The Business Observer's 2019 40 under 40 issue is testament to the region's hitmakers.
From Elvis to Eddie Money to Billie Eilish, the concept of Top 40 hits holds a significant place in American culture.
For the music industry, of course, a Top 40 hit is a sign of success, of making it big — and often times, proving naysayers wrong. Some singers, like Elvis Presley, even revolutionized the music industry with multiple mega hits.
This edition of the Business Observer’s annual 40 Under 40 issue is based on the ethos of the Top 40 hit list and the stars who made it there. Things like devotion to a craft, sacrifice to reach a big dream, standout talent with the hustle to beat competitors and a burning desire to stay on top.
Some of this year’s 40 Under 40 winners are entrepreneurial rock stars. Erin Meagher in Tampa and Pete Maldonado in Naples, for example, have already built high-powered businesses. They both aim to be disruptive in the healthy food sector.
A one-time teacher who sensed an untapped niche, Meagher in 2009 founded Beneficial Blends, which now has 60 employees and produces a line of private label oils, from coconut to avocado. The company has made the Inc. 5000 list five years in a row and nears $20 million in revenue in 2019.
Maldonado, meanwhile, is behind Chomps, a healthy meat snacks company founded, like Meagher’s Beneficial Blends, based of a steadfast belief there was a lingering need in the marketplace. Chomps was founded in 2012, surpassed $20 million in annual sales after five years and projects $37 million in 2019 revenue.
(It’s likely not a coincidence both Meagher, 36, and Maldonado, 37, on the question of what’s your favorite podcast, answered the same thing: NPR's "How I Built This.")
Others on the Business Observer’s Top 40 hits list, while not entrepreneurs, are instead fast-rising executives and community leaders. That includes Venice-based Tervis CFO Hosana Fieber; Porter Smith, Tampa Bay market president for American Momentum Bank; and Catherine Palmisano, a senior audit manager with Fort Myers-based Hughes, Snell & Co.
Palmisano, for one, shines in overcoming obstacles to reach success: She worked entry-level retail jobs after high school, with a newborn baby to take care of. Now 38, she has since earned two college degrees and worked her way up to a leadership role at one of Southwest Florida’s leading accounting firms.
A final parallel theme between the 2019 40 Under 40 winners and Top 40 hit-makers is the ability to learn on the fly, adapt to market conditions and seize trends before others — like a country singer who deftly shifts to pop music or a rock band that grasps the significance of digital downloads.
Take Sarah Kitlowski, the president and COO of Sarasota-based life sciences firm Omeza. Although fortuitous timing is how she met the founder of her startup, Kitlowski believes sustained success comes in the grind — good advice for any entrepreneur or executive. “Luck, natural talent and flashes of brilliance have their place, but to build something…” she says, “grit and constantly learning are perhaps [the] most valuable skills.”
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