Florida Trend | Florida's Business Authority

Young Guns

Michael Konig, 27

Job: Managing director of SMK Cape Horn Development Group, which helped lead the trend in Miami of converting high-end office buildings into office condos. In its first three years, the company has worked with three properties: One with 53 units on Brickell Avenue, purchased for $15 million; one with 38 units on Michigan Avenue in South Beach, purchased for $14.5 million; and one with about 70 units on Biscayne Boulevard in North Miami, for $22.5 million. The company has about a dozen employees, including four partners.

Education: Attended the University of Florida but left just shy of graduating with a bachelor's in political science and philosophy and a minor in business so he could work on a $650-million Donald Trump project, the Trump Grande Ocean Resort and Residences in Sunny Isles Beach.

Grew up in: Venezuela. Moved to Miami at age 15 with parents.

Turning point: First job out of college involved working with Gil Dezer on the Grande Ocean project and led to Konig becoming VP of operations.

Other experience: Served as president of the Communications Council for UF's Journalism College and associate justice of the UF Honor Court; worked for Jeb Bush's gubernatorial campaign; interned in U.S. Sen. Connie Mack's office in Washington.

10 years from now: "I plan to have office condos all around the nation. It's a specialty market. We've been working hard to go slow enough to learn it and do it right."

Advice for young professionals: "Work real hard and have a lot of patience. That's one of the things people are losing over time because of the fast pace of the world. I say listen. Go talk to the people around you ... and ask them how long it takes to get from a cubicle to a window." Lakeitha Grey, 28

Job: CEO and founder of N-tersections Communications Group, a marketing firm.

Education: Bachelor's from the University of Georgia with a major in journalism/advertising and a minor in Spanish. Will graduate in December with a master's in integrated marketing communications from FSU.

Grew up in: Macon, Ga.

Community involvement: President (starting this month) of the Greater Tallahassee Advertising Federation; mentors students at Florida A&M University; is working on a storm emergency preparedness analysis research grant with FAMU, examining relationships between emergency management and the media; volunteers at the local Small Business Development Center conducting marketing workshops for startup companies.

10 years from now: "I hope to be doing what I'm doing now but on a much larger scale."

Biggest influence: Her mother. "She's even more proud of me than I am of myself. I always think I should be doing more or should be further along." Also, her advertising professor, Leila Wenthe, from UGA.

Turning point: Deciding to quit her job and focus on her own business after trying to do both at once. "There's never the perfect time to do anything that involves a risk. I just figured why not do this now? What am I waiting on?"

Jack White, 28

Job: Developer of Wall Street Lofts, a 24-unit, three-story residential and commercial building in downtown Daytona Beach that features Chicago storefront architecture and rooftop gardens.

Education: Majored in American studies, minored in finance at Stetson University.
Grew up in: Daytona Beach.

First job: Operating a state park in Flagler County at age 18. "It was a lonely experience because I was the only one working there."

Specialty: Urban revitalization designed to bring young adult residents into downtown core. "For a healthy city to thrive, you need more business, residential and retail. We're kind of short on all of those."

Latest project: Set to start construction later this year on The William, a seven-story, 45-unit commercial and residential building next to Wall Street Lofts that features art deco architecture and prices in the $200,000 range.

Biggest influences: His family, which has been in Daytona Beach since the 1950s. Grandfather helped develop about 40 beach motels and the former Marco Polo Park, and parents have been involved in construction of Sugarmill Plantation, Fairchild Oaks and other neighborhoods.

Turning point: Though he was going into the industry of securities analysis and stocks, he couldn't get a job when he graduated from Stetson in 2001. "It was a really bad time for stocks. Luckily, I started getting into real estate here."

Recommended reading: "Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream" by Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and Jeff Speck and "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" by Jane Jacobs. "It took me awhile to figure out how to make money and develop a business model based around the concepts these books give you."

Other involvement: Board of Downtown Daytona Beach Partnership; executive committee of Daytona Young Professionals Group; member of Rotary Club of Daytona Beach.

Favorite saying: Quote by Scrooge McDuck: "Work smarter, not harder."

Advice for young professionals: "Find a niche, something no one else is doing that's marketable. Then be creative about it." Jennifer Kleinbaum, 28

Job: Co-owns Blue Jungle Tours, an ecotourism company that takes groups on one- to two-week educational vacations in the Caribbean. She's also director of education at the Francis M. Weston Audubon Society at the Roy Hyatt Environmental Center. Operated by Escambia County School District, the center sits on 120 acres of forest land and has taught 8,000 second- and fifth-graders about the environment and natural habitats since Kleinbaum came to the center two years ago. She secured a $75,000 grant for the program this year.

Education: Bachelor's in marine biology from Cornell University in New York and master's in educational technology from Long Island University. She recently earned a fund-raising certification at New York University.

Grew up in: Teaneck, N.J.

First job: Sorting and filing newspapers from around the world at the Cornell University Library.

Turning point: A college study trip to Akumal, Mexico, with a dozen other students, when she sat down with the local people and talked with them in broken Spanish about the science of the coral reef they took for granted.

In 10 years: "I would love to be the director of a nature center or a marine lab so I can help shape the direction of science education, not just for elementary school students but especially for communities that really need the help." Also would like to be giving three to five tours a year through Blue Jungle Tours.

Advice for young professionals: "Make friends. Other people would call it networking," but she digs deeper to create friendships that turn into long-term contacts. Brad Riley, 29 | Tony King, 27

Jobs: King is vice president of sales and marketing at Zerion Group, which helps customers select and use inventory software. Riley is vice president of consulting. They co-founded the company in August 2005 with two of their associates from Hughes Supply. Zerion now has about 21 clients and 20 employees nationwide.

