A professor and a prosecutor; managers and marketers; entrepreneurs and attorneys. Those are just a few of the occupations of the select group of individuals who make up the Gulfshore Business 40 Under 40 for 2023. Their career choices may all be different, but they each share the commonality of making a difference in those careers and also their communities, all before reaching the age of 40.
It’s true that age may be just a number, but the factors that have distinguished those on this list are not just their ages and resumes, but also their measurable contributions to the community. Through philanthropic and volunteer efforts for a variety of area nonprofits, each honoree has applied drive and passion to make Southwest Florida a better place to live and work for everyone.
The region’s ongoing recovery from Hurricane Ian has highlighted the power of working together en masse. But, in shining the spotlight on this year’s 40 Under 40, we’re proud to present individual members of our Southwest Florida community whose commitment, drive and dedication have been truly inspiring. Please join us in honoring them.
Burn Boot Camp Naples
Naples native Holly Strickland owns and operates the Burn Boot Camp franchise in Naples. Strickland said her mission as a Burn Boot Camp owner is to inspire, empower and transform the lives of women and their families. Living up to that standard, Strickland employs more than 20 women and makes sure the women who patronize Burn Boot Camp are always the top priority.
“My true passion is people. One of my favorite quotes is, ‘When you put people first, you will always win.’ I wholeheartedly live by this motto and am passionate about making a difference in the Southwest Florida community,” she says. “I would not be where I am today without a strong support system, having a growth mindset in all areas and always keeping people first.”
In addition to her clients, Strickland also prioritizes her community. After Hurricane Ian, she opened Burn Naples as a disaster relief center and coordinated several food trucks to help those in need. She has raised funds for several local charitable organizations, including Be Their Muscle, Beverly’s Angels and Hook-A-Hero. Strickland also serves on the Burn Boot Camp franchise owners’ board and mentors fellow owners across the country.
Director of External Affairs
Live Wildly Foundation
After earning an undergraduate degree in marine science and biology from the University of Miami and a master’s in marine and environmental affairs from the University of Washington, Meredith Budd moved back to Florida and dedicated her career to protecting wildlife and their native habitats. Now working as director of external affairs for the Live Wildly Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to connecting and protecting wildlife corridors for a healthier ecology and economy, Budd still believes in the power of education.
“One of the most important lessons that I have learned in my career is the value of continuous education and growth. The ability to change and adapt to new things is essential for long-term success,” she says. “This includes staying up-to-date with new trends and technologies, developing new skills and expertise, taking on new challenges, seeking out new opportunities and being open to feedback and constructive criticism.”
In addition to her work with wildlife, Budd is also active in her community. She is a graduate of both the Leadership Collier Foundation’s Associate Leadership Collier (2016) and Leadership Collier (2021) programs, as well as a member of the 2023 Leadership Florida Connect Class.
As a licensed architect at SchenkelShultz Architecture, Nathalie White has a strong passion for design, sustainability and supporting the community. Though she’s always followed her instincts to integrate the natural environment with architectural design, in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, White exerted a community influence that went well beyond architecture. That initiative began with five strangers on a text thread.
“I was one of the co-founders of Rebuild SWFL after Hurricane Ian in 2022. We helped mobilize thousands of volunteers and cleaned over 800 homes throughout Southwest Florida in some of the hardest hit areas,” White says. “Trusting my instinct has given me the courage to stand up for myself and others in difficult moments, which has changed the trajectory of my life in a positive way. Hopefully, I can inspire others to create change.”
In recognition of her dedication to the region, White was named a “Defender of the Gulf” by Gulfshore Life and “Southwest Florida Citizen of Year” by SWFL Inc. She also organizes mangrove clean-up efforts and promoted a local screening of the documentary Path of the Panther, which highlights the elements pushing the Everglades to the brink of ecological collapse.
SVP of Communities
Kitson & Partners
In his role with private real estate development company Kitson & Partners, Tyler Kitson manages all the vertical construction and projects across the firm’s portfolio, while also overseeing the company’s Talis Park and Babcock Ranch development projects. And though he has a master’s degree in real estate development, Kitson said he’s learned a lot simply by diving into unfamiliar situations.
“Throughout my career, I have been given opportunities that were new and made me uncomfortable. I have learned that the only way for me to grow as a person is to say ‘yes’ to these opportunities and give myself the ability to experience something new and push my limits,” he says. “These moments of going out of my comfort zone have expanded my perspective on life and given me the confidence and experience I needed to be where I am today.”
In addition to his involvement with the company’s projects and developments, Kitson is also active in the Southwest Florida community. That includes serving on the board of SWFL Inc. Chamber, the Babcock Ranch Foundation, the American Heart Association Heart Ball 2023, United Way Allocations, ULI, ICSC and Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Chief Strategy Officer
Moran Wealth Management
Before Chelsea Ganey became chief strategy officer for Moran Wealth Management, she spent eight years at the firm as a senior portfolio manager responsible for fixed income and equity strategies. But Ganey said most of her career growth began at home.
