Meet the 24 Rising Brand Stars Bringing a New Wave of Energy to Washington, D.C.
From innovative entrepreneurs to global influencers
While most likely think of Washington, D.C., as a simmering cauldron of political intrigue with a smattering of nice museums, the reality is (thankfully) quite a bit more multifaceted.
The nation's capital and its surrounding communities form one of the country's most fascinating and energized regions for entrepreneurship, innovation and global brand leadership—though most locals are probably more proud of the booming creative culture and nightlife.
In the newest installment of Adweek's City Spotlight series, we visit Washington to introduce you to 24 of the professionals who are defining a new generation of leadership, evolving their industries and making sure that a refreshingly diverse range of voices are being heard.
Rekha Patricio, Director of Marketing and Branding, NPR
Rekha Patricio started her career in New York at NBC News but quickly discovered that broadcast TV journalism wasn’t for her and headed to the D.C. area to find her true calling.
Once there, she joined Discovery Communications and worked her way up to manager of U.S. Hispanic Integration. More than two years later, she left to work for the place that had produced “the theme song” of her family’s life, National Public Radio.
Born and raised in Venezuela, Patricio grew up with Spanish as her first language and NPR always on in the background. Overseeing the campaign for NPR’s first Spanish-language podcast, Radio Ambulante, was something very much in her wheelhouse, Patricio says.
In her role at NPR, she has overseen the messaging as the media organization looks to broaden its programming for diverse fans and a new generation of listeners. She was also behind NPR’s largest campaign, Fully Awake, which featured ads on TV, digital and core member station markets.
“We make sure that our existing listeners know they can fall in love with NPR in many different ways, that they make it a daily habit to connect with NPR and lead them to those driveway moments that are going to make them lifelong fans,” Patricio says.
Part of that mission includes passing the joys of NPR on to her three young children.
“There are so many opportunities where we can teach younger kids to be away from screens and just listen,” Patricio says. “Doing that will really help create young minds that are smart and doing great things for the world.”
Dionna Dorsey (Photo credit: Laura Metzler)
Dionna Dorsey, Creative Entrepreneur and Designer
If you live in D.C., you’ve likely seen someone in apparel that has "Dreamer" crossed out and replaced by "Doer.” It has become a local logo in a city full of people who, in many cases, quite literally moved to the city to transition from being dreamers to being doers. Dionna Dorsey sees people wearing her design in real life “almost weekly,” she says. Not to mention how often people post on social media, wearing the design as they share their own ambitions.
Every time she sees her work in the world, Dorsey feels “almost speechless. I don’t know what to say. I’m grateful.” Years ago, the design took shape over dinner with a friend. “I sort of scribbled it out, passed it to my friend and my friend was like, ‘This is amazing.’” It was a visual refrain that had been playing in her mind after years of witnessing a certain pattern. “I kept seeing this ‘dreamer/doer.’ You have breakfast or lunch with someone with these dreams, and the next time you see them, they’re doing them.”
Today, Dorsey runs District of Clothing, which launched in 2014 selling the Dreamer/Doer shirts, and has had high-profile merchandise partnerships with the likes of Planned Parenthood and Washington Area Women’s Foundation. She also runs Dionna Dorsey Design, where she “helps brands to develop and pinpoint a message.”
It was in that capacity, and building on the strength of District of Clothing, that Dorsey was hired to design branding for a project that truly leaves her speechless. Dorsey supplied creative direction, branding, and marketing for the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday, with the anniversary bringing together Civil Rights heroes like John Lewis and political leaders, including President Obama, to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama.
“I strongly believe that imagery, the logo for 'At the Bridge,' was one the best things I’ve ever done,” she says. “As a child, I was told that I need to provide a service, and then I also need to provide a service for my people.”
Molly Catalano, VP of Marketing and Communications, Five Guys
Washington is home to a wide array of global businesses, but relatively few are household names. One notable exception, whose international popularity grows with each year, is Five Guys, the stripped-down burger chain known for its all-American menu and red-white checkerboard motif.
