With a magic combination of smarts, skill, compassion and commitment to community, the honorees of our annual 40 Under 40 publication represent the best that Southern Nevada has to show the world, and VEGAS INC is proud to share their stories with you.
In our 18th annual publication, we’re recognizing 40 men and women from a cross section of industries in the valley who have one thing in common — they’re making Las Vegas a better place.
As has been happening since 2001, nominations for the honor poured in. We assessed each candidate’s community service, entrepreneurial spirit and impact on their respective industry.
How they shape the future manifests itself differently from honoree to honoree. More than one is helping our valley’s youth get a firm foothold on the path to greatness, perhaps setting them up to be future 40 Under 40 honorees.
Take the time to read about these young leaders and their amazing accomplishments. This distinguished group plays a crucial role in Southern Nevada’s business development vision, all in their own special way.
We’re able to bring these exceptional Nevadans to you thanks in part to the efforts of our Platinum Sponsors, Living Space and Chase Bank. A special thank you goes to Station Casinos and Red Rock Resort for hosting the soiree where we honored these leaders and innovators.
Kozmoe Alonzo - sbe Nightlife
Senior Director of Nightlife Marketing | Age: 39
Los Angeles native Kozmoe Alonzo parlayed his knack for entertaining people into a career promoting concerts, raves and nightclubs.
He got his start in Los Angeles straight out of high school, prior to moving to Southern Nevada in 2002 to oversee marketing efforts for his family’s wedding chapel.
“Part of my job was setting up dinner parties, receptions and bachelor/bachelorette parties for our clients at various restaurants, nightclubs and lounges in town, and since I was doing it so often, I eventually built a reputation for myself in the nightlife industry, and opportunities began to present themselves,” said Alonzo, who came on board as promotions manager with the opening team of Tao.
He went on to work producing events for Cirque Du Soleil’s Beatles Revolution Lounge at the Mirage, then came on board with the Light Group to open five venues at Aria.
He was recruited to join hospitality company sbe in March 2014 and now serves as senior director of nightlife marketing.
“I drive the marketing and programming strategy for sbe’s portfolio of nightlife venues including Hyde Bellagio, and the company’s newest entertainment venture in Las Vegas, Hyde Lounge at T-Mobile Arena,” said Alonzo, who supports Peggy’s Attic, Child Haven and Three Square. “I am also part of the corporate task force that handles new openings and help in building the marketing, advertising and programming infrastructure for new concepts and nightlife.”
Recent accomplishments at Hyde Bellagio include the addition of an early-evening lounge experience, INdustry Night, She Loves Wednesdays ladies’ night, and The Rewind—A Proper Throwback, a Thursday Night event.
Brad Anthony - Treasure Island
General Counsel | Age: 36
When Pennsylvania native Brad Anthony began college at Pennsylvania State University, he was an ROTC cadet with an eye on a military career. Unfortunately, those plans were derailed following a disqualifying medical diagnosis.
In considering alternative professional paths, “I wanted a career that was intellectually stimulating and would present me with diverse work issues and strategic decision-making,” Anthony said. “After meeting (noted attorney) Jonathan Schochor at a student/alumni event, I decided to pursue a legal career.”
Anthony earned a degree in comparative literature from Penn State and went on to obtain a J.D. from the University of Michigan. He moved to Southern Nevada and worked as an associate with Morris Pickering & Peterson from 2007 to 2009, and briefly with Hall Jaffe & Clayton prior to joining Treasure Island in his current capacity as general counsel in January 2010.
Anthony is responsible for oversight of all day-to-day legal matters for the property, including litigation, employee issues, leases and collective-bargaining negotiations as well as regulatory compliance and risk management.
“This promises to be a busy year,” said Anthony, who serves on the board of Discovery Children’s Museum and also supports the Four Diamonds Fund and Defenders of Wildlife. “In addition to the multiple collective-bargaining unit contracts requiring negotiation, we expect new guidelines under the National Labor Relations Board. “
Also, “the increased awareness of acceptable workplace behavior is also likely to require additional legal and HR development programs,” he said.
Justin Blum - Raw Fitness
Founder and CEO | Age: 36
When Las Vegas native Justin Blum was 27 years old, he realized his unhealthy lifestyle was leading him down a slippery slope.
“Fitness saved my life, and now I get to teach people how it can change theirs,” said the former construction worker, who launched Raw Fitness in October 2010 in order to do just that. “We’ve since opened a total of five locations, with a sixth on its way. We specialize in providing expert-developed fitness and nutrition programs, high-intensity interval-training workouts, weight-lifting, cardio and more through our six-week weight loss challenge and FIT in 42 programs, working with our members to give them the tools for transformation including customized eating plans, body composition analysis and one-on-one coaching.”
With some 50 local employees and more than 4,000 members, Raw Fitness has franchise agreements in place to expand into 30 U.S. markets, including locations in Arizona, California, Washington and Florida.
To further support members, locals and visitors with their health and fitness goals, in 2016 Blum launched Advanced Physique Nutrition performance-enhancing supplements. Last year he also partnered with executive chef Vince Upperman to open the eatery Portion Control in Las Vegas, with a second location slated to open in Henderson this year.
As for as his philanthropic efforts, Blum supports, “Any organizations that help troubled youngsters figure it out, like the ones I used growing up,” he said, adding that thwarting hunger is also a priority. “Last year, our community of members and staff donated more than 8,000 pounds of food to Three Square. We’re also #VegasStrong and raised more than $25,000 to help support families facing the loss of their loved ones.”
Mauricio Bustos - PWI Construction
Director | Age: 35
A native of Paterson, N.J., who credits his education to the “school of life,” Mauricio Bustos admitted that from an early age, he’s loved to build things — and take things apart.
“I always had a lofty imagination, and I loved understanding how contraptions were configured and what made them work, and there was no puzzle I couldn’t conquer,” said Bustos. “The construction field was a perfect fit as it encompassed my natural talents — imagination and problem-solving.”
He originally joined general contracting and construction-management firm PWI Construction — which focuses on luxury hospitality, restaurant, retail and specialty construction — in March 2007 as a project manager and was promoted to director in 2017, responsible for the facilitation of strategic planning as well as corporate advisement of business strategy and growth plans, in addition to oversight of the local corporate headquarters.
Most recently, Bustos was instrumental in the successful rebrand for an upscale luxury hotel in just five months. This included 277 remodeled guest rooms, a rooftop pool, a boutique spa, a fitness center and 20,000 square feet of meeting space. He also played a pivotal role in the development of PWI Construction’s employee training and development program designed to keep employees current on local and national regulations and best practices.
“As a company, we have reached a pivotal point in our growth,” said Bustos, who supports Gracie’s House, New Vista and Best Buddies International. “We turned 33 this year and are using this milestone to examine our brand values and bring more visibility to the business practices that have shaped our reputation and built a loyal customer base. I am proud to be a part of a dynamic leadership team and to help inspire the next generation of builders and leaders.”
