Amanda Curbelo was on her way to becoming an occupational therapist when a college class led to a trip to a small West African nation, The Republic of the Gambia. That trip changed her life — and career path.
“Philanthropy and volunteering was a huge part of my upbringing,” Curbelo says. She saw the need for that up close in The Gambia, where she was part of a program called the International Development Club, run by Bay Path University. A small liberal arts college in Central Massachusetts, Bay Path sponsored the program, where students, including Curbelo, traveled overseas to help young girls get an education and find a career track. Curbelo, who grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts, not far from Bay Path, says seeing young girls walk miles gripping a day’s worth of water in buckets and being underfed and under-clothed was an eye-opening experience. “It riled me up,” she says. “It really changed what I thought I wanted to do with my career.”
So much so she went back to The Gambia a second time, where she helped create a literacy program for young girls, among other projects. Since moving to Southwest Florida six years ago, Curbelo has become a go-to nonprofit fundraiser. She’s worked for Big Brothers Big Sisters, a foster care agency, Goodwill, and, since 2019, the Boys and Girls Club of Collier County.
At the BGC, Curbelo, under the title Resource Development Director — “I do a lot of tasks here, wear a lot of hats,” she says — has revamped the organization’s fundraising model amid the pandemic. She used a $100,000 matching grant from individual board members to launch the club’s COVID-19 Relief Fund, for example. That fund, which raised over $277,000, provided meals, school supplies and virtual lessons to student members. She also helped transition the BGC’s golf tournament and Youth of the Year celebration into virtual events, which raised over $650,000.
The events side of her job and her experiences at college, combined with the pandemic, also led Curbelo to an entrepreneurial epiphany: there was a need for an events planning business that catered to a wide audience, even in Black Tie-heavy Naples. So she launched Niche` Gala Event Management & Production, a boutique agency that plans and executes weddings, corporate events and private parties. “I had the Rolodex, I had the contacts and thought I could make some money on my own,” she says. “COVID-19 was a hard time to start, but we are now booked out through December 2023.”
Curbelo credits her mentor, her dad Todd Bergstrom, with inspiration and motivation — both in life and to launch the company. Bergstrom was an occupation therapist and owned a health care business. His advice to Curbelo has been empathic but also practical, such as the tax structure of a startup and other nuances. “He told me ‘the worst thing that can happen is you take your shot and it fails,’” she says. “‘So why don’t you go for it?’”
Name: Amanda Curbelo
City of Residence: Naples
Employer: Boys & Girls Club of Collier County, Niche` Gala
Title: Resource Development Director, President
Birthplace Springfield MA
Years in the area: Six
Marital Status/Children: Married / two children
Alma Mater/Degree Bay Path University / Business Management Operations
What community group or organization are you most involved with? Think Pineapple Foundation
What's the weirdest job you've ever had? Rehabilitation Technician
What's your top tip for being productive? I keep a calendar to help me be organized, if it is not in my calendar it doesn't happen. I often make lists prioritizing what needs to get done on a specific day. But I also try very hard to surround myself with people who are just as passionate and driven as I am, being surrounded by people who are focused, driven, and passionate helps me stay motivated to reach my goals both professionally and personally.
If you could have a side hustle, what would it be? Interior designer
What's your favorite off-hours activity? Going to the beach
Have you gone to the movies in 2021? If yes, what did you see? No
What's the top item on your bucket list? Backpacking through Europe
What's your favorite podcast? Mom does it all
Where is your happy place? Family Lake House in Ashford, Connecticut
Describe yourself in three words: ambitious, passionate, caring
Who is your mentor for your career and why? My dad, Todd Bergstrom
What are the biggest lessons you have learned from your mentor? I have learned so many lessons from my Dad. I grew up in a family where entrepreneurship, business, and being a kind individual mattered. My Dad was always a strong leader in the boardroom and at home, always leading by example. As a kid, I watched my Dad work hard to grow his business, often spending long hours on the phone, computer, and traveling, but he always made it home for every basketball game, took time to proofread high school English papers, and the time to give back to the community and employees. He built relationships with employees, business partners, and clients, always taking the time to recognize birthdays, hard work, and even supporting them through hardships. He has always been the kind of leader that his staff knew they could count on. My Dad has taught me how to read balance sheets, the importance of financial accounts, and he has guided me through difficult situations professionally and personally. As I moved into leadership roles, he has often been my sounding board, providing honest feedback, even when he knows it may not be what I want to hear. I have always admired my Dad and his dedication to his business, professional career, and his family. The biggest lesson I have learned from my Dad is how you lead matters, so lead with strength, honesty, and compassion. As a leader, people look to you as an example, so make sure that the example you are setting is the right one.