Gulfshore Business Daily: December 7

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Lead Photo: Goldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice & Purtz collects toys for Toys for Tots. Details below.



TWO39 Group LLC (TWO39) TWO39 Labs announces its 12-week cohort inaugural pitch competition. The event will take place live and virtually at 4 p.m. on Dec. 10, 2020. Seven local Southwest Florida businesses that have completed a 12-week cohort and are competing for a grand prize of $5,000. During the 12-week cohort, each startup had access to two dedicated mentors, 1,000-plus mentor networks, and 101 events. The events included informational presentations, fireside chats with successful entrepreneurs and virtual networking events. Focused on building a technology ecosystem in Southwest Florida, the purpose of the competition and program is to assist startup companies in creating and building a sustainable business model. In the interactive competition, viewers will be able to listen to live pitches from seven technology startups in front of a panel of judges, including John Harthorne, Two Lanterns Venture Partners; Brian Samelson, TWO39; and Daria Abbaei, Naples Technology Ventures. To register for the competition, click here.


Collier County ranked No. 7 in SmartAsset’s list of “Best Places for Small Business Owners” in Florida. The financial technology company’s study measures IRS data on the number of small businesses operating in each county, how much income they generate and what they pay in taxes. Additional study details, including the methodology and interactive map, can be found here.

Video courtesy of WINK News


A business owner in Southwest Florida is warning others about someone using fake cash. Todd Brooks, owner of Brooks Burgers, says a crook targeted his multiple business locations in the area, and he worries it could be happening at other places, too. He encourages all businesses to closely check their bills. Two counterfeit $100 bills were used Thursday at two of his restaurants in downtown Naples and North Naples. Naples Police Department says it’s investigating, and police haven’t heard of this happening anywhere else in the area at this time, WINK News reports.


Gulfshore Playhouse’s “Higher,” its first show of the 2020-21 season, will go global. This new one-man show at Naples’ premier professional theater will stream everywhere, allowing audiences all over the world to enjoy the world premiere production. The filmed production will be available for viewing Dec. 15 to Jan. 15. Written by and starring Broadway star Jeffrey Binder, associate artistic director of Gulfshore Playhouse, “Higher” was originally created as a one-man show that would allow for strict safety protocols. Pre-sale tickets are $50 and can be purchased now at


Testimonial Tree, a Bonita Springs-based customer feedback and reputation management platform, has completed a software integration with SkySlope, a comprehensive platform for brokers, agents, auditors, and transaction coordinators. The software integration allows brokerages to automate the collection of buyer-seller feedback and publish reviews on the brokerage and agent website profiles. Real estate brokerages who make use of this integration will be able to automate the buyer-seller feedback collection process, sync agent rosters, transaction feeds, and publishing of reviews and testimonials on agent website profiles. Agents can also share testimonials on social media networks and build an online presence in local search results. The Testimonial Tree integration connects to the brokerage’s existing SkySlope account and automates requests for feedback from buyers and sellers upon a closing on behalf of their agent and brokerage.


The Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) Board of Trustees will meet virtually at 9 a.m. on Dec. 10. Any public comment on agenda action items must be sent by email to no later than 5 p.m. on Dec. 9.  Comments will be read into the record during the virtual meeting. The agenda packet can be viewed here. Due to social distancing requirements for COVID-19, the meeting is available to the public via webcast at, which will be live on the meeting date and time. 


Elite Jets Charters has expanded its white diamond concierge services with the addition of a new Tesla to its fleet. The Naples-based charter company now offers door-to-door chauffeur services in its Tesla Model X, a luxury electric SUV wrapped with the company’s distinct branding. Elite Jets employees can pick up passengers at any Collier County residence and drive them directly to the company’s private terminal at Naples Airport, or even straight onto the tarmac to board their jet. For customers opting to drive themselves, Elite Jets offers auto detailing services so vehicles are clean, inside and out, upon passengers’ return. Additional white diamond concierge services include pre-selecting onboard amenities like in-flight entertainment, meals, snacks and drinks. Personal cabin attendants are available for each flight upon request. Elite Jets also has added a Tesla charging station as an amenity for passengers. 



