The Middle Market Review Insights on the Middle Market.

Subscribe Subscribe

Subscribe Today

Please provide valid email address

I want to receive:

Thanks for subscribing!

The Faces of the Lower Middle Market

The lower middle market is by far the largest segment of the US economy. By some estimates there are 14x the number of businesses operating in the $5M-$100M revenue range than there are generating $100M and up. The sheer volume of opportunity in the LMM has attracted individuals from all walks of life and professional disciplines to meet the diverse capital needs of the 350k+ businesses operating in the LMM today.

From an Army Green Beret, to an NHL All Star, to the former CEO of Uber – here are 10 deal professionals who have made the decision to hang their proverbial second-career hats in the LMM M&A economy.

David Fowles | Vice President, Mangrove Equity Partners

Private Equity Firm | Tampa, FL

20 Year Army Special Forces Veteran

About David

David Fowles is a Vice President at Mangrove Equity Partners, a lower middle market focused private equity firm based in Tampa, Florida. Dave’s primary effort at Mangrove is originating deal opportunities and qualifying acquisition candidates. He joined Mangrove in 2019 after a successful, twenty-three year career as a U.S. Army Special Forces Officer (commonly known as the “Green Berets”). Over his military career, David led, directed, and managed special operations missions in dynamic and complicated environments across the globe; including South America, the Caribbean, the Balkans, Africa, and the Middle East. Some of the awards he earned during his career include three Bronze Stars; two for meritorious service and one for valor during combat operations. He brings with him a wealth of leadership, organizational, and management experience that he has quickly incorporated at Mangrove to make a difference in the deal origination process. When he decided to transition to the private sector, Dave enrolled in the Executive program at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, earning an EMBA. He also holds a BA in Political Science from SUNY Oswego.

Karen and Edwin Small | Founding Partners, Sterling Commercial Credit

Senior Lender | Brighton, MI

Highschool Sweethearts, Started Sterling from their Kitchen Table in 2000

About Karen & Edwin

Karen and Edwin Small are the founders of Michigan-based Sterling Commercial Credit, a provider of cash flow solutions to small business owners purchasing credit worthy accounts receivable and providing asset based lines of credit secured by Accounts, Inventory, and Machinery & Equipment. Karen and Edwin are high school sweethearts who have similar professional backgrounds with degrees in accounting and working their way up the corporate ladder at Michigan National Bank in the 1990’s. They founded Sterling Commercial Credit from their kitchen table in 2000.

Ryan Graves | Founder, Saltwater Capital

Family Office | Mill Valley, CA 

Former CEO and SVP of Global Operations at Uber

About Ryan

Ryan Graves is the founder and CEO of Saltwater Capital, an investment holding company focused on majority acquisitions of technology businesses. Ryan was the first employee hired at Uber in 2010. He went on to spend 7 years with the ride-hailing company in a variety of capacities including as CEO and SVP of Global Operations.

John Quartey | Founder & Principal, Safiyah Partners

Search Fund | San Diego, CA 

Military Veteran and Former Advisor to the U.S. Ambassador in Cameroon

About John

John Quaye Quartey II is the founder of Safiyah Partners, an entrepreneurial investment firm backed by a team of sophisticated Silicon Valley investors. Quaye is a transitioning veteran who supported a spectrum of military operations around the globe. Most recently, he served as the principal military advisor to the U.S. ambassador in Cameroon. There, he led a diverse team on the front lines to counter violent extremist organizations while leveraging $200M to build African capacity and secure porous borders. Previously, Quaye enjoyed a successful diplomatic tour in France, where he advanced cyber and defense-related initiatives. This resulted in his appointment as the first U.S. military cyber liaison to the French Ministry of Defense. 

Claudio Ochoa | Managing Partner, Donovan Capital Group

Private Investment Firm | Washington, DC

Former CIA and U.S. State Department 

About Claudio

Claudio Ochoa is a Managing Partner at Donovan Capital Group, a private investment firm that invests in companies that can strengthen the national security of the United States. He previously co-founded JCR & Co., a national consulting firm, and Native State, a CPG company with products carried by several large retailers. Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, Claudio was an attorney in the NYC office of Morvillo, Abramowitz, Grand, Iason, Anello & Bohrer and in the DC office of DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary. At both firms, he specialized in corporate law and white collar litigation, representing high-profile business executives in complex financial litigation against the U.S. Department of Justice and SEC. Claudio has served in the government as press secretary for the Lt. Governor of Colorado (the youngest in the state’s history) and in several functions at the U.S. State Department, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and The White House.

