40 Under 40 Selections 2010

Site Staff 40 Under 40

Bright as the desert itself, this group of impressive young professionals promises to achieve greatness in the Coachella Valley

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Associate Director/Event Coordinator, Imago Galleries
Arlene Amick has passion for the important things in life: her 3-year-old twins and her job at Imago Galleries. “I absolutely love my job,” Amick says. “It is such a creative atmosphere.” The 20-year Palm Desert resident began as the gallery receptionist, but found her talent lies in planning events with charities and caterers. Amick also obsesses over locally grown food. “If you eat organically and support the local farms, you are a person who cares about and loves food. It is a good circle to be in.”

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Desert Surgical and Bariatric Specialists
Dr. Ramy Awad saw a need in the desert for advanced laparoscopic and bariatric surgery. So last fall, he moved here from Orange County to open a practice. “The ability to watch the transformation of my patients in all aspects of their lives — personal, social, and health — is so rewarding,” Awad says. He sees his generation as being known one day for its advancements in medicine, specifically in minimally invasive surgery. Originally from Hermosa Beach, the single doctor is an outdoor
guy who loves the desert and enjoys rock climbing.

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Local Sales Manager, Time Warner Media
Originally from Utah, Krisann Bacon appreciates life in the desert, from year-round gorgeous weather to the diversity. “Everyone is from different back-grounds and places, plus it is a vacation paradise,” says Bacon, who oversees six sales people, production, and support staff for TV advertising sales at Time Warner Media. Her passion lies in working with small businesses. “I want to help the small business grow and thrive,” says Bacon, who con-siders herself a part of the “do-something-about-it” generation. The self-described “sci-fi geek” is on the La Quinta Chamber board of directors and the executive board of American Advertising Association/Palm Springs – Desert Cities, but says her heart belongs to Palm Desert Rotary.

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DJ and Producer
Damien Beebe travels all over the world for work, but the Palm Springs native would not live anyplace else. “People save up their whole lives to move to the Coachella Valley,” he says. “Why would I leave?” The DJ hosts a weekly show at Ace Hotel & Swim Club and credits his success to determination. “Persistence paid off,” he says. “It took me from the bedroom making music (at age 14) to doing shows with Eminem and Amy Winehouse.” A record label heard a remix Beebe made, posted on a popular website, and then offered him a deal. Last year, he performed for 10,000 people at the Dour Festival in Belgium. “There’s a vast pool of talented and intelligent people here who can benefit both the desert and the world as a whole,” Beebe says.

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Sports Broadcaster/Sports Buzz Host, 1010 KXPS
When Julie Buehler was studying chemistry in college, she also was writing about sports. Now she is proud to be the “first full-time female sports host in primetime California broadcasting.” She is grateful that the station took a chance on her — but not without a measure of persistence. “I left the program manager messages every day,” says Buehler, who moved back to the desert to be near her grandmother. “Finally, he had enough and gave me a try.” Buehler has always been comfortable being a woman in a male-dominated business. “My parents raised me to be fearless — embrace my passions and run with them.”

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Area Supervisor, McDonald’s
David Cardin left his software career six years ago to join his uncle Dick Shalhoub’s chain of local McDonald’s restaurants. “I asked my uncle what had kept him so interested for the last 20 years,” says Cardin, who supervises six McDonald’s. He now shares his uncle’s passion in a challenging business that has grown from the original nine menu items to more than 200 items. The La Quinta resident takes special pride in the Teacher’s Night program he developed to give back money to local schools. Cardin loves the people part of the business — both the customers and his employees. “I get to develop these employees, who are often here with their first job, and see them grow,” he says.

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Marketing Consultant/Owner,Andrea Carter & Associates
When her marketing career in the Twin Cities brought Andrea Carter to Palm Springs during a frosty Minnesota February a decade ago, she couldn’t pack up and move here fast enough. “Life is too short,” she says. “It’s paradise here.” She embraces every opportunity to apply her marketing strategy, promotions, and writing experience to a variety of industries. The La Quinta resident also enjoys the flexibility of owning her own business, allowing her to participate in her two grade-school daughters’ lives.

