Florida SBDC at FGCU Honors Local Entrepreneurs at 2024 Distinguished Entrepreneur Awards


Florida SBDC at FGCU Honors Local Entrepreneurs at 2024 Distinguished Entrepreneur Awards

FORT MYERS, FL (05/09/24)– The Florida Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) proudly announced the winners of the 2024 Distinguished Entrepreneur Awards. This prestigious event recognizes exceptional Southwest Florida businesses and their entrepreneurial leaders.

Distinguished Entrepreneur Award
This year’s top honor, the Distinguished Entrepreneur Award, was presented to Deanna Wallin, founder of Naples Soap Company. Wallin’s commitment to high-quality, natural products and exceptional customer service has propelled her company to become a renowned skincare brand.
Emerging Business Award
Dr. Jenny Cavanaugh of smiLee Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics earned the Emerging Business Award for her rapidly growing practice that provides innovative and child-focused dental care.
Servant Leader Award
Erika Donalds, founder of OptimaEd, received recognition for her educational services company specializing in assisting students and families navigate complex education systems. Donalds’ expertise and focus on inclusivity have made her company an invaluable community resource.

The event also featured two additional awards:

  • SBA Award for State of Florida Minority Business Owner of the Year: Janelle Miley of Global Strategies LLC for her impactful contributions to international trade consulting.
  • William O. Webb Award: Chelsey Katz of Blind Date Fishing for her unique business model and dedication to promoting ethical and sustainable fishing practices.

“The 2024 Distinguished Entrepreneur Award winners showcase the exceptional spirit of entrepreneurship within Southwest Florida,” said Dorian Zwierewicz, Regional Director of the Florida SBDC at FGCU. “Their innovation, resilience, and dedication to their communities set a benchmark for small business excellence.”

The award ceremony was a vibrant celebration of the thriving business sector in the region and provided inspiration and networking opportunities for attendees.

About the Florida SBDC at FGCU

The Florida SBDC at FGCU provides high-quality business consulting and training to entrepreneurs and small business owners, assisting them in making sound decisions and achieving their business goals. It is part of a statewide network of Small Business Development Centers.


Contact: Donna Jarrett | sbdc@fgcu.edu | 239-745-3700

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