We searched Tampa Bay to bring you 10 of the community’s brightest rising stars in business, entrepreneurship and philanthropy. Their passion and innovation have led them to the forefront of their fields, and their hearts remain committed to giving back to the community. Discover their stories of resilience and determination, inspiring hope and igniting dreams. These young leaders are the architects of change, crafting a brighter future for Tampa Bay and beyond.
Meet this year’s Top 10 Under 40.
Managing Partner, Strategos Group
Hometown: Smithtown, NY
Alma mater: The University of Central Florida
At the office: Serving as the Managing Partner to a talented team of leaders remains a career highlight. In 2021, we acquired Strategos Group to align with our vision of being the nation’s leading education management consultancy. During my tenure as Managing Partner, we established three new business units, developed a nationally recognized brand, and created an impact-driven enterprise.
Giving back: My passion is in education as I owe a debt to a system that pushed me forward. I invest my time and resources to enhance our educational systems in Tampa Bay. I am a board member of the Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County and a past board member of the Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV Forever 55 Early Learning Legacy Project. In addition, I am the recent host of TEDxSouthHowardAvenue.
When I was a child, I wanted to be a professional golfer, entrepreneur and schoolteacher – while not professional in all these fields; I enjoy aspects of each in my personal/professional pursuits.
My pump-up song is dynamic. As a former DJ, my playlist matches my day/mood – however, if I had to pick just one, Bob Sinclair’s “World Hold On.”
My most ambitious goal is leading a national education organization advancing students’ lives across the country and supporting entrepreneurs innovating within the field of education.
Director of Growth, InVision Advisors
Hometown: Cape Coral, FL
At the office: As the Director of Growth and Senior Project Manager for InVision Advisors, I oversee InVision’s growth markets to achieve organizational goals and enhance public perception of client projects.
For the past decade, I’ve held several roles at the Tampa Downtown Partnership to help shape the voice of Downtown Tampa’s brand and, early in my career, I was a lead designer at RS&H, a Florida-based architecture and engineering firm.
Giving back: I serve on the Advisory Board of Directors for the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts and was honored to serve as one of the youngest Presidents in 2016. I also serve on the boards of the American Institute of Architects Tampa Bay Chapter and The Tampa Foundation. I recently graduated as a member of the Tampa Bay Chamber’s Leadership Tampa Class of 2023 and joined the Chamber’s Women of Influence Committee.
When I’m not in the office or giving back, you can find me spending quality time with my husband and five-year-old daughter; playing in Tampa’s beautiful parks; happy hours with great friends and attempting to get better at barre class.
My secret talent or skill is I love to sing and cook – often simutneously. My daughter’s bedtime routine has helped hone my skills in singing every Disney princess song in the right key (I think).
Managing Partner, Crackerjack Media
Hometown: Zionsville, Indiana
Alma mater: Saint Leo University
At the office: As the Managing Partner of my agency, I spend most of my days working closely with clients and our local media partners. Since we opened, we’ve been fortunate enough to work on some of Tampa’s most significant events, such as the 2021 Super Bowl, Tampa’s Signature Gasparilla events, Women’s Final Four, Tampa Pig Jig, and more.
Giving back: I have always felt a strong pull towards the child welfare space. I have sat on the Heart Gallery Board of Directors since 2019 and have been a member of the Junior League of Tampa since 2018. This year, I took on a new role as a volunteer Guardian ad Litem. I recently accepted a spot on the Mary Lee’s House Advisory Board for a three-year term. I was one of the Inaugural Chapter Members of WISE (Women in Sports & Events) Tampa Bay. I am also a community advocate and volunteer for the Redefining Refuge. Through Radiant Church I serve on Fostering Together.
The best piece of advice I’ve ever received is to be kind and treat others as you would like to be treated. It’s such a simple concept, yet it has the power to change lives. Growing up, my mother instilled this Dale Carnegie principle in me, and it has become the foundation for how I live my life.
When I’m not in the office or giving back, you can find me on the tennis court.
Before I turn 40, I want to experience all four major tennis tournaments.
