A SALUTE TO SOUTHWEST FLORIDA’S RISING STARS.
As Southwest Florida continues to grow and prosper, keeping the momentum alive will be dependent on future generations of talented professionals who will not only provide the vision, but also meet challenges and solve problems as they arise.
Since 2003, Gulfshore Business has recognized young leaders who have distinguished themselves on the job and in their communities. And many of these individuals have made significant contributions to the region’s economic, charitable and civic wellbeing.
Once again, we are pleased to acknowledge 40 rising stars, under 40 years old, from a variety of occupations, including law, education, medical, finance, public service and the arts, as well as entrepreneurs.
Chosen from dozens of nominations, this year’s winners represent the leadership our region needs to move forward. The judges considered professional accomplishments, volunteer work and other plaudits from their nominators. With all of the talent represented, there were some tough decisions, but we finally selected our final 40. Please read on to learn more about the 2015, 40-under-40 honorees.
Amanda Avila, 34
Physician/Neurologist, TeleSpecialists LLC and Virtual Neurology LLC; Florida Neurology Group
Avila hasn’t turned a blind eye to the looming doctor shortage in Southwest Florida. She’s chosen to face the issue head-on by cofounding two telemedicine companies in Fort Myers.
“Our company is working to solve the physician shortage crisis. By being available via teleconference, we can provide physician services to multiple hospitals otherwise too small or too remote to provide emergency neurological care,” she says.
She started practicing medicine in Southwest Florida in 2012 at Florida Neurology Group and specialized in Parkinson’s disease and movement disorders. Avila sees medicine as an ever-evolving practice that she must adapt to in order to best suit client needs.
Avila volunteers as the medical director of Hope HealthCare Services’ Hope Parkinson’s Program and writes a column in its newsletter on the disorder. She also lectures patients and caregivers on Parkinson’s.
Off the clock: Avila soaks up the outdoors with her husband, a native Floridian, and two children.
Derrick Ayers, 39
CFO and Senior Vice President, Fifth Third Bank—South Florida
Ayers is a relative newcomer to the Naples area, having moved here in 2012. But he’s already made a wealth of impact through his professional position and outside affiliations.
He oversees the efforts and growth of more than 60 financial centers and 500 employees along two coasts and helped recover the South Florida market after an economic downtown that occurred a few years prior to his arrival.
“We established a strategic plan that would return us to profitability and lead us to sustainable positive results,” he says. Within his second year on the job, the market regained lucrativeness.
Ayers sits on the board of directors and several committees of the Naples Chamber of Commerce and Partnership for Collier’s Future Economy (Opportunity Naples). He’s a covenant member at his church and champions Fifth Third’s food drive and back to school supply drive. He has four children—Dylan, Nathan, Jaden and Haley—with his wife, Heather.
Susan Battaglia, 30
Corporate Sales Manager, Norman Love Confections
Anyone who’s attended a networking or charity event in the area has likely bumped elbows with Battaglia. As corporate sales manager of Norman Love Confections, she’s commonly securing connections within the community and helping with philanthropic outreach through donations and charitable events.
She broke into the food service industry as a hostess for Ruth’s Chris Steak House in 2006 and was promoted to sales and catering manager before landing the position with the family-owned chocolate and dessert producer. She credits her success to a positive attitude and willingness to learn. “The hardest lessons promote growth,” she says.
Battaglia is a member of the president’s council of Make-A-Wish Foundation and Naples Junior Woman’s Club, and is on the American Cancer Society’s Cattle Baron’s Ball and Ronald McDonald House Storybook Ball committees. She enjoys all things culinary and recently took a generational trip to Italy with her grandmother and mother. When she’s home, she’s enjoying the company of her black lab, Dexter.
Reema Bhatia, 34
Cofounder and CTO, Stickboy Creative; CTO, Jet's Pizza
Technology is fast-paced and ever changing, but Bhatia makes it easier for companies to keep up. She cofounded Stickboy Creative with her husband in 2007 and has developed it into a software and web applications firm for businesses. As CTO of Stickboy, Bhatia plans and implements software applications for small to large companies.
Bhatia and her team strive to stay on top of the latest technologies to “innovate as much as we can during all client projects,” she says. “Keeping a culture of learning alive in our team makes it exciting to go into work every day.”
Bhatia also serves as the CTO of Jet's Pizza, where she oversees nationwide-wide technology efforts for some 400 Jet's franchise locations.
She received the Innovention Award from the Southwest Florida Regional Technology Partnership in 2014 for product-customization web app Vectra, and two Sand Dollar awards for website design and development in 2010 and 2011.
When Bhatia is not researching new technologies, she’s traveling with her husband, Matt Bernhardt, and caring for her cat, Sammie. She maintains a close relationship with her sister, who lives in Connecticut, and parents, who live in India.
