8 Questions with Olga Starr, Financial Planner at Skylight’s Columbus Office

She’s a published author who loves numbers and finds American bikes uncomfortable!  In the latest of our “Making It Personal” Q&A series, we discover a little more about Olga Starr, Senior Associate and Financial Planner in our Columbus Office.

You are originally from the former Soviet Union – what brought you to the United States?

That’s right, I was born in the Soviet Union in the 70’s… Those were some interesting times. I remember that food and consumer goods were rationed, and my earliest memories are about my mom taking my 3-year-old self to a store, where we stood in a line for an hour and a half so that we could get 2 rolls of toilet paper instead of just one. To this day I cannot stand shopping! And then there was the collapse of the Soviet Union – everyone’s bank deposits mysteriously disappeared, and my parents’ life-long savings were gone overnight. I wonder if this is where my desire to work in the financial industry came from… Giving people clarity and control of their finances makes me feel almost cathartic…  When people ask me about why I left the country I grew up in, I typically respond with a question: “And out of curiosity, what do you think brought your ancestors to the US?” The typical answer is “looking for opportunities or a better life”… This is where I nod and say: “Yep, exactly!”

What do you most miss about your homeland?

Bicycles. European bikes are so much more comfortable. I feel American bike manufacturers could learn a thing or two from their European counterparts. A bicycle seat is not supposed to be shaped that way!

Have you worked in any other profession outside of financial services?

You’re asking an immigrant if I’ve worked in other professions? Too funny. I was 21 when I came to the States. Didn’t know anyone here, couldn’t really speak the language. I was, however, very motivated to survive and make it. You name a profession – I’ve done it. Fast food, hotel housekeeping, landscaping, house rehab. Drove an 18-wheeler across 48 states. I used to be embarrassed to talk about those years of extreme austerity and hard manual labor, but now that I look back at those days – you know what, I’m glad I went through it. For better or worse, it made me the person I am today.

What do you know a lot about?

Numbers and spreadsheets. I like to say that I’m able to paint visions of people’s future in numbers. A few years ago I’ve found out that most things in life can be quantified – what a relief! And I’ve made it a point to become the best quantifier you can find… Just ask my clients!

What’s it like to be a female in the financial services industry?

Sometimes I wear a tie to events just to break stereotypes. My new business closing rate is 20% higher those days.   🙂

A little-known fact about you?

My first degree is in Journalism, and I’m a published author.

What’s the most interesting place you’ve ever visited and why?

When I was 17, I wrote a story that won some prizes and was published in several countries. I was invited to promote the book in Japan. It was fascinating… Super polite people, technology from the future and octopi for dinner. What more can a 17-year-old ask for?

Tell me something you are passionate about

My partner and I rescue dogs. If there is one thing that I cannot stand, and will not stand for, is animal abuse. And overall, any sort of injustice against the weak and vulnerable.

Meet Maggie Burns Skylight’s New Marketing Coordinator

What do you like to do in your spare time?
Yoga, cook, read, eat, spend time with friends and family

As a self-confessed “foodie” – what are your top 3 foods and your favorite restaurant in Cleveland?
This is a very hard question.  I have a lot of favorite foods and restaurants – Greenhouse Tavern (chicken wings), Lola (beef cheek pierogi), Hodge’s (blue crab hushpuppies), Pura Vida (fish tacos), Cleveland Chop (ahi poke tacos) and Osteria (seafood risotto).

What’s your favorite thing about Cleveland?
Its food scene, its people, and its character – there’s something so unique about Cleveland that can’t be found anywhere else…it has its own vibe, very passionate and bold.  I’m always so proud to say I’m from here.

What’s your biggest achievement?
Working to coordinate the #AskCLE Social Media HQ for the Republican National Convention.  Even playing that small role in such a huge event was amazing.

Tell us something you know a lot about?
Pinterest, food, social media

Something you would like to learn more about?

Who do you most admire and why?
My dad and Walt Disney, both have taught me everything I know about working hard, living life to the fullest and following your dreams.

A little known or fun fact about you
I’m allergic to pork and lamb.  Weird, I know.

