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Rising Young Professionals

MARIA BATES, 34, St. Petersburg

JOB: Executive director, Project Patchwork; lawyer in private practice

WHILE STILL IN LAW SCHOOL, Maria Bates launched Project Patchwork, a non-profit adoption agency that provides counseling for birth parents and home studies for prospective adoptive families. She became interested in adoption after volunteering at an orphanage in Bolivia during college. The agency has completed 25 adoptions, including placing children from foster care. “I feel very called to make a difference,” she says. “It’s not a job for me.” Bates also has a private law practice, where she specializes in adoption, family law and non-profits, but she says that work is separate from Project Patchwork, which has an outside attorney.

Community Activities: Active in juvenile justice and human rights issues

[Photo: Mark Wemple]

[Photo: Peter Barrett]


JOB: Founder of You Ask, We Tutor, a tutoring service staffed by students

JAY SHECHTMAN'S entrepreneurial vision paid off big this year when the National Federation of Independent Business gave him a $10,000 scholarship and named him the 2009 National Federation of Independent Business/Visa Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Shechtman started the business four years ago on his own with a focus on math and Spanish tutoring. He later added eight to 10 tutors in other subjects. Once Shechtman was sure he had the tutoring system down, he made up business cards, ran classified ads, developed a website on his own and visited with guidance counselors and teachers at his school and other schools in the area. “I did it 100% on my own,” he says.

charges $25 for the first hour and $20 for the second hour in a tutoring session, less than half of the going rate for teachers who tutor in Broward County. “My goal was not to rake in a lot of dollars. My goal was to build a solid business,” he says. Because he will be attending the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Shechtman tapped a trusted friend to run the day-to-day operations this year.

NOEMI COLTEA, 25, West Palm Beach

JOB: Associate director of development
for Boys Town/South Florida

IN 2008, Noemi Coltea’s fund raising made it possible for the non-profit group where she works to help more than 4,000 children through youth care and healthcare programs that include intervention, assessment and in-home crisis management. Coltea, who joined the organization three years ago, coordinates the annual Crystal Ball fund-raiser at The Breakers resort in Palm Beach. She also oversees the Thanksgiving Basket Brigade, which last year provided baskets of Thanksgiving fixings for more than 300 families.


[Photo: Haley Lamb]

MIKE BROWN, 30, Orlando

JOB: Founder and president of Hoop
Connection, a business designed to help high school basketball players connect with coaches at NCAA Division II, Division III, National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics schools and junior colleges
Growing up in Vermont, Mike Brown loved basketball but didn’t get a lot of exposure to college coaches. He wasn’t much of a student in high school and says that but for basketball, he would never have gone to college, where he found himself and became a good student.

HIS GOAL with the business is to help other young athletes who don’t have the skills for NCAA Division I schools find a way to use basketball to pursue higher education. Hoop Connection offers an array of services ranging from free biographical online listings to access to a database of 3,000 college basketball programs ($39.99) to a $1,000 package that includes a one-on-one interview, player evaluation and college recommendations as well as a personal profile and DVD sent to coaches.

ON THE COURT: Brown played point guard in college and shooting guard in high school.


JOB: Vice president of operations, Marin and Sons, a governmental consulting firm

AFTER COLLEGE, Fernando Diez worked at an advertising firm, where he assisted with a Miami Beach political campaign. “I got bit by the bug,” says Diez. He began working part time at the Marin and Sons phone bank and quickly was hired as a full-time associate. At age 24, he was promoted to vice president of operations. Diez handles campaign strategy, direct mail, media production, media buying and phone bank operations, supervising 20 to 30 people. Marin and Sons designs federal, state and local campaigns for voters who speak English, Spanish, Creole and Hebrew. Diez managed or participated in campaigns for U.S. congressional races and state, county and city races.

Boys and Girls Club; Teach for America; and Camillus House, which provides food, shelter and services for the homeless

[Photo: Mark Wemple]


JOB: Founder and president, Day Translations

TWO YEARS AGO, Sean Hopwood founded Day Translations, a service that offers document translations in almost 100 languages and dialects as well as interpreters in many languages. Although the business’s bread and butter is legal translations, Hopwood’s business has worked with Deutsche Bank, Coventry Health Care and Bombardier Aerospace, among others. He says the company does 50 to 60 translations a day, working with contract translators around the world. Hopwood says he works 80 to 90 hours a week. “It just keeps growing every week.
We haven’t had any decrease in business.
It’s something that people need.”

