i4 Business Spring 2022

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Orlando's Leadership Connection








Are you a Black leader looking to serve on a local nonprofit board?

The Black Boardroom Leadership Institute (BBLI) offers one-of-a-kind training that fosters authentic leadership and positions individuals for success on a local nonprofit board of directors. Applications for the inaugural class open April 15, 2022. For more information visit






Spirit of Empowerment


Spirit of Progress


Spirit of Engagement


Spirit of Advocacy


Spirit of Entrepreneurship


Spirit of Innovation


Spirit of Mentorship

Carol Craig, Sidus Space and Craig Technologies

Dr. Maria Vazquez, Orange County Public Schools

Shelly Wilkes, Orlando Magic

Andrea Eliscu, Dueling Dragons of Orlando

Cherlette McCullough, Center Peace Couples and Family Therapy Haifa Maamar, Full Sail University

Lisa Bowman, AdventHealth for Children and AdventHealth for Women


Guest Expert Columns

54 Dr. Maria Vazquez, Orange County Public Schools


Spirit of Collaboration


Spirit of Community






4BUSiNESS Orlando's Leadership Connection








2 SPRING 2022 | i4Biz.com

ON THE COVER Carol Craig, Sidus Space and Craig Technologies



Make It Earth Day Every Day Steph McFee | The WHY Coach | Connections Curator LLC

"When people are angry or emotional, they tend to speak their native language — that’s how our brains work. So in stressful situations, having a Spanish-speaking social worker can make an enormous difference.”

– Denisse Lamas, Page 36

Photography by Jason Hook Cover Concept Design by Bruce Bicknell

Adjust Your Digital Body Language to Avoid Miscommunication Meaghan Branham | i4 Business

Jennifer Evins, United Arts of Central Florida

Pam Gould, Shepherd’s Hope and Orange County School Board


FOLLOW US►►► #i4biz



All Set: Interest in Volleyball Spikes Across Central Florida Jason Siegel | Greater Orlando Sports Commission



In a World Full of Chaos, You Have the Power to Save Lives Nicole Euler | Orlando Economic Partnership




Uncertainty About the Future is Causing Stress Dr. Mimi Hull | Hull & Associates



Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Business Dr. Deborah Crown | Rollins College



As an Ally, As a Leader: The Modern Civil Rights Legacy Tykeem McCord | Legal Aid Society

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26Health Client Care Group Connects Patients with Services


Hispanic Family Counseling Helps People Feel at Home





Sustainability + Profitability = Success for Climate First Bank

ecoSPEARS Technology Destroys Toxins and Protects the Planet



Grennan Fender’s Growing Team is Fun, Proactive, Professional and Collaborative



i4 Business Advisory Board


From the Editor and Publisher


Business Briefs


Business Seen





Unique Experiences for Your Day Off

Stuff You Didn’t Know You Wanted to Know

i4Biz.com | SPRING 2022



Orlando's Leadership Connection


4BUSiNESS EDITOR AND PUBLISHER Diane Sears MANAGING EDITOR Meaghan Branham CREATIVE DIRECTOR Bruce Bicknell Digital Blue Productions PHOTOGRAPHY DIRECTOR Julie Fletcher JulieFletcherPhotography.com COPY EDITOR Ben Turner CONTRIBUTORS Meaghan Branham, Nicole Euler, Jason Hook, Dr. Mimi Hull, Tykeem McCord, Steph McFee, Diane Sears and Jason Siegel

From nationally revered commercial structures to dreamy residential properties, real estate and construction professionals are creating the Central Florida we are proud to call home.


In our June issue, i4 Business will spotlight your stories:


Build your relationship with our audience and yours with this special section spotlight Each profile will be: • Published in our print and digital editions of i4 Business • Published on i4biz.com • Shared on our social media channels • Spotlighted in our Special Sections newsletter

Coming June 2022! i4biz.com Tel: 407.730.2961

4 SPRING 2022 | i4Biz.com

i4 Business is a participating member of:

i4 Business Advisory Board This Month's Featured Advisory Board Members Rob Panepinto

Thank You We’d like to thank our Advisory Board members for keeping their fingers on the pulse of our community and helping us bring you the best stories from around Central Florida.

Judi Awsumb, Awsumb Enterprises Dick Batchelor, DGMG Inc. Jim Bowie, Consultant Jackie Brito, HR Asset Partners Andrew Cole, East Orlando Chamber of Commerce Laura Dorsey, Florida Black Chamber and National Cultural Heritage Society Stina D'Uva, West Orange Chamber of Commerce Carol Ann Dykes Logue, University of Central Florida Business Incubator Program Lena Graham-Morris, HORUS Construction Mark Allen Hayes, Stockworth Realty Group Gwen Thompson Hewitt, United Negro College Fund Susan Howard, Communications/Public Relations Specialist Vicki Jaramillo, Orlando International Airport Chris Leggett, Central Florida International Trade Office Catherine Losey, Losey PLLC law firm Laureen Martinez, Orlando Economic Partnership Yog Melwani, Align Commercial Real Estate and Indian American Chamber of Commerce Davia Moss, Next Horizon Hope Edwards Newsome, Virtus LLP Rob Panepinto, Florentine Strategies Bill Reidy, Thumbs Up Jerry Ross, National Entrepreneur Center Robert Schlotman, Nperspective CFO & Strategic Services Nancy Schwalb, Schwalb Public Relations Jason Siegel, Greater Orlando Sports Commission Mary Shanklin, Fifth Estate Media Robert Utsey, ZHA Inc.

Rob Panepinto is president of Florentine Strategies, which provides strategic consulting and investment capital for earlystage companies. He is also the CEO of Entrepreneurs in Action, managing a local social venture fund, and the co-founder and managing partner of ForgeGreen Bio, an advisory and productsourcing firm. Panepinto is a senior strategic advisor and director of the Downtown Innovation District for the University of Central Florida. Previously, he was part of the founding executive team for Connextions, helping it grow from a small manufacturing company to an innovative health care technology/services organization with more than 5,000 employees. Panepinto is chairman of the Rally Social Enterprise Accelerator and past chair of the Central Florida Foundation.

Davia Moss Davia Moss is the founder of Moss Consulting Group and the contracted marketing officer for Next Horizon, an IT and digital company based in Sanford. She has spent her career developing strategy and marketing programs that drive distinguished outcomes for organizations. A recognized thought leader on leading growth and change, Moss was awarded a Women’s Inspired Leadership Award in 2019 by i4 Business magazine and was honored with the University of Central Florida Public Administration Alumni Achievement Award in 2021. She serves on the UCF Alumni Board and Leadership Seminole Board. She earned a bachelor of science in English education and a master’s in public administration from UCF and an MBA from Florida Metropolitan University.

Catherine Losey The founder of Losey PLLC, Catherine Losey is an attorney who represents companies from a diverse range of industries on workplace issues. In both her leadership of Losey PLLC and previous experience as counsel and a commercial litigator, Losey has helped clients understand and navigate policies and potential risks. Losey is a member of 100 Women Strong, a giving circle affiliated with the Central Florida Foundation, and of the Junior League of Greater Orlando. She previously served as a volunteer judge and jury advisor for Orange County Teen Court; as a guardian ad litem with the Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association; and as a volunteer with iDignity. i4Biz.com | SPRING 2022




Orlando's Leadership Connection

SUBSCRIBE Visit i4biz.com or send $24.95 for a one-year (8 issues) or $39.95 for a two-year (16 issues) subscription to: i4 Business, 121 S. Orange Avenue, Suite 1500, Orlando, FL 32801. Please include name, mailing address, city, state, ZIP code, phone number and email. Please allow 4-6 weeks for subscription to start.

SPOTLIGHTING YOUNG PROFESSIONALS Central Florida’s young professionals are setting a precedent for innovation, industry and inclusion with creativity and collaboration. In our September issue, i4 Business will spotlight your stories: who you are, what you do, and what the future holds. In telling each of your stories, we build your relationship with our audience, and get closer to the heart of what makes our community one of a kind.

DIGITAL EDITION A digital edition of the current issue is available online at i4biz.com. CHANGE OF ADDRESS If you are moving or changing the mailing address for your subscription, send your complete old address (where the magazine is currently being mailed) and your complete new address, including ZIP code, to info@i4biz.com. BACK ISSUES Back issues may be purchased for $4.95 each by calling 407-730-2961. REPRINTS Reprints and commemorative plaques may be ordered from Meaghan Branham with i4 Business, 407-730-2961. No other companies offering similar products or services are affiliated with i4 Business.

Each profile will be: ə Published in our print and digital editions of i4 Business ə Published on i4biz.com

COMING July/August 2022

Daniel Haddad

CONTRIBUTE Send press releases, article submissions, announcements and images to press@i4biz.com. Please provide 2-3 months advance notice for requests for event announcements and/or coverage.


Manager of Power Plant Engineering

Orlando Utilitie

s Commission


Creating an atmosphere wher my team has the e ability to succe ed is my favorite part of what I do. — Daniel Haddad

Setting an Example

Long before Daniel Haddad began his enginee This stayed with ring career, he him, and was learning the while earning ins and outs a mechanical of the industr engineering degree y from his father, at the who worked at University of the Orlando Central Florida Utilities Commi , Haddad became ssion (OUC – an OUC coThe Reliable One) op student, a role that led Haddad’s childho throughout to a position as od. “He always a full-time seized opportu engineer upon nities to teach his graduation. me about ‘how things work’ in all areas of life, “Every role I’ve but held has in terms of enginee especially prepared me in some way problem solving ring and for my current ,” said Haddad one,” . “There are opportu he said. Those learnin grow your abilities nities to g opportunities led to an interest and taking those in every role, in the field opportunities of engineering, will prepare you and in OUC for something as an employer. else someday “[My father] that you will often spoke about never be able how to predict.” fortunate he was to work for a company that That “something valued his commitment out to be his currentelse” turned to his his job,” recalled family above as manager of power position Haddad. engineering, where plant he leads his

team through empowerment . “I want them to be their absolut e best, and it’s my job to provide them with the opportu to do that,” Haddad nity said. Now, in his 11th year at OUC, and with three children of his own, he works to keep the company moving forward, all while upholding the same respect for employees and their families that his father valued so much. “We are always striving to improve and adapt to changing times, but we remain steadfa st in the sense that employees are valued over the bottom line,” said Haddad. “I don’t see that changing anytime soon.” ◆ i4Biz.com | OCTOB

ER 2018 | 33

i4biz.com Tel: 407.730.2961

6 SPRING 2022 | i4Biz.com


i4 Business® is published eight times a year by i4 Business LLC, 121 S. Orange Avenue, Suite 1500, Orlando, FL 32801 Tel. 407-730-2961 i4biz.com The contents of i4 Business® magazine, i4biz.com and any other media extensions related to the brand, including advertisements, articles, graphics, websites, web postings and all other information (“contents”) published, are for informational purposes only. i4 Business® and all other affiliated brands do not necessarily endorse, verify, or agree with the contents contained in i4 Business®. i4 Business® makes no warranties or representations, express or implied, as to the accuracy or completeness, timeliness, or usefulness of any information contained or referenced. i4 Business® shall not be held liable for any errors or omissions. ©2021. All rights reserved. Any reproduction, in whole or in part, is prohibited

without written permission from the publisher.

From the Editor and Publisher

Inspiring Leaders Keep Us Strong Nothing is impossible. The word itself says “I’m possible! — Audrey Hepburn


t’s always a thrill to let nominees know they’ve been chosen for one of our Women’s Inspired Leadership Awards. My predecessors at i4 Business started this program seven years ago to recognize women who are helping make Central Florida such a great place to live.

This year was no different. But I found it fascinating that every single recipient, each of the nine women, used the word “honored” to describe how she felt about the news. I wanted to tell them we are honored to have them here in Central Florida. Each of these leaders has contributed in her own way toward making our community stronger. We received 69 nominations from the community this year, and it was really tough to choose just nine because the stories people shared were so compelling. I want to thank the selection committee for helping us name the women we’ve profiled in this issue starting on Page 12. It’s been a crazy two years since COVID-19 showed up in Central Florida. Last year, we honored our Women’s Inspired Leadership Awards recipients in a program on Zoom. It was actually great fun, but not the same as meeting everyone in a ballroom, exchanging hugs and getting to hear their stories in person. That made this year’s awards luncheon even more special. Unfortunately, the outbreak of the COVID-19 omicron variant pushed our awards ceremony from the second week of March to May 10. So we have changed this issue from the MarchApril edition to the Spring 2022 issue. We will all look back someday on how the pandemic turned everything upside down, and yet we persevered. I hope you enjoy reading the stories about our honorees as much as we enjoyed creating them. Managing Editor Meaghan Branham and I want to thank our photographer, Julie Fletcher, and our Creative Director, Bruce Bicknell, for making everyone look good. We also thank our photographer friend Jason Hook for helping us out with portraits for the cover story on Carol Craig, which starts on Page 12. The founder and CEO of Craig Technologies, which she started in 1999, made

history in December 2021 when another of her enterprises, Sidus Space, became the first femalefounded space company to go public, trading on the Nasdaq under the symbol SIDU. In our interview, Carol shared with me her thoughts on serving in the U.S. Navy, growing from entrepreneur to “astropreneur,” becoming the mom of a child with special needs, surviving the Space Coast recession after the space shuttle program was shuttered, navigating the skies with a “spaceas-a-service” satellite company, and so much more. Carol also touched on the theme of this Spring 2022 issue — Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)— with this thought: “Every bit of data we gather on Earth can be gathered from space faster, cheaper and more accurately. If we do that, we’re helping preserve our planet. The more we can move off of our planet, the better.” ESG topics have become front and center for many organizations across industries, with national and even global emphasis on issues like climate change and diversity, equity and inclusion. That’s why we’ve created a special section in this issue featuring some of our Central Florida neighbors who are tackling ESG matters head-on. The articles start on Page 32 with a Spotlight on Dr. Deborah Crown, dean of the Rollins College Crummer Graduate School of Business, who coincidentally was the subject of our Women’s Inspired Leadership Awards cover story in March 2020. She shares this insight: “The pandemic, the rapid evolution of racial justice perspectives, world crises and economic challenges have had colossal impacts on the future of business over the last two years.” I couldn’t agree more, and that’s why I’m so pleased to share stories in this issue about local leaders who are helping us deal with those impacts. We are in good hands. Have a great month!

Diane Sears Editor and Publisher i4Biz.com | SPRING 2022



The crew is pictured in zero gravity during the flight, from left to right: Marc Hagle, Gary Lai, George Nield, Marty Allen, Jim Kitchen and Sharon Hagle. (Image courtesy of Blue Origin)

Winter Park Couple Make History with Blue Origin Spaceflight Winter Park residents Sharon and Marc Hagle became the first married couple to take a tourism spaceflight when they blasted off near Van Horn, Texas, on March 31 aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket. The six-member crew was the fourth group since July 2021 to take a 10-minute suborbital flight with Blue Origin, landing in the desert. Sharon Hagle is the founder of SpaceKids Global, a Winter Park-based nonprofit with a mission of getting elementary school students excited about space. Marc Hagle is the president and CEO of Tricor International LLC, which has developed residential and commercial properties for more than 30 years. The couple has also made headlines recently for a commitment to sell their Winter

Park home, listed at $15.9 million, and donate all proceeds to the University of Central Florida. “Our dreams came true last week after waiting 15 years to go to space,” Sharon Hagle said in a WKMG-TV Channel 6 interview. The couple had been preparing for spaceflight through various forms of astronaut training, so they were ready for the physical experience. But Marc Hagle told WKMG they were surprised by the emotional impact. “Emotionally, there are really no words to describe it,” he said. “When you’re floating in space and you’re looking at the black darkness of space, compared to the small blue circle that Earth is within space, it has an impact on you personally.”

