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Homecoming: Sibel Selcuk Appointed EVP of Heritage Research Group

On January 16, 2023, Sibel Selcuk assumed the role of Executive Vice President of Heritage Research Group (HRG), returning to lead a segment of the same organization where she began her career 16 years ago. A home-grown expert, we are delighted to bring Sibel’s deep technical expertise, knowledge of the industry, and talent for people-first leadership back to Heritage Research Group in this new role. “Sibel exemplifies all of the reasons we bet on people and is a natural choice to lead this dynamic group,” said Amy Schumacher, CEO of The Heritage Group.

After earning her chemistry PhD at Louisiana State University, Sibel began her career at HRG as a research chemist and most recently served as Vice President, Global Research and Development and Strategy at Monument Chemical, an operating company of THG. Sibel found a moment to reflect on her time with Monument and how it feels to move into the next chapter of her career. What follows is a brief, modified Q&A she gave as she transitioned from her role with Monument Chemical.


How does it feel to leave Monument and begin your new job leading HRG?
I’m very excited, but it’s also bittersweet. When I joined Monument, I did not envision ever leaving or that I would someday return to HRG. I came to Monument tasked with building a new global R&D organization to boost our collaborative, cross-functional opportunities and enhance our abilities to fuel Monument’s growth. Two years ago, I was asked to be responsible for defining our strategy and identifying our growth levers, and that work was also very exciting to me. I loved my job and the people I got to work with. Monument and HRG will always feel like family to me, and I have this new opportunity because of how much you taught me, helped me grow as a leader, and prepared me for this next step. I look forward to always being part of the Monument and HRG family — you’re stuck with me!

What excites you most about what lies ahead for you with HRG?
It’s very exciting and an honor to return to lead the group I “grew up in.” It’s also humbling, because HRG is such an important part of The Heritage Group’s history going all the way back to Amy’s grandfather, Fred Fehsenfeld Sr., who interviewed me for my first job and became one of my mentors. He understood, as Fred Fehsenfeld Jr. and Amy do, how important R&D and innovation are to The Heritage Group’s future. I’m also very much looking forward to partnering with fellow members of the Heritage Leadership Council to seek future opportunities for HRG and the operating companies to collaborate.

Is your career heading down a path you envisioned, or has it surprised you?
When I was finishing my PhD almost 20 years ago, I pictured myself working as a chemistry professor in Turkey, not as an industry executive in Indiana. In fact, I had two teaching jobs waiting for me in Turkey when I graduated. But I listened to a professor who was advising me when he suggested I look into industry, and here I am. Turns out, it was very good advice.

Speaking of advice, what career advice do you most often share?
My number-one piece of career advice is to not fear change. Change is challenging and can be difficult to manage, but it keeps us moving forward and open to new opportunities. I’ve made some big changes in my life, beginning with leaving Turkey and my family to come to the United States to continue my education. Leaving HRG to join Monument was another big change, and I remember feeling nervous when I started. But I am very grateful I didn’t let uncertainties stop me then or keep me from taking this next step in my path.


As an organization, The Heritage Group is delighted to welcome Sibel back to our HRG team. HRG has played a unique role in the longevity and success of The Heritage Group, helping us innovate and tackle tough problems. As a versatile and experienced leader, Sibel embodies our Heritage values with a forward-thinking approach to innovation and research. In the months ahead, she’ll be working with colleagues new and old to talk, connect, share ideas and work together to build the future of Heritage Research Group.

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A Quick Reflection On United For Service

Coinciding with The Heritage Group’s 92nd anniversary as a company, our inaugural United for Service event was held on Thursday, November 17, 2022. Volunteers from around the Heritage Group of companies and centered in dozens of locations across the country came together, united in generous spirit, to serve the communities in which we live and work. With a focus on addressing food scarcity and insecurity, and in partnership with the United Way, volunteers hosted food drives, assembled food kits, sorted and packaged food donations, and served residents of community shelters. We are so grateful for this opportunity and are proud to celebrate the 1,211 volunteer hours. 

What is United for Service?

United for Service is your opportunity to volunteer side-by-side with your Heritage family to meet a need in your community — putting food on families’ tables. This experience is all about building a sense of community among our Heritage family while also giving back in a meaningful way to the communities where we live and work.

United for Service originated with the Fehsenfeld family as a way for reason for the whole group to get together and bond while giving back to the community.

Why focus on food insecurity?

The need for food is key to our existence. And the enjoyment of food is a part of our culture. Families bond over dinner, co-workers chat over lunch. But for some, putting food on the table is a struggle.

According to the USDA, more than 38 million people, including 12 million children, in the United States are food insecure. In fact, every community in the United States is home to families who face hunger. But rural communities — where many struggle with limited job opportunities and lack of transportation options to reach grocery stores or food pantries — are especially hard hit by hunger.