Also famed in the restaurant industry for its dramatic growth—to a sprawling current size of 1,551 locations across 12 countries—without relying on advertising, the chain's unique approach to marketing has long been driven by Molly Catalano, a 13-year veteran of the D.C.-based company.
Five Guys has long been known as a brand that "doesn't advertise," although the chain has warmed to the idea a bit over the years and now spends a relatively small amount of its marketing budget on digital advertising via YouTube, social media and programmatic.
But you still won't see a Five Guys ad on national TV anytime soon. The brand continues to invest the vast majority of its marketing dollars in employee incentives, specifically through a secret-shopper program that rewards all employees of locations that provide good service to anonymous customers hired by the company.
"My job and the direction of marketing has only changed in what's been available to us as marketers," Catalano says, looking back on her lengthy run with Five Guys. "We were against traditional media just because we didn't think we had enough money. We didn't think we could get the best return. We said, 'We think we can use this money to pay our employees more.'"
Lanae Spruce, Jessica Johnson and Ravon Ruffin | Credit: Leah L. Jones.
Lanae Spruce, Jessica Johnson and Ravon Ruffin | Credit: Leah L. Jones.
Lanae Spruce, Jessica Johnson and Ravon Ruffin, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture is many things to many people including, crucially, a digital museum.
What is a “digital museum,” exactly? When Lanae Spruce, a web content and social media specialist, was hired by the Smithsonian in early 2013, she wasn’t sure either. “In the early days, because I was new to the museum world, I had no idea the magnitude of what I was getting into,” she recalls.
In the years since the museum’s web presence launched—well before its doors opened in 2016—being a digital museum has come to mean many things, and Spruce (now manager of social media and digital engagement) has overseen them all: sharing stories from the archives, using “on this day”-style posts to educate, and even providing context on the day’s biggest stories.
Today, the museum’s Instagram has 155,000 followers, its Twitter account has 177,000 followers and 347,000 on Facebook.
As the museum’s digital presence has grown, so has Spruce’s team. Ravon Ruffin and Jessica Johnson both joined in the past two years as social engagement producers. Ruffin’s career is rooted in anthropology and a museum background, including co-founding the Brown Girls Museum Blog. Johnson’s background is in fashion, design and journalism, and she handles analytics. Their team is so effective that they are asked for guidance from other institutions “all the time,” laughs Spruce. As Johnson puts it, “the challenge is to make new things with old things each day,” a challenge to which any museum can relate.
But the impact they are most interested in is not within the museum world. “For a lot of our museum visitor-ship, it is their first time visiting a museum in their lives,” says Spruce. “For social it’s similar, it’s the first time they’ve ever interacted with a museum.”
This is the audience that Spruce, Ruffin and Johnson keep in mind when they work—and in eyeshot. Ruffin says she often reminds herself to go downstairs: “There are people downstairs, [experiencing] the shock and awe of being seen.”
Vicki Poulos, Senior Global Brand Director, Moxy Hotels
Moxy Hotels are anything but ordinary. Vicki Poulos, its senior global brand director, partnered with Upright Citizens Brigade to establish new ways to educate employees on the brand’s service philosophy. Poulos led the design and development of Moxy’s distinctive culture and service training programs.
“Marriott International created Moxy for the socially extroverted, energetic consumer,” she says. “Inclusive and young at heart, Moxy challenges the status quo to show the world what ‘moxie’ really means. From our selfie elevators, check-in at the bar and communal spaces, Moxy Hotels’ various playful elements encourage play and shareable social moments for guests.”
In her role, Poulos is a member of the Distinctive Select brand portfolio’s (AC, Aloft, Element, and Moxy) executive leadership team, where she determines the global brand strategy.