Ryan Carter

Carter of Scotlynn USA joins Community Cooperative’s board

Ryan Carter has joined the board of directors of Community Cooperative. Carter is executive vice president and co-founder of Scotlynn USA Division Inc., a logistics and transportation company headquartered in Canada that specializes in hauling refrigerated produce. “His expertise in growing a transportation company for perishable items aligns with our mission of getting food to people who need it in our community,” said Community Cooperative Board Chairman Keith Banasiak. Carter was named 2020 Small Business Person of the Year in Florida by the U.S. Small Business Administration. The graduate of the University of Kentucky with a degree in economics was also named Distinguished Entrepreneur of the Year for Southwest Florida in 2019 by the Small Business Development Council at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Jessica Fontana

Cogent Bank hires Fontana as vice president, private banking officer

Cogent Bank, a $635 million-asset bank, has expanded its team with the addition of Jessica Fontana as vice president, private banking officer for Southwest Florida. Fontana has worked in the financial industry for over 15 years in Collier and Lee counties as both a private banker and commercial banker. In this new role, she will be responsible for assisting high net worth individuals and their businesses with loan, deposit, and treasury management needs. Originally from Crystal River, Florida, Fontana earned her banking and finance diploma from the American Bankers Association. Fontana will serve clients in Collier and Lee counties from the Cogent Bank office located at 14421 Metro Ave., Suite 102 in Fort Myers and from a Cogent Bank office in Naples which is expected to open in the first or second quarter of 2021.

John R. Wood Properties adds nine new agents in November

John R. Wood Properties, a real estate brokerage in Southwest Florida, has added nine new agents throughout the month of November. In Collier County, Dan Brunell and Janice Robinson have joined the Fifth Avenue South and Central offices, respectively. In Lee County, Deborah Bateman has joined the Bonita Springs office; Rodney Balmer, Debbie Corey, Linda Davis, and Frank Ward have joined the Fort Myers office; Alfonso Padilla and Shannon Sayers have joined the Cape Coral office.

Scott Robertson

Robertson appointed Benefit Auctioneer Specialist national trainer

Scott Robertson, a 25-plus year veteran auctioneer and principal of Scott Robertson Auctioneers (SRA) was recently chosen by the National Auctioneers Association (NAA) to teach the Benefit Auction Specialist (BAS) course in Las Vegas, Nevada. Founded in 1949, NAA is the world’s largest professional association dedicated to auction professionals and represents the interests of thousands of auction professionals in the U.S., Canada, and across the world. The BAS designation means an auctioneer is trained to plan and conduct successful benefit auctions and specializes in techniques to establish a successful and profitable benefit auction business. Robertson taught students how to identify current trends in fundraising auctions, aid clients in coordinating a well-planned auction, market the auction, and create a fun and exciting event that generates more revenue for clients and auction businesses. Less than 2% of the auctioneers in the country have earned the BAS designation, according to Scott Robertson Auctioneers.

Norris Furniture & Interiors participating in ‘Military Makeover’ for local veteran

Norris Furniture & Interiors is providing furniture and furnishings to a local wounded veteran as part of Lifetime Network‘s “Military Makeover.” The national series transforms the homes and lives of military veterans and their families. A resident of Cape Coral, Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Burgess was chosen to have his home renovated as part of the television series. In 2011, Burgess was injured by a hidden improvised explosive device (IED) as he was working with Marines to help a population in Afghanistan identify, avoid, and remove explosive traps left by the Taliban. The recovery process from his injuries is still ongoing, and his family desires to make their home safer and more accommodating for him. Norris designer Angela DiFranceisco will coordinate with Home & Garden Television’s (HGTV) Jennifer Bertrand to select several items for the Burgess’ dining room and master bedroom at Norris’ Fort Myers showroom. Norris will deliver all of the furniture to the newly renovated home and be part of the reveal on Dec. 12. The full renovation will be unveiled in a seven-part series airing on Lifetime Network’s “Military Makeover” program starting Feb. 12 and concluding March 26.