Justin Carley - Snell & Wilmer
Partner | Age: 38
Justin Carley credits his competitive drive and spirit in part to his experience as an all-state athlete in high school. He earned a degree in justice studies from Rhode Island College, then moved to Hawaii planning to work in law enforcement, with the outside goal of attending law school.
“Before I knew it, a call from UNLV Boyd School of Law’s Dean Durand forever changed the direction and course of my life,” said Carley, who moved to Southern Nevada in 2003 to earn his juris doctorate.
He joined Snell & Wilmer as an attorney in September 2006 — having worked at the firm as a summer associate in 2005 — and was named partner in January 2014. He spends his days litigating construction contracts, real property sales and leases, ownership battles, franchise agreements, and other transactions and investments.
His experience includes prosecuting and defending actions seeking monetary damages, injunctive relief, declaratory relief, appointment of receivers, and deficiency judgements.
“One of my recent accomplishments is the representation of a family-owned construction company, in which I, along with the Snell & Wilmer litigation team, saved the company nearly $2 million in claimed damages, fees and costs following a lengthy private arbitration, defending against one of the most experienced and aggressive civil litigators in Nevada,” Carley said.
Carley contributes his time to pro bono cases and this year assumed the role of the firm’s loss prevention partner.
“In this new position, I act as the Las Vegas office’s attorney for the attorneys,” said Carley, who also serves as a mentor to young law students through UNLV.
Greg Chase - MGM Resorts International
Vice President, Guest Strategy and Insights | Age: 33
As a youngster, Greg Chase used to take annual family vacations to Walt Disney World.
“This exposed me early on to the magic of the hospitality industry, and I knew from the young age of 10 that hospitality was something I was destined to be a part of,” said Chase, who holds a degree in hotel and restaurant management from the University of Missouri, a masters in industrial/organizational psychology from Capella University and is a certified corporate etiquette & international protocol consultant from The Protocol School of Washington.
He originally came on board with MGM Resorts International in November of 2010 as hotel operations manager for Aria Resort and Casino after spending nearly five years working at — surprise! — Walt Disney World. He assumed his current title in December 2017.
“I am responsible for providing overall guest experience leadership across all MGM Resorts International operations to maximize the value proposition to our guests as to ensure satisfaction and repeat visitation,” said Chase, who is also an adjunct professor in the College of Hotel Administration at UNLV. “I work with our C-Suite, senior executives and property executives to develop strategies and metrics to ensure MGM Resorts remains an industry leader.”
Chase also is active with Las Vegas Pride, sits on the board of the Nevada Hotel & Lodging Association and was a member of MGM Resort’s 1 October crisis team. Additionally, he is working toward the launch of a service-recovery program for employee empowerment.
Yanick Dalhouse - R&R Partners
Group Account Director | Age: 39
A native of Moorhead, Minn., Yanick Dalhouse holds degrees in mass communications and economics from Minnesota State University. She began her career as a reporter and field anchor at television stations in Milwaukee and Fargo.
“I got a chance to meet a number of PR professionals who got me intrigued about the field and inspired me to make the shift to public relations,” Dalhouse said. “Not long after working at my first agency, I became quite interested in how the agency marketed its largest client, the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, and was bit by the destination-marketing bug.”
She went on to work in marketing for the Belize Tourism Board, and also at agency BCF, where she oversaw the “Virginia is for Lovers” campaign. She joined R&R Partners in April 2016 as account director in the Washington, D.C., office and was promoted eight months later to R&R headquarters in Las Vegas to oversee internal and external marketing communications for its largest account, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, as account director, assuming the title of group account director within five months.
Dalhouse led crisis communications following the 1 October mass shooting.
“Serving my client, as well as my new community, I was able to create what became a globally unifying campaign, #VegasSgtrong, that honored the victims, their families and the heroes who risked their lives,” said Dalhouse, who is continuing to develop a more active involvement with the Las Vegas community.
Riana Durrett - Nevada Dispensary Association
Executive Director | Age: 35
Riana Durrett, Esq., graduated from Boyd School of Law in 2008 but admits that she enjoys her current role as executive director of Nevada Dispensary Association more than practicing law.
“It certainly helps to have a law degree and experience practicing law, but working in government affairs can be even more effective and rewarding than practicing in a courtroom at times,” says Durrett.
She joined the association as government affairs coordinator in November 2014, being promoted to her current position as executive director in August 2015.
The Nevada Dispensary Association is a nonprofit trade group that represents more than 90 percent of marijuana dispensaries in Southern Nevada and more than 85 percent statewide, with a mission of developing and promoting best practices among Nevada dispensaries.
“Marijuana law is the most intriguing area of law I’ve come across because it’s relatively new and there is room for change,” Durrett said. “Nevada has become a model for marijuana regulation and being part of that process for the past few years has been engaging and rewarding.”
Her primary responsibilities include increasing communication among members, keeping members updated on industry issues, and conveying members’ concerns to Nevada lawmakers. For Durrett, a typical day would include talking to members about a collective industry issue, providing updates on government affairs, and promoting education about Nevada’s industry and contributions to various audiences. Durrett says the best way to learn more about the organization and educational courses the organization provides is to visit www.nvdispense.com.
Robby Findlay - Findlay Automotive Group
Director of Operations | Age: 37
A fifth-generation Nevadan, Robby Findlay said the automotive business runs in the family.
“My grandfather opened our first dealership in Las Vegas in the early ’60s, and my family has been serving Southern Nevada ever since, now on the third generation and up to 32 stores,” said Findlay, who holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Brown University. “I tried to get out of the business after graduating college. I had applied to law school at UNLV and was all ready to go, until I spent the summer of 2003 back at the dealership and have never left.”
Findlay became the general manager of Saturn of Henderson in 2006, then took on the role of general manager at Findlay Toyota Flagstaff a few years later. He moved back to Henderson after eight years in Arizona and assumed the role of director of operations, responsible for oversight of 10 to 12 dealerships. His daily responsibilities are to communicate with various automotive manufacturers — mainly Toyota, Honda and Volkswagen — and connect with the individual general managers at the dealerships on financial updates, customer updates and promotions.
“(Recently,) we received the Toyota President’s Cabinet Award, given to only 12 Toyota dealerships nationwide, and the top award available for Toyota dealerships based on sales, customer retention and customer service,” said Findlay, who supports the Grant A Gift Autism Foundation, the YMCA, Boys & Girls Club of America and is also active with philanthropic efforts through Findlay Automotive Group.
“Our plan is to continue to grow and adapt to the way customers want to buy and service their vehicles,” he said. “We have five dealerships under construction and we are always looking for future growth opportunities.”
Chris Gellner - Fiesta Rancho
Vice President and General Manager | Age: 39
Chris Gellner was inspired by his grandfather’s stories about the local gaming industry and decided to give it a shot, landing a gig as a dice dealer
at the El Cortez before moving over to the Suncoast in his 20s.