Disney Announces Plans for Affordable Housing Development Walt Disney World has set aside nearly 80 acres on its property for construction of a new affordable housing development. The project is aimed at helping tackle the growing problem of a lack of options for hospitality workers and other residents. The community is in the early planning stages and will be created in partnership with a developer who specializes in affordable housing, Disney said in a news release on its blog. It will be in close


8 SPRING 2022 | i4Biz.com


proximity to schools and the Flamingo Crossings Town Center retail and dining complex. “Our community knows us for our incredible theme parks and resort hotels around the world, and we will engage the developer to bring that same innovation, expertise and attention to detail to this initiative,” the release read. “The development will even feature some special, innovative touches that are distinctly Disney.”



Superintendent Barbara Jenkins and OCPS Honored by Dr. Phillips Charities Orange County Superintendent of Schools Barbara Jenkins and Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) were recognized April 27 with the 2022 Dr. Phillips Leadership Award. The honor came with a $250,000 contribution from Dr. Phillips Charities to a scholarship fund for future teachers. The award recognizes nonprofits that demonstrate community leadership, financial stewardship and sustainable and impactful programs that change lives. “Dr. Phillips Charities celebrates OCPS’ leadership in education and its service as a bedrock for the future of Central Florida, especially with the leadership of Dr. Jenkins over the past 11 years,” said Kenneth Robinson, the board’s president. “Not many communities can boast of an award-winning, A-rated school system with a 97.8% graduation rate from its traditional high schools.” The award came two months after Jenkins announced her plans to retire in December. She will open the 2022-23 school year before turning over the reins to her successor, who will be named by the school board. Jenkins has worked for OCPS for about 30 years, starting as a teacher. The district is the fourthlargest in Florida and the ninth-largest in the nation, serving more than 206,000 students at 202 schools and employing more than 25,000 people. Barbara Jenkins with Dr. Phillips Charities board members Kenneth Robinson (left), president and CEO, and James Ferber, chair

Orlando Magic’s Markelle Fultz Wins DeVos Community Award Orlando Magic guard Markelle Fultz received the Rich & Helen DeVos Community Enrichment Award for 2021-22. Presented in March during the Orlando Wine Festival and Auction benefiting the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation, the award recognizes a player who has dedicated his efforts off the court to helping enrich the lives of others. The award comes with $25,000 from the DeVos family to donate to the charity of the player’s choice. "We are incredibly proud of all of our players' off-the-court efforts and want to congratulate Markelle on the impact that he has made in the Central Florida community," Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins said. Fultz's community involvement included joining teammates in sponsoring holiday food donations at Thanksgiving for several communities, purchasing gift cards for Head Start children, and sponsoring 300 at-risk youths to attend Magic games. Past winners of the award include Nick Anderson, Penny Hardaway, Darrell Armstrong, Grant Hill, Monty Williams, Tracy McGrady, Pat Garrity, Bo Outlaw, Dwight Howard, J.J. Redick, Jameer Nelson, Tobias Harris, Victor Oladipo, Elfrid Payton, Arron Afflalo, Markelle Fultz (left) and Orlando Magic Chairman Dan DeVos Photo by: Gary Bassing, Orlando Magic



Inspiration i4Biz.com | SPRING 2022



SBA Honors National Entrepreneur Center with Advocate Award The National Entrepreneur Center in Orlando, led by President Jerry Ross, was recognized as the 2022 Small Business Advocate of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) at the Florida and North Florida levels. “Our small businesses have been hurting for the last couple of years due to the pandemic, and some of them had to close their doors, but many thrived due to their resourcefulness and dedication,” said Director J. Malcolm Richards with the North Florida District. “We celebrate all the hard-working small business owners and congratulate our district winners on their respective titles. We also thank and congratulate the advocates that have helped our small businesses during a very difficult time.” The SBA also announced other honorees from Central Florida: • 2022 North Florida District Woman Business Owner of the Year – Chaitali Prajapati, founding principal and owner of PI Consulting Services LLC of Longwood. • 2022 North Florida District and State of Florida Minority Business Owner of the Year – Indy Vega, president and CEO, CCI Group of Orlando.

Jerry Ross

Chickasaw Elementary

First Horizon Visits 3 Schools for Teach Children to Save Day To celebrate the American Bankers Association’s Teach Children to Save Day on April 28, the Central Florida market of First Horizon Bank partnered with three local schools: Zellwood Elementary, College Park Middle School and Chickasaw Elementary.


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“Establishing financial literacy is key to creating a positive relationship with money at an early age,” said Lawrence Hatch, president of the bank’s Central Florida market. “We’ve made a promise to give back to the people of Central Florida, and we’re excited for this hands-on opportunity to teach the


important skills of saving and financial wellness.” The national Teach Children to Save event celebrated its 25th year of helping young students learn good saving habits. For information on the initiative, visit www.aba.com/advocacy/communityprograms/teach-children-save.



(from left to right) Tracy Almeda-Singian, Vice President of Marketing at CCU Florida; Alyssa Carson; J.T. Hassell; Emily Zeck; and Amanda Miller, CCU Florida Titusville Branch Manager

321 Financial Liftoff! Educates Students About Financial Literacy Community Credit Union Florida (CCU Florida) debuted its “321 Financial Liftoff!” educational series on March 21 with a panel discussion in front of 400 students at Rockledge High School in Brevard County. The program is designed to provide tools to pave a path toward a successful financial future for young people. The event featured guest appearances by three Brevard County influencers: NFL player JT Hassell, most

recently a defensive back with the New York Jets, who grew up in Titusville; Alyssa Carson, an accomplished pilot and astrobiology student with aspirations to be the first woman on Mars; and Emily Zeck, a musician and swimsuit entrepreneur. All shared financial best practices that shaped their business, philanthropic and personal endeavors. “Becoming financially literate at a young age is critical, and we want to

ensure that the next generation of the Space Coast is able to achieve those major milestones such as getting their first debit card, or buying a car or their first home,” said Laurie Cappelli, president of CCU Florida. “Recent studies have shown that there is a gap in financial education, and we are committed to changing that by providing students with tips, resources and easyto-understand ways to kickstart their financial journey."

UCF Team Wins Cyber Defense Competition, School’s 5th in 10 Years A team of students from the University of Central Florida won the national title in April in the 2022 National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. It was the university’s second consecutive year winning the competition and the fifth in the past 10 years — more than any other university in the nation. UCF has won either first place or first runner-up eight times in the past decade. The eight-member team practices up to 15 hours a week and is nationally respected as an elite program in the lucrative field of cybersecurity. “I hope everyone in the Orlando area understands that what our students have accomplished over the years is remarkable,” says Tom Nedorost, the team’s coach and faculty advisor. “Some teams have been doing this for 17 years and have never been to nationals or even to regionals. To win it as often as we’ve won it says a lot about the talent pool at UCF and the passion of our students for this.”



Health i4Biz.com | SPRING 2022



Carol Craig

Founder and CEO Craig Technologies and Sidus Space



PROGRESS 12 SPRING 2022 | i4Biz.com




Photography by Jason Hook

Sometimes you just have to jump, and build your wings on the way down. I built my wings just in time to avoid crashing. — Carol Craig


he world will never know what Carol Craig’s career would’ve been if she hadn’t tweaked her knee when she was a naval flight officer. And neither will space, thankfully.

Craig was going through prisoner-of-war training as part of her quest to become one of the first women in the U.S. Navy to be authorized to fly combat aircraft when she had to stop and have knee surgery. Disqualified from flying, she left as a service-disabled veteran. Since then, the self-described “astropreneur” has been making her mark in a completely different way instead: by helping lead the commercialization of space. Craig remembers the challenges of trying to build her career as a military spouse after her time in the service, relocating with each new assignment of her husband, John, a Navy F-18 pilot. An engineer by trade, she was working in a job in Jacksonville when it was time to relocate to Virginia Beach. Luckily, just three months earlier, one of her co-workers had suggested she set up her own company and become a consultant. She has built a name for herself over the past 23 years with Craig Technologies, a Cape Canaveralbased aerospace and defense contracting company she founded with $150 in 1999 as a single-person consultancy. The company has produced several spinoffs, and together her organizations now employ almost 300 people. In her latest achievement, her space-as-aservice satellite company, Sidus Space, became the first female-founded space company to go public, commencing trading on the Nasdaq on December 14, 2021, under the symbol SIDU. Named for a Latin word meaning “resembling a star or constellation,” Sidus Space was previously called Craig Technologies Aerospace Solutions. Craig jokes that all the names she has come up with for her companies are long enough to need acronyms, so she asked one of her business development employees to come up with a better name for this one, and his suggestion stuck. Sidus Space has received federal and global telecommunication approvals to launch a 100-satellite constellation within the next few years. Each satellite is designed to carry multiple payloads that can be swapped out for others, and

the plan is to sell data from the various payloads — both customer-directed and Sidus-chosen. Applications can range from maritime searches for missing boaters to traffic control to any kind of data gathering that would benefit from an eye in the sky. “We’re manufacturing our own satellites in-house here in Cape Canaveral,” Craig says. “They are partially 3-D manufactured, so they are more efficient to produce. They are lighter so we can carry more customer payloads at a lower cost. Every bit of data we gather on Earth can be gathered from space faster, cheaper and more accurately. If we do that, we’re helping preserve our planet. The more we can move off of our planet, the better.” Craig describes space-based data as being at a crossroads, just like the world was in the 1990s with the internet. “Initially it was used by academics, then government, then commercial companies, and then consumers, and it became ubiquitous,” she says. “I believe space-based data is going to be adopted exactly the same way. Our tagline is ‘Bringing space down to Earth.’ Individuals should be able to access space, whether that means having access to data or being able to send up their own technology.” For instance, smaller nations that don't have the technology or funding to send equipment into space can partner with companies like Sidus Space, she says. “We shouldn't have to have 40,000 satellites floating around up there. So tell me what you want, I'll find the technology and a sensor that is going to get you that data, and I'll put it on my satellite. I’ll handle all the rest and give you your data at the end of the day.” Craig talks about how her company has gone full throttle to invest in the community, even during some scary times. One of those times was personal. The couple moved to Brevard County, where they had bought investment property, after their son Danny was born with the rare genetic disorder Prader-Willi Syndrome in 2001. Craig’s husband decided to retire from the Navy, join the reserves and fly commercial aircraft so the family could be together more without moving. Craig founded the Danny Craig Foundation in 2010 to raise money for organizations that focus on children with special needs. i4Biz.com | SPRING 2022



Another scary time was professional. After the space shuttle program was shut down in 2011, the Space Coast community felt an overwhelming sense of loss that took a toll on the local economy. People lost jobs, which led them to spend less money, and there was a sense of trepidation everywhere. In this atmosphere, Craig’s company’s manufacturing division that was a subcontractor to NASA and the Department of Defense (DoD) put in a bid to take over the equipment that was in the NASA shuttle logistics depot. “Be careful what you wish for. They picked us,” Craig says. “At that moment, for my team and me, there was this realization of ‘OK, we can actually impact this community by filling in the gap.’ It was a ghost town at the time. People were losing jobs, our friends were leaving the area, our kids were saying goodbye to their friends. It was pretty bad.” Her company rented the 160,000-square-foot facility that was the former depot, took over the equipment, and kept on 30 to 40 people — especially tough because Craig Technologies also had people on the payroll for a contract at Kennedy Space Center. “We were trying to grow the depot facility, and there was a point where I recognized that the NASA transition to the next program was not going as fast as we would like,” she says. “I was not externally funded, so trying to grow a manufacturing facility that was suffering losses was killing me. Finally, I made the decision to downsize or ‘right-size’ based on the current contracting environment. “It took a long time to get where we are today, but being able to hang in there and see the investment and the money that we put into this community and these companies finally come to fruition is exciting. Sometimes it’s not about being in the right place at the right time but about treading water so you will be in the right place at the right now.

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“Brevard County, right now, is in a different place than it was then. It’s much more diverse. NASA is still strong. But now we've got commercial space, we've got satellites, we've got rockets, we've got DoD, we’ve got intel, and we've got aviation. What happened when the shuttle program retired … I don't think we'll ever see that happen again in Brevard County.” Craig has come a long way from the little girl who was adopted as an infant born of Cuban descent and raised in a rural Illinois community. She grew up wanting to be “everything,” she says — she had so many interests that she couldn’t choose just one. “And I had a mother who told me I could be anything.” Craig has received numerous corporate and individual awards over the years. One of them was the 2012 Technology Executive of the Year Congressional Medal of Merit from U.S. Congressman Bill Posey. She has also served in leadership roles on boards that include the Economic Development Commission of the Space Coast, CareerSource Brevard, United Way of Brevard County, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Enterprise Florida. Today her companies work in the industry among private space firms led by billionaires Elon Musk, the Tesla car manufacturer who owns SpaceX, and Jeff Bezos, who founded Amazon as well as the Blue Origin space company. When people compare her to them, she says she identifies more with Richard Branson, the London-based founder of Virgin Airlines and space tourism company Virgin Galactic. The eccentric serial entrepreneur is known for spending time at his private retreat in the British Virgin Islands that guests can book for $128,000 a night. “There's something about him and the way he diversifies his businesses that I admire,” Craig says. “Plus I love the islands. If I can own my own island, I’ll know that I’ve arrived.”



Congratulations to the 2002 i4 Business Women's Inspired Leadership Honorees!


We Support Inspired Leaders of Today and Tomorrow




BIG DREAMERS BECOME BIG LEADERS. Congratulations, honorees! Dr. Maria Vazquez ’95Med ’10EdD Shelly Wilkes ’02 ’04MS ’04MBA Lisa Bowman ’02 ’10MS

i4Biz.com | SPRING 2022



Dr. Maria Vazquez

Deputy Superintendent Orange County Public Schools



ADVOCACY 16 SPRING 2022 | i4Biz.com


Dr. Maria Vazquez BY DIANE SEARS

Photography by Julie Fletcher

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on everyone's lives, but I also believe it's created opportunities in education. It has shown us we can rethink how we use time, space and resources to better educate our students and provide more choice and more opportunities. — Dr. Maria Vazquez


uring her junior year of college, Dr. Maria Vazquez realized she wanted to be an educator instead of a chemical engineer, but it took her parents a while to warm up to the idea. They had left everything they owned to flee Fidel Castro’s reign in Cuba and start a new life in the United States. They wanted their two daughters to have solid, well-paying careers, and they took a keen interest in the girls’ college studies — something they hadn’t had themselves. That made it difficult for Vazquez to hide her plans when she changed her major in her junior year. But it had to be done. Raised as a devout Catholic, she was sitting in church one Sunday letting her mind wander during the homily, when she clearly saw a picture of her future.

