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The 2011 Young Turks of CE

CustomRetailer salutes the passionate individuals behind our industry’s brightest operations. Get acquainted with our Young Turks of CE, listed in no particular order

January 3, 2011 By CR Staff
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Chris Brody
President & Co founder, Crescendo Designs. Ltd.
Chris has helped transform Crescendo Designs into one of the leading designers and installers of high-end home technology from Manhattan to Montauk. An entrepreneur who began his retail career in technology more than a decade ago when he started an online A/V company, Chris moved into the luxury residential market in 2002 when he founded Crescendo with his brother, Mike. Crescendo Designs introduces the latest programs to help homeowners control everything from lighting to the hot tub’s temperature remotely by downloading an app for their iPhone or logging onto Crescendo’s homepage.

Michael Pawlowski
Director of Sales, Thea Integrated Systems
Since 2004 Michael has been the director of sales for Thea & Schoen Integrated Systems, a manufacturer’s sales representative firm focusing on high-quality residential technology products. He is responsible for design, specification and all outside sales in the metro New York market. Prior to his current role Michael spent four years at Lutron Electronics (2001-2004) where he was tasked with developing Lutron’s A/V distribution business for all territories east of the Mississippi River. Michael graduated Cum Laude from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (2001) with a Bachelor of Science degree in Management Information Systems. He is a member of the IPRO New Leaders Group.

Julia Davidson
Research Engineer, KEF
Julia is a rising star in consumer electronics product design and engineering. She was one of the leading engineers on the development of the new T Series ultra-thin loudspeaker range, working with the design of the revolutionary MF driver, crossover and other elements of the award-winning loudspeaker. Julia was part of the KEF engineering team that developed the revolutionary Concept Blade loudspeaker. She helped develop Concept Blade’s innovative cabinet walls and internal compartments, the LF dustcaps and the final build of the loudspeaker. She is also responsible for material characterization and the development of new technologies for KEF’s Celestion drivers.

Stuart Rench
Co-Founder, President/CEO, ihiji
As co-founder, president and CEO of ihiji, Stuart is responsible for the ongoing development of ihiji’s strategic plan to advance the company’s mission and objectives, further promoting growth of this young and dynamic organization via the trade, technology and investment communities. As the primary architect of the company’s award-winning remote monitoring and servicing system, invision, he provides vision and leadership to position the company as an innovative industry-leading technology firm. In fact, it was his vision and experience in the IT industry that helped bring the ihiji invision solution to market.

Dan Fulmer
CEO & Founder, Fultech Solutions, Inc.

Dan started Fultech in 1995 and has been heavily involved in the industry since. From serving on committees and boards to writing for publications and teaching courses for the past five years at the EH Expo, he provides annual training for all technical employees, including travel to and from training events. Dan holds the following: InfoComm CTS certification, Crestron Master programmer, Extron ATA certified, and CompTIA DHTI+. In addition, Dan provides in-house training and develops multiple systems to streamline and control quality on projects such as an online internal website that tracks projects, job progress, warranty information and more.

Ryan Donaher
Eastern Regional Sales Manager , Meridian America
Before joining Meridian in December of 2007, Ryan represented Meridian and other brands as a manufacturer’s rep for Geartner Associates. Several years of retail at The Audio Store and Cambridge Soundworks prepared Ryan for his current role as Eastern Regional Sales Manager. During his three years with Meridian, Ryan had made significant impact on his territory. His enthusiasm, energy and passion are felt by everyone he works with. His fresh perspective on the market and his approach to sales, marketing and product management clearly represent a new generation. “Ryan is certainly deserving of the Young Turks of CE recognition, he is making his mark early in his career and will only continue to improve with time,” said Meridian’s Peter Wellikoff.