Ryan Binkowski, 37
Vice President, Waldrop Engineering, P.A.
One could say building runs through Binkowski’s blood. Since joining Waldrop Engineering in 2009, he’s not only built a successful career for himself, but also for his staff. In his previous role as director of planning and landscape architecture, Binkowski expanded the department from one employee in its Bonita Springs office to more than 20 in three Waldrop locations. In just five years, he helped expand the company overall from 10 staff members to more than 50.
“Our approach is to be successful in what we do first and have fun doing it,” he says. “This, along with some creative vision, will lead anyone to success,”
He’s a member of change-centric committees such as the Estero Planning and Zoning Board, Estero Design Review Committee, the Florida Association of Community Developers and Urban Land Institute. Binkowski serves as president and founder of the Everglades Brewers Guild and is an avid home brewer. He and his wife, Katie, have a 1-year-old daughter named Abigail Rose.
Mila Bridger, 37
Photographer, Mila Bridger Photography
Bridger’s creativity dazzles among the Southwest Florida art scene. The Poland-native’s portrait-style photos blend fantasy and reality with bursts of saturation and energy. She describes her work as “vivid,” “colorful” and even “twisted,” and her biggest challenge has been staying true to herself and her abilities in a creative field fueled by constant critics. “I believe I am creative and I stay true to my vision and beliefs,” she says.
She’s shot local restaurateurs, entrepreneurs, musicians, designers and more, and her work has been recognized both nationally and internationally. Bridger has extended her community involvement through the Naples Winter Wine Festival, humane societies, The Heights Foundation and donations to various charitable auctions. When she's not snapping photos, she loves to travel and is involved in rescuing cats. She’s adopted three of her own.
Amanda Brock, 35
Attorney, Henderson, Franklin Starnes & Holt P.A.
As an attorney focusing on administrative law, Brock regularly handles issues on environmental compliance, zoning, development approvals, property tax appeals and hazardous waste site remediation. She has represented clients before local, state and federal agencies and has been recognized as a Florida Super Lawyers Rising Star every year since 2009.
Brock is affiliated with the Real Estate Investment Society, Take Stock in Children Program (Foundation for Lee County Public Schools), Environmental and Land Use Section of the Florida Bar and Lee County Conservation Land Acquisition and Stewardship Advisory Committee.
Staying involved in area happenings is important to Brock. “Not only will you learn more about the world around you through your service, you will also meet amazing people who may shape the way you see the world and send you down a new path,” she says.
At home, she raises her two boys, Lucas, 5, and Gabriel, 2, with her husband (and 40-under-40 alumnus) Luis Rivera. She’s also into traveling and yoga.
Louis Bruno, 26
President, Bruno Air
One of the youngest 40-under-40 honorees this year, Bruno can already check successful business owner off his list of accomplishments. He started Bruno Air at the age of 24 and closed his first year with $2.5 million in sales. The next year, Bruno Air concluded with $12.5 million.
He wasn’t the first to develop an air conditioning company in the area, but he has differentiated himself with his products and approach to hiring. His first set of employees, who now hold executive positions at Bruno Air, were plucked from the hospitality and fine dining industry, where exceptional customer service skills are a must.
He also introduced the Louis Bruno Signature Series unit, a specially designed air conditioner for Southwest Florida. Manufacturers were skeptical of the product idea at first, but Bruno thrived on the challenge and persisted.
“We addressed the problem, persevered and made it happen,” he recalls. Today, the air conditioner comes insured and is made to last up to 20 years.
Prior to founding the company, Bruno was on his way to becoming a professional baseball player with scholarships lined up. After suffering an injury, he decided to skip college and threw himself into the business-world instead. Bruno was recently named 2016 Collier County March of Dimes chairman and is a graduate of Leadership Collier’s Growing Associates in Naples. He and his wife, Rachel, recently welcomed a son.
Charles Chapman IV, 35
County Administrator, Hendry County Board of County Commissioners
Chapman left a cozy, comfortable life in Tallahassee to come to Southwest Florida in 2013. “The challenge and the transition of relocating to a completely different part of our state and to take on a CEO position in county government presented me with not just one challenge, but a roulette wheel of transitional moments,” he says.
But he’s accomplished a great deal to make his mark on the community he now calls home. He is a founding member of the LaBelle-Hendry Special Needs Therapy Program and is affiliated with the STUCK Adoption Awareness Campaign, the external relations council with Florida Gulf Coast University and the Florida Model Jail Standards Commission.
In 2014, he earned the National Association of Counties Achievement Award for Information Technology Enhancements.
The bold business move taught him something valuable: “Don't be afraid to take risks. You may fail, but a life that takes risks might just find you discovering the greatest ride of your life,” he says.