LANGUAGES: Learned Spanish as a child by listening to comedy tapes and talking with friends from Mexico. Also speaks French and Arabic and is learning Hebrew and German. Lived in Fez, Morocco.
DENA BAKER, 35, Naples

JOB: Veterinarian and owner of Mobile Pet Vet, Innovative Veterinary Products and Neapolitan Gourmet Pet Food

AN ENTREPRENEUR AT HEART, Dena Baker opened her mobile veterinary practice six years ago. A year after setting up Mobile Pet Vet, Baker co-founded Innovative Veterinary Products, a company that makes disposable items used by veterinarians. The company markets nationwide through distributors and recently began selling in Canada. Later this year, Baker will begin selling her own line of canned dog food through her third business, Neapolitan Gourmet Pet Food. That’s not all. When the economy improves, Baker is planning to open Neapolitan Pet Resort & Wellness Center, an upscale boarding facility for dogs and cats with an attached veterinary clinic.

GIVING BACK: For the past five years, Baker has held vaccination clinics and offered low-cost spay and neuter services in Everglades City. She is active with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and has participated in the charity’s 100-mile century fund-raising bike rides.

[Photo: Brian Tietz]

[Photo: Hugh Brown]

HUGH BROWN, 30, Miami

JOB: In August, Hugh Brown started work in the Governor’s Office of Drug Control, where he’s focusing on the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.

HONOR: One of 14 Florida Gubernatorial Fellows for 2009-10. “The goal of the program is to build future leadership for the state,” he says. Brown also works as a financial representative with Northwestern Mutual.

SERVING THE U.S.: Searching for what to do after high school, Brown enlisted in the Air Force at age 19 and arrived at boot camp on his birthday. He spent six years working in surgical trauma units in Florida, Mississippi and Texas. “The Air Force really worked for me,” says Brown, adding that it was the public service aspect that excited him.

KRISTIN BEALL, 33, Mount Dora

JOB: Vice president and licensed building contractor, Charlie Johnson Builder; Republican candidate for Florida House of Representatives

SHE'S BEEN A BEAUTY QUEEN, a television personality and a licensed building contractor. Now Kristin Beall, whose full name is Kristin Beall Ludecke, would like to be a member of the Florida House of Representative. “I’m running on a pro-business stance,” says Beall, a Republican who set up her campaign this summer. She’s not giving up her day job as vice president in the family business, Charlie Johnson Builder, where she focuses on homes that meet the Institute for Building and Home Safety’s “fortified for safer living” residential construction designation. “We’re lucky in Florida that we have really good building codes.”

COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES: Focus on at-risk children through volunteer work at Lake County’s LifeStream Behavioral Center; arts organizations, including Very Special Arts and Arts for Complete Education

INTEREST: Classical music, singing opera and ballroom dancing

[Photo: Tim Tew]

[Photo: Kelly LaDuke]

JOHN ALLMAND, 31, Jacksonville

JOB: Project architect with RS&H

he’s not a preservationist, per se, John Allmand wants to maintain the viability of neighborhoods. “There needs to be new architecture done well.” One focus is mixed-use projects with retail on the bottom and residential on top, designs, he says, that combat suburban sprawl.

RANDALL VITALE, 32, Fort Lauderdale

JOB: First vice president, SunTrust Private Wealth Management/Legal Specialty Group

JUST OUT OF COLLEGE, Randall Vitale joined SunTrust Bank’s management training program. Along the way, he’s worked in the international private banking group, the private wealth management group and the medical specialty group. While this year has been challenging for financial services, Vitale says that the basics of working with clients hasn’t changed. “In good times and bad, it’s important to be in communication with your clients.”

After participating in College Leadership Florida while at FSU, Vitale returned the next year as a facilitator. He helped plan and organize Connect Florida, Leadership Florida’s group for young Floridians, and later helped form Emerge Broward, which now has 600 members.

INTERESTS: He has visited 26 countries; Vitale’s next trip will be to Tokyo, Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong.