2020 40 Under 40

Recognizing 40 of Southwest Florida's young leaders.

We Salute You!

To celebrate an appreciated spot of normalcy in a year that has been anything but, Gulfshore Business recognizes 40 rising stars who individually strive to improve upon our 2020 vision. Each year, the magazine selects 40 business professionals younger than 40, who are among the area’s most distinguished leaders. This is the 18th year Gulfshore Business has saluted young achievers in Southwest Florida.

Receiving hundreds of deserv­ing nominations of young leaders submitted by the local business community, a panel of judges had the difficult task of studying each individual’s merits, accomplishments and volunteer work to choose this year’s finalists for 40 Under 40 awards. Once again, we are pleased to acknowledge 40 honorees from a variety of occupa­tions and backgrounds.

 

 

 

DANIELA GEORGIEVA, 38

Tax Accountant, Markham Norton Mosteller Wright & Company, P.A.

Born and raised in Bulgaria, Daniela Georgieva permanently relocated to the United States in 2006, following a U.S. exchange student program. After graduating magna cum laude from Florida Gulf Coast University with a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting, she joined Markham Norton Mosteller Wright & Compa­ny, P.A. (MNMW) in 2014.

“My specialty areas include in­ternational tax, as well as individual and business tax planning and preparation,” she says. “I also serve as a mentor to team members and am experienced in tax research, en­suring that MNMW always provides the most updated tax information.”

Away from the office, Georgieva served as a Women In Business committee member for five years and is a current member of the United Way allocations team.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

There’s no step too small.

 

LINDSEY SABLAN, 35

Morning Anchor, WINK News

As the anchor of the WINK News Morning Show, Lindsey Sablan has won numerous awards for her investigative and breaking news re­ports. But, more than reporting the news, she considers it a privilege to share people’s stories.

“It’s a job I take seriously, and I’ll never forget some of the harder ones,” she says. “I’ll always remember helping a man move his valuables as floodwaters raged, talking to a mother whose daughter disappeared walking to school, or working with a sexual assault survivor to demand responsive DNA testing.”

Sablan also donates her time to charitable organizations, including the American Cancer Society, Juve­nile Diabetes Research Foundation, Path 2 Freedom, and the NCH Safe & Healthy Children’s Coalition of Collier County. She also works with Special Olympics, Center for the Arts Bonita Springs, and Lee BIA Builders Care.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Be the things you loved most about the people who are gone.

 

 

SHAVON CHESTER, 38

Director of Business Development, The Rehab & Healthcare Center of Cape Coral

Born and raised in Fort Myers, Shavon Chester is a dedicated servant of her community. When she found her career in long-term care, it allowed her to help people and leverage resources, and after more than a decade with The Rehab & Healthcare Center of Cape Coral, she feels privileged to work with our most vulnerable population.

“I believe that the only way to affect change is to be willing to do your part and do the heavy lifting,” she says. “I am beyond grateful that so many organizations have not only valued my input but, in many instances, have allowed me to be on their board of directors. It makes me so proud to be a native Floridian.”

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

The best piece of advice came from my mother, who always told me, “People will forget what you say, but not how you make them feel.”

 

LAUREN KINDZIERSKI, 34

Vice President of Marketing & Solutions, HGS

As the vice president of marketing & solutions for HGS, Lauren Kindzierski plays a significant role in innovating new and existing solution offerings by leveraging technology. Even with 13 years of experience in marketing, customer experience and innovation, she says her job is always changing.

“I work with social media, mobile, video, SMS, artificial intelligence and analytics every day,” she says. “My goal is to keep the company up to date with the latest market trends and demand.”

Kindzierski says her energy and enthusiasm have helped grow her career in the global business process outsourcing sector. That passion, she says, is what’s helped keep her on the front lines of inno­vation and the customer experience areas of customer service.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Have passion in what you do … and you will always be successful.

 

JENNA BUZZACCO-FOERSTER, 38

Director of Government Relations, Greater Naples Chamber
of Commerce

Prior to joining the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, Jenna Buz­zacco-Foerster spent more than a decade as a reporter, covering Florida politics and government for the Naples Daily News and FloridaPolitics.com. While she currently serves as the chamber’s director of govern­ment relations, it was her career as a reporter that taught her that sometimes you need to ruffle a few feathers to make a difference.

