People to Watch 2017
Leading by example and giving back to the community they love and live in, Kimberly Holtz, Cory Moskowitz, Jamie Lawrence, and Billy Skomski Jr. are making Washington County a better place to live and work by leaving a lasting professional imprint on Hagerstown.
by Matt Makowski & Photography by Turner Photography Studio
Corey Moskowitz | Birth of a Salesman
I always go into everything full-steam-ahead. There’s no ‘Plan B’ for me, ever — because that just distracts from ‘Plan A.’” That’s not to say that Cory hasn’t sorted his way through variations of Plan A’s though. The current vice president of sales for Innovative, Inc., initially planned on attending law school. While working toward his history degree, an uncle who happened to be an attorney suggested he pair that with a degree that had “real world applications” — just in case he decided not to go to law school. Cory combined his history degree with education, and his uncle’s advice proved to be prudent, if not practical. “I fully intended to teach, but after six months I just couldn’t do it. It was too restrictive. You go in and do the same thing every day. You can’t leave the building…it’s just too process-driven.”
As Cory began looking for Plan A.2, he discovered he had a knack for sales and making deals. “It was during the pharmaceutical heyday. Those reps were the sales people. So that became what I wanted to do.” He started by selling medical devices — traveling to nursing homes and selling dressings, helping doctors in the operating room and educating them on how to use the products in surgery. “I’m 22 years old, telling a doctor how to use this product, and I thought, ‘Something’s wrong here. This is crazy.’” Realistically, Cory acknowledges it was really just a stopgap. He was young, married, had a mortgage, and needed to figure out how to make money. But it turns out he was good at it, and continued with it until the next opportunity found him.
Fast-forward a couple handfuls of years and a steady upward trajectory, and Cory found a position that affords him both the chance to continue to grow professionally, while allowing him to deploy his efforts to better Washington County. “I’ve spent the bulk of my career outside of the community, but I’ve lived here for 10 years. When I came to Innovative, part of the attraction to me was that it is very much a community-minded business. So being able to involve myself where I live was a perk.” Since joining Innovative, Cory has steadfastly remained committed to bettering Hub City, and is a recent graduate of Leadership Washington County, which just held the first annual #BeNiceToHagerstown fundraiser in conjunction with Say Something Nice Day last month. “The event is kind of a play off what Detroit has done with the ‘Say Something Nice About Detroit’ program. But really, I think it’s just a matter of educating people about some of the great things that happen in the community.”
Among those great things, in Cory’s mind, one of the most overlooked is the local public school system. “Going through Leadership Washington County, I got to immerse myself in all these different aspects of the community, and discovered our pubic education system offers things that I had no idea existed.” Though he may be a bit biased as his wife, Josalyn, is an assistant principal at Boonsboro Elementary, it’s the pioneering trade schools that left him most surprised. “Take Tech High. There’s a biomedical engineering department there. Kids are leaving there and going to Ivy League schools. Their culinary program is unbelievable. While it’s still a vocational school, it’s very much become a college prep school.” And that’s not to mention the various magnet programs and the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts, he adds.
Though work still forces him out of his immediate community on occasion — he estimates he put around 50,000 miles on his car last year — Cory even treats that as an opening. When Innovative expanded its professional footprint to Frederick, Cory took that as an opportunity to become a member of the Special Gifts Committee for the Order of the Good Samaritan for Frederick Memorial Hospital, which helped raise just shy of $20 million for the hospital’s new $22 million cancer institute. “Being able to build this solely on the back of the community is a pretty neat thing to be a part of.” But at the end of the day, being able to spend time with his family — whether it’s while taking his daughter, Reese, to dance class, or golfing with his son, Cooper — is his favorite thing to be a part of. “When I’m at work, or when I’m out doing board stuff, I’m ‘on.’ But when I get home at night, I just enjoy my time with my family. That’s what allows me to recharge.”
Kimberly Holtz | Keep on Pushing
With an aversion to self-promotion and an appreciation for privacy, Kimberly can be a tough person to pin down. But the love for what she does and the community she serves shines right through her cloaked nature. The somewhat shrouded private life she keeps is born from professional necessity though, not bashfulness. As executive director of The Mental Health Center of Western Maryland, Inc., Kimberly says she can’t risk jeopardizing her family. And she puts that on the front burner with all of her employees as well. “If you’re on Facebook and you’re somebody’s therapist, and you get a message from them [that they’re going to harm themselves], and you never respond back, ultimately at the end of the day you’re responsible for that. So regarding social media, I really try to get my people to stay away from it because it’s dangerous.”
