20 Under 30 Class of 2011

Meet 417-land's brightest, youngest up-and-comers.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this article was fact checked and accurate at press time, but 417 Magazine cannot guarantee its accuracy indefinitely.

Are you ready to meet the 2011 class of 20 Under 30? They are bright, brilliant young professionals with a deep passion for the work that they do. They are the up-and-comers in 417-land, with names you’ll probably be hearing for years to come. Readers nominated their co-workers, employees and friends for the honor early this year, and the editors narrowed down the (very impressive) pool of potentials to this list of the top 20. So read on to find out how this group of 20 individuals could collectively accomplish so much, at such a young age.


Click here to read about last year's class!

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From left: Virginia Datema, Luke Kuschmaeder, Elsie Flannigan, Christian Mechlin, Seth Elliott

Virginia Datema, 27

Senior Relationship Educator and Training Mentor, Operation Us Grant

“The goal of the grant is to help people form healthy relationships and benefit the children in our community by helping the parents stay together,” Datema says. Operation Us serves couples and individuals of all ages, including teens, by providing relationship education. “I teach some of those classes,” Datema says. “But I also train teachers to teach classes.”

Datema, who is turning 28 this month, graduated from Missouri State in 2005 with a dual major in psychology and sociology, and she’s completing her master’s degree in counseling. When she graduated in 2005, she immediately got a job at Burrell Behavioral Health with the Early Learning Opportunities Grant. “We focused on social and emotional development for kids birth to age 7,” Datema says.

In November 2006, she started with Operation Us. First she was a training mentor, but she was soon promoted to her current position.

When she isn’t working, Virginia Datema still has plenty on her plate. “One of my major activities is with Pet Therapy of the Ozarks,” she says. “I’m a volunteer with my dog, Angus, a gold retriever. We go to nursing homes and schools and other community organizations and events to provide comfort through pet therapy.” She and Angus have been involved with Pet Therapy of the Ozarks for about a year.

Through school, she’s the president of the student counseling organization, Helpers United Together, which does a lot of community service and volunteer work for other organizations.

Ozarks Marriage Matters, sister organization to Operation Us, is a community healthy marriage initiative that Datema volunteers for. “We do a lot of community events like bridal fairs and the women’s show to get information out about healthy marriage in the community,” Datema says.

Another organization that Datema cares about and is involved in is the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE). “My husband and I hosted a foreign exchange student from the Czech Republic last year and kind of fell in love with the whole process,” Datema says. “After we hosted, I began working with the organization as a local coordinator. I help find placements for students and support the families and students during the exchange process. International exchange is definitely something I think is valuable not only to the students but also to the communities that host them.”

And finally, Datema has recently started working with Violence-Free Families. Violence-Free Families is made up of several organizations that come together to help with violence prevention. “We work together to do donation drives to supply violence shelters with the things they need, like feminine hygiene products, hair care products and clothing,” Datema says.

What Keeps You Up at Night?
“Continuation. That’s a really big part of this job. The grant is going to end in September, so how do we continue the work that we started? Not only to have a job but also because it’s so beneficial, and we don’t want our community to lose out.”

What Gets You Going in the Morning?
“Literally my dog! He wakes me up in the morning. I guess I’m a morning person. I don’t like to just lie around and do nothing. I definitely don’t dread going to work. It’s something that’s exciting and fulfilling to me.”

Why Are You a 20 Under 30?
“I think because my job is pretty unique. Relationship education isn’t a new thing, but not a lot of people know about it. Not only am I young and doing something that’s valuable in the community but it’s also just a pretty cool job.”

Luke Kuschmeader, 29

President and co-founder, Küat Innovations, LLC

If you think all bike racks are created equal, then you don’t think like Luke Kuschmeader. Kuschmeader has been a cyclist since 2000, when he fell in love with the sport. In 2004, he and his former business partner came up with the concept of an aluminum bike rack that’s less cumbersome than other similar products on the market—and less utilitarian in its appearance. They started to sketch out their ideas. “We made prototypes, which turned out horribly, but we pushed on,” he says. In 2007, they came out with their first two Küat models: Alpha and Beta.

“We put a lot of emphasis in design,” Kuschmeader says. “We’re on the upper end of bike racks and are branching off into luggage carriers and ski racks, and we integrate a lot of features that most people haven’t thought to do.” Features like aluminum construction that reduces weight by up to 50 percent, a wedge in the receiver that takes the wobble out of the rack, and a platform rack with an integrated repair stand for maintenance and hauling. You probably won’t see Küat’s rooftop luggage racks and ski racks until early 2012, but they are a sign that the innovative Springfield-based company is growing.

Küat bike racks are sold at all the local bike shops in Springfield. “Our primary customer is specialty bikes shops—like A&B Cycle—all over the United States, Canada, Costa Rica, the Philippines,” Kuschmeader says. “And we just opened up a distributer in Australia.”

When Kuschmeader isn’t managing his company’s six employees, he uses his spare time to get involved in the cycling community. “I’m on the board of directors for Volunteers for Outdoor Missouri,” he says. “It’s a local organization that’s dedicated to building and maintaining trails in southwest Missouri. Cycling is a big part of my life, and I want to do what I can to support it.” He was also one of the founding members of Missouri Off-Road Cyclists, a club of mountain bikers. Küat also sponsors cycling events that benefit local non-profits, such as the MS150 and diabetes and breast cancer awareness rides.

What Keeps You Up at Night?
“Sometimes it’s the day-to-day stuff. The thing I enjoy keeping me up at night is if we’re working on a new product and trying to figure out how to make it unique.”

