The U.S. Business Report is pleased to announce The Top 50 Business Leaders of Miami for 2022. Miami is famous for its pristine beaches, sunny warm weather, and non-stop nightlife, but a lesser known fact is their unemployment rate of just 2.2 percent. As a result, Miami has one of the best economies in the U.S. and is quickly becoming a top destination for individuals and business owners around the world. This year’s awardees have contributed to many factors within the state’s thriving economy. They are innovators, philanthropists, job creators and community leaders. Many lead in some of Miami’s largest industries including hospitality and tourism, financial and banking services, agriculture, trade and logistics, distribution, and life sciences. Their motivation and commitment to scaling their business has set the stage to enable and support growth across the country.
Among this year’s awardees are Mike Batt, Founder and Chairman of Internova Travel Group, who has devoted his career to promoting the travel agency distribution channel and the use of travel advisors to enhance the travel experience. Additionally, Jack Owoc, Founder, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Scientific Officer of Bang Energy whose excellence in business negotiation, management, and execution has pushed his company to be the third most selling energy drink in the US. Also awarded is Jose “Joche” Smith, the Chief Executive Officer of Costa Farms, who leads one of the largest horticultural growers in the world with his visionary and action-oriented leadership approach.
We applaud these individuals for their commitment to the organizations they serve. Please join us in celebrating the accomplishments of The Top 50 Business Leaders of Miami for 2022.
1. Laurent Uberti
Founder, President, and CEO, Sitel Group
Laurent Uberti is the Founder, President, and CEO of Sitel Group, one of the largest global providers of customer experience (CX) products and solutions, Sitel Group empowers brands to build stronger relationships with their customers by creating meaningful connections that boost brand value. Inspired by each brands’ unique vision and goals, they ask “what if?” applying their expertise to create innovative solutions that reduce customer effort. Uberti leads Sitel Group’s Global Executive Team in transforming the customer experience through innovative solutions and investment in people. With 160,000 people around the globe working from home or from one of its CX hubs, they securely connect best-loved brands with their customers over 8 million times every day in more than 50 languages. Digital or voice-based, its solutions deliver a competitive edge across all customer touchpoints.
Prior to joining Sitel Group, Uberti served as president of the French Contact Center Professional Association for nearly a decade. He also serves as a member of the board of directors for Auchan, which is a $52 billion retail group. Laurent is a graduate of SKEMA Business School in France and is based out of the group’s global headquarters in Miami.
2. Jack Owoc
CEO, Chief Scientific Officer & Founder, Bang Energy
Jack Owoc is the CEO, Chief Scientific Officer and Founder of Bang Energy, a performance beverages and sports nutrition company that has been producing epic innovations for over 25 years. Bang Energy drink has collaborated with many institutions, including universities, to increase its availability to fitness and sports enthusiasts. Their sports nutrition and beverage innovations are backed by 27 double-blind placebo-controlled Gold Standard University studies, and their marketing and distribution has been featured by several media outlets, including Forbes and Wells Fargo.
In addition to having a reputation of being one of the top business persons in the country, Owoc is also a philanthropist and a public speaker. His excellence in business negotiation, management, and execution has pushed his company to be the country’s third most selling energy drink after Monster and Red Bull. Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, Owoc taught science to high school students and was also part of the Internal Suspension Program. Owoc graduated from Florida Atlantic University.
3. Daniel Cohen
Daniel Cohen began his professional career 25 years ago. Today, he is the Owner of Swarovski. Founded in 1895 in Austria, the company designs, manufactures and sells the world’s highest quality crystal, genuine gemstones, Swarovski Created Diamonds and zirconia, jewelry and accessories, as well as crystal objects and home accessories. Together with its sister companies Swarovski Optik (optical devices) and Tyrolit (abrasives), Swarovski Crystal Business forms the Swarovski Group. A responsible relationship with people and the planet has always been an integral part of Swarovski’s heritage. This manifests today in the company’s well-established sustainability agenda with youth-focused education programs and foundations to promote human empowerment and conserve natural resources to achieve positive social impact. Cohen graduated from Colby College with an undergraduate degree in economics.
4. David Long
Chief Executive Officer, Orangetheory Fitness
David Long began his professional career 17 years ago. Today, he is the Chief Executive Officer of Orangetheory Fitness. Orangetheory is a 1-hour, full body workout, focused on training endurance, strength and/or power. They use Heart Rate Based Interval Training which burns more calories post workout than a traditional exercise.
Long first got his start in 2005 as a VP of Operations at Massage Envy. From there, he went on to European Wax Center as a developer and owner, his most recent position prior to joining Orangetheory Fitness. Long graduated from the University of Florida - Warrington College of Business with an MBA in management and from the University of Florida with an undergraduate degree in physical therapy and health science.
