The 5th Annual 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:
Gold Sponsors: MSC Cruises and ARS
Silver Sponsor: WeWork
Special Event Sponsors: Xtreme Action Park, Grateful Palate and JR Productions
This fall, we will have our fifth annual Apogee Awards, which honor C-level executives. For more information, visit SFBWmag.com.
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.
Chairman and CEO
SFBW and Lifestyle Media Group
RSM US, LLP
Alexander leads RSM’s largest consulting team, in terms of revenue, and serves as an RSM U.S. Foundation board member, tasked with investment oversight and distribution of charitable funds. As a contributor to RSM’s national advisory team, Alexander has been instrumental in rolling out new internal audit and enterprise risk management methodologies across the firm. His passion for culture, diversity and inclusion shines through in his leadership of the RSM Southeast Region’s 11 employee network groups, dedicated to educating leaders on how to incorporate CDI into client relationships and talent experiences.
Prager Metis CPAs
Ernst and Young
Tax Senior Manager
RSM US, LLP
Verdeja, De Armas & Trujillo, LLP
Jose M. Lacasa
Senior Vice President and Group Head of Corporate Banking
Lacasa joined FirstBank in January 2013 and since then has built a successful team of more than 10 members. During his leadership, he has grown the bank’s domestic global wealth by facilitating more than $900 million in new loan originations in the areas of project finance, mergers and acquisitions, direct and indirect foreign investment, commercial, public, and specialty commercial and corporate lending as well as treasury management services. He serves in leadership roles in many South Florida civic organizations.
Guillermo D. Doria
Vice President of Corporate Banking
Managing Director and
Chief Operations Officer
IBT Group is a multinational construction company based in Miami that specializes in the development of infrastructure projects, with emphasis in the health care, energy, transportation and water sectors. Under Toledano, the company expanded its reach into Florida, Latin America and the Caribbean. He serves on the advisory committee of the Concordia Summit global initiative for public-private partnerships and is a member of the American Enterprise Club. He serves on the American Jewish Committee Latin American Task Force and on the boards of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Greater Miami Jewish Federation.
Robyn Raphael Dynan
Vice President of Operations
Arthur “AJ” Meyer
Vice President of Business Development
Business Unit Leader
Director of Business Applications
Verdex Construction, LLC
University of Miami
Maynard started as an assistant treasurer and in less than two years became associate vice president and university treasurer. He leads the university’s efforts to invest more than $2 billion of assets, including endowment and pension funds. He’s helped spearhead efforts to safeguard the institution’s assets, increase efficiencies and update asset allocations. He also is responsible for $1.4 billion capital structure, including liquidity and debt issuances, and manages treasury and cash management, student accounts and collections. Previously, he spent 10 years as an investment banker at J.P. Morgan in New York City.
Broward County Public Schools
English Faculty and Director of Community Outreach and Engagement
Gulliver Preparatory School
Head of Middle School
Palmer Trinity School
Gulliver Preparatory School
Chief Operating Officer
Biltmore Capital Advisors
Biltmore Capital Advisors is a registered investment advisory firm in Princeton, New Jersey, and Boca Raton. Ralph began his career at Morgan Stanley and Smith Barney in wealth management. In 2009, he endeavored to grow an entrepreneurial, independent wealth management firm called Biltmore Capital Advisors. Now a midsize wealth management firm, Biltmore has clients in 35 states and more than $500 million in assets under management. Ralph graduated from Drew University with a bachelor’s degree in economics and finance.
Michael D. Gold
Vice President and Partner
Bermont Advisory Group of Raymond James
Bienenfeld, Lasek & Starr
Partner & Wealth Planner
Benchmark Financial Group, LLC
South Florida Financial Services
Gino R. Santorio
Chief Operating Officer
Santorio is responsible for the daily operations of Broward Health. He has served as senior vice president and chief executive officer at Jackson North Medical Center. There, he also was corporate director in project management, vice president of ambulatory care services and operations, vice president and chief operating officer of Jackson North Medical Center, and VP and COO of Jackson Memorial Hospital. He has a master’s degree in public administration from the State University of New York at Albany, and a bachelor’s degree in business leadership from Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York, where he graduated magna cum laude.