What Gets You Going in the Morning?
“I’m excited to get to work and keep growing the company. It’s something that I’ve been a part of since the beginning, and it’s a huge part of my life.”

Why Are You a 20 Under 30?
“I guess the people that nominated me know how hard I’ve worked for this. I’m passionate about the company, and I want to see us do great things.”

Elsie Flannigan, 28

Owner, Red Velvet

If you frequent Commercial Street, you’ve probably popped into Elsie Flannigan’s boutique, Red Velvet. It’s a sweet little spot that sells vintage clothing and housewares.

Where Flannigan has made a name for herself far beyond Springfield is on her blog, elsiecake.com. “I started it for fun, for family and friends,” she says. “It has become a really big part of my full-time job.” Flannigan describes elsiecake.com as a lifestyle blog, and it’s where she talks about her life, her store, her passions and fashion. But unlike everyone else’s blog (which, let’s be honest, is only read by Mom, Dad and four super-friends), Flannigan’s blog reaches readers that are scattered all over the world. She has between 25,000 and 35,000 readers each day, and they are primarily women between the ages of 18 and 32. They get out-of-town readers who visit Red Velvet as they pass though Springfield. Red Velvet and elsiecake.com are closely linked. “A big part of my blog is sharing my experience of being an entrepreneur, a young boutique owner,” she says. “It’s kind of a dream job for a lot of American women, opening some kind of independent business.”

Elsie Flannigan opened Red Velvet (then called Red Velvet Art) at its original location in 2009, but last autumn it relocated to a larger space. “Now my sister, Emma Chapman, is doing a cupcake shop with me inside our boutique,” Flannigan says. “It’s called the Red Velvet Sweet Shop.” With a mini-eatery that also serves bubble tea inside Red Velvet, the store has become more of a destination spot. “Now, it’s more of an experience where women can have a girly afternoon together, and there’s a lot more to do.” This year, she’s launching a Red Velvet line of ‘50s- and ’60-inspired dresses that she designed.

When she isn’t working at Red Velvet or on her blog, Flannigan spends a lot of time planning her upcoming wedding and doing a lot of vintage shopping (but much of that is for the store). She is originally from Springfield, and prior to opening Red Velvet she designed a line of scrapbooking products called Love, Elsie and even published a couple of books. Her creativeness naturally progressed into the business that she has today, and she quit scrapbooking to open Red Velvet.

What Keeps You Up at Night?
“I’m always thinking of ideas and clothing and dresses and accessories and things that we can do, so I sleep with a little notebook next to me.”

What Gets You Going in the Morning?
“I feel like having a job or creating a job that is my favorite thing to do in the world has been the best decision I ever made in my life.”

Why Are You a 20 Under 30?
“Taking a lot of risks in my twenties with my business is something that I’m really proud of. I’m thankful that that has paid off, but there were no guarantees in the beginning.”

Christian Mechlin, 27

Professor of Animal Law, Drury University and USPTR-Certified Tennis Professional

Christian Mechlin teaches animal law through a fairly new program at Drury University that’s endowed by Drury graduate Bob Barker. The program, Forum on Animal Rights and Ethics, is the first undergraduate program in the nation to focus on animal rights and animal issues. Mechlin, a 2009 graduate of University of Missouri School of Law, teaches the legal component: Animal Law 1. He put together the curriculum for the first level of animal law to help grow the forum course into a major.

When he isn’t working, Mechlin volunteers. He’s the legal committee chair for the Springfield Homelessness Task Force. “It started out as working with the homelessness task force and identifying legal issues the community faces trying to help the homeless in the area,” he says. Now, he works with the Springfield police chief to set up an officer training program so police officers will know about resources available in Springfield to help homeless people. He’s also on the Springfield Little Theatre Associate Board, which is in charge of fundraising for the theatre and planning the annual Little Theatre Big Party event. “I’m not at all theatrically inclined,” Mechlin says. “But I’ve always enjoyed the Little Theatre. I’ve been going there as long as I can remember.”

Christian Mechlin has been playing tennis since he was just 8 years old. He used to play in tournaments, but lately he is focused on coaching. “When I first moved back to Springfield, two guys that I had taken tennis with in the past were the pros at Hickory Hills Country Club,” Mechlin says. He joined them there and taught for a few months, but then he decided it was time to go ahead and get certified through the United States Professional Tennis Registry. He went through a course, took skills and knowledge tests and was ultimately certified as a professional (the highest of three levels of certification). Now, he’s teaching tennis to all ages at Hickory Hills Country Club. “My youngest is 7, and I go all the way up to adults,” he says. Luckily, having both teaching and coaching on his plate isn’t too overwhelming. “Both things afford me a flexible enough schedules that I can do both and not feel too stressed out,” he says.

What Keeps You Up At Night?
“Lesson plans, be it or tennis or for Drury. If anything keeps me up, it’s that. Or the cat.”

What Gets You Up in the Morning?
“Usually just not knowing what the day holds. With teaching and volunteering, every day is just kind of an interesting challenge.”

Why Are You a 20 Under 30?
“I think that Springfield is as good as we make it, and I’ve kind of tried to dedicate myself to making it a little bit better.”