What are you looking forward to most about working at Skylight?
Working at Skylight offers so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have elsewhere.  Having such a small marketing department really allows me to see all aspects of the field.  Since I’ve started working here, no two days have been exactly the same and that’s what keeps it exciting.  Plus, the people here are all so great.  It’s a good feeling to be excited to go to work each day.

Veteran Ryan Puckett Honored at Blue Jackets Game

Congratulations to Ryan Puckett, Partner and Financial Planner at Skylight who was the military honoree at the recent Columbus Blue Jackets game.  This was a huge honor as it was the week of Veterans Day and we would like to take this opportunity to thank Ryan and all veterans for their service.

Following the game, where Ryan was recognized center ice, he said, “The Columbus Blue Jackets game was a humbling experience.  The crowd was gracious and appreciative.  It was a very unexpected opportunity which I will remember forever.”

Ryan, who served in the U.S. Air Force from 1999 to 2006, now serves on the board of the USO of Central and Southern Ohio which he sees as an amazing opportunity to give back to active reserves and guard members currently serving their country.  The USO is a wonderful organization that lifts the spirits of troops and their families and helps them stay connected through hosting activities like summer camps for children of Ohio’s military members, family retreats and send-off and homecoming events for deployments.

“It is a strange feeling being recognized for something you feel more grateful to be a part of and which directed my life to where I am today. Without the time in the Air Force my life would be very different,” added Ryan.

10 Questions with Steve Thompson, Financial Planner at Skylight’s Cleveland Office

He learned from a young age the importance of serving others and community and has a hidden talent involving fire, axes, and knives!  In the latest of our “Making It Personal” Q&A series, we discover a little more about one of our more experienced financial planners and Skylight Investment Specialist, Steve Thompson (that’s him on the left in case you are wondering).

What do you find most rewarding about being a financial planner?

Definitely the relationships I develop with clients.  It’s great seeing their families grow and seeing goals be realized.  Whether it’s watching a client move towards a comfortable retirement or whether it’s helping a client manage their finances so they have sufficient monthly income, I like helping them live their lives and enjoy each day.  That’s so rewarding.

If you hadn’t chosen to pursue a career as a financial planner, what do you think you would have been?

Strangely I was always going to be a financial planner because my Dad was one.  I saw how he worked, how he helped his clients and, from an early age, I wanted to do that.  I didn’t always understand what it would take but I really admired my dad and thought he did great work for other people.  My Dad has been in this business for about 57 years and just retired this year at age 79.  He’s also been with Skylight Financial for many years, so it has been great to work together.

What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?

I like to kayak as it’s relaxing and allows me to shut my mind down for a bit.  Many people don’t know this, but I have juggled since I was a kid.  Growing up I would juggle at birthday parties and make extra money, or even on the streets of Cleveland – putting a hat out and performing.  I juggle fire, axes, knives, etc.  I don’t have much time to do it now but still break out the equipment a few times a year.

Where are you from?

I’m from Cleveland and a lifelong fan of this city.  In the 1990s I spent about 10 years in Chicago managing an investment office, thinking that I would never return to Cleveland.  Then after 9/11 happened I thought life is too short not to be with my family, so I returned home and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.  Cleveland’s changed a lot in my lifetime and it’s great to see people coming back to downtown and setting up home.  It’s injected a real energy into our City and it’s exciting.

What is your biggest achievement?

My kids and their development into great students and members of their community.

You are actively involved in your community (Skylight Foundation, Tiger Prep, Empower Sports, Two Café and Care for Others) – what motivates you?

Growing up my parents were always giving to others – through personal contacts, to their children, and to non-profit organizations.  I noticed this and would ask my mom about different things they were doing in the community.  I was raised that we should always serve others, so I have tried to continue this.  My brother is also an executive director of a non-profit – “Youth For Christ” and has been with them almost 30 years now – so it’s a family thing.

I guess the motivating factor is the positive impact we can have on lives with thoughtful planning.  For example, as President of the Skylight Foundation, we strive/plan to have an impact on our community – whether that is helping immigrants achieve their US citizenship by helping to pay for their exam or bringing clothes to a local hospital for victims of sexual assault.  On the many boards, I serve I like to create things that can improve the quality of life for others.  At Skylight, we work a lot with the Special Needs community, so when we saw that there weren’t many sports opportunities for our kids we created Empower Sports many years ago.  Today that organization has gone on to provide hundreds of kids with opportunities to have fun and make new friends.   It takes time, but I love doing it.

