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Finalists for Financial Executive of the Year

SMALL COMPANIES
 
Richard Klein
ConServe
Continental Service Group Inc. has more than tripled its employment in the last five years, including the addition of a call center in the Buffalo suburbs. Richard Klein, the firm’s chief financial officer, has played an integral role in that growth.
 
The Perinton-based collections firm, which does business as ConServe, employs nearly 500 people, including more than 400 at its CrossKeys Office Park headquarters and more than 80 at its call center in Depew.
 
The call center was established in 2009.
 
ConServe, which focuses on college loans, generated revenues of $53 million in 2012, up 42 percent from 2011. Klein credits ConServe President Mark Davitt and other top executives with helping him do his job effectively.
 
"Being in the role I’m in allows me to get involved with a lot of different aspects of the company," he said.
 
Klein helps coordinate ConServe’s involvement in community events such as the Chase Corporate Challenge, as well as the company’s Dress Down for Charities program and its annual golf outing and corporate gala.
 
Klein, who has a degree in accounting from St. John Fisher College and an MBA from the Simon School of Business at the University of Rochester, joined ConServe in March 2003. In October 2004, the company was one of five agencies chosen to collect defaulted student loans for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid.
 
The company has been growing steadily ever since.
 
"The toughest part of the job has to be managing the growth we’ve enjoyed the last several years," Klein said. "It’s making sure we have the proper facilities, that we’re able to continue to grow, and that we have the proper funding in place.
 
"No day is ever the same, which is difficult, but that’s also the fun part."
  -Thomas Adams
 
Robert Lelio
Caldwell Manufacturing Co.
Robert Lelio is familiar with the saying "Hope for the best, but plan for the worst." It is a philosophy he often uses at work.
 
"It’s challenging to be able to position the company to capitalize on opportunities while at the same time having contingencies in place so if the market hiccups, we know what to do and are able to react quickly," said Lelio, chief financial officer at Caldwell Manufacturing Co. for the past 10 years.
 
He previously worked as vice president of finance and administration for MKS Instruments Inc./ENI Technology Inc.
 
Caldwell produces window counterbalance systems and related components. The company’s headquarters has been in the Rochester area since its inception in 1888.
 
The Ogden-based company was hurt by a recession starting in 2000 and a more recent housing market slump, to the point where it ceased local manufacturing operations in 2009. Since then, however, Caldwell has restructured and has made strides in expanding its local technical department. It also acquired Advantage Manufacturing Corp. of Victor, Ontario County, in 2012.
 
Guiding a manufacturing firm through tough economic times and an acquisition is something Lelio is proud of.
 
On the job, he says, he most enjoys working with his colleagues, a driven and focused team. Lelio also has enjoyed learning all aspects of the manufacturing business outside the financial realm.
 
He noted that Caldwell is a community-minded company, sponsoring a Habitat for Humanity house being built in Rochester. Lelio is involved with that project at work. Off the job, he serves as deacon and treasurer at Webster Bible Church.
 
The privately held Caldwell does not disclose sales figures, but Lelio noted growth in the housing market, which it serves.
 
"It’s stronger then we have seen in the past few years," he said.
  -Andrea Deckert
 
Mark Williams
DeCarolis Truck Rental Inc.
Teaching by example has worked well for Mark Williams in his role as vice president of finance for DeCarolis Truck Rental Inc.
 
"I give (employees) guidance through my experience but give them the freedom and the responsibility to develop their own style," he said.
 
Williams, who has been with the company a quarter of a century, oversees the corporate finance department, which includes accounting, human resources, information technology and credit. The company employs some 170 full-time and 380 part-time staffers at both DeCarolis and its subsidiary, Monroe School Transportation Inc.
 
DeCarolis provides transportation services including full-service leasing and rental of commercial trucks, tractors and trailers. For fiscal 2012 the company posted consolidated revenues of more than $47 million, and Williams said revenues through March were up more than 2 percent.
 
Having good management skills is important in his position, Williams said, because he oversees so many areas of the company. He also noted the importance of having good managers he can rely on.
 
Williams was instrumental in transforming DeCarolis from a paper-based company to a systems-driven company, working closely with the IT department to automate, redesign and implement new accounting procedures, Chairman Paul DeCarolis wrote in his letter of reference.
 