Seth Elliott, 26

General manager, southside Parlor 88; Co-owner, eastside Parlor 88

When Seth Elliott was going to school at Missouri State, he starting working at Ernie Biggs as a bartender. It wasn’t long before he added the job of manager at Planet Smoothie. When Elliott was just out of college, Parlor 88 co-owner Paul Sundy asked Elliott to run the bar’s first location when it opened in August 2007. Since then, he’s been in charge of the bar-slash-restaurant’s day-to-day operations, hiring and firing, events, promotional marketing and… just about everything. His hard work paid off when a second location of Parlor 88 opened in Springfield, and Elliott became one of the co-owners. He still oversees the southside location, but he’s general manager for the eastside location. “I make sure it’s run the way I’d want to run it,” he says. Elliott is also an active member of Rotaract and is on the Rock’n Ribs committee.

On Motivation: “I’m motivated also to work for myself. I don’t know if I could work for very many people. It’s nice when you can be your own boss, especially if your disciplined and know what have to do to get job done.”

On Working at Parlor 88: “I very rarely know what to expect when I’m coming to work. It’s ever-changing. That’s why I love it. I don’t’ sit at a desk. I come in and meet people and talk to tables having good people skills has allowed me to do that.”

What Keeps You Up at Night?
“The day-to-day operations. I’m a perfectionist. I don’t like to do anything wrong. If we have catering job, I want to make sure kitchen guys and staff have done the necessary jobs to make sure we exceed and do a very good job.”

What Gets You Going in the Morning?
“Every day is a new day. I rarely have a set schedule. I don’t have a staff meeting at 8 or anything, which I love. I guess if anything happens it all falls back on me. Good or bad, I take the rap for it. I want to make sure everything is done the way I’d want it done.”

Why Are You a 20 Under 30?
“My mindset and mentality. I’ve always been business-savvy since I was a kid. I owned a lawn care and landscape business called Lawn Care Etc., and I kept it for a few years in college.”

From left: Nathan Zoromski, Jenny Fromme, Tyson Johns, Layton Russell, Jackson Hunt

Nathan Zoromski, 26

Youth Advocate, Southwest Center for Independent Living

Nathan Zoromski’s job with Southwest Center for Independent Living allows him to provide an array of programs and services for people with disabilities in the Ozarks. “I work solely with our youth population, and that involves facilitating an after-school life-skills program and recreational and social events,” Zoromski says. He also goes into schools on a daily basis to work with special-education students on life skills, and he does a lot of individualized education program plans for special education students. Outside of work, Zoromski is a Rotaract member and helps plan Casino Night and the city-wide yearly Rotary meeting. He volunteers with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

Zoromski is currently working toward a master’s in public administration at Missouri State. But his bachelor’s degree from Iowa State is in finance, an industry in which he worked for just a year before he realized it wasn’t aligned with his passions; he wanted a more selfless career path where he could help his community.

On his antique booth: “I run an antique booth on the side at Relics, so I’m always thinking of new ways to make that better. When I buy stuff to resell, I kind of buy things that I’d want to own. A lot of it has historical significance in regard to the Ozarks and history. They’re things people would enjoy having as a talking piece in their home. We call it the Carter Michael Collection. It’s named after our son.”

Through his work, Zoromski works on several committees that all aim to improve life and resources for people in the Ozarks with disabilities. Here’s a sample of those committees:

1.    Regional Transition Network. This group is geared to help high school students with disabilities transition into adulthood
2.    Missouri Rehabilitation Association Southwest Chapter
3.    Regional Advisory Council Springfield Regional Office
4.    REALL Program. This is a program out of OCAC that works with teens. It is developing an interactive curriculum to help teens with or without disabilities experience real life. It’s kind of like a mock simulation. Different stations and booths represent employment, paying the bills, etc. and students are exposed to what life is really like after high school and help them manage those different aspects of adulthoods.
5.    Special Education PTA. Zoromski’s company hosts all of their meetings, and he is a member of the board.

What Keeps You Up at Night?
“I have trouble turning off my brain at night. It’s always constantly active. I’m always trying to be creative in improving my programs.”

What Gets You Going in the Morning?
“Seeing [my son] Carter. He is the happiest baby in the morning. It never fails that he has a smile from ear to ear when I see him the morning.”

Why Are You a 20 Under 30?
“I guess I’m very concerned about the well-being of our community, especially in regard to youth and youth with disabilities.”

Jenny Fromme, 29

Owner, Happy Tails Doggie Daycare & Boarding

Jenny Fromme was only 23 when she bought Happy Tails Doggie Daycare & Boarding. She started working at the company when she was in high school, and now she’s in charge of her three employees, a 6,000-square-foot facility and 60 kennels for dogs of all sizes. There are supervised play times each day where the dogs get to mingle and run around together.

Happy Tails finds ways to give back to the community through auctions at non-profit fundraisers; they donate gift certificates. They’ve supported the Killuminati Foundation, Go Red For Women, the Alzheimer’s Association, Boys & Girls Town, H.O.P.E. Sertoma and more.

On owning a business: “I love what I do,” Fromme says. “It’s stressful though. Running the business is a lot of work. It’s a little more stressful tan I thought it would have been, but six years later it’s all routine to me. Some people think if you own a business you pay other people to do the work for you, but that’s not how it is. We have some days when I don’t stop moving for 10 hours straight. It can be exhausting, but it’s rewarding. It’s fun.”

On fostering: “I do a lot to try and promote the Killuminati Foundation and the Boxer Schnauzer Rescue of the Ozarks. We promote Bark Partners for Killuminati. They assign each person a different dog to promote every month. We put stuff up on Happy Tails’s Facebook page, put up fliers in the lobby, do social networking stuff, send out mass e-mails. Anything to get pictures circulating to get dogs adopted.”

What Keeps You Up at Night?
“My brain doesn’t really shut off, so I have a constant to-do list that’s always in my head. I tend to obsess about finding new marketing ideas.”

