There’s no age requirement for excellence. You might have heard the aphorism “Youth is wasted on the young,” but it’s generally credited to Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, a famously bitter curmudgeon—and besides, counterexamples can be found all around us. Take a good look at the Southwest Florida workforce and you’ll see every profession being elevated and energized through the dedication and drive of younger generations. We’re pleased to celebrate their efforts by presenting the Gulfshore Business 40 Under 40 for 2022.
Inside you’ll see representatives of dozens of industries from law to dentistry, real estate to public education, speech therapy to photography. And while their efforts at those vocations are undeniably impressive, inclusion in this list requires more than professional excellence and comparative youth; each honoree has also dedicated extra energy, time and talent to making his or her community a little better through philanthropic work and volunteer support for nonprofit organizations.
The drive to succeed, the passion to pursue their dreams, the caring and commitment to improve the quality of life for all of us—these young members of our Southwest Florida community are true inspirations, and it’s our pleasure to shine a spotlight on this year’s 40 Under 40. They’ve earned it.
Associate Director of Horticulture
Naples Botanical Garden
Drawn by its biodiversity, Elizabeth Beans moved to Southwest Florida seven years ago after studying botany and environmental science at Miami University in Ohio. Now serving as the associate director of horticulture at Naples Botanical Garden, she can truly say that her job is focused on growth.
“This job allows me to express my love of nature and to fulfill my creative instincts by designing landscapes or helping others fulfill their visions. Gardening is a fantastic form of therapy, and I feel like we are in a new age of gardening,” she says. “For many people, the Garden serves as an introduction to the natural world. My hope is that a visit to the Garden helps visitors realize the importance of its preservation, motivates them to make more sustainable decisions at home and prompts them to consider the environment when casting ballots at the polls.”
In addition to her work at the Garden, Beans has helped with beach dune restoration on Sanibel Island, coordinated Collier Community Foundation plantings from the beaches to local parks and medians and participated in oyster reef restoration near the mouth of the Caloosahatchee.
The Office of Congressman Byron Donalds
Plenty of people say they’re passionate about their job. But in her career, Stephanie Neurock has been especially passionate about helping veterans. That’s because she’s an Army veteran herself.
“My goal is to help veteran-owned businesses,” she says. “That’s why I’m proud to spearhead and co-host the annual SWFL Veterans Expo with FGCU, where we take a holistic approach to ensure veterans know the benefits and resources available to them.”
Along with being a volunteer and key stakeholder in many nonprofit organizations, Neurock chairs the Veterans Business Council through SWFL Inc., which holds free monthly workshops and networking events dedicated to building a prosperous business community for all veterans. She also advocates for the interests of veteran businesses on the Horizon Inclusion and Diversity Committee. Neurock now serves as a district representative for Congressman Byron Donalds. In that capacity, she helps constituents remediate issues with the federal government and relays the needs of constituents to the Washington D.C. office.
Steven J. Adamczyk
Steve Adamczyk graduated with honors from the University of Florida law school in 2008 and immediately began practicing law in his hometown of Naples. Now a partner at Varnum LLP, he says he’s aiming even higher, professionally and personally.
“My dad instilled in me early that if you are going to do something, do it right. I believe that passion and hard work can yield incredible results, and giving your best to every commitment is crucial to achieving great results,” he says. “I recently obtained my MBA and want to bring my business-oriented approach to help clients dream big, do great things and achieve their goals with effective legal counsel to partner in their journeys.”
In addition to his legal work, Adamczyk also teaches legal classes, publishes articles on legal topics and tries to explain complex legal matters in a simple, fun manner. He has volunteered with the American Heart Association and currently serves on the board of the American Red Cross. Adamczyk said one of his most rewarding moments was his time spent serving as the Red Cross liaison to elected officials in Southwest Florida following the devastation of Hurricane Irma.
Jesi Cason Photography
Jesi Cason began as a photographer in 2007 and opened her own photography business 13 years later. And, while she said her style lends itself well to loud, proud, impossible-to-ignore clients who want to differentiate themselves from their competitors, the best business advice she ever received had nothing to do with photography.
“When I got my first camera, I reached out to a wedding videographer in my hometown and asked her if I should go to school and study photography. She essentially told me, ‘I went to school and studied photography. I should have studied business. You can learn photography on your own, but business and marketing skills are what artists really need,’” she says. “I took this to heart and her advice helped me see the importance of prioritizing good business practices, which made it possible for me to be a full-time professional photographer today.”
Away from her business, Cason serves on the Diversity and Inclusion committee of the AAF-SWFL and volunteers for the Neighborhood Accountability Board for Lee County Human & Veteran Services. She also works with Love Your Rebellion to promote marginalized people through the arts.
In 2012, Stephanie Ahasic opened a small chiropractic clinic in Naples with one employee. Today, Synergy Health is a thriving, multidisciplinary practice with more than 30 employees. She also plans to open the Thrive IV Bar to offer a range of therapies including IV drips, cryotherapy, aesthetic treatments and more. But that’s just the tip of her passion for quality health care, and for life.
