Ditch Witch Midwest was founded in 1970 by Mark’s father, Earl, in Carol Stream, IL. There are a total of five family-run companies: Ditch Witch Midwest, Rentals Plus, 1st Choice equipment, Illini Power Products and Gen Power. In 1994, there was an opportunity to grow with the addition of two Wisconsin locations. By 2002, Ditch Witch Midwest had expanded by adding two Indiana locations to the family. Ditch Witch Midwest sells and services construction equipment to anyone who wants to put pipes or cables underground. Rentals Plus was started in 1972 and is the rental division for Ditch Witch Midwest. 1st Choice Equipment was started in 2012 and is a distributor for Kubota construction equipment. Illini Power Products and Gen Power are focused on engine repair and generator rentals.
Mark is President of Ditch Witch Midwest, Rentals Plus and 1st Choice equipment and has been in the family business for 23 years. Mark came up through the ranks and did it all throughout his time working for the company. In high school, Mark worked in parts and service and in college he worked in service and sales. When Mark came back to the family business full-time, he was a territory salesman, a special accounts salesman, sales manager, general manager and finally President in 2010. Mark graduated in 1991 from Bradley University with a degree in Marketing. He played soccer in school and is a runner with several half marathons and one full marathon under his belt.
Mary Lawrence joined Richards Graphic Communications in 1990. She received an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She also attended Rochester Institute of Technology for technical and management print training. Mary gained experience working in many departments throughout the company including design, customer service, accounting, production and sales. Mary is passionate about print and enjoys working in a family business that has won numerous awards and accolades. Growth in 2014 and 2015 exceeded 40% and 10%, respectively.
Following in the footsteps of her grandmother, she is the second woman in the family to run the business. Today, working alongside her brothers, nephews and sister-in-law, the 90 year-old company is an industry leader in offering web-to-print portals, digital printing, direct mail and logistics. Richards’ national client list includes universities, tech firms, insurance companies, nonprofits, financial and consulting firms.
Mary volunteers with homeless shelters is currently working to open a Chicago-based house for victims of human trafficking. She lives in Burr Ridge with her husband, Jim, and has two children in college.
Alumnus of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program
Winner of the 2011 Loyola Small Family Business of the Year
Winner of the 2013 US Small Business Administration – Midwest Region Family-Owned Business of the Year
Jamie Pritscher is an award-winning entrepreneur committed to excellence, professionalism, positive workplace culture and exceptional client experiences. In addition to positions as Director of Communications at full-service caterer Tasty Catering, Co-founder and Chief Brand Officer of creative marketing agency nuphoriq and Co-founder and CEO of socially-responsible high-end gift company That’s Caring, Jamie is also an active speaker and volunteer in the community. She obtained her undergraduate degree in communications with psychology and visual communications minors from Illinois State University and her Master’s in integrated marketing communications from Roosevelt University. Jamie has been presented with national awards for her leadership and business efforts, including: Suburban Life Best Under 40 2015, Harper College’s Distinguished Alumni 2013, Diversity Magazine’s 2011 Top 100 Under 50 Emerging Leader and Ecovers’ 2011 30 Under 30 for Sustainability.
Tom Walter is a “serial entrepreneur,” author, speaker and a principal in numerous companies. He is best known as the Chief Culture Officer (CCO) of Chicago-area Tasty Catering, a suburban corporate caterer and event planner. Tom has more than 40 years of experience as an owner and operator in the service industry. He has participated in the startup of 30 companies, acquisition of three and—in a few cases—the termination of businesses in a broad spectrum of markets.
Tom remains as a principal and advisor for several companies, most of which are part of 80 Nine Holdings and have been co-founded by his staff. These companies include Tasty Catering, T.F. Processors, That’s Caring, nuphoriq, iMotorsports, Touhy Capital and Wahalla LLC. Additionally, Tom is a member of many societies and educational groups, including the Chicago Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame, Academy of Management, Midwest Academy of Management, Small Giants Community, DePaul University’s School of Hospitality Leadership Board, University of Illinois – Chicago’s Institute of Entrepreneurial Studies, Quincy University School of Business Advisory Board, Notre Dame College Prep Hall of Honor, Executive Breakfast Club.
Tom is a national speaker and co-author of the award-winning book IT’S MY COMPANY TOO: How Entangled Companies Move Beyond Employee Engagement for Remarkable Results.
If you ask Deanna Salo about her 25-plus-year career with Cray Kaiser, she will eventually share stories of the mergers and acquisitions she has overseen. In due time, she will tell you about the succession plans, audits and internal control reviews. But first, Deanna will reflect on the lives that she and her firm have touched.
In her mind, every financial report is linked to a person or family. So while it is true that Deanna grew up professionally at Cray Kaiser—joining in 1986, fresh from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor’s in Accountancy—Cray Kaiser has also grown with her. Deanna, a recipient of the prestigious AABE award, has instilled a people-centric approach in every corner of the firm.
A CK Principal since 2001, Deanna executes assurance, strategic and tax planning services across the client portfolio. For closely held and family-owned businesses, she focuses on the value she can bring to the family and owners. For nonprofit clients, she manages internal control procedures, budgeting, governance issues and audit compliance procedures. Deanna has also handled special M&A engagements on the buy and sell sides.
Leading Cray Kaiser’s relationship with the Chicago Family Business Council at DePaul University, Deanna is a past chair to the Strategic Partner Committee and presently serves on its Finance Committee. Given her investment in the success of family-owned businesses, it should come as no surprise that members of the organization practically have Deanna on speed dial.
Community: Executive Board Member, DuPage Area Education to Careers/Technical Preparation; Chairperson, DuPage Student Leadership Academy; Director, Friends of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County; Executive Board Member, Empowering Women Network.