President and COO - 40 under 40

President and COO - 40 under 40

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.”