"Throughout Mark’s 25 years at DTR he has helped steer the company through business and economic cycles, expansions into new markets and acquisitions of other companies," DeCarolis wrote.
 
Williams, who has a degree in business management from St. John Fisher College, has been a member of the NationaLease Financial Officers’ Group for more than two decades and has served as group chairman and as a member of its planning committee.
  -Velvet Spicer
 
LARGE COMPANIES
 
Cammie Orengo
Global Communications Solutions
One of Cammie Orengo’s favorite parts of her job is serving as a resource for co-workers.
 
"I have an opportunity to teach colleagues how business decisions impact us financially and how to strategize on how to grow the business and stay profitable," Orengo said.
 
Orengo is vice president/division chief financial officer for L-3 Global Communications Solutions Inc.
 
In her role, Orengo oversees some 30 people in various departments, including accounting, finance and information technology in Victor, Ontario County, along with some operations at a site in Baltimore.
 
The Victor-based GCS supplies deployable satellite communications products, systems and airtime for government, broadcast media, insurers and other commercial customers.
 
The business began in 1995 as Global Communications Solutions Inc. but was acquired by New York City-based L-3-one of the largest defense companies in the country-in 2007.
 
Orengo said L-3 does not provide sales figures for its division, but noted GCS estimates a 10 percent to 15 percent increase in annual sales, on average. L-3 logged sales of some $13 billion in 2012, filings with the Securities & Exchange Commission show.
 
Orengo is also responsible for the oversight of GCS’ charitable giving and is involved with the company’s efforts with and sponsorship of the program Court Appointed Special Advocates, as well as GCS’ support of the Wounded Warriors and Special Operations Charities in Washington, D.C., and Fort Bragg, N.C.
 
Off the job, Orengo’s time centers around her children, ages 17, 13 and 7. She recently served as a coach for the Odyssey of the Mind program at Churchville-Chili Middle School and as a co-team parent for the Churchville-Chili varsity lacrosse team.
 
On the job, Orengo is proud of the work she and her staff completed while the company was being acquired by L-3. She has a bachelor of science degree in accounting from St. John Fisher College.
 
"We were able to provide corporate with what it needed and make a smooth transition," she said. "We all pulled together to get the job done."
  -Andrea Deckert
 
David Vaden
Bryant & Stratton College
David Vaden sees a large number of Americans separated from well-paying jobs by lack of college degrees. He and Bryant & Stratton College are trying to reach them.
 
Vaden, the college’s vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer, has been part of an ongoing expansion as the institution reaches out to new audiences and moves into new geographic areas.
 
In the past few years the college has opened three new campuses, and it now has 18 locations in addition to offering online education. In all, the college reaches 14,000 students, Vaden said.
 
The college has become a large entity, with 2,000 employees overall and 120 in the Rochester area.
 
Vaden still sees more room to grow, with the college adding a new campus roughly every 12 to 18 months, he said.
 
"There is a huge opportunity in the num-ber of non-college graduates who benefit from a degree," he said.
 
Vaden is the relative newcomer to Bryant & Stratton, having joined the college three years ago. Most other executives have much longer tenure, with an average of 25 years for upper management, he said.
 
The role as CFO and treasurer at Bryant & Stratton offers Vaden the chance to draw on his background in the business world and do some work in operations.
 
He previously served as CFO for yogurt maker Chobani Inc. and president for North America and global operations and chief operating officer for Harris Interactive Inc.
 
"I’m a financial officer by name, but the nature of my role does involve working with operations in some capacity," he said.
 
Vaden said the work he does at the college connects to a long-held desire to help others.
 
"I’ve always had the passion to help people reach their potential," he said. "I’m very proud of my work at Bryant & Stratton."
 
Outside the college, Vaden’s activities include serving on a board creating a charter school for children with autism. He also is a founding board member for Camp Puzzle Peace, an organization committed to providing support to enhance the lives of families dealing with autism.
  -Nate Dougherty
 
John Vetere
LiDestri Foods Inc.
Few companies in the Rochester area have made more high-profile moves in the last three years than LiDestri Foods Inc.
 