What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?

When I was younger our church went on a survival trip way up in Canada.  I wasn’t really old enough to go, but my Dad was one of the leaders so I got to go.  Fishing for your meals, canoeing all day, setting up camp each night and really roughing it was tough but fun.  The experience taught me, at an early age, that I could push myself further than I thought.

Who do you most admire?

My Mom.  She passed away 5 years ago due to a stroke and it shocked us as it was completely unexpected.  She taught me most things and was incredible.  I try to carry on her tradition of serving others and our community.

Where does a financial planner, like yourself, like to grab a bite to eat?

I like Crop and Town Hall – you can’t go wrong.  The food is amazing and they are on our doorstep.  We don’t even have to leave the building for Crop.  I’m pretty predictable as I nearly always go for the “Mac & Brisket” which is delicious.  The only problem is that I’m ready for a nap after it!

What’s the most interesting place you’ve visited?

Hong Kong.  When I was in Chicago, I traveled there for business and it was really amazing.  The street vendors and vibe was so different from anywhere else I have been.

Thanks Steve for sharing with us.

Steven Thompson is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC Member SIPC. 2012 W. 25th Street, Suite 900, Cleveland OH 44113. 216-621-5680.

Kathryn Bryan of Skylight Named to Crain’s Forty Under 40

Katy Bryan, Financial Planner and member of Skylight’s LGBT Resource Team and Special Needs Planning Team, has been selected by Crain’s Cleveland Business 2016 “Forty Under 40” Honoree Class.  Katy will join forty individuals under the age of 40, who will be recognized for their outstanding professional success and civic contributions at an award ceremony on November 21st.

Since changing career as a postdoctoral research fellow and research associate to become a financial planner in 2011, Katy has risen impressively through the ranks in Skylight.  She is a recipient of Skylight’s Rising Leader award and is very active in the community, working with organizations such as Connecting for Kids, Medina Creative Housing, Benjamin Rose Institute of Aging and the Renee Jones Empowerment Center for human trafficking.  Her latest venture is the launch of a new young professionals networking group, called FLARE, focused on LGBTQ and ally rising entrepreneurs to build a strong business, community and leadership connections in the Cleveland area.

Paul Fox, Managing Partner of Skylight Financial Group, said “We are delighted to see Katy being recognized for making her mark in business before the age of 40.  Katy is a consummate professional and business owner who shows great dedication to her clients and is a strong team player at Skylight.  She shows immense commitment to the community and has excelled in Skylight in terms of her production and business practices.  Whatever Katy turns her hand to, she is always driven by the desire to make things happen.”

“I’m thrilled to be named to Crain’s Forty Under 40!  It’s a real honor to be recognized alongside the 2016 Class who are so impressive in their respective fields.  It’s also great to see so many women in this year’s honorees.”  said Katy.

Katy Bryan is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC, Member SIPC OSJ: 2012 W 25th Street, Suite 900, Cleveland, OH 44113.  216.621.5680.

Greg Anderson of Skylight Recognized by CASA for Volunteer Work

Greg Anderson, Financial Planner, Skylight Financial Group Columbus, was recently recognized at the CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Franklin County’s Annual Speak Up for Children Breakfast for his volunteer work as Guardian ad Litem (GAL).

Greg, who has been with CASA for over five years has been trained and appointed by a judge to serve on cases of child abuse, neglect and/or dependency. He advocates in the child’s best interest and ensures that these vulnerable children receive appropriate services and treatment by independently monitoring a child’s situation, identifying community resources and participating in the court process.

Following the breakfast, Greg said, “I’m delighted to be recognized by CASA for something that I consider to be a privilege!  I do my best to advocate and serve as the “voice” of these children who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in the court system.  In Ohio, sadly a child is abused or neglected every 17 minutes and life for these children is very, very difficult.  By being that one consistent adult in their life, I can play an important role in improving their chances of success and give them a reason for hope and encouragement.  Just giving these kids some attention can make such a difference.”

Greg added, “I would like to thank my colleagues for coming along to support me and I was so pleased that the breakfast succeeded in achieving its fundraising goals which will greatly help ensure these children’s’ voices continue to be heard.”