The Las Vegas native and custom-car enthusiast joined Santa Fe Station in May 2005 as an on-call dice dealer, later working at Red Rock Resort, Fiesta Henderson and Texas Station and learning various aspects of the gaming business and casino operations. He was promoted to vice president and general manager of Fiesta Rancho in January 2018, responsible for approximately 500 team members and all aspects of the 25-acre property,.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to make a difference at Fiesta Rancho,” Gellner said.
“We have a lot of events planned for 2018, and I’m excited to be able to give the local community a place to call home. Station was built around that ‘family feel,’ and I plan on continuing to give the local community a place they can enjoy, because they feel like family.”
A fan of custom cars, Gellner is involved with the annual SOC (Save Our Christmas) car show.
“All the proceeds from the show, or from raffle sales, go toward feeding the homeless in the community,” Gellner said. “This past Christmas we were able to give more than 500 hot meals and 500 hygiene kits to the less fortunate.”
Sam Glaser - Stitched
Vice President of Purchasing and Operations | Age: 33
A native of Eugene, Ore., Sam Glaser has a head for business and an eye for fashion.
“When I was 21, I interned in New York City for Ogilvy & Mather,” said Glaser, who holds a degree in business from the University of California, Berkeley. “While my passion was for business and brand management, the seeds of style were planted that summer.”
He joined gentlemen’s haberdashery STITCHED – located in The Cosmopolitan – in August 2012 as the senior buyer, assuming his current VP post in January 2016.
“I helped evolve our buying strategy with a data-driven approach, injecting modern analytics into the art of merchandise curation,” said Glaser, who has also covered style and culture as an editor and journalist for Seven, Du Jour and Las Vegas Weekly. “I love the intersection of numbers and creativity, where sales, trend awareness, vendor negotiations, and stylistic sensibilities all come together.”
Glaser helped negotiate partnerships with designers Tom Ford, Gucci, Dior, Saint Laurent and Givenchy.
“In the operations capacity, working alongside Founder & President Eamon Springall, we helped STITCHED grow into a multi-store enterprise, opening new haberdasheries in Miami and Washington, D.C.,” he said.
“We’re looking at additional expansion opportunities on the East and West coasts, and recently announced STITCHED as the official clothing partner of the Vegas Golden Knights.”
Jen Hooper - TAO Group
Vice President, Human Resources | Age: 39
Chicago native Jen Hooper was initially exposed to the human resources arena while serving as a summer intern studying management and labor affairs with the Chicago Police Department where her father was an executive.
She got her business degree from Valparaiso University in Indiana and later was recruited to join TAO Group as director of HR for Las Vegas in 2009. In 2017, she was named the first female vice president of TAO Group.
In her current role, Hooper is responsible for hiring, managing benefits, training and developing the HR team, and coaching and counseling. She oversees more than 6,000 people across more than 30 venues and flew in excess of 105,000 miles last year alone. Hooper has expanded her role and grown her team, adding responsibility for all venues in New York City just 2 1/2 years later, and overseeing all of the properties in Los Angeles, which opened in 2017. This year the company will also be venturing into the Chicago market.
“In my role it is also important to stay up-to-date on hot topics, ever-changing resolutions and state-specific laws,” said Hooper also holds a certification as a senior professional in human resources, and is active with TAO Group Cares, St. Jude’s Ranch for Children and the American Cancer Society. “But the most important part of my job is the human side, and I run our department by putting the ‘human’ back in human resources.”
Marylesa Howard - Mission Support and Test Services
Senior Scientist and Mathematician | Age: 32
Springfield, Ore., native Marylesa Howard has always gravitated toward mathematics.
“It always made sense when a lot of other things didn’t, so when I needed to declare a major in college, I chose mathematics because I didn’t know what else I would want to spend my life doing,” said Howard, who has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, with a minor in chemistry, from George Fox University, and went on to receive a master’s degree and Ph.D. in mathematics, both from the University of Montana.
Through her Ph.D. advisor, she connected to the Nevada National Security Site and its management and operating contractor, now Mission Support and Test Services. She moved to Southern Nevada in 2013 and joined the NNSS team of scientists. She is currently a senior scientist and mathematician, responsible for developing methods to process image and signal data, writing computer programs to perform said analysis, overseeing and supervising other scientists, and managing the summer internship program.
“When I am at the site, I provide support to experiment campaigns by learning and operating diagnostic systems — measurement devices that collect our data — analyzing data and keeping track of the health of these systems,” she said. “I didn’t know a mathematician could end up working in underground mines, wearing hardhats and steel-toed boots, but I love my job.”
Ryan Jensen - Desert Springs Hospital
CEO | Age: 39
As a sophomore at Brigham Young University, Ryan Jensen got involved with the student chapter of the American College of Healthcare Executives, which sparked an interest in the medical field.
He earned a degree in sociology from BYU and completed a master’s degree in health services administration from George Washington University. He served as COO of Desert Springs Hospital from 2012 to 2014, and was named CEO in January 2017.
Jensen oversees strategic planning, fiscal management, service line growth, physician relations, quality initiatives and regulatory compliance for the 293-bed acute care facility, “But the most important responsibility to me is that we use every means available to make sure our team of physicians, nurses, techs, ancillary staff and volunteers has the tools to do their job and enjoy the work they do,” he said. “I am a big believer that if they are happy, our patients and those we serve will have a great experience.”
Jensen’s recent accomplishments include increasing employee engagement scores, achieving successful Joint Commission disease-specific surveys for diabetes and heart failure, reducing hospital readmissions, reducing staff turnover, and providing leadership in response to the 1 October mass shooting. A longtime supporter of United Way, Jensen currently serves as president-elect of the local chapter of the American Heart Association.
Leslie Jones - Nevada Blind Children's Foundation
Marketing and Special Events Director | Age: 39
Pittsburgh native Leslie Jones was exposed to philanthropy at an early age.
“I was taught by my mother that, ‘To whom much is given, from him much is expected,’ and I’ve never lost sight of that,” said Jones, who holds a degree in journalism from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and spent the first part of her career focused on travel/tourism and hospitality public relations, both with an agency and as owner of her own PR firm. “But when I moved to Las Vegas in 2001 and saw how many nonprofits there were, I was inspired to put my PR skills to good use for different events, and eventually switched to the nonprofit sector.”
In 2009, Jones became a board member of Nevada Blind Children’s Foundation, the only nonprofit in Las Vegas solely dedicated to providing educational services, programs and resources to Southern Nevada children and young adults from birth to age 22 who are blind or visually impaired. In 2012, she joined the executive staff as development director and assumed her current post as marketing and special events director six months ago. In this capacity, Jones is responsible for marketing, social media, public relations and special events.
“In tandem with some really innovative programming, creative partnerships and unique marketing techniques, we’ve seen a huge attendance increase in our programming over the past six months, and have even been forced to place some students on wait lists for certain programs,” said Jones, who supports Wagging Tails animal rescue and the Epicurean Charitable Foundation.
The organization is currently gearing up for its annual Ladybug Gala, which is slated for April 7, “but I’m over-the-moon excited that next fall NBCF will open the very first preschool for the blind in our state’s history,” Jones said.
