Automatic Merchandiser announces 40 Under 40 Award winners, Class of 2022

Sept. 13, 2022
Automatic Merchandiser recognizes outstanding young individuals making a difference in the vending, micro market and office coffee service industry.

Automatic Merchandiser is proud to present this year’s top 40 Under 40 Award honorees. We recognize these individuals who demonstrate leadership and a commitment to advancing convenience services for vending, micro markets and office coffee service. Each one has shown dedication to their companies, their customers and the industry.

To be eligible for this award, candidates had to be 39 years old or younger as of June 30, 2022, and working in the vending, micro market or office coffee service fields. Nominations were accepted from all industry segments, including operators, product and equipment distributors, brokers, machine manufacturers, technology and payment system providers, and CPG companies, among others.

Automatic Merchandiser's team studied the nominees and selected the top 40 Under 40, Class of 2022, featured in the September/October 2022 issue.

Congratulations to the following award winners.

Louis Baresh

Louis Baresh holds a bachelor's degree in business management from Oklahoma State University. After graduating in 2019, he worked for Ben E. Keith Foods as a DSR and supply chain specialist. Beginning in April 2020, he came to work for the family company Executive Refreshments. Even though COVID had just started, he always says, “I joined the industry at the perfect time.” Since coming on, Baresh helped reshape the company’s marketing strategy through a partnership approach and innovative technology, helped diversify its customer base, and strengthened the company culture. With these efforts, Executive Refreshments was able to survive 2020 and see significant growth in early 2021. From his success, he was able to speak at the 2021 NAMA convention about preparing the next generation of leaders in the industry. Additionally, Baresh is a member of ELN, a committee member of TSAC, and sits on the NAMA Foundation Board. 

Christopher Betti

Christopher Betti, director of sales at Betson Distributing, is involved in all aspects of the business. Not only is he committed to Betson and his customers but also to the growth of the industry as a whole. He is a long-standing member of NAMA and many other state associations. He participates in local and national lobby efforts supporting the industry at large. Betti received his bachelor’s degree from St. Thomas Aquinas College. He has a respect for the history of both the vending and game side of the business while being committed to keeping equipment distribution relevant to the next generation of vending and game operators. 

Christopher Blomquist

Christopher Blomquist is the director of marketing at Parlevel Systems, a global solutions provider for unattended retail operators. An industry veteran of over seven years, he joined Parlevel after graduating from Trinity University in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and psychology. With a focus on brand storytelling, creative leadership and revenue marketing, he has helped transform Parlevel from tech startup to a major player in the wide world of unattended retail. Through his work at Parlevel, Blomquist has helped educate operators on methods to improve their business. To that end, he has published over 200 blogs including operator testimonials, technology spotlights, operational best practices and more. He has also collaborated with the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) to create over a dozen educational presentations on topics including the labor shortage, how to successfully run micro markets, evolving technology in unattended retail, and others.

Mac Bolak

Mac Bolak has been starting companies in the artificial intelligence space since he was a teenager, including a venture capital-backed company that used AI to edit basketball footage autonomously for basketball coaches. In 2019, he founded Panoptyc, a leading security company in the micro market industry. Panoptyc was awarded Automatic Merchandiser’s 2022 Technology Product of the Year. The company works with the industry leaders and is in over 4,000 micro markets across the U.S., Canada and Europe. Panoptyc uses cutting-edge AI software and smart cameras to decrease theft in micro markets and save operators time reviewing footage. As a young and determined visionary, Bolak knows the industry inside and out and is continuously looking to improve Panoptyc’s services while also exploring new opportunities within the industry.

Carrie Bompiani

Carrie Bompiani is an administrative assistant at Unified Strategies Group. She has been a part of the team for almost four years. In her position, she is a capable, determined and hardworking individual with a pleasant attitude. She maintains the workflow of the office with thorough knowledge of policies and procedures. She has exemplary skills in customer service, communication, work quality, positivity and initiative. Her team enjoys working with her as she is always willing to lend a helping hand and adapts to challenges with ease. Her skill set has extended beyond the tasks for which she was hired.

