The U.S. Business Report is pleased to announce The Top 50 Business Leaders of Connecticut for 2022. In terms of per capita income, Connecticut is the richest state in the country. Finance, insurance, and real estate are among the largest industries in Connecticut followed by the community business and personal service industries including private health care, engineering and law firms, computer and data processing services, and tourism. This year’s awardees are excelling in their areas of expertise, providing opportunities and growth for others along the way.
Among this year’s awardees are Karl Murphy, Principal and Chief Commercial Officer of HEI Hotels & Resorts, who is responsible for the strategy and execution of sales, revenue management, and marketing for the company; Steven Culmone, Chief Executive Officer and President of Ashcroft, whose industry knowledge, expertise, and personal commitment to standards of care and excellence have positioned the company to continuously exceed expectations; and Jay Stolfi, President of Rose Mill Co, who has spent over 20 years dedicated to providing the world with custom processed borates, chemicals, mineral-based products, and sub-contracting/toll manufacturing services.
This year’s awardees span across all industries but remain equally dedicated to the individuals and markets they serve. Please join us in celebrating the accomplishments of The Top 50 Business Leaders of Connecticut for 2022.
1. Shep and Ian Murry
Co-Founders, Vineyard Vines
Shep and Ian Murray are the Co-Founders of Vineyard Vines. With more than 2,800 employees, Vineyard Vines makes clothing that's classic but relaxed, preppy but not fussy. The company avoids edgy trends, celebrity models and fashion weeks. For the past 20 years, the brothers have built a business that impresses individuals across the country. Founded in 1998, the company now has nearly 100 stores and is valued at nearly $1 billion. Even more impressive, the Murrays have managed to scale while maintaining 100% ownership of the company. Shep earned an undergraduate degree from Skidmore College and Ian graduated from Lafayette College with an undergraduate degree in English.
2. Shawn Nelson
Founder & CEO, Lovesac
Shawn Nelson founded Lovesac in 1998 and is currently serving as Chief Executive Officer of the company and as a member of the Board of Directors. Nelson is the lead designer of the company's patented products and leads sourcing, creative, design, public relations, investor relations, and culture. Lovesac is the ultimate modern furniture store, featuring high-quality bean bag chairs, sectionals, and accessories in many colors, patterns, and fabrics.
In 2005, Nelson won Richard Branson's "The Rebel Billionaire" on Fox and continues to participate in ongoing TV appearances. He earned a master’s degree in strategic design and management and is a graduate-level instructor at Parsons, The New School for Design in New York City.
3. Karl Murphy
Principal & Chief Commercial Officer, HEI Hotels & Resorts
Karl Murphy is a Principal and Chief Commercial Officer for HEI Hotels & Resorts. He first joined the company in 2010 as a corporate VP of sales, marketing, revenue, and operational development. Founded in 1985, HEI Hotels & Resorts is one of the nation’s leading privately held hotel investment and third-party management companies. Their operating platform is built exclusively for institutional hotel assets in key urban, super-suburban, and resort locations. Murphy has been instrumental in various parts of the organization previously serving as chief sales officer and chief revenue officer.
Prior to joining HEI Hotels & Resorts, Murphy was the director of sales and marketing for Sheraton Hotels & Resorts. He first got his start at The Body Shop in London where he served in retail brand marketing and communications.
4. Jennifer Tombaugh
Jennifer Tombaugh is the President of Tauck, the U.S. based tour operator serving all seven continents with more than 150 guided travel experiences and events for culturally curious travelers on land, small ship, and river cruises. As a family-owned travel company for over 97 years, its values and vision remain to do the right thing and deliver more than what's expected. With journeys across 7 continents, in over 100 destinations and to 70+ countries, they keep moving forward to find new ways to enhance travel experiences that will be memorable for a lifetime.
Previously, Tombaugh was a group account director at Leo Burnett and before that an associate brand manager of Fresca and Diet Sprite at The Coca-Cola Company. Tombaugh graduated from Harvard University with an MBA and an undergraduate degree in English and American literature.
View the complete list of awardees.
6. Milt Stretton
President & COO, Sonalysts
Milt Stretton is the President and COO of Sonalysts. His first twenty years at Sonalysts have been spent at the forefront of combat and training systems research, design, and development. He has worked extensively with the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Office of Naval Research, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. He has become widely published in training systems and methodologies, as well as, human systems integration and systems engineering. Stretton became a Vice President of the corporation in 1996, establishing and running successful operations in Dahlgren and Arlington, VA. In 2009, Stretton returned to Waterford, CT as the president and chief operating officer
Stretton graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1981, entering the Navy as a Surface Warfare Officer and Nuclear Power Engineer. Upon graduation and completion of nuclear and surface warfare training, Stretton served in USS NIMITZ (CVN-68), USS SCOTT (DDG-995), and USS MILLER (FF-1091) in nuclear engineering, combat systems and operations. He also served as a nuclear power instructor, teaching electronics and reactor plant operations prior to joining Sonalysts in 1989 as a senior analyst.
11. Doug Rose
President, Aero Gear
Doug Rose is the President of Aero Gear. Aero Gear was founded in 1982 as a company that would provide solutions-focused expertise in the design, engineering and manufacturing of gears and gearbox assemblies for the global aerospace industry. Their goal is to utilize knowledge-based expertise to practical benefit, so as masters of their trade they are able to offer superior product development and support service, whether for gearbox assemblies or individual gears. The overall majority of its lean flow processing is conducted within its modern climate controlled 69,000 sq ft facility, including unique gear processing capabilities such as carburized and hardened heat treatment, superfinishing, balancing, and non-destructive testing. Rose has 45 years of experience. He began his career in 1977.
Before joining Aero Gear, Rose worked in sales at Windsor Manufacturing and before that he was a production controller at Windsor Airmotive. Earlier in his career he worked with Hayward Tyler Pump as a manufacturing engineer. Rose graduated from the University of Vermont with a degree in mechanical engineering.
13. Paul Farmer
President, CSC Sugar
Paul Farmer began his professional career 37 years ago. Today, he is the President of CSC Sugar. CSC Sugar is committed to bringing positive changes to the sugar industry, producing the highest quality liquid sugar and invert syrup products available. Their innovations are meeting the changing demands of today's new products and processes. CSC Sugar offers their customers reduced environmental impact, more customized products, healthier alternatives, all at a competitive price. CSC Sugar origins date back to 1993 when the Commodity Specialists Company was formed. Since its inception, CSC Sugar has been a significant supplier to the country’s raw sugar refineries as well as one of the largest importers and exporters of refined sugar to and from North America.
Farmer first got his start in 1985 as a trader at Phibro. From there, he went on to The Pillsbury Company, before eventually rising to become a manager of sugar trading at CSC Sugar.
15. Jim Hennessey
President, The Music People!
Jim Hennessey is the President of The Music People! In 1979 he created The Music People! Inc. in Connecticut as a supplier of quality accessories to the music industry. Today, the company has grown to include audio equipment, stands, cases, tech equipment, Bluetooth technology, and many other music accessories. Hennessey is proud to work with his two children, Sharon and John, at the company. TMP currently employs 68 people and sells over 600 different products in 54 countries worldwide.
Prior to founding The Music People!, Hennessey worked for Kaman Aerospace as a draftsman in the engineering department. He later worked for Ovation where hs was the director of advertising, producing catalogs, consumer advertising, and trade ads to build Ovation's new image. Hennessey graduated from the University of Hartford.
16. Keith Lemnios
CEO, Sun Coffee Roasters
Keith Lemnios began his professional career 37 years ago. Today, he is the Chief Executive Officer of Sun Coffee Roasters. Sun Coffee Roasters is focused on bringing premium sustainable fair-trade coffee to colleges and universities around the country while fostering a higher quality of life for coffee farmers and their families. They provide students with a chance to take part in the sustainable fair trade coffee movement either by signing a petition or by becoming a student ambassador and leading a university chapter. Students can help their school’s effort to be environmentally and socially responsible by working with administration to get Sun Coffee Roasters coffee available on campus.
In 1985, Lemnios served as a VP at EF Hutton. From there, he went on to Paine Webber, before eventually rising to become the president of Omar Coffee Company, his most recent position prior to joining Sun Coffee Roasters. Lemnios graduated from the University of Connecticut with an undergraduate degree in finance.
17. David Cremin
President, Straton Industries
David Cremin is the President of Straton Industries, is a certified contract manufacturer of molds, tools, dies and stampings. The company serves industries including aerospace, automotive, consumer, electronic, energy, medical, military, and robotics. Straton provides on-site installation and repair for the energy industry, gas and steam turbines and heat shields. They specialize in aluminum, stainless steel, titanium, high nickel/high chrome alloys. Cremin has 40 years in the machinery manufacturing industry. He began his career in 1982.
Cremin is a business development professional with an undergraduate degree focused in business and managerial economics from University of Bridgeport.
19. Jeffrey Siegel
Jeffrey Siegel is the President of Mica. Mica was founded to bring sustainability to the converting industry. Their products are water-based, made with sustainably sourced raw materials whenever possible, and can be used in applications that are reusable, recyclable, repulpable, and compostable. They continuously work to reduce their impact on the environment and give back to the communities they serve. They envision a future where Mica is carbon neutral, and that wherever their activities have an environmental impact, their footprint is minimal. They choose to take a proactive approach to sustainability and stand ready to work with their customers and partners to make a difference. Siegel has 43 years of experience. He began his career in 1979.
Before joining Mica, Siegel was a branch manager at United States Trust Company and before that, a manager and instructor at Longshore Sailing School. Siegel graduated with a degree in communications management from Ithaca College.
View the complete list of awardees.
20. David Lionetti
Owner & President, Shoreline Pools
David Lionetti is the Owner and President of Shoreline Pools. He first joined the company in 1977 as a construction worker. Shoreline Pools is a full-service, family-owned swimming pool company based in Stamford. For 50 years, Shoreline has delivered custom in-ground swimming pools with exceptional attention to service and craftsmanship. The experienced team at Shoreline masterfully combines innovative design with the latest advancements in swimming pool technology and safety. Whether building a new swimming pool, servicing a current pool or restoring an older one, Shoreline Pools is dedicated to ensuring expectations are met with meticulous care and precision. Lionetti earned a degree in marketing from the University of Dayton.
21. Allie Schieffelin
CEO & President, The Lighting Quotient
Allie Schieffelin began her professional career 36 years ago. Today, she is the CEO & President of The Lighting Quotient. The Lighting Quotient designs, engineers, and manufactures advanced luminaires for architects, lighting designers, interiors experts, and the entire professional lighting community. From simple utilitarian structures to grand architectural masterpieces, they combine serious engineering performance with elegant artistic design. Founded by architectural lighting pioneer, Sylvan R. Shemitz, the lighting quotient today is an exciting new vision of a venerable heritage. Their rich history of innovation continues to drive inventive design and uncompromising quality, but their minds are focused fully on today’s challenges and tomorrow’s science, adapting existing technologies and inventing new ones for the ever-changing needs of today’s lighting professionals.
In 1986 Schieffelin served as a principal at Morgan Stanley. Schieffelin graduated from Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management with a master’s degree in marketing and finance and from Boston College with an undergraduate degree in communications.
23. Aldin Beslagic
General Manager & Founder, Bestlogic Staffing
Aldin Beslagic began his professional career 15 years ago. Today, he is the General Manager and Founder of Bestlogic Staffing. Bestlogic Staffing is one of the top full-service staffing and recruiting firms in the Northeast and specializes in contract, direct hire, and executive search. With a valuable blend of functional, industry, and recruiting experience, their award-winning team has a proven track record of delivering exceptional talent acquisition solutions.
Beslagic first got his start in 2007 as a recruiter at Aerotek. From there, he went on to QuEST Global, before eventually founding ResumeForYou.com, his most recent venture prior to founding Bestlogic Staffing. Beslagic graduated from Quinnipiac University with an MS in accounting, an MBA, and an undergraduate degree in finance and international business.
25. LJ Blaiotta
CEO, Columbia Elevator Products
LJ Blaiotta is the Chief Executive Officer of Columbia Elevator Products. Family owned and operated since 1965, Columbia Elevator is a one-stop-shop for elevator cabs, entrances, and door systems serving the commercial, LULA and residential segments of the North American elevator industry. The company manufactures both in-stock and custom solutions all made in the USA, accommodating small- and high-volume orders. In response to COVID-19, Columbia recently introduced Sani-Cab, a patent-pending air cleaning solution to flood each passenger’s breathing zone with clean air in elevator cabs.
Blaiotta graduated from Pace University - Lubin School of Business with an MBA in strategic planning and from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with an undergraduate degree in civil engineering.
28. Randy Salvatore
Founder & CEO, RMS Companies
Randy Salvatore is the Founder and CEO of RMS Companies. RMS has established itself as one of the fastest growing real estate companies in the region, with a successful track record in redefining the lifestyle landscape for residential communities, reinvigorating commercial construction and raising the bar in hotel design and operation. Since the inception of a one-man real estate firm in 1996, Salvatore has developed RMS into a vertically integrated building, development, and management company with a diverse portfolio of residential, commercial and hospitality properties. As a lifelong entrepreneur, Salvatore built his company and legacy as an astute hands-on developer of premier properties on a solid foundation of integrity and expertise. Under his leadership, RMS has been recognized with numerous industry and community awards.
Previously, Salvatore was an associate at Grubb & Ellis and before that an associate at William Pitt Commercial Real Estate. Earlier in his career he worked with Coopers & Lybrand as an associate. Salvatore graduated with a degree in economics from The Wharton School.
29. David Parmelee
President, WEPCO PLASTICS
David Parmelee is the President of WEPCO PLASTICS. He first joined the company nearly 20 years ago as a VP of mold making. WEPCO’s goal is to be New England’s premier prototype injection molder. They accomplish this by offering extensive knowledge and experience in developing new product specifications; manufacturing high quality precision molds and molding prototypes; and short-run production. WEPCO PLASTICS was established in 1985 and has grown steadily to over forty employees. They now own a modern 10,000 sq ft facility. They attribute this growth and planned future growth to their attention to detail and quality, as well as customer satisfaction by diligently following specifications, meeting delivery dates, and offering competitive prices.
Before joining Wepco Plastics, Parmelee was a design engineer at SBC DataComm. He earned an undergraduate degree in information system science from Salve Regina University.
33. Carmine Esposito
CEO, National Waste Associates
Carmine Esposito began her professional career 36 years ago. Today, she is the Chief Executive Officer of National Waste Associates. National Waste Associates is a privately-owned, fourth generation managed services company. They specialize in helping organizations with 50 to 5,000 locations nationwide save time, money, and hassles through consolidated waste and recycling management.
Esposito first got his start in 1986 as a commercial and industrial loan analyst at Bank of America, formerly Connecticut National Bank. Esposito graduated with a degree in finance from Providence College.
View the complete list of awardees.
35. John Augustyn
President, Pyramid Time
John Augustyn began his professional career 43 years ago. Today, he is the President of Pyramid Time. Pyramid Time Systems empowers organizations worldwide with easy-to-use and intuitive timekeeping products designed to optimize productivity and efficiency. All of their products help manage workforces, streamline processes, and minimize operating costs in any environment or industry.
Augustyn first got his start in 1979 as a project engineer at Hamilton Standard. From there, he went on to Stanadyne, before eventually rising to become a VP of operations at TI Automotive, his most recent position prior to joining Pyramid Time. Augustyn graduated from the University of Hartford with an MBA in business and from the University of Connecticut with an undergraduate degree in engineering.
37. John Yaylagul
Owner & Partner, Velocity Urgent Care
John Yaylagul began his professional career 16 years ago. Today, he is the Owner and Partner of Velocity Urgent Care. Velocity Urgent Care provides compassionate and affordable healthcare to patients in need of urgent care services. They are a diverse company with many unique services that most others do not. Their goal is to enhance a patient's current health care program by offering easy access and prompt service.
Yaylagul first got his start in 2006 as an attending physician at the University of Connecticut. He graduated from the University of New England with a DO in osteopathic medicine and osteopathy and from Fairfield University with an undergraduate degree in biology and chemistry.