“I saw myself teaching at the school I'd attended,” says Vazquez, who now serves as deputy superintendent for Orange County Public Schools. “It was such a powerful sensation that it moved me to go see an advisor the next day. What's even more amazing is that my first teaching job was at that school.” In the College of Education at the University of South Florida in Tampa, the advisor said she would need only one extra semester to change majors. “So unbeknownst to my parents, I switched,” she says. “I was able to hide it until my last semester. By then my parents had divorced. I remember coming into our home, and my mom was on the phone saying, ‘No, I think you've got the wrong number. There's no one here who would be doing that internship.’” Vazquez knew she'd been caught. Her mother handed her the phone and she finished the conversation. “I hung up the phone and sat down at our little dining table and told my mom I had switched careers, and she started crying.” Her mother told her, “You’re throwing your life away. Your dad and I sacrificed so much, and you're going to be a teacher. You’re not going to make any money.” “I told her, ‘Mom, I really love what I'm doing. I've already done two internships, and this is where I need to be.’ She was just distraught. And of course, she said, ‘You’ll have to tell your father.’ That was a

much more difficult conversation. He didn't cry. He was angry. “But they came to recognize that it really had been the right decision, that I was able to make an impact and make a difference and that all was going to be right with the world,” she says, laughing. “That took a long time. This experience always stayed with me and made me want people to understand the power of teaching and the impact it can have on the future — positive and negative.” Vazquez went on to get master’s and doctoral degrees in education from the University of Central Florida. Her parents, who have both passed away, influenced her in another way, too. Her father’s cardiovascular disease led him to have an aortic transplant in 2000 when he was in his early 70s, an experience that made a big impression on Vazquez. Her father had grown up in Spain and was active as a young man, playing soccer and eating a healthy diet. But in his later years he smoked, despite pleas from his daughters to quit. “I saw opportunities for me to influence the students as a principal, emphasizing exercise and wellness not only for our kids but also their families,” says Vazquez, who shares three adult children and three young grandchildren today with her husband, Ulysses. “I especially saw that as a great need in some of our more diverse communities. I'm Hispanic, and when I was growing up, vegetables were maybe an avocado and a little bit of lettuce. We were much heavier on the carbs.” She became a board member with the American Heart Association, another place she instinctively knew she belonged. This gave her a platform to impact policy about wellness, including tobacco use among teens — a phenomenon that has grown in recent years with vaping, the use of electronic cigarettes that are easier to hide than their paper tobacco counterparts. Vazquez has taken on the fight against teen smoking as a personal challenge in Orange County, where she helps oversee the ninth-largest school district in the U.S. with more than 206,000 students, 25,000 employees and 202 schools. “It’s a different way of thinking about the school's job,” she says. “You’re there to ensure students are exposed to experiences that create choices and pathways that lead them to live healthy, productive and successful lives.” i4Biz.com | SPRING 2022



Jennifer Evins

President and CEO United Arts of Central Florida

This is really about collective impact, and how we are going to come together to leverage this support. — Jennifer Evins



COLLABORATION 18 SPRING 2022 | i4Biz.com


Jennifer Evins

BY MEAGHAN BRANHAM Photography by Julie Fletcher


eet Jennifer Evins: cruise director. At the United Arts of Central Florida, she goes by her official title of president and CEO, but it isn’t too far off from her seafaring childhood dream.

“‘The Love Boat’ was huge when I was growing up,” she remembers, “and as a little girl I really wanted to be Julie McCoy. I wanted to be the cruise director. I'm a planner, and I always want to make sure everybody's having a good time.” Years later, her passions for teamwork, planning and the arts have come together to create a culture of collaboration in her community.

The Road to United Arts Raised in Indianapolis as the daughter of a former ballerina and a public servant, Evins says her upbringing did more to point her toward her current role than even her interest in the cruise ship sitcom on TV. “Our parents made sure my brothers and I experienced arts and culture, from museums to theater to music. I didn't really have any professionally trained artistic ability, but I always valued it.” Even after she started her career in the marketing and public affairs world in Spartanburg, South Carolina, her lifelong love of the arts led her to a parallel path in volunteer work. “I served my very first board position on the local ballet in my early 20s, in part because my mother had been in dance.” Later, she became chair of the board of the United Arts Organization, The Arts Partnership in Spartanburg, a move that proved pivotal to her personal and professional life. “I really just started loving and gaining a better understanding of the tremendous value that the arts bring in terms of economy, education, quality of life, health and wellbeing.” After leading a campaign to build a new performing arts center and cultural campus in her community for 10 years as a volunteer, she took a brief step back to focus on her family and other career goals. But in 2010, she dove right back in when she was hired as president and CEO of the Chapman Cultural Center. Ten years later, Evins felt she was at a crossroads. “I realized I had really achieved everything I'd set out to do in that job,” she says. “It was time for someone else’s dreams and visions there.” It was then that she found the opening with United Arts of Central Florida, one of the leading United Arts organizations in the country and one that she had always admired from states away. “When I visited Orlando in April 2021, during the final interview process, I thought: 'This is the right place for you, and you’re the right person for them. Now's the time to go.'”

The Right Place

In her first 90 days, Evins set out to meet with 200 stakeholders to get a crash course in the organization and the community it serves. “I’ve learned that if you say yes and show up for each opportunity, amazing things can happen,” she says. “Own your skills and your experience, but be ready to learn from the people around you." She was determined to understand which issues the community was facing as a whole, and not just in the cultural sector. She explains the reason: “The arts need to be relevant and impactful.” Meeting with people one-on-one or in small groups, Evins exceeded her goal, speaking with about 300 people in her first few months from across all four of the counties the organization covers. “I explored Sanford and St. Cloud, Clermont and Kissummee. It was really important to me to just walk around and talk to people and get to know the community.” After those hundreds of meetings, her team came together to set the goals for the coming years. Their main areas of focus were broken down into a few categories: addressing the financial pressure on the cultural sector, growing the organization’s grants program to be more inclusive, leveraging the cultural sector as a tourism asset for Central Florida, advocating for and supporting individual artists as well as organizations, supporting literary and visual artists, and allowing for more representation in the arts to better reflect the diversity of the community.

Collective Impact From broadening the organization’s grants program to remove barriers to access, to offering professional development resources to individual artists, United Arts is set to work on the steps to solutions. For Evins, diversity has been an integral part to finding solutions, and she points to a growing focus on sharing the experience of BIPOC populations, or black, indigenous and people of color. “Florida is 37% BIPOC leadership,” she says. “We've got to make sure that both the leadership and the decision makers in the arts are dynamic and diverse, and that people can find, connect and see themselves in the cultural products of this community.” Her latest project at the United Arts is that of overseeing the Collaborative Campaign for the Arts, which runs each year from February 1 through April 30. For more than 30 years, the campaign has brought the community together to support arts and cultural organizations in Central Florida, with every gift made to any of the participating organizations matched by 15% from United Arts. For Evins, it’s yet another opportunity for teamwork to create a better world. “This is really about collective impact, and how we are going to come together to leverage this support.” i4Biz.com | SPRING 2022



Pam Gould

President and CEO Shepherd's Hope



COMMUNITY 20 SPRING 2022 | i4Biz.com




Photography by Julie Fletcher

All of these experiences were divine intervention — preparation for what I needed to be when I arrived at this chapter in life at Shepherd’s Hope and the school board. I had to understand the needs of the people to be a good servant.a — Pam Gould


ven in college, Pam Gould knew she wanted to work in the nonprofit world. She started in local theater, finding her niche behind the scenes in summer stock in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, where she honed her skills in everything from management to finance to marketing. That started a journey that took her from the Berkshires to Broadway to Central Florida.

Today she is the CEO of Shepherd’s Hope, a Central Florida nonprofit that serves as a voice and resource for people who are uninsured and underinsured. She is also a member of the Orange County School Board, serving as vice chair and representing District 4 in West Orange. Shepherd’s Hope was founded as a faith-based organization 25 years ago by William Barnes, the senior pastor of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church on Apopka-Vineland Road. It has become the largest free and charitable clinic in Florida, with more than 2,700 licensed medical and general volunteers and about 35 staff members. Its five locations have provided more than 300,000 free patient visits and medical services. Gould says her theater experience prepared her for, well, anything. “One day I’m in the boardroom and the next day I’m moving tables. That’s just how it is. We have to respond to the needs of the minute.” She can rattle off names of some of the theater legends she worked with in New York, including the late Broadway director and producer Hal Prince. She worked in the back office on his productions of Phantom of the Opera and Kiss of the Spider Woman — two shows he is best known for along with West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret and Sweeney Todd. Gould became one of the youngest managing directors of an off-Broadway theater. But after eight years, Gould and her husband, who worked for a medical supply company, decided to move out of their rented brownstone and look for their own house. The former high school sweethearts were faced with commuting two hours each way. Instead, they pulled up stakes and moved to Central Florida to start a family. “I thought there was more in entertainment going on here than there was,” she says, laughing. “But it turned out my skills transferred beautifully to health care.” She worked with Orlando Health for almost 10

years — first in finance, helping with registration and collection for the self-insured, charity care, Medicaid and Medicare. She became chief development officer, where her skills with grants, philanthropy and partnerships came in handy. Then she was recruited to work as a vice president for Health Central in Ocoee and president of the Health Central Foundation. Gould’s path took a brief detour when she went to work for a friend as a senior vice president of timeshare resort company Island One, where she helped start a foundation and retool the employee training and customer service recognition programs. “It was a wonderful company, but it was not for me,” she says. “It was not in my skin. I like reinvesting profits back into what good we can do in the community. It’s just a different pathway, and when I got off that path, I wasn’t as happy. … It clarified that my heart, my soul and my leadership were best spent in service.” Gould opened a consultancy and ran for school board in 2012. In 2019, some friends urged her to apply for the CEO job at Shepherd’s Hope. She arrived at the nonprofit in April 2019 and supported the move into a newly built facility in July 2019, and then COVID-19 hit in March 2020. “It’s been a whirlwind of challenges and opportunities, but the mission has never changed,” she says. “I’m so proud of the team and their commitment to continuing care through it all.” She shares stories about people the organization has helped, like a woman in her 20s who had multiple sclerosis (MS). “She needed $10,000 worth of a medication she couldn't afford,” Gould says. “We made that happen. She stabilized. She's living a healthy, robust life.” People who can’t afford medical care often let their health issues go until they end up in the emergency room or the hospital. Then they face years of debt and bad credit. “It's story after story after story where if we weren’t there to help solve a crisis, it would put that person into a welfare situation and on disability instead of thriving, working, contributing and living,” Gould says. “The woman with MS would’ve ended up in a critical situation at some point. Instead, she’s a healthy contributor and gets to live. That's amazing. Every patient story is like that. Every single one of them.” i4Biz.com | SPRING 2022



Shelly Wilkes

Senior Vice President of Marketing and Social Responsibility Orlando Magic



EMPOWERMENT 22 SPRING 2022 | i4Biz.com




Photography by Julie Fletcher

Women tend to take on a lot of not only home reponsibilities, but even organizational cultural responsibilities that men don't always do. I often have this internal debate of, ‘Is this innate to who we are, or is it learned behavior?' — Shelly Wilkes


ttending the University of Central Florida on a volleyball scholarship, Shelly Wilkes had changed her major from education to business after encountering the dreaded Calculus II course that weeds out math lovers nationwide.

Then something happened that altered her career trajectory altogether: a guest appearance in her sports marketing class by Dr. Richard Lapchick, known as “the racial conscience of sport.” He was president of the National Consortium of Academics and Sports, known today as the Institute for Sport & Social Justice, which brought him recognition in March as the 2022 Central Floridian of the Year by the Orlando Sentinel. Lapchick told the class he would be leading a new UCF DeVos Sport Business Management program, named after Amway’s founding DeVos family, which owns the Orlando Magic National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise. “My eyes lit up,” Wilkes says. “I wanted to be part of the program, and I wanted to work with him.” She got both wishes. She secured an internship with Lapchick in the spring of her senior year, and she was accepted into the 2002 inaugural class of the postgraduate program. Since then, her professional life has revolved around sports. She had grown up in Fort Myers, where she was a softball player and a cheerleader before adopting volleyball as her sport in 10th grade. She holds master’s degrees in both business administration and sport business management. Besides working with the Magic on class projects and during game nights in college, she served a summer internship with the NBA in New York. When she graduated, she interned with a sports marketing agency in Kansas City. That was when she received a call from the Magic that they had an entry-level coordinator role open. “I was offered the job and packed up in August of 2004,” she says, “and I have not left.” Now in what she calls “my 18th season,” she recalls how she started off in ticket sales. “I still credit that with the knowledge base I have of the Magic organization and the fan base. I say this a lot to college students: Sales is where you learn the business because you have to talk about it to so many people so often.” Then she became in charge of “game presentation,” which she describes as all the “fun stuff” that is not

the actual game, including contests, music, mascot, dance team and video production. She stayed in that role 12 years, moving up to senior director level. “Because of the organization’s belief in me and faith in my capabilities, I was able to do a lot of projects in that role,” she says. She was part of the team that planned events for the Amway Center’s grand opening in 2010, and she produced Orlando Magic games in Brazil and London and an NBA All Star game in Toronto. In December 2016, Wilkes was named president of the franchise’s minor league team, a G League squad now called the Lakeland Magic, when it was moved to Central Florida from Erie, Pennsylvania. The promotion came as she was 8½ months pregnant with her first daughter. During her three years in that role, she had a second daughter, and her husband Dallas — a sports enthusiast and former college wrestler who works in technology with the Walt Disney Company — would drive Quinn, now age 5 and Addison now age 2, to Lakeland’s RP Funding Center to watch the games. The G League became big news in December 2021 when the omicron variant of COVID-19 was spreading across the NBA. Numerous Orlando Magic players tested positive and had to quarantine, so their G League counterparts were called to step in as substitutes. “It’s one example of why the G League is so valuable,” Wilkes says. “The NBA season would have had to go on hiatus.” She’s thankful for the experience of being the first female G League team president, but she wants to see more women in top sports positions. “Why does it take so long for women to become firsts? But I am appreciative, and it gives me a bit of a platform. It gives me opportunities to lift up other women. I hope this has opened doors or at least has provided representation for other women who are interested in the sports industry to know this is a feasible opportunity.” In Lakeland, Wilkes became ingrained in the community, working with elected officials and other leaders to spread enthusiasm for the team. She created a women’s leadership program, which she has replicated in Orlando under the name Gamechang(HER) Empowerment & Leadership Summit. Like the NBA and G League teams she has represented, she is focused on goals: “I want to bring women together, shine light on what women are doing and advocate for others.” i4Biz.com | SPRING 2022



Andrea Eliscu

Founder Dueling Dragons of Orlando and Medical Marketing Inc.




24 SPRING 2022 | i4Biz.com

We really are not a competitive program. We are a mentoring program. We just do it in a dragon boat. As they get to know each other, they change. It’s just magical. — Andrea Eliscu


Andrea Eliscu


Photography by Julie Fletcher


ometimes Andrea Eliscu finds herself in situations that seem too coincidental to be real. Like the time she flew to London as a tourist for the queen’s jubilee, bumped into handlers for Queen Elizabeth and Princess Diana at a first-aid trailer, and received a VIP tour after mentioning she was an American nurse. Or the time she was in the front row at the Indian Wells Open in California with tennis icon Rod Laver and found out a man sitting two seats over had been close childhood friends with her sister in Chicago.

So she smiles and shrugs when she talks about how she came to be the founder of Dueling Dragons, an Orlando program that partners inner-city teens with law enforcement officers on teams racing dragon boats. Typically about 41 feet long, the vessels hold up to 22 people, seated two-by-two, who work in unison to glide through the water. “What I do with Dueling Dragons is a volunteer labor of love,” she says. “I put more time into that than I do into my company, which is 34 years old now. But it's where I want to be and it's what I want to do.”