“I saw the most growth in my career after becoming a parent. Having children is a daily lesson in patience, negotiation and conflict resolution, and it also taught me to become more efficient and structure my day to prioritize and focus on the task at hand,” she says. “There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about what I do and the example it sets for my three kids. Showing them my passion, dedication and perseverance in my work is giving them lessons in how I hope they grow up to pursue their own dreams.”
In addition to her responsibilities at MWM, Ganey serves on the Florida Gulf Coast University Foundation Board of Directors and the Executive Council for the Department of Economics and Finance at FGCU, and is the president of the House Corporation for the Pi Mu Chapter of Chi Omega. She is also a member of CHIEF, a private organization for women executive leaders.
Hudson Park Interior Design
L.A. DeRiggi believes being encouraged to explore the world from a young age helped provide a foundation for connecting individual creativity and a universal understanding of the human element. As principal of Hudson Park Interior Design, that perspective on the influence of interior design has been the catalyst for his unconventional pursuit of design concepts that connect classic techniques with modern elements to support lifestyle and well-being enhancement with problem-solving ingenuity.
“A lifelong passion for the arts and sciences has encouraged me to push the boundaries of interior design beyond the known applications, while challenging myself and others to exceed the standard expectations of the industry. I am driven to make a difference in people’s lives through intrinsic design to provide a sense of whole-being wellness,” DeRiggi says. “The impact of kindness is the key attribute that influences each completed project and the relationships I cultivate on my career path and personal trajectory.”
For DeRiggi, collaboration requires cultivation and successful interior design projects represent the harmony of teamwork. Following the same philosophy and passion in his company, DeRiggi is committed to investing in his team’s individual growth and supporting the philanthropic endeavors of the community.
Manager of Strategic Learning & Organizational Development
NCH Healthcare System
A dedicated nurse and health care professional, Christina Volpicelli has dedicated her life to the service of others. Her nursing career began on a cardiothoracic step-down unit, which ignited her passion for teaching and learning. That led to her current position as manager of strategic learning and organizational development for NCH, where Volpicelli creates and executes strategic organizational development programs which, she said, allows her to continue her work in service of others.
“As a health care professional, being ‘in service of others’ signifies honoring the unique experiences, needs and viewpoints of others and considering how I can help support them to reach their fullest potential. This practice has persisted from providing patient care at the bedside to creating development programs at the system level,” she says. To be ‘in service of others’ requires you to get to know yourself, something worth exploring, since you’re going to be with yourself for the rest of your life.”
Volpicelli is a 2021 Leadership Collier alumna and has also served with FutureMakers Coalition on the Healthcare Strategic Alignment team. She has also been a member of the NCH Board of Directors and Florida Organization of Nurse Executives-Southwest Chapter.
For more than 11 years, WINK News anchor Corey Lazar has covered Southwest Florida’s most high-profile news stories. As a reporter and now as a morning anchor, his goal has been to help viewers make sense of the latest news and prepare them for what lies ahead. And to keep ahead of the ever-fluctuating news cycles, Lazar said he’s been motivated by learning to accept change.
“You can fight and resist change, or you can welcome it, grow with it and embrace it,” Lazar says. “Remind yourself that the only constant is change and with the right attitude, you can leverage change for positive growth.”
Away from the newsroom, Lazar has served on the board of directors for the Boys & Girls Club of Lee County and now serves on the board for the National Alliance on Mental Illness for Lee, Charlotte and Hendry Counties. For the last four years, he has acted as the chairman of the annual NAMI Walk and also is the co-chair for the Gentle’men Against Domestic Violence event for The Shelter for Abused Women & Children. In addition to his volunteer efforts, Lazar mentors young journalists at WINK News and helps to create newsroom leaders among young producers.
Career Pathways Senior Manager
The Immokalee Foundation
Growing up in Immokalee, Yaresly Gorosquieta knew from an early age that she wanted to go to college, earn a degree and then return home to make a difference in the lives of other students. Now, as the career pathways senior manager for The Immokalee Foundation, she manages middle school and high school-related career pathways services, such as programming, advocacy, career experiential learning, field trips, postsecondary experiences, internships and summer camps. And while Gorosquieta was the first member of her family to graduate from college, and she aspires to earn a master’s degree in leadership, she said the things she’s learned along the way are what resonate the most.
“At a young age, my parents taught me that with hard work and dedication, you could accomplish anything,” she says. “My career and life experiences have taught me the importance of courage; to take heart, obliterate obstacles and conquer challenges for a greater impact beyond myself.”
Gorosquieta is a graduate of Associate Leadership Collier Class of 2022. In addition, she currently serves as a member of FutureMakers Coalition, Future Ready Collier and the Florida Gulf Coast University Alumni Association.
Advance Hurricane Technology Inc.
Jaime Zabala never thought becoming the president of Advanced Hurricane Technology (AHT) was in his future. But, with a master’s degree in computer and electrical engineering and a job as a NASA engineer, Zabala took over the company after his father’s retirement in 2019. Even as Zabala has used his engineering background to change the way hurricane shutters are sold, built and delivered, he’s also worked to change his community.