“I help the chamber advance its governmental and legislative priorities at the city, county and state level, and I advocate for the needs of chamber members on a wide range of topics,” she says. “I also managed the One Collier campaign, which in 2018 successfully passed a one-cent sales surtax in Collier County,”

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

I tend to keep the saying “well-be­haved women seldom make history” in the back of my head all the time.

 

 

JASON M. DUKE, 39

Financial Advisor, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management

In his work with Morgan Stanley in Fort Myers, Jason Duke, CFP®, focuses on building long-term relationships by putting his clients and their financial goals first. Those relationships, he says, make his job as enjoyable today as it was when he started 16 years ago.

“My practice focuses on re­tirement and estate planning and working with clients across several generations,” he says.

Duke believes strongly in giving back and has volunteered for a num­ber of organizations, and he’s served on various nonprofit boards and committees. As a Florida native and avid outdoorsman, Duke believes that water quality is key to the economy and way of life in South­west Florida and across the state.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

A former mentor would always tell me, “Live off your worst month.” And my father would often tell me, “Change happens when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of change.”

*See Morgan Stanley disclaimer on page 98 of the Gulfshore Business September issue.

 

HASAN KAJTEZOVIC, 34

Supply Chain Manager, Arthrex Inc.

Hasan Kajtezovic works as a supply chain manager at Arthrex Inc. During his decade-long tenure with the company, he has played a key role in the continued development of supplier relationships.

“My job is ensuring flexibility in response to an increasingly demanding marketplace. That flexibility helps Arthrex release more than 2,000 new products annually,” he says. “I also helped co-found a trade group that worked with Florida Gulf Coast University to launch a supply chain undergradu­ate program in 2019.”

Kajtezovic earned his MBA from FGCU in 2016, and has since joined the adjunct faculty team to help ed­ucate the next generation of supply chain leaders.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Communicate your goals.

 

VERONICA LEBLANC, 37

Vice President and Office Manager, Sanibel Captiva Community Bank

Veronica LeBlanc is the vice presi­dent and office manager for Sanibel Captiva Community Bank’s Gateway office. As she is responsible for the bank’s business development, her focus is on the community.

“To me, exceptional customer service is the best way to establish and maintain strong customer relationships,” she says. “I want to be actively involved in the Gateway community and help maintain a connection between the bank and the community.”

LeBlanc’s community connec­tion includes the annual SanCap Bank Fourth of July cookout, which brings hundreds of Gateway cus­tomers and community members together for food and fun. She is also the treasurer for the Kiwanis Club of Fort Myers/Gateway, a member of the Local Chapters of Business Women, a SWFL Hispanic Chamber of Commerce board mem­ber, and a member of the Entrepre­neur Society of America.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Life has its share of ups and downs. It’s not about how many times you fall, it’s about how many times you get up and move forward that counts.

 

 

CHRISTOPHER J. SMITH, 38

Managing Partner, Goldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice & Purtz, P.A.

Christopher J. Smith was born and raised in Akron, Ohio, and attended St. Thomas University School of Law in Miami. He joined Goldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice & Purtz, P.A. after passing the bar in 2007 and was named a partner with the firm in 2011.

“I work as a trial attorney for personal injury cases,” he says. “I’ve also been admitted to practice in front of all of the state courts of Florida, as well as the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida.”

In addition to his trial work, Smith is the firm’s team leader for the Southwest Florida Mothers Against Drunk Driving annual 5K walk and run, which helps to support MADD’s goal of ending drunk driving.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

My dad instilled in me that hard work will always get you where you need to be.

 

MARIE HERNANDEZ RUBENSTEIN, 39

Advancement and Events Manager, The Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples

Though she spent the first 10 years of her career in wealth management and private banking, Marie Hernan­dez Rubenstein now serves as the advancement and events manager at Children’s Museum of Naples (C’mon). While currently coordinating the mu­seum’s Annual Fund campaign and its yearly Night at the Museum fundraiser, Rubenstein says her for-profit back­ground continues to be a big influence on her nonprofit work.

“As a complement to my professional role, I also work as a committee mem­ber for The Conservancy of Southwest Florida, The STARability Foundation and The Naples Therapeutic Riding Center,” she says. “In addition, I chaired the 2019 American Cancer Society’s Cattle Baron’s Ball in Lee County.”