Amanda Klein - Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield
Marketing Director, Individual and Exchange | Age: 34
When Amanda Klein was in the second grade, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. It revealed a definitive career path: to help others in their time of need and improve the health of her fellow Nevadans.
“As a longtime healthcare executive, I educate the community about the risk factors and lifestyle changes needed for prevention, and as a life-long advocate, I raise money for research dollars and legislative action,” said Klein, a board member of the American Cancer Society who has raised more than $30,000 in the last two years.
A Las Vegas native who holds a degree in journalism from UNR and an executive MBA from UNLV, Klein began her career as director of marketing at North Vista Hospital in 2007, and also served at MountainView Hospital and Sunrise Hospital and Sunrise Children’s Hospital.
She joined health insurance provider Anthem Inc. as marketing director in September 2014 — responsible for all commercial marketing efforts in Nevada — and was promoted to her current position in December 2017, responsible for marketing Affordable Care Act products as well as non-ACA products across 14 states, with primary responsibility for seven West and Central states.
In her marketing capacity, Klein has the opportunity to work with organizations such as the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association, which aligns with her personal passion for eradicating cancer. She works closely with the ALA’s annual Breathe Fashion Show — serving on the leadership committee — as well as the organization’s Scale the Strat Fight for Air Climb.
Looking ahead, “Anthem is dedicated to being America’s valued health partner and we will continue to focus on transforming health care with trusted and caring solutions,” Klein said.
Randi Kolesar - Tropicana
Former Vice President of Marketing | Age: 36
A native of Minnesota, Randi Kolesar’s collegiate and career paths were inspired in part by a cabbie.
“My parents were in Las Vegas for a convention during my sophomore year of high school, and struck up a conversation with their cab driver, who told them about UNLV’s hospitality school, and when they returned to Minnesota they told me I should check it out, as they thought it would be a good fit for me,” said Kolesar, who heeded the advice and moved to Southern Nevada in 2000, earning a bachelor’s degree in hotel administration from UNLV.
Kolesar worked as a slot supervisor on Bellagio’s casino floor after graduation. She then went on to work in various marketing capacities at CityCenter Residential, MGM Resorts International, Coldwell Banker Premier Realty Las Vegas and Wynn Las Vegas before assuming her current position in August 2016 as vice president of marketing for the Tropicana.
Kolsar oversees all aspects of marketing and advertising for the property, including database marketing, player development, VIP marketing, Asian marketing, special events, branding, advertising, social media and public relations, partnering with her counterparts in various corporate divisions to ensure they have the necessary marketing support to drive results and achieve property goals.
“Last year was nonstop at Tropicana,” said Kolesar, who supports After-School All-Stars Las Vegas and Global Gaming Women. “We opened Robert Irvine’s Public House in July, rebranded a handful of food and beverage outlets, opened a buffet, launched two resident shows, and created a comprehensive casino special event program for our Marquee Rewards members. We also hosted Summer Cookout, which kicked off Three Square’s Restaurant Week and raised over $40,000. Most recently, we opened Red Lotus Asian Kitchen and hosted multiple events to celebrate Chinese New Year.”
Dori Koren - Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department
Police Lieutenant, Technical Operations Center | Age: 33
A native of Israel who moved to Southern Nevada in 1988, Dori Koren is committed to combatting crime and terrorism.
“I grew up learning about terrorist attacks and suicide bombings across the world, and as a result, I quickly set my sights on a career in law enforcement, counterterrorism and homeland security,” said Koren, who holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from UNLV and a master’s degree in national security studies from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif.
After graduating from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department academy in the top 10 percent of his class, Koren joined the force as a police officer in July 2006, and in 2008 became the youngest detective in the department’s counterterrorism unit. He assumed his current title in June 2017 — once again the youngest in his rank — responsible for the supervision of a new unit comprised of some 55 officers, detectives, civilian specialists and sergeants. This new unit uses technology to prevent crime and terrorism, and also includes a component called Fusion Watch, which focuses on virtual crime-fighting efforts.
“In today’s day and age, it’s possible that one cop behind a keyboard can prove more effective in many ways than three cops in the field,” said Koren, a supporter of the Wounded Warriors Project.
As for 2018 and beyond, “The future for law enforcement is concerning and promising at the same time,” he said. “Whether it be cop killers and school shooters or mass attackers and terrorists, we are facing a complex threat environment, but we are also entering a new era of policing that offers more potential for preventing violence than ever before.”
Ryan Labbe - 81/82 Group
Co-founder | Age: 35
Ryan Labbe made his foray into the nightlife industry as a barback in his native Rhode Island, eventually moving up the ranks to become the general manager of a Rhode Island hotspot.
He moved to Southern Nevada in 2012 and began working with Las Vegas hospitality architect Andy Masi, consulting for The Light Group. There, Labbe began creating, booking and marketing electronic dance music events. Labbe then joined forces with Jason “JRoc” Craig to form the 81/82 Group in 2012. Together, the two have curated and established DJ residencies and must-attend events for a multitude of Las Vegas venues.
“It’s important to have partners play off your strengths,” Labbe said. “JRoc and I have a respect of each other, as well as an understanding of what we bring to the table individually and what we bring to the table as a team.”
In 2015, Labbe and Craig began working with Masi again, this time as managing partners in Clique Bar and Lounge at the Cosmopolitan. The trio furthered their portfolios with projects at the Palms and the Pendry in San Diego.
“Opening new venues itself is never easy, but opening new venues in a new market and all the learning curves that come from it was a tall task and a great learning experience that will help us moving forward,” Labbe said.
Looking ahead, “What is in front of us right now is our new venues opening in the Palms renovation, Apex Social Club and Camden Cocktail lounge,” Labbe said. “It’s exciting to be a part of the revitalization of that property.”
Gary LaMorte - Mina Group
Vice President, Culinary Operations | Age: 39
New York native Gary LaMorte said the earliest evidence of his culinary prowess could be seen in his family’s messy kitchen after sneaking downstairs in the middle of the night to make a sandwich.
“Some of my earliest memories were of trying to cook romantic dinners for my parents,” said LaMorte, who began working in restaurants at age 15 and honed his skills by earning an associate’s degree in culinary arts and a degree in hospitality management from Culinary Institute of America.
LaMorte apprenticed with the American Culinary Federation, then served as a sous chef with Thomas Keller Restaurant Group and as a chef with Gastronomy Management Group before joining Mina Group as corporate executive chef in June 2011, assuming his current post in February 2015. A hospitality management company with 39 operations across America and two in the Middle East, Mina Group specializes in fine-dining regional concepts.
“My primary roles are the sourcing and development of property leadership teams as well as career pathing to develop long-term relationships,” said LaMorte, who has opened 31 restaurants with the company. “I also manage the corporate culinary team members and perform project management for all new concepts, as well as operational assistance, event execution, menu approvals and recipe development.”
He also developed a website that leads the industry for recipe documentation, and created a continuing-education program for executives.
“And with three more restaurants set to open this year, we’ll continue to drive the relationship between employees and employers to become the employer of choice in the hospitality sector,” said LaMorte, who supports Three Square and the ProStart program.