“In my career, I’ve learned to never stop trying to get better because your family, employees, community and business deserve your quality effort,” he says. “I want AHT to be a truly innovative company and to grow with responsibility in mind while ensuring that our staff is centered.”
Under Zabala’s leadership, the company has given an entire home of hurricane protection to a military veteran, which he hopes to continue annually. The company also sponsored the Kicking the Blues festival to help raise money and awareness for mental health after Hurricane Ian. AHT also participated with local churches in clean-up efforts in North Fort Myers and Naples and partnered with a local ice cream vendor to distribute free ice cream to those assisting people in need at local food pantries and parks.
Naples Children & Education Foundation
Sarah Zaiser-Kelly works as the grants director for the Naples Children & Education Foundation, the agency behind the Naples Winter Wine Festival fundraiser. Zaiser-Kelly oversees NCEF funding strategies to help meet gaps in social services and works with community partners to ensure the foundation is improving the well-being of children in Collier County—and she insisted her success can be attributed to the people around her.
“Something I’ve always lived by is to surround yourself with good people who will constantly push you beyond your comfort zone. The only time you are actually growing is when you are uncomfortable,” she says. “I can attribute both my growth and success to being surrounded by caring, successful individuals—NCEF trustees, colleagues and community partners. Nurturing these relationships has enabled me to not only learn and grow, but to always have a strong support system to lean on.”
The annual grants and collaborative strategic initiatives coordinated through NCEF by Zaiser-Kelly benefit more than 50 nonprofit agencies. Those funds provide children and families with the necessary access to primary care, allowing early detection and treatment of disease, behavioral health issues and other health concerns in SWFL children.
Vice President of Strategic Partnerships & Market Development
Isis LaRose works as the vice president of strategic partnerships and market development for Better Together, a privately funded agency dedicated to providing an alternative to foster care by supplying temporary homes for children while their parents work to stabilize their family. Though she said she always had a desire to help others, once LaRose was introduced to the agency and became a volunteer host family in 2017, she realized her passion for helping families in need.
“Though I had served vulnerable families in the health care arena, before Better Together I had no experience in child welfare. The career change was a big risk,” she says. “However, I believe in the power of hard work, failing fast, learning quickly and moving forward. This allowed me the opportunity to grow immensely in my career through the work we do and the opportunity to make a life-changing impact.”
Since that first hosting opportunity in 2017, LaRose, along with her husband and two kids, has hosted 21 children. She said her family is just as committed as she is to the program and they all share in the joy of being able to care for children while their families maneuver through crises.
Program Manager, Victim Support
AARP Fraud Watch Network
Having served in leadership roles for a variety of nonprofits, Randi Izdonavicius is no stranger to helping others. She’s also been able to apply her knowledge of scams and identity theft schemes toward helping others avoid being scammed.
“The AARP Fraud Watch Helpline receives nearly 1,000 calls daily from scam victims. I started as a helpline volunteer for the AARP Fraud Watch Network and transitioned into the role of program manager for victim support at the Fraud Watch Network,” Izdonavicius says. “I wanted to turn my knowledge, experience and skills to helping others avoid would-be scammers or help in the recovery of those who’ve been victimized.”
As part of her work with the AARP Fraud Watch Network, Izdonavicius helps train a team of nearly 100 volunteers and works with scam victims to offer solutions, reporting methods and mental health resources, if needed. She also conducts presentations for vulnerable groups, is an advocate for policy change and provides reporting to companies who are eager to learn how they can better protect their consumers.
Pro-Tec Plumbing & Air
Brandon Hume wanted to be a professional golfer or an entrepreneur. Ultimately, he traded his putter for partnership with his brother to establish Pro-Tec Plumbing & Air in Naples. Now working as the company’s authorized service representative for a variety of smart home products, Hume believes the key to success lies in the value of leadership.
“I’ve learned the difference between being a boss and being a leader. It’s far more important to be a humble owner with a positive attitude, who is approachable, who trusts and empowers the team, and lets them make mistakes to learn and grow from, than it is to be the ‘Boss’ with an ego who’s the best at everything,” he says. “The boss will only stunt growth and demotivate others, keeping them from being the best they can be. A leader will build a team that shares vision [and] passion, is loyal and wants to achieve goals set together, resulting in success and growth.”
As a self-described “numbers guy,” Hume also leads Pro-Tec’s charitable and philanthropic campaigns. Those endeavors support Wounded Warriors of Collier County, Home Base Southwest Florida, Toys for Tots, Humane Society Naples, David Lawrence Centers and The Immokalee Foundation.
Area Agency on Aging for Southwest Florida
Maricela Morado is the president and CEO of the Area Agency on Aging for Southwest Florida, a nonprofit serving older adults and adults with disabilities in the area. Before joining AAASWFL, she worked with local nonprofits including Abuse Counseling and Treatment Inc. and Healthy Start Coalition of Southwest Florida. Beyond her previous experience, Morado said determination has driven her career success.