Dan Doromal

Dan Doromal, director of operations and service at Everest, has been instrumental in helping his company climb to the top in reputation, earning a number of prestigious awards ranking Everest as one of the fastest-growing and best-performing companies in the country. The company saw a 137% increase in revenue from 2020 to 2021, and Doromal is largely the driving force behind that success by negotiating contracts with vendors as well as hiring additional staff. He works endlessly to improve operations, communications and efficiency while simultaneously rapidly hiring additional employees to meet the demand for products. Everest more than doubled its employees in 2021 and has already nearly doubled it again within the first six months of 2022, expanding its workforce by 278% since the beginning of 2021. Under Doromal’s leadership, Everest continues to set, meet and exceed ambitious goals for growth in all arenas – sales, size, performance and more.

Lindsay Easter

Lindsay Easter is a member of Gimme’s operations team and wears many hats within the organization. While she is relatively new to this industry, she is quickly making an impact both within Gimme and the industry as a whole. She has been recognized by Vending Market Watch and Automatic Merchandiser as one of 2021’s Pros to Know and Most Influential Women in the Convenience Service Industry in 2022. Using her experience in customer service and operations management, she liaises between developers and end users of Gimme’s hardware and software for purposes of implementation, customer support needs and product testing. She is determined to constantly improve and share her knowledge of Gimme’s products and the convenience service industry via Gimme’s over 260 help desk articles.

Luis Fernando Garcia

Luis Fernando Garcia, chief marketing and operating officer with Marietta Cookies, is a retail and marketing professional with 17 years of experience in consumer goods. Garcia started his professional career at Procter & Gamble where he learned how to develop and execute the best go-to market strategies to ensure brand success. While at P&G, he was awarded the 2009 Global Brand Building Award for Best Commercial Innovation and a 2010 Cannes Bronze Lion for an innovative digital campaign. In 2012, together with his dad, they started a new cookie company under the brand Marietta Cookies based in Texas. He has focused on creating innovative cookie items and market them in a unique way to ensure success. The brand has been successful, growing over 50% each year for the past three years and is currently present in over 40 states across the U.S., partnering with key distributors to correctly reach the self-service market.

Detlev Goedbloed

Detlev Goedbloed, chief development officer at API Tech North America Inc., received his MSc in commercial sciences, studying in Europe before moving to Morocco to gain experience in the field. His success led him to a sales manager position in China where he was responsible for the Asia-Pacific region. During the following three years, Goedbloed received his IMBA from the Sauder School of Business in Canada and honed his craft and love of people and business even further. Besides his family, his strongest passion is helping companies grow and run more efficiently. In 2018, he moved to Australia to work as a management consultant and improved the operations of companies from all types of industries. In 2019, he moved to the USA and was hired as business development manager at API TECH, manufacturer of Smart Pizza Vending Machines. Goedbloed was promoted to chief development officer within the next two years.

Sam Hagan

Sam Hagan is the business development manager at Quality Vending and Coffee. Prior to assuming this role, Hagan received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Park University in Kansas City, Missouri. While earning his degree, he worked for a national fitness chain, rising through the management ranks as he contributed to the organization's growth and improvement strategies in sales, marketing and operations. At Quality Vending and Coffee Inc., he leads the company's immediate and long-range business development plans with a focus on technology integration and client relations and acquisition. Hagan also oversees engagement plans to expand the family owned and operated company's presence on social media and in the field. He believes that the sky's the limit on the growth and potential of the convenience services sector, as both industry veterans and Under 40 leaders continue to innovate and improve upon the customer experience.

Dubravko Hendija

Dubravko Hendija, Televend’s vice president of sales and marketing, always goes the extra mile for his team and colleagues. His passion is ensuring that everyone around him is set up for success. He leads by example, modernizing sales and marketing while promoting Televend’s innovation. Hendija is determined to show that hard work always pays off. He likes to say that you can do big things if you put your mind to it, so don’t forget to have fun while in the process. For the past couple of years, he has focused on building relationships with customers, suppliers and distributors. Everyone wants to have him by their side as he has a positive impact on everything he does. His work ethic and dedication are two things his colleagues and partners highlight when speaking about him. 