Chapman has three children—Tyler, Addison and Caleb—with his wife, Karyn. He is a homeschool parent (he was also homeschooled as a child) and enjoys camping and spending weekends at the beach.
Marc Devisse, 32
Owner, Tri-Town Construction LLC
Devisse began building his own business shortly after graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in marketing from Florida Gulf Coast University. A fallen economy made it difficult for Devisse to find work in the contracting and building industry, so in 2006, at the ripe old age of 23, he took matters into his own hands.
Tri-Town Construction started as a one-truck, one-man operation and in less than a decade has grown to more than 15 employees and six trucks running out of an office in Fort Myers.
Devisse started the company at a low point in the economy. “We learned to keep overhead down and grow with the market. Many companies failed and closed during those times, but through perseverance we prevailed,” he says.
Today, Tri-Town is regarded as a high-end and environmentally conscious company. It also supports “Made in the USA” products.
Devisse is involved in charitable organizations such as Liberty Youth Ranch, Make-A-Wish Foundation, The Passion Foundation and Habitat for Humanity. He also started a charity golf tournament six years ago. He and his 6-year-old son like to keep up with local sports.
Bill Dillon, 35
Attorney/Shareholder, Buchanan, Ingersoll, & Rooney PC.
Dillon is one of the youngest shareholders at Buchanan, Ingersoll, & Rooney and has been recognized as a Florida Super Lawyers Rising Star for the last five years. He focuses his practice on business, healthcare and real estate litigation, and has represented national banks, health care providers, medical equipment suppliers, churches, publicly traded companies and more in and out of court. Dillon serves as a member of the firm’s Legal Recruiting Committee and regularly mentors associates within the office. He is an active member of the American Health Lawyers Association and a graduate of Leadership Lee County.
Dillon also helps fight hunger as secretary of the Harry Chapin Food Bank’s board of directors. “I have worked hard to further the food bank’s mission to overcome hunger in Collier, Charlotte, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties, through education and by working in a cooperative effort with 150 affiliated agencies that provide direct services to those in need,” Dillon says.
In his spare time, when he’s not cheering on the Florida Gators (he attended the University of Florida for both undergraduate and law school), he’s golfing or boating. He lives in Naples with his wife, Kim and dog, Mattie.
Jacqueline “Jackie” Drake, 34
Interior Designer/Owner, Jacqueline Drake Interiors; Consultant, Andrea Clark Brown Architects, P.A.
Drake has been described by colleagues as a jack of all trades and a master of interior design and project management.
“She is a remarkable technical researcher, an amazingly generous volunteer to both charitable and community activities and also to the support of those firms with whom she has either been fully employed or acted as a consultant on their behalf,” says Andrea Clark Brown, whose company Drake consults with.
Drake currently serves as the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) South Florida Chapter’s youngest president, where she has been a member since 1998. She’s received numerous certificates of appreciation from ASID and recently earned an Outstanding Service in Advocacy Award from the International Interior Design Association South Florida Chapter, where she is also a member.
Drake volunteered as a big sister in the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of the Sun Coast for three years. While attending an Everblades Hockey game with her “little,” she met a fellow BBBS volunteer, also with the child he was mentoring. The pair eventually married and together they have a 4-year-old daughter.
Wade Gingerich, 37
Veterinarian/Owner, Pet Dental Center
Gingerich is one of an estimated 130 worldwide diplomats of the American Veterinary Dental College, where he served for three years on its exam committee. He began practicing in Bonita Springs in February 2013 and currently serves as the only full-time board-certified veterinary dentist in Southwest Florida. Recently, he expanded his business to a second location in Ft. Lauderdale.
Gingerich extends his deep commitment to animals through outside endeavors. He is the president of the Collier County Veterinary Society, donates services to the Octagon Wildlife Sanctuary and the Miami Zoo, and supports the Animal Refuge Center and Freedom Waters Foundation’s fishing program. He has also worked with the Collier and Lee County Sheriff’s Office k-9 units and assists with externship programs for the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine and Heritage Technical Institute of Fort Myers.
The native Floridian grew up in Punta Gorda and often takes to the outdoors in his spare time. His father was also a veterinarian.
Rochelle Graham-Campbell, 28
CEO and Cofounder, Alikay Naturals
Graham-Campbell seeks to empower women and make them feel beautiful in their own skin. Coined as a “beauty pioneer” by Essence Magazine, she cofounded Alikay Naturals with her husband and grandparents to bring natural and organic hair and skin care products to the masses.
“Taking our company from an at-home business to owning our own manufacturing plant was a major challenge,” Graham-Campbell recalls of her beginnings. But patience paid off. The award-winning brand has received praise from entities such as naturallycurly.com and Jones Magazine, and is available nationally and internationally. Major retailers including Target and Sally’s Beauty Supply also carry the products.