“One of the most important things I have learned throughout my career is the power of faith and perseverance. It is crucial to stay determined and resilient in the face of challenges and setbacks and never lose faith,” she says. “As the oldest in my extended and immediate family, the first to become fluent in English and a first-generation graduate, I have achieved personal growth and various opportunities through hard work, dedication and perseverance, even in challenging times.”
Outside of her work with AAASWFL, Morado is a member of the Omega Nu Lambda National Honor Society and the Collier Dementia Care & Cure Initiative Steering Committee. She also serves as a board member of the Transportation Disadvantaged Programs for Charlotte, Hendry, Glades, Sarasota and Collier counties, and volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southwest Florida.
Community Relations Coordinator
Lipman Family Farms
A lifelong resident of Immokalee, Maria Munguia-Cortes’ community involvement started in high school, when she was a reading and math tutor for at-risk elementary-age students. After becoming the first member of her family to graduate from college, she began working for Lipman Family Farms, North America’s largest open-field tomato grower and distributor. Serving as a connection point between the company and the community, Munguia-Cortes said she wants to continue giving back.
“I would not be where I am today had it not been for all the incredible mentors in my life. I credit the Guadalupe Center for providing me with my first mentors,” she says. “My experience in development programs like the Guadalupe Tutor Corps, Redlands Christian Migrant Association’s daycare and The Immokalee Foundation have all shaped my desire to give the same opportunities I received to the generation coming up behind me.”
In 2021, Munguia-Cortes was elected to the Guadalupe Center Board of Trustees, becoming its youngest member and the first Tutor Corps alumna to join its governance board.
In 2022, she was selected for Associate Leadership Collier, a program of the Leadership Collier Foundation of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce.
Hurricane Recovery Team
Director of Family Services
Habitat for Humanity of Lee and Hendry Counties
Daniela Rambhajan began working in hurricane recovery as a disaster case manager with Lee County Human and Veteran Services after Hurricane Irma. Today, as the director of family services for Habitat for Humanity of Lee and Hendry Counties’ Hurricane Recovery Team, she’s helping families build resilience after Hurricane Ian. Following the mission of social work, which is enhancing human well-being and helping to meet basic human needs, Rambhajan also understands the value of empowerment.
“People are more engaged in rehabilitation and recovery when they feel empowered. In social work, we use the term ‘person-centered’ approach, which is based on the concept that people are inherently capable of making decisions regarding their recovery even if their circumstances make this particularly challenging,” she says. “Successfully employing a person-centered approach requires empathy and the ability to tailor a person’s recovery efforts to their strengths. Every day I speak with survivors of Hurricane Ian and try to understand their values, styles and individual needs to help empower them to take their first steps toward recovery.”
Rambhajan volunteers with the Family Initiative and with the Unmet Needs Long-Term Recovery Group. She has previously interned at Children’s Advocacy Center of SWFL and with the Immokalee Friendship House.
Senior Communications/Community Outreach Manager
Naples Airport Authority
A Southwest Florida native, Zac Burch works as the senior communications and community outreach manager for the Naples Airport Authority. In that capacity, he oversees all outreach to the public, tenants, customers and elected officials, while also managing the airport’s website, social media, advertising, media and public relations. But as the public face of the airport, he also understands the value of honesty and sincerity.
“The most important thing that I have learned so far in my career is to be authentic. If you don’t believe in what you’re talking about, people will see right through you instantly,” Burch says. “Being genuine and having a passion for what you do are essential to being successful in any field.”
In addition to his work with the airport, Burch is a member of the Collier County Historic and Archaeological Preservation Board, and serves as the vice chair of the Florida Airports Council Noise Abatement and Community Affairs Committee. He is a member of the Greater Naples Chamber Public Policy Board and Small Business Council. Burch was honored with the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) 40 Under 40 award in 2022, and was in the 2023 class of Associate Leadership Collier.
CRS Technology Consultants
John Joyce started his first technology company while a student at the University of Florida. He later merged that company with Cape Coral-based CRS Technology Consultants and now oversees the technical side of operations, including project management, hardware and software systems, cybersecurity initiatives, computer networks, server management and more. However, while his business may be technology-based, Joyce said he never forgets the human element.
“I’ve learned the importance of staying in touch with the ‘human factor’ of business. Technology especially is so driven by performance, numbers and staying forward-looking that it’s all too easy to forget that there are real people on the other end of the gadgets,” he says. “At the end of the day, if what we’re doing and creating isn’t in the service of those people, then we’re missing the point of what makes it so magical in the first place.”
Joyce supports Community Cooperative, Valerie’s House, De LaSalle Academy and the IT Disaster Resource Center. In addition, he is a member of the Board of Directors for United Way of Lee, Hendry and Glades Counties, while also supporting numerous charitable causes.
Chartreuse Craft Cocktail Lounge and Right at Home
Twenty years ago, Danielle Dyer was the first employee hired by home health agency Right at Home of Southwest Florida, before becoming its owner in 2016. However, her entrepreneurial endeavors also include Chartreuse Cocktail Lounge in historic Bonita Springs. While a home health agency and cocktail lounge may not be the most traditional business portfolio pairing, Dyer said her approach to both entities is the same.