Cory Hewett

Cory Hewett is the co-founder and CEO of Gimme, a venture-backed tech startup. He is professionally dedicated to helping full-line operators and direct-to-store-delivery (DSD) brands automate merchandising with computer vision and artificial intelligence. Gimme builds AI-enabled markets and vending inventory control software. The company’s hardware product, the Gimme Key, is now the #1 invoicing tool for DSD at grocery stores replacing outdated legacy handhelds. Hewett has been awarded multiple patents and copyrights by the USPTO and is extremely active in both the vending industry and the Atlanta technology community. Hewett serves on the board for Bloom Our Youth, a social service nonprofit serving foster-care children and families throughout Georgia and mentors first-time and aspiring entrepreneurs through the Create-X organization. He is currently playing an active role in the development of Fayette County’s new Trilith development in greater Atlanta.

Hillary Higgins

Hillary Higgins, sales strategy manager with Ararmark, is utilizing her experience from the convenience store industry to elevate the customer experience in the micro market industry. She is passionate about driving product sales and product selection within micro markets. She is excited about the evolution of micro markets and what all they will become.

Jaime Ibanez

Jaime Ibanez is the owner of Vending Bites, a vending machine company established in 2018 and serves the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Ibanez makes YouTube videos about his vending business and has over 485,000 subscribers. The company has built long-lasting relationships with numerous customers all over Dallas-Fort Worth. Ibanez was recently featured in The Dallas Morning News as a successful young entrepreneur.

Blake Jones

Blake Jones is second-generation owner and vice president of Pot O’ Gold Coffee Service, a large independent office coffee service in Washington state. Alongside running the company with his father, the majority of his time is spent on sales and marketing. Since the devastating loss of business during the COVID-19 pandemic, he has worked tirelessly to gain 85% of its sales back, servicing over 180 new customers. A large part of the company’s growth came from a decision made at the beginning of the pandemic. Jones took the steps to make a change – not only is it an office coffee service, but it is also now licensed and providing kegs, cans and bottles to its customers, officially making it a one-stop shop for the breakroom. Jones and his team’s dedication to clients got them where they are today.

Bridger Keally

Bridger Keally started as the sales director at Panoptyc with an extensive background in sales but little knowledge of the vending industry. After consulting with industry experts and operators, he quickly realized the stress that theft and labor shortages were inflicting and the need for Panoptyc’s solution. Since then, Keally has been instrumental in bringing Panoptyc to almost 3,000 active markets across the country. To keep up with this growth, Keally aims to integrate with kiosk providers and other key industry partners to make Panoptyc’s services as seamless and accessible as possible for customers. Looking forward, he is focused on providing solutions for vendors outside of just micro market theft. He relishes the opportunity to meet with customers at conferences and site visits to explore their challenges and develop solutions. Keally is a graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder.

Keith Krail

Keith Krail joined AVS Companies in August 2021 as a digital marketing manager, and he was quickly promoted to the director of marketing in March 2022. With prior marketing experience in the legal industry, his enthusiasm and his attention to detail have allowed the company to achieve great success with exciting new marketing initiatives and updated processes. Krail and his team provide marketing support for several divisions within the company, including: vending, amusements, gaming, parts and service. With a greater emphasis on customer growth and communication, he has made several important changes to better position AVS for the future, such as having larger presences at trade shows, where he was able to showcase the company’s subsidiaries (US Products and Premium Product Group). Krail is overjoyed to be working for AVS Companies, and he is extremely grateful for the assistance provided to him by his marketing team (Rebekah Cartlidge and Eric Schreiner).