Learning to Row

The four-time business book author and founder of Medical Marketing Inc. remembers being at an executive women’s retreat in Sedona, Arizona, where she was feeling inadequate among powerful women like then-Walt Disney World President Meg Crofton and a Canadian owner of 1,500 retail stores. “I didn’t want to say anything personal about myself because I was feeling I was not like the rest of them,” she says. When it was her turn to speak, she shared that she had just joined the Orlando Rowing Club because she wanted to challenge herself and had never even climbed into a boat before. Another participant suggested she get involved in dragon boating, a 2,500-year-old ancient Chinese water sport that has spread in popularity among breast cancer survivors who row to build upper body strength and camaraderie. The coincidence was uncanny. Eliscu’s younger sister Carol had died from bone cancer at age 12 at a time when mentioning “the C-word” was taboo — an experience that forged Eliscu’s resolve as a high school senior to become a nurse, and later marry a physician and start her business. Her mother and sister-in-law both died of cancer, and her younger sister Judy survived breast cancer twice. “I thought, ‘I have female grandchildren, and I need to do something,’” Eliscu says. “This is the plague of my family. We are not strong in the cancer area.”

Enlisting Help

Eliscu reached out to influential people in Central Florida about setting up a dragon boat program to raise money for cancer research through Orlando Health, where her late husband had been a physician and she had been a nurse. Cheryl Collins with the Orlando Health Foundation, who today serves as executive director of the Orlando Ballet, pledged her support. Friend and neighbor Harriett Lake, the nowlate philanthropist, agreed to finance the program as long as Eliscu stayed involved. Eliscu told herself, “OK, universe, I guess I’m supposed to be doing this.” Eliscu saw how well the dragon boat program worked for women with cancer. About that time, the fatal shootings of teenagers Trayvon Martin in Sanford and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, were fueling mistrust nationwide between inner-city communities and police. Eliscu asked herself, “What would happen if we could get Orlando police officers and inner-city kids into a boat together? Would anything change? Could Orlando do it differently? Could the kids begin to change their families, and could the cops begin to change their squad-mates?” She approached then-Orlando Police Chief Val Demings, now a U.S. congressional leader, who enlisted 10 SWAT officers and 10 kids. Demings also brought in her chief of staff, Lieutenant John Mina, who today serves as Orange County sheriff and is still involved in the program. The teens started seeking advice from the officers, including Lt. Debra Clayton, who took a personal interest in their schoolwork and family situations. Clayton was fatally shot in the line of duty in January 2017 at a Walmart and is memorialized on the Dueling Dragons of Orlando website. Today the teams travel around the country to compete in at least three festivals a year. The program’s annual budget of almost $180,000 in donated funds pays for local practices as well as away travel, lodging and food. “I believe what is happening is they are seeing each other through a different lens,” Eliscu says. “They are trusting each other in the boat because they’re keeping each other safe. So there’s been some really big magic.

“The kids wanted to be heard, they wanted to be seen, they wanted to belong,” Eliscu says. “They wanted boundaries, and we could give them those inside the safety of a dragon boat. So through this sport, we’ve been able to change lives one paddle stroke at a time.” i4Biz.com | SPRING 2022



Cherlette McCullough Founder Center Peace Couples and Family Therapy







As a society, we’re fighting the whole dichotomy of, ‘If I don’t have a mental health diagnosis, I'm mentally healthy.’ That's just not true. — Cherlette McCullough


Photography by Julie Fletcher

s a case worker for the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), Cherlette McCullough loved her work. The Apopka native had grown up with aspirations of being an attorney. Instead, after earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at Bethune Cookman College, she went to work for the state, assisting first juvenile offenders and then adults on parole before finding her niche with children and families.

She felt she was really making a difference helping children who were abused, neglected and abandoned. But during her 14 years in child welfare, she recognized a pattern. “We did a lot of solution-focused therapy, which sometimes does not get to the root of the problem,” she says. “It sometimes doesn't deal with family trauma and patterns. So one of the things I became passionate about was understanding why we have these families who leave the system, come back, leave the system and come back. I found out these families were not offered long-term therapeutic services, which piqued my interest.” Today, McCullough is the founder of Center Peace Couples and Family Therapy, a private practice in Winter Park that helps individuals heal from trauma connected to family conflict, marital and premarital issues, infertility, depression, anxiety, family of origin dysfunction, grief and loss. She has authored two self-help books for individuals experiencing life after trauma. “I went back to school and completed my master's in mental health counseling,” she says. “I wanted to go into private practice so I could be more innovative and do things differently for the population I wanted to serve.” In a government setting, services tend to be based on a linear process, she says. “When we talk about mental health counseling, and we talk about helping people break patterns and change behaviors, I don't think a linear process works. It takes more of a systemic type of approach. We have to look at their entire environment.” She started her current practice four years ago. Going from government jobs to entrepreneurship was a bit of a jolt. “When you're working in a group setting or you're with an employer, there are coworkers, there's an HR department, there’s an IT department, there’s a cleaning service,” she says. “It takes a real mind shift to realize you’re completely independent. There’s no

department to call to put in a work order.” McCullough has a creative way of building her business. She uses social media posts to tell different stories, keeping the names of individuals she has helped confidential. “The posts are around relationships with self, family and spouses,” she says. “These aren’t cute, fuzzy posts, but stories around anger, frustration, divorce, boundaries, family dysfunction, and coming out to your family about your sexual orientation. Those are really hard topics that people do not want to talk about. My goal is to allow people to see themselves in those posts and spark a response of, “Oh, that's me! That's something I can identify with.’” McCullough, who has been a guest expert on WFTV Channel 9, saw a dramatic uptick in business during the height of the pandemic. “I saw a 30% increase in couples counseling. I saw a lot of couples divorcing. I saw families having anxiety, and children not understanding what was going on. I saw individuals struggling with uncertainty around the pandemic, including financial challenges, depression and one of the biggest issues, grief. People were losing family members and then having to deal with the reality of not being able to say their final goodbyes because travel was restricted. That turned into a double loss, which led to complex trauma.” She often speaks at events on topics such as fatigue and burnout. “Sometimes this sparks the question, ‘How does that relate to mental health?’ When we talk about mental health, we're literally talking about emotions, thoughts and behaviors, and what drives those things,” she says. “It's how we perceive things that have happened to us, such as traumatic events that cause us to change our perception. Most of us are resilient, high-functioning people who know how to push those feelings down until they are confronted.” McCullough says she constantly strives for balance. When she started her business, she was working around the clock. Today she and her husband, a sheriff’s deputy, find time to unwind with Orlando Magic games, travel, jazz festivals and family time. McCullough serves on the boards of directors for the Mental Health Association of Central Florida, the Citrus Club and The Faine House. She has come to realize that just like her clients, she has to seek help when she needs it. “As an entrepreneur. I’ve had to move away from the mindset of, ‘I should know that.’ Part of success is being OK with recognizing that you don't know everything and embracing the openness of wanting to learn more.” i4Biz.com | SPRING 2022



SPIRIT Haifa Maamar

Emerging Technologies Education Director Full Sail University

28 SPRING 2022 | i4Biz.com





Maamar BY MEAGHAN BRANHAM Photography by Julie Fletcher

I want young women to see that I am here, I am working in the field, and that they can do it, too. This is not only for boys. You can understand it, you can do it, you can master it — and don’t let anyone tell you anything different. — Haifa Maamar


r. Haifa Maamar has been making waves in the tech world for years, even before coming on the scene in the Orlando area. Now, as education director of emerging technologies at Full Sail University, she uses her expertise from years of research and experience to help Full Sail students become leaders in the emerging technologies industry and to push Central Florida to new realms of possibility. Growing up in Tunisia, Dr. Maamar cultivated her fascination with technology in all its forms.

“I attended a STEM-focused middle and high school that both only accepted the best students of the country — and we're all very competitive. We all want to become doctors or engineers,” she says. “My strengths were really math, science and programming, and computer engineering in general. At the time, I was determined to be a neurosurgeon.” It wasn’t until after moving to Canada to focus on her degree at the University of Ottawa that she switched gears, realizing she could still pursue her passion for neuroscience while exploring the wider field of computer science. “For my master’s degree,” Maamar recalls, “I worked on a distributed collaborative virtual simulation of a brain tumor tele-surgery class of applications.” In her quest to earn each of her degrees — including a bachelor’s in computer engineering, a master’s in electrical engineering and a doctorate in computer and electrical engineering — Maamar found ways to advance and apply her skills in everything from virtual and augmented reality to creating a Roomba-like robot. She even worked on a project for Defense Canada to create training systems for first responders using 3D streaming and wireless multimedia. Maamar went on to a role as the solution architect at the Montreal Stock Exchange, where she built software solutions fused in several trading systems including the Montreal, Toronto, New York, Boston, Milan and Paris stock exchanges. But something was missing. “I had this feeling that I needed to teach,” she says. “That was my passion.” Ready for a redirect, she went looking for education opportunities nearby. “One of the most popular applications of my Ph.D. is multiplayer games, but I didn’t even know there was such a thing as gaming

programs,” she laughs. Intrigued, she applied to Full Sail University and was quickly accepted for the Mobile Gaming master’s program. She soon began teaching the Game Development and Computer Science bachelor's programs as well, getting a crash course in exactly what Full Sail does. Today at Full Sail, she oversees all technology and gaming programs, including some at the master’s level. On top of meeting with advisory boards to ensure up-to-date programming for their students and a thorough understanding of real-world applications, Maamar spends her time on the many initiatives started at Full Sail under her watch. Those include but are not limited to the “Full Sail University CECO Interactive Ladder,” designed to help children with motor function disabilities, a NASA Launch Services Program for educational games, and “Starvent Ventilator,” a bag device for a medical ventilator. In Maamar’s time at the university, Full Sail has been recognized for its exceptional work in emerging technologies. Full Sail has been named one of the “Top 50 Best Undergraduate Game Design Programs” and “Top 25 Best Graduate Game Design Programs” by The Princeton Review and recognized by Florida Trend for its degree programs in cybersecurity with an AI concentration. Innovation, to Maamar, is in more than just the technology itself. It's what can happen when everyone has access to opportunities and tools. In her work through various boards and organizations, Maamar has advocated for the power of diversity. Her work to establish the Cacti Council as a 501c3 nonprofit, for instance, where she helps create teaching materials and curricula to be used as in-school and after-school programs about the fundamentals of computer science, has been especially important for her in reducing the gender gap in STEM fields. In all of her projects, Maamar upholds her vision for Full Sail and the future: “When people think about technology, I want them to think about Full Sail. I want them to think about the exciting projects our students are working on, and our amazing curriculum. “I want our students to work on real-world projects, to do the research, get the patents and learn from our faculty,” she says. “That's how we make sure we are supplying Orlando's tech hub with highly qualified, employable graduates. I want to make sure companies are attracted to Orlando because of our shared passion and the potential for innovation.” i4Biz.com | SPRING 2022



Lisa Bowman

Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer AdventHealth for Children and AdventHealth for Women




I always had a passion for helping people. I think that comes from my grandmother, the way she always was just so giving with others. When I got a bit older and she ended up being hospitalized, I saw how the nurses, the doctors, and all the clinicians work to take care of people. — Lisa Bowman

30 SPRING 2022 | i4Biz.com



Bowman BY MEAGHAN BRANHAM Photography by Julie Fletcher


isa Bowman grew up knowing exactly what she wanted to do. Her childhood ambitions were remarkably close to the role she plays today as vice president and chief nursing officer at AdventHealth for Children and AdventHealth for Women, both in Orlando.

“I always had a passion for helping people,” Bowman says. “I think that comes from my grandmother, the way she always was just so giving with others. When I got a bit older and she ended up being hospitalized, I saw how the nurses, the doctors, and all the clinicians work to take care of people.” Through her 23 years at AdventHealth, Bowman has taken care of everyone who comes through the doors — from patients to families to the team she leads.

Growing with Guidance After earning her degree from the University of Central Florida, Bowman quickly joined AdventHealth as a pediatric nurse. It was there that she met someone who would help her grow in her career, and where her passion for responsible leadership was ignited. “About eight years in, I met the person who would become my own mentor,” she recalls. “She took me under her wing early on, and I’ve always looked up to and admired her. She will do anything for anyone without ever expecting anything in return. I find that great mentors are good role models. They walk the talk, and they provide feedback even when it may be difficult to hear. They make recommendations, and they seek opportunities for growth.” That guidance, as well as the culture of her organization, has helped Bowman foster a culture of support and compassion when it comes to her own teams. “AdventHealth has provided so much in the way of growth and development over the course of my 23 years here,” she says. “The way they invest in their employees makes it easy to stay here, and easy to grow here.” In those years, Bowman served as a charge nurse, then as an assistant manager and then a manager to director, before landing in her current role. Under her leadership now, AdventHealth for Children has been recognized as the best hospital for newborn care in Florida by U.S. News & World Report and was one of only eight children’s hospitals in the country to win the Top Children’s Hospital award from The Leapfrog Group. AdventHealth for Women has been recognized by Healthy People 2020 for its Cesarean section rate. AdventHealth for Children has also received Magnet designation for three consecutive terms, meaning it is certified by the American Nurses’ Credentialing Center

as an institution where nurses are empowered to drive institutional health care change and innovation. Parts of AdventHealth for Women were included in the 2021 Magnet recognition. Bowman is proud of the honors because they recognize the work of her teams, she says. “I really believe they’re a testament to the dedication and skill of every individual who works collectively so hard to care for and serve our community.” Even since the outbreak of COVID-19, with the pandemic straining the resources of every health care center in the world, Bowman has made an effort to understand what she could do better for a team under such great mental, physical and emotional stress.

A Shared Leadership Model It’s all part of a Shared Leadership Model, one already integral to the culture of AdventHealth, and one that Bowman believes in. “It's really important for us as leaders that we listen to the teams we work with — the nurses, the clinicians, all of the team members who are working at the bedside.” On the third Thursday of every month, for instance, leaders and staff come together to talk about opportunities to improve clinical care along with the experience of patients, families and employees. For her, that style of mentorship doesn’t just better the experience of those being mentored. It is also vital to the success of the mentor, and ultimately the whole team.

“I have been away from the bedside for a long time,” she says. “So I know that my answer is likely not the right answer every time. I rely heavily on those who are at the bedside for their feedback because they're the ones who are in it day in and day out. It’s so important that we have those consistent touch points, and that we're working together as one team. I think, ultimately, it’s that listening that makes a good mentor.”

i4Biz.com | SPRING 2022



Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Business BY DIANE SEARS

Question: This is for our issue on ESG (environmental, social and governance) topics, including diversity, equity and inclusion. Can you talk about how the Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College has addressed DE&I and why that’s important? Answer: Throughout my career I have learned firsthand the impact of having a diverse and equitable workplace. Today’s interconnected global business world thrives on innovation, which is driven by diverse perspectives and approaches. Promoting diversity, equity and inclusion is necessary from an ethical and social justice perspective, as well as from a financial and strategic business perspective.

Q: What do you love most about living and working in Central Florida? A: It‘s an exciting time to be in Central Florida. In addition to many organizations relocating their operations to the region, the post-pandemic environment has made it possible for more professionals to establish their home bases here. This enables them to enjoy all Central Florida has to offer, including countless opportunities to leverage our innovative and thriving business community. Crummer will be at the forefront of forging connections, driving innovation and educating incoming professionals, including the leaders of newly arrived and existing organizations.

As a business school, it’s essential that we do more than simply mirror the existing workplace; we must also strive to shape the workforce of tomorrow, which means creating a foundation for a more diverse and equitable business environment. At Crummer, we are committed to fostering the most diverse and equitable environment within our organization. However, Crummer’s mission — to produce global, responsible and innovative leaders who positively impact their organizations and communities — demands that we also work to foster those equitable environments throughout the region’s business community. We do that as leaders and in partnership with other executive-level business and nonprofit leaders at a range of organizations in Central Florida. Q: What are you seeing and hearing from Crummer faculty and students, including executive students, about how the business community has adjusted during the challenges of the past two years? A: The pandemic, the rapid evolution of racial justice perspectives, world crises and economic challenges have had colossal impacts on the future of business over the last two years. The workplace is forever changed as technological adaptation has accelerated at a rapid pace. Similarly, social justice issues have inspired, and in some cases forced, organizations to reconsider how they do business, both internally and externally. One of the challenges moving forward is clear: How do we continue to foster diversity and inclusion in an increasingly virtual and technology-driven workplace? At Crummer, we are focused on ensuring our curriculum addresses the intersection of inclusion and innovation.

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Dr. Deborah Crown Dean and Professor of Management Crummer Graduate School of Business Rollins College


The Business of

ADVOCACY By Tykeem McCord

As an Ally, As a Leader The Modern Civil Rights Legacy “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability,” as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “but comes through continuous struggle.”


n recent years, more and more Americans recognize that legacy by using Martin Luther King Jr. Day not as a “day off,” but a “day on.” The holiday in January offers a chance to start a conversation about challenges in our community, work together to share solutions, and further Dr. King’s conviction in building a better world through civic engagement, political activism and charitable service. But the conversation continues all year long as we strive for change. Public Allies Central Florida, a social justice organization run by Embrace Families Solutions, is all about growing tomorrow’s leaders to shape the future. In the Allies program, young people who are passionate about creating change can hone their skills while working on high-impact projects. Public Allies has had a big influence on me personally. Growing up in Tampa, I became interested in advocacy at a young age, served on the board of my undergraduate NAACP and went door-to-door as a canvasser. After graduating, I was at a crossroads until I discovered the Public Allies program, which gave me the opportunity to work with the Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association in Orlando. My apprenticeship with Legal Aid Society empowers me to work directly with families in need, while learning to oversee volunteers and administration. It has also inspired me to pursue a master’s degree in nonprofit management and public administration. Of course, not everyone builds their career around advocacy. But as Dr. King once said, “Everyone can be great, because anybody can serve.” There’s also no shortage of ways you can

make a difference. Here are just a few: Turn to your talents. If you’re a writer, write a blog or a newsletter about a cause you care about. If you have a knack for graphic design, create some infographics and share them online. Choose a cause you care about. Maybe you feel driven to increase access to mental health care, or perhaps you’re inspired to mentor young adults. Engage more, not less. Do you know who your elected officials are – and how to hold them accountable? How about when elections are held in your area? Or what issues face your community? If not, take the time to push for change. Nonpartisan groups like Common Cause make it easy to search for that information online. Help others get involved. Plenty of people just aren’t aware of the ongoing issues in our community – or if they are, they don’t know how best to help or what they can do to make a difference. By spreading the word about the challenges faced by Central Floridians, you can give your friends and family members a chance to create a positive impact. Dr. King’s mission is as relevant as ever, as many communities in our nation stand divided along political lines and dogmatic mindsets. But I’ve seen firsthand how even the smallest compassionate gesture can fill someone’s day with joy, change a person’s perspective, or expand an individual’s worldview. Service isn’t a one-way street; it’s a mutual journey toward understanding. If that strikes a chord with you, consider learning more about programs like Public Allies by visiting the website at PublicAllies.org/ CentralFlorida and LegalAidOCBA.org. After all, there’s no “wrong way” to give back to the community, and there’s no contribution too small to make a difference. It’s about stepping up to do what you can, when you can, and empowering others to do their part, too.

TYKEEM MCCORD 21, is currently participating in the 2021-2022 Public Allies of Central Florida cohort and serving as assistant coordinator for Volunteer Advocates for Children at the Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association.

i4Biz.com | SPRING 2022



Patient care team (left to right) Laurina Ventura, Marilyn Torres, Ivia Rosado, Kirsten Haas, Maria Garcia-Rolon, Michael Wallace and Frederick Cotto-Lewis.

Happy to Help 26Health Patient Care Team Connects Patients with Services



aria Garcia-Rolon remembers her father telling her, “Make sure you love what you do. That way, you’ll never work a day in your life.” She has taken this advice seriously — so much so that she says she can’t wait to get to bed every night … so she can wake up and go to work the next day. As the associate director of patient care at 26Health, she leads a team that assists clients of the Orlando nonprofit health clinic. Her job is to help people connect with services that enable them to live a more fulfilling life. Some of those clients are LGBTQ+ and don’t feel comfortable in the mainstream healthcare system. Others are from underserved communities, such as migrant farmworkers, who don’t have ready access to health care services because of financial, transportation, education or language barriers. “My father was a doctor, and the memories of my conversations with him are something I hold very dear to my

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heart,” says Garcia-Rolon, who lost her dad at a young age. “I admired the passion he had in working with his patients. I remember him telling me, ‘I went into this profession not to make money, but to help people,’ and that's stuck with me. That's why I went into this field, because I want to be someone who makes a difference and helps people as well.” Her team at 26Health includes six patient care coordinators and an administrative assistant. “Our department works as a real team,” Garcia-Rolon says. “We put team effort into everything we do.” Their job is to serve as a bridge between 26Health’s medical clinic and behavioral health services. “We connect patients from medical who need assistance and behavioral,” she says. “We try to do a warm handoff from one department to another to make it as seamless for them as possible. If they don’t have insurance, we try to assist them with that as well.”

FEATURE | ENVIRONMENTAL, SOCIAL AND GOVERNANCE The department also hosts presentations to educate patients and clients in areas such as budgeting, career preparation, resume writing and job interviewing. During the height of COVID-19, sessions included how to best present themselves in a virtual job interview — right down to the details of what to wear and how to adjust the lighting for a professional appearance on the computer screen. Presentations also include topics for the LGBTQ+ community such as a name change clinic that includes filling out legal paperwork and having it notarized right there on-site. Additionally, 26Health operates a clothing bank called Evolution where transgender clients in transition can obtain clothing without feeling judged. It also carries toiletries, makeup, shoes and accessories. An emergency pantry on-site helps patients who need food assistance, and 26Health’s outreach department goes out into communities to help people who otherwise might not have easy access to health care. For instance, the department provides free services for farmworkers, offering testing for HIV and other illnesses, as well as health screenings for glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure. People whose tests show reactive results are linked with their own primary care physician or connected with 26Health for help. “I want the community to know that we are 100%-plus invested in improving mind, body and spirit health here in Central Florida for not only the LGBTQ+ communities, but also for allies,” Garcia-Rolon says. “We want to target all of the marginalized communities that don't have access to regular health care.” Garcia-Rolon has always worked in the nonprofit sector and loves to share the story about how she got to 26Health. She moved to Central Florida in 2002 from New Jersey, where she had been working at the Dickinson Adolescent Health Center at a high school in Jersey City. The operation’s main office and high school clinic provided everything from internal medicine, family planning, prenatal care and pediatrics to gynecological services, HIV testing, mental health services, and a teen center. “When I moved to Florida, I was looking to do something similar here,” she says. “I was fortunate to come

“I admired the passion he had in working with his patients. I remember him telling me, ‘I went into this profession not to make money, but to help people,’ and that's stuck with me. That's why I went into this field, because I want to be someone who makes a difference and helps people as well.” — Maria Garcia-Rolon

across the Center for Multicultural Wellness and Prevention, where I started as a dental coordinator helping clients who needed assistance with dental services.” The nonprofit offers non-clinical culturally and linguistically sensitive outreach services to diverse populations in Central Florida. After two years, she moved to a position as a housing case manager with the City of Orlando, where she worked for 10 years. During that time, she met a person she helped. They stayed in touch, and he joined 26Health, where he brought her in to work for his department. “It has come full circle for me,” she says. “He was my supervisor when I started at this company. To see someone go through a struggle and

surpass it to reach a point in life where he is a success is, to say the least, so gratifying. That person I helped back then was here today helping me to get into 26Health. “That's how I was able to be part of this great agency. I'm so grateful to him for bringing me here and opening my eyes to the need that I knew was out there in our community. I’m in a position to be able to reach out to different communities and have a better understanding of their needs. It’s gratifying to be able to help provide services for them and break down the barriers they encounter.” More recently, another client she had been helping got a job with a local bank branch through a connection he made at a 26Health seminar on financial budgeting. He came into her office to tell her he’d been through the interview process and would be starting work there soon — and that he had actually received a second job offer that he would be turning down to take this one. “He told me, ‘Look how funny things are, because you always told me, “Don't give up, don't give up. There's a door that closes but there's another one that opens,” and I just held onto that.’ “When clients come in and give you such great news, that's priceless,” she says. “You can't put a price on how they feel and how they make you feel about their accomplishment. That's one thing I just love about what I do.”

Maria Garcia-Rolon i4Biz.com | SPRING 2022



Cultural Connections Hispanic Family Counseling Helps People Feel at Home BY DIANE SEARS


enisse Lamas is the founder and executive director of Hispanic Family Counseling, which is based in Orlando. This article is one in a series of interviews with honorees of the GrowFL Companies to Watch. For information, visit www.GrowFL.com.

What inspired you to start your business? I am a licensed clinical social worker in Florida. While working for different agencies, I consistently saw misunderstanding of how to serve the Hispanic community. For example, when people are angry or emotional, they tend to speak their native language — that’s how our brains work. So in stressful situations, having a Spanish-speaking social worker can make an enormous difference. But it’s not just about speaking the clients’ language — it’s also about understanding their culture. When we do home or school visits, Hispanics greet each other with a kiss on the cheek. That’s common in Latin American culture but was seen as inappropriate at the agencies I worked for. On the other hand, Hispanic people sometimes consider a handshake as overly formal and detached, and

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they take that personally. Another example involves drinking a cup of coffee. When I go home to visit family in Puerto Rico, I have to drink a coffee at every single home I go to. That's part of the culture – it’s how we grew up and how we were trained. Ignoring those cultural norms in the agencies where I worked often created a disconnection between the clients and the therapists. What I could normally do in a month took three months because I didn’t have that rapport with the people we were trying to help. My husband is from Venezuela, where many people have experienced distressing political and social problems. Coming here is a challenge for them – they might not understand the culture and can feel lonely and afraid. A therapist must understand that. Cultural differences like these made me decide to open Hispanic Family Counseling.

How long have you been in business, and when did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur? I started the company nine years ago. My grandparents and parents owned

Denisse Lamas Founder and Executive Director Hispanic Family Counseling Orlando, Florida


supermarkets all their lives. That’s a lot of work, seven days a week, but it helped me understand that I wanted to provide jobs for other people. When I left college, I knew I wanted to do something for the Hispanic community, which was growing in Central Florida. I think it was at the point when I had a conversation with my supervisor about the importance of the coffee tradition, and the supervisor said “No,” right then I felt compelled to make sure that people with the same background as me could get the services they need.

What did you want to be when you were a little kid? A teacher. My siblings and I always played like we were in a classroom. I worked for Orange County Public Schools for a while, and then for the University of Central Florida for a few years, but once I opened the business it required so much time that it was hard to do anything else.

“One thing we’ve learned during the COVID pandemic is that mental illness can affect anybody.” — Denisse Lamas

How many employees do you have, and what is the culture like inside your organization? I love my job! And I think everyone who works there loves it too. When we went into COVID-19, I had to let go of most of my new staff members. When I was able to rehire them later, I thought some wouldn’t come back, but they all did. I was humbled and very glad. I’m proud of our team. Today we have 84 people, including administrative staff, therapists and case managers.

What makes your company different? We have a very Hispanic culture. I want us to help people in the Hispanic

community, especially those who come to Central Florida with fear or trauma. And I also want people in Central Florida to understand Hispanic culture. There’s a lot of misconception about Hispanic people. It was important for me to create an environment in the company where everyone feels at home. Many of us left family members behind in our home countries, and that can make you feel lonely. So we create a family atmosphere,

i4Biz.com | SPRING 2022



with a fun team-building activity once a month that’s not related to work. We have food all the time at the office that people make at home and bring in to share. That’s part of who we are – it’s more like a family environment than work.

Talk about some challenges you’ve found in growing the business. What keeps you up at night as a business owner? The biggest challenge has been to provide quality services to our clients while also supporting our employees. One of the hardest things for me was having to let go of my admin staff early in the pandemic. I just wanted to make sure everyone was OK. Not every entrepreneur was able to survive COVID-19. It was challenging and emotional. It’s always a challenge to make sure you have good people with good intentions. My mantra is, “Hire values, train skills.” I always tell my staff that it's not my company, it’s our company. We're here to make a difference.

What challenges do you see the company facing in the next three years? The biggest challenge is the uncertainty surrounding COVID. Sometimes it feels like we take one step forward and three steps backward. Part of my job is to make sure my therapists and other team members are OK. Many of the people we help suffer from anxiety, and sometimes my staff are suffering from the same thing. Sometimes you don't even realize you’re suffering from anxiety until you're having a panic attack. To support employees we have training, team-building activities and holiday gettogethers. We try and maintain a family atmosphere. One thing we’ve learned during the COVID pandemic is that mental illness can affect anybody. In the past, we typically helped kids with behavioral issues, or adults with mental illnesses like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. With COVID, we’ve seen an increase in educated professionals suffering from anxiety related to the pandemic.

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What are your goals for the business in the next three years?

I want us to be a one-stop shop for mental health — whether it’s seeing a therapist, medication management or providing transportation to get to your appointment. An important goal is therefore to open a psychiatric evaluation and medication management agency. We also want to have a better electronic health records system. I would also like us to provide cultural competency training. We already provide training for our personnel on the various Latin American cultures — we might talk about Mexico today, Venezuela next month and Peru the month after. Even though we’re all Hispanic, we have our own belief systems and cultural differences. I’d like to be able to teach the community about those.

What was your proudest moment as the CEO? One of the proudest moments was when we won a Don Quijote Award, which is a big deal in Orlando’s Hispanic community. We won it when Puerto Rico was going through one of the hardest moments in its history, right after Hurricane Maria. We dedicated our award to Puerto Rico.

What is your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs? Is there something you wish you had known when you started? It's going to be challenging. It's going to be hard. There are times when you don’t sleep because you’re thinking about what you’re going to do or how you can improve. But it's fulfilling to provide employment and comfort to others. When you do something you're passionate about, and that you love doing, then it doesn’t feel like you're working. You're just living your dream. That’s what’s happening with me. I love being a social worker. It’s never going to be easy. Every year I say, “This is going to be easier than last year, and it’s going to be the greatest year ever!” and then there are bigger challenges. But it’s worth it when you see an employee buy a house for the first time. When people thank you and say, “You changed my life,” there are no words to describe that feeling. That’s when I know I’m fulfilling my purpose.


