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Whether through professional desire, personal experience or some combination of both, the 2023 Gulfshore Business Women in Business have all forged their own career path. While each of those paths has been unique, their passion and perseverance have led them all to professional success.

In addition to their professional achievements, all of these women have also demonstrated their passion for giving back to their community. And as you read the stories of these 10 women, we hope you’ll be equally passionate in pursuing your own path toward success.

Michelle Avola-Brown

(pictured above)

Naples Pathways Coalition

Executive Director

Working as the executive director of Naples Pathways Coalition, Michelle Avola-Brown advocates for safer roads; educates motorists, cyclists, pedestrians and law enforcement; and works with local officials to improve Collier County’s infrastructure. As the organization’s only paid staff member, she also manages event planning, fundraising, community service, grant writing, marketing, public speaking and social media, all while working to establish a local trail system.

“My goal is to see the completion of the Paradise Coast Trail, which will be a 70-mile paved trail that is separated from the road connecting Naples to Bonita Springs, Collier-Seminole State Park, Ave Maria and other destinations within and beyond Collier County,” she says. “I was hit by a car while biking, and it happens far too often here, often with deadly results. This trail will save lives and finally bring Naples what it’s been missing!”

In addition to her advocacy work, Avola-Brown also led a community-wide bicycle drive to help residents in East Naples who lost nearly everything in Hurricane Ian, including their means of transportation. The effort provided 250 bicycles to affected residents. But more importantly, it restored their ability to get to work, go grocery shopping or make other needed trips.

Missy Lamont

Naples Children & Education Foundation

Healthcare Director

As the health care director for the Naples Children & Education Foundation, Missy Lamont serves as a resource for each NCEF Healthcare Initiative partner, including vision, oral health and mental health. Given the ever-changing landscape of health care services, Lamont also works constantly to gain new understandings of the partnering organizations and the programs that fit within the initiatives, while also seeking ways to increase efficiencies and leverage existing resources.

“It is an honor for me to work with the NCEF’s Healthcare Initiative partners through a unique approach that emphasizes collaboration between organizations,” she says. “I love that I am helping to bring people together to facilitate the discussions on innovative, strategic and deliberate ways to access high-quality and comprehensive health services.”

During her nonprofit career, Lamont has remained passionate about giving back, helping others and volunteerism. She is a 2015 graduate of the Associate Leadership Collier Program and a 2019 graduate of the Leadership Collier Foundation, and is currently an active volunteer for the Youth Leadership Collier Program Committee. In 2019, Lamont earned a certificate in nonprofit strategies from the Harvard Business School which, she said, has fueled her drive to discover new ways to execute nonprofit strategy.

Noemi Y. Perez

The Immokalee Foundation

President & CEO

As the president and CEO of The Immokalee Foundation, Noemi Perez works to support the student population and next-generation leaders of Immokalee. In fact, as one of nine children who grew up in Immokalee, she knows firsthand the challenges faced by the students she passionately supports. For that, Perez cites inspiration from her parents.

“My father’s advice to me was, ‘We all have something to learn from an experience, whether it was good or bad.’  My mother came to the U.S. to find a better life and worked hard to make sure that I never lacked anything throughout my childhood,” she says. “I witnessed how she had to take over our household when my father’s accident left him bedridden. She is the reason I became who I am today; strong and determined.”

At The Immokalee Foundation, Perez implemented the organization’s Career Pathways Program, an innovative approach to education designed to prepare students for well-paying, in-demand professional careers in business management and entrepreneurship; education and human services; engineering and construction management; and health care. She has also spearheaded the building of an 18-home subdivision in Immokalee to serve as a hands-on professional career experience for Foundation students.

Rebekah Barney

Alzada Company

Owner & President

Rebekah Barney is the founder, owner and president of the Alzada Company, a Southwest Florida-based real estate development company. While she’s one of the few women working in real estate development, she says her larger focus is on simply developing relationships to give back to the community.

“In my profession, I get to create and leave behind a tangible legacy, not just for my own children to be proud of, but for the enjoyment of many generations to come,” Barney says. “For me, true success can’t be quantified in dollars earned. I find fulfillment in time spent, in care given, in nurturing meaningful relationships, in living and working with integrity and passion and in cultivating and contributing to the community I love.”

Barney currently serves on the board of the Lee County Pace Center for Girls and on the Hope Hospice Shine committee. She is also co-chair of the 2022-23 SWFL American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign committee, and was recently named to the Hodges University Board of Trustees. In addition, as she was an award-winning college athlete and ballroom dancer, Barney continues to champion athletic, creative, educational and professional opportunities for women of all ages.

Deanna Wallin

Naples Soap Company

Founder & CEO

Deanna Wallin’s personal journey in dealing with psoriasis and eczema led her to launch Naples Soap Company in 2009 in a 300-square-foot location in Tin City in Naples. Though opening after a recession, Naples Soap Company is now a publicly traded $11 million skin care company with 10 locations in Florida and a product line that is available nationwide. But Wallin said there have still been some bumps along the way.

“Someone once told me, ‘As long as you’re breathing, you’ve got options.’ True statement, but it’s when times are tough that I am truly inspired to work harder, get more creative and give it everything I’ve got,” Wallin says. “Through more hurricanes than I can count, COVID and other knocks and bruises along the way, I made the decision to stay positive, stay strong and put my efforts toward brighter days ahead.”