Russ Wishtart
Regional Sales Manager, Sapphire Marketing
Russ’s background in the A/V industry began while working in high-end recording studios as a ProTools engineer. He moved on to leading an installation team for the set-up and service of video walls nationwide. Russ was also the Northeast Technical Sales Engineer for Crestron Electronics, Inc. Russ brings a very technical and applications-oriented understanding of the integration marketplace, and is a valuable asset to Sapphire Marketing’s dealers and manufacturers alike. Russ has been a Regional Sales Manager for Sapphire Marketing for the past eight years. Russ loves collecting vinyl records and is a member of the IPRO New Leaders Group. www.sapphire

Jeremy Bacon
Owner, Infinite Autosports Inc.
Jeremy has utilized his market expertise in customer service and installation to rapidly grow the Custom Home and Commercial portion of the business. Partnering with a local builder, and serving primarily the Northern Finger Lakes market in Upstate N.Y. Jeremy decided to enter the market after existing customer requests, and noticing the lack of professional installation availability in the local market. He built a unique multi-purpose custom home display in his existing store, and has been able to develop key manufacturer and distributor relationships. He sets himself apart by having a location where customers can touch and experience new A/V technology.

Sharmon Rogers
Marketing Liaison, Sonance
Sharmon has worked in various capacities for Dana Innovations for over 10 years. She has provided clear leadership around events and has been solely responsible for the collective Dana Innovations trade show presentations over the last five years.
Working closely with the executive team at Dana Innovations, Sharmon oversaw the construction and implementation of an award-winning tradeshow booth (won “booth of the year” from Tradeshow magazine). Sharmon’s industry knowledge, work ethic and drive make her a valuable part of the Dana Innovations team.

Tim Painter
Manufacturer Representative, NuTech Group
Tim began his career in consumer electronics in 1989, selling and installing A/V gear, car stereo systems and musical instruments for a small retailer in Virginia. Spending almost 10 years on the sales floor, Tim gained a passion for the business and a firm understanding of the industry from the dealer’s perspective. Tim joined the NuTech Group in January of 2006 after spending several years in industrial sales. Using his “Help First” attitude, strong technical skills and past experience, Tim has become a valuable resource for his dealers who look to him as a consultant to their business. Tim is also a member of the IPRO New Leaders Group.

Timothy C. McCarthy
Founder & President, HushMat
Tim has spent countless hours building the HushMat brand while dedicating time and resources to the established car audio retail and distribution channel for sound deadening and sound absorption materials.

This category is the most profitable in the retail channel and Tim’s effort has been relentless to facilitate growth and understanding at the retail sales floor and installer level. The sales floor today more than ever needs to understand profit and how it can be generated by offering the No. 1-rated automotive sound insulation materials available in the consumer electronics market.

Jim Ribail
Owner & President, Ambassador Marketing
Jim became owner and president of Ambassador Marketing in 2002 and his goal has unwavered:  To be a trusted partner with manufacturers and dealers; to build long-term growth and market stability for the manufacturers he represents. In 2007 Jim expanded Ambassador’s traditionally Pacific Northwest territory to serve the Northern California, Northern Nevada marketplace. By leveraging his operational efficiencies and the ability at the time to bring on a veteran representative for that territory, he expanded the market base. By embracing new technologies that are driving consumer demand and bringing great multi-level service, Jim is proving even in this economy growth is possible.

Heather Palmer

Senior Program Manager for Consumer Channels, APC BY Schneider Electric
Heather’s most recent accomplishments include 10 years at APC with an emphasis in sales and marketing. This experience has not only provided Heather with many insights, enthusiasm and encouragement within the IT, CE and A/V industry but also equipped her with desire for impact and proven results. These experiences are notably a value to APC. Heather has supported key channels that APC relies on to drive the business. This experience has allowed her to develop a deeper understanding of APCs partner strategies and the need to drive them to the highest levels of the organization.

Neale R. Boecke

Company Founder/President, Tronic Integration, LLC
Neale Boecke opened Tronic Integration over five years ago at the age of 26. Tronic is a residential and commercial electronic systems company that offers home theaters, lighting control, security systems, networking and automation.
The drive and desire to start Tronic Integration evolved from the need Neale recognized for an integration company to appeal to the individual customer, offering quality products, fair prices and top-notch service. As the company owner, Neale has created Tronic’s vision, guided the young company through the recession and runs all day-to-day operations.

Adam Schmidt
General Manager, Runco
Adam was appointed general manager for Runco shortly after the Planar acquisition, when dealer satisfaction for the brand was at its lowest. In a short time, Adam was able to instill faith and excitement back to the brand to help put it back at the top of the channel. He has integrated an efficient and effective service model into the company that has improved dealer and customer satisfaction exponentially. Since Schmidt has taken over, he has driven profitability for Runco. Successful Runco programs, such as Runco TradeUp and service improvements have improved dealer relations and have directly preserved Runco’s position as an influential force in our industry.

Vanessa Sayen
Sales & Marketing Manager, Media Decor
Vanessa is a dedicated team player who is highly regarded by her colleagues as well as the dealers she has built relationships with across the country. Her sales and marketing skills have created new opportunities for the companies she has worked for and she has been instrumental in the successful launch of several new products. She is extremely detail-oriented and an excellent trainer in the field.

Matthew Schuler
National Account Manager for Jamo, Klipsch Group, Inc.
Matthew Schuler started his career in retail with Good Guys, a large California-based retailer, and was then hired by Klipsch Group, Inc. five years ago. In his first few years, he demonstrated he was capable of handling immense responsibility, while excelling with his customers and attaining all predetermined sales goals.
He was then promoted to regional manager, where he continued the same success until recently promoted to brand manager of Jamo, his official title being national account manager, Jamo. In his current position, Schuler has boasted excellent job recruiting skills, all while maintaining the Jamo brand and driving sales volume in the United States.

Richie and Emily Scholl

Vice President & Director of Operations (respectively), Worthington Distribution
Our son, Richie Scholl was 15 when he said “I don’t want to go to Disney. I want to go to the trade show,” and so he did and has ever since. Richie is now vice president of Worthington Distribution and his wife Emily is director of operations. Richie and Emily through their direct involvement helped grow the company from a mom-and-pop national operation to a multi-location global organization increasing revenue three-fold. Website integration, order entry and order fulfillment are 100 percent automated. Off-site offices and personnel are connected to the corporate headquarters via IP phones and VPN for computers allowing everyone to interact seamlessly and efficiently. Richie is beginning his second term as a board member with CEA TechHome. www.worthing

Dominic Symons
Founder/Principal, Bluelounge
Dominic Symons is the founding principal designer at Bluelounge and is the guiding force for all creative design and product development. Bluelounge is known internationally for its sleek, minimalist custom-fit tech accessories that are sold in a variety of retail stores throughout the world.

Dominic studied at the Art Center College of Design in La Tour-de-Peilz, Switzerland, and Pasadena, Calif. He graduated in 1996 and moved to San Francisco to join Eight Inc., a multidisciplinary design firm. Three years later in 1999, he launched Bluelounge in Los Angeles with partner Melissa Sunjaya and quickly gained international recognition. Dominic’s fluid work ranges from furniture, footwear and eyewear to numerous personal and home electronics.

Melanie Warner
Chief Creative Officer, Autonomic Controls
Melanie’s creative abilities have positioned Autonomic as a leading CE manufacturer in digital media products. In 2008, Autonomic hired Melanie’s graphic design firm who developed the touchscreen interface for Mirage Media Control System. MCS has since garnered multiple industry awards, due in large measure to the elegant operational flow and aesthetics of the UI. Melanie has since earned responsibility for all interactive product design, brand development, advertising and trade shows for Autonomic, propelling them from a grassroots technology organization to a mainstream CEDIA manufacturer and industry leader. In late 2010, Melanie acquired an equity stake in Autonomic Controls, Inc. as chief creative officer.

Jimmy Paschke
Director of Custom Install Sales, Panamax/Furman
Jimmy joined Panamax in April 2008 as the company’s eastern regional sales manager. During that time he significantly increased Panamax/Furman’s dealer base in the East, while bringing on new business from buying group members. He was also instrumental in positioning separate Panamax and Furman brands into one unified product line for dealers. Jimmy’s success led to his promotion to director of custom install sales. In this role, he has the opportunity to lead a talented sales team and help position Panamax/Furman as a leader in energy management by promoting the company’s revolutionary BlueBOLT power control and energy-management platform.

