Tag: Alumni

If you’ve eaten a slice of pizza from a triangular clamshell box or bought a clear tray of muffins from the supermarket bakery, you’ve probably touched a product produced by Novolex. Before the coronavirus pandemic, the company’s portfolio included a range of packing products and industrial goods—and almost no medical equipment.

That changed in early March. In just weeks, the firm pivoted its manufacturing capacity to design and produce critically needed pieces of protection for under-resourced healthcare workers—and WashU Olin alumnus Phil Rozenski is one of the people at the center of that pivot.

Today, Novolex is producing more than 6 million isolation gowns and more than 2 million face shields each month—products the firm designed and launched in weeks.

“Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, multiple associations and state governments asked me if we made various medical supplies—items that faced critical shortages across the globe,” said Rozenski, EMBA ’11. “The direct answer was no—but it got me thinking.”

As Novolex’s vice president of public affairs, Rozenski connects the company with local governments, trade associations, the communities that surround their communities and others. In that role, he heard from organizations alarmed by anticipated shortages for personal protective equipment as the reality of the pandemic set in.

He recalled a recent visit to a Novolex facility in Brampton, Ontario, that uses a clear plastic sheeting material to manufacture containers for muffins and other baked goods. His instinct was that the material might be suitable to make face shields, the protective medical visors we now know healthcare workers rely on for their protection.

A plan emerged

With his experience from WashU Olin—and his background as a logistics planner in the US Air Force—Rozenski knew that even if Novolex had the know-how to make medical items, it would take more than an idea. Novolex would need to find the markets, understand the demand, identify the specifications for medical markets and more.

“Having been part of the Novolex team for more than 10 years, I knew our people are capable of incredible things,” he said. “That said, a new product launch can often take months. We had only weeks if we were going to save lives.”

Novolex employees model protective gowns the company began manufacturing in response to the global pandemic.

He reached out to fellow EMBAs, government agencies, trade associations and other organizations. He needed to know more before he could bring the challenge to Novolex’s team such as who would need the items, how many, and how long demand would last.

“Our company may potentially be part of the solution,” Rozenski wrote to fellow EMBAs in early March. “But we need your help in connecting with existing suppliers and other parties so we can bring our manufacturing capabilities to the fight.”

Immediately, emails started flooding back and he found that Novolex could indeed contribute to addressing the critical shortage. The contribution first began with a donation of 49,000 pounds of plastic sheet. Soon after, Rozenski and Novolex’s Adrianne Tipton, senior vice president of innovation, worked on sweeping away obstacles to design and launch a Novolex face shield.

Rapid results

“Within a week, we were stamping these face shields out. Within two weeks, we were manufacturing the headgear,” Rozenski said.

Assembling the right team meant engineers in the group brought up other ideas. One group worked out a way to retool machines that normally make trash can liners and food-grade produce and freezer bags to produce another piece of critically needed protection: isolation gowns for healthcare workers.

“Within two days, we had prototyped a gown with sleeves—something we never made before. Within a week we were shipping them,” he said. By May 1, the company had shipped 10 million. “To have something you don’t even do in the market in a week is amazing.”

The Novolex team has generated three or four versions of the gowns and other facilities are looking at other methods to do the same.

In addition to the millions of face shields, headgear and gowns Novolex now produces, the company is selling its clear plastic sheeting to other companies—companies that make hundreds of thousands more face shields as well. In total, Novolex has seven facilities producing some sort of medical supplies needed to fight COVID-19.

Rozenski said that being an EMBA grad helped prepare him to be a leader in this effort and also gave him networks needed in the journey as well.

“It wasn’t just a business connection, it was a national crisis,” Rozenski said. “This is a market that didn’t exist for us before March 1.”

Carolyn Feltner, EMBA50, wrote this for the Olin Blog.

Touring with the Grateful Dead the summer after college. That is the only time since I was 15 that I didn’t have a job. And I sold water out of my car, so, technically, I was still working. Just ask my parents.

I love working. It gives me fulfillment, a sense of accomplishment and feeling of community. I made many of my best friends at the office.

I am one of thousands whose position was eliminated because of COVID-19. I came home from spring break with my two daughters on a Saturday night. Less than 12 hours later, I went to the office that Sunday to catch up on work, only to walk into my own layoff.

I had been worried about the effect COVID-19 would have on my family’s physical health, but I did not think of how much it could impact our financial health. Talk about your life being flipped in 24 hours.

‘What’s next?’