For her efforts to grow and expand Naples Soap Company, Wallin has been recognized by numerous entrepreneurial, retail and business organizations. However, she said her greatest pleasure continues to be helping others, whether it’s finding a product to solve a problem for a customer or creating a fun, educational and inspiring work environment for her team members.

Samira Beckwith

Hope Healthcare

President & CEO

Over more than three decades as president and CEO of Hope Healthcare, Samira Beckwith has guided the not-for-profit through plenty of growth. Along the way, she also created an innovative model of service delivery that integrates hospice into a broader continuum of care that serves more than 3,000 Floridians daily and has been adopted by health care organizations nationwide.

“We strive to empower people to have choices, even during a time of adversity. We provide care to improve quality of life for people during serious illness, aging and times of loss and grief,” Beckwith says. “We are passionate about providing dignity, empathy and compassion to relieve suffering for people of all ages in the closing chapter of life. My goal is that Hope continues to grow so that no one ever has to be without comforting, compassionate care when it’s needed most.”

As a champion for palliative care, Beckwith has served as chair for both the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and the National Hospice Foundation, and as vice chair of the National Partnership for Hospice Innovation. She is also the founding president of the Florida PACE Association and a founding director of the National Hospice Work Group.

Joyce Owens

Architecture Joyce Owens

Founder & Principal Architect

Joyce Owens, FAIA, RIBA, founder and principal architect at Architecture Joyce Owens LLC | Studio AJO, said her firm is unique because it’s one of the few female-owned architectural practices in Southwest Florida and the only one offering full interior design services. And, while Owens is justifiably proud of being the first female architect ever awarded the Gold Medal of Honor by the Florida chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), she takes even more pride in designing every building specifically for Southwest Florida.

“I continually harp on about sustainability and resiliency and always look to the past to learn for the future. I think that’s a priority we should all take very seriously. We design our buildings to withstand hurricanes and we ensure they’re stronger and smarter,” she says. “Intuitively, we incorporate loads of daylight, use colors and patterns that blend with the local environment and materials that tolerate our harsh climate and salt air. I call myself a ‘Coastal Architect’ and stand behind that claim.”

Owens received the 2020 AIA Florida Medal of Honor for Design, and in 2018 was elected to the College of Fellows at the national level of the AIA, its highest membership honor.

Sheryl Soukup

Soukup Strategic Solutions


Sheryl Soukup founded Soukup Strategic Solutions in 2012 to provide nonprofit organizations with expertise in fundraising and management. However, though she’s always considered herself an entrepreneur, her path to owning her own business was hardly traditional.

“I had been working in microbiological research when I got married. Our first child had a lot of medical difficulties right off the bat. As I was reaching out, trying to find help for my child, I started learning a lot about different types of services and I started getting involved in volunteering to help other families,” she says. “I decided that going back to work in microbiology wasn’t what I really wanted to do—and my career just took a different path because of everything that I had learned from my daughter.”

Today, Soukup Strategic Solutions assists nonprofits in strategic planning, fundraising, grant writing, marketing and board development. In addition, she has acted in multiple nonprofit leadership roles, including serving on boards and committees at the local and statewide levels. Soukup also volunteers for causes close to her heart, including serving with the Collier County Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, Collier County Public Schools, Collier Resource Center, Family Café and many more.

Julie Koester

Veedor Holdings LLC


As the co-founder of Veedor Holdings, Julie Koester assists in the oversight and management of Dragon Horse Agency, a marketing firm, children’s book publisher Dragon Horse Publishing and lifestyle retailer Moxie Creed. But owning multiple companies was never part of her grand plan.

“I never intended to own an ad agency; I’d planned to become a private practice psychologist. A few key realignments in the universe placed me in situations that created major shifts in my thinking about what I had to offer, what problems I could solve and simultaneously, why solving those problems would matter,” she says. “Life experiences are unique and powerful. I like to think I’ve used my personal experiences to shape some positive results.”

In addition to her business interests, Koester was also the founding board chair of the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples, as well as a founding ambassador for the Blue Zones Project, which is dedicated to healthier communities and has now been widely adopted in Southwest Florida and across the country. In addition, Koester was recognized by the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce as a Women In Business finalist and by the Industry Era Women Leaders as a top global female professional.

Sylvia Dorisme

Zeal Technical Institute


At age 14, Sylvia Dorisme migrated to the U.S. without her parents. She then became the first member of her family to earn a college degree, and added a master’s degree, too. At age 25, she established Zeal Technical Institute to provide education, training and certification in medical and technical areas to aid students in obtaining entry-level employment.

“I believe in hard work, but I also believe in working smart. My inspiration for being an entrepreneur is my family. When I migrated to the United States, my mission has always been to break down barriers and pave the way for my siblings, and my family in general. I am proud to say that I’m halfway there,” she says. “Being an entrepreneur is not easy, but I’m thankful every single day for the opportunity to change lives. I’m also very proud that I can create opportunities for women to excel.”

In addition to helping students earn valuable job skills and growing the local workforce, Dorisme also volunteers her time with several local nonprofits, including Dress for Success, Junior Achievement, Bonita Springs Elementary School, Florida State Minority Supplier Development Council, Millennium United Foundation, Kiwanis Young Professionals and more.


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