Status updates aside — Kimberly’s social media feed would just make most friends feel inadequate anyway — this Hagerstown native first dipped her toe into the mental health field some 30 years ago, and knew immediately she found a rewarding career. “I have always been a people person, so for me there is nothing more pleasing than to go home at the end of the day knowing that I have helped to make a difference in someone’s life.” Outside of the difference she makes during her 9–5 (realistically it’s more of 7–7), Kimberly is also on the board of directors and a member of the disaster action team of the local chapter of the American Red Cross; a member of the Society for Human Resource Management; a past logistics committee chairperson and vice president of the board of directors of the American Cancer Society; and a graduate of Leadership Washington County, among other community-oriented volunteer programs. She also happens to be an extreme example of a morning person. “My idea of the perfect day starts at approximately 2:30 a.m. by walking six miles on the treadmill, which prepares me mentally for the workday. At lunch, I treat myself to an additional four-mile walk to meet my daily goal of 10 miles per day.”
During her tenure with the Mental Health Center, Kimberly has kept the job engaging and gratifying by continuously growing her skill set to meet the task at hand. “Prior to being the executive director, I oversaw all the admin stuff.
So I had my side of the business, and the director had the clinical side of the business — which was challenging, just trying to keep up with the Affordable Care Act, electronic medical records…in health care, there’s just something going on all the time.” In addition to the normal day-to-day rigors, the Mental Health Center had been taking the necessary steps toward earning Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) certification, which Kimberly took the point position on. “Let me tell you, I worked seven days a week with 12-hour days for probably a year and a half. So I didn’t have time to be bored.” The facility already had outpatient, mobile treatment, and psychiatric rehabilitation licenses from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene under Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) Title 10 Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Subtitle 21. Effective July 1, 2016 new mandated regulations shifted to COMAR 10.63, which requires all community-based behavioral health programs to be accredited by one of the approved national accrediting organization, such as CARF, which the Mental Health Center completed in December 2015.
Kimberly knew at a young age that she wanted a job helping people, and by the time she was in high school, had planned on becoming a nurse until her father fell ill. “My dad passed away when I was in high school. When that happened, times were tough. I probably shouldn’t say this, but we were spoiled children, we had a good life. We didn’t want or need for anything. But when he got sick, things changed.” Kimberly quickly came to the realization she would have to pay for her own schooling, but thanks to her mother’s urging, never lost sight of her goals.
“I feel like I’ve been an adult since I was 16. My mom had to start working, and I became the caretaker,” Kimberly says. While this second-youngest of seven children managed the household, she also prepared herself to go on to earn degrees from Hagerstown Business College, Mountain State University, and University of Phoenix. “My mom convinced me I could do it, and she just pushed, and pushed, and pushed.” And now Kimberly is able to do some pushing of her own to help grow and improve the community she loves.
Billy Skomski Jr. | Like Father, Like Son
Billy figured out at as a little kid that he works well with his father — whether he wanted to or not. “He had a small print shop in his basement. I had to work the collating machine. I wasn’t allowed to play with my friends during the summer until I worked with him for an hour each day,” he laughs while suggesting that may be where his work ethic comes from. He grew up in Wisconsin, and when his father left his job to head east for a position with Quad Graphics, Billy eventually joined him. “He was working on the print floor, and I was in pre-press production — that’s where I really found out that I loved graphic arts.”
Things worked like that for a bit until Bill Sr. got bitten by the bar bug and opened Benny’s Pub. Billy worked at the pub here and there in the beginning, before landing a gig in Washington, D.C., working with National Geographic. His two years working there only fortified his reverence for all things graphic arts. But after surviving three rounds of layoffs during the recession, he finally got the axe. “After that happened, dad said, ‘Come back and work at the pub.’ I really wanted to go home to Wisconsin, and dad really wanted me to stay, so I told him I’d try it for a year — that was eight years ago.” Billy has long since made a commitment to the three-pronged enterprise of Benny’s Pub, Benny’s 2 Go, and Antietam Brewery.
Now that he’s settled in for the long haul, Billy’s business card could be filled with titles, but managing partner is probably the most compact and fitting. He’s the general manager of Benny’s Pub, brand manager of Antietam Brewery, works closely with Benny’s 2 Go, and is the all-around harbinger of success. While a typical corporate restaurant would be thrilled to be enjoying 4–7 percent growth after ten years of business, Benny’s is currently in the midst of 30 percent growth this year, says Billy. There are myriad theories why things have been so successful of late, but focusing on the core of what works certainly hasn’t hurt matters. “We don’t try to get too complicated. We just try to do the simple stuff well. And that’s worked at the pub, the liquor store, and here at the brewery.
Though he still spends most of his time at the pub setting up bands, working on the schedule, setting up events and fundraisers, and monitoring and posting on social media, he also brands the merchandise for Benny’s and Antietam. He describes his position as the behind-the-scenes guy who makes sure everything looks good and runs well. “I love working with details and organizing them — creating a ton of little things and putting together a big final product. That’s what I’ve been doing with the pub, the liquor store, and the brewery.”
