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40 under 40: Rock stars abound in the region

The Business Observer's 2019 40 under 40 issue is testament to the region's hitmakers.

  • By Mark Gordon
  • | 4:15 p.m. October 17, 2019
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
  • Class of 2019
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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.”


Tampa Bay — Lakeland

Dan Berman, 35 | President and Chairman, Infant Massage USA

Shane Costello, 36 | Shareholder, Hill Ward Henderson

Heather Darling, 29 | Development Officer, The Dalí Museum

Kevin Echemendia, 29 | Co-Founder, Two Stories Media

Erin Elser, 33 | Branch Manager, Licensed Title Agent, Majesty Title Services

Jordan Maglich, 35 | Attorney, Quarles & Brady LLP

Dori Marlin, 39 | Founder, Marlin Media & Consulting

Erin Meagher, 36 | CEO and Founder, Beneficial Blends

Benjamin Osbrach, 39 | Partner, Skoda Minotti

Tiara Rubio, 34 | Project Manager, Suffolk Construction

Porter Smith, 39 | Tampa Bay Market President, American Momentum Bank

Bobby Soroory, 34 | Acquisitions, Convergent Capital Partners

Paige Thomas, 33 | Co-Founder, Elevate Branding Inc.


Sarasota — Manatee

Genevieve Casagrande, 26 | President and COO, SeaSucker

Shelby Connett, 28 |  Director of Sports, Visit Sarasota County

Hosana Fieber, 39 | CFO, Tervis

Guil Geneau, 39 | President, Crown Roofing

Andy Guz, 38 | CEO, Lakewood Ranch Medical Center

Nathan Kalin, 28 | President, Cruise Car

Sarah Kitlowski, 35 | President and COO, Omeza

Emmalee Legler, 33 | Director of Marketing and Operations, Jon F. Swift Construction

Stewart Moon Jr., 31 | VP, Air & Energy

Amanda Parrish, 32 |  Director of Business and Marketing, Fawley Bryant Architecture

Ryan Perrone, 35 | President and Founder, Nautilus Custom Homes

Matthew Plummer, 37 | Managing Partner, Blalock Walters

Carlos Puente, 39 | VP of Sales, Neal Communities

Elizabeth Stamoulis, 32 | Partner, Williams Parker Harrison Dietz & Getzen


Lee — Collier — Charlotte

Ryan Carter, 36 | Executive VP and Co-Founder, Scotlynn USA Division Inc.

Eric DeYoung, 34 | VP of Commercial Lending, Charlotte State Bank & Trust

Dr. Sarah Eccles-Brown, 37 | Ophthalmologist and Partner, Elmquist Eye Group

Rafael Feliciano, 30 | Co-Founder and CEO, Food Idea Group

Tyler Kitson, 31 | President of Talis Park, Kitson & Partners

Pete Maldonado, 37 | CEO, Chomps

Catherine Palmisano, 38 | Senior Audit Manager, Hughes, Snell & Co.

Andrea Pleimling Smith, 35 | Partner at Goldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice & Purtz, P.A.

Dannielle Robinson, 32 | Senior Retail Associate, Colliers International SWFL

Patience Rodriguez, 38 | Director of Owner and Guest Relations and Senior Reservation Coordinator, Select Vacation Properties

Justin Thibaut, 31 | COO,  LSI Companies Inc.

Amy Wicks, 37 | Engineer, Kimley-Horn & Associates

Patrick Wilke, 35 | Owner and Operator, Carbon Press


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