Education: King has a bachelor's in business management from Oklahoma Baptist University. Riley has an MBA from Eastern Illinois University.

Grew up in: King in Ponca City, Okla. Riley in Quincy, Ill.

First job: King worked as a bag boy for golfers at the Ponca City Country Club. Riley mowed yards.

Community involvement: The partners have committed to giving back 10% of their earnings to faith-based charities and organizations, including a missionary group that helps build churches, schools and houses in Third World countries. The company also offers employees 40 hours a year to use for additional training or community service work.

Biggest influence: King's father was an executive with ConocoPhillips and retired at age 52 to travel with King's mother. "He played a pretty big role in my life in giving me a vision of where I wanted to go and where I wanted to be." Riley's biggest influences include his parents and also a small-business professor in college, Dave Arseneau, who owned an office supply store. "He would get you pumped up and thinking in an entrepreneurial mind frame. I came out of college working for a Fortune 500 company but always had in the back of my mind I wanted to work for my own company."

Turning point: For King, his internship with Hughes Supply as an internal auditor, which made him realize there was more opportunity in Orlando than in Oklahoma. For Riley, whose father died when he was 15, a turning point came when his mother stopped helping him pay for his college education after he brought home a 1.0 grade-point average his freshman year. "I was wasting my time and her money. It made me realize I had to do something on my own. I took ownership of my future."

Advice for young professionals: King: "Get a job and prove yourself. Don't get caught up in titles or money. Just work hard." Riley: "Have a career plan. If you shoot for the moon and miss the moon, at least you'll get higher than if you shot for the ground."
Vinny Tafuro, 29

Job: Owner and president of Dynamic Creations, based in Tampa. Started as a web design company and has evolved into an interactive marketing firm.

Education: "With me, it was more the cart came before the horse. I didn't finish my degree until I already owned a business." He took a break from work in 2003 to finish an associate's degree in communications at Hillsborough Community College and is now running his business while studying political science and public relations at USF.

Grew up in: Long Island, N.Y., moving to Tampa at age 14.

Community involvement: President of Ad 2 Tampa Bay, an advertising industry association for professionals 32 and under; secretary of the national Ad 2 board of directors; member of Ybor City Chamber of Commerce, Carrollwood Area Business Association and Exchange Club of Tampa; board member of Kids and Canines; board of advisers member for Create Magazine.

First job: Worked summers doing landscaping, starting when he was 14.

10 years from now: He'd like to be self-employed and consulting. Wants to grow his agency's client base and stay active in the community. "A trip back to corporate America would be extremely difficult and unlikely. I like to keep things on my schedule and do things on my own terms."

Turning point: Starting his business during the internet bubble. He didn't have time to ponder for long whether to make the move. "For me, it was a combination of being young and inexperienced with a market that would support someone going into business like that. If I looked at it today, I probably would not go into business myself. It seems like it made perfect sense."

Advice for young professionals: "Get involved. You're only going to get what you put into it. The younger you understand it's up to you to make the connections, the better off you are."


? M. Thure Caire, 24, Tallahassee, is Leon County's youngest elected official, holding an unpaid board position on the Ochlockonee River Soil and Water Conservation District. Caire served as outreach coordinator for the Think About Personal Pollution campaign and is vice president of Leon County Young Democrats and rules chairman for the Florida Young Democrats. He has been a research analyst for Tallahassee's stormwater management division for the past two years and is planning to go to med school this fall.

? Brie Turek, 25, Orlando, is press secretary for Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. She earned her bachelor's in advertising/PR/marketing from the University of Central Florida and her master's in corporate communications from Rollins College. She worked in more than eight semesters of internships in PR during UCF years and interned at Curley & Pynn, which hired her before she graduated.

? Kevin O'Connell, 25, Orlando, is managing director of a Northwestern Mutual Financial Network district office. He is the youngest person the company has ever appointed to such a position. His office employs 12 financial representatives and seven interns.

? Neil Bell, 27, Tallahassee, is director of Summit Outdoor Advertising, a Tallahassee-based billboard company he co-founded in 2004. Company started with $600 and one billboard and now has 100 displays in Jefferson, Leon and Wakulla counties. His company has been nominated for "Emerging Business of the Year" by the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce. Bell just served a term as president of the Greater Tallahassee Advertising Federation.

? Sabrina McLaughlin, 26, Navarre, owns The PR Girl Inc., a public relations firm. She has a bachelor's degree from the University of Alabama with a double major in public relations and American studies and is pursuing a master's degree. McLaughlin is one of the youngest professionals in the country to hold the professional Accredited Public Relations designation. She's also the youngest to be nominated as Florida representative for this year's Professional Achievement Award presented by the Southern Public Relations Federation.

? Eric Galbut, 29, Miami Beach, is a founding principal at Hudson Capital, an integrated Miami real estate company founded in 2004 that primarily converts apartments into condos and now has more than 130 employees and seven active projects worth more than $1.2 billion. He's developing Dolphin Reef Waterfront District in Jacksonville, a $400-million mixed-use community along the St. Johns River.

? Grant Killingsworth, 29, Miami Beach, is a commercial real estate broker with Holly Real Estate in Miami. He's recognized as one of the top 20 brokers in south Florida.

? Will Royall, 24, Ocoee, is president and CEO of two Orlando companies: Royall Media, an event audiovisual production company with four employees, and Advertise HD, a digital advertising firm he and two partners launched this year with 10 employees.

? Maija Renko, 29, Miami Beach, is a doctoral candidate and graduate assistant with Florida International University and its Eugenio Pino and Family Global Entrepreneurship Center. Born in Finland, she is still a partner in a consulting firm she co-founded there. She will receive double doctorates: One in Finland and the other at FIU.