By Kyle Fisher
As the President of Zebra Athletics, one of the best parts of my job is working with my team. I can openly admit that throughout my management career I have struggled to adequately show my appreciation for my staff, but as we take time out this month to appreciate our global workforce and celebrate woman, I also wanted to take a moment to talk about the great employees at Zebra and why I appreciate them so much.
Brent Peters — Sales Executive
Brent is the longest tenured sales employee on our staff. He handles our GSA account and looks after the Carlos Machado Jiu-Jitsu association. Brent also is still in the military and coaches high level youth baseball. Brent has a great understanding of what our combatives customers need and how to navigate the difficult world of government accounts. One of the reasons I personally appreciate Brent is our ability to discuss so many different topics over a variety of whiskey. Brent is a rare, authentic and open person who is not afraid to wade into the deep end of the pool when it comes to debating the sensitive and difficult topics of the world.
Luke Eckert — Logistics and Fulfillment
Luke is one of our newest employees, who just recently had his one-year anniversary at Zebra. Luke’s main responsibility is making sure that all our customers get their product on time and damage free. We know that sometimes issues can arise, and Luke doesn’t stop until he resolves them for our customers. He is always taking our customers’ needs and sense of urgency to heart, and really pushes to meet their deadlines and expectations of Zebra quality. Luke has a unique sense of humor. Not a day goes by where he doesn’t make me laugh. He is one of the most beloved members of our staff, mostly due to his kindness and friendly attitude, and he is the first one to give someone a hand when they need help.
Tony Jenniges — Sales Executive
Tony, like many of our employees, has worn several hats for Zebra. He has the best knowledge of our products and is walking library for Zebra Athletics staff when it comes to installation and design. Tony is currently the point person for Zenith Jiu Jitsu and the Pedro Sauer and Ares Jiu-Jitsu Associations, which are both are growing and expanding. Tony has an attention to detail that is unmatched in our industry and will always go the extra mile for his clients. What I appreciate most about Tony is his passion for perfection in all aspects of his work. What’s even more impressive is his willingness to teach and help others to do the same. He always takes time to teach me something I don’t know or help me solve a problem, and he does it all with a great attitude.
Bo Maki — Purchasing and Vendor
Relationship Manager, Bo has the heavy burden of keeping all the Zebra Mats in stock and ordering everything for each unique project or facility we outfit, all while ensuring our database of parts is current and properly managed. He is responsible for our relationships with vendors and suppliers, working with them to improve on our already top-quality products and services. Bo is one of the most intelligent employees I have ever had in any industry. When there is a difficult problem to solve, he is always one of the people that I go to tackle the issue. I have had the pleasure of spending many hours outside the office with Bo while on the road for meetings or projects and we always find a way to have fun. He also shares my nerdy love for movie trailers and films, which may happen more often than it should in the office.
Jon Ketola — Sales Executive
Jon is our newest sales executive, but prior to that he was our customer relationship manager. He looks after our international and domestic resellers as well as the Soul Fighters and Double 5 Jiu-Jitsu Associations. Jon has a great sense of humor and enjoys making the staff meetings break out in laughter. He has really grown in his knowledge of sales and our markets and is always looking to help our customers with all aspects of their facilities. I appreciate Jon the most when the office is almost empty at the end of the day and he comes to check on me to see if I need anything. He always takes the time to see how I am doing. He is also always out in the warehouse or on the phone backing up or helping his teammates when they need an extra hand, never wanting to disappoint any of our customers or partners.
Michelle Donovan — Customer Support / Ninja Product Manager
Michelle is the frontline of Zebra Athletics. She helps our customers resolve issues, route them to the appropriate consultant who can help them build their dream facility, or just be a walking FAQs page when they need it. She has also worked to develop our line of Ninja and Obstacle Course products, using her passion for teaching and practicing martial arts to help our customers maximize their facilities. As a purple belt and sponsored jiu jitsu competitor, she is the most feared and dangerous person in the office. Michelle has proven to be a highly dedicated person. She is dedicated to being the best mom she can be, the best competitor her life will allow her to be, and to giving our customers the best experience possible. She takes our customers and partners needs as her own and really advocates on their behalf in our meetings. Her passion for perfection is always shown through in her work and her personal life.
Angie Hellerstedt — Accounting
Angie is our jack–of–all–trades accounting department. She pays our vendors, works with our customers on their payment plans and payment methods and, most importantly, gets our paychecks processed every two weeks. Angie has a very diverse background of life experiences, including owning her own business. She knows the challenges and the benefits of running a small business and offers that insight to our staff as they work to help our small business partners. Angie has a passion for process and has worked to make life easier for me and our team by defining many of our accounting procedures. I appreciate her push to see constant improvement and efficiency. She always has an open ear for a struggle or is willing to grab a drink when needed. Angie and I both have a flair for adventure and talk often about the places we want to see or the things we want to experience. She may one day be our first employee in Dubai.
Charlie Blanski — Sales Director
Charlie is the team leader for our sales group and is part of the leadership team at Zebra Athletics. In addition to managing part of our staff, he is also in charge of our relationships with the ATA, Tiger Rock Martial Arts, Checkmat, 10th Planet and Lovato Jiu-Jitsu Association. Charlie is a dedicated employee who constantly works on behalf of the Zebra brand to help it grow and improve. He has a passion for our customers and their businesses that always shows through in his energy and effort at work. Charlie’s has proven his importance to Zebra time and time again by taking on improvement projects, teaching and coaching staff, and working to be an advocate for his team. One thing I appreciate from Charlie is he never shies away from a difficult task or conversation. Whether it’s with an employee, a partner, or a customer, he tackles the tough parts of working head on and demonstrates by example how to push through with passion and a good attitude in the face of adversity.
Nicki Klein — Marketing Director
Nicki oversees all of Zebra’s marketing, advertising, sponsorship, events, and promotional efforts. She is a member of the leadership team and is my right hand in working towards growing and promoting the organization. Nicki has a diverse of background of experience from being a published author, competing in multiple martial arts disciplines, and even owning and operating her own combat sports website. She has brought constancy and a passion for the industry to our marketing efforts. On a personal note: Nicki is always there for me, from sending me encouraging words when I need them or motivating words when I am not working as hard as I should. She also is my catch–all for random things I need. I always know when I ask her to do something she is going to try and get it done by any means necessary. I appreciate her friendship and her passion to make Zebra successful, and to make my job easier.
Greg Mundy — Vice President
Greg is Zebra’s “Batman”; the hero we need. He has a well-rounded skill set from accounting and business management to process improvement and IT systems. He is our Swiss army knife of the back office and systems. Greg can move from department to department to see how things work and how they can be improved, and he also knows how the customer experience will be affected by these changes. He is creative and passionate about growing and improving our product range and service offerings. He also always challenges me personally and professionally, pressing me I could (or should) be doing better. He puts in endless hours to move Zebra Athletics forward in a competitive marketplace. I appreciate Greg’s commitment to quality improvement and have enjoyed watching his leadership style and methods grow with experience.
A Special Thanks to the Zebra Team
Zebra Athletics has the best mats and equipment for our market, but more importantly we have great people. Our team cares about their customers and their business, and they also care about each other. I wanted to take some time to communicate to the world how thankful I am for them, how much I appreciate them, and how much I care for them. So the next time you talk to one of them on the phone, see them at an event, or exchange an email, I hope you feel good knowing you are in the best hands in the industry and are working with some genuinely good and caring people.