“Our motto at Synergy Health is Make Naples Better, and for me, that goes far beyond just physical health,” says Ahasic. “Yes, I am committed to helping people feel better physically. But I am also committed to supporting the people who give so much to this community, like schoolteachers and first responders, as well as the local organizations committed to helping those most in need.”
Ahasic’s recent community projects include packing meals for school-aged children during the pandemic, annual toy and school supply drives for students at Title I schools throughout Collier County and co-chairing the charity golf outing for David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health, or DLC. In addition, at the beginning of each school year, she often sends team members to local schools to provide free massages for teachers and staff.
Grab N Go Kayaks/YouTube
Though he was working full-time as a nurse, Justin Lammers would occasionally upload videos of what he called his “aquatic adventure” to his YouTube channel, called KayakDIY. Over time, his videos of kayaking, fishing, diving and boat building helped turn his passion into a full-time career and garnered the attention of major outdoor and marine companies.
“My father said, ‘Do what you love so that you never work a day in your life.’ I definitely took that to heart,” Lammers says. “In addition to KayakDIY, I run a kayak rental delivery service called Grab N Go Kayaks in Cape Coral, and my fishing genre TikTok account operates as a small business for advertising fishing products.”
Aside from his many business endeavors, Lammers has a passion for helping his community and struggling local businesses. Through his YouTube channel, he has funded clean water efforts in Southwest Florida and organized funds from a paid YouTube sponsorship to help feed the homeless. He has also provided fishing gear and kayaks to vacationing families struggling with terminal illness, while also donating his time and marketing skills to struggling local businesses.
After growing up in Naples, Sloan Nagy graduated from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York, with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and a minor in education. Today, she serves as an asset manager for Brookfield Properties, focusing on the company’s strategic plan for Coastland Center.
“The best advice I ever received was ‘Listen to learn.’ If you’re going to be successful at making an impact, it is important to understand the issues and challenges from many points of view,” she says. “That’s important, because in my work with Coastland Center, I work with the general manager, operations manager and group business development representatives. I also work with tenant coordination, national accounts and city and town officials to ensure effective communication, coordination and programming of business development, strategic partnerships and marketing activities for the center.”
When not at work, Nagy enjoys giving back to the community. She is a board member for Habitat for Humanity NextGen, co-chair of the LCF Matching Needs Committee and a member of the CCPS NAF Advisory Board Committee. She also volunteers for STARability Foundation and Habitat for Humanity.
Vice President of Teen Initiatives
Boys & Girls Club of Collier County
A Naples native, Alex Breault is the vice president of Teen Initiatives at the Boys & Girls Club of Collier County, or BGCCC. She also works with the FutureMakers Coalition, or FMC, as its partnership manager to help further the agency’s goal of ensuring adults in SWFL have high-quality credentials to fill the workforce gaps in the area.
“The best advice I ever received was ‘Learn how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.’ To me, this meant asking those difficult questions everyone wants to ask but does not,” she says. “I want to apply that to help serve more students and families in our region, to ensure they have an understanding of local career opportunities and have the skills and the knowledge to create a plan or have an idea on how to reach their full potential.”
On top of her work, Breault serves on the Early Learning Coalition of SWFL Board and Taste of Immokalee Board, is chair of the CCPS NAF Advisory Board and is a member of FGCU’s Advisory Board for PAGES Program. She is also a member of the Child’s Path Advisory Board and serves as a co-chair for committees with FMC and Future Ready Collier.
Stock Development Corporation
Originally from Stuart, Florida, Matt Sellick was always drawn to the home building and construction business. After graduation from Florida State University, Sellick accepted a position as a superintendent at Stock Development and began learning the business. But, though he’s now president of Stock’s building divisions, along the way, Sellick also learned about building relationships.
“My mentor, Brian Stock, instilled in me that you are only as good as your people. Surround yourself with good people and you will be successful. This is something that has stuck with me to this day and something I will continue to do throughout my career,” Sellick says. “I learned the value of a strong organizational culture and a commitment to excellence. My goal is to continuously elevate the team and the quality of the homebuilding experience they deliver to customers.”
Sellick currently serves as president and a board member of the Collier Building Industry Association, or CBIA, and mentors FGCU students in construction and related career paths. In addition, he raised $250,000 for the construction of the Golisano Children’s Hospital in gratitude for their work with his son, who was born prematurely.
Elizabeth Kurtz Isbell
Kurtz Homes Naples and The Collective Naples
A Naples native, Elizabeth Kurtz Isbell earned a business degree from the University of Central Florida, and currently works at Kurtz Homes Naples and The Collective Naples, a high-end design center, covering marketing, events and business development. It was her grandfather who provided the best business lesson on giving back.