Building Bridges with the Class of 2017

Brian Marino, Financial Planner at Skylight, recently attended the opening retreat for the 2017 Cleveland Bridge Builders (CBB) leadership program which “prepares mid-career professionals of all ages for meaningful, fulfilling and impactful engagement in the community.”

Here Brian shares his thoughts and reactions as he starts on this 10-month CBB journey.

When you hear the word retreat what springs to mind? Well, for me, it typically conjures up thoughts of relaxation and reflection in a safe environment.  So as I set off for my two-day retreat with Cleveland Bridge Builders I was intrigued and excited to find out just what kind of retreat lay in store.  Honestly, I didn’t really know what to expect.

As we filed into the meeting room, I found myself looking at nearly 60 strangers (and a few welcome and familiar faces) who I would be spending the next year getting to know.  I was initially struck by the diversity of the group.  From my introductory conversations, I learned that we all came from very different places and backgrounds – from the public sector, the private sector, for profit and non-profit and I felt excited by the different perspectives this would bring. We weren’t, however, to remain “strangers” for long as we were quickly taken out of our comfort zone and thrust into groups for relationship building exercises.  This involved everything from crafts to learning about our personality styles and soon we all started letting our guard down and opening up.  By evening time on the first day, there was totally no place for inhibition, as we quickly changed into our jeans and tennis shoes and hit the streets of Cleveland to play “The Go Game”.  It’s aptly described by the organizers as a “cell-phone scavenger hunt on steroids”!  Basically, we did crazy things (avoiding any arrests) and made idiots of ourselves – taking funny photos and videos, doing trivia, head-to-head challenges including duels and dance-offs.  There was nothing for it, I had to let myself go and succumb to the silliness! It was incredibly funny and I have to say the highlight of the retreat for me. It totally achieved its aim in forcing us to get closer!

One concept, in particular, that has really struck me from the retreat (and has stayed with me) is that to be a good leader you need to “show up and make it happen” which I believe to be true in business, personal or civic life.  I will particularly be putting this into action in the Leadership Action Project (LAP), Cleveland Kids in Need, which I was assigned during the retreat.  Cleveland Kids in Need do amazing work by providing over $1 million in free school supplies every year to students and teachers in nearly 250 schools around Greater Cleveland and I’m really excited by this challenge.  Our team has already got a meeting set up and we will work with the leaders of the organization to look at strategies to make their organization stronger. It was the civic engagement that particularly attracted me to the program in the first place and it was great to see my fellow classmates equally charged up and excited about what we could do to help our city grow and prosper.  So many of us are from high-level firms, like my own firm Skylight, and the community outreach component, for me, validates the great stuff that we and our firms are already doing in our community.

I can’t exactly say it was a relaxing retreat (more of an action-packed one) but definitely, it was one that took us away from the distractions of our hectic lives and gave us time to reflect and be present.  It was great to start building bridges and relationships with an amazing bunch of people.  On top of all the monthly meetings and group work, we’ve been challenged with meeting everyone from the Class individually during the next year over coffee, lunch or a beer and I’m totally going to go for it. I want to spend as much time as possible with these awesome and inspirational people!  It’s just the start of our journey together and I’m fully charged up and ready to go!

Thanks Brian for sharing with us.  We’ll keep you posted on how Brian is getting on!

My Life As A Skylight Intern – The Life for Me!

Throughout my whole life, I’ve spent each summer just like everyone else by relaxing and hanging out with friends.  But this year as I embarked on my 12-week internship at Skylight I wasn’t quite sure how my summer would work out.  I knew it was going to be different but to be honest I didn’t really know what to expect.  All I knew was that I liked finance.  I liked talking to people and collaborating with them and that I had aspirations at some point to manage my own business and my own schedule.  Financial planning seemed to make sense.

So I was delighted to find that the program that Skylight offered gave me the real-world experience that I was looking for and it helped me come to the realization, very early into my internship, that being a financial planner was the path I wanted to pursue.  It was an amazing experience, lots of fun and I learned so much not just about the job itself but also about myself. I would like to share what I learned:

#1 I learned that I can accomplish what I set my mind to and that I am suited to being a business owner
It felt great to be part of conversations with clients on a very professional level and to be taken seriously and not treated like a kid.  Also I loved the challenge of not being told what to do and being able to create my own schedule.  While at times this could be daunting, it was so rewarding and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  The internship also forced me to be proactive in terms of what I wanted to accomplish.  I thrived on the reality that nothing would happen unless I put in the effort.  I’ve definitely come away feeling that I have what it takes to be a business owner.