Tracy Britt Cool | Co-Founder, Kanbrick

Private Equity Firm | Chicago, IL

Former CEO of Pampered Chef and Financial Assistant to the Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway

About Tracy

Tracy Britt Cool is the co-founder of long-term investment firm, Kanbrick. After graduating from Harvard Business School in 2009, Tracy joined Berkshire Hathaway as one of Warren Buffett’s top advisors. Tracy was named CEO of Pampered Chef in 2014,  and has been on the boards of a number of additional Berkshire subsidiaries including Benjamin Moore, Oriental Trading Company, and H. J. Heinz. 

Blaine Stoughton | Senior Partner, Players Capital Group

M&A Advisory Firm | Greensboro, NC

Former NHL All Star

About Blaine

Blaine Stoughton is a Senior Partner at M&A Advisory firm, Players Capital Group. Before beginning his career as an M&A advisor, Blaine played nine seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL) for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Hartford Whalers and New York Rangers, which bookended three seasons in the World Hockey Association (WHA) split among the Cincinnati Stingers, Indianapolis Racers and New England Whalers. Blaine led the NHL in scoring in 1980 (56 goals) and played in the 1982 NHL All-Star Game.

Jon Santemma | Co-Founder & General Partner, Regal Healthcare

Private Equity Firm | New York, NY

Former Global Head of Healthcare Investment Banking at Jefferies

About Jon

Jon Santemma is a co-founder of Regal Healthcare Capital Partners. Prior to the formation of Regal, he was the Global Head of Healthcare Investment Banking at Jefferies LLC, which he joined in 2009. From 1999-2009, Mr. Santemma was a Managing Director in the Healthcare Investment Banking Group of UBS, including a six year stint in London where he helped build out UBS’ European Healthcare Investment Banking business. Mr. Santemma began his healthcare investment banking career with Citigroup/Smith Barney in 1995, after practicing law in the Mergers & Acquisitions Group of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.   

Omar Simmons | Founder, Exaltare Capital Partners

Private Equity Firm | Boston, MA

Former CEO of Planet Fitness

About Omar

Omar Simmons is a seasoned private equity professional who has closed over 18 principal transactions exceeding $2.6B in aggregate transaction value over a 20-year private equity career. Omar ran ECP Planet Fitness as CEO from 2012-2015 and is currently executive chairman of the Company. Prior to co-founding Exaltare, Omar was a Director at Windjammer Capital Investors, a leading middle-market private investment firm with over $2B under management. Prior to Windjammer Capital Investors, he was a co-founder and Managing Director at Reliant Equity Investors, a $120mm private equity firm based in Chicago. Omar also worked at leading private equity firms such as Summit Partners and McCown DeLeeuw. He started his career helping Fortune 500 businesses as a management consultant at Marakon Associates. Omar graduated from Harvard Business School with honors, after graduating from Princeton University.

Keith Yonkers | Managing Director, 41 North

Investment Bank | Newport Beach, CA

Olympic Water Polo Broadcaster and Commentator

About Keith

Keith Yonkers is the founder and Managing Director at investment bank, 41 North. Keith has over 25 years of financial services experience that includes investment banking, private banking as well as leadership roles with Citigroup and Deutsche Bank. Keith and his team work extensively with founders and owners in the food, beverage, consumer and manufacturing segments in the lower middle market. In addition to his role at 41 North, Keith is a Water Polo Commentator for FINA International events, NCAA & Olympic Men’s and Women’s Water Polo action. This includes the Rio 2016 Olympic games, 2012 Prepares Series / Olympics in London UK, 2013 World Championships in Barcelona Spain, and recently as the voice of the 2017 FINA World Championships Budapest, Hungary. In addition, Keith announced the Americas Cup AC 45 Series in Chicago on Lake Michigan, the first fresh water AC event in history of the oldest sports trophy in the world.

Learn More About Joining Axial

Request Information

Subscribe to Middle Market Review

Subscribe to Middle Market Review

Please provide valid email address

I want to receive:


Thanks for subscribing!