Charlie Porritt
Russound and Colorado vNet
In 2007 Charlie became chief executive officer of Russound. As someone who has been on the fast track for the length of his extensive career in CE, Porritt has been instrumental in developing key relationships with Russound dealers and distributors, and is credited with helping to drive the company’s acquisition of Colorado vNet in 2009. Porritt joined Russound in 2000 as a regional sales manager and shortly after was promoted to national sales director, which was the springboard to his current role as CEO.

Michael Townsend

General Manager – Visual Display/New Product Development, OmniMount
As the GM of Visual Display and New Product Development, Townsend has been instrumental in the development of products that push the envelope of what it means to be a CE accessories designer. In his time at OmniMount, he has evolved the definition of a wall mount from metal and powder-coat to something lighter and more environmentally friendly. Under his guidance, OmniMount continues to drive innovation and come to market with products that are undoubtedly groundbreaking across all relevant categories and of the highest quality. In addition, Townsend is never absent of a positive attitude or encouraging word.

Mark Aling
Director of Marketing, Paradigm & Anthem Electronics
Mark has been with Paradigm and Anthem for more than 15 years. His long-standing, positive relationships with the industry press have helped to build Paradigm and Anthem into well-respected international brands in the specialty audio/video industry. He is a driving force in the production of industry-leading catalogs, ads and a host of marketing and technical materials, considered invaluable by the company’s vast dealer/distributor network. Mark is responsible for the revamp of both company websites and is also the catalyst for the company’s successful foray into the world of social media. Under Mark’s guidance, both brands are well on their way to becoming as popular outside the audiophile arena as they are within it.

Simon Wehr
Director of Marketing, Dana Innovations (iPort, Sonance, Trufig)
Simon joined Dana Innovations three months ago and he has quickly established himself as a resourceful team member and leader. His extensive experience working within the A/V and design community—25 years—has been instrumental in the development of new marketing and sales materials, advertisements, website enhancements and new business relationships. He will now turn his focus, attention and talents into leading the company’s marketing initiatives in 2011 and beyond.

David Pidgeon
President/CEO, Starpower Home Entertainment Systems, Inc.
David Pidgeon, one of the founders of Starpower Home Entertainment Systems, Inc., has served as president/CEO since the company’s inception in 1995. Under his leadership, the Dallas-based company has grown into one of the most successful home electronic companies in America. Starpower now has four locations, including three in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and one in Scottsdale, Ariz. With unique sales promotions, marketing programs and an unprecedented dedication to customer service, Pidgeon created a brand name for the 15-year-old company that has attracted an elite clientele, including hundreds of professional athletes, celebrities and Fortune 500 business leaders.

Michael Maniscalco

Co-Founder & VP of Technical Operations, ihiji
As a key architect of ihiji’s remote monitoring and servicing system, invision, Michael works tirelessly to bridge the complex worlds of IT and A/V. Responsible for the technology behind ihiji’s flagship product, invision, Michael executes critical aspects of the company’s product and software development efforts, including invision’s front and back-end systems.

Overseeing the ihiji brand and market strategy, including PR and marketing efforts, he also works closely with independent sales reps and manufacturer partners. He is a certified CEDIA Registered Outreach Instructor and a member of the CEDIA Tech Council Discover Action Team.

David Rodgers
Marketing Manager, Elite Screens Inc.
In the five years since he started with the company, Rodgers has contributed to the growth of Elite from a small U.S.-based business to a multi-million dollar international company with corporate offices in North America, Europe and Asia, along with a worldwide distribution network. He has won 18 industry awards and citations against larger and more established competitors. He has coordinated and/or managed 44 tradeshows in the U.S., Europe/CIS, Asia and the Middle East. He has made numerous television, radio and print media appearances while maintaining a high level of editorial presence to ensure strong company branding and customer relations.