Beyond the beauty realm, Graham-Campbell cofounded the RISE Women Empowerment Tour, which allows accomplished CEOs and professionals to meet and share advice with female entrepreneurs and small business owners. For the past five years, she’s also worked as a volunteer with The Community Cooperative Ministries in Lee County. Graham-Campbell is a video blogger with more than 100,000 subscribers, and she enjoys arts and crafts. She has a 3-year-old son with her husband.
Kevin Greenwell, 36
Agency Principal, East & Greenwell Insurance
Greenwell and his partner started East & Greenwell Insurance in 2012 with just one full-time employee. The Estero-based firm has since grown to 11 staff members and is expanding to a new office in the Pavilion Shopping Center in Naples.
“Since customer service is our priority, we have invested in more people than what is typical for insurance agencies our size,” Greenwell says. The agency was recently named to Allstate Corp.’s Inner Circle Elite, an award bestowed upon only 3 percent of Allstate agencies in the country.
Greenwell is passionate about keeping the community safe. He suffered a serious auto accident in 2003 that left him with short-term memory issues and now helps educate parents and teens on driving laws. In 2013, he brought an Allstate virtual reality-driving simulator to North Fort Myers High School to teach students firsthand about dangers of texting and driving. He’s also worked with Volunteer Collier, Collex Wheels of Hope, United Way and more.
He’s a Florida Gators fan and lives with his wife, Robyn, and two daughters, Addyson and Emersyn.
Jared Grifoni, 32
Corporate Counsel, Gulf Coast Donuts LLC d/b/a Dunkin’ Donuts; Radio Host, Resistance Radio (98.9 FM WGUF)
Grifoni is heavily involved in the local and statewide political scene. He cofounded the Libertarian Party of Collier County in 2011 and currently serves as its chairman. He also served as director-at-large for the Libertarian Party of Florida from 2013-15 and delivered the 2013 Libertarian Party of Florida State Convention in Naples. In his roles, Grifoni has assisted in drafting and passing several resolutions with county commissioners and councilmembers, including a resolution to protect the Second Amendment and to restore local control and home rule in education.
For the last three years, Grifoni has hosted a political talk show that discusses local, state and federal issues. He’s a returning guest host for the Dave Elliott Show—broadcasted on the same channel—and has been interviewed by various media outlets over the years. Grifoni passed the Florida Bar in 2008 and that same year acquired the Dunkin’ Donuts franchise in Collier County. He’s helped it grow to 18 locations across five counties.
Grifoni met his fiancée, Elsa Martinez, in 2012 while collaborating on several political campaigns. When they aren’t working on issue advocacy, they watch soccer, cook, and attend operas, reggae festivals and other concerts.
Andrew M. Gross, 38
Physician, Orthopedic Center of Florida
Some young physicians might say their biggest challenge so far has been completing medical school and residency. For Gross, it was growing up in a rough area of Philadelphia. “There were a lot of bad influences and barriers to success,” he recalls.
As a teen he struggled with the loss of loved ones, including a friend who died in front of him from a stray bullet in a drive-by shooting targeting someone else. Gross’s family helped him persevere.
“My father and mother worked very hard to provide me with a great early education and sacrificed to teach me that hard work and treating everyone with dignity and respect was of the utmost importance,” he says.
Gross is still learning—from his family, patients, staff and overall practice—and there’s one lesson that stands out to him most.
“You have to always expect the unexpected and the two words that do not apply in medicine are ‘always’ and ‘never,’” he says.
Gross has helped underprivileged youth and been involved in medical missions in and out of the country. He has been published in medical journals and also supports animal charities, such as Pearls for Paws. Gross lives with his wife, Gina, and pug, Pan.
Brian Hamman, 34
Chairman, Lee County Board of County Commissioners
In 2013, Gov. Rick Scott appointed a 32-year-old Hamman to serve out the remainder of commissioner Tammy Hall’s term. One year later, he was elected with more than 62 percent of votes to a four-year term for District 4. Commissioners unanimously voted for Hamman to serve as chairman shortly after. He became one of the youngest members to be elected, but age did not dictate his actions. Hamman has led the board through issues such as reduction in impact fees and potential land development liabilities. He’s also helped Lee County obtain a balanced budget with a healthy reserve fund—without raising the county’s millage rate.
Earlier this year, the Florida Gulf Coast University graduate earned an Alumnus of Distinction award. He’s on the board of directors of the United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades and Okeechobee counties and is a past YMCA board member.
Hamman and his wife, Rebecca, reside in Cape Coral with their 4-year-old daughter, Kaityn. The family often volunteers at Crosspoint Christian church.
Bethany Jameson, 34
Studio Manager, Orangetheory Fitness
Jameson went from an intern at Naples Community Hospital (NCH) to director in just over six years before joining the Greater Naples YMCA as director of wellness. This year she became studio manager of Orangetheory Fitness in Naples.