Vice President of Sales
Advocate Home Care
Director, Corporate Initiatives
Jackson Health System
Founder and CEO
PDKN Restaurant Group
DeSantis was born and raised in South Florida. He attended the University of Central Florida, where he earned his bachelor’s degree with a concentration in marketing in 2012. He joined PDKN, which includes Bokamper’s Sports Bar & Grill among its holdings, as a member of the marketing team in 2013 while attending Nova Southeastern University to complete his MBA in business intelligence and analytics. DeSantis became marketing co-director of PDKN Restaurant Group in 2015 along with Rikki Robinson. In his spare time, DeSantis volunteers as an assistant coach for the St. Thomas Aquinas High School ice hockey team.
Special Events Coordinator
PDKN Restaurant Group
Legal/Law Broward County
Jeffrey M. Wank
Wank focuses his practice on first-party property and third-party insurance defense litigation. Since 2015, he has been recognized on the Florida Super Lawyers Rising Stars list. Wank is committed to being a community leader, serving as vice chair of Legal Aid Programs, a board member for the B’nai B’rith Justice Unit and past president of the Broward County Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Section. He earned his law degree from Nova Southeastern University’s Shepard Broad College of Law, where he also mentors the next generation of lawyers.
Elizabeth Somerstein Adler
Greenspoon Marder, LLP
Hinshaw & Culbertson, LLP
Broad and Cassel, LLP
Legal/Law Miami Dade County
Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman
Espino is a municipal and land-use attorney who represents local governments and parties before local government. He serves as the city attorney for Doral and Miami Springs and outside counsel for Virginia Gardens. His private work includes a variety of land-use matters for commercial, mixed-use and residential developments, including affordable housing projects. He served on the city council for Miami Springs for two
terms and was the youngest elected official in city history. Espino is co-founding Miami-Dade’s newest brewery, Beat Culture Brewing Company, opening this summer.
AXS Law Group
AXS Law Group
Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP
Mark Migdal & Hayden
Diaz, Reus & Targ LLP
Legal/Law Palm Beach
Roger W. Feicht
Feicht is a litigation lawyer focusing on employment-related claims, including discrimination, harassment, defamation and non-competition agreements. He has significant courtroom experience in state and federal courts throughout Florida.
Feicht has received an AV Preeminent rating from Martindale-Hubbell, the highest rating awarded to lawyers by their peers. He has also been recognized numerous times as a “Rising Star” by Florida Super Lawyers. He served as chair of the board of governors of Leadership Florida Connect. He was promoted to shareholder at Gunster in February.
Marshall Socarras Grant, PL
Wolfgang H. Pinther
Director of Marketing
Pinther has more than a decade of branding and marketing experience, working with service and product lines for businesses and consumers. At MBAF, he provides strategic planning, brand identity, digital marketing, social media, client communication and corporate culture. He was captain of the men’s tennis team at his alma mater, Florida Gulf Coast University. He has taught principles of management as an adjunct professor at Miami Dade College. He is actively involved with the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Miami-Dade and the Arts & Business Council of Miami.
Digital Sports Marketing
FitTeam Ballpark of the Palm Beaches
Senior Director of Marketing
Vice President of Marketing
Senior Vice President, Marketing Director
Grove Bank & Trust
Chris Van Vliet
Van Vliet is a four-time Emmy Award-winning entertainment reporter for “Deco Drive,” a daily celebrity-oriented program on WSVN, the Fox TV affiliate in Miami. He has covered such events as the Oscars and Grammys and has reported from such places as Moscow, Hong Kong, London and Paris. Cosmopolitan magazine named him its bachelor of the year in 2011, which came with a $10,000 prize he donated to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Van Vliet took his passion for bass fishing and started the fishing equipment company Woo Tungsten, growing it to 90,000 Instagram followers in a year.
Founder and Consultant
Merdochey La France
Managing Director, Development & External Affairs
City Year Miami
LaFrance leads a team of development professionals that raises $3 million annually from fundraising activities. She also oversees local visibility-building efforts with print, electronic and social media as well as events and activities that draw attention to City Year Miami’s mission. Merdochey also directs all aspects of support services for activities with federal, state and local elected officials, and develops and manages the site’s strategy for strengthening relationships with elected officials and government agencies. She is the site’s principal liaison to elected officials at all levels.
