There’s no talk about steroids and cutting corners with this hall of fame.
For Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida, the 2022 Business Hall of Fame is about influential, visionary business leaders who have made a significant impact by creating new community opportunities and elevating the educational landscape for youth.
Through their efforts, inductees have helped pave a way for local children when it comes to financial literacy, entrepreneurship and work readiness, according to the organization.
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“Our laureates are selected based on their significant impact as a business leader, concern for improving their community, display of the highest level of ethics and actions as a role model for youth and future generations of business leaders,” said Angela Fisher, president and CEO of the local Junior Achievement. “We are excited to induct our 2022 Business Hall of Fame laureates who all exemplify these values.”
This year, JA is inducting four new members to the hall, which dates to 1999.
‘Success related to ethics, right thing’
♦ Brian Rist of the Rist Family Foundation.
Rist, founder of Storm Smart, has been repeatedly honored by groups all over the region including finalist multiple times for person of the year and business of the year by The News-Press and a regular nominee for the Cape Coral Community Foundation’s Impact Award.
As his growing company employs close to 300 workers, Rist has also stayed busy with community efforts, such as the Uncommon Friends Foundation’s “Reflections on the River,” which raised money for student scholarships, and the ENPY Awards, honoring non-profits. He chaired a political action committee that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help get the half-cent sales tax passed on behalf of Lee County schools.
Last year, Lucas Hall at Florida Gulf Coast University, which serves students in the Entrepreneurship and Innovation program, opened, thanks in part to Rist, who donated the bulk of $1 million toward the project. The Rist Family Foundation Maker Space in the building helps students create products for their businesses with 3D printers, a laser cutter, and virtual reality development kits.
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In giving the money, he said he was inspired by observing the success of the entrepreneurship program, even before it had a regular building for its studies. Rist gave $250,000 of his donation to the Newton Ethical Leadership Initiative, which provides FGCU support with a leading think tank on ethics and leadership.
“We saw the kids and how turned on they were to what’s going on and how successful they were becoming,” Rist said. “I really believe a lot of the success of our company is related to ethics and doing the right thing. When you do good things, good things happen.”
He and his organizations have assisted veterans, such as $80,000 for the Collier-Lee Honor Flight and $10,000 to help veterans pay down medical debt. Other positions he has held include executive committee of the Lee County Horizon Council, executive chairman of the Uncommon Friends Foundation, leadership on the Good Wheels Board of Directors and as chairman of Cape Coral Council for Progress.
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“Lee County has been very good to me and my family,” said Rist, whose company won manufacturer of the year in 2021 awards coordinated by the Lee County Economic Development Office. “I just believe that the county becomes better by people giving back. I come from a world that you don’t have the right to complain unless you are willing to do something about it.”
Restaurant owners tout ‘responsibility’
♦ Ingrid Aielli and Chef Fabrizio Aielli of Aielli Restaurant Group.
One of the mantras for the Aiellis is “community matters.”
Hometown pride plays into it, but they said they take it further, believing it’s their “responsibility” to take action and give back to residents who have supported them for many years.
“I believe you work with a community,” said Ingrid Aielli, a native of Slovakia. The “community supports you, and you support your community.”
For Aielli and her Italian native husband, philanthropic engagements are second nature and an important part of their business philosophy. As owners of Naples-based Aielli Group, the couple run Dorona, Grappino and Barbatella and two Sea Salt restaurants, creating hundreds of jobs along the way. Sea Salt turned 13 in 2021, and Barbatella marked its 10th year last month.
Success for her is watching people grow and then maintaining that high level of accomplishment.
“In general, in life, we don’t take anything for granted,” she said. “You never know when the rainy day is around the corner, and you embrace every moment you can and just continuing and, I believe, (staying) humble.”
In addition to JA, here’s a sampling of other organizations and events the Aiellis have been involved with: American Cancer Society; Champions of Learning; David Lawrence Center; Humane Society; Make A Wish Foundation South Florida; Naples Botanical Gardens; Naples Winter Wine Festival; St. Matthew’s House; Southwest Florida Food & Wine Festival; Shelter for Abused Women & Children Naples and Youth Haven.
Ways to give: Backpacks, food, golf
♦ Larry Lipman of Lipman Family Farms.
Lipman Family Farms and its affiliate organizations play a role in various efforts related to kids around Southwest Florida. For example:
It annually provides backpacks filled with supplies to Immokalee children at the start of the school year. The group distributed 2,000 of them in August.
Working with Brighter Bites and the Harry Chapin Food Bank, more than 266,000 pounds of free produce were delivered to the needy in the first six months of 2021 alone.
Lipman and the food bank have been anchor partners for Brighter Bites since the Texas-based nonprofit expanded into Southwest Florida in 2018.
Through a Lipman partnership with The First Tee of Naples/Collier and Arthrex, a practice golf facility opened in October in Immokalee, which doesn’t have a golf course.
Prior to this, members of the Immokalee High boys and golf teams had to resort to practice in places like classrooms. Near an open field adjacent to Gary Bates Stadium, the center features three hitting bays with nets and an elevated putting green made with synthetic turf.
“We are pleased to be a part of these great initiatives,” said Jaime Weisinger, director of Lipman community relations.
Junior Achievement’s April event
Junior Achievement will host its annual hall of fame event on Tuesday, April 19 at the Ritz Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Sponsorship opportunities and tickets are available at jaswfl.org/ja-hall-of-fame-2. Inquiries can also be made at (239) 225-2590 or [email protected] Current sponsors for the event include presenting sponsor First Horizon and diamond sponsor Title Professionals of Florida.
The group’s goal in Southwest Florida is to continue providing life-changing, no-cost programs to Southwest Florida students.
Locally, it partnered with classroom business volunteers during the 2020-2021 school year to provide nearly 126,000 hours of instruction to nearly 13,900 students in 576 classes in Collier, Lee and Charlotte counties.
Junior Achievement says it’s the world’s largest organization dedicated to giving young people the knowledge and skills they need to own their economic success, plan for their future, and make smart academic and economic choices.
Through corporate and community volunteers, the mission is to provide relevant, hands-on experiences for students from kindergarten through high school.
Today, JA reaches more than 4.8 million students per year in more than 107 markets across the United States, with an additional 5.2 million students served by operations in more than 100 nations globally.
Based at the Naples Daily News, Columnist Phil Fernandez ([email protected]) writes In the Know as part of the USA TODAY Network, which supplemented this report. Support Democracy and subscribe to a newspaper.