What Gets You Going in the Morning?
“I’m a really obnoxious morning person. My alarm goes off and I wake up ready to go. Every day is different. You never know what’s going to happen around here.”

Why Are You a 20 Under 30?
“I suppose someone thinks that I do good things. I try to give back to the community in the only ways that I know how to.”

Tyson Johns, 28

Chief Financial Officer, Corporate Business Systems

Tyson Johns, CPA has a two-fold job as CFO at Corporate Business Systems. He manages the entire accounting staff, but he also closes out quarterly financials, meets with vendors and works with loans and lines of credit. “When we look to expand or to go into new markets, I’m the one that’s usually putting together the financials in terms of looking at revenue growth and correlating expenses,” Johns says.

Originally from Kirksville, Johns moved here for school in 2001. He majored in finance and accounting and earned a master’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in accounting, both from Missouri State. “When I graduated college with my master’s, I got my CPA license and was an auditor for BKD,” Johns says. He took a leap of faith when an opportunity arose at Corporate Business Systems, and it has worked out well.

Outside of work, Johns is a member of Rotaract and also volunteers in the gift-wrapping booth for DCO through his company. He also sat on the advisory board with Vatterott College, helping the school decide how to shape its curriculum.

After Tyson Johns’s friends adopted two children from Guatamala, they started an organization in Springfield called the Affording Adoption Foundation. The group gives financial assistance to families that have qualified for help and are trying to adopt. This is the organization’s first year. It is still trying to establish itself, but the organizers plan to do some bigger events soon. “They asked me to basically be the CFO on that board, to help with the financial stuff for fundraisers,” Johns says.

What Keeps You Up at Night?
“I spend time thinking at the end of the night if I’m trying to unwind, ‘When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say. ‘I used everything you gave me.’”

What Gets You Going in the Morning?
“I’m just excited. When I wake up the next day, I feel like it’s an opportunity to once again fulfill that motto.”

Why Are You a 20 Under 30?
“I think 20 Under 30 symbolizes to me younger people that have taken steps to set goals and do what it takes to reach them.”

Layton Russell, 22

Owner, Nu Essence Spa

When she was just 18, Layton Russell purchased Nu Essence spa. While other people her age were still reeling from prom and barely considering college majors, she was running a business. She was managing a staff, developing policies and doing just about every job at the spa from receptionist to managerial work. Her parents were entrepreneurs, owners of Russell Cellular, which is a Verizon store. Over the years, she was influenced by their minds for business and worked in several roles at their company. Now, Russell has taken the skills she learned and built her business up to a spa success, and she’s only 22. Outside of work, Russell is a member of the Junior League of Springfield. She serves on two committees for Boys & Girls Town: Diamond Night and Handbags of Hope.

On the motivation to grow: “I continually strive to do better for my business and my employees, as well as my community. I want to feel like I’m striving for something better. I don’t like to settle where I’m at. I guess I get that drive to continuously grow from my parents.”

On getting involved: “I think it’s really important for people my age to get involved in community service at an early age. I think a lot of people don’t know how to get involved. I think it’s really important to do while you’re young and have the energy to put towards it. I’m definitely passionate about children, anything that comes to child neglect an abuse. There’s an alarmingly high rate in this area. That’s why I enjoy Junior League. It’s all about kids. The same with Boys & Girls Town. I think you really have to take care of the kids.”

What Keeps You Up at Night?
“I think about my employees a lot, and I really value having them. I want to make the spa better for them and my clients, so they enjoy where they work.”

What Gets You Going in the Morning?
“New endeavors. I like trying new things out. Seeing what works and what doesn’t, whether that is marketing or new services that we’re trying to do.”

Why Are You a 20 Under 30?
“I would like to think because of how passionate I am about my business as well as the community.

Jackson Hunt, 23

Department chair, Victory Trade School GED Program.

The Victory Trade School is a partner program with The Victory Mission, which reaches out to homeless shelters in Springfield. As a school administrator for the trade school, Jackson Hunt’s students are men between the ages of 20 and 55 who are going back to earn their GEDs. After they get their GED, they go into the culinary trade school. After that, they can go on to college or into the work force. Part of Hunt’s job is coordinating teacher schedules, reading curriculums and schedules and following up on student issues.

Hunt found his way to the Victory Trade School by combining two of his passions: education and missions. He was a music education major at Missouri State (and is currently getting his master’s in education with a focus on urban education online through University of Southern California). He started getting involved in missions at age 16, and he has always had a heart for urban and mission education. Right out of college, he found the Victory Trade School job, and it was a perfect fit. Outside of his Victory Mission job, Hunt is a piano and voice instructor at Pellegrino Music and is about to release his first solo album.

Hunt is a busy guy, and when he’s not working at his full-time job he is a piano and voice teacher at Pellegrino Music, all ages. His piano skills came in handy at The Tower Club as well. He was working there as a server when the piano player quit, so Hunt stepped in from August 2009 to January 2010 and was the youngest piano player at The Tower Club.
He’s also getting ready to release his debut album as a singer/songwriter. He compares his style to Coldplay or Ben Folds and has been working on self-producing his first album, The Verge, for two years. He expects it to be released around May or during the summer. “For me, I’ve always been someone who feels the need to change things. I’m kind of provocative. I always want to change the systems. That’s how my music is. I want it to be different and provocative in the sense that it’s pop music but well-cultured with stuff that I’ve learned.”
Mission trips are something that Jackson Hunt regularly took before he began working full time at the Victory Trade School. If he can raise the funds to do it, he might head out on a mission to Africa this summer. Here's where he's been
1.    Morocco: Hunt spent a week in a Muslim homestay learning about Arab culture. Then he worked with an organization in Morocco to learn about micro-loan financing.
2.    Kenya: Taught, preached and did Bible training.
3.    Southeast Asia: Hunt worked in prison ministry in Thailand, then taught at a girl’s orphanage in Thailand. In Laos, he worked with Saffron Coffee, teaching people to stop growing opium and start growing coffee, so they could use agriculture as sustainable income.
4.    Guatemala: He helped rebuild a hospital.
5.    China: This was a scouting trip; Hunt did not do missionary work.