Alyssa Lesmeister

Alyssa Lesmeister is an experienced account management professional at Custom Data Solutions and has a proven track record of overseeing a portfolio of acclaimed clientele and an internal team of account managers and support specialists. Lesmeister earned her bachelor’s in business administration and marketing from Western Michigan University, and over the past 12 years, she has demonstrated her expertise in account management, employee training and marketing, earning her promotions from an account support position to her current role as manager of the account services department. She manages a team of six and regularly conducts trainings, web demonstrations and sales presentations for potential and current clients and brokers. Lesmeister works closely with her CEO and national sales director to keep up with industry trends and attends trade shows. She is passionate about the services and results that Custom Data Solutions provides its clients and takes pride in her knowledge of the company and its products and services. 

Nick Maroules

A proven sales leader with 10+ years of management experience and over five years of director-level executive management experience, Nick Maroules with Royal Cup Inc. has a track record for leading high-performance teams, whether it is implementing standard operating procedures on the distribution side of the business or accelerating growth with new business acquisition and account management. Maroules is a graduate of North Carolina State University with a B.S. in food science. He has completed the NAMA-sponsored Executive Development Program at Michigan State University and has completed his Quality Coffee Certification and Certified Coffee Specialist, and he is HACCP certified. He is a founding member of NAMA’s Emerging Leader Network where he has advocated for the industry on Capitol Hill. He has served on numerous philanthropic organizations including The Monday Morning Quarterback Club, Birmingham Zoo, and the Boy Scouts of America.

Josh McMillan

Josh McMillan joined Nayax in 2016 as a tech support agent and was quickly promoted to team lead after demonstrating his troubleshooting abilities, document creation skills and organization. He was appointed to the role of support manager in 2020 as Nayax's customer base grew. Prior to working at Nayax, McMillan held several support positions at Global Payments. Throughout his professional career, he has held onto the belief of the importance of teamwork and building a personal relationship with customers.

Tea Meštrović

For the past couple of years Tea Meštrović has been determined to build Televend as the Director of Product. She is the creative and innovative face of the Televend as she works on delivering the newest solutions every day. Her dedication, constant desire for progress, and vision are transforming vending business right in front of our eyes. Whether it is a brand brainstorming session, creating new products, or just doing research, she puts her heart and soul into it all. She is always looking into the future and following trends to be sure to implement those at Televend. Tea goes above and beyond everything she does while inspiring everyone who works with her to do their best.

Brendan Murphy

Brendan Murphy, central region sales manager for Marco Beverage Systems, has over a decade of experience in foodservice equipment sales. He is a customer-first sales professional who understands the importance of creating long-lasting partnerships with consultants, designers and distributors. Murphy has built a reputation as being responsive and going above and beyond for his customers. He is a Certified Foodservice Professional through the North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers. He is also an industry speaker, most recently holding a talk at the Specialty Coffee Expo in Boston.

Lindsay Newman

Lindsay Newman, brand manager of innovation for Lavazza North America, joined the OCS world over six years ago and quickly found a passion for coffee and innovation. She leads with a roll-up-your-sleeves approach to her work, which she believes has enabled her to learn and grow her career. As a key leader on the marketing team, she has delivered over 30 innovation launches, including the Flavia C600 & Chill, the first all-in-one hot and cold single-serve beverage system. Newman also led a cross-functional team that developed a program to transform machine placements and accelerate growth in a post-COVID market, creating more opportunity for distribution partners as well as Lavazza. With her reputation for driving projects forward, she now leads both food and machine innovation across channels for Lavazza’s North American market. 

Jacob Plassman

Jacob Plassman is the chief marketing officer at Maumee Valley Group. He is responsible for the leadership of the company’s strategic marketing, sales and operational initiatives. His oversight of this segment fuels customer growth, satisfaction and overall brand awareness. Plassman was previously purchasing manager within the company before transitioning to CMO. He attended Ashland University and Bowling Green State University prior to joining MVG in 2014.