Targeting “next generation” travelers—primarily millennials—in an affordable manner, the chain launched five years ago with quirky experiences unlike typical hotel amenities.
“We have brand programs that appeal to our target consumer—from Moxy Hookups (random acts of awesomeness for guests) to our Blank Canvas (bespoke art program)—that we strive to execute in every hotel and in every market,” Poulos says. “This consistency is truly critical to our success.”
As Moxy’s brand leader, Poulos is tasked with leading the strategic brand development and not only executing it on a global scale but making sure it resonates globally.
“Moxy is either currently growing or has plans to grow in nearly every corner of the world," continues Poulos. “With that in mind, everything we have done—from design, to food and beverage, and finally to talent and training—has been built with both scale and global adaptability in mind. We ask the question of how something will resonate in Tokyo or Chicago in every brainstorm or debate.”
A Chicago native—“but first-generation Greek”—Poulus continues to play an active role in growing the brand internationally, whether it’s beefing up Moxy’s presence in 13 countries across three continents or working on a global marketing strategy that seamlessly transitions from location to location.
Monling Lee, Co-founder, Jumbo
In 2013, architect and designer Monling Lee started an Instagram account as a way to express her colorful sense of style. Inspired by Jim Krause’s Color Index, Lee started choosing palettes from the book and replicating them in her outfits. Over time, she moved away from using the book as a reference and found colors in her natural D.C. environment for inspiration.
“There are different sides to D.C. that are distinct from the federal city that people don’t normally get to see,” she says.
Her work soon grained a loyal following, and her unique sense of style led to her being featured as a suggested user by Instagram. It wasn’t long until brands started paying attention too. Lee began working with the likes of J. Crew and Coach, putting together fun, colorful looks in urban environments.
Lee worked on her account after work and on the weekends, all while holding down her full-time job at a boutique architecture firm. Lee knew she wanted to expand, and in February of this year she did just that, opening design practice Jumbo with longtime friend Justin Donnelly. The duo launched their first furniture collection in February.
"Jumbo is an opportunity for me to more intimately combine architectural design and exploration of color and material," Lee explains. “We want to do poppy, whimsical and playful work.”
In addition to developing their own in-house furniture and objects, the duo will be pursing work in retail environments (like an upcoming pop-up store in Soho) and curating an exhibit on furniture design in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
Jumbo is based in New York, but Lee continues to live and work in D.C.
“D.C. has historically been conservative in a creative sense, whether it’s architecture, design or fashion,” Lee says. “After the recession, it found itself relatively unscathed, and the Obama administration brought in a young, idealistic workforce. The city has really transformed, and it’s exciting to participate in a creative community that’s so supportive.”
Jeremy Gilbert, Director of Strategic Initiatives, The Washington Post
Jeremy Gilbert describes his career path as “an interesting mix of sometimes journalism, sometimes technology and in the lucky occurrences, both.”
His path has included being the managing editor for innovation at The Poynter Institute, teaching at Northwestern University and serving as deputy editor of digital at the National Geographic Society before joining The Washington Post more than four years ago.
As the media industry changes, Gilbert spearheads initiatives to constantly innovate new techniques and mediums for storytelling. That has included everything from creating a VR tour of Mars to machine-generated storytelling.
One of the keys to Gilbert’s innovative work, regardless of one’s industry, is to “look outside of the competition,” he says.
“If you spend all of your time saying, ‘if I can do just slightly better than what other people around me are doing,’ you’re already lost,” he said.
Gilbert has at least half a dozen projects in the works at any given time using talent from throughout the newsroom and sometimes freelancing out work, depending on the skill sets necessary for the task.
His wish list of projects is admittedly long, but that doesn’t hold Gilbert back from constantly thinking of what to take on next and how the industry could further transform.
