Meet the Midwest judges

The success of the program relies on the efforts of our independent panel of judges. These past Entrepreneur Of The Year® Award recipients and civic and community leaders devote significant effort to review and deliberate the merits of each nominee. We deeply appreciate their dedication to the program.

Kelly Cornelis

Kelly Cornelis*
Senior Advisor
LaSalle Capital

Rashod Johnson

Rashod Johnson*
President and CEO
Ardmore Roderick
2022 regional award winner

J.A. Lacy

J.A. Lacy*
CEO
Lacy Diversified, Inc.

Dick Leinenkugel

Dick Leinenkugel*
President and Chief Beer Merchant
Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company
2022 Midwest Lifetime
Achievement honoree

Mahesh Rajasekharan

Austin Rabine
CEO
Rabine Group
2023 regional award winner

Mahesh Rajasekharan

Mahesh Rajasekharan*
President and CEO
Cleo
2022 regional award winner

Andrea Zopp

Michael Stomberg
CEO
The Planet Group
2023 national finalist and regional award winner

Andrea Zopp

Andrea Zopp*
Managing Partner
Cleveland Avenue

*Denotes returning judge

 

 

Kelly Cornelis
Senior Advisor
LaSalle Capital

Ms. Cornelis is an experienced investor and board member with over 25 years of experience investing in the lower middle market. She spent 19 years at LaSalle Capital as a Partner and Chief Operating Advisor, where she was responsible for deal sourcing and execution, financial operations, portfolio management and investor relations. Previously she led investment activities at SB Partners and began her career as an analyst at William Blair. Kelly was a founding member of the Chicago Women in Private Equity, is a member of WAVE and PE WIN (Private Equity Women's Investor Network) and served as a board member of MBBI (Midwest Business Brokers and Intermediaries) and ACG Chicago. Kelly currently serves on the Board of Directors of Joseph's Gourmet Pasta and BOF Corporation and previously served on the boards of Westminster Foods, Fresh Origins, United American Security, Impex Holdings, Avantech Testing Services and Gen3 Marketing. A Moline, Illinois, native, Kelly holds a BBA from the University of Notre Dame and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Kelly lives in Elmhurst with her husband Ryan, son Connor and daughter Mara. Back to top

 

 

 

Rashod Johnson
President and CEO
Ardmore Roderick
2022 regional award winner

Rashod R. Johnson, PE is a businessman who transformed his firm, Ardmore Roderick, into one of the largest Blackowned infrastructure engineering and construction firms in the US. For four consecutive years, the firm ranked in the top 20 on Crain’s Chicago Business list of the 50 fastest-growing companies in Chicagoland. Rashod founded The Roderick Group, Inc. in 2005 and acquired Ardmore Associates, LLC in 2017, forming Ardmore Roderick, a full-service infrastructure firm with 300+ employees. Under Rashod’s leadership, Ardmore Roderick has evolved from a local leader to a multi-state, multimillion-dollar powerhouse with offices in several states and Puerto Rico.

Demonstrating Rashod’s commitment to creating diverse and inclusive workplaces, almost 60% of Ardmore Roderick's workforce and leadership is diverse—35+ points above the industry average. Ardmore Roderick is actively involved in large-scale public and private contracts, with Rashod serving as Project Executive for prominent projects for VIP clients, including the Chicago Department of Aviation, Lockheed Martin, Chicago Transit Authority, and the Obama Foundation, currently overseeing over $20 billion in construction.

In pursuit of continued success, Rashod has established an external Advisory Committee and an internal Strategic Planning Committee to develop aggressive plans for Ardmore Roderick’s national expansion through organic growth and strategic acquisitions. In 2008, as President and CEO of The Roderick Group (now Ardmore Roderick), he acquired Material Service Testing Laboratories, a union construction material testing, engineering, and research firm. Within three years, he grew it from a one-million-dollar business to a six-million-dollar business and sold the company in 2018 for ten times the purchasing price.