“My Papa, Ron Kurtz, who co-founded Kurtz Home Naples, always said, ‘Be a good steward of the things entrusted to you.’ My Papa saw everything he was given as something to be given back. He knew the value of relationships and instilling this principle in the next generation,” she says. “As his granddaughter, I have seen two generations before me live this out personally and professionally. This is something that will continue to drive what I do and will be a motivating factor in the roles that have been entrusted to me.”
Isbell is also invested in the community through the STARability Foundation and as president of the Naples Design District, Southwest Florida’s creative quarter. She is currently working to support the refurbishment of the Naples Design District.
Arriving in the United States from Venezuela to attend college in 2000, Corina Castellano earned a bachelor’s degree in arts and landscape architecture and master’s in construction management from Florida International University. Although construction ranks among Southwest Florida’s top industries, Castellano stands out as one of the few women in that field.
“Women comprise less than 10% of the total construction workforce in Southwest Florida. I want to use my knowledge and experience to empower women in the industry to have a voice and to follow their dreams,” she says. “I have always tried to learn something new every day and to not fear change, as with change comes opportunities, new knowledge and growth. I think that is what has helped me develop an ever-evolving portfolio in my career, and to contribute to the construction and development of some wonderful properties.”
Away from the construction sites, Castellano volunteers at her church teaching children’s Sunday School, by helping to feed the homeless and through a youth-based ministry called Awana. She is also a member of a company fundraising group that supports her fellow Suffolk employees through life-altering tragedies, as well as the company’s coastal cleanup and Build-A-Bike project.
John Paul Bratcher
Hahn Loeser & Parks LLP
As an attorney at Hahn Loeser & Parks LLP, John Paul Bratcher focuses his legal practice in the areas of private wealth preservation, estate planning, estate and trust administration, business law and fiduciary litigation. But he’s always looking for ways to improve, too.
“My college soccer coach always challenged my teammates and me by asking, ‘Can it be better? Can you do better?’ regarding anything from our quality of play and skill level to our effort and attitude, and even off the field,” he says. “My role as an estate planning and private wealth attorney is often described as being ‘in-house counsel’ to my clients. That means that many times I directly assist my clients and, on occasion, introduce them to a partner or colleague who is better suited to help them with the issue. I’m more capable in that role now than when I started practicing, and I intend to continue that growth throughout my career.”
In the community, Bratcher has been involved with the Collier Community Foundation and The Shelter for Abused Women & Children. He has also served as a volunteer assistant track and cross country coach at Gulf Coast High School.
Green Cup Cafe
Green Cup Cafe Co-Owner Jennifer Carbajal is a native of Fort Myers and a graduate of Florida Gulf Coast University. Her goal for the Green Cup Cafe is to create a positive, peaceful space where people gather, dine healthy and practice sustainability—and her path in the business world actually began before she was born.
“My dad started his business in 1989 in New Jersey, from zero. Migrating from another country, learning the language and culture, opening a business and raising three children was a dream he conquered,” she says. “He taught me numerous lessons in my life that shaped who I am today; from mastering resilience [to] gaining confidence, practicing optimism, practicing philanthropy and, most importantly, to always give more and never forget where I came from. I am a contagiously positive person who is optimistic and compassionate toward people, and will continue to strive to fulfill the community through the Green Cup Cafe.”
In addition to working to make her business serve as a community hub, Carbajal has also dedicated her time to several local nonprofit organizations. That includes serving as a mentor, teacher and volunteer with Lee Health, Children’s Advocacy and United Way.
After earning a marketing degree from Stetson University, Sanibel native Lauren Dunford took on a couple of post-graduate jobs. But accepting a new position at Collins Vision, an ophthalmology clinic, helped her see her job and her community differently.
“To market a product or a service successfully, you have to know everything about it, and I knew nothing about eyes. I set out to learn everything I could, and found that the more I learned, the more I wanted to know,” she says. “One of my favorite hats to wear has been creating the vision and core values that have become synonymous with the way Collins Vision conducts business. One of those core values states that we are ‘Humble Servants of our patients, each other and our community.’ Through the years, we’ve shown tremendous growth, and through it all, we’ve also been able to create a culture of giving back to a community that has given so much to all of us.”
In addition to her work at Collins Vision, Dunford is active in many capacities with United Way. She also donated her time to Special Equestrians, Captains For Clean Water and many other organizations.
Physician, Medical Director, Graduate Medical Residency Program
Born at Lee Memorial Hospital and raised in Immokalee, Kristen Dimas grew up with dreams of helping her community. After graduating from Florida State University College of Medicine in 2016, she returned to Southwest Florida to complete her residency training, and today serves as medical director of the Family Medicine residency at Lee Health.