“I feel pretty lucky," he says. "The Post is big enough to have the resources around development and data science, but is small enough that you can do the experimentation that is so important”
Shelly Bell, Founder, Black Girl Ventures Foundation
Shelly Bell ran her first business idea pitch competition in 2016 out of a house in Southeast D.C. She ran it “like a poetry slam,” and winners received money that was raised at the door. In just the few years since, Black Girl Ventures has grown tremendously in Bell's mission to help other women of color in entrepreneurship find their voices and articulate their dreams.
Bell is the founder of two entities: Black Girl Ventures, which connects black and brown female founders with resources through pitch competitions, workshops and networking events, and I Am Shelly Bell, her own strategic business consulting service.
Bell is committed to making the pitch competitions she organizes safe spaces for women of color to share their ideas and expand their networks. “I’m at the intersection of a lot of things,” she explains. “I’m black, a woman, LGBT, a woman in tech.”
Black Girl Ventures has partnered with Google Cloud for Startups and Bumble Bizz, among others. It has events later this year in D.C., Atlanta and Chicago.
“For the women who are being served,” Bell says, “we’ve created a safer place, and we’ve created a trusted brand.” She has seen women weep with joy when they’ve won BGV pitch competitions.
“We did one at SXSW and the woman who won cried for five minutes,” she recalls. “It’s worth all the work I have to do, all the times I’m head-down, the times I’m making the argument for why we need to be in existence.”
She shares a statistic that keeps her going, too: Nearly 100 percent of the women who have been involved in BGV pitch competitions have gained traction in some way, from acceptance into an accelerator program to connecting with a crucial addition to their network.
Ashley Dellavalle Jung, Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer, Stella Valle
Army service isn’t standard training for designers starting a global jewelry brand, but the sisters behind Stella Valle provide a compelling case study for the value of military experience in the fashion world.
Ashley Dellavalle Jung is co-founder and CCO for the brand, which she started with her sister, Paige Dellavalle Walker, when they concluded their service in the Army. Both graduated from West Point, and Jung spent 15 months in Afghanistan before the two launched their own business.
The realities of starting a business meant Jung moved to D.C. to work as a Department of Defense consultant as they ramped up the company. The region is still home and she now works remotely for the New Jersey-based company, which has come a long way since the sisters appeared on, and won, Shark Tank in 2013.
They’ve streamlined Stella Valle’s aesthetic and offerings, adjusted their price points and refined their branding and retail locations with the help of ‘sharks’ Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner who invested in the company. Jung said the changes came when, “we realized that our customer is any woman and tailored [the line] to be for any woman. Simple and easy to wear, casual, but you can still wear it going out.”
Jung knows that Stella Valle is about more than the jewelry, it’s about an ethos and attitude of empowerment and inspiration for women. Since that may mean something different to everyone, Stella Valle provides building blocks for a collection that make it meaningful to each customer.
And they’ve learned that a customer’s ability to identify the brand wherever and however they interact with it is crucial. “In branding it all has to come together and be so unified,” Jung notes. “So what people see in our retail partners has to match what you see on our social media and what you’re seeing at Nordstrom in our merchandising. One thing we’ve focused on that we’ve just hit our stride on in the last year is ‘What is that unified message?’ How do we pull it all together across different platforms wherever people run into the brand?’”
The message is one that really resonates with and is inspired by women the founders encounter daily. “Our brand is very focused on women and making them feel confident and strong. We’re at a point where that’s at the forefront in news and media and it’s obviously a big topic in D.C. as well.”
Mary Hager and Margaret Brennan
Mary Hager and Margaret Brennan
Mary Hager, Executive Producer, and Margaret Brennan, Moderator, CBS News' Face the Nation
When Margaret Brennan became moderator of CBS News’ Face the Nation in February 2018, she was fully aware of the responsibility she had in steering the 63-year-old Sunday morning public affairs show through a dynamic media and political environment in Washington.
