Michael and Nikki Simkins. Married for 17 years with three children, their interests dovetail with each other’s and with the city they are helping to grow. Their E11even brand began with nightlife but has extended to include vodka, real estate and the cutting edge of fintech: In April 2021, the nightclub began accepting cryptocurrency, and, soon after, E11even Hotel & Residences followed suit. In sum, E11even marries the old and new Miamis: hospitality and the promise of an endless party coupled with the reemergence of Downtown and cutting-edge finance. The Lion Roars Born and raised in Miami Beach, Michael, now the CEO of Lion Development and an owner of E11even Partners (the company behind the E11even Miami nightclub, hotel, condominium, and sound equipment), started college in California but ended up returning home to graduate from the University of Miami, where he received a degree in finance. A law degree from Brooklyn Law School followed; then Michael practiced real estate law at Akerman Senterfitt until 2007. He’d lasted in the field for about five years. “The industry died,” he remembers of the period. “It was crickets, with no deals happening. I should have foreseen the financial crisis in September 2008 because the whole year had been extremely slow.” In other words, it was a good time to be bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. His family was in the paper industry, led by Michael’s father Leon Simkins, a pillar of Miami’s business and charitable giving scene who died in 2017. “He operated 20 paper factories at one time,” Michael says. “He was a great investor. And he was active in the South Florida philanthropic community, particularly with Jackson Hospital and Diabetes Research Institute, two causes closest to his heart.” (For his part, Michael is on the board of directors of Miami Beach Jewish Community Center, and he just finished a four-year tenure as chairman of the board. He is also on the boards of the Miami Jewish Federation; Endeavor Miami, a nonprofit that supports high-impact entrepreneurs; and Refresh Miami, which supports tech initiatives in Miami. Nikki is on the executive committee for the Diabetes Research Institute.) By the time Michael exited his law career, his father had sold part of the company. There was liquidity to spare and capital to invest, “so the time was good for me to start looking for real estate investments with my family,” Michael says. Finance came before development: Lion Financial, founded in 2008, still exists today as an active South Florida real estate lender. Michael says that the business provided both visibility and an understanding of Miami neighborhoods. Lion Development was founded in 2012. As president and CEO, Michael runs the company, with his siblings as partners. Lion quickly began purchasing properties, particularly in the Park West neighborhood, as well as in Overtown and Allapatah and portions of South Beach. Simkins is especially bullish on Park West, where his company owns 10 acres, and Overtown, where he partnered with Marcus Samuelsson on the celebrity chef’s lauded Red Rooster restaurant.

Despite decades of affirmative action and other equal-opportunity policies, countless minority businesses are left sitting on the sideline when state and local governments allocate billions of dollars to hire contractors for goods and services. To lessen the disparity, the Florida State Minority Supplier Development Council (FSMSDC) strives...