What Keeps You Up at Night?
“With work, I want to make the world a better place. When I feel like I’m not doing enough, that keeps me up. What’s the next thing I can work on?”

What Gets You Going in the Morning?
“When I get up to go to work, I’m like, ‘What can I change in these men’s lives?’”

Why Are You a 20 Under 30?
“I think a lot of people between 20 and 30 are not concerned with getting started with their jobs and getting involved in their community. I think I started early.”

From left: Devon Johnson, Eric Rogers, Angela Garrison, Donnie Rodgers, Houston Brayton

Devon Johnson, 27

Co-Owner, Devo Olive Oil

Devon Johnson saw a niche in our region for a gourmet specialized food store and opened Devo Olive Oil on Branson Landing last summer. The shop sells 60 varieties of extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars that are imported from all over the world. People can sample them all in the store before they buy them, making the shop an experience. Johnson worked in fine dining while she was in college, and she fell in love with food. “I never wanted to open a restaurant,” she says. “And I knew that the specialty gourmet food store was the fasted growing sector in the retail industry.” And thus, passion and good business sense lead to Devo Olive Oil. Johnson has already opened a second outpost of the store in Springfield. Originally at Battlefield Mall, it’s moving to a new spot soon.

“I cook a lot at home,” Devon Johnson says. “It’s my favorite thing to do. I like more savory coking than baking. Bakers are kind of like mad scientists. You can’t correct as you go along.” That cooking passion finds its way into the store, where Johnson says all the employees are home cooks. They appreciate good food, and so they want to sell good food. The pasta is a perfect example of that. Devo sells artisanal pasta in fun flavors ranging from traditional spinach or mushroom to curried carrots or chocolate. “They actually taste like the flavor that’s on the label,” she says. “Sometimes you buy spinach linguine in the grocery store, and it’s just green. It doesn’t taste like spinach. Our pasta is just made with wheat flour, water and the vegetable.” The oils and vinegars are one of a kind, too, coming to Devo from Spain, Greece, Tunisa, France, Italy, Japan, Chili… the list goes on.

In addition to the business-and-customer side of Devo, there’s also a philanthropic edge. Johnson gives back to the community by donating store merchandise for non-profit groups and fundraisers. “I don’t ever want to turn anybody away who wants a bottle of oil and a bag of pasta for a good cause,” she says.

What Keeps You Up at Night?
“Often times it’s wondering what am I’m going to make for dinner tomorrow night. I use our oils and vinegars every day. So I’ll make something, take a photo and put it up on our blog.”

What Gets You Going in the Morning?
“I guess just curiosity about what’s going to happen today. It’s always something fun. We meet a lot of fun people in our store.”

Why Are You a 20 Under 30?
“I think it would have to be because the stores that I’ve opened this past year are something truly unique to this area.”

Eric Rogers, 28

Clinic Manager, Ozarks Community Hospital in Nixa

After majoring in radiology at Missouri State then earning a master’s in education at Drury, Eric Rogers spent two years working as a “nerdy radiology professor” at Cox Hospital. But it was a mobile radiology unit that you might consider his claim to fame. Rogers owned American Mobile Radiology. The first business of its kind in the Midwest, the company provided at-home services to patients who couldn’t get to a hospital. The company grew quickly, and a larger company called Kosma Mobile X-Ray offered to buy it out last fall.
His next move was to his current position as clinic manager for  Ozarks Community Hospital in Nixa. The clinic sees 3,200 patients a month and provides health care services to many Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare patients. “We consider ourselves a safety-net provider,” Rogers says.

Eric Rogers is actively involved in Church of Christ in Ozark. “It’s a smaller congregation, so we do a little bit of everything,” he says. “I preach quite a bit there and at smaller rural congregations throughout the Midwest. I’ve been doing that about 10 years. I’ve done that since about high school.” Rogers even traveled to the Philippines to teach a vacation Bible school and preach there. Rather than take part in a large, organized mission trip, he flew over there by himself. “It was life-changing,” he says. “The Filipino people were extremely hospitable. They have a more pure in their outlook on religion. They wanted to hear the gospel and not a bunch of denominationalism and things like that. There was a real energy for life in general.”

What Keeps You Up at Night?
“Owning and operating your own business, there was a lot of worry.”

What Gets You Going in the Morning?
“The patients. I really enjoy taking care of people.”

Why Are You a 20 Under 30?
“I would say it’s motivation to succeed. Self-motivation. I’ve had a good upbringing from my parents. They’re both from the service industry. So in my upbringing it’s been all about service to other people, and I’m continuing in that pattern right now.”

Angela Garrison, 26

Product Marketing Specialist, St. John’s Research & Development

When new medical technology is developed at St. John’s Research & Development (which does medical research for medical devices), it’s Angela Garrison who gets the word out about it about them through marketing.