Property Manager, Realtor
Hometown: Miami, FL
At the Office: As a property manager at Northland Investment Corporation, I oversee and optimize the performance of various properties. My approach to problem-solving and ability to build strong relationships with tenants have played a pivotal role in achieving high levels of tenant satisfaction and retention. As a realtor with Compass, I’m part of the esteemed TLawrence Group, renowned for their outstanding sales and client service.
Giving Back: One of my most notable contributions was at Mary Martha’s House where I provided support, guidance, and mentorship to help empower women in need to overcome challenges and create better futures for themselves. I also coached the Juneteenth pageant contestants while recognizing the importance of helping young women develop confidence, self-esteem and a sense of purpose. I’ve also volunteered with Tampa Bay Cares, Habitat for Humanity, Susan G. Coleman and Manatee School for the Arts.
When I’m not in the office or giving back, you can find me being a mom to my son Reshod Jr., 18, and my daughter Skye, 16. I also enjoy crafting, traveling, shopping, and fishing.
My secret skill is my passion for rebuilding and refurbishing furniture.
My most ambitious goal is to continue growing as a successful entrepreneur in the real estate business, specializing as a realtor and property stylist interior decorator with a passion to open up a Home Interior Décor Store.
Founder, Connecting Tampa Bay, LLC
Hometown: Tampa, FL
Alma mater: Keiser University
At the office: As the Founder of Connecting Tampa Bay, LLC, my core mission is to facilitate valuable connections and networking opportunities for individuals and businesses within the Tampa Bay area.
Giving back: I am deeply committed to raising awareness and supporting causes that contribute to the betterment of Tampa Bay. I am on the Derrick Brooks Charities board; Mike Alstott Family Foundation committee, Mike Evans Family Foundation committee; Sheriff’s Indian Advisory Council where I’m Event Chair for the annual banquet; Vice President of the Indo-Us Chamber of Commerce Tampa Bay, the Young Leaders Society for the United Way Suncoast and Centre Club Board of Governors among others. Additionally, I have proudly participated in fundraisers such as the Jockey & Juleps Gala for the Associate Board of Ambassadors and the Jail & Bail initiative for Wheelchairs 4 Kids.
When I was a child I wanted to be a football player, driven by my unwavering passion for the sport.
My secret talent or skill is demonstrating proficiency with Indian drums such as the dholak and tabla.
My hero or inspiration is: The most profound hero and inspiration in my life is my father, Dr. Dipak Shah, whose tireless work ethic, compassion, and dedication to community service have left an indelible impact on my values and aspirations.
Lyndsey E. Siara
General Counsel, Sixth Judicial Circuit
Hometown: Pensacola, FL
At the office: As General Counsel for the Sixth Judicial Circuit I provide legal counsel and support to the Chief Judge and Trial Court Administrator and oversee the court’s legal department.
Giving back: For 12 years, I have been a member of The Junior League of Tampa (JLT). I co-created the HCBA (Hillsborough County Bar Association) Government Lawyers Section to highlight and support our local lawyers who are committed to the public sector and recently had the honor of serving as the HCBA Young Lawyers Division President. I serve on the Hillsborough Association for Women Lawyers’ Board of Directors and the Florida Association for Women Lawyers’ Lactation Space Task Force. I was recently appointed Vice Chair of The Florida Bar Journal Editorial Board and treasure my time spent as a volunteer Guardian ad Litem.
My secret talent or skill is unintentionally killing houseplants. I love them, but for some inexplicable reason, it’s not reciprocal. Much to my irritation, each new plant baby receives a humorous blessing from my husband as he wishes them more longevity than the last and thanks them for their sacrifice.
My dream vacation is anywhere near a beach. Nature’s golden hour at the seaside is incredibly beautiful to me.
My most ambitious goal is loving, supporting and guiding my children on their journeys to becoming happy and productive members of society.
Matthew Hale Simmons
Executive Vice President & Partner, Lockton Companies
Hometown: Belleair, Florida
Alma mater: Berkeley Preparatory, University of Florida
At the office: I began my career as a CPA at the international public accounting firm, Grant Thornton. I joined Wells Fargo Insurance in 2013. From 2013 to 2022, I built the largest property and casualty insurance team in the Tampa Bay area and one of the largest insurance teams in the country. In January 2023, I joined Lockton Companies, the world’s largest privately held insurance brokerage, to help grow their Florida presence.
