of Flowers for Dreams, a socially conscious flower company named one of Business Insider’s 20 Most Inspiring Companies in America (2012). Every bouquet his company sells benefits an amazing local charity in Chicago, Milwaukee, and soon Detroit. To date, they’ve donated over $400,000 from the sale of flowers.
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I’m the CEO of Know Your Team. My life’s mission is to help people become happier at work.
I write regularly on leadership at the Know Your Team blog, and have been published in Harvard Business Review, Business Insider, CNBC, Inc, Fortune, among others. I speak internationally on how to create more open, honest work environments. I teach as an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at my alma mater, Northwestern University.
People matter to me, most of all. I love my family and friends. I also enjoy painting, yoga, cooking, and any project that requires a pencil.
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Jana specializes in helping people magnify what they’re passionate about and connecting them to resources and people. In her work at Trebuchet Group, she uses her extensive background in organizational management and marketing to help companies get clarity around where they need to go and the confidence to find the right path to get there. She creates and delivers workshops and keynotes on leadership and entrepreneurship, and gets delighted when people realize they need more healthy conflict to accomplish great things.
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Since 2002, hundreds of leaders have trusted Chris Hutchinson and Trebuchet Group to help them achieve great accomplishments through creating great teams. Chris brings together real-world experience and understanding to support leaders who feel the weight of their company on their shoulders, and are frustrated by teams not achieving their potential. Chris wrote Ripple: A Field Manual for Leadership that Works in 2015 to help leaders increase their personal impact and create long lasting results.
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For the past eleven years Blair Kellison has been the CEO of Traditional Medicinals, a mission driven, organic and fair trade botanical wellness company based in Sonoma County, CA.
Traditional Medicinals purpose since its founding in 1974 has been to connect people to the power of plants to change lives through its social business model. This business model has enabled the company to continually be in a leadership position on social and environmental sustainability practices. This philosophy
coupled with the Company’s financial sustainability has resulted in five decades of commercial success and created a truly sustainability organization. The Company is now the 4 th largest bagged tea company in North America.
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Hamsa is a business leader who is passionate about people, process and growth. She grew up in Baghdad, Iraq, moving to the U.S in 1991. Her first language is Arabic, and she speaks English and Spanish. Hamsa received her bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Wayne State University and her MBA from Walsh College. After college, Hamsa worked for an immigration agency to help refugee and asylee populations assimilate into the US, learn English, and find employment. She then joined Walsh College as their first international student advisor where she helped recruit, admit and counsel over 400 international students over a period of 9 years. In her four years at Mango Languages, Hamsa recruited and mentored many employees, providing outstanding leadership. She was promoted to the COO/Integrator role in 2012, and helped lead Mango to its most successful year in 2014.
Paul Spiegelman is the co-founder of the Small Giants Community, a peer-group of purpose-driven business leaders. He is the former chief culture officer of Stericycle, the co-founder and former CEO of BerylHealth and the founder and chairman of The Beryl Institute.
Paul is a New York Times best-selling author and has been honored with the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award.
Paul is a sought-after speaker and author on leadership, employee engagement, entrepreneurship, culture, and leading a purpose-driven life. He has made many radio and TV appearances and his views have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, and he is currently a columnist for Forbes.com.
Paul practiced law for two years prior to starting BerylHealth. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from UCLA and a law degree from Southwestern University.
Bo Burlingham is the author of Small Giants: Companies That Choose To Be Great Instead of Big (Portfolio, 2006) and an editor-at-large of Inc. Magazine. Bo joined Inc. in January 1983 as a senior editor and became executive editor six months later, a position he held for the next seven years or so. In 1990 he became editor-at-large for a number of reasons, including his desire to go back to writing. He subsequently wrote two books with Jack Stack, the co-founder and CEO of Springfield Remanufacturing Corp. and the pioneer of open-book management. One of the books, The Great Game of Business, has sold more than 300,000 copies. The other, A Stake in the Outcome, has also done pretty well and gotten great reviews.
Before joining Inc., Bo freelanced for various publications, including Esquire, Harper’s, Boston Magazine, and Mother Jones. Bo was also managing editor of Ramparts magazine. In 1982, he joined Fidelity Investments, where he wrote for Peter Lynch, Ned Johnson, and other honchos until coming to Inc. From 1992 to 1997, he served on the board of The Body Shop Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of the international cosmetics company. He was also a founder, with Tom Peters, of PAC World, a weird international networking group that gave him a chance to meet a lot of zany—and brilliant—people from around the globe.
Jillian received her B.A. in Sociology and Creative Writing from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI in 2012. She graduated with honors from U of M’s Residential College. For over four years, Jillian has worked as a freelance writer, working with a range of diverse clients to provide creative, high-quality writing, editing, and social media services. Jillian partners with brands to elevate their messaging, strengthen their voice, and create consistent, powerful copy. From managing Chevrolet’s social media to helping a small, bean-to-bar chocolate company market their mission, her experience runs the gamut. She is excited to work with the Small Giants Community to tell the incredible stories of its leaders and promote their philosophies the world over. Outside of her daily work, Jillian loves to write and read short fiction and essays. She’s a lifelong Michigander and the proud owner of a very dysfunctional – but very cute – shih tzu.
Jason jumps in wherever he’s needed, from publications, videos, infographics, logos, videos, web design and development. For eleven years, he served as Creative Director for a group of small businesses. In 2012 he started Armour Creative, his own creative services and solutions business. Jason is passionate about corporate culture and is a co-author of Smile Guide: Employee Perspectives on Culture, Loyalty, and Profit, has spoken on a panel about customer service at Inc. 500|5000, and his corporate-culture videos have been featured in the Wall Street Journal. Jason loves to travel the world with his wife, typically backpacking or camping, and making it up as they go along.
After earning her B.A. in French Literature from Oakland University, Rachel joined the colorful language-learning company Mango Languages. Within three years, Rachel transitioned into the role of Marketing Director, leading overall brand and creative strategy and implementing a full company rebrand.
Ready for her next challenge, Rachel moved to imageOne, a document lifecycle management company and all-star Small Giant, to lead its marketing department. There, she experienced what it felt like to work for an organization that radiates the six qualities of a Small Giant (spoiler: it’s an amazing feeling!).
Motivated by her inner space geek, Rachel then joined the team at the Michigan Science Center, marketing the Detroit-based science museum and inspiring curious minds of all ages to appreciate the cosmos.
Rachel loves to bake, binge watch Star Trek, and spend time in Montréal.