People to Watch 2018
We are often asked, “What are the guidelines for being on your ‘People to Watch’ list? Our answer is often vague, but that’s not because we are looking for a polite way to avoid a conversation. It’s just not an easy question to answer.
The fact is, there are many things that go into consideration for “People to Watch,” and many of the attributes are subjective. The people we choose are community contributors, yes, but they are also often engaged in endeavors that often fall outside of the ordinary. Yes, we have had doctors, lawyers and business leaders in “People to Watch,” but we have also had artists, chefs and teachers.
In the end, it’s the title itself that sets the best parameters for “People to Watch.” Whoever they are, we believe they are doing things—important things, cool things, interesting things, fun things—in our community that are simply worth watching.
Read their stories on the following pages and see if you agree.
Biscuits are a simple staple of the table, but the journey that they are taking Lesley Riley on is anything but simple. Originally from Mercersburg, Pa., Lesley remained in Philadelphia after school, later moving to North Carolina for seven years where she owned an upscale soul food restaurant called Legacy, featuring recipes handed down through generations. A divorce was followed by a move back north and a job with the federal government.
Lesley was out of the food business, but she continued cooking for family and friends with dinner parties, where she’d say, “Don’t bring anything, just come.” Her well-fed friends encouraged her to try out for Master Chef. She made the tryouts, was cut, but the public that had been cheering her on made her think, “I’ve got to keep this going.” She launched a website, created gourmet butters and, reflecting the nickname “Ma Biscuit” that her friends had been calling her for years, sold her first biscuit on May 28, 2015, launching Mama Biscuit’s Gourmet Biscuits at 7309 Grove Road. The biscuits can be ordered online at www.mamabiscuit.com and are on the shelves of stores, including Wegmans, Whole Foods, Sam’s Club and, starting in July, Walmart.
FM: Why biscuits?
Lesley: Biscuits remind you of your grandmother or going to your aunt’s house. Biscuits are what many people woke up to on a Sunday morning. We’re so used to convenience foods, but our biscuits are hand-crafted, not machine-made. You still get a little of the love in them. … We do it all in-house to keep the quality.
FM: How did your recipes come about?
Lesley: I made sweet potato biscuits at my restaurant and I had my grandmother’s recipe. We [now] have over 50 different flavors—sweet and savory as well as a gluten-free version. My favorite is anything we do with lemon.
FM: What is it like seeing your biscuits on store shelves?
Lesley: I just hit Sam’s yesterday. I don’t know how to feel. It’s maybe like an artist hearing their song on the radio for the first time. It’s a good feeling, but I haven’t taken it all in yet. It’s a lot of hard work. (She has full-time job as an IT project manager in addition to her biscuit business.)
FM: You currently have a crew of 12 working part-time. What do you look for in an employee?
Lesley: Someone who has passion about baking. Someone who enjoys what they’re doing.
FM: What feeds your inspiration?
Lesley: I have a great network of friends and, also, my grandson, Tristan. The parent company is called Natsirt Group, which is Tristan spelled backward. I want to leave him something. … My main thing was to create jobs. … We’re not done yet. I think everything happens in the right time.
On Sept. 9, 2014, Urbana real estate agent Cliff Hageman was on top of the world, having just closed a lucrative sale that was part of a string of successes for the company that he and his brother, Jason, owned with their father, David. Adding to Cliff’s good feeling about the sale were thoughts of an upcoming golf trip to Pebble Beach in California.
But life clearly had other plans. As he was preparing to leave on his motorcycle from a gas station, a driver texting on her phone crossed three traffic lanes, her car making a direct hit to Cliff’s left leg. Seventeen days later, his leg was amputated below the knee. In the months that followed, Cliff was inspired to start an organization committed to stopping texting and driving.
FM: After 28 surgeries and two months in the hospital followed by rehabilitation, how do you keep from being bitter?
Cliff: How many people at 45 get to reset their lives? It has made me think, am I going to create a life that makes a difference? I am not bitter. Who has time for bitterness? Out of the top 10 [recent] motivational speakers, three are dead … so there’s a spot for me at the top.