Now that Antietam has grown out of the pub and into a brewery all its own, Billy sees that as a means to help Hagerstown as a whole. “Even as a brewpub, we had people coming in off the interstate, but now that we’re a brewery, I’m hoping that’ll quadruple.” In addition to trying to help put Hagerstown on the map by joining the baseball and brews trail in Maryland, Billy also distills his efforts on fun charity events to raise money for local efforts like Golftoberfest, which raises funds for the Hagerstown Children’s School. He also helps organize an annual Wiffle Ball tournament at Municipal Stadium for the Mitchell Akers scholarship, and one of the biggest Toys For Tots fundraisers in the area. But it’s the smaller events that go largely unnoticed that Billy is especially proud of. “If there is a family that we know on a personal level that is going through a certain situation, we always do our best to help. We organize events at the pub, or we’ll donate proceeds from the alcohol and food sales for a three-hour period, and they can sell raffle tickets or auction items.”
“I’ve always looked up to my dad, and it’s nice to have a path in life to follow. I think a lot of people are looking to carve out their own path — and a lot of people succeed at that — but I feel fortunate that I had an opportunity like this. I put in the hard work too, but it’s nice to wake up and not go, ‘What am I going to do with my life?’”
Jamie Lawrence | The Face of New Media
Jamie didn’t quite make it in the “rap game,” but his experiences from trying led to becoming a local powerhouse in digitally shared content. He is the owner and operator of One Room Media — a gang-of-one storytelling and marketing operation that’s been making waves in Hagerstown for three years with its unfettered, nuanced brand of storytelling.
A life-long hustler, Jamie got some of his entrepreneurial spirit from his dad while racing quarter midgets at Hagerstown Speedway. “My dad would build engines from scratch and then sell them to help pay for us to race,” he says. That spirit likewise led him down less-than-wholesome entrepreneurial activities like stealing his brother’s Garbage Pail Kids and baseball cards and selling them at school. But what really sparked his creative side was recording songs rapping on his parents’ desktop computer and selling his CDs for five bucks a pop — which continued until his parents found his “rap book” and he was subsequently grounded. “Ironically, I was a straight-A student my whole life. So for my parents to find this rap book about women and drugs, and all this stuff that I didn’t even know about…well, my parents were kinda pissed.”
He put music on hold after that and went to college, but still didn’t know what he wanted to do. “I was basically taking the same classes I already took in high school, and I just thought, ‘This isn’t for me.’” He dropped out, and started a 10-year career working on cars as a mechanic by day, and got back to making music and deejaying by night. “When I started, I needed music videos. So I was paying a guy to shoot my videos and he ripped me off one time. I was like, ‘You know what, I’m gonna buy a camera and make sure this guy can’t make any more money.’ This guy lit me on fire.” And a business born from vengeance was established.
During those early pre-business days, Jamie says he probably shot 250 music videos for local acts, but it was the fortuitous inquiry from a friend to record her wedding that really got the ball rolling. “I shot that one wedding, and it led to three or four after that. And these weddings paid me more than I made all month working as a mechanic. Once I shot those first couple weddings, I realized I had to make videos. Shooting weddings completely built my entire business.” In 2013, Jamie quit his job as a mechanic, and went all in with content creation, which ranges from the occasional wedding to his new bread and butter: The 60–90-second internet video, and various podcasts.
What separates Jamie from the pack is his understanding of how modern media works and his ability to repackage a traditional TV commercial in a way that people want to watch. “I’m not gonna pull a whole bunch of lights and a camera in front of someone and have them say, ‘Hi, I’m so and so, and my business is great so you should give me money.’ That’s what you’re doing, though, when you make that style of commercial, and for me, there’s a zero-dollar return on that for my generation.” So instead of a business making a traditional 30-second spot for local TV, Jamie follows his clients around and documents how hard their job is and shares it to the world through the internet. “When we put it out, people don’t realize they’re being sold something. You’re still selling them the same thing, just in a more natural way.”
“It’s funny. My mom tells me, ‘I just don’t understand why people would pay money for you to do that.’ And I tell her, ‘When you were telling me to get off the internet because it was a waste of time…well, 15 years later, it’s been monetized and I knew how to capitalize.’” Jamie’s way of making a difference in the community is from a media standpoint, and within the next 10 years plans to control 90 percent of it. “Newspapers are dying, small news stations are dying — that’s evident from seeing the affiliation loss. And these larger media outlets aren’t creating the culture to keep their employees long-term. I’m working on creating a type of atmosphere that people want to be in.” The business relationships he’s established could go a long way to help him achieve his goal, and his work ethic and business savvy will only help. His work, passion, and interests are all the same, and he’s not longing for a house on the hills. “Instead of buying that vacation house, I’m going to invest that money into people. I’m fine living in my rancher with my pickup truck. I don’t need anything more than that.”