“One of my goals is to address health disparities for underserved populations and to care for all patients, regardless of socio-economic status. And I want to recruit and train more outstanding physicians dedicated to this community mission,” she says. “As co-chair for a health disparities sub-committee devoted to positively impacting and evaluating those disparities and developing working solutions to address those disparities, we were able to identify the specific disparity, the key operational issue and resources needed to address the gaps. This collaborative work resulted in a recent $3.2 million grant to support community outreach efforts and partners to impact obesity, diabetes, hypertension, depression, anxiety, substance abuse and more.”
The efforts of Dimas and her health disparities committee supported the Barbershop Wellness Program, the Mobile Medicine Program, the Community Partnership School and more.
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon
WestShore OMS Specialists
Though he grew up in a small beach town in New Jersey and came from a family of pediatric dentists, Daniel Winokur wanted to forge his own path. After playing college golf and graduating from The George Washington University Business School, he worked at an investment bank until 2008. But then, he decided to forge yet another path.
“I wasn’t feeling fulfilled in my career, so I decided to leave finance. I then completed my surgical and medical training at Jackson Memorial Hospital and University of Miami Miller School of Medicine specializing in oral and maxillofacial surgery. I am now a partner at WestShore OMS Specialists,” he says. “I am double board certified in oral and maxillofacial surgery and anesthesia, and have traveled on mission trips to multiple countries providing health care to those less fortunate.”
Winokur also strives to serve the Southwest Florida community and works closely with the Neighborhood Health Clinic. He also volunteers as a study club leader and has been working to encourage decreased narcotic use as a means of postoperative pain management. In addition, Winokur serves as a lecturer and educator regarding opioid addiction with adolescents and anesthesia safety.
Play On Words Therapy
Ashley Hancock grew up in a small Kentucky town that emphasized teamwork, family values and interpersonal connection despite varying backgrounds and beliefs. After earning her master’s degree in speech-language pathology from Murray State University, she dreamed of one day opening her own private practice specializing in pediatrics. And when businesses were forced to close during the COVID-19 quarantine, Hancock saw an opening.
“With several schools and therapy clinics closing their doors, a multitude of children were left without necessary therapy services. I wanted to provide these children with the services they needed to thrive in their community. That’s when I opened Play on Words Pediatric Therapy and began to see clients one-on-one in the office,” she says. “Since then, we have expanded and developed into a comprehensive pediatric clinic, offering speech, occupational, feeding and teletherapy services. The teletherapy branch of the clinic allows our staff to serve not only children in the Naples community, but also the pediatric population throughout the entire state of Florida.”
Outside her work in the clinic, Hancock provides free speech and language screenings to local daycares and pre-schools. She also offers teletherapy services to low income and underserved areas such as Labelle and Immokalee.
College and Career Specialist, Certified Career Advisor
School District of Lee County
Kelly Thawley graduated from Muskingum University in New Concord, Ohio, with a bachelor’s degree in education and a minor in psychology. As a college and career specialist for the School District of Lee County, Thawley’s passion is helping students discover their own passion.
“I oversee work-based learning, career exploration and business partnerships, from kindergarten through 12th grade, within the Career and Technical Education Department. My goal is to help students discover their passions, connecting them to the local workforce in Southwest Florida and encouraging them on the pathway to a successful career,” she says. “I am also deeply committed to inspiring young women to follow their dreams and fulfill their true potential.”
To fulfill her goal of helping young women grow and thrive, Thawley serves on the planning committee for the LEAD Like a Girl program, on the board of directors for Our Mother’s Home and as the chair of the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce’s Women in Business Committee. She is also a proud FutureMaker and was a member of SWFL Inc.’s Leadership Class of 2020. In the future, she hopes to continue serving the community and students by helping to connect education and workforce development.
Born and raised in Naples, Geoff Hunter graduated from Gulf Coast High School and attended Florida State University, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in finance. He started his professional career with Raymond James Financial in its corporate headquarters in St. Petersburg, but when the opportunity arose to manage the company’s Naples office, he relocated back to his hometown.
“I believe in having a servant leader mindset in all things, whether it’s work, community involvement or my family,” he says. “At work, my role is to support my advisors and associates with achieving their goals; my success is tied to and dependent on theirs. Outside the office, I want to stay involved in the community, because this is where I was born and raised. I want to support its continued growth and development.”
Hunter volunteers his time and resources serving on the board of directors for Cancer Alliance of Naples and the Seminole Club of Naples. He has also involved his office in food drives, toy drives, Habitat for Humanity builds and volunteering for the Boys and Girls Club and United Way campaigns.
Attorney, Labor and Employment Law
Quarles & Brady LLP
A Southwest Florida native, Alexis Barkis works as a management-side employment lawyer at Quarles & Brady LLP, counseling businesses in labor and employment law and representing employers in workplace-related litigation. She also performs pro bono work assisting families seeking asylum in the United States. To handle her busy schedule, Barkis follows some advice she was given in law school.