“Face the Nation is a brand, a mantle, and it’s a responsibility to continue to uphold, and to protect,” said Brennan, who also serves as CBS News senior foreign affairs correspondent. “My job is to maintain the brand, grow the brand, and along with our executive producer Mary Hager, help bring the brand along without in any way devaluing the trust that people have bestowed on us over the years.”
Brennan, 38, says what makes Face the Nation and the Sunday show format stand out in general is the ability to have in-depth discussions, and six to eight-minute conversations with policy makers.
That doesn’t always work in the fast-paced world of cable news.
“The responsibility and the blessing in many ways of a Sunday show is being able to step back and give context,” said Brennan. “We’re not doing play-by-play, we’re doing perspective. We’re trying to help people understand what just happened, and what’s about to happen next as we start the upcoming week.”
But a 63-year-old program needs to keep up with the rapidly changing times. Face the Nation executive producer Mary Hager—who with Brennan make up the only two-woman leadership team for a national Sunday public affairs show—says modernizing and evolving Face the Nation is “a huge challenge.”
“Our staff has had to increase to keep up with the demands of building a brand on the digital platform as well as the reliable one hour of television broadcast,” said Hager, a 10-year Face the Nation veteran who was promoted from senior producer to executive producer in 2011.
“Our Sundays are not just prep, and then we wrap up the show,” Hager continued. “It’s figuring out where the news is, how we grow that news, how we expand our digital presence, and how we make sure that we’re keeping Face the Nation viewers up to speed on the things that they’re interested in, not just on Sunday mornings, but really seven days a week.”
Jeff Rave, Senior Creative Director, TLC Marketing, Discovery Communications
If you plunk down on your sofa only to emerge hours later after being sucked in to a marathon of 90 Day Fiancee or OutDaughtered on TLC, you’ve seen Jeff Rave’s handiwork. As senior creative director of marketing for TLC, Jeff manages the in-house team responsible for network graphics, social campaigns and a variety of other media initiatives for the station that pioneered many of the reality show concepts prevalent on TV today.
And television audiences are a moving target, with a proliferation of streaming services changing people’s viewing habits and expectations. Rave sees those shifts as opportunities. “Our region has exploded with creative ways to work through shrinking budgets, a dynamic audience and a crowded landscape. I’m surprised every day by the fact that this brings even more energy and positivity to our work than ever before.”
TLC is part of Discovery Communications, which has deep roots in Maryland and has been headquartered in Silver Spring since 2003. Though a big move to New York is scheduled for next year for most of the staff, Rave will stay on in Maryland, which suits him just fine.
“I love the fact that we work in a city that isn’t known for being a television or marketing mecca like a New York or L.A.," he says. "We may fly under the radar at times, but I’ve worked with some of the most talented folks I’ll ever meet in the industry right in my backyard. The D.C. area is such an incredible place of different cultures, backgrounds, and industries—inspiration is always one conversation away.”
A key factor in success for Rave has been understanding not just what he does, but also what people working with and for him do.
“Production, editing, graphics, operations—understanding how these other functions operate is key to making sure you’re all working hand-in-hand," he says. "When I got my start, it was at the bottom of the proverbial totem pole, answering phones and working a reception desk. But it was the best opportunity I could have asked for because it was a position that gave me exposure to everything and everyone, and was maybe the most invaluable learning experience of my career.”
Christina Miller, Senior Manager, Customer Experience and Innovation, Hilton Worldwide
Hilton opened the first-of-its-kind central reservation office for its properties in 1955, and agents deployed the most cutting-edge technology they had at the time, booking rooms by phone, telegram and Teletype. Those agents might not have dreamt of the kind of technology that Christina Miller has access to today.
In October 2017, the Hilton Innovation Gallery opened and, as Miller explains her role there: “I get to be the museum curator of all the fun, innovative things Hilton is doing. Our 100-year anniversary is coming up, and we often say we’re a 100-year-old company with a startup mentality. We’ll never rest on thinking we know best. We’re constantly looking to make [customer experiences] better and evolve as the journey does.”