The question became “Okay, what’s next?” I have more than 20 years of marketing experience and was an EMBA50. I have been honored to be part of two established and respected communities in St. Louis: Olin and Anheuser-Busch.

I had heard of Mary Houlihan before, as she worked at Anheuser-Busch and now is at Olin, but I had never met her. The day I lost my job, March 22, I couldn’t count how many times former colleagues and classmates told me to connect with her, once I had told them my news. And, as if by luck, I received an email that afternoon that Olin was starting a boot camp for MBAs in transition led by Mary Houlihan and Frans VanOudenallen, career coaches at Olin’s Weston Career Center.

The boot camp has been invaluable. Topics such as managing the transition, having the right mindset and getting organized have helped me navigate the beginning of this journey. Peter Ambrose, EMBA12, was a guest speaker at the last session and explained the importance of “emotional resiliency” as we transition during the crisis.

Olin also offers a career group coaching session. I took this course when I started in the EMBA program. At the time, though, I was employed and wasn’t pursuing other career opportunities. It was a great course then, but it is even more vital now.

Mary has been my coach through all of this. She both supports me and pushes me.

Once Olin, always Olin

I have known the strength of the Olin community for a long time. My mother, Sally Roth, EMBA11, has talked about her connection to the school, relationship with the professors and friendships with her classmates. I felt that way while I attended Olin two years ago.

Only now, however, do I understand the significance of my time at Olin. My classmates from industries as diverse as manufacturing, finance and healthcare have reached out. They not only have offered connections and advice, but also they are there for me as friends.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. Yes, a layoff can happen to you. Yes, even you.
  2. Everything happens for a reason (and you will repeat that mantra until you almost believe it).
  3. Olin staff, faculty and alum are there for you. Reach out to them.

As much as my time at Olin was valuable, the connections I made there have been priceless. Once Olin, always Olin. Now time to find my next career adventure. Unfortunately, no bands are touring now, so I’ll be sticking with marketing.

Photo: Carolyn Feltner, EMBA50

Isabelle Roig, a WashU BA candidate and student worker for Olin’s marketing and communications department, wrote this for the Olin Blog.

Matt Kueker, MBA ’06, was recently named Kenway Consulting’s new CEO.

Kenway is a Chicago-based management and technology consulting company founded in 2004. It helps clients in the areas of technology solution delivery, enterprise program leadership, and information insight in industries that include business-to-business distribution, financial services, healthcare and telecommunications.

Matt Kueker
Matt Kueker

In February, the company announced it was partnering with Svoboda Capital Partners (SCP), a Chicago-based private equity firm that invests in middle-market growth companies. The new partnership brought about the need to change Kenway’s leadership structure.

Brian King, former CEO and founder of Kenway, transitioned to open and lead the company’s Scottsdale, Arizona, office. Company veteran Kueker,  who most recently served as Kenway’s managing director, assumed the role of CEO.

“This exciting partnership, along with the energy and enthusiasm Matt brings to the CEO role, will help position Kenway for accelerated growth, continued success, and long-term value for our clients and employees,” King said in a press release.


Kenway’s values and company culture has earned it accolades. It was included in Inc. magazine’s 2019 Inc. 5000 list, with a No. 20 ranking in IT Services. In 2018, Crain’s Chicago Business named Kenway No. 28 in their top 100 “Best Places to Work in Chicago.” And the National Association of Business Resources declared Kenway one of the “Best and Brightest Companies to Work For in the Nation” for three consecutive years.

“We are impressed by Kenway’s consistent growth and its talented and energetic team, which remains focused on building a culture that delivers outstanding client service,” SCP Principal David Rubin said.

Kueker said he is inspired by Kenway’s values and how they have encouraged continuous growth for Kenway during his time with the company. The transition from his former role as managing director to CEO will build on that foundation, he said.

“I’m honored to be a part of this new chapter of Kenway’s history as we build upon this successful momentum we’ve created together,” Kueker said.

Kenway’s Consulting’s Matt Kueker, left, and Brian King are pictured with adoptable dogs and, from left to right, ALIVE Rescue’s Kristen Gerali, Margo Strebig and Hannah Nicolet at Kenway ‘s annual fundraiser for the local nonprofit.

When Adam Greenberg began research on the business of baby diaper delivery service in 2002, he encountered a staggering deficit in quality resources for adults managing incontinence.