View the complete list of awardees.
5. Christopher Chen
Chief Executive Officer, ChenMed
Christopher Chen is the Chief Executive Officer of ChenMed. ChenMed serves the underserved – moderate-to-low-income seniors with complex chronic diseases through their high-touch, VIP, and preventive primary care. Unlike typical primary care providers, they have a much lower doctor-patient ratio which allows them to spend more time with patients, getting to know them and their concerns so they can better serve them. They are known to its patients as Dedicated Senior Medical Center, Chen Senior Medical Center, or JenCare Senior Medical Center. Chen has 13 years of experience. He began his career in 2009.
Chen graduated from the University of Miami with an MD and an undergraduate degree in medicine.
7. Murray Rice
Co-Owner, Richard and Rice Construction
Murray Rice is the Co-Owner of Richard and Rice Construction. He founded the company in 2004. The R&R team has well over 100 combined years of industry experience. This experience covers a wide range of projects including residential to light industrial, with locations across the state. The majority of the R&R team members have over a decade working together, producing excellent results, repeat business, and customer satisfaction.
Previously, Rice was Vice President at Trinity Construction Corp. and before that a field manager and purchasing at Centex Homes. Rice holds a Bachelor's degree with honors from the University of Florida, Rinker School of Building Construction. He has held his Residential Contractors license since 1994 and his General Contractor’s license since 2004.
8. Mike Batt
Founder and Chairman, Internova Travel Group
Mikel Batt is the Founder and Chairman of Internova Travel Group, a global leader providing travel services to corporate, leisure, luxury and entertainment markets. Today, Internova Travel Group has over 3,000 employees, 6,000 locations and over 70,000 travel advisors in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Mexico, France and a presence in more than 80 countries.
As chairman of Internova Travel Group, Batt provides strategic direction for the company and has overseen its growth from a collection of successful travel agencies to one of the leading forces in travel today. His career has been devoted to promoting the travel agency distribution channel, as well as, the use of travel advisors to enhance the travel experience. Batt first got his start in 1975 as a sales and marketing manager at M&M Mars. From there, he went on to British Airways, before eventually rising to President at Carlson Leisure Group (CLG), his most recent position prior to founding Internova Travel Group. Under Batt’s leadership, CLG grew significantly with sales growing from a combined $2 billion in 1996 to over $5 billion in 2007. Batt graduated from Swansea University with an undergraduate degree in economics and material.
9. Judy Velazquez
Owner, The UPS Store
Judy Velazquez is the Owner of The UPS Store #5452 and #6698. The franchise locations offer consumers and small businesses a wide range of products and services to meet all their needs in one convenient location, including printing, packaging, shipping, mailbox services, moving supplies and other in-center services. The UPS Store has been recognized as the No. 1 Postal & Business Services franchise for 31 years straight by Entrepreneur Magazine “Franchise 500.” USA Today, G.I. Jobs recognized The UPS Store franchise as one of the 50 Top Franchises for Military Veterans. Additionally, The UPS Store franchise was named American Brand Excellence Award Winner in the Retail category by City Business Journals.
Prior to becoming a franchise owner of The UPS Store, Velazquez was a trade analyst at Tropical Shipping and before that an import sales manager at China Ocean Shipping Company Co. Earlier in her career, she worked with Evergreen America as a sales coordinator. Velazquez graduated from Ramapo College of New Jersey with an undergraduate degree in international studies and international business.
10. David Mahoney
Owner, Comfort Keepers
David Mahoney is the Owner of Comfort Keepers. He and his wife Cindy purchased the company in 2008 while looking for a way to serve the senior community in some small way. The Mahoney’s were enamored by the Comfort Keepers concept of placing caregivers in the homes of seniors to allow them to remain independent in their own homes. Their approach starts with interactive caregiving and elevating the human spirit compassionate care that focuses on activating the mind, body, healthy habits, and a safe home environment. Their greatest asset is their dedicated team of caring professionals who are extensively trained in the responsibilities and approaches needed to enable superior senior care and companionship. Comfort Keepers collaborates with employees and caregivers year-round to ensure Their clients are treated with the same grace, dignity, and compassion that every person deserves.
Mahoney’s professional background started in Finance and Accounting as a CPA. He has held Executive level positions in Finance, Health Care, and Construction & Development; however, his real passion has been realized in helping seniors. Mahoney earned an MBA in accounting and tax from Florida Atlantic University and an undergraduate degree in business management from the University of Florida.