#2 I’m certain I want a job where I can help people
Developing good relationships is always something that’s come pretty naturally to me so this aspect of financial planning was the best part of the internship.  I felt really happy to be doing something that helps improve the lives of others through my work.

#3 It was up to me to make things happen but the people at Skylight were there to give me all the help in the world
It was very clear from the start of the internship that things weren’t going to be handed to us on a plate and it was up to us to seek out knowledge, speak up for ourselves, and learn from others.  I knew I could figure it out but I was blown away by how personable and helpful all of the planners at Skylight were when I approached them. When I would seek people out with questions, they would go out of their way to check in with me and I really appreciated it.  Corbin Blackburn, my mentor, was very patient and answered all of my sometimes ridiculous questions.  I made sure to soak up everything I could through assisting and observing him in order to see what it was like to be an established planner while at the same time accepting his help in showing me how to building a practice from scratch. It’s a great feeling knowing that I’ll have such a great start to my career when I graduate.

#4 Skylight’s culture helped me thrive
I love the supportive, friendly, and relaxed culture of Skylight, and as a result I feel like I can thrive there.  The planners are all there to help each other and learn from each other.  It was interesting to see how they combined their experience and expertise in order to serve their clients together.

There was also a great social aspect to the internship.  We had activities like pizza Fridays, lunches, an Indians game, and group training sessions where we could learn together in a fun environment.  Even the office space was bright and spacious so I felt that I could really spread out which I found helpful.  Skylight has a great penthouse were you could always go to get air and enjoy the views of Cleveland, arguably the greatest city in the world.

So now that my internship is over I can definitely say that I don’t regret my decision to start my career with Skylight. I know I was really busy these past few months but this was so much more productive and fulfilling than a lazy summer. It’s great to have a summer internship but I’m even more excited about my opportunity because the work didn’t just end in August. This is literally the beginning of my own financial planning practice, and knowing that made me take it more seriously than anything else I could’ve done.  Thanks to everyone at Skylight for their help and in particular, Corbin Blackburn.  I look forward to what I can hopefully accomplish during my senior year and after.

Connor Faix is a Senior at Case Western Reserve University

My awesome internship at Skylight

Hello! My name is Patrick Wilson, from Ohio University, and I’ve just spent an amazing summer as a financial planning intern at Skylight Financial Group.  Probably like most students, I started my internship a little bit uncertain of what to expect but feeling optimistic.  Now as I reflect on the 12-week program (which completely flew in, by the way), I know it was the perfect internship for me where I made great friends, met amazingly talented and friendly people and discovered the direction I want my life to take.  It’s been a fantastic experience and I’ve shared with you below what has particularly made it so special.

# 1.Realizing this is the career for me
I wanted to intern at Skylight as they offered a specific internship based on financial planning.  I fancied the idea of being a financial planner but wasn’t 100% sure if I was suited to this career and so the internship seemed like the perfect practice run for me.  Over the 12 weeks as I got real-life, hands-on experience it became clearer to me that this is what I want to do. I realized how important it is for me to pursue a career where I’ll get to help people in an important way.  I also got to help the amazing Sara Canterbury, my mentor and senior planner, prepare applications, proposals and problem—solve for clients, along with shadowing at meetings.

These were all invaluable experiences and what I particularly learned (in addition to my brain bursting with newly acquired information) is that I’m a very process driven person and that I’m suited to being my own boss. Yes, me my own boss!  I liked the challenge of things not being handed to me, for example, clients. I liked the freedom to set my own schedule.  I liked helping clients.  So my internship not only gave me the “practice run” I’d hoped for but it allowed me to understand myself more and gave me insight on how I would go about building my own practice. The means I can now hit the ground running as a financial planner which I’m going to do when I finish College later this year!