39. Michael Nesta
President & CEO, Energy Beam Sciences Inc. & LabPulse® Medical
Michael Nesta began his professional career 22 years ago. Today, he is the President and CEO of Energy Beam Sciences. At Energy Beam Sciences and LabPulse® Medical, their mission is not simply to make money. It is to prosper by providing truly important products that have a profound effect on people’s lives. Products like micro-manufactured components for electron microscopes that are used in groundbreaking scientific research, electron beam welding sources that join jet engine rotor parts to turn safely at 15,000 RPM, and laboratory equipment that speeds up cancer diagnostics, so patients can know if they're sick and begin treatment in days instead of weeks. With everything they do, they work toward their vision of making the world a little better place.
Previously, Nesta served as the general manager of the company. He graduated from Central Connecticut State University with an undergraduate degree in business and marketing and from New England Technical Institute with an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering.
40. Michael Norman
Michael Norman began his professional career 30 years ago. Today, he is the President of Servotech. Servotech is an America's premier servo motor repair service company. Founded in 2004, they have earned a reputation for quality service, customer satisfaction and rapid response. They typically repair and deliver servo motors within five days of receipt, and also offer rush repairs with 48-hour turnarounds. Servotech also provides calibration, repair, and reconfiguration services for array of feedback devices including encoders, resolvers, tachometers and sensors. Their web site includes an online store where customers can purchase direct replacement encoders. Since its founding, they have continued to grow and expand its staff, facility, and capabilities.
Norman previously owned Accuwind. He graduated from Greater New Haven with an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering.
43. Maryann Donovan
President & Owner, Impact Staffing Solutions
A staffing industry leader, Maryann Donovan understands talent management. She founded Impact Personnel, Inc. when she recognized the need for a staffing agency that offered companies integrity, continuity and an owner who knew every aspect of the business. Impact Personnel places permanent, temporary, and contract-to-hire staff across the country and specializes in marketing, HR, sales, and office administration.
Donovan is known for her strong commitment to service and ethics and volunteers her time with many organizations. She has been on the board of directors for Dress for Success Mid-Fairfield County and currently serves on the board of Operation Hope in Fairfield, CT. She is Director of Membership for Southern CT SHRM and recently finished serving as the chair of the career committee for the Gettysburg College Parents Board. She was a finalist for the 2013 Enterprising Women of the Year Award and won a 2015 Brava Award from SmartCEO for being one of NY's top women business leaders.
45. Efraim Eckhaus
Founder, Whitehaus Collection
Efraim Eckhaus is the Founder of Whitehaus Collection. He founded the company in 1972. Whitehaus Collection has been raising the bar in the decorative arena for over a decade by providing high-end decorative plumbing fixtures that range in design from modern to eastern influenced to traditional. Their products are not only aesthetically pleasing, but they are also finely crafted to withstand the test of time, children, guests, and other forces. Whitehaus Collection is the source for original designs and imports of quality decorative plumbing fixtures to be found in the kitchen and bath. From traditional to contemporary design, they bring a broad selection of styles and finishes for sinks, faucets, and accessories.
In addition to his entrepreneurial endeavors, Eckhaus has designed many plumbing products and is the owner of multiple patents. He has published two books on the Holocaust, Nina's Story Through Her Eyes and Revealing the Untold Truth: The Second Generation.
47. Gary Peck
President & CEO, North American Theatrix
Gary Peck is the President and CEO of North American Theatrix. He founded NAT in 1994. He has over thirty years’ experience in sound reinforcement and installations including sound design for Broadway productions and engineering for national acts.
Prior to NAT, Peck formed Audio Technologies, a company dedicated to sound reinforcement and custom speaker design. Also owned and operated by Peck are Tek Electrix, a union electrical company, and S.Q. Miles General Contracting, a commercial construction business. Peck graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder with an undergraduate degree in aquatic biology, limnology, and environmental science.
50. Mary Fitzgerald
President & CEO, Acme Wire Products
Mary Fitzgerald is the President & CEO of Acme Wire Products. She first joined the company in 1985. Acme Wire Products is a custom fabricator of steel and stainless-steel wire and metal components. Their capabilities include cutting, forming, bending, welding, assembly, and finishing. Acme Wire Products capabilities focus on 3D assemblies of superior weld integrity with close tolerance dimensional repeatability. Fitzgerald earned an MBA in marketing from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and an undergraduate degree in English from the College of the Holy Cross.
View the complete list of awardees.