FM: It was ultimately your decision to have your leg removed?
Cliff: The doctors told me that they would have to take muscle from my back and use it for my leg. But I didn’t want it messing with my golf swing. I felt that [amputation] was the best thing for me. Actually, I think I’m a better golfer now.
FM: Talk about your nonprofit, STAND, which is an acronym for Stop Texting and Driving (www.standriving.com).
Cliff: I went back to real estate after the accident, but I kept getting pulled in this direction to try and get the word out and do what I could to stop distracted driving. … We looked at the models used by Susan G. Komen [breast cancer fund] and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Eleven teens die every day from texting and driving. My goal is to do two high schools a week [telling my story] all over the country. And there are others to be reached. I spoke at a convention of Realtors, some of the biggest perpetrators of texting, and have appeared on ABC news in Florida. … We have started a national campaign to put a million magnets on cars and trucks warning of the dangers of texting and driving. I’m starting to see them in my travels and I constantly give them out, like to a flight attendant. … Everywhere I go I want to reach at least one person. I want to try and get the number of accidents down to zero.
FM: Undoubtedly there have been some emotional times in your journey. Can you share an example?
Cliff: I’ve coached baseball and basketball, and on the day I came home [from the hospital] there were more than 300 kids on my lawn. Urbana is the best community in America.
Kathie Callahan Brady
If you would like a glimpse of the economy of the future, you might want to chat with Kathie Callahan Brady. As president and CEO of the Frederick Innovative Technology Center, Inc., she works with dozens of entrepreneurs who hope the incubator will serve as the launching pad that turns their startup into the next big thing.
In Kathie, they have a kindred spirit. An Arizona native, she has been an entrepreneur herself—several times over, in fact—in a career that has included stints in commercial real estate, academia, information technology and business development. Oh, and she has also owned businesses in photography and holistic healing. “I have a lot of energy and a lot of different passions.”
Such a diverse background has prepared her well for understanding the needs and concerns of FITCI’s clients, which range from bio-tech companies located in labs on Metropolitan Court to IT firms working in the organization’s newest space in Downtown Frederick.
Kathie has instilled a greater sense of collaboration in the FITCI clients and brought in teams of successful, established CEOs to work with the fledgling companies. The results speak for themselves: Since she arrived 18 months ago, the number of FITCI clients has more than doubled, from 17 to 37.
FM: How have you grown so much, so quickly?
Kathie: Here’s what I told myself I was going to do. I wasn’t going to market at all; I was going to take care of the clients who were there first, because I believe if you really work on your existing clients that will grow itself.
FM: You have said the incubator model is broken. How so?
Kathie: It’s just not a good model, and part of it is it has always been a real estate play. So my philosophy is we are going to move away from that and move toward core business. Our core business is about growing business. It’s not about property management, it’s not about facilities. It’s not any of that kind of stuff.
FM: Your belief in greater collaboration among your clients must have been a culture shock.
Kathie: When I first got here, they were lab to lab and they didn’t know what each other did. I said, “Oh no, no, no. The door’s open. Come on in here.” I probably scared many of them, thinking, “We were just renting space. We were fine.” But they are happy about that now.
FM: Has having been an entrepreneur made it easier for you to coach entrepreneurs?
Kathie: I believe that when it comes to building business, you have to have built one. You have to have known that pain and felt what it takes to really risk everything.
FM: Is your job rewarding?
Kathie: There’s something about building businesses that, personally, there is no greater reward. I can be completely exhausted—and this has happened over and over again—and a client will walk in and pretty soon we are up on the white board and we are solving the world’s problems.
Mike Greenberg openly talks about the “love affair” he once had with prescription pain pills, an addiction that nearly cost him everything. But it was the lowest point in his life that eventually brought him to his current job as fundraising and event specialist at the Frederick Rescue Mission. Today he speaks passionately about the Rescue Mission and how it can change lives like his.
Mike was living the American Dream in 2011, working jobs in mortgages and luxury transportation in New York City that gave him everything he thought he wanted. “It was exciting, but I was so empty inside. I was chasing the American Dream in a way. I had the girlfriend and the money and the car and the place to live. But I was just focused on myself that I became empty.”