“Being a director of wellness is a unique specialty, as you have to be able to speak all areas of health and wellness—from working with companies to help them find solutions … to being able to teach classes and personal train clients to [understanding] the back-end of running the business,” she says.
In her various capacities, Jameson has been a guest speaker at the Neighborhood Health Clinic, participated in NCH’s community events (such as Relay for Life and the Heart Ball) and helped the YMCA expand with its new location and staff.
She is a volunteer bugler with Bugles Across America and Guns and Hoses Pipes and Drums of Southwest Florida. She also helps with drowning prevention and breastfeeding programs with the Safe and Healthy Children’s Coalition of Collier County.
Off the clock: Jameson owns two trumpets and two bugles and enjoys celebrating American pride. She lives with her husband, Ryan, his son, Austin, and their two boys, Tyler and Derek.
Nia Joseph, 33
Vice President, Simplified Technologies; Creative Director, Indigo Designs
Joseph moved from Indonesia to Southwest Florida at the age of 16 and began working at her family’s marketing and print services business. Her early experience came in handy for her current role as vice president of Simplified Technologies, where she provides marketing, advertising and sales direction to the staff. Joseph recently embarked on a new business venture—Indigo Designs—offering graphic design services.
“I used to be very paranoid about taking risk and possible failure,” she says. “I learned that failure is a part of growing up and it adds to your character and experiences.”
Joseph serves as the vice president of Business Networking International (BNI) Waterside chapter and has won multiple performance awards within the organization. She is a weekly volunteer with Trafalgar Elementary and often reads to students. She also raises her two children, Jordan, 7, and CJ Joseph, 9, with her husband of 10 years.
Ingrid Fuller, 39
President and Website Designer, Fuller Online Solutions
Fuller and her husband, Javier, have taken customer service to a higher level, to which they owe part of their success. After starting Fuller Online Solutions in 2009, the Fullers recognized that many people in search of the IT services they offered were not tech savvy. So they created how-to events where customers could bring their computers and learn about using the Internet, updating websites and social media. Fuller stood in front of many-a-class, and that personal touch led to a growing business. She also spends time in the community, whether its to help the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Multicultural Centre of Southwest Florida or PACE Center for Girls. She’s won awards for her volunteerism, but has also been recognized in another filed: car racing. She can be found zooming the track in her Mustang, and is a three-time champion.
Megan Kahler, 33
Vice President, Encore Bank
Kahler started with Encore Bank a little more than six years ago as a $12-an-hour-teller. Today, she’s a vice president and branch manger of the bank’s Fort Myers locaiont. She credits her success to hard work and the help of “an incredible mentor” at a previous bank. There she learned to develop her natural talents and confidence. During her tenure, she’s received honors for loan sales and was given the President’s Award by Encore Bank CEO and President Thomas Ray.
Her work ethic is also evident in the community, including as a 2014 American Heart Run/Walk participant and fundraiser, 2014 Habitat for Humanity team captain for Women Build and volunteer at Spring Creek Elementary.
Off the clock: She been team captain for three seasons for the adult Waka Kickball- Tarpon League. A single mom, her 5-year-old son calls her “Princess,” because he thinks she look like Princess Peach from Super Mario Brothers. She was a prima ballerina from age 7-17, almost attending a performance arts school instead of college.
Javed Kapadia, 38
Agent, State Farm Insurance
Kapadia accomplishments at State Farm are numerous, as evidenced by the recognition he’s received, including: Legion of Honor every year of being an agent since 2007; being ranked No. 3 in South Florida for life issued policies (out of 350 Agents); and having grown auto policies from 514 accounts in 2007 to 3,264 in seven years. Plus he’s a winner in the community through his involvement with Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida and Homeless Shelter of Lee County. He makes it look easy, but that’s not always the case. He’s the son of Pakistani immigrants and whose father went to school in England. Kapadia was born in Toronto, grew up in Chicago, and lived in Tampa and Orlando before moving to Naples in 2007. He’s traveled the world with his wife and 2-year-old son, visiting Rio de Janeiro, Bali, Thailand, China, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Macau, Buenos Aires, Spain, Monaco, Italy, Paris, Hawaii and Egypt; they’re headed to Cape Town later this year.
Adam Kerlek, 32
Attorney, Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC
Kerlek wears many law-related hats at Bond, Schoeneck & King. He primarily practices in wills, trusts and estates but he also has experience in legal and tax planning for closely held-businesses, including multi-million dollar business sales and real estate development projects. Plus, he advises start-up and charitable organizations on governance and tax-exemption issues. Outside of work, the Ohio State University alum serves with Greater Naples Area Planned Giving Council (currently he’s president and director), is involved with the Collier County Bar Association’s Trust and Estate Section as its vice chair and the Brody Project for Animal Assisted Therapy (Current Vice-Chair). Listed as a Rising Star in Florida Super Lawyers 2014, he’s married—with a daughter and son on the way—to Rachel, who is also practicing attorney. He’s passionate about gourmet cooking, brewing craft beer and roasting coffee for his family and friends.