Rubenstein also serves as a local advocate for autism and has written several articles about autism for par­ents in the Southwest Florida area.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

The best piece of advice I have ever been given was “Welcome to Hol­land.” At one of the most challenging moments of my life, my former boss at the time handed me the poem and it truly inspired me to embrace the new chapters of my life.

 

JACEY LEE, 31

Owner and Founder, J. Lee Salon Suites and Salon Dajay

Jacey Lee, owner and founder of Salon Dajay and J. Lee Salon Suites, plans to open a third salon facility in Southwest Florida soon, as her passion for her business is only growing stronger.

“I have always strived to make sure the work I am in is something I truly care about and can put my heart and soul into,” she says. “Through the creation of my com­panies, I have made the opportunity for myself and my team to make a significant difference in the lives of those in the beauty industry.”

Lee’s daily responsibilities include oversight of all her business operations as well as implementing systems to streamline the process. Plus, she’s always researching opportunities for her company to expand further.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Do what you love. It sounds sim­ple enough, but finding what you love and working toward making sure it is the environment you are surrounded by in your work can be difficult to come across.

 

 

SARAH ECCLES-BROWN, 37

Ophthalmologist, Elmquist Eye Group

A board-certified ophthalmologist and partner at Elmquist Eye Group, Dr. Sarah Eccles-Brown is the practice’s lead surgeon, responsi­ble for premium cataract surgery, eyelid surgery, in-office procedures and multiple minimally invasive glaucoma surgeries. However, while she holds two degrees from Florida State University and a doctorate from New York Medical College, her time in the U.S. Air Force was also important to her career.

“I completed my Ophthalmology Residency Training at Wilford Hall Medical Center and San Antonio Military Medical Center, and I served as a major stationed at Eglin Air Force Base, treating active duty, retired and dependent patients as a comprehensive ophthalmologist,” she says. “Today, I am one of three U.S. military veterans leading Elm­quist Eye Group.”

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

My dad taught me the importance of having a strong work ethic and to avoid debt as much as possible. To this day, this has been the most valuable advice I’ve been given.

 

CONNOR FIRMENDER, 23

Co-Founder and CEO, Fieldr

While attending Florida Gulf Coast University’s School of Entrepreneur­ship, Connor Firmender launched two startups. While building those enter­prises, Firmender also developed and grew a social startup, WearTheFund, where he managed a sales portfolio of over $1 million and more than 65 nonprofit partners. His latest venture has been the launch of his software solution, Fieldr.

“Fieldr is a web-based software solution delivering career oppor­tunities to students and emerging talent to employers,” he says. “The focus is on bridging the gap in com­munication and career readiness between users through experiential learning and job opportunities.”

When not at work, Firmender sits on the Legacy Leadership Forum, FutureMakers Coalition of SWFL, Career Advisory Board for Lee County High Schools. He also mentors for Collier County Public Schools’ NAF Academy, is a facili­tator for LeaderShape, and he is an Education Ambassador for Junior Achievement.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” -T.S. Eliot. And, as I always repeat to myself and others, “Live with purpose, love with passion.”

 

KRISTINE SMALE, 39

Senior Vice President, Meyers Research

Working for Meyers Research, a real estate advising firm providing market trends and data, Kristine Smale leads the advisory team in Florida. Using her background in commercial real estate, she provides custom consulting studies and strategic advice to clients. But she also puts her experience to work outside the office.

“I’m very active in the Urban Land Institute and served as the first chair of the Women’s Leader­ship Initiative in Southwest Florida,” she says. “Currently, I’m the chair of the ULI Florida Community Housing and Development Product Council and serve on the Southwest Florida Executive Committee.”

Smale also spent four years on the board for the Local Planning Agency for Lee County. In addition, she held leadership roles with the Junior League of Fort Myers and volunteered with the Naples Hu­mane Society.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

“A job worth doing is worth doing right.” -From my grandfa­ther, stressing the importance of a strong work ethic.

 

 

ROB EDWARDS, 34

First Vice President-Invest­ments PIM Portfolio Manager, Edwards Group of Wells Fargo Advisors

Rob Edwards began his career in late 2008, during the depths of the financial crisis. While working for a single-family office at the time, he was responsible for all publicly traded equity, fixed income and derivative investments, and the experience helped forge his long­-term investment strategy.