Devoted to serving African American communities, Rashod is currently a member of the African American Chamber of Commerce of Central Florida; the Illinois State Black Chamber of Commerce; a member of the Board of Trustees for St. Ignatius College Prep; and a member of the Board of Trustee for the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago. Additionally, Rashod serves as a Board Member of the Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association – Planning and Design Division and Government Affairs Committee; he is a graduate of Leadership Orlando Class 100; an active member of the Commercial Club of Chicago; and the Young Presidents Organization (YPO), Chicago. Rashod’s past community and association involvement includes Year-Up Chicago, YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago, South Side YMCA of Chicago, National Society of Black Engineers, and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Rashod earned an MBA from the University of Notre Dame, an MS in Civil Engineering from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a BS in Civil Engineering from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. In his free time, Rashod enjoys being a #GirlDad to his teenage daughter, Leila, and teaching her to share in his passions of faith, live music, travel, cars, and sports. Back to top

 

 

J.A. Lacy
CEO
Lacy Diversified, Inc.

J.A. Lacy serves as Chief Executive Officer of LDI, Ltd. an Indianapolis-based family office. LDI's current portfolio includes OIA Global, a third-party logistics provider, and Polygon, a manufacturer of composite components used in construction, medical device and municipal utility end markets. J.A. is a director at Citizens Energy Group, a broad-based utility providing natural gas, water and wastewater services to central Indiana residents, Auxo Marine Holdings, a barge transportation and logistics provider, and Telamon Corporation, a diversified manufacturer of telecom equipment and wire harness products. He also currently serves on the Central Indiana Community Foundation, Teach for America, Central Indiana Corporate Partnership and Christ Church Cathedral Foundation boards and has served on boards at the Central Indiana United Way, YMCA, Downtown Indy and Women's Fund. J.A. earned a Master of Business Administration from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Notre Dame. Back to top

 

 

Dick Leinenkugel
President and Chief Beer Merchant
Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company
2022 Midwest Lifetime Achievement honoree

Dick Leinenkugel is the retired President and Chief Beer Merchant for the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company holding the post from October 1, 2014, through 2022. Dick joined the Tenth and Blake Beer and Cider Company in 2010 as Manager – Business Development after serving as Wisconsin’s Commerce Secretary from 2008 to 2010. Dick spent 21 years with the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company based in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, as District Sales Manager, Chain Account Manager and VP – Sales and Marketing. Before joining his family’s business in 1987, Dick was the Tournament Director for the LPGA Women’s Kemper Open golf tournament based in Hawaii. Upon graduating from Marquette University in 1980 with a B.S. in Business Administration, Dick served four years as an officer in the United States Marine Corps. Dick and wife, Jean, of 39 years, have three grown children, Jeffrey, Katie and Lindsay, and reside in Eagle River, Wisconsin. Back to top

 

 

Austin Rabine
CEO
Rabine Group
2023 regional award winner

Austin Rabine is the CEO of Rabine, and a Founder of SITE Technologies. Austin developed his passion for entrepreneurship and business at a young age. His first business venture was a lawn care company in grade school, prepping driveways and snow plowing in high school, and a trucking technology company in his early twenties. From these experiences, Austin grew to love technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Joining the Rabine team after college, Austin served in a number of roles throughout the group to develop a wide range of skills and experiences. Roles ranging from project management, estimating, operations, sales, and management all helped to round out his experience prior to taking on his current role. During Austin's time as President of Rabine Paving America, he spearheaded an initiative to create an innovative solution to help property owners better budget their pavement and roofing spend. Through this initiative SITE Technologies was founded and became the fastest, technology driven assessment company in the world. Today, SITE works with some of the world's largest property owners helping them assess, prioritize, and budget for their properties all over the world. Austin leads as CEO of Rabine, an organization of 10 companies focused on national facility & utility maintenance and construction. Rabine includes companies focused on paving, snow removal, roofing, doors & docks, HVAC/Mechanical, plumbing, and assessment technology. Austin also serves on the board of the Rabine Group Foundation and board of YPO (Young Presidents' Organization). SITE Technologies was listed in 2022 as one of INC Magazine's fastest growing 5000 companies in the nation. Rabine Paving America was on the Crain's Chicago Fastest Growing Companies List for 2015. Rabine has been ranked by Crain's Chicago Business as one of the fastest 50 growing companies in Chicago for four consecutive years and in INC magazine's fastest 5000 companies in the nation. Back to top

 

 