4BUSiNESS Orlando's Leadership Connection

Covering the People, Projects and Priorities Shaping Central Florida



i4Biz.com | SPRING 2022



Making Change Sustainability + Profitability = Success for Climate First Bank BY DIANE SEARS


limate First Bank opened in June 2021 with the twin objectives of being financially solid for its customers and investors and being committed to sustainability for the planet. Since then, the values-based community bank has exceeded its financial goals while continuing to infuse internationally recognized climate-friendly practices into its DNA.

By the end of February 2022, the bank’s assets had passed $150 million, and Climate First is on a trajectory to exceed its goal of $230 million by the end of the year. The biggest challenge, Founder and CEO Ken LaRoe says, is the reality of operating a viable banking business and at the same time focusing on the company’s commitment to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) principles. “It’s like running a for-profit and a nonprofit at the same time. They have competing initiatives, goals and strategies.” LaRoe formerly founded First Green Bank in 1999, which grew to more than $825 million in assets and was purchased by Seacoast Bank in 2018. “I found that with First Green, I tried to run parallel business plans for our profit and nonprofit sides, and it did not work,” LaRoe says. “They have to be completely intertwined in the goals and objectives of every person in the organization.” For example, he and his team have been trying to find a solution to one of his pet peeves: the plastic windows in envelopes that have become standard in the finance industry. No luck yet in getting them replaced with purely paper, but he vows to keep pushing for reform while also touting paperless transactions. As the bank approaches its one-year anniversary, it has hit numerous milestones, including: • Opening its first branch in downtown St. Petersburg. A lifelong Lake County resident, LaRoe had to open outside of the metro Orlando area to comply with a noncompete agreement from the First Green sale, which expired in October 2021. • Opening a second branch at 1150 South Orlando Avenue in Winter Park, where a $900,000 renovation project is

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• •

retrofitting the building for optimum energy efficiency with a goal of pursuing a LEEDv4 Platinum certification for design and construction. Securing property to move its headquarters into a larger building it is retrofitting across from St. Petersburg’s first Whole Foods market. Setting plans to open a branch in Mount Dora in a leased building while the bank builds a LEED Platinum structure. Creating the Regeneration Checking personal account with the slogan “Bank like tomorrow depends on it.” Based on the principles of environmentalist Paul Hawken, the account comes with an autographed copy of his book Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation. Joining the Net Zero Banking Alliance created by the United Nations for banks worldwide committed to aligning lending and investment portfolios with net-zero emissions by 2050. Joining the Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financials, a growing Dutch financial initiative launched globally in 2019. About 250 member banks have committed to implementing sustainable best practices that extend all the way out to suppliers. Applying for B Corp status, which requires companies to be in existence for at least one year. Benefit Corporations are a new and growing group of for-profit ventures designed to operate in ways that benefit the public like nonprofits. Only a handful exist in Florida. Becoming one of two FDIC-insured banks granted membership into 1% for the Planet for businesses and individuals who donate at least 1% of annual sales or salary to environmental causes.

“I just don't ever want to have that day when my grandkids say, ‘Grandpa, what was your generation thinking?’ and I don’t have a good response,” LaRoe says. “I want to know I was doing everything I could.”

Sustainable Commercial Products!


100% financing Solar loan terms up to 20-years EV charging loan terms up to 10-years

Bank like tomorrow depends on it. info@climatefirstbank.com | climatefirstbank.com St. Petersburg Winter Park 5301 Central Ave. 1150 S. Orlando Ave. St. Petersburg, FL 33710 Winter Park, FL 32789 727-335-0500 689-444-5500 Green Factoid | Rainforests are being cut down at the rate of 100 acres p e r m i| nSPRING u t e . 2022 i4Biz.com



Clean Team

ecoSPEARS Technology Destroys Toxins and Protects the Planet BY DIANE SEARS Sergie Albino and Ian Doromal


ergie Albino is the CEO and cofounder of ecoSPEARS, based in Altamonte Springs. This article is one in a series of interviews with honorees of the GrowFL Companies to Watch. For information, visit www. GrowFL.com.

What does the company do, and how do you hope to make a difference? ecoSPEARS is a clean-tech innovation company focused on green and sustainable solutions to remove some of the most destructive and harmful industrial chemical contamination in water and soil. We selectively remove toxins without having to burn them or transport them across the country or overseas. We have a firm belief that we should never sacrifice clean air for clean water and soil. Our biggest goal is to create global impact. It’s about solving real-world issues — more specifically, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals of clean water and environment that lead to clean food.

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I want to focus on our impact and continue to build new technology that the industry has never seen before. This will allow us to address the legacy contaminants that have already been in our waterways for the past 50 to 60 years, but also emerging contaminants like dioxins, advanced pharmaceuticals, and PFOA/S. In the new federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a large portion of that funding is for emerging contaminants.

Talk about how and why you started the company. Ian Doromal and I co-founded the company in 2017 after having the opportunity to access exclusive intellectual property rights for a NASA environmental technology that was discovered at Kennedy Space Center when I worked there. Two years prior to that, I was helping the Rollins College Crummer Graduate School of Business MBA program develop a Rollins-NASA Scholars of Distinction program that would marry technology from NASA, which was already developed and patented, with young MBA

Sergie Albino CEO and Co-Founder ecoSPEARS Altamonte Springs, FL

FEATURE | ENVIRONMENTAL, SOCIAL AND GOVERNANCE student teams. The goal was to “collide” the two and create a Silicon Valley effect, fostering startups and ventures that were homegrown in Central Florida.

What did you want to be when you were a kid? I’ve always had a passion for the stars. I remember my aunts telling me to stop counting the stars or I’d go crazy. That’s a common Filipino saying. I’ve always aspired to be an astronomer, but I also had a passion for building things and digging up clay. This was preNintendo and Sega Genesis, when you had to go out and make your own toys. Back then, I liked to build and explore. I never really thought I’d be an entrepreneur and start my own business, even though I did help my grandmother and my aunts run a little store in the back of our house in the Philippines.

When you decided to start the company, was there an “Aha!” moment when you said, “We just have to do this”?

ecoSPEARS is my third endeavor into the startup world. I left NASA in 2012,

primarily because the Space Shuttle Program was ending and I knew things were going to slow down. I had just graduated from the Crummer MBA program, with a focus on operations and technology management as well as sustainability. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with this. At that point, I had an engineering consulting business, and a year or two later I started another company called IROC Tactical, which developed weapons platform technologies that would help prevent hearing loss and tinnitus for people serving in the military and law enforcement. When the opportunity to work with

“Our biggest goal is to create global impact. It’s about solving real-world issues.” — Sergie Albino

the ecoSPEARS technology came up, I initially said no. I was enjoying my work in the private sector and IROC Tactical, and wasn’t familiar with the environmental remediation market. Then I started getting calls from big oil and gas companies and from state organizations that had somehow learned I was interested in licensing the ecoSPEARS technology. They wanted to figure out how we could collaborate and do a pilot study. It was so foreign to us. I’m not a chemist, by any means. I’m an aerospace engineer and was unfamiliar with the environmental services sector. All of that was like “ground zero,” a big learning curve.

What did you do at NASA? I was a space payload hardware engineer with a focus on thermal management. Technically, I was part of a team that developed plant growth systems that would go on the space shuttle to the International Space Station. According to my wife and kids, I made boxes that went up into space! We also developed small satellite payloads and participated in a lunar rover program called RESOLVE. I

i4Biz.com | SPRING 2022


FEATURE | ENVIRONMENTAL, SOCIAL AND GOVERNANCE managed and worked on the hardware for projects involving life science experiments in space.

Talk about the value ecoSPEARS brings to customers. Environmental liability completely weighs down the balance sheets of some organizations, like certain manufacturers, which must allocate millions of dollars toward liability management and cleanup. Unless they can complete a proper cleanup and obtain a “No Further Action” letter from either state regulators or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, they must maintain their liabilities indefinitely. Our ecoSPEARS sustainable environmental solutions enable us to extract and destroy certain toxins from their sites, which ends their environmental liabilities forever.

How many employees does ecoSPEARS have now? We currently have 15 to 18 teammates, both full time and interns. We bring in interns from the Crummer school at Rollins and the University of Central Florida engineering and chemistry programs – that’s how we “load up our dugout.” I’m happy to say we’ve hired several of them after their internships. I like bringing in folks who aren’t jaded by the industry and can think in novel ways, because we are approaching this work very differently, from the tech we develop, to the science approach, to the business development and marketing that we use to target new opportunities.

Talk about your company’s culture. What’s it like to work there? There are a lot of dogs in the office. Many of our teammates bring in their fur friends. We foster a culture of creativity and hard work. While the office might look relaxed, we are making an impact at sites from Guam to Sweden and creating novel innovative technology – and that’s just in our first four years, with limited resources. We lead people and manage tasks. Our team metrics are binary – 0’s or 1’s. Either you get it done or not. I don’t need to see your face or the back of your head – I just want to see results. Everybody we accept into our company goes through a detailed onboarding process. We want passionate people. If you don’t have that passion, this is probably not a good place for you.

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We drive the entire culture based on our nine core values. Those are what we hire and fire by. Our core principles are posted by the main entrance, and people see them every single day when they walk in and when they leave. These include values like “Keep your integrity,” “Be curious” and “Strive for excellence.”

Talk about your company’s competitive edge. There are other companies that provide engineering or environmental services for this industry, but I haven’t seen anyone developing true innovative technology from the ground up. There are a lot of competitors that build “solutions” by assembling commercial, off-the-shelf technologies. But ecoSPEARS is unique in that we first focus on a major overall mission, innovate a purpose-built solution, and then challenge the industry to think better. One of my favorite quotes is by Abraham Lincoln: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” When we first started ecoSPEARS, pre-funding, Ian and I attended a global water conference. After perusing the aisles and booth at the conference, I told Ian, “Hey, I think we’re going to have fun in this industry. I don’t see any real innovation at all. I only see the same old 1970s and ’80s technologies and approaches revamped in 2017.” I don’t really see anyone else using the smart systems and machine learning that we are building and continuing to evolve. A better incineration system to burn and destroy contaminated media, to me, is not innovative when you’re just sacrificing clean air for clean water or clean soil. We aim to clean water without transferring contamination to the air. The industry is also not very innovative from a business development perspective. For us, everything must have a metric and scorecard to provide real-time validation that we’re doing the right things. We approach our work from the triplebottom-line perspective of people, planet, profit — a position that’s “built-in” from the leadership down and not just “boltedon” when it’s convenient. As a partner or client-partner of ecoSPEARS, you must first and foremost approach solutions from the perspectives of human health, safety, and the environment. From there, we will work together to deploy our proprietary purpose-built solutions to treat and solve your environmental liability longterm. Through ecoSPEARS’ onsite solutions and our ability to sustainably destroy contamination using non-combustion,


non-thermal solutions, we not only provide cost-competitive programs, but ultimately remove the liability from the client’s balance sheet. We want partners and client-partners to be the superheroes of their own communities.

What’s the biggest hurdle your company has faced, and how did you handle it? One of the important challenges we’ve had to overcome as a startup is having access to sufficient capital. I was fortunate to meet Terrance “Terry” Berland, who was advising me on IROC Tactical when ecoSPEARS came about. Along with David Scalzo through Kirenaga, Terry invested and led our seed round on a validated and pre-commercialized NASA technology. He supports our mission to make a difference in the world through clean water, the environment and sustainability. Before then, access to that size of seed round in Central Florida, without hindering the potential value creation the founder can create through a low valuation, was foreign here. You could maybe find $50,000 to $150,000, but the valuation would be low. As such, you’d often find the CEO continually raising capital instead of running the business and creating value. Terry and Dave ensured that their founders had ample funding, but also the proper mentorship to help them 1) build the team, 2) secure and build the technologies, and 3) grow the mission. In our next growth phase, Ian and I sought to raise a $5 million Series A round and, again, we continued to seek capital outside of Florida, being careful of course that the new capital didn’t have clauses that would force ecoSPEARS to move out of Central Florida. In 2019, we prepared to raise our Series A and kicked off the capital raising campaign at the Katapult Ocean Accelerator Investor Pitch Day. Katapult Ocean, a Norwegianbased accelerator program, is led by former Altamonte Springs native Jonas Skattum Svegaarden. He shares our passion for the “blue economy,” which the United Nations defines as “sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs while preserving the health of the ocean ecosystem.” Much like the rest of the world, little did we know that

COVID-19 would completely shut everything down come March 2020. During that period, we raised a SAFE round (simple agreement for future equity) and continued to speak with lead investors outside of Florida, including in Portland, Norway, Sweden, California, New York, Texas, and Hawaii. I’m happy to say we have committed to our next round of capital. I can’t say yet, but it’ll be public soon. This is something we need to do better here in Central Florida, create an environment where small businesses can raise capital. The only way it’s going to get better for our startup community – and Terry, Ian and I have the same belief – is if the startup community and the founders who are successful pay it forward and invest back into the Central Florida business community. We should not just rely on legacy investors to fund the next generation of ventures here in Central Florida. It’s up to us now. If we fail to do this, then I have nobody else to blame but myself, so I’m taking on that shared responsibility.

What challenges do you foresee in the coming years? Finding passionate and talented key hires! We have projects as far away as Guam, Hawaii, Sweden, Washington State, California and Washington, D.C. As we embark on the next stage of our business, we will need folks with industry experience who think outside the box. We will need more diversity on our team, both regionally and culturally. I want to have a well-balanced and diverse leadership team. I want more powerful women in science and tech to be part of our team. Only through diversity can ecoSPEARS serve a global market.

What are your goals for the next few years? As part of the expansion plan for 2022, I’d like to find international licensing partners so that we can create jointventure partnerships to build ecoSPEARS operations in South America, Europe and Asia. The world needs real solutions. These contaminants and these issues that lead to cancer and other health issues and birth defects don’t just fall within the borders of the U.S. They are in every single industrialized nation. We live in one world, and we’re affecting one another, and we need a global strategy. i4Biz.com | SPRING 2022



Corps Values

Grennan Fender’s Growing Team Is Fun, Proactive, Professional and Collaborative BY DIANE SEARS With two recent acquisitions, Grennan Fender has become the ninth-largest CPA firm in Central Florida. Pictured front from left to right are Jed Grennan, Ken Scearce and Geoffrey Gallo. Pictured back from left to right are Ken Whittaker, Kevin Grullon, Chris Grim, Wayne Cooper, Mike Hess and Scott Stinard.


ith roots extending back to 1975, Grennan Fender Certified Public Accountants and Advisors is proud to possess the tools and expertise of a veteran firm along with the enthusiasm and ambition of a startup company. Now in its third generation of owners, the firm is continuing to grow, with two recent acquisitions pushing it beyond the 50-employee mark.

One secret to Grennan Fender’s success is the way the firm works with clients — a time-proven formula of collaborating with them as partners while proactively advising them as experts. Managing Partner Jed Grennan, who joined the firm as its seventh employee in 1980, says the philosophy is simple: A business relationship is like a marriage and should be nurtured, respected and valued. He admits he and the firm haven’t always gotten it right in years past. Every business encounters bumps along the way. But each experience has led to wisdom. Another reason for the firm’s success is the way it treats its team members. Like many top-rated small businesses, Grennan Fender uses the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), which keeps everyone focused on the firm’s vision. The firm provides its accountants with diagnostic and dashboard tools that help them be more proactive with clients. And in addition to offering competitive pay and benefits, the firm has a “fun committee” in place to ensure its team members enjoy their jobs.

Geared for Growth During its 47-year history, the firm has seen its team expand and contract along with the economy. But the past several years have been about growth, and the firm is doing something right. This year the Orlando Business Journal ranked Grennan Fender the ninth-largest CPA firm in

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Central Florida. Grennan Fender took a big step at the end of 2021 when it welcomed Winter Park CPA Ken Scearce and three of his team members into the firm. Scearce has practiced public accounting in Central Florida since 1974 and previously served as the managing partner of Winter Park firm Scearce, Satcher & Jung, P.A. The merger has been a win-win. Scearce and his team bring specialties of income, estate and gift tax services into Grennan Fender, while Scearce’s clients benefit by having access to more resources, including international and specialty tax, outsourced accounting, audit and assurance services, and strategic advisory planning services.

Second Merger Grennan Fender expanded again on January 1, 2022, when it officially acquired Melbourne CPA firm Whittaker Cooper, now known as Whittaker Cooper – A Grennan Fender Company. Principal Wayne Cooper has stayed with the firm. The merger expands Grennan Fender’s presence on the Space Coast — a plus for Grennan, who grew up in Cocoa Beach. “In addition to the dynamic market presence we will enjoy, our combined firms share a family culture that makes us one of the best places to work,” Grennan says. “We look forward to a bright future indeed.” Grennan Fender leaders say they’re open to more merger activity in the future, but the circumstances will have to be just right. Both recent mergers came after years of mutual admiration and courtship. “They feel like they were meant to be,” Grennan says. “It's almost like high school sweethearts who separate to go to different places for college and then a few years later get back together and get married. They feel like the perfect fit.”

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We provide a wide array of innovative services including tax, audit, consulting, outsourced i4Biz.com | SPRING accounting, cloud accounting and tax planning to meet both individual and business needs2022 to help businesses reach their profitability and exit objectives.



The Business of

SPORTS By Jason Siegel

All Set Interest in Volleyball Spikes Across Central Florida


here wasn’t an official moment in time when volleyball became a big deal. It was more like continual drops in the bucket. And now comes the proverbial flood. Here, there and everywhere, there is volleyball. And Central Florida is at the epicenter. Consider this: • Once again, the USA Volleyball Open National Championship will be staged in Central Florida. The 2022 tournament will be held at the Orange County Convention Center from May 27 through June 1. • The 49th Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Girls' Junior National Volleyball Championships will be staged at the Orange County Convention Center from June 15-26. • The AAU Boys’ Junior National Championship will be staged at the Orange County Convention Center from June 27 through July 1.

pattern across the entire country,” says Steve Bishop, president and executive director of the Florida Region of USA Volleyball Inc., the national governing body for the sport in the United States. “In the high school realm, volleyball has now surpassed basketball as the number one girls’ team sport, and basketball held that distinction for almost forever. We have 450,000 girls playing high school volleyball, and about 300,000 of them are playing club volleyball. Some also play with AAU. Most of the girls who play at that higher level are playing with USA Volleyball across the country. It's not a real surprise.” The indoor game – six-onsix players – is the traditional form of the sport. But outdoor beach volleyball – or the “sand game,” featuring two-on-two – is gaining traction.

Growing popularity

Beach volleyball was reportedly first played in 1915 on Waikiki Beach in Hawaii, evolving to the point of widestream acceptance when it became an Olympic sport in the summer of 1996 in Atlanta. One of the most prominent faces of the sport is Phil Dalhausser. He and his playing partner, Todd Rogers, were 2007 Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) Tour and Fédération Internationale de Volleyball

How did this all happen? It feels like soccer 20 years ago when everybody’s kid was playing but there was no platform for big Super Bowl-esque activity. When I talk to my friends and family, it seems that every single kid is playing volleyball today. Here, there and everywhere. The sport is now estimated to be played by more than 800 million globally. “We've continued to see this growth

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JASON SIEGEL is the president and CEO of the Greater Orlando Sports Commission. Longtime Orlando sportswriter George Diaz contributed to this article.

Local Link

The AAU Girls’ and Boys’ National Volleyball Championships, held annually at the Orange County Convention Center, brought in more than 135,000 attendees in 2021, generating an economic impact of $173.3 million.


Olympic Gold Medalist and world champion beach volleyball athlete Phil Dalhausser now operates an academy in Lake Nona.

(FIVB) world champions. They followed those titles with a gold medal performance at the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics. Dalhausser now runs a beach volleyball academy in Lake Nona. “Parents are starting to realize this is the fastest-growing sport in college,” he says. “More and more scholarships are popping up. And girls who are 5-foot-8 or 5-foot-9 and considered undersized for indoor volleyball are perfect for the beach game. More and more schools are picking it up because it’s an inexpensive sport. The up-front costs are mostly the courts.” Bishop attributes the rise of both sports to “programming and opportunities.” And he can trace his own trajectory. When he established the regional office here in 2004, he said: “We have big dreams and big ideas.” It didn’t quite look that way back then, he says today, “when our office was a person of one. We produced four events a year and that was it.” The region’s USA Volleyball office now oversees myriad events, including all-star indoor, all-star beach, a whole Paralympic division and a 21-court sand volleyball complex. The office also has a partnership with the convention center for staging events that include the largest USA Volleyball event of the year, featuring 650 to 700 teams on 100 courts.

Lake Nona Network

Dalhausser can relate to a similar trajectory. A graduate of Mainland High School in Daytona Beach, Dalhausser moved back to the area in 2018 with his wife, Jennifer, and their two children. He picked Lake Nona as the site to set up his volleyball enterprise and then started to network with officials at Tavistock Development Company, which has been creating the community of Lake Nona.

“I opened up two volleyball courts and bugged them to run this little academy,” he says, “The rest is history, but it’s been a bit of an uphill battle. Central Florida is dominated by the indoor game, yet slowly but surely kids are going to start coming to the sand.” The program at Boxi Park in Lake Nona now includes private lessons as well as adult social leagues on Thursday nights where players can grab a beer and a burger and hang out with their buddies.

Big Events Central Florida is preparing for another blast of volleyball with the boys’ and girls’ AAU tournaments coming in mid-June. In 2021, the AAU’s combined tournaments marked the largest event to date hosted at the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC), with more than 135,000 attendees across two weeks. The activity created an estimated economic impact of $173.3 million for the region, according to OCCC officials. Expect more of the same this year. “They’re going to be bigger and even more remarkable,” says Mark Tester, executive director of the convention center. “I've heard that they may even have as many as 4,000 teams, which is unbelievable. Just imagine 130,000 people flowing in and out of the community. I'm thinking, How many pizzas are ordered? How many sub sandwiches are ordered? How many souvenirs are bought? And how many family members go to Universal or SeaWorld or Disney or ICON Park during that time? … It's just tremendous for our economy.” What’s happening in Orlando is that we’re playing volleyball and supporting it as means of driving revenue for a destination by hosting these events. Here, there and everywhere, there is volleyball. i4Biz.com | SPRING 2022



The Business of



In a World Full of Chaos, You Have the Power to Save Lives

ostering community growth in Orlando is my passion. While my work at the Orlando Economic Partnership brings me closer to the businesses choosing to make the City Beautiful their home, I dedicate some of my personal time to organizations that make my hometown special. One of my favorite groups to work with is OneBlood, and my blood donation story has been quite the journey. I was introduced to blood donation when I was 17 and attending Edgewater High School. Blood donation was a way to get out of class and score a free donut. Unfortunately, that donut did not do the trick – I passed out shortly after my donation, and I thought my story had ended. Fast forward to June 2016 and the Pulse tragedy, when a gunman killed 49 people and left 53 wounded in a nightclub shooting in Orlando. Hospitals were overwhelmed and blood supplies were running critically low. Like many others, I wanted to help our community in any way possible. Companies across town set up blood drives, and when the Big Red Bus came to my workplace I decided it was time to face my demons and donate. To ensure success, I did research, ate a good meal, stayed hydrated, and followed up afterwards with a snack. To my relief, the donation went perfectly. The next month tragedy struck closer to home when my father passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack. Losing a loved one is devastating and turns your life upside down. I wanted to do something to

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honor my father, but I wasn’t sure what I should do. As I walked down the hallway at work a few weeks later, I saw a flyer for OneBlood – this was it! I knew it was no coincidence. If I could donate blood that could potentially save a life and help another family avoid the pain of losing their loved one, I was in. This is how I would honor my dad.

NICOLE EULER is the director of corporate engagement at the Orlando Economic Partnership. She graduated from the University of Central Florida with an undergraduate degree in Communications and is currently pursuing an MBA. Born and raised in Orlando, Euler loves exploring her hometown and finding new adventures with her husband, Clinton, sons, Owen and Noah, and three fur babies. She also races in triathlons and enjoys open-water swimming.


Six years later, I continue to be all in with my routine blood donation, usually a morning appointment, now with cookies and juice instead of a donut. I’m on track to hit the five-gallon blood donation mark in November of this year. It’ll be on my 40th birthday, so to celebrate I’m partnering with OneBlood to host a blood drive, with the goal of 40 donors. If you’re nervous about donating, the OneBlood website is full of great information. The nonprofit’s staff is always fantastic, taking care of donors in a comforting and efficient manner. While the OneBlood swag and incentives are a bonus, they don’t compare to the reward of knowing that your blood will soon be helping someone in need. In fact, every blood donation has the potential to save three lives. Just the thought makes my heart skip a beat! If you’ve never donated, or had a first-time experience like mine, I encourage you to give it a try. In a world full of chaos, donating blood is one of the simplest and most rewarding ways to give back. Will you join me as a donor and share your power?

i4Biz.com | SPRING 2022


Uncertainty About the Future Is Causing Stress BY DR. MIMI HULL

Dear Dr. Mimi,

The pandemic is subsiding and things are returning to “normal,” but I still feel tremendous stress and anxiety. I work from home three days a week, but when I go into the office the stress increases. How can I get back to feeling normal?

Anxious Dear Anxious, You are not alone. Things are changing around us, yet many people continue to experience great stress and increased anxiety. This stress is likely to continue long after the pandemic subsides. The absence of social interaction during the pandemic led to increased mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. There remains tremendous ambiguity about the future because we, as humans, see uncertainty as frightening and we worry, which causes additional stress. However, there are 10 things that you can do to reduce your stress: 1. Take care of yourself physically. Eat healthy food, reduce drug and alcohol intake and exercise regularly. 2. Update your workspace. Add a plant or a picture you enjoy. 3. Seek out positive people. Avoid or limit contact with those who bring you down. 4. Practice mindfulness. You can do this by intentionally focusing on the present and the purpose you are serving. If you start drifting, deliberately stop and refocus. 5. Do “one thing at a time” rather than “multitasking.” You will accomplish more. 6. Take pride in your work. Congratulate yourself on any job well done, even small accomplishments. 7. Turn off the television and the news. Don't listen to the same bad news repeatedly. 8. Focus on the positive. Look at a beautiful tree, an interesting bird, or pretty clouds, and take time to appreciate them. 9. Be grateful … even for little things. Research verifies that practicing gratitude makes you feel better and become more resilient, and has a positive impact on your creativity, health, working relationships and quality of work. 10. Get help. See a counselor, maybe through your EAP (employee assistance program). Your mental health is as important as your physical health.

Dr. Mimi

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Dr. Mimi Hull Dr. Mimi Hull of Hull & Associates is a fully licensed psychologist who specializes in workplace issues. A leading distributor of the DiSC Personality Profile, she helps organizations improve by applying assessments, training and coaching programs to develop leaders, build stronger teams and boards, and achieve bottom-line results. Want Dr. Mimi to answer one of your questions in an upcoming issue of i4 Business? Here’s how to reach out: Email: DrMimi@Hullonline.com Website: www.HullOnLine.com. Twitter: @DrMimi LinkedIn: Dr. Mimi Hull Facebook: /HullAndAssociates


Dear Dr. Mimi,

Exactly what is work-life balance? I spend a lot of time at work, and even at home I’m on my phone. So it seems like I’m always at work. Is there a magic number of leisure vs. work hours that will reduce my stress?

Unbalanced Ursula

Dear Unbalanced, There is no magic ratio that equates to a perfect balance, nor does working more hours necessarily equate to more productivity. If you are stressed, the quality of your work suffers, which results in lower productivity. Women tend to have a harder time finding balance than their male counterparts, because they bear a disproportionate burden of housework and childcare, something that was exacerbated during the pandemic. So what can you do? 1. Learn exactly what is expected from you. Guessing at what your boss or client wants is stressful, and you may be overdoing it! 2. Set priorities. Consider what you need to do to feel satisfied, and then make it happen. For instance, is it important to eat dinner with your family? Explore rescheduling to make this happen. 3. Identify what you enjoy doing and put it on your calendar. Treat it like any other priority or appointment. 4. Make time for friends. Meaningful friendships don’t just happen. Set a date with a friend for lunch, dinner or a long walk. Honor it as you would a client appointment.

Dr. Mimi

Dear Dr. Mimi, I messed up! I suggested that my boss hire my friend as our team’s administrative assistant. She was hired and now my work is the last to get done. She tells me that because I’m a friend, I should understand that making a good impression on the rest of the team has to be her priority. This has gone on for four months! I am ready to make an impression on her nose. How can I get her to get my work done?

Last But Not Least

Dear Last But Not Least, It is time to be friendly but firm. Remind your friend that at work, she is your administrative assistant and that you, too, are her priority. Let her know that for the team to succeed, you have the need and right to be given the same services as its other members. Be clear about what needs to be done, the outcomes you expect and when each assignment is due. If this does not produce positive results, ask your boss to reiterate that your work also needs to be a priority.

Dr. Mimi

i4Biz.com | SPRING 2022



Meaghan Branham

is the managing editor for i4 Business, where she oversees the company’s digital media strategy, handles client relationship marketing for the magazine, and serves as one of the publication’s lead writers. A native of Brevard County, she splits her time between Central Florida and Nashville, Tennessee.

What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say. — Ralph Waldo Emerson




here are plenty of quirks of video meetings that we’ve all become more than a little used to. Kids wandering into the frame? An adorable interruption. A dog barking loudly at the delivery man? The UPS truck always arrives at the worst time. Paired your business buttonup with your sweatpants today? Haven’t we all at some point by now? There are some rules of video-call etiquette, however, that can be detrimental to our message when broken. Your body language, even over Zoom, can make all the difference when it comes to a successful client call or team meeting. When you’re meeting with someone face to face, it’s easier to be aware of how you are presenting yourself. In the comfort of our own homes — especially when we might already be suffering from Zoom fatigue — we can find ourselves forgetting common courtesies. Here’s what to keep in mind on your next call:

Be Sure to Smile

The start of a Zoom call can be chaotic. People are trying to set up their screens, connect their audio, and greet each other while navigating lagging cameras. The first thing you should do? Smile. Unlike in a face-to-face meeting, your coworkers and clients can’t shake your hands or register any other welcoming body language easily in a virtual meeting. A smile is the easiest, most effective, and sometimes only way to let other attendees know that you’re happy to see them and ready to dive into the meeting.

Watch Your Hand Gestures

A study by Science of People revealed that the most popular TED Talks, including those that went viral, were those in which the

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speaker used more hand gestures throughout their speech than the average. Some of the hand gestures that can hammer home a point include: • Open palms – Keeping your palms open while gesturing outwardly conveys honesty and trustworthiness to your audience. • Finger counting – If you are conveying something that involves a specific number, try holding up your fingers to reflect that number. This anchors your point if you are going through several parts of a larger message. • Visible comparisons – If you are trying to communicate an amount or a comparison of two different amounts, using the space between your hands to emphasize size or distance makes your point more memorable. • Personal pointing – When communicating something about yourself, bring your hands toward yourself and touch your chest with your fingers. This conveys that the experience or message is personal to you.