Garrison’s career with St. John’s first started in January 2006, when she started an internship in the media relations department. “I absolutely loved it,” she says. “It was fast-paced, and I really loved learning new things every day.” Her internship lasted for a year and a half, and when she graduated from Drury University, St. John’s created a position for her: media relations specialist. She moved to St. John’s Research & Development in November 2010.

When she isn’t working, Garrison is often volunteering. She’s a wish granter (the volunteers who get to do the fun part, making wishes happen) for the Make-a-Wish Foundation and facilitated two wishes last year: Trips to Lego Camp and Disney World. In September, Garrison volunteered as a guardian on an Honor Flight to the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. She was paired with a veteran. “His name was Bill, and he was just fantastic,” she says. “It was an amazing experience.”

On the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety: Angela Garrison got involved with Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety when was interning for St. John’s in 2006. “We did a project called Drive Smart,” she says. “I worked with a local production company on a driving DVD that promotes safe driving. I became passionate about driving safety and highway safety. So I’ve stayed a member of that coalition. It’s really fulfilling. We’re working on two follow-up PSAs covering seat-belt usage and texting.”

On St. John’s Research & Development: St. John’s Research & Development takes everyday problems that physicians or healthcare providers identify and tries to find solutions to those problems. Last year they developed a pediatric surgical table for use during a specific type of cranial surgery on infants.  “It was taking the surgeon and team about 45 minutes to position a child,” Garrison says. “There was no system for doing it. They identified the problem. The process that we go through is so different because the physician is very involved throughout. The team that works on the problem is constantly going back and getting physician input. Then we can test that product right inside the health system. Then we have a finished product. In a university setting, they sometimes never get a finished product. Our motto is: ‘Problem, idea, solution.’”

What Keeps You Up at Night?
“It’s the red light on my Blackberry. I can be dead asleep, and if it blinks it will wake me up.”

What Gets You Going in the Morning?
“Right now it’s being so new in this role. It’s still exciting. And that would probably also be what keeps me up at night. Since this is a new position, the sky is the limit. And I love that, but my brain never shuts off.”

Why Are You a 20 Under 30?
“I would think that it’s because maybe someone saw that I just want to leave everything a little bit better than when I came, whether that’s work or when I volunteer.”

Donnie Rodgers, 28

Community Development Coordinator, Urban Districts Alliance

Donnie Rodgers has a passion for historic neighborhoods. So much so that he’s not only loves living in one but also works—every day—to promote and enhance them.

“I think Commercial Street has the great potential to be a jewel in this community,” he says. “I think it’s important to focus on areas of the community that give us a sense of place and a sense of history. You can’t recreate that.” Rodgers works for Urban Districts Alliance, which coordinates and promotes collaboration between Center City organizations.

In his role as community development coordinator, Rodgers coordinates the UDA website, its social media, press releases and all media promoting—which means he’s getting the neighborhoods and all they offer out in front of the people of Springfield.

Rodgers helps manage the Commercial Street Farmers’ Market, coordinating vendors and day-to-day operations. He also helped get the ball rolling on helping Savor Restaurant apply for Food Network reality TV show The Opener.

Currently, Rodgers is working on getting his master’s in community development online through Kansas State University.

Outside of work, Donnie Rodgers keeps busy with several other community efforts. He is a new member of Rotaract and helps out by volunteering at events. He also volunteers through Boxer/Schnauzer Rescue of the Ozarks and fosters dogs. He has a rescue dog of his own, a mutt.

Rodgers is a resident of the Grant Beach neighborhood, one of the urban neighborhoods that’s closest to Commercial Street. He’s a member of the Grant Beach Neighborhood Association, and he’s part of a subcommittee that looks at building issues, safety and security in the neighborhood. He helps coordinate efforts between the Grant Beach Neighborhood Association and the city of Springfield.

What Keeps You Up at Night?
“I just have a lot of hope for Commercial Street. I stay up with excitement.”

What Gets You Going in the Morning?
“I really enjoy my job. I work with a large, diverse group of people and am able to be a part of the community and working toward a shared vision.”

Why Are You a 20 Under 30?
“I’ve always looked at everything I do as working toward my passions and my loves.”

Houston Brayton, 27

Studio Director, Black Lantern Studios

Black Lantern Studios is an independent third-party game developer. And if you have kids, they have probably played the educational games that the studio creates, such as last year’s successful Sesame Street and Zhu Zhu Pets games. Black Lantern has put out more than 40 games for major gaming consoles. “I’m responsible for the success of the studio,” says Houston Brayton, studio director for Black Lantern. His duties involve everything from HR to finance to sales and even public relations with other companies.

Brayton has had this responsibility for two years now, and prior to that he was the manager of licensing and standards. “I went to college kind of wanting to get into the video game industry, not thinking there was anything in Springfield,” Brayton says. When he heard about Black Lantern, he saw an opportunity to fulfill that goal locally. Brayton, who is turning 28 this month, is originally from Camdenton but got his bachelor’s degree in computer information systems from then–Southwest Missouri State in 2005. He immediately started grad school at Missouri State and earned an MBA.

Houston Brayton and Black Lantern Studios have created several Zhu Zhu Pets games in the past year. Around Christmas 2009, Black Lantern talked to Minneapolis-based companies Game Mill and Activision, co-publishers who had decided to publish a game together. Black Lantern got the job, and the first Zhu Zhu Pets game came out the following Easter. According to Brayton, that game and the Zhu Zhu Pets games that followed have been quite successful. At press time, news had just come out that Black Lantern’s first Zhu Zhu Pets game was ranked among the top 10 Nintendo DS games of 2010. It came in No. 7.

