Jamie is a veteran in the sales and marketing agency industry with more than 30 years of experience. His career started in Salt Lake City, where he served as the vice president of sales for Kelley Clarke. He then moved to Denver as the vice president of grocery for McFerren, Seakes, and Gustafson (MSG/A). At MSG/A, he climbed ranks to become president and then eventually CEO, until the company was acquired by Acosta. Harnessing what he knew best – the ins and outs of CPG sales – he pioneered Acosta’s Natural/ Specialty Sales Inc department. His market insight and strategic acumen garnered recognition, and he received a promotion to President of Operations. For a number of years, he managed all of Acosta’s operations teams in North America, which was no small feat. He’s best known for being people smart and incredibly attuned to details which ensure that all operations run smoothly.
Jamie is currently the CEO of Gronowski Advisory Services, where he privately consults in the health and wellness space with small CPG companies. Leveraging decades of experience, Jamie brings a wealth of knowledge to Fenwick and a particular understanding of effective market positioning. Inside and outside of work, Jamie takes an interest in the CPG industry. He serves on several CPG boards and contributes to philanthropic board work.
Matthew Dent has spent the entirety of his dynamic career building, growing, and cultivating the largest privately held Pepsi Bottler in the nation—the Buffalo Rock Company. During his junior year at his alma mater, the University of Alabama, Matthew started as an intern at the bottling company. Through his thought leadership and his principals on the importance of hard work and innovation, Matthew turned that three-month internship into an impressive twenty-year career at Buffalo Rock. A career that found him being named as their Chief Operating Officer in 2011, a Top 40 under 40 by the Birmingham Business Journal, and as a finalist in Birmingham’s 2012 Top CEO Awards.
In addition to his twenty-plus-year commitment and loyalty to the company where he started, Matthew is widely involved with several organizations, both across the state and the nation. He continues to serve as a Board of Directors member for the American Beverage Association and for the Pepsi Cola Bottlers’ Association, where he also currently serves as their Vice Chair.
A native of Birmingham, Matthew received his B.A. in Marketing from the University of Alabama’s Culverhouse College of Commerce.
John is a seasoned advisor of growing consumer businesses. He is a leading partner at Arlington Capital Advisors, a boutique consumer-focused investment bank, where his primary responsibilities include initiating and executing deals as well as developing business opportunities. He advises middle-market companies on sell-side and buy-side merger and acquisition transactions, corporate divestitures, management buyouts, recapitalizations, and other corporate finance matters. Adept in helping companies capitalize on their potential, John acts as a significant resource to the Fenwick team and our clients.
Prior to Arlington, he honed his skills as a financial analyst for AmSouth Capital Markets (now Regions Capital Markets) specializing in corporate syndicated senior debt, private placements, interest rate derivatives, taxable and tax-exempt bond issuances, and other commercial capital markets solutions. During his time at AM South, John represented many notable public and private companies with revenues ranging from $100 million to $3 billion.
He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Lipscomb University with a degree in Political Science and earned a Masters degree in Management, Economics, and International Relations from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, where he was a Ransome Scholar. He is actively involved in his community, participating in Birmingham’s Monday Morning Quarterback Club and formerly serving as the President of Glenwood Autism & Behavioral Health’s Junior Board.
Julie, a founding partner of Provisor Marketing, has close to three decades of experience in Sales and Marketing across a broad array of consumer products and retailing venues. She is expert in forming long-term partnerships with clients, identifying critical business issues, and designing marketing solutions to address those issues. Julie’s ability to bring companies together to form win-win, consumer-focused alliances is a key skill she brings to our clients.
Julie has personally called on the CEOs and executive officers of a number of Fortune 500 companies. Her industry contacts span multiple channels including manufacturers, distributors, and retailers. Because of her cross-industry experience, Julie has developed a talent for quickly getting her arms around a company’s unique business climate and the competitive issues it faces. These insights, combined with her marketing savvy, translate into spot-on marketing strategies and plans that are highly successful.
Before founding Provisor Marketing, Julie held several new business development and field sales positions with global packaged goods manufacturer Procter and Gamble. She was responsible for creating and developing new business models and alliances for P&G consumer brands.
Julie is a graduate of Cornell University, Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management.
Kate, a founding partner of Provisor Marketing, spent the first fifteen years of her 25-year professional life with Procter & Gamble where she developed a strong background in sales and marketing. Part of a P&G team that pioneered the practice of understanding, seeking, and establishing business in new channels and new markets, Kate built a powerful skill set around new business development. Leveraging that experience, Kate co-founded Provisor Marketing, LLC, and now works with a variety of clients in exploring, assessing, and qualifying new business opportunities, particularly in the ever-changing US retailing environment.
Throughout her career, Kate has been able to harness the diverse, and typically disjointed sales and marketing activities of companies, and align them to create cohesive, targeted, go-to-market plans. A facilitator and leader, Kate applies customer relationship management principles to all areas of her client’s business, enabling the company to deliver faster results and greater efficiency while lowering costs.
Kate received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Cornell University.
Eleni Shipp is the principal partner of a boutique consulting company focused on best practices and strategic analysis in brand/retailer marketing and market research. With more than 25 years of experience in the industry, she is best known for her work in transforming relationships with retailers through shopper insights and strategic customer marketing. Pioneering this effort in 1995 at Procter & Gamble (P&G), Eleni delivered more than $650 million in increased sales and helped create the capability platforms to expand the approach throughout the company. P&G was the first to innovate in this arena and the industry has since followed because of the demonstrated results. A recent Deloitte study showed that companies that adopted this approach with their business grew at twice the rate of their categories.