# 2. The people in the office who were so welcoming and made me feel a valuable part of the team
I loved the fact that although we (the interns) were only going to be at Skylight for a short time that we were made to instantly feel welcomed and valued by the team.  On the first day, everyone in the office came and introduced themselves, chatted and extended a helping hand.  They were always so friendly and happy to share their knowledge and experience.  For example, if I ever got stuck with something and my mentor wasn’t about one of the other planners would step in and help out.  They’d always be encouraging me when I was having a “bad day” and feeling nervous about picking up the phone and reaching out to people (believe me this is one of the scariest things we all had to do) or was finding it difficult to deal with rejection.  Everyone was happy to share their experiences, approaches they used and how they dealt with the many “nos” as they go get nearer to that “yes”.  I felt that people genuinely cared about helping me make the most of my intern experience and that counts for a lot.

# 3. A culture that suited me down to the ground
For me, people make the culture and I found Skylight a really inclusive, exciting, high-energy place to work.  I really like that they’re committed to getting younger people into the industry and developing them.  Also, lots of cool and fun events were organized like trivia nights, cookouts, Indian’s game, mini-golf networking events and more.  Probably the best social event was tagging along with Rob, Mark, and Sara at the Memorial Golf Tournament in Columbus.  The golf was great and the food even more amazing.  Somehow Rob and Mark even managed to meet Rory McElroy (seriously jealous)!

So as 12-week journey ends, it’s been an ideal internship for me. There were 12 of us who interned and each of us had a unique experience.  Some found out that financial planning is definitely not for them but regardless we all gained a better understanding of ourselves and the kind of career we are aiming for.

I’m going to miss my fellow interns and friends.  Also Sara, who was an excellent mentor and all at Skylight who made me laugh and encouraged me.  It was definitely a different summer and one where I’ve grown up, strange as that may feel!   I’m really excited about the future.  Thanks, Skylight!

Ken Vinikoff Starts Networking Group for Grateful Dead Fans

Skylight’s Ken Vinikoff, Financial Planner, has launched a business networking group for fans of the Grateful Dead called Networking is Dead which is hosting its inaugural event on Thursday, September 22, from 6-9pm at Skylight Penthouse in Ohio City.

Modeled after a similar organization in New York, Ken has enlisted the help of a number of local business professionals and Dead fans, to help him with this exciting new venture.  Here we catch up with Ken to find out a little more.

What sparked the idea of Networking is Dead?

I read about a similar organization in NY and thought wow I want to be part of this and that it would be a great idea for Greater Cleveland!  Music is a bond for so many people, especially Deadhead fans. There’s just a certain something we have in common and I thought it would be fun.  So I phoned the founder of Dead aHead in NY, Deborah Solomon, and had a good long chat with her about their organization and vibe and then brought up the idea about setting up Networking is Dead in Cleveland with my Deadhead friends. They thought it was a cool idea and wanted to be involved.  So here we are!

What makes it different to other networking organizations?

It’s about bringing like-minded people together who share a passion for the Grateful Dead’s music.  Other networking organizations are mostly themed around professional interests but we’ll share something in common at a personal level.  Rather than starting conversations about the weather or where you work, people will be having conversations about things like their favorite Deadhead song or their favorite concert.  Also rather than holding formal events where people hand over business cards, we want to create a fun and friendly culture, like that of the Grateful Dead, where people get to know each other and look out for each other.  If this then leads to business then well and good but the spirit is about community, fun and connecting at a personal level.

When was your first Dead show?

It was on May 8th, 1980 at Glen Falls, New York when I was a senior in High School.  I missed a concert the year before and I certainly wasn’t going to miss one again.  The show was a blast and I was blown away by the amazing vibe.  Everyone was so friendly and nice to their neighbors.  From then on I was hooked and I’ve seen between 20 and 25 shows since.  I loved that, unlike other touring bands, they didn’t work off a pre-rehearsed set but had a more improvisational approach to their music.  As a result, some shows I went to were unbelievably good and others not so but the audience was always cool with that.  They understood the band was trying to do something different and could see them as real people.  There was a real freedom to it.

What’s your favorite Dead song?


Tell us a little about your inaugural event?

The event will feature beautiful views of downtown and plenty of Grateful Dead music.  The ticket price covers an open bar (craft beer and wine), grill menu provided by Crop Bistro (gourmet burgers, hot dogs, slaw, chips) and a swag bag with Dead giveaways.  Ticket details are provided below if you’re interested in coming along.  As part of the registration, you’ll be asked your favorite Dead song and keyboardist.