The innovations on display run the gamut from virtual reality tours of hotel rooms to breakfast appliances that will emblazon your face atop your morning cinnamon bun. Some may never make it into Hilton hotels, but there is one exciting innovation Miller predicts we’ll all come to consider standard soon: “That’s our connected room experience, where the room is completely transformed in the palm of your hand [through the Hilton app]—the room thermostat, lights, entertainment. Think about all of those things that are unique to your preferences ... being able to enter a room that’s set up for you is amazing.”
Miller’s background in sociology and communications paired with her interest in technology make her an ideal steward of user-friendly innovation that meets visitors' actual needs and requires buy-in from across a variety of departments. One thing Miller knows for sure: “In innovation, you’re not doing it right if you’re not failing. It’s when you fail and don’t understand why, then you’re doing something wrong. That understanding is what you need to build on.”
Miller is also bullish on sharing experiences and learning from colleagues throughout the organization. “I’m proud of our Innovative Thought Leadership exchanges [known as ITL Talks] . It’s not a product, it’s not sexy, but there’s no such thing as too much knowledge and too much cross functionality.”
Mari Rodela, Chief Community and Culture Officer, DC Brau
When you open the first brewery to package beer in the District of Columbia in more than 50 years, you want to make an impression with locals and outsiders alike.
DC Brau, which served its first beer in 2011, has done just that, thanks to the efforts of chief community and culture officer Mari Rodela. Rodela has found success in a potent mix of style and substance reflected in DC Brau’s beer, its branding and her drive to ensure the brewery is actively engaged in the brewing and business communities in a rapidly changing city.
Before joining her husband, brewmaster Jeff Hancock, and co-founder Brandon Skall full-time at the brewery, Rodela worked in public health, but she says the switch wasn’t as big a leap as you might think.
"The skills are very translatable. I was doing a lot of capacity building, community engagement and work with partners to develop strategy," she says. "All things that are relevant in any business because you really need to be able to strategize and work with people.”
Rodela is busy at the brewery and beyond, serving as president of the District of Columbia Brewers’ Guild and sitting on the board of directors for Think Local First D.C., a group dedicated to supporting local independent businesses in the capital.
Collaboration is big in the craft beer business, which has grown tremendously over the last decade. Rodela says it’s a crucial element because “it allows us to build community and have mutual support. We’re local, but in such a small industry we have friends all over the country we want to work with.” She’s also excited about the beer they’re brewing up as part of Jameson Irish Whiskey’s Caskmates program and predicts we’ll see more collaborations across beverage categories in the years ahead.
The brewery’s logo, which features prominently on cans of their flagship beers, combines an outline of the U.S. Capitol’s dome with the three stars and two bars that make up D.C.’s flag.
“When we launched, it was important for us to have something representative of our town," she says. "We’ll champion representation until we ideally have the opportunity to be a state and we have a way of communicating that to people. When people are drinking a beer, they’re not ignoring the can, so we started with fun tidbits [about voting rights, among other things] on the beer as a way to educate people.”
Those facts are spreading farther and farther afield as the brewery grows and distribution expands beyond the region’s borders, with beer drinkers as far away as Sweden now able to pick up a cold can of DC Brau.
Jonathan Greenberger, Washington Bureau Chief, ABC News
During his junior year at Washington University in St. Louis, despite majoring in economics and being on the law school track, Jonathan Greenberger applied for an internship in the ABC News politics unit.
That turned into a full-time job as a producer.
But the law still beckoned. After four years at ABC, Greenberger headed west to Stanford Law School, getting his J.D. in 2013.
Then, just before graduation, ABC Bureau Chief Robin Sproul and anchor George Stephanopoulos called Greenberger with an offer he couldn't refuse: executive producer of This Week, ABC's Sunday public affairs show. A year later, he was named ABC News vice president and Washington bureau chief.
