Category: News

Featured Member – Andrew Ratz

Andrew RatzFor everyone, this past year required some level of flexibility to continue to move forward in today’s world. These changes came all around and in many ways as daily routines changed, businesses changed, and we all became zoom experts.

As zWORKS heads into 2021, one thing we will continue to focus on is the health and safety of our members. 2020 brought a new kind of zWORKer: the e-learner. As schools and universities continue with online classes and virtually meeting, zWORKS found members whose focus are on their studies rather than their business.

Andrew Ratz is a Freshman at Loyola University Chicago where he studies Biochemistry with the hope to attend medical school postgrad. As a Zionsville native, Andrew attended Zionsville High School while playing soccer for the Indiana Fire Developmental Academy. Andrew is the youngest with three older sisters, one currently in medical school, one in dental school, and the third attends Butler University also studying Biochemistry. The example set by his older siblings as well as his father, who has a PhD in Organic Chemistry, helped Andrew decide that he wanted to pursue this path toward medical school.

As he searched for his dream school, his initial focus was influenced by soccer, wanting to play at the collegiate level while reaching his academic goals. Eventually he landed on Loyola, which he first visited for a soccer camp in high school.

With the outbreak of the pandemic, Andrew never made it to campus for his Fall semester as all courses were shifted to online. Working on his studies at home proved to be difficult. Distractions got in the way and eventually Andrew’s mother signed him and his sister up with memberships to zWORKS.

zWORKS was able to provide a quiet study space needed to focus on the academic workload that comes along with online learning. Much of the semester was spent teaching himself from the textbook, which can be difficult at times with science-based material. The ability to work in a conference room and use the whiteboard to help visualize his work greatly benefited Andrew as he worked through the semester.

Besides the quiet study space, Andrew was able to spend more time in downtown Zionsville and experience the entrepreneurial spirit that is present in zWORKS.

When he is able to return to campus, Andrew will be rooming with his friend and fellow Zionsville High School alum. When exactly that will be is still undetermined, but Andrew is hoping it will come in the Spring semester.

Getting to know Andrew on a more personal level…

  • Enjoys playing video games with his friends in his free time.
  • His full name is Andrew Michael Ratz, Jr. and his contact prescription is often confused with his Dads.
  • Andrew loves IU Basketball.

Featured Startup: Jewelr

Co-founders unite passions

One co-founder loves jewelry and one loves startups. And together – Natalie Whitmore and Richard Crowe are combining their passions to start Jewelr – a software management company for retail jewelry stores.

Whitmore worked in wholesale and retail jewelry for several years. Whether it was failing software, frustratingly complicated software or simultaneously juggling eight software programs, Whitmore had experienced it all.

When people asked what software she recommended, she had no good answer.

Featured Member: Daryl Knecht

A career of tech trends

To say one zWORKS member stumbled into the world of technology would be inaccurate. It was more of a calculated stumble.

From computer-aided manufacturing to data analytics to low-code technology, this is the story of an engineer-turned-sales-techy who has made a career of anticipating the next tech trend.

The year was 1999 and Daryl Knecht saw an opportunity.

He started out as a mechanical engineer in the computer-aided design and manufacturing world. During the five years in that industry, he received one too many offers to convert to the sales world and finally acquiesced.

“Ultimately, I married the engineering background with sales and got into the technical sales arena,” he said.

The year was 2009 and Knecht saw an opportunity.

Featured Startup: PerfectFit Software Solutions

zWORKS programmer turns hobby into career

It’s a tale as old as time. Or should I say, a tale as old as the late 1900s.

There’s three integral parts to this tale. First is an ‘80s kid. Second is a computer in some basement somewhere in America. Third, mix the first two together and – shazam – it’s a future tech genius in the making.

One zWORKS member’s story started like so. Matt Metcalf is the co-founder of PerfectFit Software Solutions and his tale is currently in the software startup chapter.

“I grew up with computers in the house and I was fascinated with them,” he said.

Featured Member: Jordan Morrissey

zWORKS member finds passion through design

It has been a 10-year journey for one zWORKS member from Bluffton, Indiana to owning an interior design company in Zionsville.

Jordan Morrissey came to Indianapolis to study interior design. After working for two designers, she decided to take a different route into space planning.

During one client visit with her mentor, Morrissey said she didn’t think she wanted to do interior design. A few years later and she’s telling a different story.

“Now if I see my mentor, she tells me I totally ate my words,” Morrissey said.

Featured Member: Eric Siemers

zWORKS member dedicates life to Alzheimer’s research

One zWORKS member was one of thousands to take Lilly’s retirement package in 2017.

Dr. Eric Siemers spent two decades researching Alzheimer’s disease at Eli Lilly and is continuing his life work as an independent consultant.

He joined a group of five other former Lilly employees and set up shop at zWORKS to support each other in their individual quests.

“What’s interesting about Alzheimer’s is that even people at other pharmaceutical companies – we’re all rooting for each other because everybody just wants a success,” Siemers said.

Featured Member: Jordan Hollingsworth

zWORKS member makes safety cool

Safety is the new black and Jordan Hollingsworth knows it. He’s making work environments safer one project at a time.

It all started with a seasonal college job with a utility company. Sometimes it’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know, and Hollingsworth met someone in the safety management department. That person became his mentor and the rest is history.

Over a decade later and Hollingsworth has been working at Safety Management Group for 12 years.

Featured Partner: MDLF

zWORKS partner focuses on Indiana leaders

It’s all about young innovative leaders for one zWORKS partner.

In fact, their mission statement is “Enable Leaders. Drive Change”. This year’s Mitch Daniels Leadership Foundation Fellows Program is a group of 20 young professionals from around Indiana.

The program has undergone some recent changes headed by one of our very own – Kate Swanson, MDLF Executive Director.

Swanson called it a revitalization of the organization after it began in 2014 – a few years after Mitch Daniels’ second term as Indiana governor. This year has been about focusing on the program’s curriculum.

Featured Startup: Revival Recreation

Personal experience motivates zWORKS startup founder

For Chris Jackson, recreational therapy has played an important factor in all aspects of his life.

Fly fishing was the form of recreational therapy he connected with the most. A few years ago, he went on a trip to Norway with Project Healing Waters and it changed his life.

“I experienced the intervention of recreation and outdoors in my life transitioning out of military service after being medically retired and transitioning into civilian life,” Jackson said. “Outdoor recreation was the vessel by which I experienced healing.”

Seven years ago, Jackson was living a very different life. He pulled apart roadside bombs for the U.S. Air Force; his title – Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team Leader.

Featured Startup: Maker Factory

At zWORKS, we’ve seen how beneficial collaboration can be. One zWORKS startup is looking to bring collaboration to the engineering world in Indy.

Brian Hull is one of the founders of Maker Factory and his goal is to start a maker space in Indianapolis.

A maker space is coworking for engineers and builders. It provides the tools and supplies needed like lasers, welders, 3D printers, design software, tools, etc.

“I’m a part of zWORKS because I think it’s similar,” Hull said. “It’s a coworking space and I think the next generation of workers are experimenting with coworking.”