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2017 Up & Comer Awards


Welcome to the fourth SFBW Up & Comer Awards program, celebrating the top achievers under the age of 40 throughout South Florida.

The awards focus on their achievements in the workplace and in their charitable and civic contributions. Many of our honorees have already made their mark in senior-level positions or are on the fast track to do so.

The professionals recognized in the following pages were nominated by members of the community. We specifically asked to learn about those who have demonstrated an overall commitment to South Florida. We received hundreds of nominations for Up & Comers through our website. The results were evaluated by our editorial team, led by Editor-in-Chief Kevin Gale.

A big thanks to our sponsors who are instrumental in enabling us to produce the Up & Comers awards program:

Presenting Sponsor: MassMutual South Florida

Gold Sponsors: Optime Consulting, Thierry Isambert Culinary & Event Design and Xtreme Action Park

This fall, we will have our fourth annual Apogee Awards, which honor C-level executives. For more information, visit

SFBW wants to do more than just cover South Florida. We want to be a part of it. Thank you for joining us in the celebration of the best our community has to offer.


Winner: Alexander Binelo

CPA, principal,
audit department


Binelo has been in the accounting profession since 2003. He serves as MBAF’s health care audit practice leader. Previously, he worked for a Big Four firm in its international executive service tax department. His professional affiliations include the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants. His civic involvement includes memberships in numerous organizations. He received his master’s degree in taxation at Florida International University.


Melinda Mergelsberg,

Manager of forensic, advisory and valuation services

Kaufman Rossin

Diana Rivera,

CPA, CPMA, director in the audit department


Eric Santa Maria


Verdeja DeArmas Trujillo

Brian Schlang

CPA, director of the tax and accounting department



Winner: Golden Johansson

Vice president,
office executive

Legacy Bank of Florida

Colleagues say people who meet Johansson are drawn to her upbeat and welcoming personality. They call her hard-working, ambitious and someone to look for in the community. She’s affiliated with the National Association of Women in Construction, the chambers of commerce in Fort Lauderdale and Parkland, the Parkland Education Advisory Board (directly appointed by the mayor), and the Parkland Relay for Life.


Elliot Gilfarb

Senior portfolio manager

Community Capital Management

Joaquin Medina

Vice president and market team leader

Apollo Bank

Nikki Morley

Vice president and project manager, enterprise business & community engagement

Bank of America

Antonio Tomaro

Vice president and private client adviser

J.P. Morgan


Winner: Michael Joslyn

Project manager

Suffolk Construction

Joslyn manages and coordinates all necessary resources throughout a project’s lifespan. He ensures  safety, budgetary and schedule guidelines are met or exceeded. He started at Suffolk as an intern and worked his way up through the company’s Career Start program. He attended The Citadel. He has worked on numerous award-winning projects that have changed the South Florida skyline, including Met Square in Miami. He also is a speaker and facilitator for industry events.


Ryan Bridger

Director of business development

Hedrick Brothers Construction

Kar Ho

Manager of building information management and virtual design and construction

Current Builders

Alex Lazowick

Project engineer

Keith & Associates


Winner: Adriana Fazzano Ficano

Chief of staff and associate vice president of corporate relations

Broward College

An Amherst College graduate and a Coral Springs native, she was a Fulbright Scholar in Italy in 2009. After that, she taught history in Jacksonville then spent six months in Colombia as a part-time translator for a law firm while volunteering at an elementary school for impoverished children. In 2013, she began working for Broward College, where she oversees management of community relations and more.


Andrea Catsicas

Founder and president

Mindworks Prep

Scott Kjelson

Director of student transitions, College of Pharmacy

Nova Southeastern University


Winner: Andrew Costa

Managing director and co-founder

Global Wealth Management

Costa was a freshman at Florida State University when his parents lost more than half of their retirement savings from the stock market tech bubble burst. Concern for his parents sparked his decision to get a degree in finance. He started Global Wealth Management in 2010 with business partner Grant Conness, focusing on conservative retirement planning. The firm has grown from one employee in 2010 to 17 this year, managing more than $250 million in assets.


Jason Heller

Investment and annuity specialist

MassMutual South Florida

Victor Hernandez

Executive director

J.P. Morgan

Alex Horn

Managing partner


Josue Leon


New York Life Insurance Company

Health Care

Winner: Justin Irizarry

Co-founder and CFO


With a bachelor’s degree in economics from Cornell and an MBA from Wharton, Irizarry has been an adviser and leader for organizations in the education, information, digital real estate, medical and technology industries. He joined OrthoNow in 2010 and co-founded the franchise with physician Alejandro Badia. In addition to his role as CFO, Irizarry is director of operations for OrthoNow in Doral, focused on delivering cost-effective orthopedic care.