Leslie Maple - Barrick Gold
Manager, Communications and Corporate Affairs | Age: 39
Nevada native Leslie Maple has always been a talker, as noted on her very first report card in kindergarten.
“My teacher said I was a little too social in class, and while I think communications is more than being social, I do think wanting to inform and be informed has always been in my nature,” said Maple, who holds a degree in political science from UNR. “I never imagined I’d be working in the mining industry, but in 2010, I exchanged my stilettos for steel toes and joined Barrick as a training planner.”
In 2012, she transitioned into a communications-specialist role for mining company Barrick, and assumed her current post in March 2013. In this capacity, Maple is responsible for managing internal and external communications for Barrick in the U.S. She also manages the community-investment funding budget, community outreach and employee volunteer programming in Southern Nevada.
Among her recent achievements, “I was involved with the strategy and planning around opening a Barrick office in Southern Nevada,” said Maple, who serves on the board of Communities in Schools of Nevada. “Barrick is the only mining company to have a presence here. Seeing that come to fruition and watching our Southern Nevada-based staff grow from around 30 to over 100 has been a great accomplishment.”
“It’s an exciting time to be in mining, as the industry is experiencing a digital disruption that is transforming the sector,” said Maple. Barrick’s digital transformation includes the opening of “CodeMine 2.0” in Henderson in December 2017. The company is also co-hosting BattleBorn in March, a hackathon and series of innovation events.
Jennifer McDonnell - MountainView Hospital
Vice President, Marketing and Communications | Age: 39
A natural-born writer and storyteller who penned a neighborhood newspaper as a child, Jennifer McDonnell planned on a career in journalism.
“I honestly never thought of doing anything else,” said McDonnell, who was raised in Illinois and holds a degree in print journalism from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Roseman University. “My first job actually was a copy editor, but then I quickly moved into reporting while living in Texas. When I moved to Las Vegas in 2002, I covered real estate and business. Then I met Heather Murren, founder of Nevada Cancer Institute, and she was so passionate about creating something new that I wanted to be a part of it, so marketing and communications is my second career.”
McDonnell joined the HCA Healthcare system in November 2012 as director of marketing and communications for MountainView Hospital, a 370-bed, full-service medical facility in Northwest Las Vegas, and was promoted to vice president of marketing and communications in 2014. She is responsible for the marketing, public relations, internal and physician communications for MountainView Hospital, MVH-based clinics, and MVH-based Sunrise Health Graduate Medical Education Consortium, which trains the next generation of physicians and surgeons.
“With the addition of our anesthesiology program, we have 159 resident positions,” said McDonnell, who spearheaded the MountainView Bike Rodeo, a community outreach program that provides bike helmets for children in partnership with Jaguar | Land Rover Las Vegas. “This year, MountainView will continue to grow, with new programs including a level III NICU, the opening of our south tower vertical expansion and continued growth of the GME program. By the end of 2018, we’ll also have 408 beds.”
Josh Molina - Makers & Finders Coffee
Owner | Age: 29
A native of Flushing, N.Y., who moved to Southern Nevada in 1999, Josh Molina landed a job with State Farm Insurance when he was 17 years old, and spent six years in that industry as a sales manager before he started getting antsy.
“I quickly learned how much I despised sitting in an office chair 40 hours a week,” said Molina, who holds a degree in psychology from UNLV and was the first in his immediate family to graduate from college. “The restaurant industry always intrigued me, and I knew my calling was in the kitchen. I started working full-time in restaurants when I was 22, and then had an idea for a downtown Latin café with a specialty coffee flair.”
Molina and his business partner at the time, Valeria Varela, formed Areperos Restaurant Group in 2013, and opened Makers & Finders Coffee on Main Street in October 2014. Molina serves as director of operations with a management team of eight and more than 40 employees at two locations, including an outlet in Summerlin.
In his role, Molina — who supports the Clean Energy Project and also mentors young Latino college students — is responsible for growth and consistency. He also maintains the company’s presence on social media, works with managers and handles special events and catering.
“Last year we expanded our hours of operation to include dinner service, and also obtained a full restaurant liquor license,” Molina said, adding that goal was to create a true restaurant coffee bar with a food and beverage program that still focused on company pillars while providing a more diverse selection. “This was a major shift for us where we saw monthly revenues almost double. We also acquired a new commercial Diedrich roaster, and in 2018 are dedicating our efforts to our roasting program.”
Lisa Montague - MassMedia
Vice President of Media and Operations | Age: 38
After graduating from high school, Indiana native Lisa Montague took a couple of years to figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up.
“I settled on advertising because the movies made it look so glamourous,” said Montague, who earned a degree in communications from Purdue University, with a concentration in advertising.
“I have been in the advertising business in this town since late 2003, first with an agency that focused on homebuilders. Then I spent nine years with an agency that focused on car dealers, and it was with this agency that I found my passion for media buying, and in 2007 I completed the media buying courses provided by the Media Buying Academy.”
Montague joined full-service communications firm MassMedia in February 2014 as media buying director, and assumed her current position as vice president of media and operations in July 2015. On the operations side, Montague oversees everything from finance and accounting to human resources, and has helped grow the agency year-over-year. She also provides strong leadership to the media department, executing multimillion-dollar media buys for clients across the country.
She has also assisted in expanding MassMedia’s services to include digital advertising, and recently orchestrating and managing several successfully direct-mail campaigns.
“This past year, during our busiest time of year, we took on a new client and I was able to jump in to help keep the work on track and move it forward,” said Montague. “I was able to help this client and our team grow revenue on both sides, which was win-win for both parties. We will continue to keep our eye on the future and find new ways to grow our business.”
Martha Morales - Nobu Hotel at Caesars Palace
General Manager | Age: 30
Born in Mexico, Martha Morales moved to Las Vegas in 1996.
“As a child, my favorite memories were visiting Circus Circus — and at age 16, my first job in hospitality was as a game operator at Circus Circus, and that’s where I fell in love with the industry,” said Morales, who worked full-time in the hospital business while in high school and earned a scholarship to UNLV from the Epicurean Charitable Foundation and obtained a degree in hospitality management.
She went on to work at the Las Vegas Hilton in the retail arena, then took a front desk position at Arizona Charlie’s Decatur before transitioning to the Stratosphere, where she served in a supervisory capacity at the bell desk and front desk and also served as training manager.
She joined Caesars Entertainment in 2010 as a hotel manager at Caesars Palace, and ascended the ranks to assume her current post in May 2017 as one of the youngest general managers in Nobu history, responsible for the boutique hotel located inside Caesars Palace. She also oversees Qua Baths and Spa, Color Salon and Caesars Weddings.
Nobu Hotel beat all revenue records in January 2018, with the highest single revenue day since its grand opening in 2013. Under her leadership, Trip Advisor rankings for the property have also increased by some 68 percent.
Looking ahead, Morales is enthusiastic about Caesars Entertainment’s partnership with the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative and the company’s commitment to women in leadership roles.
