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40 Under 40 - Class of 2019
Business Observer Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019 11 months ago

Sarah Kitlowski, 35

President and chief operating officer, Omeza
by: Grier Ferguson Sarasota-Manatee Editor

Sarah Kitlowski is employee No. 1 at Omeza, a Sarasota-based startup focused on creating skin care and wound management products.

Kitlowski connected with Omeza founders Thomas Gardner and Chip Bettle while in business school at University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee. She was also working at Bealls at the time as a business analyst and business architect in the information systems department. Kitlowski says part of how she balanced full-time graduate school and a full-time job was getting only four and a half hours of sleep a night. “I didn’t sleep much, but it was completely worth it,” she says.

Gardner and Bettle wanted to build a business around results they had seen in clinical settings. Kitlowski and some fellow USFSM MBA students worked with them on a financial model, initial packaging and product design. She stayed in touch, and a job offer materialized — take on Omeza as employee No. 1. “It was an MBA lottery ticket,” she says. “Every day, I feel like I won the lottery.”

That was January 2018. Now Kitlowski is president and COO of Omeza. “We have put together a team of really talented people,” she says. Kitlowski spends time with all of them, making sure everyone is on the same page in terms of strategy and making sure the company is moving forward.

The staff of six to seven full-time employees is a mix of people with and without health care backgrounds. “We have incredible minds,” Kitlowski says of the staff. “They are so passionate and work so hard. It means that our culture is one of productivity but not crazy productivity. We have space for ingenuity and moments of genius and creativity.”

What Kitlowski likes most about her job is the unlimited potential. “The sky is the limit,” she says. “There isn’t a bureaucracy to contend with or a thousand meetings or anything that comes with being part of a big company.”

Kitlowski keeps a whiteboard in her office covered in lists of tasks to be accomplished by the team. Omeza’s mission motivates her to check off those tasks. “If we do this right, it’s going to be so groundbreaking for millions of patients,” she says. “There’s no better thing for me to devote my life to.”

ON THE RECORD: Sarah Kitlowski

Age: 35

City of residence: Sarasota

Employer: Omeza

Title: President and COO

Birthplace: Baltimore, Maryland

Years on the Gulf Coast: Nine

Marital status/children: Long-term relationship/no children

Alma mater/degree: University of South Florida: Master of Master of Business Administration; Towson University: Bachelor of Science

Where is the best place to network? Graduate school. I made life-changing connections during the MBA program at USF-SM.

What's the best business lesson you've ever learned? Grit and constantly learning are perhaps most valuable skills you can bring to the workplace. Luck, natural talent and flashes of brilliance have their place, but to build something day-by-day, you've really got to work hard and learn quickly.

What's your top tip for being productive? Lists on huge whiteboards. It helps me really take stock of what needs to be done, makes delegating and organizing task easier, and gauge how well I'm spending my time.

What's the weirdest job you've ever had? Radio commercial voice for a Mazda dealership

What community group or organization are you most involved with? The Save A Leg, Save A Life Foundation

If you could have a side hustle, what would it be? Podcasting. I know so many folks with incredible, inspiring and hilarious stories. I'd love to capture them and share them with the world.

What's your favorite off-hours activity? Paintball. In the spring, I started playing once a month with a group of friends, and it's absolutely become my favorite way to unwind.

What's your favorite board game or video game? Clue

What's the top item on your bucket list? I want to see where the monarch butterflies sleep in Mexico. I want to see them when they all wake up and begin to migrate north.

Where is your happy place? I'm on Siesta Key every weekend, and as soon as I cross the bridge, I feel at ease. It really is one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen.

What's your favorite podcast? "Serial"

Who/what is your favorite musical artist/band? Whiskeytown

Who would play you in a movie about your life? Elisabeth Moss

What was your first album/tape cassette/CD? "Sixteen Stone" — Bush

What was your first concert? Counting Crows & The Wallflowers

What's one song that will get you out on the dance floor? "Timewarp" — The Rocky Horror Picture Show

What's your favorite karaoke song? "Tiny Dancer" — Elton John

What instrument/role would you play in a band? Gong

Please describe yourself in three words. Passionate, curious and assertive



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