 

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Cirba Solutions Gains Governmental Green Light

In October, the U.S. Department of Energy announced a $2.8 billion grant to supercharge U.S. battery manufacturing for electric vehicles and the electrical grid. Cirba Solutions, a Heritage family company focused on battery recycling, was one of the 21 companies awarded a portion of that grant. Here, in an interview with The Heritage Group, Shane Thompson, Strategy and Business Development for Cirba Solutions, discusses what a $75,000,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy means for the company and its future.

Tell us more about the grant.
It funds the first set of projects for President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The U.S. government is trying to set up a domestic supply chain for critical materials so the country can expand manufacturing of batteries for electric vehicles and the grid.

What does the grant mean for Cirba Solutions?
It allows us to put more dollars into our new facility in Lancaster, Ohio, which was already in the works when we won the grant. We’re planning to expand the number of minerals we recycle and enhance our ability to upgrade materials before they re-enter the battery supply chain.

How will the grant impact the future?
The fact that our new facility is being built with the full confidence of the Department of Energy will help us introduce our product in the marketplace. In addition to funding, the validation adds visibility and credibility that will make us more attractive to customers, employees and investors.

How did you win the grant?
We responded to the Department of Energy’s request for funding, which included a rigorous application process. Our strategy was to apply for half of the available funding in the battery recycling category. We built on the fact that Cirba Solutions is unique, and we have experience to back up what we do. Laura Evans, our director of environmental, social and governance (ESG), led the application process, which included a robust environmental justice questionnaire and requirements. We welcomed that. We prioritize sustainability and ESG at Cirba Solutions, and the grant was a great opportunity to highlight some of those practices.

Why is the grant important for the country?
We’re creating a circular economy and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and minerals mined in other parts of the world. Producing batteries and components in the U.S. will help advance our country’s goal to build a robust lithium-ion supply chain and meet the demand for electric vehicles.

What capabilities will you add?
Typically, in the process of collecting, disassembling, shredding and upgrading critical materials from lithium-ion batteries, we focus on nickel and cobalt. Our expansion in Ohio will allow us to add lithium and other materials to that list.

Now, when we chop up batteries and separate out materials, some parts of the battery — including lithium, carbon, manganese and aluminum — are sent to a third party for processing. In the future, we’ll run those materials, known in the industry as “black mass,” through a hydrometallurgical process at our plant. We’ll be able to keep the recycling process going and create more materials that can go back into the battery supply chain.

How does this impact The Heritage Group?
Winning the grant is something Cirba Solutions and Heritage employees should share in and feel good about. It shows that a company that got its start with The Heritage Group is betting on the right things, receiving validation at the highest level and growing, which is good for us all.

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Sara Morris Discusses Family’s Commitment To Service

Since 2014, Fehsenfeld family retreats have hosted a United for Service event that addressed strategic and specific needs in various areas of the country. This year, with the inaugural United for Service event extended to all employees of The Heritage Group family, Sara Morris, Director of Strategic Experiences, discusses her family’s history of service and the goals of this year’s campaign to address food insecurities in the communities in which we live and work. 

 

Talk about the history of United for Service and to a larger extent, the Fehsenfeld Family’s involvement in service and giving back to communities.

In 2014, the Fehsenfeld Family Council decided it was time to refocus our family retreats. Several fourth-generation family members were wanting to become more involved in activities surrounding our gatherings, wanting to find different avenues for people to connect and give back to the community. The family spent a lot of time determining what was most important to us, and together we decided it was learning & giving back together.  We established two models for our family retreats: United for Learning, where we gather to learn about something new, often centered around THG and United for Service, where we collectively take on a community service project. It was always important that all ages could participate, so that even the youngest could create and be part of what the rest of the family was doing. There is something special about grandparents working alongside grandchildren, all coming together to help others.

When that idea was generated, was everyone immediately on board? 

It added a new energy to the family and certainly made people feel connected. This initiative gave everyone a new way of viewing how we as a family and now as a company can help others. We have a lot of people who are passionate about conducting service projects in their own communities. In some instances, we’ve been able to listen and learn what others’ passions are and to find venues to share those passions through service. In 2017, we held our retreat in Utah where we worked on my cousin’s urban farm, The Green Urban Lunchbox. Together we built a green house, repaired fences, prepped planting sites, and collected food to be delivered to the local community. It was great being able to learn about a family member’s passion, and to experience it firsthand.

What are the family’s expectations for this year’s United for Service efforts now that it has been extended to include the Heritage Family of employees?

When Amy and I took this idea to the family council to let them know we were expanding our efforts, everyone was overwhelmed with excitement and support. I could see us [the Fehsenfeld Family] doing this again and working alongside Heritage employees. There are great opportunities in the future.

