40 Under Forty: The soaking-wet winners of the WBJ cover contest

BY Brad Kane

Photo | Erika Sidor
Photo | Erika Sidor
After just escaped the rain (from left), Nicholas Pelletier, Erica Grinkis, Allison Beckler and Ryan Matson took the photo landing them on the cover of WBJ's most-read edition of the year.

July 17 – the day WBJ had scheduled nearly all of the group and individual photo shoots for this year’s 40 Under Forty awards – was predicted to have heavy thunderstorms, starting in the late morning.
All the night of July 16 and into the following morning, I obsessively checked weather websites and apps, sweating the various predictions and radars, as I figured the success of our photo shoots depended on fair weather.
All day, though, the skies were in our favor. Photo shoots at Worcester Art Museum, Bancroft Tower and at the Highland Street food trucks all avoided the bad weather.
But then came the WooRides pedicab photo shoot, initially planned for Worcester Common. About 45 minutes before it was scheduled to begin, the clouds opened up. Thinking quickly, WooRides Cofounder Ali Soofi offered the pedicab’s homebase on 22 Portland St. as an alternate location. The good news was the photo shoot could still happen; the bad news was it moved from an iconic Worcester location to inside a parking garage.

Long before this day, I had challenged the 40 Under Forty winners to branch out of their comfort zones during their Group of Four shoots to create a fantastic photo to possibly land as the main cover image of WBJ’s most-read issue of the year, much like four winners did on Burns Bridge last year. All of this year’s teams responded with vigor, planning elaborate setups and bringing props to their shoots.
Team WooRides – Nicholas Pelletier, Erica Grinkis, Allison Beckler and Ryan Matson – really took the planning to a new level: bringing a ski rope and rollerblades to complement the pedicab, hauling a cooler and cups with the names of Grinkis’ business on them, and scouting various spots in Worcester Common. Like the team from Burns Bridge last year, they even hit the bar beforehand, which must help the creative process.

Of course, that all changed when the rain poured. And we’re not talking about a normal rain shower. This was a rivers-in-the-streets downpour, backing up traffic so bad on I-290 that nearly half of the 40 winners were late to the Group of 40 photo shoot and cocktail reception later that evening.
Team WooRides did get one break, though. Ten minutes after their photo shoot started and before the real bad storm came through, there was enough break in the rain for them to attempt their best idea: recreating The Beatles’ famous “Abbey Road” cover with a WooRides pedicab. Pelletier, Grinkis, Beckler and Matson rushed out onto Federal Street with photographer Erika Sidor, set up the lights, camera angle and positions, and then BOOM! The nasty downpour started.
Soaked suits, soaked hair, soaked dresses, soaked camera equipment, soaked pedicab. It was all over, and all that remained was the opportunity to take some shots with umbrellas and the WooRides pedicab under an overhang, before we went inside the parking garage.

Yet, the four of them brought the energy throughout. They were all smiles, laughs, jokes and camaraderie while Sidor took photos inside and outside the garage.
And, it worked. Creating the best WBJ cover only takes one great photo out of thousands. In one shining photo, Pelletier, Grinkis, Beckler and Matson had created an intriguing shot in front of a dynamic city landscape with a public mural and a darkening sky. The lime green color of the pedicab and the orange of Grinkis’ dress and Matson’s tie made the image pop. The two men were chauffeuring the two women around and covering them with an umbrella (this year’s 40 Under Forty is majority women, and I wanted the cover to reflect that power dynamic). Most importantly, the photo was full of joy, with each winner smiling and exuding a youthful exuberance while still looking like professional.
In the end, the rain helped create the WBJ cover.
Read about the entire 2018 Class of 40 Under Forty
Michael Alden - Ascentria Care Alliance
Che Anderson - City of Worcester
Victor M. Archila - VMA Electric Inc.
Allison Beckler, DO - YOU, Inc.
Sam Bitar - Webster Five
Mark A. Borenstein - Seder & Chandler LLP
Kate D. Campanale - Massachusetts House of Representatives
Derek Canton - paerpay
Ryan Canuel - Petricore, Inc.
Jennifer Caron - Body Therapeutics
Danielle J. Clark - Clark Career Coaching
Heidi Cooper - Cooper’s Hilltop Farm
Matthew M. Copeland, P.E. - Copeland Building Envelope Consulting
Pat Davis - The DAVIS Cos.
Efua T. Dufu, MSW, LCSW - Ellite Event Planning
Grace Elton - Tower Hill Botanic Garden
Ursula Furi-Perry, J.D. - Becker College
Jared E. Gentilucci - Nitsch Engineering
David Gilchrist, MD, MBA - UMass Memorial Health Care
Alvara Gjylapi - Santander Bank
Erica Grinkis - The GazBar Sports Grill
Meredith Harris - Marlborough Economic Development Corp.
Erin Jansky - Worcester Housing Authority
Ben Jones - Boston Scientific Corp
Alexis Kelleher - Crust Bakeshop; North Main Provisions
Bert LaValley - Sustainable Comfort, Inc.; deadhorse hill & simjang restaurants
Jennifer Leger - Fidelity Bank
Brian Lemerise - Quiet Logistics, Inc.
Tom Lubelczyk - The Worcester Jazz Collective
Laura Marotta - Creative Hub Worcester
Ryan Matson - Small Business Insurance Agency
Michael P. McDonough, CPA - McDonough, McDonough & Corsini, LLP
Madeline Mendoza - NewVue Communities
Jessica Morris - MCPHS University
Nathan Oriol - Oakdale Rehabilitation & Skilled Nursing Center (Oriol Health Care)
Nicholas Pelletier - Pelletier Properties at Keller Williams North Central
Courtney E. Pelley - Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center
Lilian Radke - Unic Pro Inc.
Blaine Schnare - Harrington HealthCare System
Bonnie J. Walker - Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Learn how the winners were picked on our judges' page.