“A mentor of mine once told me to be ‘like a duck.’ That might seem like an odd analogy, but the idea is to stay calm, cool and unruffled on the surface while paddling like crazy underneath,” she says. “I think this is particularly important in my profession, as it is essential to remain composed and portray confidence to clients, colleagues and opposing counsel, when behind the scenes you may be working frantically to navigate through a difficult matter.”
Outside the courtroom, Barkis serves on the board of directors of Fun Time Early Childhood Academy, a nonprofit preschool that provides safe, quality care for children of low-income working parents, and as a board officer for HR Collier, an organization for human resources professionals. She is also active in the local bar associations, including the Lee County Association for Women Lawyers.
7-Eleven Franchisee/Licensed Real Estate Broker Associate
For most people, balancing one full-time job with family life is demanding enough. But Brian Konkel, who owns five 7-Eleven franchise locations in Southwest Florida, sees things differently.
“My wife and I purchased our first 7-Eleven gas station franchise 10 years ago, and we now own and operate five locations in Southwest Florida. I’ve also been helping clients as a real estate broker with MVP Realty for 10 years,” he says. “In all facets of my life, I’ve always gone back to a quote from motivational speaker Les Brown, who said, ‘If you do what is easy, your life will be hard. If you do what is hard, your life will be easy.’ That helps me stay focused and take on the hard tasks that will eventually help me have an easy life.”
In addition to work, Konkel is passionate about community involvement, and through his 7-Eleven stores, has donated hundreds of pounds of food for food banks and a local mental health facility. He has also raised thousands of dollars through fundraisers for families that have fallen victim to drunk driving and fatal diseases.
Real Estate Service LLC
A lifelong resident of Naples, William Thomas “W.T.” Pearson received his undergraduate degree in business management and real estate. Earning his licensure in 2012, he now represents buyers, sellers, tenants and landlords in commercial transactions all across Southwest Florida. It was his grandfather who gave him the advice he still follows today.
“My grandfather, W.T. Starks, stressed the importance of maintaining a positive mental attitude. No matter the challenges that life throws my way, I always try to re-center myself by intentionally cultivating a positive mental attitude,” he says. “I look forward to building my business and my family here in Naples. It has always been home, and I can’t imagine raising a family anywhere else.”
Pearson also has a passion for giving back to the area where he grew up, as well as helping others to find ways to get involved in building a stronger community and economy. He is active with the Leadership Collier Foundation, or LCF, of the Greater Naples Chamber, and serves as a Youth Leadership Collier mentor and as the chair of the LCF Alumni Association Matching Needs Committee, which works to connect LCF alumni to community leadership roles.
Community Outreach Specialist
David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health
Raised in Islamorada, Jessica Liria graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University, earning dual Bachelor of Science degrees in criminal justice and forensic studies and a Master of Science degree in forensic studies with a concentration in forensic behavior analysis. She has worked as a community outreach specialist for the David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health, or DLC, since 2013.
“I remember my mom always saying, ‘Broaden your horizons,’ and that always stuck with me. It gave me the confidence to try new things and be open to new ideas,” she says. “Although behavioral health was not always my intended career field, I found my hidden passion in educating others and raising awareness on the importance of mental health. Working with DLC, I’ve held numerous roles spanning the continuum of care, from prevention to crisis services.”
Liria also participates in many coalitions and community groups in Collier County and throughout Southwest Florida. She is a certified instructor in Mental Health First Aid along with several other evidence-based training programs, and is a graduate of Associate Leadership Collier class of 2021.
Associate Director of Development
David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health
Jury Paulson holds a Bachelor of Science from Florida State University, a Master of Public Policy from the University of Erfurt in Germany and a Master of Legal Studies from Washington University in St. Louis. He also graduated from Officer Candidate School and serves as an officer in the Florida Army National Guard. Both of those elements serve him well in his career mission.
“At David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health, I serve as senior leadership for the Development Department, where I oversee projects, manage a portfolio of donors and work to engage the community through multiple avenues in support of the DLC mission,” he says. “My mission as a second lieutenant is to lead soldiers who stand ready to fulfill the National Guard’s dual role as a homeland defense force and as an overseas operational force.”
In addition to his work at DLC and the Florida National Guard, Paulson is a board member for the Housing Development Corporation of Southwest Florida (d/b/a HELP). He is also the immediate past president of the Young Professionals of Naples and a graduate of Associate Leadership Collier class of 2018.
Project Manager, U.S. Southeast
Room to Read
Holding a master’s degree in public administration from University of Phoenix and a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Ave Maria University, Karen Harmon has more than 15 years of public service experience. In her current position as the U.S. Southeast program manager for Room to Read, she’s working to improve literacy and gender equality through education.
“We’re developing a literacy program for after-school care and summer camps, as well as family engagement workshops to support literacy gains for children,” she says. “To enhance the literacy initiatives, 75,000 books will be distributed by Room to Read in August 2022.”
