Our Team

Michael Smith
Managing Director - Operations & Finance

Michael is a founder of Karis Cold Storage ("KCS") and joins from Baker & McKenzie, where he served on its Policy Committee as Managing Partner of the Chicago Office and as a Global Real Estate Committee Member. Michael brings 27 years of experience in the real estate industry as a lawyer, investor, owner and developer with a particular focus on construction, finance, and development. Michael also recently concluded his term as Chairman of the Board of the USO of Illinois. Michael is a graduate of Boston College with a degree in economics and political science and earned his J.D. from Vanderbilt Law School.

Jake Finley
Managing Director - Customers

Jake is a founder of KCS. He previously founded Karis Capital, where he developed, acquired, and disposed of over $200 million worth of real estate assets with a focus on class-A distribution warehouses in multiple markets. Prior to founding Karis Capital, Jake worked at the Chicago Board of Trade for a distributor of cold storage building components and later as a real estate broker focusing on tenant representation for several large 3PL’s, completing over $500 million worth of transactions in 12 different states. He played both intercollegiate golf and baseball at Taylor University in Indiana where he earned his degrees in finance and accounting.

Clarisa Bonilla
Director of Investment Management & Operations

Clarisa manages investments, reporting and operations. After starting at Goldman Sachs, where she oversaw the daily operations of a team managing $2.1 billion of assets, Clarisa worked at Baker & McKenzie, implementing a three year business services transformation program in North America & Latin America. Clarisa graduated with highest distinction from the Kelley School of Business, Indiana University with degrees in Finance, International Business and Spanish. She earned her MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University focused on Innovation & Entrepreneurship and Social Impact. She has also served on the Junior Associate Boards of the Field Museum and Green City (Farmers') Market in Chicago.

Brian Niven
Managing Director - Development

Brian brings years of heavy industrial development and management experience to the KCS Team. Prior to KCS, Brian oversaw the development and acquisition of Cold Storage assets nationwide for Bridge Development Partners. During his time at Bridge, Brian completed the sale of over 1.4 million SF of existing cold assets and developed approximately 900,000 SF of new facilities in Chicago, Seattle, Savannah and South Florida. Prior to Bridge, Brian developed fossil fueled power plants across the U.S. for J-Power USA, one of the world’s largest independent power producers. Brian served as an active duty U.S. Army Infantry officer seeing tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the Virginia Military Institute and an MBA from Loyola University of Chicago.

Ivy Miller
Senior Analyst

Ivy is an investment manager supporting asset underwriting, project management, and property management. Ivy also oversees KCS's insurance programs. Prior to joining KCS, she was a financial lines underwriter at AIG in their Atlanta office. Ivy graduated from the Terry College of Business, University of Georgia with degrees in Economics and Risk Management & Insurance. 

Karen Plachy

Karen is a Certified Public Accountant and directs all accounting activities including financial reporting, development and documentation of accounting policies and controls, audits, budgets, taxes, and cash management. Prior to joining KCS, she was a Vice president and Controller for a Chicago-based family office. She also served in the power plant industry providing due diligence activities for acquisitions and joint ventures.  Karen earned her B.S. in Accountancy at Elmhurst College and M.B.A. at Northern University. She is a member of the Illinois CPA Society and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. In her spare time, she enjoys golf and competes in travel tennis. Karen also volunteers as Treasurer for a non-profit industrial condo association. 

Andy Laue
Development Manager

Andy serves as development manager of KCS, overseeing construction projects and new development opportunities. Prior to joining KCS, Andy was a Superintendent at Troop Contracting, specializing in federal contracting, construction management, and construction and design. He started his real estate career as a broker with JBS Commercial Real Estate, and later worked as a project engineer at Leopardo Companies, a construction engineering company. Andy also served as an active-duty Green Beret, Special Forces in the U.S. Army with deployments to Afghanistan and Africa. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University.