Melissa Christopher

Manager, clinical effectiveness, case management and
social services

Memorial Healthcare System

Aaron Epstein


Global Surgical and Medical Support Group

Michael Kuang


Syphon Fitness

Mike Linder


Winner: Mike Linder

Owner and CEO

Silver Light Inflight Catering/Jet Runway Café

Linder started Silver Lining with friend Mitch Amsterdam and has led its growth, serving 20,000 aircraft a year. They also started Jet Runway Cafe, an aviation-themed restaurant on the runway at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport that allows patrons to dine and watch takeoffs and landings by day and becomes a private-event venue at night. Linder also is involved in numerous philanthropic and charitable organizations, including the American Heart Association.


Moises Acosta

Director of restaurants

Riverside Hotel

Fernando Cerna

Director of sales and marketing

EAST, Miami

David Demos

General manager

Terra Fiamma

Kelly Eppy

Regional catering sales manager

Covelli Enterprises (Panera Bread)


Winner: Erin Clampett

Vice president

Marsh & McLennan Agency

The Fort Lauderdale native and Auburn graduate has immersed herself in the local business environment, living and working on Las Olas Boulevard and developing significant business relationships. She aims to expanding her reach throughout South Florida, helping companies optimize their benefits programs to attract, engage and retain their employees. She was promoted to her current position at Marsh & McLennan in 2015.


David DeMott


Gridiron Insurance Underwriters

Conor Flynn

Business development

Aon Risk Solutions

Veronica Jimenez

Private client sales manager

Brown & Brown

Eugene Mintze III

Benefits consultant

Sapoznik Insurance

Law: Broward/Palm Beach

Winner: Alessandra Stivelman


Eisinger, Brown, Lewis, Frankel & Chaiet

A mother of two, with another on the way, Stivelman works tirelessly to balance a demanding workload with her growing family. In addition to practicing law, Stivelman serves as the firm’s director of marketing, advertising and public relations. She also is a team spirit-builder, creating monthly think-tank meetings for the partners and organizing community events. She has a bachelor’s degree from Southern California and a law degree from the University of Miami, and is active in the community.


Mitchell Goldberg


Berger Singerman

Matthew Kissner


Broad and Cassel

Adam Lusthaus

Managing partner

Lusthaus Law Group

Dana Somerstein

Associate, real estate, finance and transactions

Greenspoon Marder

Joshua Widlansky


Padula Bennardo Levine

Law: Miami/Dade

Winner: Jaime Vining


Friedland Vining

Nominated by Dade Legal Aid, which describes her as an “outstanding, caring leader” in the local legal community, Vining is a board-certified intellectual attorney. She has worked with Dade Legal Aid on its pro bono project, “Putting Something Back,” while serving as an adjunct professor at the University of Miami School of Law, where she has taught trademark law since 2010. Her practice focuses primarily on trademark, copyright, entertainment and internet law, and she has numerous professional affiliations.


Karim Batista


Karim Batista, Esq.

Kadian Blanson


Rivero Mestre

Corey Lee


Hunton & Williams

John Owens


K&L Gates

John Quick


Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman


Winner: Gian Carlo Alonso

President & CEO


AmeriKooler, a leading manufacturer of walk-in coolers, freezers and refrigerated warehouses, is a family-owned business founded in the early 1980s. Alonso is second-generation leadership. Since childhood, he has immersed himself into every aspect of business, starting at the bottom. This experience, combined with financial and business background as a successful commercial real estate broker and investor, has helped devise and implement improvement and growth strategies.

Marketing & Media

Winner: Michelle Martinez Reyes

Chief marketing officer

Greenspoon Marder

With more than 20 years’ experience working with domestic and international clients, Reyes is a specialized marketer and relationship manager. She is part of the leadership team at Greenspoon Marder, one of the state’s largest law firms, focusing on strategy and growth, branding, business development, client relations, and media and public relations efforts across 20 U.S. offices.


Angela Bradley

Director of regional operations and client experience

Pipeline Workspaces

Emily Loewy

Senior manager, marketing services

Norwegian Cruise Line

Chris Nielsen

Founder and head of experience design


Wolfgang Pinther

Director of marketing


Rosemarie Reed

Vice president for sales and marketing

World Travel Holdings

Jason Brian

Marketing Entrepreneur

Winner: Jason Brian

Founder & CEO

Redwood Recovery Solutions

Brian leads the corporation behind a family of brands, including and, that provide marketing services to the behavioral health industry. Colleagues describe him as generous, attentive and collaborative, evidenced by high employee retention. He also is involved in his community, participating in worship music at his church and philanthropic activities throughout the year.