The private-label and contract manufacturer of food products has purchased two buildings on Lee Road in Greece and is moving operations from Yates County and New Jersey as part of a $60 million transition.
 
LiDestri’s financials were in the hands of John Vetere as chief financial officer until he was promoted to president in February.
 
"It’s been significantly challenging over the last couple of years just because of the growth," Vetere said of his responsibilities. "One of the things I’ve been particularly challenged on is making sure we set a strong platform for growth, which is not just the people aspect. We also had to look at our systems."
 
The company is spending more than $22 million to acquire and equip a 625,000-square-foot building in the Eastman Business Park and $5.3 million more to develop a test kitchen to support its food, beverage and spirits business.
 
Vetere helped guide LiDestri through a $1 million information technology conversion related to its accounting and production reports system.
 
"If you grow too fast and don’t have that structure, it can cause you more growing pains than you really would normally have," he said.
 
Vetere was CFO for four years before becoming president. Before that, he was director of international finance and risk management for three years for the former John D. Brush & Co. Inc., which did business then as the Sentry Group and is now SentrySafe.
 
LiDestri ranks 13th on the Rochester Business Journal’s most recent list of manufacturers in the region with 620 local workers. It ranks seventh among private companies in the area.
  -Thomas Adams
 
SMALL NON-PROFITS
 
Susan Barnes
Center for Governmental Research Inc.
Susan Barnes admires the history of the Center for Governmental Research Inc., and she will be a big part of its future.
 
As chief financial officer of the Rochester-based non-profit, which helps municipalities and other entities make financial assessments and do research, Barnes said she is mindful of the important place the organization holds.
 
Founded by George Eastman, the non-profit has been a behind-the-scenes force on many important projects. And now it is planning to assume an even bigger role, expanding nationwide and taking the lead on projects such as a town consolidation in New Jersey.
 
Barnes plays a key role in the organiza-tion, which has revenues of close to $2 million, by providing financial management as it expands. She joined CGR in 2004 and has more than 16 years of experience as a non-profit fiscal officer, including stints as CFO of Genesee Country Village & Museum and controller at East House Corp.
 
The largest project, a merger between the township and borough in Princeton, N.J., is expected to save taxpayers there $2 million. It is the first significant local merger in New Jersey in more than 60 years, and CGR is taking the lead.
 
Barnes also sees CGR expanding elsewhere as municipalities look for ways to operate more efficiently.
 
"We’re doing some important work in New Jersey, but we’re also moving into Arizona and Ohio," she said.
 
Barnes said she sees the award as the culmination of the work she has done in the non-profit sector. Aside from her work at CGR, she also has volunteered with the Ad Council of Rochester.
 
She also tries to bring a bit of a business mindset to the non-profit sector, she said.
 
"We are happy to be in the business of helping the community," Barnes said. "Both organizations that I’ve worked with have done a great job of providing great service to the community in a very ethical and caring way."
  -Nate Dougherty
 
Patricia Dell
Norman Howard School
Patricia Dell joined the Norman Howard School in 1999 as a business manager.
 
But as others retired and jobs came her way, Dell continued to take on other positions and increase her financial duties. Today, as the school’s chief financial officer, Dell oversees spending at a time when the school’s revenue has declined.
 
"We’ve done a great job of spending within our means, especially since we’ve had the last four years without a rate increase from New York State," Dell said. "We’ve been able to continue doing well even as fixed costs like health care have increased at double-digit rates."
 
Dell said she feels a sense of accomplishment that the school, which serves students who have learning disabilities, is able to continue operating in such conditions and even offer competitive health insurance plans for about 80 employees.
 
The Norman Howard School reported revenue of $4.7 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012. The school also reported expenses of $4.3 million during that time.
 
Dell also works with EnCompass: Resources for Learning, a 501(c)(3) established in 2004 as a community outreach initiative of the school’s board of directors. The organization provides innovative educational services to students who have difficulty learning.
 
EnCompass matches services to each student’s learning style, supporting the work that goes on within the school.
 
Dell also served as CFO of Education Enterprise of New York Inc., which has four non-profits under its umbrella.
 