Giving back: My wife, Coley, and I are passionate and dedicate our time and financial resources to multiple children’s health and educational organizations. We also provide college scholarships to disadvantaged youth in the Tampa Bay Area. Some of our favorite organizations are Copperhead Charities, Glazer Children’s Museum, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, Make-A-Wish and Tampa Metro YMCA.
When I was a child I wanted to be like my dad. I still look at him as a role model and frequently solicit his advice.
My favorite thing about Tampa is the people. No matter how large Tampa gets, the community will always seem small to me. It will always be home.
My pump-up songs are “Thunderstruck” and “Eye of the Tiger.” We used to run onto the field to those in my high school baseball days. I can’t believe that was 20 years ago. I still maintain many close friendships from those days.
Coordinator for the BACKBONES Leaders Program
Hometown: Turner, Maine
At the office: I’m the Coordinator of the BACKBONES Leaders Program, which helps people with spinal cord injuries – like myself – get resources around the country and recently accepted a position with Florida Self-Advocates Network’D (FL SAND). I’ve been a para athlete on the U.S. Women’s Sled Hockey Team since 2014 and am a World Champion gold medalist. I’m also on the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Sled Hockey Team and serve as co-captain.
Giving back: The main charity I work with is Wheelchairs 4 Kids, which shows kids and families that despite being a wheelchair user, you can achieve incredible things. I recently received the 2023 Volunteer of the Year award from Wheelchairs 4 Kids and I’m so humbled to be able to work with the incredible staff and other volunteers changing children’s lives. I also work with Ann’s Angels Adaptive Waterski Foundation, Bird Dog Boats and other organizations that work with persons with disabilities.
The greatest adversity I’ve faced is becoming paralyzed and a wheelchair user at 19. I decided that I would never give up on myself, others or my dreams.
Owner/Operator of Santoro’s Pizzeria
Hometown: Toms River, NJ
Alma mater: The University of Tampa
At the office: My office is the “pizza bench” and my greatest achievement has been creating Santoro’s Pizzeria. Anyone who’s worked with me or for me knows I’m going down with the ship. Being a leader and mentor is what I take the most pride in. I see how what I do and say affects the actions of others and so far I’ve seen how much I’ve helped certain people grow and find their own success.
Giving back: I have a hard time saying “no” to supporters of the pizzeria so we created a reasonable budget for charitable contributions, but it goes quickly. My vision has always been to be a part of an honorable organization that focuses on children and/or mental health and put my all into it. I’ve contributed to these causes some, but as we grow, I’d like to be able to do that on a grander scale and be more hands-on.
When I was a child I wanted to be Bruce Wayne – The Keaton one.
My hero or inspiration is Frank Sinatra. He did it his way and I’m doing it mine. It’s not perfect but in the end, my goal is to live a full life and leave a legacy.
My pump-up song is “Sabotage” by The Beastie Boys. I’m a high-energy guy. I like to just get into it and that song gets you there quickly.
Victor J. Gurley Jr.
Hometown: Nashville, TN
Alma mater: The School of Hard Knocks. I’m a 2x college dropout
At the office: From conducting meetings with my dedicated short-term rental staff and members of the Society of Influencers and Creatives (SIC, Inc.), I thrive on fostering collaboration, unity and positive change. I lead clients through the journey of buying and selling real estate. Guiding and mentoring others is also a significant part of my work. As a full-time father, I also make time, between meetings, to play with my son and teach him important life skills such as patience, communication, and a solid jump shot.
Giving back: At SIC, Inc., we’ve organized a homeless supply drive for displaced families in east Tampa. We’ve also provided Christmas gifts for close to 100 orphans, supported a Hoodies 4 Homeless Drive, served meals with Amazing Love Ministries, mentored kids at Joshua’s House, spoken to kids on a middle school AAU basketball team and partnered with the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office on food drives and distribution.
My dream vacation is the Maldives.
My motto or philosophy that I live by is… Stay REAL. REAL is an acronym for “Rich Even After Losses.” It challenges the conventional notion of being rich, shifting our focus from mere financial wealth to a holistic definition of abundance. True richness lies not in our bank accounts but in our ability to rise above losses, turning them into lessons, all while maintaining our character, integrity, and joy for life.