“Having a broader perspective on issues and challenges has allowed me to approach my teams in real and creative ways, which allows me to keep or hire amazing people. It also helps me to see things from different angles and always try to consider multiple solutions,” she says. “I believe that with hard work and perseverance, anything is possible. By staying focused on my goals and pushing through challenges, I have been able to continue to grow my home care company and also fulfill my long-term dream of opening the lounge.”
When not working, Dyer is active with several volunteer and philanthropic endeavors: She is currently on the boards of The Dr. Piper Center, The Parkinson Association of SWFL and The Florida State Guardian—SWFL, and president of The Alvin Dubin Alzheimer’s board.
Pace Center for Girls
In her role as the development manager at Pace Center for Girls, Margo Brewster helps manage fundraising initiatives, special events and grants to ensure the organization meets its fiscal and developmental goals. A Fort Myers native, Brewster also believes in giving back to the community where she was raised, and is passionate about helping girls succeed in the same way her female mentors helped guide and influence her life.
“I am lucky to have a strong team of supporters who have not only encouraged me, but have provided constructive criticism and helped set me on a path to success,” she says. “I am thankful for the family and friends who were never afraid to be honest with me when I was wrong, and to cheer me on when I did something right.”
Since joining Pace in 2018, Brewster has helped raise more than $2 million, and she was recently recognized as a finalist as an ENPY Awards’ 2022 Next Generation Leader by The Community Foundation. She is also working to earn a certificate in fundraising management through the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, an achievement recognizing and substantiating commitment to fundraising leadership.
After her honorable discharge from the U.S. Navy in 2013, Daniele Hall started her family in Cape Coral. But she also fulfilled her dream of entrepreneurship by founding Selaluz Candles, a lifestyle brand and product born from her passions for health, wellness and love for the human spirit. While growing both her family and her business, Hall has focused on cultivating relationships, too.
“My journey has been defined by my faith, positive mindset and commitment to building meaningful relationships. I’ve realized that the key to success lies not only in professional achievements but also in nurturing real connections with others. I define that as ‘Being rich in relationships,’” she says. “Through my experiences, I want to inspire others to embrace love, perseverance and the pursuit of wisdom as essential elements of a fulfilling and successful life.”
Hall is also focused on her mission to be a positive influence on the community through philanthropy and commitment to entrepreneurship. That has included involvement with Blessings in a Backpack, numerous beach cleanups on Fort Myers Beach, gathering donations for animal sanctuaries and conducting small classes and keynote speaking events focused on enhancing local stewardship and community health.
Harper Haus Interiors
In 2017, with two children and a husband in medical school, Kelli Esposito left her corporate job in the fashion industry to follow her lifelong dream. However, while Esposito said she opened Harper Haus Interiors with nothing more than passion and grit, life presented another hurdle to clear.
“We had just welcomed our third baby girl in 2019 when we found out we were moving to Oklahoma City for my husband’s four-year ER residency. I thought the business would suffer with the move, but the calls for home remodels in Southwest Florida continued, and I traveled back and forth from OKC to RSW every month with the kids in tow,” she says. “I learned to always go with your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, let it go and the next door will open.”
In 2022, Harper Haus Interiors opened its first official design studio in Naples and established a permanent presence in Southwest Florida. But Esposito has still found time to give back. After Hurricane Ian, she helped raise money for those affected by the storm, helped clean out homes and delivered meals, care packages, toiletry kits, clothing and bedding in the weeks after the storm.
Selection Process and Alumni Coordinator
Champions For Learning
Born and raised in Naples, Jessica Perez said her personal mission statement is to help others, contribute to the community and be happy. However, working with school counselors to help local families in need of scholarships in her role at Champions For Learning is personal to Perez, as she lived the same experience.
“I grew up in a low-income family, got pregnant very young and dropped out of school. I know the personal struggle families go through trying to obtain an education,” she says. “I learned to have the willingness to keep learning and to not be afraid of starting over. Getting an education has always been my passion. I was determined to finish school, get a technical degree and ultimately get a college degree to serve the community.”
Perez noted that helping others and contributing to the community is what makes her happy, and she has supported the Naples Children and Wine Festival as part of its security and registration team for the last four years. She has also volunteered at Naples Church and Backstage Dance Academy, served as a youth cheerleading coach and worked with the PTO at her children’s school.
Senior Vice President, Financial Advisor, Portfolio Manager
Currently a senior vice president at Morgan Stanley, Ana Munro works as a financial advisor to ultra-high net-worth individuals seeking a transformative wealth management experience. Having honed her knowledge and experience by blending traditional values with proactive modern ideas while working to build meaningful connections with her clients, Munro said the most important thing she’s learned in her career comes down to one word.