Dell said she is honored to be nominated for the award and heartened to see the work of the normally behind-the-scenes financial executives being honored.
 
"The nomination came as a huge surprise to me," she said. "The CFO is usually the back-of-the-house type of person, and it’s very nice of them to nominate me. I felt very honored."
  -Nate Dougherty
 
Suzanne O’Connor
High Tech Rochester Inc.
Suzanne O’Connor has worked in accounting and finance for several organizations, including a Fortune 500 company. She even dipped into the entrepreneurial realm at one point by starting her own auto finance company.
 
All of this experience has helped O’Connor in her current role as managing director of finance and administration for High Tech Rochester Inc. O’Connor handles all aspects of accounting, contract administration and finance for HTR while helping to guide the organization’s new-venture clients through the financial ins and outs of their startups.
 
O’Connor, who received a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Clarkson University, joined HTR in 2004. It was not her first stint with a non-profit organization, however.
 
After spending the first part of her career managing accounting for a diverse array of companies, including her own startup, O’Connor took some time off. Toward the end of her break she got connected with VisitRochester, the region’s tourism organization, where she accepted a position filling in for the finance director, who was on medical leave.
 
"Whether you’re working for a non-profit or a for-profit, they both have the same focus on being successful," O’Connor said. "There are more similarities than there are differences.
 
"In my experience in finance, no matter where you are, you have to understand the business. You don’t just handle the numbers or a paper invoice. You have to know the business to really add value to the company."
 
In working for an organization such as HTR, O’Connor said, nothing beats the rewarding feeling of helping technology innovators turn their dreams into successful businesses.
 
"That’s why I’m here," she said.
 
James Senall, HTR president, described O’Connor as capable, qualified and passionate about helping the local economy. She helps create jobs and wealth in the region, he said, and she supports other area non-profit organizations as well.
  -Troy L. Smith
 
LARGE NON-PROFITS
 
Francine Brokaw
Rochester Broadway Theatre League Inc.
Francine Brokaw’s position as vice president of finance did not exist when she joined the Rochester Broadway Theatre League Inc. in 1994. The job developed as Brokaw grew into it.
 
"I started as a part-time temp doing accounting," Brokaw said. "Eventually it turned into full time. Sometimes there was an intern with me, then a part-time helper. It just sort of grew from there."
 
Her duties in managing the RBTL’s finances have not changed all that much, said Brokaw, who has bachelor’s degrees from SUNY College at Fredonia and SUNY College at Brockport. However, the organization has certainly evolved.
 
"We went from putting on shows at the Auditorium Theatre and renting it on a nightly basis, to moving in and managing it, to buying it," Brokaw said. "We had some tough years back in the early days, but buying the theater was a huge change for us."
 
The Broadway League, a national trade association for the Broadway theater industry, estimates the RBTL’s annual economic impact on the Rochester community to be $30 million. Most recently, the Broadway League estimated the RBTL’s 2013 engagement of "Wicked" to have a local economic impact of nearly $11 million.
 
Brokaw prefers to measure the success of the RBTL in other ways, such as the organization’s thriving educational programs and its Stars of Tomorrow program, which recognizes local high school musicals.
 
"The money we take in goes into our education programs and events that give kids recognition that they may not get at their high school," Brokaw said. "There are 12 full-time people at the RBTL who work hard to make that happen, and I get to be one of them."
  -Troy L. Smith
 
Jeanine Frenz
Medical Motor Service of Rochester and Monroe County Inc.
Good leadership skills and ethics are crucial in overseeing the finances of a company.
 
"You have to have a moral compass. You have to know right from wrong. It’s not something you can teach somebody," said Jeanine Frenz, chief financial officer for Medical Motor Service of Rochester and Monroe County Inc. "You always have to be on the lookout for things or people that aren’t doing the right thing."
 
As the individual in charge of the finances of the company, Frenz spends a good amount of time on risk management. She constantly looks at how the company can save money and improve its operations.
 
"I like to sit back and look at the big picture, and look at it from our perspective but from the funder’s perspective too, and see how we fit. Being a leader takes a lot of courage," Frenz said of her role in the company and her leadership style. "I think I’ve grown in that since I’ve been here."
 