13. Rick Rothschild
Owner, School of Rock
Rick Rothschild is the Owner of School of Rock. He founded the company in 2008. With more than two decades of successful experience teaching music, School of Rock is the global leader in music education for kids and adults. Students learn from professional musicians in an interactive environment combining weekly private lessons and structured group rehearsals with the ultimate goal of performing live in front of real crowds. They teach guitar, drums, keyboards, vocals and bass. School of Rock is a franchisor and operator of music schools with more than 300 locations across 15 countries and growing rapidly. They employ thousands of musicians worldwide, in addition to employing innovative and passionate people at their corporate office, and partnering with franchise owners who are successful business people and leaders in their communities.
Rothschild graduated from the University of South Florida and is a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
14. Mary Beth Casey
Owner, Expedia CruiseShipCenters Ft. Lauderdale
Mary Beth Casey is a franchise owner of Expedia CruiseShipCenters Ft. Lauderdale. She founded the company in 2009 when the market crash pushed Casey out of retirement and back into the business world. As North America's largest retail travel agency franchise, Expedia Cruises is a full-service leisure travel agency anchored by its deeply passionate expertise for air, land, and sea vacations. Backed by the most powerful travel brand in the world – Expedia – they've thoroughly integrated their massive brand presence, state-of-the-art technology, unrivaled marketing, and distinguished supplier relationships to become Expedia’s cruise experts. Its network includes over 290 independently owned franchise locations and more than 6,100 Vacation Consultants in Canada and the United States.
Previously, Casey was in the advertising world as President and CEO of Ayer, a large agency in New York City and before that a Vice President and partner at Harris, Drury, Cohen. Earlier in her career she worked with McDonald's as a field account executive. Casey graduated from Regis College with an undergraduate degree in English.
View the complete list of awardees.
16. Nestor Plana
Owner, Independent Living Systems, LLC
Nestor Plana began his professional career over 25 years ago. Today, he is the Owner of Independent Living, which offers a comprehensive range of clinical and third-party administrative services to managed care organizations and providers that serve high-cost, complex member populations in the Medicare, Medicaid and Dual-Eligible Market. Independent Living Systems has been an industry leader in managing home and community-based programs for 20 years. Leveraging ILS’ award-winning technology platform, ILS provides assistance beyond the clinical realm at every stage of care from hospitalization to the treatment of chronic illnesses to personalized care management including nutritional support.
Plana previously served as a founding President and COO of Beacon Health Plan in South Florida, where he successfully implemented a long-term care waiver program under a contract with the Florida Department of Elder Affairs. He was also a senior executive with Mercy Hospital Systems and has served on the Florida Long-Term Care Committee and held the Chairmanship of United Home Health Care. Plana has won countless awards for his accomplishments in structuring ILS as a driving force in healthcare innovation and services for the aging, frail, and chronically ill. In 2011, the American Federation for Aging Research awarded him the Florida Award in Distinction for his vision and leadership in making research and healthy aging a priority in Florida. In the same year, he was named one of the region’s Top Performers in South Florida Magazine’s Movers and Shakers issue. Additionally, Health Evolution Partners awarded Nestor the HealthCare Innovator of the Year Award in 2010.
22. Jeff Rubin
Founder and Chief Executive Officer, IT'SUGAR
Jeff Rubin is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of IT'SUGAR. The company was founded to create an environment that fosters the greatest feeling of happiness and humor; that allows consumers to smile and laugh out loud without judgment. Known for its oversized candy, numerous celebrity-driven brands and confectionery-themed innovations, IT’SUGAR is now said to be the largest and fastest-growing specialty candy retailer in the world with 100 stores.
Rubin began his career in 1995. Prior to founding IT'SUGAR, Rubin was a co-founder at Dylan's Candy Bar and before that a Founder at FAO Schweetz. Rubin graduated from the University of Michigan with an undergraduate degree in economics.
25. LT Gibson
President and Chief Executive Officer, US LBM Holdings, LLC
LT Gibson began his professional career in 2009. Today, he is the Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of US LBM Holdings, LLC. The company is an expert in distributing specialty building materials. They offers windows, doors, millwork, roofing, siding, cabinetry, and wallboard, as well as wood products. The wood that frames many houses around the U.S. could have come from one of its lumber yards as recently as last month or as long as 150 years ago. Since the company was founded in 2009, they have expanded to more than 250 locations with sales hitting $3.5 billion in 2019. Gibson graduated from Morehead State University with an undergraduate degree in business.