This is how Greenberg, an Olin ‘94 BSBA graduate, conceived NorthShore Care Supply: a company dedicated to providing high-quality adult diapers to millions of Americans struggling with incontinence and the stigmas surrounding it. Eighteen years later, Greenberg has transformed NorthShore from a small internet retailer into a flourishing direct-to-consumer brand with consistent five-star customer ratings.

 There is an increasing need to educate medical professionals and patients alike on incontinence care, as it usually is a symptom of another health condition requiring more attention. Still, the stigmas surrounding incontinence prevent many people from resolving their problems with it; in fact, the average person will wait nine years before seeking medical help. “There’s no reason our society adds additional stress on patients due to this lack of control that’s not their fault,” Greenberg says. 

He and his team share a passion to #EndHealthStigma by filling in the communication gaps delaying proper care for the 80 million Americans managing incontinence. They also frequently donate resources to communities struggling with incontinence, such as patients with Alzheimer’s, autism, MS, and cerebral palsy.

 Greenberg recalls how relevant his WashU Olin education remains, twenty-five years after his graduation, as he operates NorthShore. The dynamic array of coursework WashU Olin requires helped him form long-term relationships with factories in North America, Europe, and Asia, and shaped the philosophy and morale of NorthShore’s comprehensive business model. Recently, their strategy has shifted to focus on the heavy incontinence market, an area where most retailers avoid due to the need for bulkier, more expensive materials. Yet, because the demand is prominent for high-quality versions of this product, Greenberg’s decision to concentrate on this niche need has been imperative to sustaining NorthShore as a major player in its market. 

“Without proper data measurement and analysis, it’s very easy to lose focus on customer behavior and process efficiency. I expect we will continue to make large investments in data and analytics, which are critical to success in a hyper-competitive global marketplace. It is these values and experiences which have supported not only Greenberg’s success as a CEO but the millions of people that NorthShore cares for nationwide. “We’re helping so many people regain their dignity every day, it’s very rewarding and humbling.”

Tom and his wife, Erin, at an Olin event. They have two boys: Benjamin, 3, and Gabriel, 18 months.

WashU Olin students should know: Tom Russell, MBA ’15, is a recruiting rock star for those who follow him into the full-time MBA program. In his roles at Anheuser-Busch, he’s hired numerous Olin students for internships and full-time positions. In fact, he just recently sent a request to have Olin students check out six new positions at the beermaker.

Meanwhile, he’s been promoted four times since starting four years ago, serving now as a senior director “reporting directly to our North America CFO, responsible for managing all of our technology operational expenditures and capital expenditures, as well as our technology excellence program.”

That follows nearly four years of service in the US Army in a variety of leadership positions—including combat tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

We caught up with Tom to ask a few questions about how his Olin experience has translated to a career at Anheuser-Busch and how it helped him transition from military to civilian leadership.

In what ways are you using data to make business decisions?

Every decision I make at Anheuser Busch involves data; however, data alone does not always tell the complete story—I layer in qualitative analysis to round out the story in an effort to make the most optimal decision. Specifically, in my current role, I am responsible for managing all of our technology OPEX and CAPEX spending in North America so the majority of my data is financial data.

How did your experience at Olin prepare you for that?

My experience at Olin definitely prepared me well for my career at Anheuser Busch—the core curriculum provided me with a strong foundation in areas such as finance, accounting, critical thinking, statistics and corporate strategy—I have deployed the skills and knowledge I learned in each of these courses throughout my four years at ABI. In addition, in my second year, I focused heavily on finance and analytics—it was great to be able to have the flexibility in the curriculum to concentrate in this way.

How do you leverage your principles, or those of your organization, in weighing the data?

One of our principles at A-B is that we manage costs tightly—this means that we put an immense amount of effort into our budgeting and financial reporting processes. Robust financial management, accounting and reporting are crucial to our cost-connect-win strategy. This cost-conscious, ownership mindset provides the foundation for how I think about our financials and all of the decisions I make.

As a military veteran, did you have experience around the world? Do you view yourself as a global business leader? In what ways?

I did have experience around the world—I served combat tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and also spent a summer in Germany as part of our training curriculum when I was a cadet at West Point. I do view myself as a global business leader—we are a global company, and I routinely interact with my colleagues in South America, Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia, to include routine trips to those parts of the world.

Pictured above: Tom and his wife, Erin, at an Olin event. They have two boys: Benjamin, 3, and Gabriel, 18 months.

Update 3/31/2020 – GiftAMeal has raised $20,000 for COVID-19 hunger relief.