What Keeps You Up at Night?
“I’m so exhausted at the end of the day that nothing keeps me up. I sleep like a rock. You do have to have work-life balance.”

What Gets You Going in the Morning?
“It’s fun to think of the next cool thing we can do with our software development that makes a kid smile or makes them want to learn something.”

Why Are You a 20 Under 30?
“I think I’m part of this list because I’ve been very fortunate and surrounded by a lot of good people. They’ve been extremely helpful in motivating me.”

From left: Travis Tindall, Clay McGee, Amanda Millsap-Owen, Chad Boschert, Katie Davis

Travis Tindall, 28

Architect, Jennifer Wilson Architect, LLC

Travis Tindall has been with Jennifer Wilson Architect, LLC since May 2009, when he started as a project manager. Now, he’s putting his architecture skills to work on some fascinating Springfield projects, often with very green aspects. Currently, he’s working on the a residential project that’s designed to platinum LEED specifications with a net zero energy rating. To achieve those green goals, they are adding a green roof, collecting rain water for use on the property, using many recycled and regional materials and using solar panels for power.

To marry his professional knowledge and community effort, Tindall is a member of the Young Architects Forum and the Springfield Foundation for Architecture. YAF, a subgroup of the local American Institute of Architects chapter, tries to bring architectural awareness to the community by helping organize design competitions and setting up construction tours for young architects. The Springfield Foundation for Architecture is currently archiving the work of Richard Stahl, the only AIA fellow from Springfield. Tindall is also active in the Springfield Sertoma Club and the Young Advocates Council.

Aside from the Chiles Residence, Travis Tindall has worked on other environmentally friendly projects. He was the project designer for the Greene County Archives Expansion. “ That was an addition to the Greene County Archives building,” Tindall says. “It’s the first LEED certified building that I’ve worked on, and it got LEED silver certification.” Currently he’s also working on the Round Barn Event Center project, which is a renovation of an historic barn in Ash Grove. “It’s an interesting octagon-shaped limestone barn that was built a century ago,” Tindall says. “We are renovating that building trying to preserve the barn itself and also add a small addition to make the event center functional.”

When he isn’t working, Tindall likes to be outside. “I’m an outdoorsy kind of guy,” he says. “I’m a hunter. I’m a fisherman. I go camping, canoeing. There are all sorts of rivers in Missouri and Arkansas that I’ve floated.”

What Keeps You Up at Night?
“The designs that I’m working on. Architecture projects can be so complex, and there are so many elements that go into designing a building. You’re constantly thinking about what’s the next step, are there any pieces I need to work on more, things like that.”

What Gets You Going in the Morning?
“The opportunity to come in and start work. I think helping to grow the business is very important. Jennifer and I work very closely together, and really it’s kind of a joint effort keeping the day-to-day operations going.”

Why Are You a 20 Under 30?
“I think it’s because of what I do as an architect and the amount of community service and community involvement that I have.”

Clay McGee, 28

Owner, 1-800-GOT-JUNK and Samurai Sam’s

In August 2005, when he was 22, Clay McGee opened the first Springfield 1-800-GOT-JUNK, a franchise based in Vancouver, British Columbia. “I bought two trucks and basically drove around town helping people clean out their garages and attics and sort through stuff,” McGee says. When the company comes to pick up a load of junk and haul it off for the customer, McGee makes sure the junk gets dispersed through the proper channels. Building materials, tile or lumber go to Habitat for Humanity. Clothing and  household items go to the DAV, Salvation Army, Plaid Door or The Kitchen. They recycle everything they can. “Right now, about 70 percent of everything we collect is diverted from the landfill,” McGee says. 1-800-GOT-JUNK is growing and recently picked up the Branson, Marshfield and Table Rock Lake areas.

Last winter, McGee started his second business when he bought Samurai Sam’s from its previous owner and reopened the restaurant. It’s a teriyaki grill that serves fresh and healthy food. “The average meal is about 520 calories,” McGee says. “It’s all very fresh. It’s the type of food your body knows exactly what to do with.”

Each year 1-800-GOT-JUNK hosts a charity garage sale. “We hang onto some of the higher-end, nicer, more-unique items, so we can use them later in the garage sale,” McGee says. The proceeds from the garage sale are donated to a different charity each year. This year, McGee was able to donate $750 to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. “We’ve done it in the past for Dickerson Park Zoo and Habitat for Humanity,” McGee says. The company also donates gift certificates for silent auctions at charity events.

But McGee’s outreach via 1-800-GOT-JUNK doesn’t end with charities. “One other thing we’re really starting to get good at is keeping an ongoing list of individuals that need things,” he says. “We’ll receive e-mails about a needy family that really could use a washer, or a dryer, or a lawnmower. We’ll take their names and numbers, and if we run across something like that we’ll donate directly to individual families. It’s really fun because you get to interact with people instead of dropping the stuff off on a loading dock.”

What Keeps You Up at Night?
“I’m kind of an idea person. I’ve got a network of other business people that I’m constantly texting or bouncing ideas off. I’ll l find myself up at 2 a.m. because I’ve thought of something and sat up in bed to write it down.”

What Gets You Going in the Morning?
“I have a young family that relies on me pretty heavily, so that’s my major motivation.”

Why Are You a 20 Under 30?
“I got out and got into the business world when I was young, and I hope you guys recognize the passion I have for these businesses. I want to build more businesses that are smart solutions for people who live in southwest Missouri.”

