The Smart Business Dealmakers Dealmaker of the Year Awards recognize exceptional individuals who are shaping the landscape of business and innovation in Greater Cleveland.

In addition, The Cleveland Dealmakers Hall of Fame recognized a class of dealmakers that has made an often-groundbreaking impact on their organizations, industries and the region over the course of decades in business.

We celebrated the accomplishments of the 2024 class of winners June 13 at the Cleveland Smart Business Dealmakers Conference. Together, they provide a strong picture of the Greater Cleveland business community.


Dealmaker Of The Year Honorees


Cal Al-Dhubaib is the founder and CEO of Pandata, which develops artificial intelligence design and services which cater to high-risk industries such as health care, defense and energy.  The company was recently acquired by Further, an Atlanta-based AI, data and analytics company. The acquisition solidifies Further's commitment to providing privacy-first cutting-edge AI and machine learning solutions to their portfolio of 100+ Fortune 500 clients.


Shane Bigelow is the CEO and co-founder of Champ Titles, which has developed a digital title and registration suite that digitizes the process of vehicle titling. Bigelow and his team recently raised an $18 million Series C round, which was led by Point72 Ventures, the bicoastal venture capital firm owned by Steven Cohen, the hedge fund manager who also owns the New York Mets baseball team. Among existing investors in the recent round were W.R. Berkley Corp., Eos Venture Partners, Guidewire Software and Rev1 Ventures.


Constantine Elefter is a partner and MPE Partners, a private equity firm focused on lower middle-market leveraged buyouts, recapitalizations, and build-up investments with entrepreneur- and family-owned businesses and corporate divestitures. MPE Partners, along with portfolio company 80/20 LLC, recently acquired Flexpipe, which allows 80/20 to offer a new product line, expand into a new geographical market, and create additional channel customers.


Wendy Jarchow is the Chief Investment Officer of River SaaS Capital, which provides venture debt financing to growing SaaS businesses that prefer non-dilutive working capital to expand their customer base. The firm also provides alternative financing models, entrepreneurship mentoring, and a partnership approach to early-stage SaaS companies. Jarchow and her team recently launched equity fund, TruWest Fund I, which provides follow-on capital for those who have taken venture debt to maximize their growth potential while optimizing their fundraising capabilities.


Brian Leonard is the Managing Partner, CFO and CCO of Edgewater Capital, a private equity firm that seeks to invest in specialty industrials, life science, advanced materials, and specialty chemicals businesses. As last year drew to the close, Edgewater closed a $330 million private equity fund — Edgewater Capital Partner Fund V. The fund exceeded its target, with strong support from a diversified base of returning and new limited partners. ECP V was designed to continue the strategy deployed in Edgewater’s four predecessor funds, targeting partnerships with performance product and services companies. Most recently, in April, one of Edgewater’s portfolio companies, Luxom Solutions, acquired Inrad Optics in a deal worth close to $20 million.


Charlie Lougheed is the CEO of Axuall, which has developed a workforce intelligence network for health care that streamlines workforce deployment, drives efficiencies, and maximizes revenue. The company recently closed a $40+ million financing round that included $7 million of Series B1 venture funding from Frist Cressey Ventures on in July 2023, and a $20 million of Series B venture funding in a deal led by Noro-Moseley Partners in May 2023.


Ed Weinfurtner is the executive chairman and co-owner of Great Day Improvements and Michael Hoy is the company’s CEO. Great Day is a fast-growing, tech-enabled, vertically integrated direct-to-consumer home improvement business that serves homeowners nationwide in 128 U.S. markets and more than 230 locations. Great Day is best known for its popular brands: Patio Enclosures, Champion Windows, and Universal Windows Direct, and has grown from $70 million in 2019 to more than $1.2 billion today. In the fourth quarter of last year, Great Day acquired K Designers, a home Improvement business based in Sacramento covering 12 locations in Pacific Northwest, and Home Performance Alliance, a home improvement business based in Tampa with three locations in Northern Florida.