“The experiences and knowledge I acquired during that time are paramount to how I think about investment management and plan­ning today,” he says. “Since then, I’ve lived through many different market cycles. Although cycles are different, they tend to share certain characteristics, particularly in the way people think and react during bull and bear markets.”

In addition to his work, Edwards also serves on the board of direc­tors at the David Lawrence Center, the leading mental health provider in Collier County.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

“It is never different this time.” Although market cycles are dif­ferent, they tend to share certain characteristics-particularly in the way people think and react during bull and bear markets.

 

ALYSSA HANEY, 33

Marketing Specialist/Assistant Vice President, First Florida Integrity Bank

As the marketing specialist and an assistant vice president of First Florida Integrity Bank, Alyssa Haney, CFMP, coordinates the bank’s com­munications, marketing campaigns, sponsorships and donations. She also oversees the organization of First Florida Integrity Bank’s Annual Charity Golf Tournament, which raises more than $100,000 annually for local children’s charities. Her philanthropic work extends into her personal life, as well.

“Currently, I serve as the exec­utive vice president of The Naples Players’ (TNP) board of directors. In 2019, I co-chaired TNP’s 65th Anniversary Sapphire Soiree, which raised over $1.3 million,” she says. “I also serve as president of the Unit­ed Arts Council of Collier County and as secretary of FNBGC Charitable Foundation Inc.”

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Don’t accept the things you cannot change-change the things you cannot accept.

 

JOSEPH WELSH, 34

Financial Planner, Coastal Wealth

Joseph Welsh is a financial planner with Coastal Wealth. However, it’s his background in the military, en­gineering and corporate manage­ment that he believes helps him be better prepared to relate complex financial strategies that some clients may find daunting.

“I believe that financial literacy is a pillar to achieving success in any profession and, without it, we’re putting stress on our current and future economy,” he says. “My goal with every client is to develop innovative strategies to efficiently accomplish their personal, profes­sional and financial goals.”

To help increase financial literacy in his own community, Welsh also works with organizations such as Junior Achievement to pass his knowledge on to people of all ages.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Good enough is not acceptable. Do it right or do it again.

 

 

DORA KNUTESON, 38
Artist, Dora Knuteson Art

Dora Knuteson is an artist special­izing in tropical, floral and coastal themes. Her work, she says, is characterized by its lively brush­work and joyful color.

“I have a background in graphic design and illustration, and began painting as a hobby shortly after relocating to Florida,” she says. “It didn’t take long to realize that my style seemed to resonate with people and, after my first glowing testimonial from a new collector, I knew that I had found my calling.”

A lifelong love of animals also inspired Knuteson’s dedication to environmental conservation. She proudly supports protection of local wildlife by donating proceeds from artwork collections, most recently partnering with Friends of Rookery Bay as its Featured Artist of the Year. 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

If it excites you and scares you at the same time, you should probably go for it! It’s OK to make mistakes. If you’re never failing at anything, it means you’re not really trying!

 

AUSTIN BELL, 35

Curator of Collections, Marco Island Historical Society

As the curator of collections at the Marco Island Historical Society, Austin Bell’s exhibitions have consistently been recognized for excellence by both the Florida Association of Museums and the Southeastern Museums Confer­ence. But working in a museum wasn’t always in his plans.

“After I was laid off from my job as an archaeologist due to the 2008 economic downturn, Dr. Karen Walker suggested I pursue a career in museum studies,” he says. “In 2019, I oversaw the return home of Marco Island’s world-famous Key Marco Cat, an archaeological arti­fact on loan from the Smithsonian Institution.”

In addition to his exhibition honors, Bell received an appointment as a consulting scholar to the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadel­phia. He serves on several nonprofit boards, including the Collier County Historic Preservation Board.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Pursue a career in museum studies.

 

LUCA HICKMAN, 31

Patent Attorney Henderson, Franklin, Starnes & Holt, P.A.

Luca Hickman is a registered U.S. patent attorney and a Canadian foreign trademark agent at Hender­son, Franklin, Starnes & Holt, P.A. in Fort Myers. Though he holds a Juris Doctorate from the Ave Maria School of Law, it’s his undergradu­ate degrees in electrical engineer­ing that play a big role in his work.

“With a scientific background, I feel I’m better able to understand the unique technical and legal chal­lenges my clients face,” he says. Tm able to use that knowledge to represent engineers, architects and other design professionals against design defect and professional liability claims.”

