Business leaders tell us frequently that supporting outstanding young people is critical not just to the health of our companies, but to our economy and community. That point was driven home recently when a young businesswoman said that if it were not groups that have sprung up to support her and others like her, she would have left the community to start her career.
Now, for the sixth consecutive year, the winners of these Forty Under 40 awards reflect an inspiring and substantial pool of young talent across the North Bay. It is our privilege to honor them, support them and shine a light on them for the whole community to see. [read more]
Young professionals to watch
These 2012 Forty under 40 nominees, though not winners this year, have proven to be successful young professionals to keep an eye on. [read more]
Forty Under 40 alumni network on LinkedIn
The Business Journal has created an exclusive forum for winners of its Forty Under 40 awards over the years. [read more]
(Listed alphabetically after profiles of three high-profile winners)
Amy Berliner, 24
Co-owner and Marketing Manager, Amy’s Kitchen, Inc., Petaluma
With responsibility for marketing, advertising, public relations and packaging sales in the U.S. and the EU, Amy Berliner brings the entrepreneurial spirit of her family to her job. “I always dream of the possible, instead of the barriers to success.”
Working with a small team, she successfully launched the company’s presence in England. Understanding the UK culture and then adapting Amy’s Kitchen’s marketing approach to it was her greatest professional challenge.
Single most important event in your professional life: Being instrumental in acquiring the Tesco retail food distribution agreement in the U.K.
Steps the company is taking to sustain the organization and morale in the current economy: “Because we are dedicated to providing high quality food that people value and purchase even when money is scarce, we are still growing rapidly despite the current economy.”
Community and nonprofit activities: Amy’s Kitchen works with the Redwood Empire Food Bank, gives over $1 million in food donations annually to Kidstreet, provides lunch every Wednesday for an entire school and is involved with a genetically modified food labeling campaign, the Red Cross, United Way and Canine Companions.
In addition, her company sponsors the Amy’s College Scholarship Program for employees’ children, participates in a school garden program and supports Tomorrow’s Leaders Today.
She also finds time to be a voluntary assistant in women’s leadership workshops and works with Landpaths: a partnership of landowners and experts in land management and restoration.
Mentor/admired businessperson: “My father, Andy Berliner.”
Best advice received: An old Yiddish proverb: The heart sees better than the eye, so listen to your intuition.
First job: Taster of Amy’s Kitchen’s kid-friendly products at age 5.
Ariel Ceja, 28
Owner, Bistro Sabor restaurant; President, ”Salud! Napa,” a culinary website
“My goal is to be on ‘hugging terms’ with every guest that leaves our fast, casual-style eatery, Bistro Sabor,” said Ariel Ceja.
He sets the overall tone and pace of the restaurant and works closely with his house staff to ensure that all patrons have a memorable experience.
“I collaborate with our chef, Jeff Murphy, on dishes representative of the spirit we wish to convey — delicious street and comfort foods from all over Latin America.”
This spring he will launch an online cooking show, called Salud! Napa (www.saludnapa.com), a website run by a small group of passionate individuals who believe that sharing recipes, cooking tips and wine pairings can make the world a better place.
Single most important event in your professional life: “Realizing that I wanted to spend the rest of my life creating businesses that reach the consumer both online (through software or entertaining content), and offline, (through restaurants and retail environments), while bringing them both together.”
Greatest professional achievement: “Creating a work culture that makes my employees happy. They are the heart and soul of the establishment.”
Community/non-profit activities: “I was involved with Summer Search, and through Ceja Vineyards and Bistro Sabor, we raised funds for Clinic Ole, CASA, Alden Children and Family Services and a number of elementary schools.”
Best advice received: From Derek Silvers (formerly of CDBaby.com), when deciding whether to commit to something: “If you feel anything less than WOW… That would be amazing! — the answer is no.”
Hobbies: Salsa dancing, running, food photography, film, and reading — as a student of life.
Favorite movie: Eat Drink Man Woman by Ang Lee.
Last vacation: “What’s that?”
Dan Kosta, 39
Founder, Kosta Browne Winery, Sebastopol
Co-creating a brand with national and international acclaim has been a tremendous accomplishment for Dan Kosta.
“In the wine world, longevity and ongoing market approval are quite elusive. My biggest challenge is to create initiatives that exceed conventional wisdom by keeping our product fresh and finding ways to engage our customers.”
Achieving meaningful goals during the first half of his life has been his dream. “I’ve never wanted to wait until retirement to look back at my successes.”
Single most important event in your professional life: The development of a new winery home for Kosta Browne in the Barlow development of downtown Sebastopol has been a great learning experience, and a chance to become more involved in the community.
Steps taken to sustain the company: “Being sensitive to adverse market conditions has allowed us to retain our solid customer base. Having a winery where demand far exceeds supply is an enviable position, but that does not mean that we don’t try for long-term successes and relationships.”
“Maintaining reasonable and fair pricing, participating in charitable organizations throughout the country and simply making ourselves accessible — despite the scarce nature of our product — has proven to be a positive influence internally and externally.”
Community/non-profit activities: He is a member of the board of directors of the Sonoma County Vintners, the Schultz Celebrity Golf Classic (benefiting Sonoma County childrens’ charities), and the Make a Wish Foundation Croquet Classic and Charity Auction. Kosta Browne also supports the Emeril Lagasse Foundation, the San Francisco 49er’s Foundation and Destin Children’s Charities, among many others.
Best advice received: “Don’t get too slick. It is important to remain genuine, honest and approachable.”
Mentor/admired businessperson: Richard Branson.
Favorite after-work drink: “Since wine is the during-the-week-drink, I tend to gravitate toward a cold, lighter beer.”
Nicole Arnone, 31
Marketing Director, Cipolla Financial and Insurance Services, Santa Rosa.
Building visibility for her firm through community involvement is a priority for Nicole Arnone.
“Our clients turn to us for financial reassurance and advice. Since the onset of the recession, our business has grown 20 percent. It’s a challenging economy, but people can still be successful in it.”
Greatest professional achievements: ”For the firm, it was helping Anthony Cipolla obtain Court of the Table membership in the Million Dollar Round Table. I’m also proud to be the founding president of the New Generations Rotary Club of Santa Rosa and current chair of the Young Professionals Network.”
Best advice received: “Don’t take anything personally. You don’t know what’s going on in other people’s lives.”
Last vacation: Visiting Bogota, Colombia, with her grandmother to meet relatives for the first time.
Lorna Brown, 38
Owner and Fitness Teacher, My Gym Children’s Fitness Center, Santa Rosa.
With a passion for children’s fitness, Lorna Brown oversees all operations at My Gym for more than 300 families who bring their kids, ages three to nine years, each week for fitness classes, camps and birthday parties.
She also takes her program on the road to schools and daycare centers and volunteers for the My Gym Franchise Advisory Board, representing 280 gyms worldwide.
Greatest professional achievement: “I’m doing what I can to fight childhood obesity and to inspire families to live active lifestyles.”
Best advice received: Anything is possible when you break a project down into small pieces.
Next professional goal: Expand operations to incorporate a wider variety of classes and reach more children in Sonoma County through My Gym Mobile.