Greenberger, 35, oversees a politics-heavy news bureau. And with no shortage of legal-related news emanating from the nation's capital, specifically the White House, he's finally putting that law degree to good use.
Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne and Katherine Kallinis Berman, Co-founders, Georgetown Cupcake
Georgetown Cupcake bakes more than 25,000 cupcakes a day, employs more than 300 workers, has 597,000 Instagram followers—and its co-owners Katherine Kallinis Berman and Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne have no formal culinary training.
“Katherine and I did not go to culinary school, nor do we have any formal culinary training,” says Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne. “We learned to bake and developed our passion for baking from our grandmother when we were young. She was a profound influence on us, and we always dreamed of opening a bakery together ever since we were little.”
The duo quit their day jobs in 2007 and opened their first shop in Georgetown on Valentine’s Day 2008.
The flagship bakery moved to a larger space in 2009 and added locations in Bethesda, Maryland; New York City; Boston; Los Angeles; and Atlanta.
Later that year, the pair began shipping cupcakes nationwide via an ecommerce site and UPS, and in 2015 added the Georgetown Cupcake app to the mix. They also have drop-ship partnerships with Saks Fifth Avenue and Williams Sonoma.
The sisters filmed D.C. Cupcakes, a reality program on TLC, for three seasons but didn’t give up reality programming entirely when the show ended in 2013.
A 24/7 livestream—CupcakeCam Live—debuted in 2016 and brings users inside the Georgetown Cupcake flagship bakery with help from six cameras.
The bakers also have two cookbooks under their aprons: The Cupcake Diaries and Sweet Celebrations.
In 2016, they also launched a line of cupcake, layer cake and frosting dry mixes that are available at Williams-Sonoma stores nationwide and internationally at Harrods. The latest offering, Maple cupcake mix, launched last week.
“We just thought it was going to be a small neighborhood bakery and never intended for Georgetown Cupcake to explode in the way it did," says Kallinis LaMontagne. "But we have loved growing our company every step of the way.”
Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne and Katherine Kallinis Berman
Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne and Katherine Kallinis Berman
Hunter Lochmann, CMO, Monumental Sports & Entertainment
When the Washington Capitals won their first Stanley Cup in franchise history this June, the thrill went well beyond the players and the team's owners, Monumental Sports & Entertainment. The exhilarating run after 43 seasons of falling short captured the imagination of a metropolitan region that stretches from Richmond north past Baltimore.
“You felt this huge surge in the city,” says Hunter Lochmann, CMO of Monumental. “We had the avid fans, and now we’re exposed to a lot more people.”
To build on that energy, Lochmann will continue leveraging Monumental's culture of access and intimacy, both digitally and in person.
Open practices allow the locals to get up and personal, even with the team's global star, Alex Ovechkin. During the playoffs, filled-to-capacity watch parties at Capital One Arena, a flood of content and other smart touches kept the highly likable team top of mind, especially after several pulse-raising wins during the playoffs.
Lochmann hopes to use the momentum to build on the Capitals' fan base and attract the many transplants who've moved to D.C., Maryland and Virginia for work. They may already be loyal for life to their hometown teams, but Monumental believes these newer residents can also find room in their hearts for its teams—the Caps, the Washington Wizards of the NBA and the WNBA's Washington Mystics.
“We market to this entirety of this huge area," he says, "and we think we can become [transplants'] second-favorite teams...and have their kids become fans too."
Sarah Koch, VP of Social Innovation, the Case Foundation
Founded by Jean Case and her husband, AOL co-founder Steve Case, the Case Foundation is known for “investing in people and ideas that can change the world.” But there’s one team within Case that is focused on changing the world of investing, specifically.
Sarah Koch is the vp of social innovation at the Case Foundation, and her work centers on the inclusive entrepreneurship movement—defined at Case as “creating the opportunity for women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color to grow and scale their businesses.” Koch worked “in and around the nonprofit sector” before joining Case, and across her career two related themes have emerged: connecting people with resources, and helping those who are striving to get stronger footing.