Vanessa Goodis

President and founder

Promo Moxie

Lyndsi Stafford

Founder and CEO

eLuminate Marketing


Winner: Andrew George

Tournament director

The Honda Classic

George, an Iowa native and graduate of Coe College (double major: business administration and sports management), joined the Honda Classic, a PGA Tour golf tournament managed by sports marketing company IMG, as a tournament intern in 2009. He rose to his current position in 2016, overseeing a budget of more than $15 million and growing. He also has increased the tournament’s charitable giving to more than $3.5 million, benefiting the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation and other charities.


Jayson Babel

Director of grants and projects

Ann Storck Center

Kenneth Brighton

Director of community relations


Erica Herman

Executive director

Voices for Children of Broward County

Johanna Kandel

Founder and CEO

The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness

Professional Services

Winner:  Nathan Dapeer


BBX Capital Partners

Dapeer has more than eight years’ private equity and investment banking experience, where he has concentrated on origination and execution of transactions and value creation initiatives at middle-market companies. He has successfully completed transactions across multiple industries, representing nearly $1 billion. He has a bachelor’s degrees from Northwestern University in economics and political science, enjoys travel and arts and culture, and is highly involved in the community.


Nate Ernest-Jones

Business broker and intermediary

Transworld Business Advisors

Chris Giordano

Director of management services, Broward

Calvin, Giordano & Associates

Will Nicoloso


Magic Bubbles

Wendi Weiner

JD/Executive resume writer
and executive career coach

The Writing Guru

Melissa Perlman

Public Relations

Winner: Melissa Perlman

Founder and president

BlueIvy Communications

After spending seven years at Office Depot’s headquarters in Boca Raton, Perlman started her own PR agency. In six years, her firm has become a well-known PR and communications agency, with a reputation as the go-to PR agency for clients seeking skillful writing, creative ideas and strategic consultation. The company already has gross revenue exceeding $500,000. Colleagues say her spirit and character have allowed her to grow her business.


Kelly Coughlin


Annex Communication

Christina Nicholson


Media Maven

Real Estate

Winner: Ryan Shear


Property Markets Group

Shear, 33, has been with the firm for a decade, working his way up from analyst to principal developer, where he works alongside founder Kevin Maloney. As principal developer of PMG’s Florida properties, he has spearheaded notable luxury developments throughout South Florida and the state, and manages a growing portfolio of assets exceeding $2 billion. Shear helped initiate PMG’s charity incentive program, which allows brokers to earn donations for their charity of choice.


Matthew Cheezem

Managing director


Taylor Collins


Two Roads Development

Charles Penan

Managing director

Aztec Group

Zachary Talbot



Real Estate Brokerage

Winner: Christina Pappas

District sales manager

The Keyes Company

This Pinecrest native and third-generation Realtor began as a top producer and rose to leadership, attributing her success in part to the skills and knowledge gained in her early years, in the hopes of one day taking the reins at Florida’s largest family-owned residential brokerage. After studying hospitality at Cornell and working in sales for a hotel group, she transitioned into real estate and improved sales at the Coral Gables office, rising from rookie of the year to assistant district manager in two years.


Jorge L Guerra, Jr.


Real Estate Sales Force

Avishan Joseph


Illustrated Properties Real Estate


Winner: Dave Mack

Director, group
Miami Dolphins

Mack oversees the corporate partnership and sales operations for the NFL team. Associates say he leads by example, as a servant leader for his people. He often is chosen by team ownership to handle special projects in the sports industry, consistently exceeding goals. He also is active in the community, involved with Dolphins Ride Against Cancer, and is the Honda Classic Ambassador for the Children’s Healthcare charity. Mack is on the business advisory board for the magnet programs of Palm Beach Gardens High.


Truscott Miller

Director of suites

Miami Marlins


Winner: Stephen Carter

Co-founder and
executive vice president


Carter created a platform using machine learning and data science to predict job candidates’ cultural fit at hiring organizations. He took his company from inception to raising $1.4 million, building the sales process from scratch, designing large parts of the product itself as well as its marketing materials. His company was named the Miami Herald’s Startup of the Year in 2016 and won the $100,000 first prize at the Florida Venture Forum Competition. The company has increased sales by more than 300 percent.


Danielle MacLean Roebuck

Director of product management

Modernizing Medicine

Christine Molloy

Systems integration and technology manager


Cody Stiffler

Vice president of legislative affairs


By: Staff Report on in News