Tom Kerr, 36
Partner, Moore & Scarry Advertising; Co-founder, SPARQ
Fresh out of journalism school in 2005, Kerr took a job as an account coordinator at the agency. He quickly was promoted to account executive and began developing a firm understanding of automotive retail marketing. From there he rose to of director of account operations and then vice president and general manager, leading all account executives, creative managers and digital managers. Kerr is recognized in the industry for his leadership and operational excellence and is noted for his ability to quickly diagnose challenges and provide marketing solutions. His accomplishments and results have been featured in CBT News, Digital Dealer Conferences and DealerOn webinars, among others. In 2013, he had the opportunity to take an equity share in Moore & Scarry, and together with partner Paul Caldwell, took over ownership of the agency. Since then, the agency has grown by 71 percent and is now the largest tier-three automotive advertising agency in the country. Off the clock, he is a youth football and wrestling coach. Kerr lives in Cape Coral wife, Nikki, and their blended family that includes boys Tristan and Tyler and girls Liz, Tessa and Olivia.
Tiffany R. Kuehner, 30
President and CEO, Hope for Haiti
Kuehner’s first trip to Haiti came at age 15 when she accompanied her grandmother and Hope for Haiti founder JoAnne M. Kuehner. Inspired by the experience, Kuehner returned to Lawrenceville School in New Jersey and began organizing student trips to the impoverished country. Upon graduating from Georgetown University in 2007, she lived and worked for two years in Les Cayes, Haiti, establishing the foundation for all of Hope for Haiti’s in-country programs. Two years later, Kuehner moved to New York City to work with the organization Women Moving Millions but remained connected with Hope for Haiti in a consulting capacity. Immediately following the devastating earthquake in January 2010, she rejoined Hope for Haiti and moved to Naples to direct the organization’s three-year relief and recovery strategy as vice president. In 2012, Tiffany became president and CEO, and she has overseen the organization’s growth to more than $14 million in revenue and she manages over 50 employees in Naples and Haiti. She enjoys photography, dancing, traveling and cooking with her husband, with whom she has a baby daughter.
Bryan L. Loeffler, 36
Attorney/Shareholder, Livingston Loeffler, P.A.
He is a partner at Livingston Loeffler, a law firm specializing in intellectual property. Loeffler is a U.S. registered patent attorney and is one of only 136 attorneys certified as an expert in Intellectual Property Law by The Florida Bar. He also places importance on community involvement, which he learned as a former Eagle Scout. Loeffler once worked as a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician, and currently volunteers with various educational groups throughout Southwest Florida. He is married to Erica Loeffler, who is also an attorney and partner with Livingston Loeffler, P.A. They have three daughters—Madeline, 7, and twins Charlotte and Laura, 5. They enjoy spending time at the beach and fishing.
Nicola Lutgert, 36
Vice President of Marketing, Premier Sotheby’s International Realty
Lutgert recently landed an executive position at Premier Sotheby’s International Realty. She credits her previous five years at London Bay Homes that provided her the right foundation for her new job. At London Bay, she rose from marketing manager to marketing director, all the while learning more about the business, she says. Away from work, Lutgert volunteers with several organizations, including the Collier Building Industry Association, St. Matthew’s House, Celebration Community Beach Church and Habitat for Humanity. Lutgert, who graduated with a bachelor of science in advertising and a minor in art history from the University of Florida, enjoys spending time with her family. She also likes shopping, stand-up paddle boarding and traveling.
Angela Melvin (38)
Executive Director, Uncommon Friends Foundation
As a fourth-generation Southwest Floridian, Melvin’s family connections pre-date Thomas Edison, going back as far as the mid-1800s. So it’s fitting that she’s in charge of an organization that promotes character education in school and business ethics based upon the values and principles of Edison and other local, historic figures: Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Charles Lindberg, and Dr. Alexis Carrell. Melvin left the area after graduating from Estero High School to earn a college degree at the University of Florida and to start her career as a television reporter. After 20 years, she returned, determined to make an impact in her hometown community, and became the Uncommon Friends Foundation’s executive director in 2014. Melvin also is responsible for overseeing the historic Burroughs Home and Gardens property, which is owned by the City of Fort Myers, and managing the James Newton Archives. Additionally, Melvin founded Valerie’s House for Grieving Families. Away from work, she volunteers with several charitable organizations, competes in Savage Race Competitions around the state and enjoys boxing. Other free time is spent mentoring children who have lost a parent, as she once did.