Hickman also works with inventors, artists and musicians in high-profile matters, including mergers and acquisitions involving publicly traded companies and celebrities.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Begin with the end in mind, i.e., all of one’s actions should be directed in view of one’s final goal­ – what Aristotle called the telos (in English, the “final cause”).

 

 

LANDON MULLINAX, 37

General Manager, Scotlynn USA

Landon Mullinax was born and raised in northern Alabama. After attend­ing Auburn University, he moved to Southwest Florida in 2010 and accepted a job with transportation and logistics provider Scotlynn USA. Now serving as the company’s gen­eral manager, Mullinax has made the most of his ground-floor opportunity.

“I was hired by Scotlynn USA in the company’s infancy, when we only employed six staff mem­bers,” he says. “Since then, I have directly witnessed the company’s growth from humble beginnings in a 1,400-square-foot room to over 200 employees spanning across four office spaces.”

When not at work, Mullinax also does volunteer work and competes in endurance racing.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Leadership is remembering that your peers are in your care and not at your service.

 

ALLISON MURRELL, 30

CIO and President, Quality Enterprises/Earth View

Allison Murrell is the CIO of Quality Enterprises USA Inc. (QE), her fam­ily’s large, heavy civil construction company. And she also serves as president of QE’s sister company, Earth View LLC (EV), which provides horizontal directional drilling (HDD).

“I have a leadership position with my two younger siblings at QE and we are all driven to expand and take the company to the next level,” she says. “At EV, I oversaw a recent expansion to HDD, which helped us become one of the fastest-growing private companies in Florida.”

In addition to her busy work schedule, community involvement is also an important part of Mur­rell’s life. She volunteers at Youth Haven, where she chaired Party with a Purpose, and she teaches weekly Pure Barre classes.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

“Success is earned, not given.” While I strive to model my father’s business acumen and drive, my stepdad taught me from a young age that the key to success lies in goal setting and taking risks.

 

PAUL BEATTIE, 39

President and Owner, Beattie Development

Paul Beattie builds affordable, cus­tom and luxury homes from Naples to Tampa, handling every step in-­house. That commitment to quality was inspired by his grandfather, a Navy soldier who stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.

“As a boy, I would ride around town with him in his Cadillac, where his Navy hat was always on display,” he says. “My grandfather’s integrity is what spurred my desire to provide expert craftsmanship, superb customer care and attention to detail in every home, while also making a personal relationship with every client our highest priority.”

Beattie’s company has received multiple construction and design awards, notably several in 2019 for the “Arthur” model, which was named after his grandfather. He is also committed to many charitable causes, including pro-bono home repairs for veterans.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

“Do what you say you are going to do” and “never give up on your dreams.”

 

 

STEPHANIE HOFFMAN, 37

Director of Operations, Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida

Stephanie Hoffman is the director of operations for Junior Achieve­ment of Southwest Florida. In that role, she strives to strengthen existing relationships and cultivate new ones, to help sustain and generate healthy operating revenue for JASWFL.

“Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing students the skills and knowledge necessary for future economic success,” she says. “As director of operations, I provide support for JA staff and I’m responsible for event management, marketing and stra­tegic development assistance.”

Hoffman’s heart for the com­munity shines both personally and professionally. In addition to her role with JA, she is also program co-chair of the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce’s Women in Business Committee, which focuses on helping Southwest Florida women achieve their fullest potential.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

This, too, shall pass.

 

JENNIFER KHOSLA, 34

Founder, Lean and Green Body

As the founder of Lean and Green Body, Jennifer Khosla works as a mind-body wellness practitioner and a holistic nutrition specialist. Spe­cializing in yoga, holistic nutrition and personal training, Khosla says her ability to see each client — and each individual body — as unique is what has made her successful.

“Thanks to technology, I work with clients nationally, monitor their progress and train them while they travel,” she says. “I’ve been able to expand the company, and we now offer health and wellness events across the country.”

In addition to Lean and Green Body, in 2018, Khosla published her first book, Revitalize & Renew: 7 Days to a Healthier You. The book, she says, is an opportunity to share her knowledge, passion and excitement for nutrition and full­ body wellness with those around the world.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Always be authentically you. Listen to your intuition and never give up.

