Current Issue Previous Issues Subscribe for FREE
Executives of the Year

by Michelle Boyles

Nick Bayer
Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Saxbys Coffee

Bayer is the first to tell you that when he maxed out his American Express card to create Saxbys Coffee in 2005, he didn’t know much about running a business. Saxbys has since grown from one café in Atlanta to a 30-unit, hospitality business headquartered in Philadelphia with a presence in 10 states—and growing fast (30 percent a year fast). Saxbys has frequently been named “Best Coffee” and “Best Coffee House” in many of the markets it serves, including Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Dallas.

Q&A
How did you first start in the industry?
I first opened Saxbys in 2005, and it was my first foray in the coffee industry. I chose coffee not because I was obsessed with the product ... but because I loved that it allowed you to connect with people and become a daily part of their lives.

How many years have you been working in the field?
Professionally speaking, I’ve been doing this for a decade.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?
A real dream come true was opening our Saxbys Drexel café, which doubles as an experiential learning partnership with Drexel University. I brought the idea to John Fry, the President of Drexel, and Donna De Carolis, Dean of Drexel's Close School of Entrepreneurship, and they supported it wholeheartedly.

Lenny Bazemore
President, Bazemore Enterprises LLC

The Bazemore Gallery owner and Gallery director, Bazemore is an intuitive visual artist, who gains inspiration for his paintings from his experiences while visiting different parts of North America, Asia, Europe and the Caribbean. He has always believed that life is not about finding yourself ... it is about creating yourself, and that the right living or working environment enhanced with inspiring art helps you create an even better you.

Q&A
How did you first start in the industry?
I have always been an entrepreneur at heart and ever since I was a little boy I always wanted to own my own business.

How many years have you been working in the field?
I started my very first company in 1995, which was a pest control company called Bug Me Not.

What inspires you?
I'm inspired by the need to leave a good foundation for my kids to grow on. Creatively, I'm inspired by the vivid colors I see in the community every day.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?
Graduating college with a fine art degree after dropping out of high school and then going on to form and run three of my own companies simultaneously.

Joseph F. Coradino
Chief Executive Officer and a Director of Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT)

PREIT owns and manages a portfolio comprising 30 million square feet of retail properties, primarily shopping malls, in the Mid-Atlantic with a concentration in the Greater Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and metropolitan areas. Coradino is a leading executive in the commercial real estate industry with an impressive track record of accomplishment.

He serves on Temple University’s Board of Trustees, the Executive Committee of the Board of the Central Philadelphia Development Corporation, the Board of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and is an Advisory Board member of the Drexel University Center for Corporate Governance.

Q&A

How did you first start in the industry?
I was quite fortunate to have a mentor in graduate school at the University of Arizona who helped me land my first job in the industry without an interview.

How many years have you been working in the field?
I have spent over 30 years working in the industry.

What inspires you?
The creative aspect of the business motivates my left brain—my right brain is stimulated by the size and scale of the financial investment.

What’s your favorite way to unwind?
Staying physically fit is a huge passion of mine. I enjoy jogging, hiking and biking, but my new favorite workout is Pilates, which I do twice a week.

Cosmo DeNicola
Owner & Operator, Cosmo DeNicola Companies

Cosmo DeNicola Companies represents an ever-growing portfolio of businesses ranging from sports and entertainment to health care and technology. As a 35-year technology industry veteran, DeNicola has founded and led several national companies (both private and public) to market- leading positions. He co-founded enterprise mobility provider of wireless/ RFID technology, InfoLogix Inc. and international SAP services company, LogiStar Solutions.

DeNicola also serves as an owner of the Philadelphia Soul Arena Football team and chairman of MKSD Talent Management. In fall 2014, he announced a new business partnership with Steinberg Sports and Entertainment (SSE).

Q&A

How did you first start in the industry?
My girlfriend (now wife of 41 years) and I decided to get married when I was 19 and a sophomore at Temple University. Since I was going to be a “married man,” I needed a real job. I found a packaging company in my neighborhood in Northeast Philly that needed a junior accountant. My career kicked off at that plant in 1974 and led me to start my own software and technology company in 1981 focused on the packaging industry.

What inspires you?
Innovating, inventing and mentoring young people

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?
My ability to meld cultures in the companies I have acquired and to maintain focus on all my 13 portfolio companies at the same time.

