Photos by Jason Dailey

We have all had at least one “door opener” in our lives—someone who introduced us to the right people, encouraged us to join organizations and pushed us to accomplish more than we thought we could.

For some of us it was a boss, a mentor or a friend.  For others it was someone who thought we were on a path for success and wanted to help smooth out the potholes along the way.

TK asked past and present 20 Under 40 honorees to name the “door openers” in their lives.  The following pages take a look at the individuals they said are opening the doors for Topeka’s future leaders.

LEADS / “Tammy has helped me become a better leader and get to the position that I am now.”         —Dustin Dick

FACILITATES / “Mr. Elwood is always ready to introduce you to someone that he knows from business, nonprofit boards, church or otherwise.  It seems he knows everyone in Topeka and is always willing to make a call to one of them to help you out.” —Miranda Carmona

ADVOCATES / “With Marsha’s encouragement I can be a strong advocate for the people and charities I care about. I’m very thankful for the opportunity to learn from her.” —Julie Swift


door-opener-1“I believe it is a professional duty to encourage, support, and mentor those who demonstrate a passion for leadership and a desire to excel on behalf of those they serve.  It is by “opening doors” for others that we empower them to reach their maximum potential so their dreams can be realized.”
Topeka Public Schools

“Opening doors for others is always beneficial, as each person brings new insight and a range of experiences, which benefits everyone involved and improves the community.”
Goodell Stratton Edmonds & Palmer LLP 

“Leadership is not a position. It’s action. That includes opening doors for and investing in people and leveraging the skills, abilities and strengths of people in your office, your industry and your community.”
Topeka Community Foundation


EMPOWERS / “She has inspired me and provided an outlet for empowering women.” —Megan Jones

INSPIRES / “Tara has inspired and challenged me more in the past year than anyone else in my career to this point.” —Lissa Staley

door-opener-2We as leaders have a responsibility to open up opportunities for others to realize their dreams, to put to work their unique and special talents, to grow and excel, and to make a difference.”
Washburn University

“Each of us is capable of more than we can ever imagine, and sometimes we need someone else to open a door, just a little, so we can see the possibilities.”
Envista Credit Union

 & TK Business Magazine






BELIEVES / “This man has believed in me from day one.  If I bring things to him that are holding me back, he is sure to do what he can to remove any obstacles so I can be successful.” —Jammie Serrano

CONNECTS / “Mr. Robbins helps connect people and groups. He is so involved in community organizations and business that his connections just “pave the way” to make things happen.” —Shanna McKenzie

ADVISES / “I have always been able to call on Joanne to answer questions, lead me to talk to the right people, and just generally give me the great advice I need to succeed.” —Ashley Charest

door-opener-3“I truly enjoy sharing my relationships and knowledge with young people in hopes that they will have more opportunity and grow at a more rapid pace then they could have on their own.”
Advisors Excel

“There is no greater reward as a business professional than witnessing those who you have “opened doors” for either match or surpass your success, and then pay it forward with others.”
Topeka Public Schools

“It’s a ‘pay it forward, pay it back’ sort of thing.  When we see a spark, it’s up to all of us to nurture it.  When we invest in, grow and nurture those sparks, we all succeed.”
Impact! Marketing Group


INFLUENCES / “Sheriff Jones has empowered me to take on leadership roles that influence the entire agency.” —Justin Vest

MOTIVATES / “Melissa isn’t one to sit around wondering if the next generation will be ready to take over. She actively seeks out opportunities to mentor individuals so they are ready to step up and lead.” —Christie Applehanz

TEACHES / “Bill has been a wonderful mentor and friend. He helped me on various projects making sure each one was done to the best of my abilities and taking the time out of his schedule to make sure I learned as much as possible every step of the way.” —John Bell

COACHES / “Jake is always coaching and encouraging young professionals. Between that and his connections and knowledge of our community, he’s always working to help mold our community’s young professionals.” —Brie Parks


“It’s important to provide opportunities and open doors for young professionals.  Our youth are our future and the future is now.”
Shawnee County Sheriff

“Being intentional about leaving the “key under the door mat for the next generation” has always resonated with me. You have to invite the next generation in, share what you know and then get out of their way!”
Connections Unlimited

“There is no greater reward as a business professional than witnessing those who you have “opened doors” for either match or surpass your success, and then pay it forward with others.”
Shawnee County Parks & Recreation

“Any success I’ve experienced has been driven by my mentors, and I’ve had some of the best. I repay that debt by opening doors for others—the same way it was done for me.”
jones huyett Partners

CULTIVATES / “Dr. Carter has connected me with a number of people within the community and encouraged me to be a presenter for Those Who Lead, Read.” —Elizabeth Lenherr

MENTORS / “Doug Sterbenz helped me develop leadership skills.  He mentored me and gave me tools that helped me reach my goals.” —Buck Reuter

ENCOURAGES / “Cece encouraged me to join the Board of Director’s at UCD, which pushed me to expand my limits regarding service to the community.” —John Paul Washburn


“Our rewards in life are in direct proportion to the service that we provide. The more we help others, the more we grow ourselves. I grew up in poverty; both of my parents were illiterate; and an optimistic outlook on the future was nowhere to be found. But so many people opened doors for me that allowed me to prosper. How could I not return the favor?”
D. W. Carter

“I believe we ride on the shoulders of those people who came before us. Now, other people are riding on our shoulders. What an enormous responsibility we have.”
Present to Win Leaders

“Having the opportunity to lean on a more experienced professional can make a difference between failure and success.  Without that opportunity, I would never be where I am today.  It is important to pay it forward and help other young adults succeed.”
University Child Development



NETWORKS / “Paul has been instrumental in reconnecting me to the City of Topeka, not once, but twice. Without his help, I would not have been able to grow as fast professionally or learn about how fulfilling it is to play a part in helping Topeka grow positively.” —Dan Schultz

GUIDES / “In my internship with MB Piland, Martha always included me in networking opportunities. She was a fabulous mentor and provided guidance along the way.” —Mandi Walter



“Every little thing that we do to help good things happen for others will strengthen our relationships and create positive impact in our communities.”
Key Staffing & Premier Employment Solutions


“It’s a thrill for me when I can help another person learn something, make a valuable connection or find a new opportunity to succeed. It changes us both for the better.”
MBPiland Advertising + Marketing


FUTURE DOOR OPENERS “We cannot succeed in business or life without the support and collaboration of others. Growing other leaders is a mark of true success. We can only hope that in 10 years we have people who say the 20 Under 40 alumni inspired them to be leaders. We should share our time, knowledge, successes and failures with the next generation of leaders in our organizations and community. We can do this through networking, community service, and building a strong community of businesses to keep young people in Topeka.  If the 20 Under 40 honorees give back to others, Topeka should have a bright future.” —Enedina Patch