 

MICHAEL DELUCA, 34

Principal and Partner-in-Charge, HBK CPAs & Consultants

Michael Deluca began his career in Atlanta, working for two of the “Big Four” accounting firms, Ernst & Young and Deloitte. In 2011, he moved to Southwest Florida to work for HBK CPAs & Consultants, where he is now principal and partner-in-­charge of the firm’s Naples and Fort Myers offices.

“As national director of HBK Healthcare Solutions and a certified public accountant, I work exten­sively with closely held corpo­rations, partnerships, small- to middle-market businesses, large private corporations and individu­als, primarily within the health care industry,” he says. “But I also have a philanthropist’s heart and am driven to help create a multi-gen­eration, multi-industry economy in Southwest Florida.”

Deluca’s community involve­ment includes volunteer work with Friends of Foster Children Forever, Southwest Florida Children’s Char­ities, Naples Children & Education Foundation’s Friends of the Foun­dation and more.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

It comes by many names. Call it the Golden Rule, karma, “what goes around comes around.”

 

 

SARAH LANDMAN, 38

Senior Vice President, NewsBank

Having helped raised more than $500 million for nonprofits during her career, Sarah Landman now serves as the senior vice president of Insightful, powered by NewsBank Inc. Given her previous experience as a major gift officer and leader of two national fundraising consulting firms, she says Insightful could be a game-changer for nonprofits.

“Insightful is a new software that helps nonprofits know more about donors, prospects and the topics they care about,” she says. “The goal is to promote better philan­thropic engagement.”

In addition to her work with Insightful, Landman also writes and speaks on the topic of millennial philanthropy at regional and national meetings and conferences. She also serves on the board of Catholic Charities of Collier County.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Say what you mean and mean what you say.

 

KYLEN MORAN, 30

Senior Vice President of Investments, Moran Wealth Management

A fifth-generation Floridian, Kylen Moran returned to her hometown of Naples after graduating cum laude from Williams College and earning her MBA at Columbia Uni­versity. Now serving as senior vice president of Investments for Moran Wealth Management, she’s also invested in her own community.

“I have volunteered and helped raise money for the Naples Children & Education Foundation (NCEF) and helped establish NCEF’s Friends of the Foundation,” she says. “I also created and co-chaired their Friends of the Foundation inaugural event.”

Moran’s other philanthropic work includes serving as a member of the Naples Junior Women’s Club and the United Arts Council. She is also a Growing Associates in Naples (GAIN) 2014 member, is fluent in French and Italian, and is currently learning Spanish.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

It’s better to regret something you did, than something you didn’t do.

 

ROBYN MATONTI, 35

Dentist, Matonti Dental

A native Floridian, Dr. Robyn Matonti relocated to Naples in 2018. Drawn by the opportunity to acquire her own dental practice from a retiring doctor, Matonti dove straight into her new community.

“I oversaw an extensive reno­vation of the office to implement state-of-the-art dental technology and update the equipment,” she says. “As a local art fan, we have a constant rotation of works by Na­ples-based artists displayed on the walls throughout the practice.”

Matonti volunteers at the non­profit Panira Healthcare Clinic, which provides free and low-cost services to uninsured, low-income and unemployed residents throughout the Naples community. She also went on a humanitarian mission to the Dominican Republic to perform den­tal surgeries and place implants to restore function and health for those without access or funds for care.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

To have faith in myself. I have been faced with adversity in my life and have been able to overcome it. It’s the reason why I am grateful and why I give back to my community.

 

 

 

ALYSSA BARRY, 28

Founder, Alyssa’s Animal Sanctuary

A passionate animal enthusiast, Al­yssa Barry says her goal is to rescue and help as many abused, aban­doned and neglected farm animals as possible. To further that mission, she founded a nonprofit organization called Alyssa’s Animal Sanctuary.

“After surviving a heart attack at age 26, I thought, ‘Wouldn’t anyone start an animal sanctuary and spend their days rescuing animals if they could?”‘ she says. “I realized that having loads of startup money wasn’t as important as doing what you truly love every day.”

Born and raised in Naples, Barry wants to provide a positive space to experience a meaningful connection while teaching love and compassion for all animals. Her goal is to keep growing while getting the community more involved in her mission to save more animals in need.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

When I told my grandfather about my dream of starting a nonprofit animal sanctuary, he said, “Doing something you really love every day is so important and so many people forget that.” This seemed very fitting for me.

