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2017 StartUp Showcase Judges


College of Business | Illinois State University

Dr. Avimanyu Datta is an Associate Professor at the College of Business at ISU. His research lies in the intersection of entrepreneurship, technology and innovation. He is particularly interested in the entrepreneurial steps in launching new products especially in hi-technology industries.

Little Jewels Learning Center

Julie Baker Dobski has served Central Illinois as a business person and philanthropist for almost 35 years.  In 1988, she and her husband Bob, along with their four children, moved to Bloomington-Normal as the owners of several area McDonald’s restaurants.  Julie has made numerous charitable donations throughout the community, has volunteered, and has been a member of many committees, boards, and organizations. 

The Dobskis opened their first McDonald’s franchise in 1982 in Farmington, Missouri.  They retired in January, 2017.  In 2004, Julie and Bob opened her first Little Jewels Learning Center and presently own and operate three centers.  Julie and Bob have given much of her time and resources within these two companies to support the community. As a result of their contributions to her community, They were honored with the McDonald’s People Award  and the McDonald’s Ronald Award.

Julie has served as president of the McLean County Chamber of Commerce, Baby Fold’s Chair, American Red Cross event chair, Central Catholic High School Saints Alive chair, United Way chair, and Bloomington-Normal Sunrise Rotary president. She currently serves on the Illinois State University College of Business Advisory Board, and is a trustee for the Holy Trinity Catholic Church which she and Bob have been members of since they moved to Bloomington/Normal.  And recently appointed to the B/N Advantage Leadership Council. 

Since moving to Bloomington-Normal, Julie and Bob have started a local amateur theatre group called the One Nighters II, she and her friends started serving meals once a month at the Salvation Army Safe Harbor, and she and Bob have been involved in the Holiday Spectacular.

Julie has received numerous honors locally including Large Business of the Year, Boy Scout Award, Athena Award, and Women of Distinction Award.  One of Julie’s highest achievements is when she received her Honorary Doctorate Degree from Illinois State University. 

She attributes her successes to her husband Bob; her children –Steven, Jimmy, Laura, and Erin; her grandchildren – Michael, Bryce, and Dean; and her many friends, family and staff. 

Actium Ventures LLC

William Feid is a Managing Partner at Actium Ventures. He is responsible for fund-raising and transactional negotiations, as well as investing in and managing portfolio ventures. Feid has been at the forefront of innovative business for the past 30 years. Born from his passion for hot dogs and Chicago foods, he founded and is a current operator of Billy's Gourmet Hot Dogs which has quickly become a hotspot in Denver's historic RiNo area.  Feid is also a significant investor and Board participant of WineInStyle, KK a Japanese company that currently accounts for 5% of all wine consumed in Japan. WineInStyle is the largest privately held company importing American wines into japan.

Recently, Feid was Chief Executive Officer of He served as the President of the firm as well. Feid engineered the sale of to American Lawyer Media. Previously, he was the President and Chief Executive Officer of RealLegal, LLC.

Feid began his career at Arthur Andersen & Co., where he helped found and grow Anderson's Chicago High-Tech Practice. His 11 years at Andersen were dedicated primarily to consulting on behalf of entrepreneurial businesses.Feid was also instrumental in developing firm-wide methodologies for business valuations and strategic planning. He also functioned on behalf of World Headquarters firm wide heading assignments in Malaysia and Europe. Feid later joined Efficient Market Services, Inc., as an Executive Vice President of Finance and Operations. At the firm, he established strategic relationships with AC Nielsen and Mitsubishi Corporation, introduced EMS into South East Asia, and raised substantial equity capital, all of which led to the company's success. Mr. Feid left EMS to found Firefly Greeting, LLC. As President and Chief Executive Officer, he turned the firm into a leading supplier of online relationship management programs utilizing greeting cards and negotiated the sale of the business to Hallmark.

Feid currently serves on the boards for other companies and provides advisory services to several young entrepreneurial businesses. Feid is a C.P.A. with a B.S. in Accounting and Industrial Technologies from Illinois State University.

D.P. Dough Calzones

Ryan Fiala (BS - '04 Entrepreneurship; MBA '06) opened D.P. Dough Calzones in Uptown Normal in 2008, and has since purchased the building, and extensively renovated and expanded his restaurant. A graduate of the 2012 class of Leadership McLean County, and active member of Bloomington Rotary the McLean County Chamber of Commerce, Ryan resides in Normal, IL with his wife Rebecca and three sons.


Katie Hill-Gottesman, Founder of CommuterAds, launched and grew her company from a first-to-market concept to the premier digital transit media company in the US. CommuterAds products are utilized by hundreds of local and national advertisers across 14 cities reaching more than 260 million commuters annually. Ms. Hill-Gottesman previously worked at Leo Burnett Worldwide, where she led global ad-tech projects for a Fortune Five client. Ms. Hill-Gottesman serves on the Advisory Board for the Means Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at Illinois State University and was recognized by Illinois State University as an Early Career Achievement award recipient. She has been featured in national and international publications including The New York Times and London's Financial Times. She holds an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and a BS in Marketing from Illinois State University.

HANZE University for Applied Sciences

Jacques Hartog is a professor at the HANZE University in Groningen, The Netherlands. Hartog is a Entrepreneurship/Retailing specialist and coaches start ups, helping entrepreneurs to grow.  Additionally he  also owns bookstores and coffee shops.  Entrepreneurship is his passion but also a serious subject.  He hopes to contribute to the plans and the businesses of all the StartUp Showcase competitors.