Harmon also serves on the Collier County Fatality Review Team, and Family Engagement Subcommittee for First Book. She has also served on the Haitian Initiative Advisory Board and is currently a member of Future Ready Collier. Prior to joining Room to Read, she worked with The Shelter for Abused Women & Children as the outreach director, where she expanded domestic violence advocacy programs and increased community collaborations.
After earning her bachelor’s degree from Florida Gulf Coast University in 2007, Stephanie Simmerman embarked on her health care career as a registered nurse with Riverchase Dermatology. In 2012, she obtained her Doctorate of Nursing Practice from the University of Florida and returned to Riverchase Dermatology as a nurse practitioner. But she’s still looking to expand her knowledge.
“Working alongside nationally recognized physicians, I’ve become proficient in complex medical and surgical dermatology, aesthetics and laser therapies. As I always want to grow my professional portfolio, I also provide presentations on myriad diseases and therapeutic regimens, as well as business aspects of the health care industry,” she says. “While I’m passionate about patient care, I’m always striving to develop my acumen in the business aspects of an ever-evolving health care industry.”
Simmerman volunteers for free skin cancer screenings—often for those without access to a dermatologist—while also educating residents, visitors and peers at events as a speaker on topics from sunscreen to the business of medicine. Her future endeavors include volunteering in her children’s classrooms, spending time at the Therapeutic Riding Center and serving as a guardian for a U.S. war veteran with Honor Flight.
CEO & Executive Artistic Director
The Naples Players
As the chief officer of The Naples Players, Bryce Alexander oversees all elements of the theater’s productions, identity, messaging, quality, programs, finances, vision and development. And he does it all, he said, through caring.
“For me, the foundations of business are simple; care fully, communicate directly. Those words have always oriented me toward success,” Alexander says. “It’s amazing what can be accomplished together when others know that you care. I hope to make The Naples Players a national example of how arts organizations can engage with, be supported by and make improvements to their own communities.”
During his tenure with The Naples Players, Alexander has increased the number of students served by more than 30% per year, while also initiating a “wellness through the arts” program serving many historically underserved populations through theater and improv therapy.
For his work with The Naples Players and dedication to the SWFL community, he was honored as a Champion of the Arts by Gulfshore Life magazine in 2020, and a Man of the Year in 2021. He is currently a member of the Advisory Council for Leadership Collier at the Naples Chamber of Commerce and the vice chair of the Collier County Emergency Medical Authority.
A University of Florida graduate and SWFL native, Noelle Casagrande said her goal as a corporate communications professional has always been to connect the game-changers in the community. Now serving as communications lead for Collaboratory, she’s still applying her experience in communications, C-suite, operations and charitable giving to achieve her objective.
“With Collaboratory, I want to continue amplifying the bold vision—a commitment to bring SWFL together and coordinate the solving of all our region’s social problems on an 18-year deadline,” she says. “Through various stakeholder engagements, I want to continue connecting problem-solvers and innovators across the community to action. Ultimately, I want to make the impossible possible and collectively solve social problems for generations to come.”
Beyond Collaboratory, Casagrande has served on the board of PACE Center for Girls of Lee County, Keep Lee County Beautiful, Dress for Success SWFL, Edison Festival of Light, Calusa Waterkeeper, Operation Open Arms and Red Shoe Society – Ronald McDonald House Charities of SWFL. She has also worked on the committees for American Cancer Society Cattle Baron’s Ball, Alzheimer’s Association “The Longest Day,” the American Heart Association Heart Walk and Go Red for Women, Captains For Clean Water Restore Gala and more.
Executive Director/Senior Banker
A native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Richard “Rich” Grows received a B.A. in accounting from St. Norbert College and an MBA from Marquette University. Currently, he works as an executive director and senior banker with J.P. Morgan’s Private Bank, where he helps his clients reach their wealth planning goals. But he’s also focused on helping his co-workers reach their goals, as well.
“I lead a team of specialists in providing comprehensive wealth planning to business owners and C-suite executives,” he says. “We use our experience to advise individuals relative to their banking needs, asset allocation and investment implementation, customized credit, estate and tax planning, as well as generational planning. I love my career and mentoring others to reach their potential, and hope to expand my leadership capabilities and help more colleagues reach their career goals.”
In the community, Grows currently serves on the Board of Directors and Finance Committees for Grace Place and St. Matthew’s House. Additionally, he serves on the Advisory Council for Collier Community Foundation.
Project Manager—Media Production
Grace VanderMolen moved to Southwest Florida from Michigan in 2016. She currently works as a project manager for media production at Arthrex, but her drive to succeed started when she was much younger.
“I worked through the adversity of being a teen mom, and I wanted to prove to my daughter that we wouldn’t be another statistic by turning our story around. Graduating high school with honors and excelling in college helped me become who I am today,” she says. “I was the person that was told my dreams were not possible for who I was, where I came from or the hardships I had to overcome. I want to help guide and create the possibilities for the children in our community to make their dreams a reality.”