Devin Zell
Marketing Manager, MartinLogan
During MartinLogan’s many consecutive years of double digit growth, Devin Zell has provided marketing and sales support while assisting in the generation and maintenance of the company’s long-term product plan. Last year Devin designed a semi-automated online application and approval system that streamlined the process of accessing dealers through major domestic distributors. The system brought MartinLogan over 500 new dealers in one year and is now the benchmark for dealer application processing. Additionally, Devin designed and implemented an online University for MartinLogan’s training department which has logged over 4,000 man-hours of product knowledge testing.

Katie Dolatowski
VP Operations, NextGen Home Products
Katie has been with NextGen since it started in 2004, one of the fastest growing brands of innovative, value-added accessories. With NextGen still being a lean, focused company, Katie Dolatowski handles sales, order processing, the website, customer service and technical support and never has two days that are the same. She also has represented NextGen at major trade shows such as CES and CEDIA as well as customer shows such as DSI and DBL. Katie is an invaluable team player that NextGen customers and consumers will readily agree has a can-do attitude that does what it takes to get the job done and done well.

Chris Emas

Manufacturer Representative, Momentum Group
Chris has been in the industry for 12 years. He started at Momentum Group in 1999 supporting the sales team and maintaining the IT infrastructure and left to become an outside sales rep for Digital Sales Group in Kansas City when he moved to the midwest. He returned to Colorado after four years to cover a territory in the Rocky Mountains: Denver, Southern Colorado, New Mexico, El Paso, Texas and a key account in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is a member of the IPRO New Leaders Group.

Chad Waller

CEO, Owner. Hi-Fidelity
My personal contribution is a lot of time, labor and sweat—and the pleasure of working with a great team. I was able to take an established 50+-year-old business and grow its sales +300 percent within eight years. In 2008 we purchased a new property and built a reference showroom that resulted in increased market visibility and sales continued to grow in a weak economy. We stay focused on designing the clients system with ease of functionality and fun-ability, and by selecting only the best solutions and proven technologies. Our customer satisfaction and repeat/referral business is everything to us.

Tracy Christmann
Marketing Manager, Somfy Systems, Inc.
Tracy is an encouraging leader and a true marketer. Her positive attitude combined with her creative mindset make her a pleasure to work with on any endeavor. She is dedicated, driven and determined to enhance our company’s position in the marketplace. Tracy’s motivation is contagious, and her industry experience and willingness to learn even more are inspirational to all of those around her.

Joshua Carlson
PR Director, Atlona Technologies
Joshua Carlson has gone beyond the call of PR directors helping to guide a “little accessories company that could” to the top of the heap. He takes his work personally and passionately, developing relationships with the press. Josh conceptualized splitting Atlona’s products line, to help tailor marketing and PR strategies based on Atlona’s core competencies. This act effectively allowed Atlona to segregate and deliver qualified PR content to press, increasing Atlona coverage tenfold. His talent for turning what most people would not even take time to consider into exciting content is unmatched in peers across this entire industry.

Ryan Brown

Vice President, Media Environment Design, Inc.
Ryan joined MED at a critical juncture of company development. Founded as a sole proprietorship consultancy and design firm providing professional services to industry professionals, much of our work involved implementation of repeatable processes and efficiencies for these firms. Ryan was tasked to transform MED to reflect the principles we espoused. Ryan successfully implemented processes, procedures as well as products which have enabled MED to enjoy greater success and growth. He initiated and manages new service offerings including online training products, design and engineering service packages, programming services and more. Look to Ryan Brown for continued industry innovation.

Sherry Dantonio
Sales Operations Manager, Home Entertainment Source
Sherry is the sales operations manager of Home Entertainment Source (HES). As one of its first employees, Sherry has played a key role in HES’s growth throughout the past eight years. When Sherry joined HES there were only 35 members representing slightly over $200,000,000 in annual sales. Today HES has grown to 540 members, representing $1,500,000,000 in annual sales. Her positive outlook on life and her willingness to roll up her sleeves to get things done has kept HES ahead of the curve. www.home

Jeff Schindler
Chief Procurement Officer, VIZIO, Inc.
Jeff Schindler took on his business planning role in the early days at VIZIO when the company was integrating new component supply and assembly partners. Some could even look at him as VIZIO’s fourth founder. Without his unique ability and genius to plan and coordinate with supply chain and retailer partners to correctly forecast and manage phenomenal growth, the VIZIO vision for better and more affordable HDTVs would never have succeeded.

