BROOKE BEASON | VML
Papermaking traces its roots to the 2nd century B.C. So in a digital world, you can probably guess how much utility Brooke Beason, a digital insights analyst at VML, sees in a business card. A Twitter profile? That’s another story. Known to her co-workers as a “knowledge junkie,” she understands the raw marketing power unleashed by monitoring, researching, and analyzing data and trends in an electronic world. In her words, she’s “a digital native who believes in online engagement, utility and digital anthropology.” Combine that savvy with an innate passion for commerce—her childhood friends played “house” while Brooke was setting up “business”—and you get a 25-year-old mix of achievement and vision. The Northwest Missouri State graduate [major: Interactive Digital Media, naturally] is on the planning committee for the “Give Us a Gig!” effort to maximize the potential of the Google Fiber project in Kansas City, and is active in the Social Media Club in town. Her favorite quote, which dovetails with her career choice, is from Charles Dickens: “It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”
RYAN BENNETT | IdleSmart
The classic profile of an entrepreneur is of someone who, like the phoenix, rises from the ashes of one venture to fly again. Ryan Bennett’s spin on that tale was LIV, a Web site he hoped would aggregate social-media interests of consumers into one easily-managed tool. He founded it in 2009, and made a go of it for two years, but it wasn’t meant to be. Still, he says, “it was a tremendous experience that I am happy I went through.” So, too, must be the leadership at IdleSmart, where Bennett applies lessons learned to his role as vice president of product and marketing. IdleSmart is a device that helps eliminate diesel-engine idling times by up to 70 percent. Meeting a need in an era of $4-a-gallon truck fuel, it fits nicely into the 26-year-old’s vision of entrepreneurship. In that vision, profit is not a four-letter word; new wealth can improve existing products or inspire new ones, create jobs, and pay social dividends in the form of money, time savings and knowledge. “That all starts with one person saying, ‘There must be a better way,’ and finding a way to make that dream a reality,” he says.
GEORGE BROOKS | CremaLab
Sure, you know Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. But have you mastered Ruby on Rails, iOS, jQuery or Appcelerator? George Brooks and his crew at CremaLab have all those in their digital toolkit, and more. Their skills with on-line messaging have landed some big client fish—mature organizations like the Kauffman Foundation, the University of Kansas and Saint Luke’s Health System; younger fry like LifeTiles, Zaarly and Startup Weekend. Entrepreneurial zeal, Brooks says, allows his team to reshape the concept of “work” from the ground up, whether the work involves Web-site creation, iPhone apps or creating what he calls a company that people love to work for. After five years with Birch Telecom in Emporia, Kan., Brooks came to the Kansas City area and worked as a multimedia project manager before founding CremaLab in 2007. Five years later, it’s still going strong, and over the next five, he says, his team will continue “spreading the word nationwide that KC is the go-to place to launch the next big thing.”
JESSICA CULPEPPER | Creative Planning
She was all of 23 when she became director of financial planning for Retirement Plus, Inc. Three years after the Leawood firm merged into Creative Planning, Jessica Culpepper oversees more than $125 million in assets and is responsible for training and development of new wealth managers at the firm. In that role, she channels the inspiration of Creative’s president, Peter Mallouk, to help populate a staff programmed to seek out ways “to improve the company, our processes and our client experiences.” Success is part of her DNA: She sailed through Missouri State University with a degree in accounting, then picked up an MBA at UMKC’s Bloch School of Business, never recording less than an “A” in her coursework over those five years. Now both a CPA and certified financial planner, she works to help address the financial, investment, insurance, tax and estate-planning needs of clients, “many of whom are local business owners and top professionals in their fields,” she said.