Suzi Pullen

Suzi Pullen is general manager, business operations, with Casco Bay Food and Beverage. Entering the vending industry in 2014, she quickly learned that it is so much more than candy and soda. It is an ever-evolving world of technology aimed at offering people convenient solutions. It is her desire to help people and her strong passion for problem-solving that makes this industry fulfilling to her. Pullen has had the privilege to experience all sides of the industry, from the office to the field. It is from this experience, and using data and technology, that Pullen has been able to assist in creating and streamlining processes that benefit both her customers and employees. Some of her favorite solutions she has been involved with are: developing an employee incentive program, developing a system to track cold food waste/sales, and using metrics to develop guidelines for scheduling that helped eliminate routes while still offering the same level of service to her customers.

Gilbert Ramirez Jr.

Gilbert Ramirez Jr., marketing manager at Everest, can best be described as a motivated and determined individual who offers innovative ideas and creative solutions to improve the company, as well as happily wearing many hats to contribute what he can to his team and fellow employees. Since his start with Everest, he has consistently enhanced the company's image, website and communications – both internally and externally. Ramirez has been instrumental in helping the company lead the industry in online content and presence. Because of his efforts, outreach and new partnerships, Everest’s online presence increased by 1,934%, which has led to increased brand awareness, sales and market share. Gilbert has accomplished a variety of impressive projects, including spearheading the company’s participation in the 2022 Orgill Trade Show in Orlando, Florida, as well as creating the Everest Cares initiative, a branch of the company that gives back to the community.

Linda Saldana

Linda Saldana is the co-founder and CEO of Seventh Wave Refreshments. She joined the industry almost 12 years ago as a sales director at Southern Refreshment Service and fell in love with the industry. Seventh Wave Refreshments was established in 2020 with a mission to “Bring JOY to the Workplace” in the most unsettling time in refreshments. With a deep passion for the customers and a heart for innovation in our industry, Seventh Wave Refreshments has led a refreshment revolution in Atlanta – pioneering new ways of servicing and offering a white glove approach to hundreds of offices in just two years.

Patrick Sheehan

Patrick Sheehan, president of Sheehan Brothers Vending, has driven his family’s business to new heights in 2022. His leadership the last six years has grown the southwest Ohio operation from 60 employees to 130 and increased revenue by 150%. The company recently opened a 14,000-square-foot commissary that supports 150 markets and offers sandwiches with fresh baked bread. As a third-generation Sheehan, he has embraced the 66 years of experience his father mentored him with, while bringing new innovative ways to drive business and profitability. Sheehan has been active in the industry serving on a USG committee, vice president of the Ohio Automatic Merchandising Association, and helping create a new national network of independent operators called Guardian Refresh.

Jasmin Smith

Jasmin Smith is the founder of a large, fast-growing custom vending machine company that distributes vending machines with products geared toward infants, toddlers, children and breast-feeding mothers. Smith is an Alaska Top 40 Under 40, Alaska Business of Achievement award winner, YWCA Women of Achievement award winner, Alaska Woman Entrepreneur of the Year award winner, and she is the only woman-owned and black-owned vending machine company in the state. Smith was also ranked in the top 3 For the State of Alaska tech companies. She has been covered in many news outlets and publications. Her vending company is currently located in 13 states with over 40 locations.

Robbie Smith

Robbie Smith is skillful and committed with a background in data analytics. As the Technical Operations Director at Panoptyc, he is working with cross-functional teams on high impact process improvement projects. Robbie always finds ways to build towards product optimization, ensuring that Panoptyc’s technology is able to adapt to the demands of the customers and the industry. With Panoptyc’s continuous growth and success, Robbie aims to be more involved in the industry. His goal is to help micro market operators reduce friction in their operations by identifying and solving for unfulfilled needs.

Justin Steuber

Justin Steuber is the customer success director at Associated Services in northern California. He received his business administration degree from the University of Nevada, Reno. In 2019, Steuber returned to the San Francisco Bay area to work for the company that his grandparents founded, which, this year, is celebrating 50 years in business. Steuber wears many hats in the company. He leads the account management team and works directly with customers of all sizes. He is also working on a task force with a goal of fostering a better work culture. In his spare time, he keeps the fleet of box trucks on the road by replacing catalytic converters and welding on theft deterrents to keep Associated’s deliveries on time.