27. Deborah Fleming
Chief Executive Officer, Acqualina Resort and Spa on the Beach
Deborah Fleming is the Chief Executive Officer of Acqualina Resort and Spa on the Beach. She first joined the company in 2004. The sophistication of a Mediterranean villa combined with the beautiful oceanfront location on Florida’s Riviera makes Acqualina Resort & Residences on the Beach the perfect 5 star, 5 diamond vacation resort. Fleming brings more than three decades of hospitality experience to the building and refinement of luxury hotel brands. As the CEO and Principal of Acqualina Resort & Residences, she has assisted in obtaining the coveted Forbes Travel Guide Five Star Award and the AAA Five Diamond Award.
Deborah joined Acqualina Resort & Residences in 2004 as part of the pre-opening team. In 2011, she became a partner in the hotel with ownership interest. In her role, she oversees the hotel’s Executive Committee and the development and execution of the brand’s long-term strategies. In addition, she serves as President of AQ Property Management, LLC, the company managing the residences, The Mansions at Acqualina and AQ 3 Property Management LLC, the company managing The Estates at Acqualina. Deborah also serves on the Executive Committee of The Leading Hotels of the World, Ltd. Deborah was awarded the prestigious Leading Hotels 2021 ‘Uncommon Vision’ award. Additionally, she received nominations for HOTELS ‘Independent Hotelier of the World Award in 2020 and the ‘Hotelier of the Year in the 2016 Virtuoso ‘Best of the Best Awards.
33. Jose “Joche” Smith
Chief Executive Officer, Costa Farms
Jose "Joche" Smith is the CEO of one of the largest horticultural growers in the world, Costa Farms, which is headquartered in Miami (AKA plant paradise!). The company sprouted in 1961 as a tomato and citrus grower and has since expanded into a politically connected behemoth with more than $500 million in revenue. Costa Farms is one of the top half-dozen growers of ornamental plants in the nation, with over 4,000 acres under cultivation and 5,000 employees. It grows more than 1,500 kinds of plants.
Smith has over 30 years of leadership experience in various categories of horticulture, transportation, merchandising services, and global sourcing. Throughout his career, his approach has been to focus on revenue growth, geographic business expansion and profitability maximization. Joche’s analytical approach to corporate leadership has resulted in exceeding shareholder expectations through consistent positive return on invested capital for shareholders. Prior to joining Costa Farms, Smith was a Financial Analyst at Ryder System, Inc. Smith graduated from the University of Florida with an MBA in finance and an undergraduate degree in industrial engineering.
40. Fanit Panofsky
Owner, Contour Day Spa
Fanit Panofsky began her professional career 39 years ago. Today, she is the owner of Contour Day Spa where the goal is to get individuals to a natural state of health and well-being. They accomplish this by providing everything from body rubs, scrubs and replenishing skin nourishment to treatments that draw toxins out of the body. A full range of spa treatments and healing therapies are provided in deluxe treatment rooms and their water therapy sanctuary is an exclusive room that transforms the art of body care into a glorious ritual.
Panofsky’s remarkable spa empire barely resembles the humble 847 sq foot nail salon she first opened with little money after settling into South Florida with her family by way of Israel. Today, the spa lies within a 26,000 sq foot, freestanding building making it the largest freestanding spa in the country. What differentiates Contour Day Spa from traditional salons and day spas is the full scope of services, which transcend the traditional day spa market segment and target the resort and destination spa customer. They offer a wide array of beauty and wellness services under one roof, seven days a week.
43. Adela Gonzalez
Founder, CEO and President, Future Force Personnel
Future Force Personnel Services is based in Miami-Dade County and Adela Gonzalez is the Founder, CEO and President. The company was founded in 1992 in the Miami Lakes area. Since 1992, the company has experienced tremendous growth obtaining major accounts in the Tri-County areas, and Adela attributes this to the quality and excellent service that her company provides.
Gonzalez has over 30 years of personnel industry experience. She is a native of Havana, Cuba, and spent nearly 20 years traveling and living in many different countries after leaving Havana in 1959. Her studies took her to Florida State University where she obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Clinical Psychology in 1978.
44. David McKinney
Division President, Pratt Industries
David McKinney began his professional career 45 years ago. Today, he is the Division President for Pratt Industries. Pratt Industries is America’s 5th largest corrugated packaging company and the world’s largest, privately held 100% recycled paper and packaging company, with more than 4000 highly-skilled, green-collar employees dedicated to the environment and sustainability. Pratt Industries operates an extensive Recycling Division to supply three of the most modern, cost-effective 100% recycled paper mills in the country.
Prior to joining Pratt Industries in 2007, McKinney was General Manager of Lewisburg Container for over 31 years in Lewisburg, Ohio. He graduated from Wright State University with a bachelor's degree in management.
View the complete list of awardees.