“This really inspires me, and I want to be part of this change and help in any way I can,” said Morales, who is now a board member of the Epicurean Charitable Foundation.
Lisa Motley - Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority
Director of Sports Marketing and Special Events | Age: 39
St. Paul, Minn., native Lisa Motley fell in love with Las Vegas when she first visited at age 15, and knew that someday she would make Southern Nevada her home. Flash forward a few years:
“In May 2000, I left Minnesota the Tuesday following college graduation, arrived in Las Vegas on Wednesday, and went to work as the advertising coordinator at the Aladdin that Saturday,” said Motley, who holds a degree in marketing, advertising and sales management from the University of Minnesota.
Motley worked at New York-New York and the Golden Nugget, then got her first taste of marketing Las Vegas through sports with Las Vegas Events and was hooked. After two years as director of marketing for Las Vegas Motor Speedway, she joined the LVCVA in December 2016 as sports marketing and special events manager, assuming her current position in June 2017.
Motley promotes tourism to Las Vegas through sports and special events. Recent highlights include the development of a Sports PR executive committee, a PR strategy and a Travel Trade program to promote sports and special events to more than 15,000 travel agents and tour operators.
“There’s never been a more exciting time for sports as we officially add five exciting professional leagues and events to our lineup over the next few years,” said Motley, who supports Special Olympics. “This past October saw the NHL’s newest expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights, take the ice, while 2018 had the United Soccer League kicking off its inaugural season in February, the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces tipping off their season in June, and Las Vegas Motor Speedway revving its engines for the addition of a second NASCAR weekend in September. All of this culminates in 2020 when the destination will become home to the NFL’s Raiders.”
Elaina Mulé - United Way of Southern Nevada
Vice President of Collective Impact and Social Innovation | Age: 29
As a student at Cornell University, where she earned a degree in industrial and labor relations as well as an advanced degree in international and comparative labor and labor economics, New York native Elaina Mulé studied international inequality and poverty.
“When I saw similarly troubling poverty in my hometown of Buffalo, I wanted to help bring the same rigor and innovative thinking to the way that we solve social issues domestically,” said Mulé, who began her career working in international development and labor economics before joining the United Way network in 2013 as market research analyst and later director of research and public policy at United Way of Buffalo and Erie County, moving here in January 2016 and joining United Way of Southern Nevada in her current post.
“I develop and manage our strategies related to community impact, in particular, using data and inclusive approaches to define our work, measure our results and scale what works through strategic partnerships,” said Mulé.
Within the first few months with the organization, she developed the Community Reports series, a collection of published data studies to further explore community issues and offer actionable recommendations. She also implemented the new Community Connect information portal as well as a new request-for-proposal process for UWSN-funded programs and agencies and is currently coordinating the Community Voice client communications tool.
“Our focus in 2018 will be continuing to stem multi-generational poverty through collaboration, leadership and information sharing,” said Mulé, who also supports the Animal Foundation and Las Vegas Rescue Mission.
Tim Mullin - Vegas Golden Knights Foundation
Director of Strategic Partnerships | Age: 33
As a student at UNR, where he earned bachelor’s degrees in journalism and political science, Southern Nevada native Tim Mullin anticipated a career as a sports writer that would eventually led him into political journalism.
“But you never know where life will take you,” said Mullin, who was working as a sports reporter in Arkansas when he got a call from a family friend who wanted him to move back home and raise money for the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth. “I turned down the offer three times before agreeing to make the career switch, and I’ve been doing some type of fundraising ever since.”
Mullin served as the center director for United Service Organizations and also dabbled in real estate before joining the Vegas Golden Knights Foundation — as well as the Folded Flag Foundation — as director of strategic partnerships in July 2017, responsible for all fundraising efforts for both organizations. He also oversees the Vegas Golden Knights Foundation’s business advisory council.
“The Vegas Golden Knights Foundation’s mission is to provide a positive philanthropic impact on the community through its five giving pillars: youth development and sports, health and wellness, education, military and first responders, and hunger and homelessness,” Mullin said, adding that the Golden Knights family really pulled together following the 1 October mass shooting. “Within hours, community efforts were under way, and players were out visiting hospitals, police stations and blood-donation sites. One of the most moving moments for me was our Oct. 10 home opener—an incredible tribute to our city and first responders. The foundation’s efforts culminated in a $1 million commitment to the LVMPD Foundation that evening.”
Mullin is the co-founder of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Southern Nevada, and also supports Leadership Las Vegas and the FBI Las Vegas Citizens Academy Alumni Association.
Daniel Palmeri - Cushman & Wakefield
Senior Director | Age: 35
Calabasas, Calif., native Daniel Palmeri was born and raised in the restaurant industry when a chance encounter helped cement his path toward commercial real estate.
“Growing up, my father was rarely home, as he worked days, nights, weekends and holidays,” said Palmeri, who moved to Las Vegas in 2002 and ventured into the real estate arena in 2006 as an associate with commercial brokerage Sperry Van Ness. “My first mentor was a customer and allowed me to learn while still working in the restaurant.”
He served as a senior associate at commercial real estate firm Colliers International for nearly five years before joining Cushman & Wakefield in February 2012 as a tenant representative in the office division. He has served as a senior director for the last three years. His current responsibilities include representing companies in their leasing and purchasing of office space in Southern Nevada. Palmeri also has a focus on attracting new businesses to the Southern Nevada market through networking and social media.
One of the youngest candidates for the elite Society of Industrial and Office Realtors, Palmeri was recently appointed the head of the Young Professionals group for SIOR Global.
“This will allow me to grow awareness for my city and my company to some of the best commercial brokers in the world,” said Palmeri, who is an active board member with After-School All-Stars Las Vegas. “Our local Cushman & Wakefield offices were just recently acquired by Cushman & Wakefield Global, which allows us to vastly expand the services we can deliver.”
Daniel Pearce - Victory Hill Exhibitions
Financial Controller | Age: 33
A couple of years ago, Las Vegas native Daniel Pearce was cleaning out a closet to make room in the nursery for his soon-to-be son — his wife was eight months pregnant — when he stumbled across a long-forgotten box of old comic cards.
“I didn’t even know I still had them,” said Pearce, who has a bachelor’s degree in finance from UNLV. “It brought instant nostalgia of my childhood, and I took this as a sign to join the Victory Hill Exhibitions team to bring the Marvel Avengers STATION exhibit to the Las Vegas Strip.”
Formerly general manager of EMS Exhibits as well as director of retail operations for the MGM Grand, Pearce joined Victory Hill — a global exhibition-production and design company — as general manager in January 2016, tasked with operations related to the opening of the company’s first permanent installation of Marvel Avengers STATION at Treasure Island.
As of Feb. 1 of this year, Pearce transitioned to the position of financial controller for Victory Hill, and is focusing on fine-tuning the company’s business processes. He also handles cost control, budget oversight and contract analysis.