Dealmakers Hall of Fame


Rocco Di Lillo was winner of the Ernst & Young, NASDQ and USA Entrepreneur of the year in 1997. His distinguished career spans the fields of advertising, the development of hydroelectric energy, corporate housing, manufacturing in the construction industry, marina development and philanthropic development. Di Lillo has operated 12 companies in his career, seven he founded and five he acquired. He founded his first company, City Visitor Inc., in 1980 with the mission of serving travelers and the businesses that serve them. City Visitor published relocation books, visitor guides and specialty publications for Sea World, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Six Flags, and numerous museums. But that was just the start. Fast-forward to today and Di Lillo’s latest development is Habacoa, an Iconic Real Estate and Marina in South Abaco, Bahamas. When completed it will be the largest marina in North America and the newest luxury residential community in the Bahamas.


David Heller is the president, CEO, and Co-Founder of The NRP Group. Over the past 30 years, The NRP Group has emerged as one of the largest multifamily development, construction, and property management companies in the United States. Since its inception in 1994, The NRP Group has developed over 50,000 apartment homes and currently manages more than 26,000 residential units across 15 states. The NRP Group is renowned for its expertise in developing both affordable and market-rate communities on a national scale. Personally, Heller is deeply committed to community service and has held numerous leadership positions in civic organizations. Among them, the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund Board, the National Association of Home Builders, University Hospitals of Cleveland, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, Case Western Reserve University, and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.


Ansir Junaid is the founder, CEO, and chairman of SupplySide Group, a privately-held conglomerate where Junaid oversees a diverse array of industries focused on full-service supply chain solutions and sustainability. His expertise has propelled the SupplySide Group to serve hundreds of customers, including Fortune 500 companies such as Amazon, Target, UPS, Home Depot, and Lowe's, particularly excelling in logistics management and packaging services. Junaid also serves as co-founder, principal, and senior adviser at Morningside Group. Over his career, he has become known for transforming fragmented markets into sustainable growth engines through innovative techniques and technology integration. Junaid has redefined traditional supply chains to foster new relationships between large retailers and suppliers across Asia, Dubai, and Africa. He also collaborates with private equity firms to convert fragmented businesses into valuable acquisition targets with a national presence.


Matt Kaulig is the executive chairman of Kaulig Companies Limited. Kaulig Companies is known for offering a diverse spectrum of businesses, which includes sports and entertainment, marketing and events, and private equity and real estate. Kaulig’s sports ventures include Kaulig Racing, which is a multi-car NASCAR Xfinity and Cup Series team, and he is minority owner of the Cleveland Guardians baseball team. An award-winning entrepreneur, business owner, and philanthropist, Kaulig is best known as the founder of Leaf Home, a contractor business he started out of his home in 2005, and today is one of the largest direct-to-consumer home products companies in the United States and Canada. Kaulig’s philanthropy work is also notable, as he has been a major contributor to the Cleveland area since his college days when he led the University of Akron football team at quarterback. He is the founder of Kaulig Charitable Giving Programs, which has over 300 nonprofit partnerships that focus on children and families in need.


Stephen McHale’s mission is founding and building data and technology companies that transform industries. In 2009, he co-founded Explorys in partnership with the Cleveland Clinic. McHale led the Explorys team as they invented and brought to market a big data solution to improve health care outcomes. Explorys amassed the world’s largest clinical database, spanning hundreds of thousands of health care providers and more than 60 million patients in the United States. The company was acquired by IBM in 2015. Prior to Explorys, McHale founded and led Everstream, a media analytics company acquired by Concurrent, an Atlanta-based publicly traded company. And, the first company he founded, USConnect, a North America-focused systems integration company, was also acquired by a publicly traded company. Since 2021, McHale has dedicated his experience and resources to building his fourth company, UnifyWork, a platform company delivering AI technology that transforms work.


Ronald E. Weinberg is the founder of the Weinberg Capital Group and remains actively involved as both an investing partner and in managing portfolio companies, frequently serving as the liaison between the board and management. Weinberg collaborates closely with management teams to identify new business opportunities and to establish strategic direction and financial objectives. Previously, Weinberg co-founded and served as chairman and CEO of Hawk Corporation, a leading manufacturer of specialized brake materials for the aerospace, industrial, and specialty consumer markets. Under his leadership, Hawk Corporation expanded from a single plant generating $19 million in sales to 16 facilities worldwide, with revenues surpassing $400 million at its peak. A prominent figure in the Cleveland business and civic community, Weinberg is a member of the board of directors of the Cleveland Clinic, where he chairs the Research and Education Committee. He and his wife, Terri, recently made a significant donation to the Cleveland Clinic Foundation to enhance its research capabilities. Weinberg is also the past Chairman of the board of trustees at Cleveland State University and a former board member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.