Medical Motor Service is a non-profit agency that provides specialized door-to-door non-emergency medical and non-medical transportation services to 15,000 people a year, serving people who have disabilities or are elderly and unable to drive.
 
The agency posted revenue of $9.02 million in 2011 and $10 million last year. Medical Motor Service has some 138 full-time employees and 48 part-timers.
 
"For the first time in over 10 years, due to Ms. Frenz’s cash management skills and aggressive pursuit of accounts receiv-ables, Medical Motor Service has reduced its debt and reliance on our borrowing to the point where we have been out of our line of credit for nearly a year," wrote Executive Director William McDonald in his nomination of Frenz. "Cash reserves are at an all-time high."
 
Frenz said the success of the organization is a result of hard work by numerous individuals.
 
"Our senior leadership team and our board have a really fantastic vision for this organization. I think that’s what makes all this work," she said. "It makes my job easier because I’m not fighting an uphill battle."
  -Velvet Spicer
 
 
Ellen Wozniak
Reliant Community Federal Credit Union
Ellen Wozniak does more than crunch numbers for the Rochester area’s fourth-largest credit union.
 
The chief financial officer at Reliant Community Federal Credit Union is involved in mortgage lending, business lending and managing the Sodus-based company’s nine branches, four of which have been added since she joined the institution in October 2007.
 
"What I like about my job is you’re able to get involved in a lot of different things," Wozniak said. "It’s not like I sit here behind closed doors and do finance types of things.
 
"I’m really involved with the entire staff here, as well as the members. It’s really a very community-based organization, which is very refreshing."
 
Wozniak joined Reliant after three and a half years at RBS Citizens N.A. and five and a half years at Charter One Bank FSB as a finance director. Before that, she was branch manager and retail finance manager with Rochester Community Savings Bank for nearly 12 years.
 
Reliant ranked fourth on the Rochester Business Journal’s most recent list of credit unions in the local market with assets of $325.8 million. With more than 160 employees, it serves nearly 38,000 members in Wayne, Monroe and Ontario counties.
 
"Part of it is the size of the organization," Wozniak said. "We’re not huge, so within my role, not only do I do finance, I also have responsibility for the branches and lending. You get involved in all aspects of it.
 
"I did come from the banking environment, and with the credit union we really are very member-focused. That’s really refreshing and meaningful."
 
Wozniak has a bachelor’s degree in business from SUNY College at Oswego and an MBA in finance from Rochester Institute of Technology.
 
She is involved in Reliant-sponsored events in the three counties it serves and is an officer on the board of the Williamson-Pultneyville Historical Society.
  -Thomas Adams
 
RISING STAR
 
Chris Martusewicz
Toshiba Business Solutions’ North Central Region
Chris Martusewicz attributes his profes-sional success to his colleagues.
 
"I’m working with a great team," Martusewicz said. "The best part of my job is the people."
 
Martusewicz, 27, is vice president of finance for Toshiba Business Solutions’ North Central Region, which is a $160 million subsidiary of Toshiba Corp.  Toshiba Business Solutions’ North-Central Region is based in Henrietta and has roughly 500 employees spread across 10 states from New York to Washington.
 
Martusewicz has been in the position since 2009. He manages the New York, Michigan, Minnesota and Missouri-Kansas accounting teams that are responsible for accounting, financial reporting, asset management, budgeting and internal control in each of those locations.
 
He also oversees the contract billing team for New York and Michigan and is acting chief financial officer for AV solutions, a $10 million branch of Toshiba Business Solutions that does audio-visual integration.
 
The most challenging part of the job is dealing with the company’s growth, Martusewicz said, noting annuals sales have more than doubled since he joined the firm.
 
While it is a positive, it can be a challenge on a day-to-day basis.
 
"You do go through growing pains," he said.
 
Martusewicz is most proud of his work helping to turn around AV Solutions.
 
After a three-year struggle, AV Solutions underwent restructuring and reorganizations. Martusewicz said the efforts are starting to pay off, with AV Solutions estimating orders totaling $5 million in 2013 and annual sales increasing 20 percent this year over last.
 
"It benefits the entire organization to have (AV Solutions) succeed," Martusewicz said.
 