Mark T. Stubblefield 

Since joining Five Star Food Service in 2013, Mark Stubblefield has been a part of the leadership team to streamline and automate accounts receivable, accounts payable, acquisition sampling and valuation, expense reporting, financial reporting and operational reporting. In 2020, Stubblefield started building a business intelligence department and has utilized his understanding of the industry and knowledge of the systems to continue building a set of business intelligence tools and processes for the Five Star leadership to be more effective. He believes in an iterative approach to success where each mistake along the way is a learning opportunity to do better next time, and he is learning that expectations and communication are critical to that recipe of success. His success comes from his aptitude to learn and understand how processes and procedures by asking critical questions and his aspiration to improve upon them by challenging assumptions. He appreciates those around him who helped him achieve success.

Ben Thomas

As a co-founder of Yoke Payments, and now vice president of micro market strategy as part of the Cantaloupe family, Ben Thomas is a pioneer of small market solutions in the micro market industry. His passion for product development and innovation has had a massive impact on the speed of adoption of the micro market concept. Thomas understands the value of teamwork and is a true team player, always looking to better those around him and help the group as a whole. His out-of-the-box approach to solving problems has brought a fresh perspective to the vending industry, and his ideas highlighted the flexibility of where micro markets could be placed, greatly accelerating market growth and product development across the entire industry.

Gilbert Vargas

Gilbert Vargas, customer care coordinator and snack guru, started with Associated Coffee in 2016 when he was 22 years old, in the customer care department. In 2019, he was promoted to operations manager. Vargas has worked in all aspects related to deliveries – warehouse inbound, outbound, delivery drivers and customer service. He has assisted in revamping the company’s ordering system and in the development of a labor tracking software. He has won Associated Services’ Circle of Excellence award three times as well as the Dick Wheeler Spirit award.

Robina Verbeek

Robina Verbeek is the co-founder and co-CEO of SOS, a company redefining wellness on-the-go through a network of state-of-the-art smart vending machines. The company has partnered with teams across the MLB, NFL and NHL as well as firms like Tishman Speyer and Equinox. The company holds seven global patents and has been featured in Fast Company, Forbes and TechCrunch. SOS was named one of the Top 20 Emerging Brands in Retail by ICSC and is a Techstars portfolio company.

Gus Walter

Since joining Coffee Break Refreshments in 2018, Gus Walter has been an integral part in implementing new technology and best practices he saw while working with Avanti’s clients as its midwest account manager. Walter works with Coffee Break’s current and prospective clients to develop custom food and beverage solutions that will fuel the clients associates and culture. Over five decades and three generations, Coffee Break Refreshments has grown from a small OCS operator to a full-line food and beverage service company and coffee roaster. He credits Coffee Break’s growth over the years to having a great team that will do whatever it takes to serve the greater Cincinnati area’s breakroom, restaurant and C-stores with its locally roasted coffee and creative automated retail solutions.

Brittany Westerman

Brittany Westerman joined 365 Retail Markets in 2015 working on cross-functional strategic projects. By combining her strong academic background (BSE and MBA from the University of Michigan) with her keen grasp of the convenience services industry, Westerman has successfully welcomed and accomplished increasingly challenging responsibilities at 365. Today, in her well-deserved role as the executive vice president of corporate development and operations, she defines 365’s growth strategy and evaluates new opportunities to expand. Westerman and her team have collaborated with several suppliers to identify alternate sources in order to keep 365’s production operations afloat during the past few years, thereby helping operators throughout the industry continue to support their clients. Through her direct involvement in evaluating new opportunities for the company’s mergers and acquisitions and overseeing post-transaction integration, Westerman has been instrumental in fueling 365’s growth as well as that of the overall technology footprint in the convenience services industry. 

Honorable mentions:

Cassidy Munoz

Office Manager

Tahoe Vending 

Jeffrey S Wachowicz II

Sales Representative

Smart Vending Solutions

Summer Claudio

Vice President of Operations

Convenience Services Group


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