What do you hope employees get out of this initiative?

I would love for people to make new connections or deepen relationships with employees and colleagues. I would love for people to better understand the importance of this kind of work, because as a family, it is deeply important for us. My hope is that it instills in employees a sense of pride for the organizations they work for and that they’re enthusiastic about addressing food insecurities across the country. Partnering with the United way is an exciting opportunity and I hope we can make an impact in our communities.

What specifically about food insecurity and our united mission to address hunger relief speaks to you? 

I have spent the last several years learning from our employees what’s most important to them and their families to help inform our Heritage Group giving pillars. Food insecurity wasn’t initially one topic we addressed, but it became clear with the onset of the pandemic in early 2020 that we cannot support the mission and goals of our pillars if people cannot eat. Food scarcity during that time became a very eye-opening, important experience. If, during the pandemic kids were not attending school, those kids still needed to find their next meal. Born out of that was our ongoing partnership with Gleaners, which is the largest food pantry here in Indiana. I imagine a lot of folks in Indianapolis are familiar with them, but much like our industries are spread across the state, so too is their presence as they distribute food throughout Indiana.

After the impact is measured and we’ve wrapped the inaugural United for Service campaign, what does success look like and how will we know if we have achieved our goal?

This is the first time we’re doing United for Service with members of the company, and I think it’s always hard to predict the outcomes the first time you do something. I hope we can listen to feedback and learn how we can better position ourselves for a greater impact next year, because this is going to be an annual event for The Heritage Group and our operating companies. Success for me is creating an experience that sheds more light on what the culture of Heritage is to a larger audience while proving to communities and our employees that this is who we are as a company. If we can empower our employees to connect with service initiatives in their communities, then we instill within them a source of pride for the work they do every day.

Of course, we are still planning for the first company-wide campaign, but if you were to name hopes for the future of United for Service, what do you want its legacy to be?

There is something about having this event in November, when our construction materials teams have quieted down a bit and we are entering a season of reflection and celebration with not only the date the company was founded, but Thanksgiving occurring the week after, that it all just feels special. I love the energy surrounding this drive and I love the idea of supporting causes that provide people with food access. I want it to be an event that grows each year. I am hopeful that our employees, regardless of location, can take part in some way.

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The Heritage Family Represents at World of Asphalt and AGG1

Boasting 400 exhibitors and 120 educational sessions for team development, World of Asphalt and AGG1 brought members of the Heritage family together in Nashville, Tennessee, in late March. Part trade show, part industry conference, the events’ 20th anniversary broke records with more than 11,400 asphalt paving and aggregates professionals in attendance. Representatives from across the Heritage family of companies showed up both to learn and to lead. 

Increasing Diversity

Marquisha (right) with Ashly Rieman of Milestone Contractors.

One of the 100+ professional development sessions was a roundtable on Increasing Diversity hosted by Women of Asphalt and featuring Marquisha Williams, safety representative at Milestone Contractors. Marquisha, who is also on the board of Women of Asphalt, participated in the roundtable discussion focusing on diversity and inclusion among workforces in the asphalt industry. “Speaking on the panel was an amazing experience. It’s something I’ll look back on for years to come,” Marquisha said. “Being able to see yourself represented is important in this industry. Companies have to be intentional when hiring to become more diverse and inclusive organizations.” 

Heritage Construction + Materials (HC+M) has deep ties to Women of Asphalt. In 2021, The Heritage Group contributed eight of the 84 total participants in Women of Asphalt’s inaugural Mentorship Program. This year, 16 of the 118 Mentorship Program participants – both mentors and mentees – are members of the Heritage family. “I’m sure I can speak for most of The Heritage Group ladies when I say that THG’s participation reassures us that we belong, and that this company is always striving to keep a culture that fosters diversity on many different levels,” Marquisha commented. 

Among the attendees was Patti Gault, strategic communications director for HC+M. “Marquisha really made me proud in the Women of Asphalt roundtable. She had great insight and there was a good group of us cheering her on,” Patti said. 

This year, HC+M was one of the organization’s diamond sponsors. Heritage attendees of Women in Asphalt programming, including Marquisha, recognized the impact of the organization in their industries: “It is amazing that The Heritage Group has seen the need to support women, but to see that we are going all in and becoming Diamond partners with Women of Asphalt makes me speechless.” 

Growing a Great Workforce Culture

From left: Paige Guedri Gill, Melissa Brooks, Patti Gault and Bronwyn Weaver, panelists.

Across the street at AGG1, HC+M’s Strategic Communications Director Patti Gault spoke on a panel of aggregates industry professionals called Growing a Great Workforce Culture. In front of a standing room-only crowd, Patti presented on THG’s culture, “which paved the way for me to talk about some of the special employee and community initiatives at the Heritage Group,” she described.  