In 2001, Eleni and peers founded the consulting firm, Tradewind Group. She has since led client engagements with companies such as P&G, Disney, Nestle, Pepsico, Kraft, Campbell’s, Heinz, Mars, and a number of other Fortune 500 companies. Her specialties include consumer and shopper marketing, omni-channel/digital strategies, product innovation, and competitive war-gaming.
Eleni attended the University of Michigan and holds a degree in Economics and Business Administration.
Benny LaRussa, Jr. - Chairman -
A founding principal of Fenwick Brands, has owned and operated businesses ranging from financial services to industrial distribution to consumer packaged goods. Benny has built a distinguished and respected career around a solid understanding of finance and a keen eye for enterprise value.
His experience has landed him on the Boards of Directors for Jack’s Family Restaurants, Inc.; Security Engineers, Inc.; American Pipe and Supply Company, Inc.; First Commercial Bank, a subsidiary of Synovus Financial Corporation in Birmingham, Alabama; The Auburn University Foundation and The Crippled Children’s Foundation. He currently serves as Chairman of The Joseph S. Bruno Charitable Foundation.
Benny’s expertise is the natural result of long-term professional immersion in banking and finance. He has been a commercial banker with AmSouth Bank (now Regions Bank) and First Commercial Bank in Birmingham, Alabama. In 1991, he co-founded Canterbury Trust Company, Inc., also in Birmingham, which was acquired by Synovus Financial Corporation. He was a member of the Board of Directors of Bruno’s Inc. for 10 years until the company was sold to KKR in 1995. And currently, Benny is the Chief Executive Officer of Sterling Capital Management, a multi-asset holding company.
A native of Birmingham, Alabama, Mr. LaRussa received a Bachelor of Science in Finance from Auburn University in 1982 and a Masters in Public and Private Management from Birmingham-Southern College in 1986.
Melissa Baker - President & CEO -
Melissa has spent her twenty-year career successfully growing and exiting Consumer Packaged Goods businesses, from large and established ones to young and entrepreneurial. As a career operator, she has a verifiable track record of generating profitable growth and portfolio value for shareholders, coupled with a keen sense of how to bring brands to life. Melissa’s expertise is in long-term visioning, developing sustainable strategy and generating value-add through product innovation, creation of category space, and strategic distribution builds.
Melissa began her CPG career in brand management, and while she’s progressed into executive leadership roles, it remains the foundation of her approach. From traditional to unconventional operating environments, she embodies a passion for brands that are looking for growth but can’t figure out how to break through. Melissa’s industry experience as an operator is diverse, with both publicly-traded and private equity-backed companies. Yet, irrespective of business size or market position, she has shepherded the growth of these brands, leading them to acquisition.
A native of South Carolina, Melissa received her B.A. in Marketing from Winthrop University and her executive education at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.
Elizabeth Stewart - Director of Investments -
Elizabeth has spent her career advising and investing in growing companies. With a passion for consumer businesses, she is particularly energized by working with founders and management teams to support their strategic vision. Elizabeth specializes in finance, transaction execution, strategic advisory and investment management. She has worked across many industries, and her skill set – a balance of technical expertise, deep investment experience, and strategic foresight – brings a unique and broad perspective to the Fenwick team and our brands.
Elizabeth has spent the last decade in private equity and investment banking. She worked for Harbert Management Corporation – an alternative asset manager with $4 billion under management – in its private equity group directly overseeing investments and supporting investment activities. Prior to working with Harbert, Elizabeth was with Webster Capital, a lower middle-market private equity fund, focused on consumer and healthcare businesses. She has also spent significant time in investment banking with Brookline Capital Partners and Edgeview Partners (now Piper Jaffrey), two sell-side mergers and acquisitions investment banks.
Elizabeth earned her B.A. in Political Science with a concentration in Economics from Davidson
Nina McKinney - Analyst -
Nina’s comprehensive technical expertise in accounting and finance – coupled with a passion for consumer products – means she brings a valuable perspective to the Fenwick team. Nina grew up in an entrepreneurial family exposed to business ventures spanning from real estate to coffee start-ups. This background, along with her history as a CPA, taught her the importance of high-quality financial information and the role it plays within every successful business. Whether it is providing support to a portfolio company or performing due diligence to evaluate new opportunities, she is committed to accomplishing the task at hand in a clear, time-efficient and friendly manner.
Nina began her career at Deloitte & Touche, providing audit services to clients in Dallas, Texas. In her three years there, she learned the value of listening to the varying needs of her clients, while honing her ability to communicate complex issues with clarity and simplicity.
A native of Princeton, New Jersey, Nina graduated from Southern Methodist University with a Bachelor’s degrees in both Accounting and Psychology and a Master’s of Science in Accounting.
Garland Reich - Brand Manager -
Garland is best known for her interactive and digital expertise. She has successfully developed and executed digital marketing strategies for a variety of brands in both agency and in-house marketing environments. Leading full-scale campaigns, she takes brands to new levels with rigorous research and strategic plans. She is immersed in all digital platforms and understands the nitty gritty of SEO, SEM, display, and social media.
Whether it be through grass root tactics, mass media, cause marketing, or public relations, Garland knows how to target the right consumers with the right medium. She is an integral part of building successful brands from the ground up and expanding the reach of existing brands. Her leadership skills coupled with deep digital knowledge are a valuable asset to our clients because she not only yields results, but also equips brands for future successes.
A native of Birmingham, Garland earned a B.A. in Marketing from University of Alabama and a minor in Advertising. When she’s not building brands, she’s brushing up on the latest digital trends and strategizing to stay ahead of the curve.