Samantha Giusti
Executive Director, Delaware Valley Legacy Fund

For over nine years, Giusti has worked in the community in the fields of philanthropy, social services and program management in both the public and private sector. Her varied career includes coalition building, program management, event planning, corporate relations, federal policy review, revenue cultivation, and resource development.

Before taking the job as DVLF’s executive director she was an avid supporter of the organization, volunteering on five committees. She has held positions on the Board of Directors of the American Red Cross of Gloucester County, helped coordinate events for Stimulus Productions and volunteered as a peer counselor and co-chair of the Resource Development committee at the William Way Community Center.

Q&A

How did you first start in the industry?
I have always had a passion for social change. ... During my graduate program at Penn I had a professor who taught a class on philanthropy and fundraising. That class completely changed the course of my career.

How many years have you been working in the field?
I’ve been in the non-profit sector for over nine years.

What inspires you?
When I hear personal stories of lives we’ve touched it fuels me. When I see all the need that still exists, it drives me to work harder. My work is powered by the question: Are we leaving behind communities that are better off or better positioned today than they were yesterday?

Julie Coker Graham
Incoming President & CEO of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB), effective Jan. 1

Prior to being named to this position, Coker Graham served as the senior vice president of convention sales and managed a staff of 25 sales and services professionals at the PHLCVB responsible for selling the expanded Pennsylvania Convention Center and Philadelphia’s hotel package to customers across the country.

She joined the PHLCVB after serving as general manager at Hyatt Regency Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing. Coker Graham has been named chair of Mayor-elect Jim Kenney’s transition team for Democratic National Convention Preparation.

Q&A

How did you first start in the industry?
I began when servers were called waitresses in a chain restaurant called Mr. Steak. I was a senior in high school and could not be more excited that I came home every night with cash tips just for being nice to people and getting their steak the right temperature.

How many years have you been working in the field?
My first position was in 1984, so I’ve been working in hospitality for a little over 32 years now.

What inspires you?
The ability to make a difference in people's lives, whether they are customers, employees or stakeholders. It's extremely rewarding to me to know that my actions, decisions, involvement make a difference.... I’m always keenly aware of our responsibility to an industry that supports more than 67,000 hospitality jobs in the region.

Daniel J. Hilferty
President and CEO, Independence Blue Cross

Since Hilferty became CEO in 2010, the number of people the company serves has tripled to nearly 10 million in 24 states and the District of Columbia, including 2.5 million in southeastern Pennsylvania. His vision is to lead the transformation of health care in America, seeking new technologies and models of care that will increase the quality and lower the cost. He led the creation of the Independence Blue Cross Center for Health Care Innovation and launched Tandigm Health, a joint venture that arms physicians with the tools and data to better manage chronic conditions and deliver more personalized care.

Q&A

How did you first start in the industry?
I first learned how important health care is to people when I was 22 and worked for the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in a community center in Portland, Ore. I saw first-hand the health challenges faced daily by that city’s most vulnerable. That drove my desire to pursue a career in a field where I could help people live better.

How many years have you been working in the field?
I have spent 25 years in health care.

What inspires you?
I’m inspired by the commitment and passion of our associates about improving the health of the people we serve. Our business is challenging and constantly changing, so we have to change too. Our associates lead that change—innovating, collaborating with exciting partners and developing cutting edge services, all aimed at keeping our members well.

S.A. Ibrahim
Chief Executive Officer, Radian Group Inc.

Philadelphia-based Radian is one of the largest private mortgage insurers of U.S. residential mortgages. Despite the recent challenge of one of the worst economic and housing-related downturns, through Ibrahim’s leadership, Radian has maintained a relatively strong financial position, with total assets of over $5.7 billion and stockholders' equity of more than $2.4 billion. Radian doubled its private mortgage insurance market share during the downturn writing a leading share of today’s high-quality business, while continually strengthening the management team.

Q&A

How did you first start in the industry?
With regards to mortgage insurance (MI), when I was with Chemical Mortgage, I first started using MI on loans originated and/or sold by the company and then when I was with GreenPoint Mortgage, I used to deal with Radian as one of my MI providers.

How many years have you been working in the field?
I’ve worked in financial services industry for more than 30 years; including 10 years in the mortgage insurance industry.