Pay Attention to Posture

Like smiling, this one might seem obvious, but in the age of Zoom fatigue it’s easy to let some of the simple things slip our minds. Keep your posture open to communicate that you are receptive to what the other party is saying. Avoid crossing your arms in front of you by keeping them at your sides. You can even keep yourself busy taking notes to make sure you don’t absent-mindedly fall into a defensive-looking posture.

Show Signs of Engagement

There are other ways to show the people on the other end of the Zoom cameras that you are fully engaged with the conversation:


• Tilting your head – According to Forbes, tilting the head in order to hear more clearly dates all the way back to primitive tribes, where it was used to listen for signs of danger. Today the behavior is still a strong indication that you are listening to someone else. • Leaning in – While pulling your head back is a sign of disengagement, leaning forward signals intentional listening. • Sitting up straighter – Even though they can’t see your whole body, the people on the other side of the screen can tell when you are slouching. Just like in a face-to-face interaction, this can signal lack of interest. • Looking at the other speaker – We are all guilty of letting vanity get the best of us on a Zoom call. It’s OK to take a minute to fix a stray hair or straighten your collar, but make sure you are focused on the person who is speaking instead of on your own image or something off-camera. When you communicate with intention, you can connect even through a screen. Treat your Zoom calls more like your face-to-face meetings, and you might find that even a quick call can turn into a productive lead.




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Steph McFee “The WHY Coach” is the founder of Connections Curator LLC, which helps business professionals discover and showcase their “why.” She serves as the North Florida regional director for WBEC Florida, a regional partner organization of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council; and as the sustainability chair for the Go for the Greens Foundation, which helps women business owners grow their companies.

Every person is the right person to act. Every moment is the right moment to begin. — Jonathan Schell



ounded in 1970 in the United States, Earth Day focuses on helping educate and activate the environmental movement across the globe. With a focus on a particular theme and topic, the annual celebration on April 22 has a goal of ensuring environmental issues remain front and center and providing the perfect platform to pause and look at what you are currently doing to have a positive impact on our planet.

The 2022 theme “Invest in Our Planet” is a call to action for business, government and citizens to consider how we can all come together under a single mission to continue to drive climate change. But we all know that time and other resources are limited now more than ever. So, what are some things you can do to show you care for Mother Earth while helping your business grow? Here are five suggestions we have compiled to help you get started: 1. Provide a customer incentive. A great way to make an impact while helping drive your business growth is to create a customer incentive that is focused on sustainable practices. You can get creative with discounts, free services, or other ways to thank customers, drive traffic to your business, and help the environment. Example: Host a T-shirt drive. Many people are not aware of the impact clothing waste has on our environment. Textiles can take up to 200 years to decompose. (Source: https://www.roadrunnerwm.com/blog/textile-waste-environmental-crisis) There are organizations that need T-shirts to make products. One example of such a business is Rethreaded.

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2. Host a community cleanup. Customers want to do business with community-centric organizations. Cleanups are a great way to get the word out about your business and show that you care about your hometown. Example: Host a park cleanup day. Provide trash bags and gloves – and donuts and coffee are also a nice add. Post on social media and local news outlets and invite the community to come out and clean up a local park, beach or other community area. Have a table with water and information about your business. 3. Partner with a local environmentally focused organization. Supporting a local organization that shares your values for the environment while providing education and awareness is another way to market your business and show your commitment. Example: Sponsor a local Earth Day event. Many organizations will be hosting Earth Day festivities next spring and looking for sponsors. They will have a variety of levels to fit your budget and will offer marketing opportunities as well as possible booths and more. Plan ahead to participate next year. 4. Build a Social Media Campaign. Highlight any sustainable products or services you offer. If you have a business focused on sustainability or the environment, share the news of what you do and how it impacts the Earth. Example: Share photos and stats of how you make a difference. From photos of your staff or your family recycling, to data on how your products or services have an impact, outline daily social posts to help your community know how much sustainability means to you and your business.

5. Attend an educational event or workshop. Register for a summit or take your team to something that shows you are investing in learning more about what you and your business can do for the environment. Take pictures and post about what you are learning and how you plan to use that information in the future. Example: Register for the Go for the Greens 2022 Conference. While the conference is not until September, you can register and share that you are making a commitment by attending and learning more. www.goforthegreens.org.

Celebrating 50 years of

Community “The West Orange Chamber provides us with an opportunity to do our part as business leaders in the community. No matter our level of commitment, we know we are helping by being connected through this collective knowledge and voice that the Chamber has impressively assembled over the last 50 years.”

Take the lead today. Join us!



The West Orange Chamber of Commerce (407) 656-1304 • 12184 West Colonial Dr in Winter Garden


i4Biz.com | SPRING 2022



MOVERS AND SHAKERS AT I4 BUSINESS RECEPTION On Monday, March 14, i4 Business hosted our first Movers and Shakers Cocktail Event to celebrate leaders in the community who have been or will be featured in the magazine for their community work. The reception took place at the Taproom at Dubsdread in the Florida Room and on the terrace overlooking the Dubsdread Golf Course. Guests enjoyed a menu of custom-made cocktails and mocktails and an evening of networking. Carolyn Fennell, Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, and Diane Sears, i4 Business

Fran Korosec, Align Business Advisory Services; Charlie Gray, GrayRobinson; George Cheros and Neal Finkelstein, National Center for Simulation

Laine Powell, Tech Sassy Girlz; Courtney Powell, AceApplications; and Olive Gaye, GenCare Resources

Belinda Kirkegard, City of Kissimmee; Marcos Tamez, NBC/Universal Telemumndo; and Elisha Gonzalez, Fairwinds Foundation

Rebecca Powell, Rollins College Crummer Graduate School of Business; and Lauren Falcone, Jaclyn Gardiakos and Heather Mayr, Universal Engineering Sciences

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Christian Davidson, Manufacturers Association of Central Florida, and Andrew Cole, East Orlando Chamber of Commerce

Lauren Nelson, Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center, and Catherine Steck McManus, Habitat for Humanity Greater Orlando and Osceola County


Dr. Mimi Hull, Hull & Associates, and Olive Gaye, GenCare Resources

Nina Wilson Jones, Girl Scouts of Citrus Council; Amy Pryor, West Orange Chamber of Commerce; Carol Ann Dykes Logue, University of Central Florida Incubators; Charlie Gray, GrayRobinson; and Rafael Caamano, Veterans Entrepreneurship Initiative

Andrea Hallam and Ted Rider, i4 Business

Diane Sears, i4 Business, and Cindy and Ken LaRoe, Climate First Bank

Diane Sears, i4 Business; Khalid Muneer, Jupiter Properties; and Karen and Harry Arnon, Hernon Manufacturing

Karan Wienker, Florida Golf and Beaches; Yog Melwani, Align Commercial Real Estate; and Lourdes Mola, Lourdes Mola Solutions

Robert Schlotman, Nperspective, and Roy and Aluska Richardson, Aurora InfoTech

George Diaz, writer, and Dick Batchelor, DBMG

Marie Vasquez-Brooks and Jerrid Kalakay, Valencia College; Tracey Serebin, i4 Business; and Nasser Hedayat and Paul Wilder, Valencia College

Vicki Jaramillo, Greater Orlando Aviation Authority; Christine Kefauver, Brightline; and Greg Mason, Orlando Economic Partnership

i4Biz.com | SPRING 2022



GINGER ZEE SPEAKS AT WOMEN UNITED LUNCHEON Women United from the Heart of Florida United Way held its 15th annual fund-raiser luncheon April 6 at the Rosen Plaza Hotel. Keynote speaker Ginger Zee wowed the audience with stories from her work as the chief meteorologist for ABC News and her latest book, A Little Closer to Home: How I Found the Calm After the Storm. Like the book, the luncheon’s theme this year was about mental health. PHOTOGRAPHY PROVIDED BY WOMEN UNITED Jeff Hayward, president and CEO of Heart of Florida United Way

Elisha Gonzalez, Women United Chair 2021-22; and emcee Nancy Alvarez, Heart of Florida United Way vice president and former WFTV-Channel 9 news anchor

Luncheon chairs Kathy Ludwig Brown (2023), Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute, and Lourdes Mola (2022), Lourdes Mola Solutions

Keynote speaker Ginger Zee, author and chief meteorologist for ABC News

Lunch crowd of about 750 people

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Jeff Hayward and Ginger Zee


Members of Women United luncheon committee with Ginger Zee

Diane Sears, i4 Business magazine, and Lourdes Mola, Lourdes Mola Solutions

i4Biz.com | SPRING 2022




for your day off

ORLANDO The Seasons at Plaza Live

Whether you’re a fan of Italian Baroque music or the arts in general, an upcoming event offers a unique immersive experience that will bring art to life. “The Seasons” debuts at The Plaza Live on May 27-28, 2022. Presented in partnership with the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra and sponsored by Massey Services, The Seasons features live musicians playing Vivaldi’s symphony accompanied by large-scale projections and sensory elements including wind, snow and falling leaves. The show is accompanied by small bites inspired by each season. It is brought to audiences by the Creative City Project, creators of “Re:Charge,” “Down the Rabbit Hole” and the annual IMMERSE festival in Downtown Orlando. To elevate the sensory experience, Creative City Project is also partnering with La Jetée Perfumery and Apothecary in Ivanhoe Village, which is curating a scent for each season. The Plaza Live is at 425 North Bumby Avenue in Orlando. Tickets are $50 per person for a Premium Seat, which includes The Seasons sampler bites. General admission tickets are $35. www.creativecityproject.com/the-seasons-orlando


Sebastian Inlet State Recreation Area

Located just off of South Highway A1A in Melbourne Beach, Sebastian Inlet is a favorite spot for locals and visitors looking to catch some waves, throw out a line or just unwind at the beach. The inlet is perhaps best known as a haven for surfers, who can ride both the “First Peak” and “Monster Hole” areas of exposed beach and reef break known for their waves. But there is still plenty to do here even if you’re not bringing your board. Fishing, shell-searching, swimming and just soaking up the sun are all highly encouraged activities here, as well as museum-going at either of two historical centers: The McLarty Treasure Museum, which highlights the 1715 Spanish treasure fleet, or the Sebastian Fishing Museum, chronicling the area’s fishing industry history. You can even make a weekend of it at the campground, which welcomes RVs and tents alike. Sebastian Inlet is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The entrance fee per vehicle is $7.

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https://www.floridastateparks.org/ Sebastian-Inlet


WINTER PARK Winter Park Golf Course

In the heart of Winter Park, there sits a 100-year-old hidden gem: a 9-hole public golf course rated highly and renowned for its short-course experience. Founded in 1914, the Winter Park Golf Course is the second oldest in Central Florida, with a long history of hosting pros like Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Gene Sarazen. In 2016, the 2,480-yard, par 35 course underwent major renovations, emerging as one of the best short-course experiences in the country. Guests can rent one of the available golf carts or stroll the greens on foot as they play. Memberships are available, but anyone is welcome to book a tee time up to three days in advance. The course’s location, winding through historic downtown Winter Park, means there are plenty of picks for good food and drinks once you finish your game. For the summer, the Winter Park Golf Course is open from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.


Kick off the summer with a welldeserved staycation at The Grove Resort and Water Park in Winter Garden. Book a stay in a two- or three-bedroom suite and take your mind off of the day-to-day with The Grove’s luxury amenities. Lounge by The Springs pool, get a massage at the Escape Spa, or indulge your inner kid with a day at the one-of-akind water park, which is free for those staying onsite. The Grove also offers plenty of dining options for visitors to drift over to before or after a long day of fun. Whether it’s breakfast or dinner at Valencia Restaurant, or drinks by the pool at The Springs Bar and Grille, you’re sure to never go hungry here. Visitors who just want to spend a day at Surfari Water Park can purchase admission separately to enjoy attractions like the FlowRider® Double surf simulator, dual water slides, and a 695-foot lazy river. The park also includes a kids-only pool and a zero-entry pool, so the whole family gets its fill of fun in the sun.



Now that the heat is on in Central Florida, it’s time to make your way over to Treats on the Beach in New Smyrna Beach. Just a stone’s throw away from Flagler Avenue Beachfront Park, this cute spot has everything you could want after a day in the ocean — including milkshakes, smoothies and sundaes. Whether you want to stick to a classic flavor like butter pecan or mint chocolate chip, or mix it up with flavors like snickerlicious or sweet black cherry, Treats on the Beach has exactly what you’re looking for. If you’re in the mood for a snack before your dessert, the establishment also serves up salads, hot dogs, burgers, cheese fries and more. This beachside spot is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m.


https://www.groveresortorlando.com To scan the QR Codes, point the camera app on your smartphone toward the page and follow the instructions on your smartphone screen.




Stuff you didn’t know you wanted to know

#1 Orlando’s ranking among 100 Best Large Cities to Start a Business. Miami ranked 2, Jacksonville 7 and Tampa 10.


“WE WANT TO HELP AS MANY CENTRAL FLORIDIANS STAY AFLOAT AS POSSIBLE.” — Jeff Hayward, president and CEO of the Heart of Florida United Way, speaking about a $175,000 grant from Wells Fargo to help people gain access to financial stability.

Orlando’s ranking among 100 cities in highest average growth in number of small businesses. Austin, Texas, and Boise, Idaho, were tied for first.


Source: Construction Coverage


Florida’s ranking among 2022’s Best States for Camping based on 17 key metrics — such as variety of campsite activities, which brought the state a #1 ranking. Source: Lawn Love

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Highest number of home sales in one ZIP code in Central Florida in the first quarter of 2022, claimed by 32835 in Metrowest/Orlo Vista around Kirkman and Hiawassee roads. The second-highest number was 202 in 32822, the Ventura area off Curry Ford Road between State Road 436 and Goldenrod Road. Source: Orlando Business Journal

Source: WalletHub



$665 million

Number of attendees at the 34 events hosted at the Orange County Convention Center in the first quarter of 2022 for a combined economic impact of $665 million. Shows included the 2022 PGA Merchandise Show, the co-located International Builders Show and Kitchen and Bath Industry Show, and the 2022 HIMSS Global Conference and Exhibition. Source: Orange County Convention Center

“We might be only one ant in this whole thing, but an ant can carry a lot.” — Dawn Coulliette, co-owner of Mia Bella Salon & Spa in Lake County’s Fruitland Park, about collecting money from clients and the community to send to her brother, a former Orange County teacher who is working in Ukraine. Source: Orlando Sentinel

101 Number of metro Orlando homes that sold for more than $1 million in February, up 28% from 79 in January and up 25% from 81 sales the previous year. Source: Orlando Business Journal

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With nearly 150 destinations worldwide, the opportunity to escape is now. From 95+ Domestic destinations and 25+ International destinations, Orlando International Airport provides access to destinations and 45+ International destinations, Orlando International Airport provides unique travel experiences that you seek and deserve. Why wait? The time for adventure is access now. to unique travel experiences that you seek and deserve. Why wait? The time for adventure is now.

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MCO. Your Florida Airport of Choice.®

For Travel Tips and Requirements Visit orlandoairports.net/coronavirus MCO. Your Florida Airport of Choice.®

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For Travel Tips and Requirements Visit orlandoairports.net/coronavirus