As part of her passion for the community, VanderMolen mentors adults with disabilities through job placement, volunteers through the Collier County Elections office and spends time at Shy Wolf Sanctuary. She is also involved with events supporting Youth Haven, serving as the Habitat for Humanity NextGen secretary and vice-chair for Associate Leadership Collier class of 2022. VanderMolen is also hoping to find partnerships with programs that support teens as parents.
English Department Chair
Naples High School
A graduate of the University of Florida, Naomi Rothring teaches English language and literature to students in grades nine through 12 while also serving as the English department chair at Naples High School. Though she’s been a teacher for 15 years, high school English is only part of her job.
“I mentor newly hired teachers in engagement strategies, assessments and school procedures. I also facilitate best practices workshops with instructors of Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education, or AICE, courses,” she says. “I also teach courses in the Advanced Placement, or AP, Capstone Diploma Program, AP Seminar and AP Research. These classes provide opportunities for students to excel in research, analysis, evidence-based arguments, collaboration and presentations in preparation for success at university.”
In addition to her teaching, Rothring has appeared as a model in several Southwest Florida publications. Through her fashion and lifestyle blog, she has engaged in social media marketing for brands such as Ritz-Carlton Resorts, Michelob Ultra, Lululemon, Dillard’s, Bealls and Walgreens. Finally, on top of her teaching, modeling and blogging career, Rothring is also a certified United States Professional Tennis Association teaching professional.
LVD Spaces LLC
Dani Glickson founded her boutique interior design firm, LVD Spaces, in 2016 to exercise her creativity and also to bridge her lifelong love of architecture and design with the knowledge she had gained working in commercial real estate deals. Since then, her LVD philosophy—layout, value and design—has endeared her to a mix of commercial and residential clients.
“I had a professor in college who changed the entire trajectory of my career,” she says. “I’ll never forget that he told me, ‘There are people who want to make money and there are people who actually care about the city they work in. In order to be successful, you have to be both.’ I want to have a legacy and leave an imprint on Naples because this town has been really good to me and my family. It gave us a home, stability, amazing friends—and it’s a selfless community. I love that so many people give back, and I’m inspired to do the same.”
Outside work, Glickson supports several local causes, including the Community School of Naples, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and Kids’ Minds Matter.
Sofia L. Gonzalez
Co-Founder and CMO
Affluence Media Agency
As a global brand strategist, Sofia Gonzalez helps established CEOs, consultants, thought leaders and professional service brands elevate their passion and create a profitable brand that people know, love and trust. However, while she works to help brands elevate their passion and profitability, she’s equally passionate about supporting other businesswomen in Southwest Florida.
“I make a point to support my fellow businesswomen by promoting their products, services and events through my social media platform. I not only want to support women business owners, but I want to celebrate their wins, too,” she says. “During the pandemic, it was gratifying to create and host an online summit called Purpose, Passion, Profit Summit. It brought together women from all over Southwest Florida and the world, and created a safe place for women to share their stories and gain tools to find their passion and make a profit through personal branding and marketing implementation.”
Gonzalez also puts her heart into causes that she cares about, including serving as a mentor for Girls Going Places, a national program that teaches girls financial literacy and the benefits of entrepreneurship. In addition, she serves her church as a worship leader.
Florida Gulf Coast University Small Business Development Center
Amanda Simat was born in New Jersey and raised in Cape Coral. She attended Florida Gulf Coast University, earning a degree in marketing. Ten years later, she found herself back on FGCU’s campus working as the marketing coordinator for the Florida Small Business Development Center at FGCU.
“I really enjoy collaborating with my marketing team members. Being encouraged to grow professionally and have my ideas supported is something I value every day. It’s really a great feeling,” she says. “I’ve worked in the sports, data and retail industry of Southwest Florida, but nothing compares to the impactful feeling of helping the small businesses in our area.”
Simat is currently enrolled in SWFL Inc. Leadership. She received the Florida Small Business Development Center at FGCU Regional Ambassador Award and represented the region during a Marketing 101 panel at the Small Business Success Summit earlier this year. Simat has also volunteered for the Ronald McDonald House and Make-A-Wish Foundation, and previously volunteered for Give Kids the World in Kissimmee to raise money for its annual Gingerbread Run. In addition, she is a digital defender through the National Women’s March, which combats disinformation that harms women.
Megan Rose is the CEO of Better Together, a nonprofit helping people find jobs and overcome crises without losing children to foster care. With the help of hundreds of passionate volunteers and local churches, the group operates two voluntary programs: Better Families and Better Jobs. She and her family even host children in their own home. For Rose, that’s just a starting point.
“The best way to fix foster care is to reduce the need for it in the first place. The Better Families program has provided 3,200 Southwest Florida children with safe, temporary homes while mentoring parents to find jobs, homes, treatment and more,” she says. “Next up, we are expanding Better Families across Florida to end the foster care crisis statewide. We are also introducing our work program into every state and major city in America. We’ve also been asked to introduce Better Jobs to a network of 7,000 pastors across the country.”