Among these initiatives were Lean Six Sigma training, Kids Science Camp, the ONE Heritage Fund and THG’s internship program. “Also, starting up the Social Impact Task Force garnered a lot of interest, and I was grateful to be able to share some of the terrific work we are doing to support our local communities,” Patti added.   


“It was wonderful to spend time with my Heritage family away from our normal daily work in a great city. I was impressed to see the level of representation from across Heritage at the workshops.” — Patti Gault 


The impact of AGG1 didn’t stop in Nashville; Patti returned to Indianapolis ready to share what she learned with her HC+M team. One major takeaway was the opportunity for community contribution that exists in the construction industry. “Building the roads that connect society makes construction workers a part of something bigger,” Patti noted. “They help families get to work and school — and ultimately makes their community a better place to live.” 

An Accelerator Alumnus at World of Asphalt 

BroadLoop representatives demonstrate cone flipping at their booth.

Last year, BroadLoop Founder and CEO Nick McRae spent his fall at The Center as part of The Heritage Group Accelerator powered by Techstars. BroadLoop, a software platform that streamlines construction fleet management, has carried on the energy and attitude of creativity from their time in the Accelerator. BroadLoop’s booth featured cone flipping, a game typically played during downtime with construction cones, for visitors: “contractors don’t have time to flip cones while waiting on trucks any longer,” Nick said, “because BroadLoop gives them control over their virtual fleet.” 

World of Asphalt was BroadLoop’s first trade show, “so we learned a lot,” Nick said. “We were actually placed on a waitlist when we initially applied last year, but a THG connection from the Accelerator was able to send an email on our behalf and we were assigned a booth very quickly.” 

Much like the Accelerator, the trade show floor offers a chance for innovators in related industries to connect. Along with new interest in their product, the BroadLoop team reconnected with acquaintances from THG. “We had met a few of the AMI and J-Band team already as part of the programming run by HG Ventures,” Nick commented. “It was very exciting to see the effectiveness of that program continuing long after it had formally concluded.” 

World of Asphalt and AGG1 will return to Music City in 2024 for another gathering of industry professionals. Whatever the industry – and the world – have in store, the Heritage family will be there to take part. 

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Cultivating Confidence

How an innovative female scientist launched a Turkish startup, forged a career in global research and development and created a legacy of leadership

A strong foundation

Sibel at her college graduation

When Sibel Selcuk joined Heritage Research Group (HRG) in 2006, HRG looked very different than it does today. “There were only three female scientists, including me,” said Sibel, who first came to the United States after graduate school in Turkey. “Now when you look at HRG, we have not only female scientists but female engineers. We’ve become more diverse in every angle you can imagine. And that’s really important.”   

Back in the mid-2000s, Sibel was new to Indianapolis and searching for a job. With a Ph.D. in chemistry and the help of the American Chemical Society, Sibel connected with Erin Clark, a senior analytical research chemist at HRG.   

Erin introduced Sibel to The Heritage Group. Soon after, Sibel joined HRG as a research chemist, working on everything from asphalt emulsions to shampoo. The diversity of the job brought surprise and satisfaction.  

“What I ended up doing for the Heritage Research Group — I didn’t even know a job like that existed,” Sibel said. “One day I’d be working on an asphalt-related project, and then it would be an environmental customer’s project, and the next day I’d be doing analytical work.”


“You work with something new every day, and you make new things out of the things that people can’t use. It’s always problem-solving, and that’s the part that I love.” 


Launching innovation

Sibel networking with young professionals

In addition to her dedication to the work happening in the lab, Sibel formed a bond with her HRG co-workers. “When I joined HRG, I had just gotten married, and I had absolutely no family in town,” Sibel said. “Everyone in that group became my family — and they treated me like family. It doesn’t matter where I am. I know they’re there for me and I’ll be there for them.”  

After finding a home in the lab, Sibel began to consider how total waste management could apply to new settings. Observing a coworker’s business venture abroad, she sought out new opportunities for the business to grow internationally. “I came up with a couple of ideas and I presented them, and for some of them they said no,” Sibel noted. She remained determined to keep her eyes open for opportunity. “Then I presented the opportunity in Turkey, and they said yes.”  


“When they said, ‘we’re going to do this,’ what they meant was: ‘We’re going to do this because we believe in you.’ That meant a lot to me.”


International insight

Sibel’s daughter Ada, an aspiring scientist

Starting a business in her native Turkey was a turning point for Sibel’s career. “The Heritage Group believed in the business,” she recalled, “but more so, they believed in me.” Betting on Sibel paid off: İnteraktif Çevre, Heritage’s Turkish waste management venture, was established in 2015.   