Kingston Wealth Management Group

As President and CEO of Kingston Wealth Management Group, Inc., Kevin is responsible for the vision, leadership, and team development of the firm. He attended the University of Illinois, received his Business Administration degree in 1976 from Illinois State University and founded Kingston Wealth Management Group, Inc.

He completed the Chartered Financial Consultant ®  and Chartered Life Underwriter ®  designations from the American College, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania in 1982 and 1984. Kevin designs cost-effective benefit and estate plans for professionals and business owners. In the areas of business and estate planning, Kevin works with client's professional advisors in designing and implementing strategies to help them achieve their financial goals.

He is a member of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, the Society of Financial Service Professionals, and the Top of the Table's top 1,000 international financial service professionals. Kevin is a registered representative of ValMark Securities, Inc.

U-Lock-It Mini Storage

DeAnne is owner/manager of U-Lock-It Mini Storage in Bloomington, Il. She holds a Bachelors of Business Administration from the University of Iowa. DeAnne’s career spans over 20 years owning and managing multiple storage facilities and small businesses. She expanded U-Lock-It from a 120 unit facility to over 550 units. U-Lock-It has earned a top operator award for multiple years. DeAnne handles all marketing and communication for her companies. Through volunteering and other activities, she has focused on mentoring other women. Currently she is the VP of finance for The Association of Women in Communications Bloomington-Normal. DeAnne is a wife, mother of two grown boys, has a passion for reading and travel, and loves dancing and live music.

Kingston Wealth Management Group

John Ruedi joined Kingston Wealth Management Group, Inc. as Executive Vice-President in 2007. John brings with him over 35 years of experience in the financial services area, most recently as President of Strategic Capital Bancorp, Inc. In addition, he formerly served as Chairman of the Board for the Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Corporation in Champaign-Urbana. John completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois and is a graduate from the School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin.

John is currently involved with The George R. and Martha Means Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at Illinois State University.  He and his wife Andrea enjoy playing golf and visiting their home in Treasure Island, Florida.

The Snyder Companies

Stephen Snyder has been involved with the development over 20 residential subdivisions in the Bloomington-Normal area and several neighborhood centers, restaurants, mobile home parks, mini-storage units, apartment complexes and hotels.  In addition his group has one of the largest independent insurance agencies in the area, a leading real estate company and a host of other business investments.

Stephen Snyder has also been active in the community by giving his time on different boards and committees such as Illinois State University, Bloomington Rotary, YMCA, Second Presbyterian Church, The Mayor's Committee, United Way, MDA, Boy Scouts, Community Cancer Center, Missouri Valley and the Bloomington-Normal Association of REALTORS®.

Stephen is married to Nancy and they have four adult children and two grandchildren.

Bud Steyer & Associates Campground Consultants

As a WACO and ARVC Board Member and Current Owner and Operations Consultant for 9 Campgrounds and previous experiences as a principle shareholder of a 60-unit Family Recreation Resort and Beach Club, Bud brings over 33 years Real World experience to the campground industry. He understands the ups and downs in RV Park and Campground Ownership Management. Bud loves working with children and is a major contributor to setting up WACO and ARVC exhibitors working on both Membership and Convention committees.


Ron Whitton graduated from Illinois State University in 1980 with a major in business administration, a minor in economics, a partial in accounting. That same year, Whitton started working as sales rep for Standard Brands—Food Manufacturer. A year later, he went to work for PMI, a food broker headquartered in Chicago. In 1988, Whitton purchased Spring Green Lawn Care in Peoria and completed the Account Executive College Program at Northwestern University. In 1991, he purchased Jimbos Jumbo, a takeout restaurant located in Pekin. In 1998, Whitton won the Peoria Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year award with SpringGreen.

In 2001, he purchased a commercial building in Peoria and started Dentsmart with Dave Haxton. In 2002, Whitton started developing body shop and insurance company partnerships in Illinois and had one Dentsmart technician in Illinois, and in that same year Whitton won the account executive of the year award while still working in the brokerage business. In 2005, he sold Jimbos restaurant and Spring Green Lawn Care to focus on growth of Dentsmart. Soon after, Whitton started developing the Dentsmart brand in Iowa. In 2006, Whitton began licensing the Dentsmart brand in other states including Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, and Tennessee, in addition to Illinois and Wisconsin. In 2011, Dentsmart was approved by the federal government to change to a franchise system in all active markets. In 2016, Dentsmart had more than 100 people serving 12 markets, including newly added Nebraska and Arkansas. In 2010, Whitton’s daughter Andrea started attending ISU as a freshman. Her attending ISU got Whitton involved in supporting the school with time, talent, and treasure. 

Here is a recap of his ISU involvement: Established the Ron and Cathy Whitton endowed scholarship program for an incoming freshman or transfer student majoring in business, established the “Pay it Forward” College of Business endowed scholarship for a student involved in COB Registered Student Organizations, established a marketing scholarship and entrepreneur scholarship and is a member of the Alumni Board, College of Business Advisory Council, the MQM and Means Center advisory councils and participates in the Alumni Scholarship program, hired and worked with interns from PSE business organization to facilitate the Dentsmart social media presence. Whitton also enjoys supporting his church and other charities.

Whitton has been married to his wife Cathy since 1981, and she has been on this journey with him since the beginning. They have two children, Derek, lives in Pekin and Andrea, lives in Baltimore.

College of Business, Illinois State University

Instructional Asst. Prof. of Management. Prior to academia, Gary was a commercial lending officer and manager for several regional and super-regional financial institutions, facilitating strategic capital for privately-held small- and mid-sized enterprise whose revenues were typically less than $500,000,000.

2018-12-19T13:35:50.683-06:00 2018