Elizabeth Morano, 33
Vice President, Resource Development, United Way of Collier County
Recipients of United Way assistance can thank Morano for her efforts. As a fundraising professional, she accepts donations with the promise to help philanthropists whether they contribute $1 or $1 million to make an impact within the community. She’s motivated by the donors she works with because they are “truly good people who want to make a significant, positive impact on the lives of others,” she says. Morano then collaborates with local and regional nonprofit organizations to complete the funding of worthy causes. She also launched United Way’s Volunteer Engagement effort to match volunteers to meet community needs, and organized a Stuff the Bus Food Drive, which collected more than 16,000 pounds of food was collected in partnership with Publix Stores, Harry Chapin Food Bank and Collier Area Transit. Morano enjoys cooking, running and travel.
Chad O’Connor, 30
Owner, Fresh Fit Foods LLC and Culinary Outfitters Catering
O’Connor is always up for a challenge, his biggest one being an entrepreneur. The success of his company came through a lot of hard work as well as making of mistakes. Not a problem, as long as he learned from them but learning from them, he says. And he’s never paid attention when he’s been told he couldn’t do something—that’s not part of his belief system. At the same time, he has remained humble, and considers every client as a blessing. O’Connor also feels it’s important to share those blessings. He has donated to numerous charities by providing free meal to those in need. His charitable work includes involvement with Honor Flight, American Heart Association, Women's Center Shelter, Pelican Marsh foundation, Wellfit Girls Challenge and many others. O’Connor is married to Hadley Crawford, and together their blended family includes three daughters, including the recent birth of their daughter, "Baby B."
Artisia Parker, 25
Office Manager, Florida Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Florida Gulf Coast University
Parker began with the SBDC in 2013 and a few short years later ascended to her current position of office manager, handling finance and personnel relations. Although a notable accomplishment, there’s much more to her résumé. For example, she was awarded the Finest of the Flock award from Florida Gulf Coast University in 2014. And she recently became one of the youngest Florida Supreme Court Certified County Mediator in 20th Judicial Circuit (Lee, Collier, Glades, Hendry, and Charlotte counties), helping people resolve disputes. Parker’s community work is prolific and includes serving with Women In NAACP, as the Assistant Youth Director at New Inspiration International Ministries in Lehigh Acres and as a volunteer at Art Studio Miami, intercity youth program that helps elementary school children find their voice through art and creativity. At Coloma High School, she excelled in shot put and discus. Off the clock, the Barry University grad enjoys drawing and painting, golf, makeup artistry, acting, modeling, fishing and creative writing.
Aashish Patel, 34
Owner, Captain Jack’s Airboat Tour, Wooten’s Everglades Airboat and Swampbuggy Tours, Everglades City Motel; President/CEO, Madhav Group
Patel learned his first lessons in running a business from his parents, who owned and operated a motel in Orlando. In 2007, Patel purchased a struggling airboat business and motel in Everglades City and turned them into profitable enterprises with increased staff members and annual revenues, despite a recession that hit shortly after his acquisition.
Patel purchased yet another business, Wooten’s Everglades Airboat and Swamp Buggy Tours, and within one year increased the facility from two to 10 airboats and added additional tour vehicles. He’s improved and expanded the operation’s animal sanctuary, which is home to more than 100 alligators, rescued cats and various wildlife. He is certified in Animal Keeper’s Safety.
In addition to the Everglades City businesses, Patel owns America’s Best Value Inn in Fort Myers and offers consulting services for management of a Lee County Hampton Inn. Patel also sits on the Hindu Temple of Fort Myers board of trustees. He supports local and national nonprofit organizations, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters and PACE Center for Girls, and is currently developing a 114-room oceanfront hotel in Pompano Beach.
Jonathon Pentecost, 38
Division President and Southwest Florida Broker, D.R. Horton Realty Inc.
Pentecost has perennially garnered top performances in home sales and development, land acquisition and growth since he started in 2005. That’s surely why he is one of the youngest division president within D. R. Horton’s national footprint. In 2013, Pentecost introduced Horton’s Emerald Homes luxury brand in Southwest Florida as one of the first new brand rollouts in the company’s nationwide brand expansion. A year later, he introduced Express Homes in Southwest Florida, bringing a more affordable home model to the market. He’s held the posts of purchasing and land acquisition manager, city manager and ultimately his current position, which he received last year. The married father of two enjoys traveling with his family.
John Preston, 30
President, Massage Envy of Southwest Florida
Preston showed signs of an entrepreneurial spirit at the age of 16, when he founded a lawn care service in St. Louis, Missouri. After growing the business to 50 residential customers, sales escalated to roughly $1,000 per week. In college, he ran a business from his dorm room before selling it to a competitor to focus on education. He graduated from Missouri State University in May 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in business management and now puts his energy into the role of Massage Envy of Southwest Florida president.