Sibel had experience in market intelligence and technology evaluation, and the Turkish startup was her first foray into business management. But she was ready. Her background in science had prepared her for much more than working in the lab.  

“In chemistry, graduate study is more like problem solving, so it teaches you how to approach a problem or an opportunity and figure it out. That’s similar to building a business and doing a startup,” Sibel said.  After seeing her success at İnteraktif Çevre, Heritage leadership recognized Sibel’s talent. “I was so lucky. Amy (Schumacher, CEO of The Heritage Group) was my mentor throughout my career. She always supported me, so when she asked if I would consider a position at Monument, it turned into my best experience at Heritage.”  


“I did lab work, I did development, I did a startup, but until joining Monument I was never part of an operating company. Seeing how Monument works has dramatically changed my perspective on research and how we do things.”


A lasting bond

Sibel during her first year of PhD studies

In her current role as vice president of Global Research & Development and Strategy for Monument Chemical, Sibel unites her passion for chemistry with business savvy to solve problems for customers across the globe. She credits her experience at Monument with a new perspective on the chemical research process.   

“When we develop something in the lab, we’re fairly good about thinking big picture. But when we live it day in day out, it’s really different,” Sibel said.  

“It takes big-picture thinking in a real-world context to take opportunities to the next level. We need more scientists and engineers who lead with practical applications in mind. It’s really important for them to develop themselves, but it also helps the businesses overall.” 


“Within Heritage it doesn’t matter gender, ethnicity, background, culture, all that—if you create value and if you do the right thing, you have tons of opportunities.” 


Facing the future with confidence

Reflecting on her career as a woman in a male-dominated field, Sibel noted that gender shouldn’t hold anyone back from their aspirations.   

The key is to build self-confidence, something Sibel prioritizes when mentoring young scientists. She encourages her mentees to build their confidence in the lab before venturing out: “Giving yourself time there will strengthen your leadership skills and your contribution to the business in the long run.”  

Linda Osborn (left) and Sibel at The Center

Scientific skills have value in the business realm. That’s just one reason, Sibel said, that all scientists should feel confident that they can contribute beyond science and technology.  

In addition to mentoring, Sibel prioritizes giving back to the American Chemical Society, which helped her secure her first job at HRG. In 2013, she and Linda Osborn, Director of Analytical Research at HRG, worked with ACS to plan an event for children to celebrate science. The event was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS), which has benefitted from HRG’s research on and development of asphalt and aggregates.   

Sibel hopes that her passion for mentoring and inspiring young people will encourage more kids — especially more young girls — to explore science. Her advice for them? “Whatever you want to do as a woman, you just have to believe in yourself and go after it. Being female or male is not a differentiating factor.” 

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Growth, Good Business and Giving Back

As a Director of Operations at Heritage Interactive Services, Shaun Miller oversees business in the US and Canada. When he started out, he had no idea how far a career in sustainability would take him. We sat down with Shaun to talk about the evolution of his career over the last nine years.

 

Let’s get started with the beginning of your journey. How did you first hear about Heritage?

 

I went to Indiana State, and when I graduated, I had taken over as general manager of a fine dining restaurant in Terre Haute, Indiana—but I lived on the west side of Indy. That’s a heck of a commute—it’s an hour and a half each way, but 23 years old and GM of a nice restaurant was a great place to start. At the time, my brother-in-law David Cripe worked for Heritage Environmental Services (HES). He said, “I know you’re not sure what you want to do, but if you want to be closer to home, Heritage is always hiring.” I took the chance and started as a temporary employee at HES in fixation (the management and disposal of contaminated waste by immobilizing hazardous contaminants). Fast forward several months later, I became group leader, and I was still trying to figure out where I wanted to be. Every time I had an opportunity to leave this organization, they gave me a reason to stay.

 

After my promotion to group leader, I helped deploy the HES call center, worked inside sales, and in 2014 I was again at a crossroads. I had gained all this experience, and I wanted a career, so I had to decide, where do I want to go? I interviewed for a program manager position at Heritage Interactive and got the job—and as much as I enjoyed the hazardous waste side, I loved broadening my horizons and being able to move into non-hazardous waste, and trash and recyclables, and byproducts and all kinds of commodities.

 

Then I went from program manager to senior program manager to operations manager and here I am as a director today. Now, I’m at the forefront of world-class sustainability services for our customers, which is awesome. For instance, we’ve aided companies in diverting their byproduct waste, contributing to zero landfill status—and more recently, we worked with ClimeCo to help March Madness go carbon neutral.

 

I can’t wait to see where I’ll be three years from now, but it’ll be at Heritage, you know? All these synchronicities brought so much opportunity, and I worked to make the most of it. And I’m happy to be here!

 

Could you go over a bit about how Heritage has invested in you?