 

AMBER BARR, 28

Program Services Director, The lmmokalee Foundation

Amber Barr currently serves as program services director for The lmmokalee Foundation, oversee­ing career-based programs for middle and high school students, post-secondary advocacy programs, summer camps and elementary early-intervention literacy programs. That passion for education began early in her career.

“After graduating from college, I joined Teach for America and was placed as a teacher in the inner city of Indianapolis, teaching seventh grade writing in a turnaround school that had been taken over by the state for poor performance and extensive gang activity,” she says. “Through devotion, positive culture and high academic and social standards, it was gratifying to help transform that school.”

At The Immokalee Foundation, Barr develops new, career-based programs with the goal of providing pathways to success for the children of lmmoka­lee. Her purpose in life, she says, is to make a direct impact on students’ lives through education.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

My grandma told me, “You don’t need everyone’s approval to live your life. Your decisions are yours to make.” I live by this, and it reminds me that I control my own destiny.

 

NICOLE ALESSI, 37

Optometrist, Collins Vision

Dr. Nicole Alessi has always been driven to help others. While her career as an optometrist at Col­lins Vision lets her help people see and feel their best, it also allows her to give back.

“I travel to Mexico with the Lions Club of Caborca to assist in sight-restoring surgery for an underserved and impoverished population, while also treating diabetic retinopathy and dispensing hundreds of pairs of glasses to the local children,” she says. “The mo­ment patients can see for the first time in years is just magical.”

Closer to home, Alessi organized Zoom meetings for friends and neighbors who were quarantining alone during Florida’s “Safer at Home” order. She also made masks for Golisano Children’s Hospital and assisted the United Way with various PPE projects.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Always lead with gratitude. I sincerely believe in the sentiment that says, “Gratitude reshapes your view of the past, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

 

 

JOSHUA DORCEY, 38

Founder and Managing Partner, Dorcey Law Firm

Joshua O. Dorcey founded the Dorcey Law Firm in 2007 and is the firm’s managing partner. Though he’s licensed to practice law in both Florida and Alabama — focusing on estate planning and transactional law — Dorcey says he finds his guid­ing principles closer to home.

“My family homesteaded here in 1913, and I am the fourth genera­tion of my family living in Lee Coun­ty,” he says. “The values handed down to me from my parents have guided me as I’ve assembled my team of professionals to serve the clients of the Dorcey Law Firm.”

Something Dorcey holds dear to his heart is philanthropy in the local community. He volunteers his time and resources to help those charities that benefit the children of Southwest Florida.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

No matter what you find yourself doing, strive to be the best, but don’t forget that you can’t get there on your own. You will only be as good as your team, so when picking your team don’t get lost in acco­lades, previous job titles, levels of education or what school someone attended.

 

TRISHA BOTTY, 37

Head of Social Impact and Connectivity, Southwest Florida Community Foundation, Collaboratory

In her role as head of social impact and connectivity at Collaboratory, Trisha Botty leads, develops and implements strategy for social impact and connectivity programs. And, while her responsibilities may be vast, Botty has the background to match.

“I have worked in government and community relations, social impact and grantmaking, com­munications, organizing, program management and advocacy,” she says. “I believe in working toward creating impact and change.”

Prior to joining Collaboratory, Batty served as regional director of intergovernmental affairs at the New York State Attorney General’s Office, where she worked directly with elected officials and com­munity leaders and was a liaison between the office and 18 counties. She also worked in the Washington, D.C. area for a labor association and for a nonprofit where she managed consumer education programs.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” -Maya Angelou

 

VANESSA M. CHAVIANO, 36

Founder & CEO, LIV Digital Marketing

As the founder and CEO of LIV Digital Marketing, a full-service marketing and advertising agency, Vanessa M. Chaviano brings more than 15 years of experience in marketing and business operations to her business. And she brings that same commitment to serving her local community.

“I founded a nonprofit organi­zation, Leading Latina, to advance and promote the personal/profes­sional growth and leadership of our members and women within the Hispanic community,” she says. “The organization’s goal this year is to raise funds to provide two scholarships to local high school graduates in the spring.”

Chaviano is a graduate of Florida Gulf Coast University, where she earned a dual bachelor’s degree followed by a master’s degree in criminal forensics. She later returned to Ashford University to receive her MBA.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

You can take a seat at the table and be yourself. You don’t have to “play the game” to get ahead in life. It’s important to stay true to who you are. The right connections will be made, and the right doors will open in their time.