“Over the past two years, our company grew from two exhibition sets to six exhibitions worldwide, so I’m excited for this next professional chapter,” said Pearce, a survivor of childhood leukemia who supports Make-A-Wish Southern Nevada. “They granted me a wish during my treatments as a 6 year old, so they will forever be near and dear to my heart. It’s only fitting that during my time in-house at Marvel Avengers STATION, we hosted multiple Wish kids.”
Ludivine Perrin-Stsepaniuk - Ovia Entertainment
President | Age: 33
A native of Nimes, France, Ludivine Perrin-Stsepaniuk began synchronized swimming at age 6.
“My passion and love for the sport ,” she said, “has been a guiding force throughout my career from competitive athlete to professional performer and now as a business owner.” Perrin-Stsepaniuk moved to Southern Nevada in 2005 and performed in “Le Rêve” at Wynn Las Vegas from its opening that year until 2014, serving as synchro team captain.
She founded Ovia Entertainment in 2016 in order to service the growing demand for aquatic-themed events, specialty acts and high-level training.
“As a start-up small business, my responsibilities cover every element of the organization, from choreography to sales, costume design, talent recruitment, performing and organizing training programs — whatever is required to ensure a premier client experience or facilitate a high-level training regime for synchronized swimmers,” Perrin-Stsepaniuk said.
Perrin-Stsepaniuk’s recent accomplishments include being named as the head coach for the Southern Nevada Desert Mermaids, a nonprofit competitive and recreational youth synchronized swimming team. She was also recently recruited as a coach for the 12-and-under USA Synchro National Team.
“My mission is to bring awareness and appreciation for the artistic nature and athleticism of synchronized swimming,” said Perrin-Stsepaniuk, who supports the Float Like a Duck water safety program.
Xenophon Peters - Peters & Associates
Founding Partner | Age: 36
A native of Madrid, Spain, Xenophon Peters moved to Las Vegas at the age of 6. He holds a degree in managerial economics/political science from the University of California, Davis, and earned his juris doctorate from UNLV’s Williams S. Boyd School of Law. Prior to law school, Peters worked in the financial services industry as a financial analyst for E*Trade Financial.
He began his legal career specializing in transactional real estate law with Glaser Weil in 2008. Peters co-founded Peters & Associates (“Panda”) in June 2009. PandA focuses on personal injury and debt relief, which includes Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy, loan modifications, foreclosure mediations, short sales, deeds in lieu of foreclosure and Fair Debt Collection Practices Act/Fair Credit Reporting Act/Telephone Consumer Protection Act claims.
“Over the past nine years, we have established ourselves as the pre-eminent debt-relief law firm in the valley; the go-to firm people turn to when they have debt problems,” said Peters.
Most recently, Panda has been offering its personal injury services to the Valley. “That practice area has grown by leaps and bounds over a relatively short time, mostly from repeat clients and word of mouth referrals,” said Peters. “We are humbled and honored to have so many clients come back to us and refer their friends and family.”
Looking to the future, Peters said, “We are proud to have helped thousands of clients navigate the Great Recession. Beyond 2018, we see the firm continuing to expand its presence in Nevada and also expand into different jurisdictions.”
Karina Rizo - Bellagio
Director of Food and Beverage | Age: 35
Originally from Southern California, Karina Rizo has been infatuated with the hospitality industry since joining Bellagio as a hostess at Sam’s American Grill in 2001, having moved to Southern Nevada in 1993. She ascended the ranks, assuming her first managerial role as assistant manager at Nectar in 2003 and earning multiple promotions, including general manager of Prime Steakhouse in 2009.
She leveraged this experience into a stint as director of restaurants for Aria in 2013, during which the property launched five new restaurants, with Rizo overseeing every detail of these openings including concept, execution, branding and marketing, financials and talent acquisition. She rejoined Bellagio in March 2017 as director of food and beverage, tasked with overseeing 18 restaurants, six bars and lounges, catering and banquets for 175,000 square feet of convention space and in-room dining for more than 3,900 guest rooms.
“I oversee the daily operations of more than 26 food and beverage outlets varying from two Forbes 5 Star-rated restaurants — Le Cirque and Picasso — to a buffet, in a 24-hour environment,” Rizo said. “I also manage more than 2,700 employees, manage relations with cross-functional departments, and implement the company’s strategic initiatives to continuously improve our food and beverage outlets.”
“In 2018, we look forward to the addition of Wolfgang Puck’s Spago and a refresh of our award-winning Michael Mina restaurant,” said Rizo, who supports Adopt-A-Family, Three Square’s school drive and the MGM Foundation.
Blake Segal - The Cromwell / Caesars Entertainment
General Manager / Senior Vice President of Operations | Age: 37
Originally from Beaver Falls, Penn., Blake Segal joined Caesars Entertainment in an analyst role in 2003 after graduating from Tulane University with a degree in management with a concentration in finance. Since then, Segal has served in numerous financial and analytic positions, assuming his current post as senior vice president of operations two year ago. Last year his role expanded to include general management of The Cromwell and is the only operator in the company who oversees corporate and shared service business units in addition to an operating unit.
On the corporate side, he is responsible for providing guidance to enterprise leaders on operational performance and capital strategies, and direct oversight of the company’s Air Charter program and internal travel agency. He also recently led several of Caesars Entertainment’s strategic architecture initiatives from conception to implementation.
Since taking on responsibility as GM at The Cromwell, Segal has overseen the development of new amenities, the property’s repositioning in the market and introduction of new and differentiated services.
“By making these modifications, The Cromwell has seen step-change improvements,” said Segal, who moved to Southern Nevada in 2007 and sits on the board of Opportunity Village. Under his watch the property has demonstrated record financial results, all-time high service scores, increased associate engagement and has received recognition including being ranked among the Top 10 Casinos in the U.S. by USA Today.
In 2018, Segal will strive to find new services and experiences for Caesars’ core customers while expanding the footprint through new markets and channels.
Greta Seidman - Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce
Vice President of Marketing and Brand Strategy | Age: 33
A New Jersey native who moved to Southern Nevada in 1995, Greta Seidman took a gap year after earning a degree in English from UNLV to determine if she wanted to pursue a law degree.
“I wound up working in marketing and community relations for a restaurant group, where I worked in college, and I absolutely loved it,” said Seidman, who canned her plans for law school and never looked back.
She joined the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce in December 2010 as the membership retention manager, and also served as director of marketing as well as associate vice president of marketing and events prior to assuming her current post in July 2017, tasked with leading a team that is responsible for marketing and brand strategy for the Chamber.
Seidman also edits and publishes the Chamber’s monthly magazine, the Business Voice, and leads the charge in content creation and curation for the Chamber’s distribution channels, including LVChamber.com, which recently underwent a major relaunch. She also oversees promotion and support of more than 100 annual programs and produces Preview Las Vegas, which took place in January with more than 1,700 attendees.
Looking ahead, “We’re excited to launch a small business task force and are debuting a new event series in May that is hyper-targeted to small business, called the Pop-Up Business Showcase,” said Seidman, who serves on the board of the Jewish Community Center of Southern Nevada. “And, as always, our annual Washington, D.C., delegation in October will give us the opportunity to highlight Las Vegas through signature events and promote our contributions to federal policymakers.”