What other events have you planned?

We’re planning quarterly get-togethers and some purely social events such as seeing local jam bands.  The original Dead may be gone but there are a ton of great bands keeping the Dead vibe alive.  We’ll find out what people are interested in, venues they like and continue to make friends and grow bonds.  I’ve also launched a Facebook page and started a LinkedIn group page to get the word out and share Grateful Dead memories with followers.

Is the networking group exclusive to Dead fans?

I think you have to like music and liking the vibe really helps.  As I mentioned, we are not a business networking group only – we all share a common love of the Grateful Dead and that’s what connects us.

Thanks Ken for sharing with us and we wish you every success!

Brian Marino of Skylight Selected for Cleveland Bridge Builders Class of 2017

We are pleased to share that Brian Marino, Financial Planner at Skylight Financial Group, has been accepted into the Cleveland Bridge Builders (CBB) Class of 2017. Brian will join 60 other leaders from the non-profit, for-profit and public sectors for this 10-month leadership program which “prepares mid-career professionals of all ages for meaningful, fulfilling and impactful engagement in the community.”

Brian has been accepted following a rigorous selection process which included detailed questioning, essays, and recommendations to ascertain Brian’s commitment and fit for the program.  The program will include a two-day opening retreat in September, five full-day sessions spread over the 10 months and small-group meetings to focus on Leadership Action Projects.  It will prepare Brian and other participants for a greater role in the community through hands-on learning and interactive civic education, honing of leadership skills and promoting teamwork.

When asked about his acceptance, Brian said, “I’m excited about the program.  The application process was pretty intense so I’m delighted to have been selected.  I’ve known for a good while that this is a program I wanted to do and it was a question of finding the right time to fit it in.”

“What particularly attracted me to the program is the civic engagement and wanting to contribute to the momentum which is building in our city which will enable Cleveland to continue to grow and prosper.  I’m really looking forward to the challenge and building relationships and friendships,” continued Brian.

The first Bridge Builders program started back in September 2000 to fulfill the need for a Cleveland civic leadership training and development program which was accessible to rising leaders.  Two years later, in July 2006, the CBB merged with three other leadership programs, which were running in Cleveland, to create the Cleveland Leadership Center (CLC) with a new and expanded focus on civic engagement and program alumni.  Today the CLC provides leadership and civic education to people at varying stages of life and career from high school students to senior-level-positional leaders.

Throughout the 10-month program, Brian will be sharing his thoughts and reactions with us as he makes his CBB journey – so stay posted!

Brian Marino is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. OSJ: 2012 W. 25th Street, Suite 900, Cleveland OH 44113. 216-621-5680.

Meet Skylight’s New Associate Steve Niple

College: Ohio State University
From: Medina, Ohio

Why did you want to work at Skylight?

I was actually referred to Skylight Financial Group and Mass Mutual by colleagues in the industry and I found the culture and environment very unique, yet very much in line with my vision and values. Everyone I met with and spoke to at Skylight made me feel extremely comfortable and I felt it would be a great fit for my personality, goals and my practice.

Tell us something you are really good at?

I’m really pretty good at playing the drum kit.

A fun fact about you:

I grow hot and sweet peppers throughout the entire year.

Your favorite place to hang out in Cleveland or Columbus:

In Cleveland, there are so many different places; downtown, Tremont, Lakewood… In Columbus, Short North, Grandview, and campus.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Spare time doesn’t happen often between work and family, but I like playing & listening to music (recorded and live), golfing, cooking, reading, DIY projects and tending to my peppers in my veggie garden whenever possible.

What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?

At only 12 years of age, I surfed the coast of Hawaii with waves that towered nearly 3 feet!

Who would you most like to meet – alive or dead?

Dead: Prince / Alive: Rupert Spira.

Where do you want to be 10 years from now?

The same place I want to be tomorrow, or next year or 5 years or even 20 years from now. I want to be happy and I want my family and friends to be happy. I want to help others find their happiness… many others. If I can succeed in this goal day in and day out, then I will be successful on my own terms and therefore be “happy”.