Director of Project Management
Having established herself as an undeniable authority on market research, Mandy Capistron also manages to personify gracious hospitality. Mandy’s passion for research shines in her creative, can-do attitude when working with clients. After leaving her home in Southeastern Massachusetts, Mandy traveled to Connecticut where she attended Quinnipiac University. While earning her degree in Marketing, with a minor in Sociology, she also worked for the University as a Master Tutor – not only aiding her fellow students with their coursework, but also teaching invaluable life skills like organization and time management.
In 2005, Mandy brought her talents to Chicago where she quickly became facility manager at a major research center, while also serving as President-Elect on the Board of Directors of the Market Research Association of Chicago.
Mandy’s life outside of the office is equally as ambitious and fast-paced. When not at the helm of the industry in Chicago, she is still in perpetual motion. She enjoys downhill skiing in Vermont and Colorado and has been doing so since she was 3 years old! When not skiing, you may see Mandy whiz by you on the street in one of Chicago’s many 5k races. In order to account for this level of activity and involvement, one theory proposes that Mandy has managed to clone herself. However, in truth, she is extraordinary and clearly has a predisposition for excellence.
Dan Darrah has many talents that help him to anticipate the needs of clients and regularly exceed their expectations. He majored in Film at The University of Illinois at Chicago and played on the school’s baseball team. After college, he studied improvisational acting at Chicago’s Second City and Improv Olympics, and helped cofound the Playground Theatre. Dan is also an accomplished musician who has toured the country and played in countless legendary venues.
The worlds of baseball, film, and music came together on the set “A League of Their Own” when Dan spent an entire afternoon playing catch with Madonna, a pretty tough client, in preparation for her role in the film. However, this certainly did not go to his head, as Dan is a down-to-earth guy who loves spending time with his wife, Dana, and their three children.
Kwesi Grant-Acquah is a talented communicator and a picture of consummate professionalism. He is always cool, calm, and collected and these qualities help to put everyone around him at ease. Kwesi grew up playing the piano and was also a talented athlete, excelling in both baseball and basketball. This was truly early evidence of Kwesi’s capacity to be exceptionally well-rounded.
Kwesi currently majors in Radio/TV Broadcasting at Lewis University, where he hosts his own weekly radio show, utilizing his many connections in the Chicago music and nightlife scene. In fact, he periodically hosts events and constantly has his finger on the pulse of Chicago culture. If you want to know what’s going on tonight in Chicago, Kwesi is your guy. You can always recognize him by his distinct voice. Some people tell him he sounds like Barry White, while others say he sounds like the guy from the All State commercials. Either way, with Kwesi, you’re in good hands.
Allen Winczewski (win-chess-key) may be the youngest member of the Annex team, but that doesn’t mean he has less to offer. Having been to twenty countries throughout five continents, Allen contributes worldliness to the Annex. During his travels, he keenly observed the way hospitality is conducted in several different cities, paving the way for his becoming an exceptional concierge.
Allen is also a gifted musician, currently playing drums in four local bands. Having majored in philosophy at DePaul University, he uses critical thinking to anticipate client needs, and he’s prepared to take on all questions that clients may have.
Founder and Chief Operating Officer
Together with Kay Allison, John Donicht started the Energy Annex and has guided it through several years of exponential growth. He is responsible for its smooth operation and the well-being of all who enter.
Before partnering with Kay, he co-founded a B2B internet company and traded steel and agricultural commodities for five years. He still heads a successful publishing company specializing in commodities information.
To relax, John bikes hills, skis moguls, and counts cards while playing blackjack. (Yes, he finds this stuff relaxing.) Foreshadowing his adult life as an entrepreneur, when he was a twelve-year-old country club caddy in Wayzata, Minnesota he would wade into the golf course ponds at night to recover lost balls, and then sell them the next day.
John earned a B.S. in Economics from the University of Wisconsin and an M.B.A. in Finance from the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management, and is very proud that he paid part of his tuition by being an iron worker. You'll see this early job experience reflected in his ready smile, attentive listening and nerves of steel.
The energy that powers Kay Allison is the electricity of consumer insight igniting the explosive power of innovation.
Kay’s early career at two top-tier advertising agencies honed her skills at engaging consumers and identifying their oftentimes hidden motivations. Not only was she adept at achieving understanding when others gave up in frustration, Kay always made it look so effortless. Where some researchers built castles of complexity, Kay insisted on referring to her work simply as “conversations.” Yet whenever agency creative directors were presented with particularly vexing and complex consumer issues, they often sang a common refrain: “Can we get Kay involved?”
In 1999, Kay’s pursuit of consumer insight and innovation went entrepreneurial: She founded The Energy Infuser located in a significantly renovated loft—dubbed The Energy Annex—on Chicago’s near-west side. Her vision was to assemble a team of experienced marketing-idea people who shared her zeal and her consumer sensitivities; create an innovative physical environment that would contribute to the quality of focused consumer conversations; bring clients into the ideation process as co-collaborators; and as a consequence of all this, to build a business whose twin products would be privileged consumer insight and innovative marketing ideas arising from it.
Today, The Energy Annex is a highly successful, bustling, insight-and-idea enterprise with a feel and provenance all its own. Collaboration and bonhomie pervade the workspace. Walls and doors are few; laughter and excited idea-chatter are common. In room settings as comfortable as one’s own home, consumers may be drawing cartoons about their secret food appetites… or creating iPod playlists for competing energy drinks… or matching liquor brands to different guests at a party. Marketing people from major consumer-product and service companies are routinely part of this scene, and very much part of the action. From all this energy erupts the innovative ideas that have helped generate hundreds of millions of dollars in sales for those clients. Whenever Kay is complimented about building The Energy Infuser into a resource unique in the marketing-services world, she always responds the same way.
“Conversations with consumers,” she says with a smile, “can be very rewarding.”