 

How much time you got? (laughs) I’m a big Peyton Manning fan, and he always talks about not always being the smartest in the room, not always being the toughest in the room, but outworking everybody in the room. And that’s always been my mantra—if I’m dedicated to something, I’m going to find every way I can to add value to the organization. I’ve done that over the years, and this company has been good about recognizing that. Whether that’s about collaboration opportunities, promotions or bonuses, growth as an individual, I could go on and on.

 

The biggest impact on me was back in 2018, when I was promoted from Operations Manager to Director, it happened to line directly up with the Connect, Collaborate, Innovate (CCI) initiative. It’s a training program where THG invests in the future of potential leaders from across the family of companies. It created relationships and bridges across the organization. You were able to meet people whom you wouldn’t have otherwise known—and I used that network just last week to introduce a colleague to a resource at another Heritage company! I was able to be a bridge for others, which is a great thing, and I know that there are others willing to be a bridge for me as well.

Shaun (right) with Jeff Laborsky of Heritage Environmental Services

 

Is there a point that stands out to you when you realized that this was a career as opposed to just a job?

 

When I moved from HES to HIS, I could see the runway of what we could do, both when I was there initially and what we could grow into. I was able to work as I saw fit and add value to the organization—and the fact that Heritage enables me to work in such a way—it all just kind of clicked. And that’s continued to evolve over time, because the term sustainability evolves every day, and it’s an exciting time to be in this industry. We’re talking about the course of a few years, but I would say sometime around 2015, 2016, I was like “okay—this is where I want to be.”

 

What does it mean to you to be part of a family business?

 

A lot of companies will say, “we’re a big family,” but everything I’ve seen here proves that leadership truly lives out that mantra. I met my boss now, Peter Lux, when I was going through CCI and getting exposed to THG; again, this company provided me that just because I worked for it and was vocal about where I wanted to go within The Heritage Group. Getting to know Peter and work with him, and now directly working for him, it was the same mentality. Whether I’m sitting in my office, with our team, or I’m having that exposure to a higher level, the feeling is always the same.

We’re given access to capital and resources and things that a very large organization typically has access to, but there’s always that personal feel to the interactions with our leadership—in how they empower us to manage and to make our own decisions. Not all companies will afford you that autonomy, and I think that has a lot to do with this organization having that family ownership and mentality.

Shaun with his family

Do you feel like that also affects the way you interact with customers or clients?

 

I think so. I think this is an empathy-minded organization, and I try to lead with that. When you have that servant leadership attitude, doors open, it shows your customers that you care, it affords you business retention and trust. The culture here definitely affects how I do business. Not only that, but this company gives me the opportunity to investigate new things.

 

My work style over time is taking every opportunity I see to invest in others. That’s been engrained in me in large part due to this organization and the way they’ve treated me. I try to pay that forward to my employees, my colleagues, my leadership, my customers, my suppliers, and it bleeds over into your personal life, too. When you see that, and you see the benefit of it, you lead with that. It’s about touching as many lives as possible and impacting others in a positive way. There’s always the chance that it could come back around—you never know. It builds relationships and trust, and it’s good business, too.

Where does your passion for sustainability come from?

 

I fell into sustainability. It just kind of happened, and before I knew it, I was in deep. I realized how much I liked it, and it’s such a broad term today. But to me, sustainability is not just about waste. It’s about time, equipment, people and labor. It’s about opportunity and attitude. Sustainability, to me, is so much of elongating the things in life that we will inevitably need indefinitely in so many different ways. That’s why I like where we’re at now. A couple years ago, it was all about supporting zero waste to landfill, and then simply zero waste—now it’s bringing in carbon neutrality. I have a call coming up with one of our customers to support zero water discharge, and my colleague is working on industrial hygiene for other customers and compressed air efficiencies and water balancing for another. It’s such a spiral of potential in the term sustainability. And it’s not all about hugging trees—it goes so much more beyond that. It’s a discipline.

Shaun with his team

What’s your advice to someone who is at the same place that you were when you graduated college, looking for an opportunity?

One of the scariest things in the world is to be vulnerable, but my best advice to my younger self and to anyone in that position is to stay humble and vulnerable. It’s a nice way of saying, “ask stupid questions.” And there aren’t really any out there, which I know is a cliché, but you can’t shrink into yourself. You have to find ways to get out of your comfort zone. I’m not a great public speaker—I mean I can speak to my customers, to my team, but even in a Teams call, if there’s 80 people, or in a huge venue, I get a little squirrely. So what I’ve done is found situations to intentionally put myself out there, and know that I was going to look silly, but convincing yourself that it’s okay, is probably the hardest part. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know it, and at some point, you won’t be as good at your job for not knowing. Read, research, learn. I hope that when I’m at retirement age, I’m still looking for ways to learn, and it’s only going to benefit you. It’s never a waste of time.