In Koch’s work today that means asking, “How do we ensure that all entrepreneurs regardless of their race, place, or gender have the opportunity to access the resources they need to grow and scale their businesses?”
To address this, Koch says Case does far more than investing, it operates as “movement catalyzers.”
“What we want to do is look at movements that are just getting started, that need someone like the Case Foundation—that is focused on collaborations and partnerships and the communications that need to happen when you’re raising awareness—and use us as that connecting tissue in the movement to make sure it moves forward faster.”
To date, inclusive entrepreneurship is a movement Case has invested in deeply, in many senses. Koch spends her days assessing all the ways Case can contribute: “Partner development, grant management, [researching] who else is in this space doing interesting things, how can we support them? Who needs more than just money? Who needs a partner, advice, guidance, comms support?”
The payoff, Koch says, will come when this movement is someday sustainable on its own, when an equitable spread of networks and resources is self-sustaining.
Tony Cappaert and Zvi Band
Tony Cappaert and Zvi Band
Tony Cappaert and Zvi Band, Co-founders of Contactually
According to Zvi Band, there are two versions of Washington D.C. There’s the political zoo you see on C-Span, and then there’s the vast creative capital full of restaurants, museums, performing arts and nonprofits that attract an extraordinary mixture of talent from all over the world.
The second of these two personas has made our nation’s capital a formidable incubator for startups like Contactually, an intelligent customer relationship management (CRM) platform, founded by Band and Tony Cappaert.
Both former developers at iconic software companies, the duo designed their technology to help users network better. And the catalyst for their invention was D.C.’s blossoming entrepreneurial community.
When Band moved into the area in 2009, there was already a growing startup scene, but he felt no one knew one another. So, he started a Meetup group for innovators to connect, which then grew into a sizable ecosystem and later connected him with Cappaert.
“D.C. attracts people who want to have an impact on the world,” says Cappaert. “The energy and passion these folks bring bleed into all industries—including software and tech.”
Both of these technology-focused founders understood the transformative power of networking and set out to build a product that would become the gasoline to ignite the wildfire of connectivity. After the initial launch, their first target became clear: “Realtors came to us in droves. It seemed only natural to double down on this vertical,” says Cappaert.
Contactually’s roster of clients includes several of Sotheby's brokerages, Pacific Union, Red Oak Realty, RE/MAX Results, and Engel & Voelkers, which recently reported a 55 percent increase in transactions and a 65 percent increase in sales volume.
The CRM startup has expanded into new markets and currently serves over 100 other industries, while continuing to fine-tune their product. Most recently, they developed an extension that allows Contactually to work inside Gmail and automatically identify business-relevant relationships.
As the company flourishes, the founders have no intention of leaving the artistic mecca that is D.C., saying they continue to let it fuel their unwavering passion for the art of networking.
—Molly St. Louis
Lauren Danker, Business Intelligence Analyst, Motley Fool
As a child, Lauren Danker always asked questions. As a business intelligence analyst at The Motley Fool for the past three years, Danker asks “Why?” on a daily basis.
“I find and interpret a person’s data story,” says Danker. “If someone visits our site and leaves immediately after, I figure out why. I work with the marketing team to test out hypotheses. We analyze, test and see what works. It’s interesting when we’re wrong. I learn something new every day.”
Danker studied Computer Information Systems (CIS) at James Madison University, but began college as a marketing major.
“I was always interested in business. I started in marketing and a professor recommended CIS, so I took some classes and I loved it.”
“With coding, there’s always a right and wrong answer,” she says. “With the execution of code, there’s a mix of hard and soft skills. It’s cut and dry and very exploratory.”
Danker’s position at The Motley Fool perceives her curiosity as an asset rather than a nuisance.
“I help the company make better data-driven business decisions, much like The Motley Fool helps members make informed business decisions.”