GiftAMeal is a St. Louis startup founded by Andrew Glantz, BSBA ’17. The following is a press release from the organization.

Andrew Glantz (BSBA ’17), founder, GiftAMeal

GiftAMeal, a St. Louis based mobile app, is stepping up in the face of the COVID-19 crisis that has hit our community so hard. Today [March 18], GiftAMeal announced an ambitious five-point plan to provide relief to struggling restaurants and the most at-risk segments of our society.

GiftAMeal is a mobile app that helps provide a meal to someone in need each time a user takes a photo in a partner restaurant. Just two weeks ago, they announced they had reached 200 partner restaurants, with 400,000 meals provided to those in need.

Founder & CEO of GiftAMeal, Andrew Glantz, explained, “A majority of the community members supported through GiftAMeal are children and the elderly. Schools are closing, and children relying on meals normally provided are facing a new challenge as social services scramble to readjust. At the same time, older community members, the most at-risk population for COVID-19, need our support now more than ever.”

Glantz continued, “Just as the community is struggling, so are many restaurants in the face of public health guidelines designed to contain the spread of this virus. Employees depend on their jobs to pay bills and make rent, and our partners are doing their best to mitigate the effects of this crisis on their staff. But they cannot do it without the support of the public.”

Seeking to assist both local restaurants and those at-risk in the community, Glantz announced the following plan:

Donation program available for delivery/pickup/offsite customers

With the mandated closing this week of dining rooms across the bistate area, Glantz’s team quickly devised a big change to their program that was previously only available to in-restaurant customers at partnering locations.

“We just launched an update to the GiftAMeal app that will temporarily allow users to take pictures off-site to donate meals for takeout, delivery, and gift card purchases. We will do this by lifting the location requirement of needing to be at a partner restaurant when you take the photo and we will move to manual verification. PLEASE support our local partner restaurants that are struggling during this difficult time.” – Glantz

Immediate financial support of hunger relief agencies – $5,000 matching challenge

“Having spoken to Operation Food Search about their needs, we will be making our donations for the next few months early to provide immediate funding to get food to those facing hunger. We may be a small startup with limited means but we’re launching a campaign to match donations, up to $5,000, for our food bank partner. If you would like to contribute, click here: http://weblink.donorperfect.com/GiftAMealMatch.” – Glantz

Publicity for restaurants undergoing fast changes

With hundreds of restaurants forced to quickly find new avenues to pay their staff, Glantz is keeping the app’s 35,000+ loyal restaurant customers aware of all avenues to support their favorite restaurants:

“We will keep you up-to-date on the latest with our partner restaurants on our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Many are expanding take-out and delivery programs to keep serving the community and are implementing extremely thorough health precautions to keep us all safe.” – Glantz

Direct coordination of food donations from restaurants

We are working to coordinate food donations with Operation Food Search. If you know of any restaurant that has a surplus that is interested in donating food to the community, please let me know or have them contact Jack Baran of OFS directly at jack.baran@operationfoodsearch.org. It’s tax-deductible too!– Glantz

Program cost relief for struggling restaurants

In a message to restaurants (who normally pay $49-$149/month to fund the program costs and donations), Glantz extended an offer to self-fund the program for restaurants unable to contribute in the months of March and April so that food donations and restaurant customers could continue to flow at a time when they are most needed. When asked how he came to that decision, he explained,

“We are a small startup with limited means, but this is a time where we can shine the brightest. It’s important to me that our donations continue to flow to hunger relief organizations, and I know that the visibility of restaurants on our platform can have a big impact on cash-flow for these local businesses. I’ve always been struck by the generosity and love of community that our partner restaurant operators have shown, and even if it’s a drop in the bucket, I am going to help however I can.”

The response by the community has been overwhelmingly positive and grateful. Kristen Wild, Executive Director of Operation Food Search, commented on GiftAMeal’s fast and community-centered response:

 “We are so very grateful to GiftAMeal for its innovative approach to providing more people with access to healthy food. Socially-conscious businesses like this are changing the way people approach giving, and the generous support of GiftAMeal is making an impact in our community every day.”

The free GiftAMeal app is available on iPhone and Android devices – giftameal.com/download

If you need help during this time, please visit www.operationfoodsearch.org/emergency-response-2020.

Check out www.giftameal.com for more information.

Facebook: facebook.com/giftameal

Instagram: instagram.com/giftameal

Twitter: twitter.com/giftameal