 

Right now, what is exciting to you in this moment of your career?

 

Over the last five years, we doubled in size. We invested heavily in people, and in training—KPIs, too. Another interesting aspect between the public and private sector is that we have the ability to integrate, measure, grade and improve, so we focused on our metrics so that we could maintain scalable, rapid growth. We also invested in our people so that we have the right folks in the right positions, and it set us up for where we are today. Our fiscal year just ended—another record year, and our growth rate is ridiculous, and we’re prepared for it now.

 

We’ve been working within sustainability since 2000, and the evolution of sustainability over the last 20+ years has been phenomenal, and volatile in another way, and opportunistic. Now we’re here, and I’m watching The Heritage Group through Techstars, Heritage Sustainability Investments, all these different elements and the ability to access all those resources— it’s all growing. It’s an exciting time to be here because I’m not exactly sure where we’re going to go, but I know it’s going to be great.

HAHDhAHSDHAHS

A Place in the Honor Fleet

Pictured: Teresa Wade (left) and Joanne Jones at a Wreaths Across America educational event.

For Heritage Transport truck drivers, hauling loads across the country is nothing new. For the past five Decembers, select Heritage drivers have carried a special load: thousands of wreaths to be laid on veterans’ graves across the country.

A Heritage Environmental Services truck ready to haul wreaths across the United States.

Wreaths Across America began in 1992 with a mission: To remember veterans, honor those who serve and teach future generations the value of freedom. In 2016, Heritage Transport sent two trucks to Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Joliet, Illinois, a meaningful site for members of the Heritage family whose loved ones are buried there.

“Most everyone has a veteran in their life, and this is our way of saying thank you for the freedom that we have today,” said Teresa Wade, Asset Management Coordinator at Heritage Environmental Services. “It touches my heart because my husband is retired military, so this is a big part of my life.” Wade comes from a family of servicepeople, including her father, nephews and twin brother. The Heritage Group is proudly home to hundreds of veterans, including Fred Fehsenfeld, Sr., former CEO and the second in The Heritage Group’s four generations of family leadership.


“The motto of Wreaths across America is to remember, honor and teach. We’re remembering the soldiers and honoring them, and teaching our children the importance of our freedom.” – Teresa Wade, Asset Management Coordinator at HES


Teresa Wade demonstrates placing a wreath at a Wreaths across America educational event.

Although the initiative is nation-wide, Heritage’s involvement hits close to home. Each year, more employees get involved, not only by donating to purchase wreaths but by volunteering to lay them in their local cemeteries. This year, seven HES locations will be laying wreaths, including those near Toledo Memorial Park Cemetery and Mausoleum in Ohio and National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in western Pennsylvania, where active Heritage managers were called to serve overseas. Employees from all over the company’s 26 locations have donated, and Indianapolis locations have hosted various fundraising events throughout the years. “This is our goal: to one day have donated as many wreaths as we transport,” said Joanne Jones, HES’s Sustainability Leader.

The drive itself, spanning from Columbia Falls, Maine, to one of 2,500 national cemeteries, is an honor shared by nine Heritage drivers so far. “It’s a privilege for the drives to haul the loads. You have a lot of drivers that request it,” said Jones.

“We let our veterans volunteer first, and then we have a lot of drivers that aren’t veterans, but their family members are. They want to do their part—they’re really big supporters. So they also had the opportunity to go,” added Wade.


“We like to honor our veterans, and include them, and show them that we care.” – Joanne Jones, Sustainability Director at HES


Members of the Heritage family salute fallen veterans.

National Wreaths Across America Day—a Saturday in December when tens of thousands of volunteers lay wreaths in cemeteries across the nation—has become a Heritage family affair. This year, Jones, Wade and their families will be traveling to Arlington to volunteer, where they’ll join military parent and HES Senior Vice President Angie Martin and her husband.

“We all really care about this charity and so many people—everyone that donates, everyone that lays wreaths—has a story to tell about their family, and that’s why they continue to support it. That goes to the whole Heritage family culture that we have, and family values,” Jones said. “I’m just proud to belong to a company that is so supportive of this cause,” Wade added. “It just means so much to me.”

To donate to HES’s Wreaths Across America page by sponsoring a wreath, visit https://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/social/IN0127-HeritageEnvironmentalServices?Sid=166306|14720|0|1.

To read about two of The Heritage Group’s veterans, visit https://thgrp.com/a-reunion-to-remember/.

HAHDhAHSDHAHS

Heritage Accelerator Alumnus Wins Innovation Showcase (Again)

The Heritage Group Accelerator powered by Techstars fuels innovation by giving participating startups face time with mentors from across the Heritage family of companies, access to the Heritage Research Group, and a dedicated accelerator team supporting the entrepreneurs. The latest proof of the program’s value comes from Ateios, which was selected into the inaugural accelerator program in 2019 and received additional funding from HG Ventures. Ateios placed first of 22 startups in the Venture Club of Indiana’s Innovation Showcase, which serves as a state finals event at the NCAA Hall of Champions.