After his girlfriend was in a car accident he tried one of her painkillers. “I couldn’t feel my problems anymore.” He was soon addicted and by 2013 his father, then living in Middletown, urged Mike to move to Frederick and enroll in the Rescue Mission’s Changed Life Recovery Program—a year-long, Christian-based residential rehabilitation curriculum.
FM: What was rehab like?
Mike: It was a huge culture shock. You have to be there a year, you have to listen to rules and regulations, and you have to follow them. You are also around people who have been in and out of jail. And having to do this by myself with no real support was scary.
FM: You knew what you wanted to do after you graduated from the program?
Mike: Arnold [Farlow], who is the director of the Rescue Mission, said one time to the residents, “Please let us know what you want to do with your life. Develop a plan. If you want to be a basketball player in the NBA, I’m not sure I can help you out. But if you have a realistic goal, I will do everything in my power to make sure you meet that goal.” That was my challenge.
FM: You were hired to work in public relations for the Rescue Mission in 2015 and a year later you took your current position. Tell us about your job.
Mike: Right now I just look to create awareness of the Frederick Rescue Mission in the community and establish brand recognition and educate people who may not know of all the things we do and [then] get them involved. People who know the Rescue Mission may only know of one thing we do, whether it’s the food program or the recovery program or the Faith House [for homeless women and children] or the clothing program, but I like to let them know about all the things we do, because we are a huge operation.
FM: How rewarding is it?
Mike: Really giving back to the place that changed my life is hugely rewarding for me. And then [the Rescue Mission] allowing me to be passionate and drive myself … has been the greatest benefit for me.
Carly & Brian Ogden
Two years ago, Carly and Brian Ogden were in a tough spot. When plans for the couple’s planned brewery in Baltimore fell through—after investing months and thousands of dollars—they need to find plan B in a hurry.
They found it in Frederick, specifically vacant warehouse/industrial space on Sagner Avenue, just steps away from Carroll Creek Linear Park, which in January of 2017 became the home to Attaboy Beer. Stop by the craft brewery and you are likely to find Carly and Brian, and possibly their toddler Tommy. They might be pouring beer, talking to customers or even picking up empty glasses. But mainly, they are living their dream.
In their first year in business, they far exceeded their admittedly conservative business plan, with locals and tourists alike streaming into their business. Now they are growing—within reason—adding brewing capacity and employees. “We are just constantly surprised every time the door opens and somebody comes in. Frederick is just a great beer town, a great tourist town. That has been a surprise to us,” Carly says.
They are also becoming strong voices for the growing local brewing community, as well as for changing Maryland law to encourage more growth for craft brewing.
FM: What is it like being married and working together?
Carly: We try to stay out of each other’s hair. He does all the brewing and the brew world, and I do all the business stuff—the marketing, social media and the taproom.
FM: There are now several small brewers in Frederick. Is that sustainable?
Carly: We all don’t make the same beer. It’s cool that everyone has their own thing.
Brian: Every brewer in town knows each other, we all have beers together. It’s a good community.
FM: You obviously spend many hours at your business. Do you have to force yourselves to take time off?
Brian: Right around when we opened we realized we had to take a day off because we were losing our minds, we were getting irritable. So we decided we had to take Mondays off and kind of keep that day solid. That’s been a good thing for us because you can’t just work every day, all the time, forever. It’s going to kill you.
FM: You have both been strong advocates for changing Maryland’s alcohol laws, which are currently tilted toward distributors and not manufacturers. What was your reaction, then, when reform legislation failed in the General Assembly this year?
Carly: That was just incredibly discouraging.
Brian: Legislation does shape our dreams and what we can do.
FM: Nonetheless, you had a great first year.
Brian: We are breathing a little bit easier now and we are trying to figure out what do we really want, what is important. We don’t want to just grow irresponsibly, just buy a bunch of tanks and just put beer out there.
FM: Do you have room to grow?
Brian: We can make plenty of beer. We didn’t open up and immediately not have enough capacity. That was a big win for us.