Mark Thomann, Co-Founder

Mark Thomann brings more than 15 years of experience valuing, structuring, and consummating complex financial transactions involving trademarks/brands and other assets.

Mark has established himself as a leading transactional IP expert, currently serving as both Chief Executive Officer of River West Brands and Dormitus Brand, companies that acquire, redevelop, and monetizes iconic dormant brands.  In his capacity as CEO of River West Brands, he led the process that resulted in a strategic investment from Omnicom Group (NYSE: OMC), a $14B holding company comprised of marketing firms. Mark also recently served as both Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of FarmedHere, one of the world’s largest indoor farms, during which time he successfully restructured and capitalized the Company. Mark is currently a member of several boards of directors of early-stage companies.

Mark is a frequent speaker on indoor farming and monetizing brand/trademark related assets. He has addressed mass media audiences including NBC’s Today Show, Chicago Tribune, The Economist, Chicago Public Radio, The NY Times, Crain’s Business Chicago, LA Times, BBC Radio, WGN Radio, and the Financial Times.

Mark received a B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.  He lives in Chicago with his wife and three children.

Michael Kaplan, Co-Founder

Michael Kaplan is an experienced business and transactions professional.  Michael started as an attorney working for prestigious law firms such as Mayer Brown, and was employed on the business side for over 12 years at JLL (formally Jones Lang LaSalle), specializing in transaction management, team building and innovation.  Michael is also a founding member of the Urban Physic Garden, a 501(C)(3) organization dedicated to educating the public on the healing power of plants and food as medicine.

Michael earned a B.A. from the University of Michigan (1985) and a J.D. from the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law (1990).

Originally from New York, Michael has lived in Chicago for the past 25 years.  He currently resides in the Hyde Park area of Chicago with his wife and two teenage sons.

Steve Gaither, Principal

Steve Gaither is the founder of JB Chicago, an integrated marketing agency whose clients include DMI, Tetra Pak, and Hershey’s.  A mentor at the Good Food Business Accelerator, ICNC and The Hatchery, his relationships with the financial sector led him to start Windy City Troublemakers, an early-stage food brands group in Chicago.  Steve is also a partner at Windy City Food Brands, a food advisory and investment group, where he and his fellow CPG experts provide the operational know-how and go-to market strategies that help brands accelerate their growth.

Steve graduated from Ball State University (1994) with a degree in Architecture and Planning. He resides in Munster, Indiana with his wife and three children.

Shaun O’Brien, Principal

Shaun O’Brien is the founder of Access Strategies, a consumer goods brokerage firm that acts as the sales and marketing arm for multiple brands.  With over fifteen years in the consumer goods brokerage space, he has worked with brands in every aisle of the store in multiple trade channels: Jack Links, Lindt, Nestle Foodservice, Tyson, Gonnella Bread, Spectrum Brands, Chiquita, and Organic Valley to name a few.  He specializes in developing price structure, trade marketing, and go-to-market strategy.

Shaun earned a B.S. in Management from Northern Illinois University and an Executive MBA from the University of Notre Dame.  He resides in Homer Glen, IL with his wife and two daughters.