Rose has been recognized as a Manhattan Institute Civil Society Fellow and was the inaugural recipient of its Civil Society Award in 2019.
Royal Palm Property Management
Ashley Simonelli is the owner and broker of Royal Palm Property Management and The Simonelli Real Estate Group, a premier boutique brokerage in Southwest Florida. While she designed her brokerage to be a one-stop shop serving investors all across the world, she believes the most important part is simply showing up.
“Some of the best advice I ever received was from the first real estate broker I worked for, who said, ‘Show up when others do not.’ That sentence has been on replay in my head since,” she says. “As a result, I show up. I show up when things are hard. I show up after hours and on weekends. I show up on holidays and when times are scary or unknown. My family, friends, clients and team know that I’m going to show up by any means necessary.”
When not supporting her team and clients, Simonelli volunteers with Better Together to keep families together and children out of foster care. Every year, she and her family have an Easter Basket Drive to collect baskets for the kids who are part of this organization, as well as a large toy drive for the holiday season.
As a senior associate at Porter Wright’s Naples office, Sara White advises clients surrounding complex matters in the areas of commercial litigation, probate litigation, banking and finance and real estate law. And as a native of Naples, she also has a passion for advising the next generation of community leaders.
“For several years, I have volunteered as an attorney coach for the Immokalee High School Mock Trial Team, teaching high school students about the legal system and procedures, as well as helping them to improve their analytical and courtroom skills,” she says. “I have also served as a member of the Emerging Leadership Council for the Greater Naples Chamber, through which I supported leadership efforts with the Boys and Girls Club Friends’ Circle.”
White also serves on the board of directors for the Naples Therapeutic Riding Center, or NTRC, where she is committed to working alongside its board and staff to maximize benefits to those in need. In 2022, she took on a leadership role with NTRC’s executive committee and now serves as secretary of the board, where she is committed to maximizing the benefits NTRC offers the community.
Founder & CEO
Valo Holdings Group
For Jana Seaman, leadership is not about suits and boardrooms. Though her companies vary from wealth management firm Solas Wealth to success coaching brand JanaSeaman.com and the venture capital firm Valo Holdings Group, Seaman says there’s only been one constant in all her endeavors: She’s always been willing to bet on herself.
“I grew up in a small Kentucky town, and when I was 18, I met a distinguished, classy businesswoman and author who also valued and prioritized her marriage and family first. The example of the life that she lived inspired me and I thought to myself, ‘I want to be that kind of a woman,’” she says. “My focus has been to build a community of people. I want to continue expanding my venture capital group while inspiring others to see beyond what they think is possible and to live their best lives.”
Outside her business endeavors, Seaman serves the community through her involvement with St. Matthew’s House and STARability, and the Jonathan Ard Memorial Toy Drive. She also volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Salvation Army, First Baptist Academy, Grow Church and Habitat for Humanity.
Law Enforcement Officer
State of Florida
After receiving her bachelor’s degree in criminology and criminal investigations, Katina Henderson spent three years volunteering in law enforcement. Though now a certified law officer in the state of Florida, Henderson is still volunteering in the community.
“My motto is ‘I cannot save the world, but I can help one person at a time,’ and I try to follow that every day in my professional and personal life. I want to continue working to bridge the gap between the community and law enforcement,” she says. “This fall, I’ll get to fulfill my goal of teaching and mentoring youth in schools full-time.”
In addition to her work in law enforcement, Henderson is active in the Pi Beta Phi Alumnae Club of Naples. Pursuing its mission of literacy, she has served in multiple leadership roles, including vice president of communications and social media chair. Henderson also participates in annual events, including the club’s largest philanthropic event, “Just Book It,” which entails reading to and distributing more than 1,200 books to underprivileged children. Henderson is also an active member with the Naples Junior Women’s Club and SWFL Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD.
Geraldo F. “Jerry” Olivo III
Henderson, Franklin, Starnes & Holt, P.A.
Raised in Southwest Florida, Jerry Olivo graduated from law school in 2008. Now a stockholder at Henderson, Franklin, Starnes & Holt, P.A, his strength as an attorney and a leader, he said, stems from advice from a former supervisor.
“A boss once told me he would never ask me to do something that he wasn’t willing to do himself. That statement became the foundation for my leadership style, and it guides me to this day,” Olivo says. “My practice focuses primarily on defending law enforcement agencies, municipalities and private businesses. My job is to use my varied legal experience to guide my clients through the litigation process. That’s where my prior experience as both a prosecutor and criminal defense attorney is invaluable.”
Olivo serves the community through several organizations, including United Way and the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools. With Olivo serving as the chairman in 2021, the Henderson Franklin United Way committee increased fundraising by 8% over the previous year and set the firm’s fundraising record. As a member of the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools’ Golden Apple Selection Committee, he has recognized the community’s best and brightest teachers.
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