 

 

PRESTON J. SCHEINER, 38

Trial Attorney, Associates & Bruce L. Scheiner

P.J. Scheiner practices law with his father at Associates & Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured. And, though he’s been practicing law since 2007, it’s advice from his father that has always guided his legal approach.

“My father often told me of a local legal legend named Jimmy Franklin, who could walk into a courtroom, tell the judge what the law was, and — without even reading the case establishing the law or precedent — the court would usually accept his representation and rule accordingly,” he says. “My father’s advice was to earn the respect of the local bar and judiciary so that ­like — Jimmy Franklin — when I made a representation in the courtroom, no one would ever have reason to question or doubt its accuracy, integrity or veracity.”

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

The advice that accompanied the story of Jimmy Franklin was always the same: A reputation takes a lifetime to build and only a moment to destroy.

 

JAIMIE MILLER, 32

Vice President of Marketing, CONRIC pr + marketing

After graduating from FGCU, Jaimie Miller, APR, has worked in the com­munications field her entire career. Now serving as the vice president of marketing at CONRIC pr + marketing, Miller says public relations and marketing isn’t just her job, but her passion.

“I have worked with multiple industries, including hospitality, medical and publishing,” she says. “Today, I work with a variety of clients in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors to develop cre­ative marketing and public relations strategies and campaigns.”

Miller currently serves in leader­ship roles for the Florida Public Re­lations Association and the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce’s Women in Business Committee. She also volunteers as a United Way Reading Pal, and as a guest lecturer on marketing best practices for the Goodwill Microenterprise classes to help individuals launch their new businesses.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Knowledge is a gift you can give that can never be taken away.

 

CALLI JOHNSON, 29

Wine Steward, Bailey’s General Store

While Calli Johnson is best known as the wine steward and fourth-generation owner-operator of Bailey’s General Store, her work actually takes her all over Sanibel Island. In fact, finding the perfect bottle of wine for her customers is just a small part of her duties over­seeing the Bailey’s General Store family of companies.

“I work alongside a diverse team of staff to serve guests at Island Cinema, the Island Store on Captiva, Bailey’s Marketplace at Sundial Resort & Spa and Bailey’s Center,” she says. “I also enjoy serving on several nonprofit boards, including the Sanibel Captiva Islands Cham­ber of Commerce and the United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades and Okeechobee Counties.”

When not working, Johnson also teaches scuba diving as the dive safety officer at Florida Gulf Coast University.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Feedback is a gift. Someone invested their time in telling you how you can do better because they care.

 

BRITTNI BROWN-COOPER, 28

Community Development Manager, American Cancer Society

Brittni Brown-Cooper serves as a community development manager for the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer of Southwest Florida. That position, she says, makes her part of a worldwide fight.

“We are the only global nonprofit organization attacking cancer from every angle,” Brown-Cooper says. “My passion is to honor and cele­brate those touched by this awful disease, while raising funds needed to end it.”

In addition to her work, Brown-Cooper is pursuing her edu­cational goals as she works on her dissertation as a doctoral candidate in international business administra­tion. She also enjoys volunteering for a variety of organizations.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Not everyone is going to like, appreciate or be kind to you, but there will always be a gap for the light to enter. There will always be a positive and means for change … because we are human. “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” -Maya Angelou

 

BRIAN HERRICK, 37

Relationship Manager, Key Private Bank

With a degree in leadership and management and an MBA in finan­cial planning, Brian Herrick is a Cer­tified Wealth Strategist (CWS®) who serves as a relationship manager at Key Private Bank. For Herrick, however, his college education is only part of his background.

“My goal is to ensure my clients articulate and achieve their per­sonal and financial goals,” he says. “But, I am also a veteran and I be­lieve in giving back to the commu­nity through talent and treasure.”

Herrick is a 2015 graduate of the Associate Leadership Collier program, a past vice chair 2017 and past chair 2018. In 2016, he joined the board of the Leadership Collier Foundation and became a founding member of the Emerging Leadership Council.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

“Always have one hand secure the ship and one hand secure your­self.” A friend and mentor told me this to remind me that you need to balance work and life.

 

Photography: Brian Tietz | Hair and Makeup: Dani Taverna