Mahesh Rajasekharan
President and CEO
Cleo
2022 regional award winner

Mahesh Rajasekharan is President and CEO of Cleo, the pioneer and global leader of the world’s ecosystem integration software category. Cleo enables the supply chain ecosystems of thousands of customers in the logistics, transportation, manufacturing, distribution and retail industries by continuously improving business relationships, driving rapid revenue growth and improving corporate profitability through the frictionless movement, transformation and integration of supply chain and financial data. Mahesh has extensive leadership experience in business, including sales and marketing, operations and business strategy; in technology, including supply chain management, SaaS, and enterprise software and consulting services; and in finance, including proven acumen around private equity investment, acquisition integration and P&L management. Since 2012, he has been leading Cleo’s evolution and expansion from a “neo-startup” with a small number of investors to a high-growth, scaled cloud software business, with a strategic growth investment backed by H.I.G. Capital. Prior to leading Cleo, he served as Chief Operating Officer at SumTotal Systems, where he led the dramatic turnaround of this $100 million multinational software company. Previously, Mahesh led the High-tech Industry Sector at i2 Technologies, where he managed global sales and a $60 million P&L. Today Mahesh serves on the Board of Directors for Cleo, Ascend Software and Banyan Software, and is on the Advisory Board for StartupWind, a social ideation network. He holds a PhD in Industrial Engineering from Texas A&M University, an MS in Industrial Engineering from Texas Tech University and a BE in Mechanical Engineering from Anna University in India. He also earned an MBA in Finance, Strategy and Marketing from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, where he graduated No. 1 in his class. In 2022, he was named an Entrepreneur Of The Year Midwest Region Award winner. Back to top

 

 

Michael Stomberg
CEO
The Planet Group
2023 national finalist and regional award winner

Michael Stomberg is the founder and CEO of The Planet Group which includes several renowned staffing companies and global consulting organizations. After founding his first company at age 26, an IT consulting company focused on technology solutions for the life sciences industry, he quickly expanded the company into the go-to consulting and human capital solutions provider to emerging life science companies. Following a successful exit, Michael launched the Planet Group in 2009. Since then, Michael has led the organization to record organic growth while also leading the company through the launch of four new business lines and the acquisition of multiple firms. He also led the M&A activities when in May 2021, The Planet Group merged with ProPharma Group, the leading global provider of outsourced regulatory, clinical research, compliance, pharmacovigilance, and medical information services for pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device companies. Michael assumed the role of ProPharma Group's CEO in September 2021. Michael has over 20 years of experience developing and leading global organizations focused on the Life Sciences, Technology, and Energy industries. His expertise includes organizational development, leadership development, streamlining operations, technology integration, team development, and global business strategy. He holds a bachelor's degree from Northern Illinois University and an MBA from the Keller Graduate School of Management. Back to top

 

 

Andrea Zopp
Managing Partner
Cleveland Avenue

Andrea L. Zopp is Managing Partner of Cleveland Avenue. In her current role at Cleveland Avenue, Andrea leads the organization’s work investing in and supporting minority and women entrepreneurs and their companies. Previously, she served as President and CEO of World Business Chicago (WBC), where she led the organization’s mission of inclusive economic growth, supporting businesses and promoting Chicago as a leading global city. Prior to joining WBC, she served as Deputy Mayor, Chief Neighborhood Development Officer for the city of Chicago. Andrea has held executive leadership positions at several Fortune 500 companies. She was General Counsel and Chief Human Resources Officer at Exelon Corporation and served as Senior Vice President General Counsel and Corporate Secretary at Sears Holdings Corporation. Andrea also served as Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at Sara Lee Corporation. As the former President and CEO of the Chicago Urban League, she led the nationally recognized organization’s focus on expanding economic opportunity in underserved communities. Andrea also served as a federal and state prosecutor, serving as an assistant United States attorney and as the first woman and African American First Assistant in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. Andrea currently serves on the boards of Relativity, a global e-discovery and document management software company, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago, a federally chartered wholesale bank with $90 billion in assets, and Empowerment and Inclusion Capital I Corp. (NYSE: EPWR), a special-purpose acquisition company. She is the Chair of the Board of Trustees at Chicago State University and also serves on the boards of the Henry Ford Health System, The Economic Club of Chicago, the Northwestern Memorial Hospital Foundation and the Black Ensemble Theater, as well as the Chicago Police Board. She received her BA in History and Science from Harvard University and her JD from Harvard Law School. Back to top