Outside of work, Martusewicz is an instructor for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy Inc. and a volunteer for the Michael J. Fox Foundation. He also sits on the finance and development committees for LifeSpan of Greater Rochester Inc.
 
He was graduated from SUNY College at Geneseo with a bachelor of science degree in accounting and recently completed the Executive MBA program at the E. Philip Saunders College of Business at Rochester Institute of Technology.
  -Andrea Deckert
 
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT
 
Michael Goonan
University of Rochester Medical Center
Managing a health care organization’s finances is a challenge unlike any others, said Michael Goonan, chief financial officer of the University of Rochester Medical Center.
 
URMC employs 18,000 people and generated gross revenue of $2.3 billion last year, up from $2.2 billion in 2011.
 
Goonan joined UR as a junior finance officer for Strong Memorial Hospital and was named the hospital’s CFO in 1987. When the university hired Jay Stein M.D. as CEO of URMC in 1995 to revive its flagging research organization, Goonan’s professional life took a radical turn.
 
Stein had the idea of making a single corporate entity out of UR’s separate nursing, medical and dental schools, hospital and research organizations. He chose Goonan to fashion a financial structure that would encompass them.
 
The complicated process of blending such disparate parts still is rarely attempted, even among larger academic medical centers, Goonan said.
 
Each URMC component has a distinct revenue stream. Six finance officers, each responsible for a division, report to Goonan, the only official with an overview of the medical center’s finances.
 
"When I started, all I knew was the hospital. I had to learn about research and other areas," he said.
 
Unlike many New York hospitals, URMC’s hospitals, which include Highland and F.F. Thompson Hospital in Canandaigua, have run in the black. Their positive returns have been largely responsible for keeping the medical center solvent, Goonan said.
 
Reform rules still being promulgated under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, however, make URMC’s financial future harder to chart. Accustomed to being able to read the financial tea leaves five years out with some accuracy, Goonan is barely sure of accurately predicting the next 12 months. Still, seeing his job as a balancing act, he aims to do all he can to keep URMC financially stable.
 
"I work with a lot of brilliant researchers and clinicians," he said. "We can’t do everything everybody would like. I have the checkbook."
 
The Rochester native serves on a variety of boards and civic organizations, including Catholic Family Center and the Crittenden Boulevard Housing Authority.  A 1975 graduate of St. John Fisher College, he is a long-time member of the college’s board of trustees and currently serves as  chairman.
  -Will Astor
 
Brian Lambert
Wright Wisner Distributing Corp.
Brian Lambert, chief financial officer at Wright Wisner Distributing Corp., will be the first to tell you that beer distribution is a complex business.
 
Over the years, the industry has seen many changes, including the adoption of new technology and consolidation. Lambert has been there for decades of it.
 
He joined Wright Wisner in 1984. Before that he worked as a banker. Lambert’s first major job after graduating from St. Bonaventure University in 1977 was as an auditor at Finger Lakes National Bank.
 
Finger Lakes National went on to merge with First National Bank of Rochester. Lambert was recruited by Wright Wisner to help handle the beverage distributor’s books.
 
As business at Wright Wisner grew, so did Lambert’s role. He went from being an accountant to the job of controller and was named CFO in 1996. He also received an MBA in finance from Rochester Institute of Technology. He has served on an array of industry-related boards.
 
Lambert said Wright Wisner has seen a solid amount of organic growth since he joined the company. Yet it has grown most through acquisitions. Since 1984, the company has made more than 20 acquisitions, expanding a suppliers list that includes major brands such as Molson Coors, Guinness, Heineken, Corona, Yuengling, Sam Adams, Snapple and 7UP.
 
Wright Wisner is the largest beer wholesaler in Upstate New York with more 300 employees.
 
Lambert enjoys working at a company that is in growth mode, but his passion lies in helping his fellow employees, he said. He takes pride in Wright Wisner having a 96 percent employee participation rate in its 401(k) plan.
 
"I’ve had the opportunity to work with our operations people and our drivers and other people that work hard," Lambert said. "I’ve learned about how we can improve safety and help them in what they do. That’s where my drive is, in seeing employees be happy and doing what I can to help them."
  -Troy L. Smith

5/17/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email [email protected].

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