Ateios CEO Rajan Kumar (left) and HG Ventures’ Jonathan Schalliol at the 2021 Innovation Showcase

Ateios aims to enable innovations through ultra-thin, flexible and conformable batteries. Compared to typical coin cell batteries, Ateios’s flexible models are more than five times thinner and deliver up to five times higher energy density. As Ateios brings their product to market, these capabilities promise to help people around the world through improved wearable medical devices.

Their innovative manufacturing process caught the eye of Jonathan Schalliol, Director at HG Ventures, when the company applied to the Accelerator in 2019. “It was clear from the first time meeting Raj [Kumar] that Ateios had great potential and was an ideal fit for our accelerator. Their novel battery technology and a team driven to do whatever what it takes to bring it to market is a winning combination.” The supportive network and partnerships that Ateios’s team built during the Accelerator made the company more competitive. Ateios has since moved from La Jolla, California to Indiana.

Kumar, CEO of Ateios, is not the first Heritage Group Accelerator founder to take home the first-place prize at the Innovation Showcase. In 2020, judges awarded first place to MITO Materials, whose specialty additives are engineered to help manufacturers create lighter and more durable products. Since the Accelerator, founders Haley Marie and Kevin Keith have been named to Forbes’ 2021 30 Under 30 list in the Manufacturing & Industry division.

There’s a good chance that one or more of this year’s Accelerator class will feature in next year’s Innovation Showcase. Until then, the founders will take advantage of the opportunities and connections provided during their 13 weeks at The Center.

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Behind Mentor Madness

Pictured: HG Ventures Senior Associate Nida Ansari consults with the Simplifyber team.

As The Heritage Group Accelerator powered by Techstars reaches its midpoint, its 2021 cohort of entrepreneurs have spent over 50 hours connecting with more than 70 mentors from both the Heritage family of companies and the Indianapolis business community. Known as Mentor Madness, these three weeks serve as an opportunity for participating startups to make important connections, practice their pitches and engage in valuable discussions about business strategy.

Startup founders meet at The Center.

Utilizing expertise from 30+ operating companies, mentors from The Heritage Group (THG) provide key insights into their markets and industries. Not only does the 13-week accelerator add value to the entrepreneurs, but mentors are exposed to innovative and disruptive technologies that could revolutionize existing processes.

Any businessperson understands that success does not happen alone. For the founders in the cohort, mentors are a vital resource who also benefit from their participation in the program. Linda Osborn, Director of Analytical Research at Heritage Research Group, states that as a mentor, “not only does this (program) allow me to pay it forward as my great mentors did for me, but it is invigorating to be around these entrepreneurs. The founders sometimes develop innovative ways to meet challenges that we face on a global scale.”

THG and program mentors share in the excitement and take pride in seeing the entrepreneurs adapt to challenges and overcome hurdles. Nida Ansari, Senior Associate at HG Ventures, states that “many of these entrepreneurs have had significant personal challenges before getting here, and we get to know what drives them. THG gives them access to labs, resources and minds that these folks will leverage to change their business in leaps and bounds.” The mentors, many with an entrepreneurial background themselves, share personal experiences that founders can relate to and then apply to their own strategies.

Founders attend Techstars’ Concept to Commerce event.

Basil Merriman, Director of Strategy on THG’s Strategy + Mergers & Acquisitions team, says, “My favorite part of being a Techstars mentor is being around the entrepreneurial energy of the founders.  It’s inspiring to see someone create something from nothing, and you can really feel the passion and vitality when working with the teams.” This same energy carries over into THG, as conversations and experiences with the Techstars cohort encourage critical thinking and spark innovation within the Heritage family of companies. “The mindset that comes with partnering with a company like Techstars forces us to think differently and gives us fresh perspective to further differentiate from the competition,” says Chris Ames, Senior Strategic Manager at Heritage Interactive Services.

Anthony Rogers, VP of Technology and Growth for Retriev (formerly Heritage Battery Recycling), says, “I think THG brings a wealth of commercial, business, and technical experience to the table. THG is able to make connections in ways most venture firms aren’t able to, and I think that adds a lot of value to the Techstars companies.” Participating founders utilize these resources leading up to and beyond the program’s culmination, Demo Day, where each startup pitches at The Center to local investors and THG representatives. While Demo Day is the last step of the Accelerator, it’s only one of the first steps in the mission HG Ventures shares with its Accelerator companies: building the future, together.

With every day bringing new chances for innovation, mentors take pride in working with founders to turn big challenges into even bigger opportunities.