“I live by it daily: ‘adaptability.’ The world is constantly evolving. Whether we like it or not, we live in an environment that is fast-paced, volatile and often ambiguous. I remain relevant through continuous learning, maintaining a flexible stance and embracing change,” she says. “At work, I show up as my authentic self by blending traditional values that are important to me with proactive modern ideas that are effective in our complex world.”
Munro is also committed to the community, as reflected in her involvement with organizations that promote education, including Compassion and Charity Navigator. She is a staunch advocate for women’s leadership and empowerment, serving on the Board of Directors at Women Enabled Enterprises and as a founding member of CHIEF, an organization that supports women executive leaders. *
Manager, Career and Technical Education
Collier County Public Schools
Courtney Stahlman is the manager of career and technical education at Collier County Public Schools. In this role, she coordinates the development and maintenance of high school career academies, assists the district in developing business partnerships and creates, organizes and implements programs that provide student work-based learning opportunities and internship placements. With a passion for helping students gain the knowledge and tools they need to succeed in their future careers, Stahlman cites the value of mentorship and her own “code” as big reasons for her success.
“I think it’s important to find a mentor who is knowledgeable, caring and successful. When you surround yourself with someone like that and are willing to listen and learn, you will only grow and succeed both personally and professionally,” she says. “And I follow my own personal C-O-D-E: Consistency, Organization, Dedication, Enthusiasm. If you put those four characteristics into anything you do, you are bound to be successful.”
To help students prepare for successful careers, Stahlman also participates in several work-based learning committees and collective impact groups, such as Future Ready Collier. She also serves as a mentor through Champions For Learning—Take Stock in Children.
Vice President of Community Impact
United Way of Lee, Hendry and Glades Counties
Working as the vice president of community impact at United Way of Lee, Hendry and Glades Counties, Madison Mitchell focuses on solving community challenges and championing collaboration. That has included launching or growing the footprint of United Way programs, such as WeCare, ReUnite, Beesley’s Paw Prints, Gifts in Kind, United Way Houses, Community Partnership Schools and United Way’s annual fund distribution process, which allocates millions of dollars to critical social service programs each year. And the choices she’s made, Mitchell said, have been a big part of her success.
“My parents raised me to be bold and confident and optimistic that things will work out, even when things seem dark,” she says. “If you make choices based on what is right, if you’re honest and kind and admit your mistakes, you will be successful. It won’t always be easy, but the relationships you build along the way, and the results, will be worth it.”
In the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Mitchell supervised donation and volunteer efforts for Lee County. She has also participated in numerous community task forces and boards and currently serves with the Unmet Needs Long Term Recovery Group and the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
Restore Hyper Wellness
Nicholas Christiano said helping others at the cellular level is rooted within every facet of his life. That goal led him to open several Restore Hyper Wellness franchises, which offer science-based therapies to reduce pain and inflammation, fight off signs of aging and get people back to doing what they love. He is also president and principal consultant of Intrinsic Medical Group LLC, which determines and mitigates biological risks for medical device and pharmaceutical companies’ products and their intended clinical uses. But beyond business, Christiano said his passion has been the root of all his success.
“Being passionate about everything I become involved with has been critical for me for as long as I can remember,” he says. “Loving what I do, both in and out of the workplace, has provided me with a steady foundation for success. To become more successful, I have always believed you don’t need to change who you are, but that you have to become more of who you are at your best.”
Since 2015, Christiano has also been active with The Shelter for Abused Women & Children to raise awareness to end domestic violence and human trafficking.
The Healthy Earth Organization
As CEO and co-founder of The Healthy Earth Organization, Falon Tabares provides nature-based experiences and resources to young people throughout Southwest Florida to create a stronger connection to their community and environment. The nonprofit partners with early learning centers to provide enrichment programs, conduct beach/reef/mangrove cleanups, create or revamp community gardens, tag horseshoe crabs, plant vegetation along the coastline and more. While the preservation of our natural resources is the goal of The Healthy Earth Organization, Tabares also understands the value of being resourceful.
“I was a management consultant and decided to turn my love of helping young people be better stewards of the planet into a full-time job,” she says. “The most important thing I’ve learned in my career is that being resourceful is one of the greater skills to have or develop, and to always be proactive instead of reactive in business. And I attribute my growth to my desire to keep learning and embracing challenges in business.”
In the community, Tabares serves as a board member for SWFL Inc., the Below 40 Group by the Above Board Chamber of Florida and Bonita Springs YMCA’s Golf Tournament Committee, which benefits its early learning scholarship program.
Vice President, Banker/CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™
J.P. Morgan Private Bank
Originally from the Pittsburgh area, Cynthia Lammert is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Professional, vice president and banker in the Naples office of J.P. Morgan Private Bank. She has nearly two decades of experience in financial services, with the last 13 years focused on the needs of high net-worth clients. Lammert said her passion and conviction for making a difference is what drives her to educate clients about the economy and the entirety of their wealth pictures—but while her input helps affluent individuals and their families make the complex financial decisions that can help grow and protect their wealth, she also believes in the power of listening.