Amanda Millsap-Owen, 29

Owner, Homegrown Food

Just under a year ago, Amanda Millsap Owen opened Homegrown Food, a tiny shop in Springfield that’s devoted to selling local produce. “In the summertime, we’re able to carry 100-percent local produce,” she says. The store also carries local milk and meat, plus rice, flour, granola, marshmallows, jams, pickles, Askinosie chocolate and more. Owen’s roots are in farming (you’ll recognize her family name from Millsap Farms), but she studied theology at Drury and has more of a mind of retail. She was inspired by a shop called The Produce Place that she saw in Nashville while she was at Vanderbilt Divinity School. The store labeled everything and said exactly where it came from. She came back to Springfield and worked at Dynamic Earth until she decided that Springfield needed something like The Produce Store that can bring locally grown food to people who want to know where their food comes from and who realize the value of eating fresh. Homegrown Food has paid out more than $75,000 to local farmers since it opened.

Starting in April, Homegrown Food is starting a delivery program on the Drury university campus, with plans to expand. It’s like farmer’s market made to order. “Drury is really at the forefront of sustainability,” Owen says. “I’m a graduate of Drury, so I had some people who knew what I was doing and were interested in getting involved. MSU has expressed a lot of interest as well.” For now, the food deliver will service students and employees on the Drury campus. Owen has just one employee, so the manpower isn’t there for a huge deliver service. Yet. “We’re going to work with Drury and get a test run out of it,” Owen says. “We’ll get some constructive feedback and then go bigger.”

Homegrown Food is also launching a new website, where users can search by farm to find products they want. “It will allow us to have really small growers list whatever they want,” she says. Right now, it’s tough to deal with the smallest farms because they might not be able to reliably send the store large amounts of produce each week. But with the site, people can shop an individual farm, and farms list what they have available. Owen says: “There’s no fee to join the site. There’s no rigorous examination. It’s based on the honor system. If we have a problem with a grower, we can lock them out. Until we have a problem, it’s a real opportunity for small-time growers.”

Owen is also involved with the slow food movement. Springfield has a Slow Food USA chapter that focuses on introducing people to farming and farm-to-table dinners.

What Keeps You Up at Night?
“My husband and I are expecting a child in June, and that’s just beyond exciting.”

What Gets You Going in the Morning?
“Everything! Spring is here, and we’re going to be eyeball deep in local produce again.”

Why Are You a 20 Under 30?
“I don’t know who nominated me or why, but I’m glad that someone knows what I’m doing and thinks what I’m doing is valuable enough that it’s worth mentioning.”

Chad Boschert, 29

Development Team Lead, PaperWise

A passion for computer programming started early for Chad Boschert, whose high school in St. Charles had a program that allowed him to spend half the day at a technical college his junior and senior years. By the time he graduated high school, he had a computer information systems certificate. Since then, he’s been gaining experience as a programmer in a number of industries with Easy Returns Worldwide, Associated Electric and DataLink. In June 2009, he started at PaperWise in research and development, where he leads a team of peers that’s rewriting the company’s document imaging and workflow software.

What makes Boschert so good at what he does is his passion for programming. He leads the Springfield .NET Users Group, a gathering of local programmers who are interested in Microsoft’s .NET programming language. The group meets once a month, and Boschert is currently president (bringing in outside speakers and local talent).

On Being a Computer Programmer: “We know about computers, but we get to learn about the pharmacy industry. I’ve learned about banks. I’ve learned about power plants. Get to learn about other industries and how they solve problems.  I’m sort of a professional problem solver, and I love that.”

What Keeps You Up at Night?
“Usually it’s something that I’m procrastinating about. Sometimes I have to get up and do it or at least write it down.”

What Gets You Going in the Morning?
“New problems to solve.”

Why Are You a 20 Under 30?
“I think a lot of what it is my involvement in the .NET users group, which is starting to take off over the last year, year and a half.”

Katie Davis, 27

Executive Director, Big Brothers Big Sisters

It’s not every day that you see an executive director of a non-profit as young as Katie Davis. After graduating from college, it was in Davis’s 10-year plan to step into that type of role. “I didn’t think it would happen this fast, but everything sort of fell into place,” says Davis. Davis has been in the executive director role since November, but she has been with Big Brothers Big Sisters much longer than that. She started in the summer of 2006 as a special events intern during a break from school. “It’s really easy to work for an organization with such a great reputation,” she says. “But there are challenges every day. Learning Quickbooks, learning the financials, the HR aspect. They talked about it all in grad school. But putting all that theory into practice is a lot different.”

Davis’s job is one that benefits the community, but she still makes time for other endeavors outside of work. In December, she just rolled off the advisory council for The Network, a group that decides what activities The Network will do. “We’d identify different needs we though young professionals would want to know more about. We got the speakers and guided the direction The Network should go.”

Davis is also active in Rotaract, as the director of public relations. It’s a board position that puts her in charge of making sure that Rotaract is visible in the community. “We do a newsletter,” she says. “I get the website updated with all the new members and just make sure that we’re taking opportunities to recognize our club and its members.” She has been a Rotaract member for two years, and has been director of public relations since July 2010.

What Keeps You Up at Night?
“I wake up all the time thinking about keeping our doors open. It’s just really tough economic times right now.”

What Gets You Going in the Morning?
“Just knowing that I’m making a difference in the lives of children. That sounds cheesy, but it’s really true. That’s why I work as hard as I do.”

Why Are You a 20 Under 30?
“I guess I think I’m a 20 Under 30 because it’s unique for a person my age to be the position that I’m in. Not a lot of executive directors of non-profits are under 30. It’s a lot of responsibility.”

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