Equine-Assisted Therapies of
Chana Budgazad Sheldon
Museum of Contemporary Art,
Vice President and Private Client Leader
Brown and Brown Insurance
Jimenez holds a property and casualty license in Florida. She is attending the Wharton School of Business, working to become an adviser in private insurance certification. Upon joining Brown and Brown, she specialized in risk management for high net worth individuals through the development of comprehensive insurance programs and solutions. She is an active board member for 211 Broward and assists with other nonprofit organizations, such as United Way of Broward County, the American Red Cross and Women in Distress.
Agent, Private Client Services
Frank H. Furman
Director of International Enablement
Real Estate: Commercial
President and CEO
As president and CEO of his family’s Fort Lauderdale-based real estate firm, Motwani is involved with more than $1 billion in development projects, including the Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences, The Gale Boutique Hotel and Residences, Broadstone Oceanside and the Flagler Village Hotel, all in the greater Fort Lauderdale area. He also is founder and managing partner of Chieftain Residential, a yield-oriented, distressed-residential fund that purchases single-family homes. He has worked in the White House and on the 2000 Gore-Lieberman presidential campaign. He graduated from Columbia University’s real estate development master’s degree program.
Vice President and Investment Officer Ytech International
Senior Vice President of Acquisitions
Orion Real Estate Group
Real Estate: Residential
Founder and CEO
At age 29, the Fort Lauderdale native already has achieved prominence for identifying South Florida’s urban neighborhoods with untapped potential and generating leasing and investment sales activity in those markets. After nearly seven years as a leasing and investment sales broker in Broward County, Sturgis launched Fort Lauderdale-based Native Realty in 2017. Headquartered in Flagler Village, the full-service firm specializes in leasing and investment sales in the urban core and emerging South Florida markets.
The Keyes Company
One Sotheby’s International Realty
Smith started in recruiting with MSi in 2010 and has spent the last eight years learning about the industry and building relationships throughout the tri-county area. He sits on various boards and is dedicated to the business community. He has chaired the BRAVO (Business Retention and Visitation Outreach) team, which is part of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance. He actively participates on the board of the FAU Research Park and donates time and resources to other charitable organizations in the area, including the HOPE Foundation.
Director, Recruitment & Staffing
Octagon Professional Recruiting
National Finance and Insurance Director
Rick Case Automotive Group
Case has a bachelor’s degree in automotive marketing and management from Northwood University’s Florida campus. She started out as a sales associate for Rick Case Acura and worked her way up, becoming the general manager of its smart car dealership. When it closed its U.S. distributorship, she acquired a Fiat franchise. It became the largest dealership in sales volume during its first month in business. Under her leadership, the store became the top dealership in the United States. Soon after, she acquired Maserati and Alfa Romeo franchises. Currently, she is the finance and insurance director for 16 dealerships in three states, with annual sales exceeding $1 billion.
National Parts & Service Director
Rick Case Automotive Group
Case attended Northwood University and the NADA Dealer Academy. He started as a service adviser at Honda in 2006, continuing with service and parts management roles. After promotion to general manager, he won Honda’s Council of Excellence honors for four years. He was promoted to used-car director for nine dealerships, and his role as national parts and service director covers 16 dealerships in three states with annual sales of more than $1 billion. Ryan is involved in Joe DiMaggio’s Children’s Hospital, the American Heart Association and Boys & Girls Clubs of Broward County.
Founder and CEO
CEO and Founder
SilverLogic creates platforms and technology solutions for startups and enterprises in a variety of industries, combining application programming interfaces and such technologies as augmented reality and “internet of things.” Hartmann’s mission is to streamline the process of bringing innovative ideas to life to let people to build great user experiences. Before becoming CEO of SilverLogic, he worked as a senior developer on a variety of projects that gave him a deep technical background and understanding. At SilverLogic, he has built multiple scrum development teams exploring and building technology. In the last year, he has led teams to three hackathon victories: Bitcoin Miami, eMerge Americas and Money20/20.
Co-founder and CTO
Senior Director, Legal Affairs and Business Operations