“The most important thing I’ve learned in my career is to listen. Seek to understand what is in someone’s heart, mind and soul. Understand their challenges, hopes and desires,” she says. “Once you understand, you can truly make a difference and build relationships based on trust and credibility.”
Lammert also works in the Southwest Florida community by serving on the board of BelieveNBooks and collaborating with Guadalupe Center Inc. In addition, she and her family volunteer at Grace Place for Children and Families and Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southwest Florida.
Strayhorn, Persons-Mulicka & Fisher
Born and raised in Fort Myers, attorney Megan Strayhorn is dedicated to serving her home and the community where her family’s legal firm, Strayhorn, Persons-Mulicka & Fisher, has been established for more than 100 years. But it was Strayhorn’s work as a public defender that encouraged her passion for public service in Southwest Florida.
“I worked at the public defender’s office for the 20th Judicial Circuit. There, I worked with the elected public defender as an ambassador building a new unit, ‘The Forensic Case Management Unit,’ which focuses solely on the representation of clients who suffer from severe and persistent mental illness,” Strayhorn says. “This new unit consists of designated attorneys, social workers and case managers to reduce the recidivism rate by providing holistic legal representation that ultimately saves money for our community and connects clients to much-needed community-based services.”
While in college, Strayhorn volunteered internationally with the World Food Bank in Uganda, Cross Cultural Solutions in Thailand and Village Volunteers in Kenya. Currently, she serves on the planning and capacity branch for Lee County’s Hurricane Ian Task Force. Strayhorn also participates with the firm in supporting numerous civic and public projects in Southwest Florida.
Assistant United States Attorney
United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida
Before his career in law, Patrick Darcey served more than seven years on active duty as a U.S. Marine Corps officer and was deployed twice overseas, including a tour in Afghanistan. However, while he holds four college degrees and now works as Assistant United States Attorney, as well as a Judge Advocate in the United States Navy Reserve, Darcey said much of his success stems from something he learned as a Marine.
“I attribute much of my success to waking up early. While I was in the Marine Corps, I was forced to wake up extremely early and I guess the habit just stuck,” he says. “I’ve been disciplined with this over the last three or four years and am up every day by 5 a.m. I’ve seen the tremendous impact that an extra three or four hours a day can make. The snooze button is the dream killer.”
Outside his law career, Darcey is active in the community and serves as a member of the board of directors for Hearts and Homes for Veterans Inc., a nonprofit seeking to end homelessness among veterans. He is also a scholarship selection reader with the Federal Employees Education and Assistance Fund.
Chicken Salad Chick
Kendal Potesta, along with her husband, owns three Chicken Salad Chick locations in Southwest Florida with more opening soon. But before becoming an entrepreneur, Potesta worked several years as a civilian for the U.S. Army. And that’s where she received her most important career advice.
“I was afraid to speak up and tell my superiors what I wanted to do with my career. My HR manager told me, ‘No one is going to look out for you like you are. If you want something, you need to speak up and go for it!’” she says. “That piece of advice has always stuck with me and is something I try to impart to those that work closely with us. If you want something in your life, you have to make it happen for yourself. Speak up, look for resources and make it happen!”
In addition to her entrepreneurial skills, Potesta has also used her Chicken Salad Chick restaurants to give back to the community. The opening of each location raised money for Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida. Plus, in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Potesta led an initiative to donate fresh meals to frontline workers and first responders.
Abuse Counseling & Treatment
Boasting extensive experience in the nonprofit sector, in 2021 Anthony Morales began working as an educator at Abuse Counseling & Treatment, a resource center and shelter for individuals affected by domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking. He has since taken on a leadership role in the agency’s development initiatives while also serving on the board of directors for Visuality, a nonprofit working for the LGBTQ+ community in Southwest Florida. That community, Morales said, has been the impetus for his own growth.
“I credit my achievements and personal development to the LGBTQ+ community in Southwest Florida, with a particular emphasis on the contributions of Arlene Goldberg, the co-founder of Visuality,” he says. “Through their support and guidance, I have been empowered to explore and excel in domains that were previously beyond my imagination.”
While his work with Visuality has been instrumental in staging several social events and fundraisers, Morales is also involved with the Harmony Chamber of Commerce and has previously volunteered with hurricane relief efforts through Project Hope. He is also working with Big Brothers Big Sisters, where he will be mentoring children in need of guidance.
As a founding partner of Davies Duke, a law firm geared toward real estate development clients, Noel Davies focuses his practice on land use and zoning matters and has frequently appeared before the City Council and County Commission on behalf of his clients. While Davies works for his clients, he said his own desire to act has played a big role in his success.
“My success and growth have come from taking action, alongside hard work, calculated risks and diligence in managing those risks. There are consequences to not taking action, so sometimes all you need to do is act,” Davies says. “Once you take that first step, the momentum will build and everything you used to be worried about will fall into place.”
In the community, Davies is a 2021 Leadership Collier graduate and a supporter of Humane Society Naples and the David Lawrence Centers. He has also served as chairman of the Urban Land Institute and the Real Estate Section of the Collier County Bar Association. In addition, he has received numerous awards throughout his career, including Naples Illustrated’s Top Lawyers and U.S. News and World Report – Best Law Firms.