What’s your favorite way to unwind?
Watching British TV programs on my iPad while flying across the country!

Michael W. Pessina
Co-Chief Executive Officer & President, Lutron Electronics Co. Inc.

In his 35-year-plus career with Lutron, Pessina has acquired broad experience in the engineering, quality assurance and manufacturing departments. He was named vice president of manufacturing operations in 1996 and took on additional responsibilities as general manager of the Grafik Systems business unit in 1997. He was promoted to senior vice president in 2000, to executive vice president and chief operating officer in 2002, and to president, office of product development in 2009. He was appointed president in 2011 and to his current position in July 2015. He is also a member of Lutron’s Executive Board and its Advisory Council.

Q&A

How did you first start in the industry?
I started at Lutron as an electrical engineer right out of Lafayette College. I’ve always been motivated by passionate, energetic people looking for ways to improve other people’s lives—that’s what Lutron offers.

How many years have you been working in the field?
In 2016, I’ll celebrate 40 years in the lighting control industry.

What inspires you?
In business, and in my personal life, I’m inspired by people who truly work to make other people’s lives better. If you keep your mandate simple—make people’s lives better—you stand the best chance of not only promulgating your vision, but actually bringing it to life.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?
I hope I’m not there yet. Greatness is a function of what we accomplish today.

Ajay Raju
Chairman & CEO of Dilworth Paxson, LLP

Raju’s legal practice is national and international in scope, and he is recognized as one of the foremost authorities on issues arising from India’s emergence as a global power. Raju also counsels Fortune 500 firms and start- ups alike on a broad spectrum of transactional matters, including mergers, acquisitions and divestitures, joint ventures, regulatory regimes and cross-border strategic alliances.

Q&A

How did you first start in the industry?
Unfortunately, I wasn’t smart enough to get into medical school.

How many years have you been working in the field?
19 years

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?
My greatest accomplishment, the one from which any success in my life flows, is surrounding myself with the best and brightest people I can find; people whose talents carry me and give the impression that my feet never touch the ground.

What’s your favorite way to unwind?
Netflix binging, of course.

Thomas Scannapieco
President and CEO, Scannapieco Development Corporation

At the recent groundbreaking ceremony of the company’s ultra-luxe condominium tower, 500 Walnut, Scannapieco was awarded a citation from Mayor Michael A. Nutter for creating “game changing” communities that have attracted a whole new market to Philadelphia, putting it on par with other world-class cities like New York and Miami.

He has completed approximately $800 million of development in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland. He has been runner-up for Entrepreneur of the Year, his work has earned a national award from Urban Land Institute for Project Excellence and his company has been included on the Inc. 500 list of America’s fastest-growing, privately owned companies.

Q&A

How did you get started in the industry?
I was working as a physicist for General Electric and I bought a shell in the Art Museum area of Philadelphia. I renovated it, sold it and bought another and another. The passion for real estate was born!

How many years have you been working in the field?
Over 30 years

What inspires you?
I take great pride from building a great team and tackling projects that are demanding and require creativity. I am most inspired when I am taking on a project that is both challenging and requires a new approach.

Stephen S. Tang PH.D., MBA
President & CEO, University City Science Center

Tang became president and CEO of the University City Science Center, the nation’s oldest and largest urban research park, in 2008. He is the first president in the Science Center’s history to have not only led a company through venture funding and an initial public offering, but to also serve as a senior executive with a large life sciences company as it acquired and integrated smaller start-ups.

Tang previously served as the head of U.S. operations for Olympus America Inc.’s global Life Science businesses and as president and CEO of Millennium Cell Inc., an energy technology firm he led through its initial public offering.

Q&A

How many years have you been working in the field?
I’ve worked in some aspect of innovation and entrepreneurship throughout my career. I’ve been at the Science Center for almost eight years.

What inspires you?
Working with inspired people who are inventing the future and trying to change the world for the better.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?
Committing myself to self-understanding and personal growth as a means to being a more mindful, conscious father, partner, leader and colleague.

 

Published (and copyrighted) in Philly Biz, Volume 1, Issue 1 (December, 2015).
For more info on Philly Biz magazine, click here.
To subscribe to Philly Biz magazine, click here.