Barbara Tapp - Make-A-Wish Southern Nevada
Chief Operating Officer | Age: 39
Barbara Tapp has always been “the numbers” girl.
“Even when playing Baby-Sitters Club with fake money as a child, I always managed the bank,” said Tapp, an Albuquerque native who holds a degree in business administration with a focus on travel and tourism from the University of New Mexico.
A volunteer with Make-A-Wish Southern Nevada since 2002 — she moved here in 2001 — Tapp worked for 11 years for the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. performing data analysis on customer satisfaction scores prior to taking a leap into the nonprofit sector and joining the organization as data and process manager in April 2014. She was promoted to COO four months later.
“I often joke that I’m the ‘director of paper,’” Tapp said. “I keep the wheels on the bus and wear many hats: finance, human resources, IT/data, loss prevention and housekeeping/facilities.”
Last fiscal year, her team reduced cash costs associated with wish-granting by engaging the business community for donated goods and services. Using a “What gets measured gets done” approach, she also ensures the wish team measures its cash vs. donation expense ratios per wish. Her team has increased wishes granted each of the past three fiscal years by 10 percent, 13 percent and 19 percent, respectively.
“We plan to grant 130 wishes this year, another 11 percent growth rate,” said Tapp, who Adopts-A-Wish each year and also supports the Smith Center for the Performing Arts. “We aim to hit 150 wishes per year within the next two years, a rate at which we believe we’ll reach our vision of granting a wish for every eligible child in Southern Nevada. But if medical institutions like Children’s Specialty Center of Nevada or the new UNLV School of Medicine broaden our eligibility pool, we’ll rise to meet the need.”
Piotr Tomasik - Influential
Co-founder and CTO | Age: 31
Growing up near Silicon Valley, Piotr Tomasik developed an interest in computers at a young age, moving to Southern Nevada in 2004 and earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science with a minor in mathematics from UNLV.
He launched his career as a senior technology analyst for a green energy startup, and also worked in various technology roles for a few other companies before being bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and cofounding his first company in 2013, a virtual gathering place for sports enthusiasts.
He co-founded Influential in 2014, and has served as CTO ever since, taking a hands-on role in helping to build the company’s software products and foster partnerships to achieve long-term visions and goals.
With customers such as Sony Pictures and the United Nations, Influential matches brands with appropriate influencers. Influencers are analyzed psychologically, demographically and contextually to determine whether their followers on social media would find that brand of interest.
Since its establishment, Influential has enjoyed explosive growth, growing from four to a total of 75 employees, and has increased revenue by more than 100 percent for the last two years.
“We recently launched our first SaaS (software as a service) product for talent managers,” said Tomasik, who is also a partner in software consultancy firm Shark and Cooper.
Tomasik supports UNLV, and says Influential is the largest employer of graduates from its Department of Computer Science.
Desiree Van Leer - Olympia Cos.
Marketing Manager | Age: 37
Desiree Van Leer, who hails from Tracy, Calif., moved to Southern Nevada in 1998, and has been a licensed Nevada real estate agent since 2004. Her previous experience includes Ryland Homes, which she joined as a sales trainee, transitioning quickly to sales and marketing manager, a position she held for two years. She also served as an operations manager for a real estate software company prior to joining developer Olympia Cos. as marketing manager in October 2016.
“I manage the marketing and promotions of Skye Canyon and Southern Highlands master- planned communities,” Van Leer said. “One of my chief responsibilities is to complete market and consumer research to analyze the best ways to reach our target audience. Based on that data I coordinate advertising and media, and organize our Fit Lives Here events that Skye Canyon holds for the entire Las Vegas community. Some of the events include Skye & Stars, Fit Fest, Chalk & Cheers and Pray for Snow, which draw thousands of individuals from all over the valley.”
Van Leer recently implemented the new Skye Canyon Premier Agent Program, which educates local real estate agents on Skye Canyon. That program helped catapult Skye Canyon to experience a 93 percent year-over-year growth in the past year which resulted in Skye Canyon being included in the John Burns Real Estate Consulting’s 2017 Top 50 Master-Planned Communities’ in the U.S. She also created the Skye Serves program, which provides residents the opportunity to give back to local nonprofits as well as a component for Olympia Cos. to match donations.
“We have worked with 14 local nonprofits, and I take a lot of pride in Skye Serves, because I think it’s important to give back to the community,” said Van Leer, who is also gearing up for the opening of Phase II of Skye Canyon.
Connie Yeh - 9th Bridge School
Founder | Age: 35
Chartered financial analyst and New York native Connie Yeh was working on Wall Street as a vice president for Citigroup when she was asked, “If you could do anything in the world, what would it be?”
“So I quit my job in finance and moved to Las Vegas in October 2011 to open a school,” said Yeh, a graduate of the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania who was tapped by Zappos’ Tony Hsieh to lead the Downtown Project’s educational initiatives. “I wanted to create a school that provided an engaging hands-on curriculum with a focus on preparing children to become leaders of their own lives, so I assembled a team of experienced educators and we went through construction, designed the curriculum, hired the teachers and opened the 9th Bridge School in August 2013.”
A nonprofit student-driven facility, the 9th Bridge School serves children 12 months to fourth grade in a progressive, project-based environment where students learn social and emotional development, critical thinking, and integrated academic skills at a young age. By incorporating the best attributes of various teaching philosophies, providing teachers with exceptional professional development, securing local art and business partnerships, introducing innovative hands-on teaching techniques and a high teacher-retention rate, enrollment has increased fourfold.
“9th Bridge continues to grow enrollment-wise, and we are adding a grade a year up to fifth grade,” said Yeh, who is member of the education committee for the City of Las Vegas’ Innovation in Education Committee and a 2016 Jameson Fellowship Cohort. “We continue to add programs every year, hope to make the city our classroom, and will be incorporating our community into our learning experiences. Our STEAM-centric summer program also continues to grow.”
Steve Young - Edge Steakhouse
Executive Chef | Age: 34
As a teenager, New Jersey native Steve Young learned cooking technique under the tutelage of his mother and grandmother, going on to hone his craft at the Art Institute of New York City, where he earned an associate degree in culinary and business management.
He launched his professional culinary career in 2006 as sous chef at Due Mari/Due Terre in New Jersey prior to moving to Southern Nevada to assume the position of master chef with Joël Robuchon at MGM Grand in January 2008. He transitioned to the Cosmopolitan in 2010, working in various capacities including sous chef at Wicked Spoon Buffet, and chef de cuisine at the Pool District and The Henry.
In June 2015, he came on board as chef de cuisine for the grand opening of Park City, Utah-based Edge Steakhouse at Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino, and now serves as executive chef at the award-winning restaurant.
Among his recent accomplishments, Young was part of a 2017 team of Westgate chefs who were invited to prepare dinner for the James Beard Foundation’s “Valentine’s Day with a Kiss” event in New York City. The following month, he was named Best New Chef/Rising Star at the 2017 Silver State Awards.