Students benefiting from JA’s programs give thanks.

Bank of America names JA of Southwest Florida as Neighborhood Champion

Bank of America has announced Junior Achievement (JA) of Southwest Florida, as a Neighborhood Champion, a recognition that includes both grant funding and leadership training. The invitation-only Neighborhood Champions program supports the role strong nonprofit leaders play in advancing economic mobility and is an extension of the bank’s signature philanthropic initiative, Neighborhood Builders, the largest corporate philanthropic investment in nonprofit leadership in the country, according to Bank of America. Alongside Southwest Florida, the bank will bring the program to more than 40 additional communities across the U.S. this year as part of its commitment to investing in the long-term health of communities. As part of the program, JA will receive $50,000 in grant support and an opportunity for engagement in virtual leadership training delivered by experts in the nonprofit sector. 

Blessings in a Backpack SWFL Executive Director Cecilia St. Arnold with the $25,000 checks presented to the organization from the Cape Coral Community Foundation.

Blessings in a Backpack awarded a $25,000 COVID-19 grant

Blessings in a Backpack SWFL has received a grant from the Cape Coral Community Foundation (CCCF) to provide weekend meals for needy children across Southwest Florida. CCCF Chief Executive Officer Michael Chatman presented Blessings in a Backpack SWFL Executive Director Cecilia St. Arnold with a $25,000 check on Dec. 2 to help feed schoolchildren throughout the community. The Cape Coral Community Foundation grant will help provide weekend meals for approximately 190 children for a full school year. Through Blessings in a Backpack, $115 feeds one child on weekends for the entire 38-week school year, as meals through federal government programs are not provided on weekends. The CCCF grant, in addition to other sources of financial and in-kind support, helps make this possible. Donations of all sizes are welcome through the donations portal at or via mail at P.O. Box 61402 Fort Myers, FL 33906. All contributions are tax-deductible.

Goldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice & Purtz collects toys for Toys for Tots

For the 14th year, Goldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice & Purtz, P.A. offices are collecting toys to be distributed by the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots Foundation. Toys will be collected until Dec. 15, when they will be picked up and distributed by Toys for Tots to approved local social welfare agencies, church groups and other organizations. In 2019, Toys for Tots in Lee County distributed 55,321 toys to 16,422 children, sizable increases from the 38,090 toys and 10,960 children supported during the previous year. In Collier County, Toys for Tots distributed 28,579 toys to 4,497 children last year. People are invited to bring new, unwrapped toys for newborn children through age 12 to any of the six Goldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice & Purtz offices in Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Lehigh Acres, Naples and Port Charlotte. In addition, members of the firm also donate toys for the drive and monetary donations also are accepted at

2019 Christmas Outreach volunteers

Donations needed for ‘Christmas Giving Tree’ for area children

The Heights Foundation/The Heights Center is seeking organizations and individuals to participate in the annual Harlem Heights Community Gift Drive. Individuals, businesses and philanthropic groups are asked to donate new, unwrapped gifts for local children. Gifts are needed for more than 800 children, ranging in age from birth to 17 years of age. Suggested donations are gifts under $25 including Legos, dolls, art sets, footballs, basketballs, soccer balls, remote control cars, tea sets, action figures, board games, coloring books and crayons. Personal items are also needed, including pajamas, jewelry, body lotion, spray, soaps, hair accessories and wristwatches. Donations of gift cards from Target, Kmart or Walmart are accepted as well. Monetary donations can be made at The gifts will be distributed to parents on Dec. 19 at The Heights Center.
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