Chambers of Commerce Program Recognizes Rising Stars in Business
When Kelly Totten first started at Sylvana Institute for Medical Aesthetics in 2007, she worked part time as a helper. During the past decade, the Brunswick High School graduate rose through the company to become the senior director of operations, sales and marketing. “It’s been a hugely rewarding experience,” she says. “Working as a team leader, watching people’s skills develop, watching things come to fruition, seeing the community response to things we’ve developed, it’s just been incredible.”
She says growing alongside the family-owned Frederick-based company is one of the proudest moments of her career. “We always joke that it’s been a wild ride because we’ve done so many different things that we never really knew that we were going to do until we got the idea and pursued it,” she says.
Totten’s career highlights are now even more impressive. She was recently named the recipient of the third Young Professional of the Year award, presented by Generation Connect, a Frederick County Chamber of Commerce program designed for young professionals between the ages of 21 to 40. “One of the Chamber’s goals is to celebrate our members’ successes and to shine a spotlight on the innovation and dedication demonstrated by so many young professionals in Frederick County,” says Elizabeth Cromwell, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce. “It is always a challenging decision to select the award winner due to immense talent in our community.”
After determining four finalists from numerous nominees, the Generation Connect steering committee met with each candidate for a half hour and conducted short on-camera interviews. “Between those two sources and the nominations submitted, the team [was] able to really assess the candidates,” says Rick Weldon, the chamber’s vice president of operations and Generation Connect staff liaison. The finalists were honored with the winner announced during the Generation Connect & Chamber Networking event Nov. 18 at the Hampton Inn Frederick on Md. 85.
In nominating Totten for the award, Sylvana owner Margaret Corner cited the 29-year-old’s caring and upbeat nature as important qualities that positively affect her business including highlighting her genuine engagement and concern for coworkers and customers alike.
Totten adores working with people, adding it’s the favorite part of her job. “Whether I’m working with coworkers, whether I’m working with people in the community, whether I’m working with our clients, I get a lot of self-gratification … by watching other people succeed and helping other people’s needs,” she says. “I just feel that you choose your outlook on life. There are always going to be things in your life, whether they are professional or personal, that cross your path and they are not always going to be easy and they are not always going to be radiating positivity.”
How a person handles a situation and sees the opportunity for pursuit is important, she says. “Having a positive nature about you really, for me, helps to aid me in doing that with myself and my team. I just think that if you allow yourself to adopt a more-positive outlook on life, in general, even those not-so-great situations can end up being an unforeseen opportunity.”
In addition to Totten, the other Young Professional of the Year finalists this year included:
After completing her MBA at Simmons College in Boston, Katy Chase knew she wanted to work for a small company in order to form lasting relationships with clients. Her search brought her to Lighthouse Wealth Management in New Market, where she has served as an adviser since January 2013. “The thing I like most [about my job] is I love it when we are able to accomplish a client’s goal, especially when they don’t think that they are as close as they think they are.”
The 27-year-old looks at each case, crunches some numbers and presents clients with plans, including retirement and college funds. It is thrilling for her to see goals met. Clients “feel relieved and satisfied and they know that all of their hard work has paid off,” she says. “They’ve done all the work and we can be a tool to show them that they have done that on their own.”
A self-proclaimed life-long learner, Chase believes a person can only get better by doing. “Life is a lot more fun if you are learning from people and you are learning from their experiences,” the upstate New York native says. “That is part of the fun of our job. You get to meet different clients and you get to hear about their life experiences.”
As a financial adviser in The Will Group at Merrill Lynch, Alexandra Forsman oversees and coordinates the finances for individuals, families and business owners in the county, as well as for those who moved to other parts of the country. “Our clients are incredible people,” she says. “It’s a pleasure every day just working with them but my team [of co-workers] also is phenomenal. I am really fortunate to be able to come to work every day and enjoy it.”
Born and raised in Frederick, the Tuscarora High School graduate founded the young professional women’s group THRIVE about two years ago. “I’m young and hungry and wanted to congregate with other women who are also young and hungry and learn from some of the things that they were doing to negotiate better, to speak their opinions and so forth in a way that was heard and efficient,” the 25-year-old says. The group hosted its inaugural event in May with more than 100 women in attendance.
Growing up in Walkersville, Ross Baker got a job at 16 at Martin’s Catering, operating out of the Walkersville Fire Hall. He washed dishes, helped with food preparation and moved up to be a maître d’. “That experience made me decide to go into hospitality and major in hospitality in college” at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Today, Baker is the operations manager for the TownePlace Suites by Marriott for Plamondon Hospitality Partners, responsible for the day-to-day hotel operations. “I definitely get to see a lot of different people from all over the world,” he says. “The guests that come in, the stories they have. Right now I am at an extended-stay property so you really get to know the guests on a more personal level.”
With Plamondon since 2009, the 27-year-old has transferred among various hotel properties to assist management and has taken on whatever role he was assigned. Baker says he likes expanding his knowledge in different departments of the company. He’s glad he chose to return home for his career. “I love Frederick and I am really excited about the growth that we’ve seen,” he says. “Just how it has changed since I was a kid growing up. … I think it’s really exciting right now to see the growth. I plan to stay here for as long as I can.”