Since joining the franchise, Preston has opened the region’s fourth clinic and grown organizational sales by nearly 60 percent. Under his leadership, customer satisfaction scores have increased from 88 percent to 91.4 percent, and in 2014 the clinics ranked in the top 57 out of 742 clinics that received Net Promoter Scores. Preston has supported numerous local charitable events such as the Arthritis Foundation’s Jingle Bell Run and Pink Heals Ribbons and Laces 5K. In 2014, he and Massage Envy won the 2014 Bed Race for Cancer Causes and helped raised more than $6,000.
Off the clock, the avid volleyball player is developing a new franchise, Redline Athletics.
Colby Robertson, 30
Program director, Wellfit Girls Program SWFL Inc.
Robertson’s path to her current job began in front of the camera, first at television stations in Wisconsin and finally at WINK. As a reporter, she brought people’s stories to life, some of them during difficult times of loss or other dark moments, and that turned out to be a struggle, at times, for the journalist. After covering a story about Wellfit Girls Program CEO and founder Jill Wheeler’s run in the Boston Marathon the year it was bombed, Robertson felt a calling to volunteer at the organization, where she eventually helped produce a documentary about one of the programs. At that time, she had moved on to work at a local public relations and marketing firm. In a leap of faith, she left that job and took over the role of program director of the Wellfit Girls Program, a nonprofit that she is helping launch from the ground up. The program inspires teen girls through fitness, leadership and empowerment, so it helps that Robertson is an avid marathon runner and is involved with Girls on the Run of Collier County and Love that Dress for PACE Center for Girls.
April Royan, 36
Owner/Audiologist at Decibels Audiology and Hearing Aid Center LLC
Royan has dedicated her professional career to helping the hearing impaired. She’s the founder and creator of an award-winning audiology-based practice and community program—Hear for the Holidays—to supply low-income community members with free hearing health care and devices. She credits her husband, Mark, for her ability to find success in her endeavors.
“We work together, live together and go to every networking and charity event together,” she says of her husband, who helps run Decibels Audiology. “He’s the one that keeps us grounded.”
The wife and mother is also involved with PLAN of Collier County and Neighborhood Health Clinic. She’s a member of organizations such as the American Academy of Audiology, American Speech Language Hearing Association and Young Professionals of Naples, and is an RV enthusiast and avid traveler.
Jason Sain, 39
Vice President and Principal, DeAngelis Diamond Healthcare Group
A decade ago, Sain became one of the first two company employees. Since then, he has helped lead it to secure more than $500 million worth of health care projects and has overseen more than $1 billion in nonlocal developments around the country. His work has garnered awards from Lee Building Industry Association and Collier Building Industry Association. Sain is involved in the community through his church, where he volunteers with Habitat for Humanity and participates in local food drives. He has been married for 16 years and has three daughters, ages 5, 10 and 14. Sain enjoys the outdoors, CrossFit, competing in Ironman challenges and traveling around the country where his job takes him.
Kelsey Thompson, 29
Forensic CPA, Markham Norton Mosteller Wright & Co., P.A.
Thompson began her career with Markham Norton Mosteller Wright & Co. as a summer intern before being hired as a full-time employee upon graduating from the University of South Florida in 2009. The firm selected Thompson in 2013 to complete a three-year program to help her become a partner. She’s created a mentoring circle within the program to lead other senior accountants and managers to follow her initiative.
In the growing span of her career, the certified public accountant and fraud examiner has also coauthored three publications and obtained a master’s degree in accounting and taxation from Florida Gulf Coast University.
Thompson is a member of the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce board of directors and secretary of its Women In Business committee, and is affiliated with other organizations such as Believing in Girls Society, Our Mother’s Home and United Way. She enjoys boating, skeet shooting, dancing and spending time with her chocolate lab, Gauge, and fiancé, Chris Griffin, who she plans to marry in November.
Janice Vasquez, 36
President, Insurance Products & Services Inc.
Vasquez needed to be proactive when starting her own insurance company. “I didn’t purchase my agency from an existing business. I had to learn ways to market myself and my company,” she says. She continues to do so with constant networking. “Being out and having an actual conversation with real people, you learn so much that you don’t learn when you are working on your education or training or by trying to go to the Web for information,” Vasquez says.
She finds opportunities to make connections by volunteering in the community, and has been involved in fundraising for organizations such as Collier County Schools homeless education program, Shelter for Abused Women, Pace Center and Youth Haven. Vasquez has also chaired Naples Area Board of Realtors’ (NABOR) community involvement committee, which she’s been on for six years, and Women’s Council of Realtors’ community outreach committee.
A certified professional service representative and professional insurance advisor, Vasquez has received multiple awards from NABOR, insurance carriers and organizations. She has three children and enjoys playing tennis, going to the beach and spending time with friends and family.