Director of the Southwest Florida Leadership Institute/Associate Professor of Management
Florida Gulf Coast University
As the director of the Southwest Florida Leadership Institute at Florida Gulf Coast University, Meagan Baskin works to bring the classroom back to the community. In doing so, she strives to increase workforce stability in Southwest Florida by developing leadership and workforce training opportunities. And it’s in her role as an educator where Baskin most often shares what she’s learned in her career.
“I’ve learned you have the power to change your reality! Many people stay in situations in which they feel stuck, either because they are unhappy with what they are doing or who they are doing it with,” she says. “Most often we are waiting for something or someone to come along and ‘unstick’ us, but we must be the catalyst for change. Don’t wait; do it yourself. There is so much media attention out there that talks about the art of saying ‘No.’ I think we need to learn to leap!”
Baskin teaches in the areas of ethical decision-making, organizational behavior and human resource management, and has won several teaching awards. Most recently, she earned the 2023 Distinguished Educator Award from the Southwest Academy of Management, a career achievement award for excellence in teaching.
Director of Education
As director of education at Gulfshore Playhouse, Steven Calakos oversees and executes interdisciplinary arts education programs while also establishing beneficial partnerships with local and national organizations. Though he’s also a professional actor, singer and model with national credits, Calakos said the most important thing he’s learned in his career is the power of education. “Theater education provides the opportunity for students to be creative, effectively communicate both verbally and nonverbally and build their confidence in a safe environment.
“Theater education promotes a sense of universal understanding and respect within our community while offering the opportunity for actors … to actually put themselves in someone else’s shoes,” he says.
Calakos was honored with the 2022 and 2023 Tony Award Honorable Mention for Excellence in Theater Education, as well as the Greek America Foundation Forty Under 40 Award. He previously co-founded a theater production company to help create quality, affordable educational opportunities in a socioeconomically disadvantaged region. Calakos is also a member of the 2023 Leadership Collier Foundation Class.
Legal Aid Service of Collier County
Dedicated to helping those with unmet legal needs, Callhan Soldavini works as a staff attorney with the nonprofit law firm Legal Aid Service of Collier County. In that role, she provides free legal representation to low-income entrepreneurs and nonprofits that serve low-income communities. For Soldavini, assisting those who need help is also a passion.
“Through my philanthropic involvement, I try to find not only projects I am passionate about, but ones where my unique skill set and contributions can create the biggest impact. Is your strong suit management, advocacy, writing, social media, numbers, marketing or fundraising? Find an organization not only with a mission you deeply care about but one that needs someone just like you to fill that void,” she says. “It’s an incredible feeling to be an invaluable resource to a nonprofit that needs you and your specific skills. Then, when I share my time, I feel I truly made a difference for someone or a group in my community.”
Soldavini’s philanthropic involvement includes serving on the board for Pads 4 Refugees. She also works with Naples Pride and was honored as its 2023 Ally of the Year.
Frantz Marketing Solutions
As the founder and CEO of Frantz Marketing Solutions, Susan Frantz leads her team in creating strategic, innovative and customized marketing campaigns designed to deliver exceptional results for clients. But even with 15 years of experience, Frantz said she’s learned as much from her failures as her successes.
“Every setback presents an opportunity for valuable learning and future success. This impacted me as I opened my own business and, of course, feared failure,” she says. “However, overcoming my fear of failure, or ‘failing forward’ as I like to call it, allows me to view setbacks as stepping stones rather than obstacles, explore uncharted territories and pursue my goals with confidence. This mindset has helped to promote a culture of continuous learning and adaptation for myself.”
Away from the business, Frantz volunteers her time and expertise with several charitable causes, including serving as the chair and a committee member for events, such as the American Cancer Society’s Cattle Baron’s Ball, Hope Hospice’s Shine for Hope and the Canterbury Extravaganza. She also plays an active role in the Southwest Florida Chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association (FPRA) and has been elected as the chapter president for the upcoming 2023-24 term.
Simple Beauty Studio
Born in Naples, Kiley Burd enrolled in cosmetology school to pursue her childhood dream and passion of doing hair. After several years with some of the top salons in Naples, she opened her salon, Simple Beauty Studio, in 2016. After adding a MedSpa in 2019, Simple Beauty now offers a full array of aesthetic services, from hair to Botox to laser hair removal and everything in between. While her skill and commitment to the community have helped grow the business, Burd credits many of her accomplishments to the people she’s met along the way.
“Much of my success and growth has come from the focus on relationships in both my personal and professional life,” she says. “I have always found joy in surrounding myself with people and doing all I can to make them feel loved and beautiful.”
Burd stays active in the community through her company’s Spreading Beauty Initiative, in which the salon staff donates portions of their bonuses to benefit others in different ways. She and her co-workers also help put on the First Responders Fest, a free concert and tribute focused on raising money for the Tunnels to Towers Foundation and honoring local first responders.