Henry Clifford
President, Livewire
Henry Clifford founded Livewire in 2001 after identifying a need for simple home technology in Central Virginia. He began his career in IT during the .com boom of the 90s working as a Web developer and Information Architect. His lifelong passion for technology made Livewire an easy choice. Henry quadrupled the size of Livewire over a four-year period and continues to gain market share in Central Virginia. Each member of the Livewire team has been handpicked and their combined talents fuel the company’s explosive growth.

Dean Sottile
Executive Vice President, Expert Warehouse
Dean Sottile is the executive vice president and chairman of the Expert Warehouse management team, which is based in Carlstadt, N.J. The leader of the Expert Warehouse team since its inception, Dean has guided the joint venture with BrandSource/Home Entertainment Source from one line and modest volume to its current multi-million dollar run rate by adding multiple product lines and most recently, major appliances. In addition to P & L responsibility, Dean also oversees the merchandising and sales teams for the venture.

Seth Kaplan 

Co-Principal manufacturers representative, LK & Associates, Inc.
With 20 years of experience in the consumer electronics industry, 17 of which have been spent as a manufacturers representative with LK & Associates, Inc., Seth has been the co-principal for the last five years. Four years ago Seth founded LK Stockroom, which is the stocking arm of the rep company. Through integrity, exceptional service and superlative interpersonal skills, he has forged unbreakable relationships in the territory with custom integrators, retailers, distributors and exporters. These relationships are the conduit to top-tier sales levels for all the manufacturers LK & Associates represents in Florida. He is a member of the IPRO New Leaders Group.

Justin Bright

Director of Marketing, MartinLogan
Bringing a new marketing philosophy to MartinLogan, Justin focused on expanding the brand to reach new customers by leveraging his knowledge and 10+ years of experience working intimately with web-based marketing tools. Within the past year working at MartinLogan, Justin has redesigned its corporate website from the ground up, and created an in-house database system to support direct-to-consumer marketing efforts. Additionally he has pushed digital and social media marketing with an “Insider’s Club,” allowing owners to publish their system online, and an online video campaign targeting education and product information.

Roberta Silverstein

Director, Marketing Communications, MoCA (Multimedia over Coax Alliance)
Roberta has been instrumental in driving MoCA’s strategic relationship with CEDIA. With a clear understanding of how MoCA solutions would be key to the rejuvenation of the custom Iinstallation business, Roberta spearheaded the internal effort leveraging MoCA’s Emerging Markets Task Force.

In the last 18 months Roberta has taken the initiative to build MoCA’s partnership with CEDIA, and become a certified instructor. Driving leadership across the industry, Roberta has worked tirelessly to educate ESCs directly, and through industry press. Roberta saw the need of an industry, understood that MoCA was the right fit, and took on the workload.

David Rench
Co-Founder, VP/CFO, ihiji
As co-founder, vice president and CFO of ihiji, David oversees all company operations to ensure cost-effective management of resources, while further developing the company’s strategic plan to advance and grow as an innovative and dynamic organization.

David provides leadership to the company’s channel partners, promoting the benefits of implementing remote-monitoring services as a way to more effectively utilize resources, thereby enabling integrators to realize a more proactive and predictable revenue stream.

David manages all aspects of the company’s back-office processes and procedures to ensure the company continues to operate in a lean, effective and vibrant manner, providing a strong platform for ihiji’s operational growth.

Mike Cleary

Manufacturer Representative, MK Marketing
Mike joined the MK Marketing Team in 2005 and has been in the CE Industry as a Manufacturers Representative since 2003. With a “Relationship First” customer service approach, Mike has proven to be very effective in his market. Dealers count on Mike’s strong technical, communication and organizational skills to help them design, bid and complete jobs both effectively and profitably. As a result of Mike’s many professional strengths, his dealer and manufacturer relationships are second to none. Mike has a passion for music, plays five instruments and is currently building two acoustic guitars, he is also a member of the IPRO New Leaders Group. CR



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