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Interior Designer/ Event Planner
Stephanie Chambers gets a rush from the colors, shapes, and planning that fuel the interior-design process. “It all goes back to being an artist,” she says. She occasionally accepts a commission for a mural: “Right now, I’m painting a 10-foot Spiderman on a ceiling.” After clients asked her to design parties for them, Chambers recently began event planning with a lifelong friend. The Palm Desert resident attended San Diego State University and the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles, but family ties drew her back to the desert six years ago. “I am really involved in music,” Chambers says. “My whole family is involved in music, some professionally.”

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Founding Partner, 111 Wealth Management Group
From snack bar attendant to executive chef in one year, and from being a rookie at Merrill Lynch to forming one of the largest wealth-management businesses in the valley, Andy Clark knows about reaching goals. “Now my goal is giving back to the community enough to make a difference,” says Clark, a member of the Coachella Valley Angel Network. The group of experienced entrepreneurs and investors helps fund start-up companies, with the goal of boosting the economy with jobs and economic growth. The husband and father of two sons uses his cooking skills for Operation BBQ for Our Troops, a two-day event for 15,000 Marines and their families at the base in Twentynine Palms.

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Controller, Realty Executives Desert Cities
As controller at a busy real estate company, Heather Coladonato of Cathedral City finds reward when her co-workers call on her for assistance. “If everyone has a smile at the end of the day, I’m happy,” says Coladonato, who also enjoys helping organize fundraising events. Her greatest joy comes when everything comes together and people enjoy themselves. The former dancer and actress dreams of opening a dance studio for the less fortunate. “Dancing makes people happy,” she says. “[With the studio], even those who can’t afford it could enjoy the arts.”

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Katie Finn-Coleman literally worked her way up the food chain. A freelance sommelier, she discovered a passion for wine while working as a server to put herself through college. “There is a whole world of wine out there,” she says. “Wine is about adventure.” Finn-Coleman conducts wine seminars and wine education dinners and trains restaurant staff at eateries in the desert. Her “day job” is representing a line of exceptional wines from Santa Cruz that she describes as “not vanilla or chocolate, but all esoteric, off-the-beaten path” wines.

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Fashion Designer
Fashion designer Michael Costello not only wants people to know his name, but also to earn their respect in an industry he entered at age 14. The Palm Desert resident, who recently finished taping as a competitor on Project Runway, has dressed celebrities from Toni Braxton to Cher and sees his future growing as a designer. “Fashion is my world,” he says, though it is his two children who bring a smile to his face every morning. “We have some really great young people in this valley,” Costello says. “We are making our mark in the world … bringing life to the valley. We will make the valley thrive.”

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Film Producer
Brian Neil Hoff knew at a young age that he wanted to be in show business. After growing up on a farm near Lake Tahoe, he moved to Hollywood as a teen. “I began by picking up trash on a movie set,” he says. That was 20 years ago; today, he is a film producer who recently worked with an Oscar-winning actor. The road to success has had lots of highs and lows, but he sees that as part of the excitement. “My film projects are largely based on my life experiences,” says Neil Hoff , who sees his generation as being passionate about life. “We are seeing the innocence of creativity.” The producer devotes part of his passion to the Male Survivor Organization, which assists men recovering from child abuse.

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Coordinator, Architecture & Design and Photography Councils, Palm Springs Art Museum
An art graduate from UC Santa Barbara, Brooke Devenney was drawn to architecture early on. “I worked at an architecture firm and found I liked the theory and history,” says the La Quinta native, who aspires to become an art curator. She found her niche, combining her love of art and architecture, at Palm Springs Art Museum, where her first job in 2008 was coordinating events. “I wear lots of hats,” she says. “I am learning an incredible amount about art and people and seeing great architecture.” In her free time, Devenney makes her own art — industrial landscape photography.

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General Manager, Ace Hotel & Swim Club
Jason Dibler likes his generation’s sense of adventure and excitement. He brings these qualities to his job as general manager of Ace Hotel & Swim Club in Palm Springs. “We love bringing new bands and DJs to the valley,” he says. Dibler has spent 11 years in the hospitality business, coming from Los Angeles to take the helm of the 176-room hotel. “This was a great opportunity at an exciting time for Palm Springs and the Ace,” he says. “The city is reinventing itself.” Dibler feels his life has been blessed with the opportunity to interact with people daily. “I can give those who are here something new to do,” he says.

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Adam Duplay, who spent most of his youth with Joshua Tree National Park as his back yard, still enjoys nature with his wife and 1-year-old daughter. The Palm Springs resident considers himself on the young end of Generation X, which he refers to as “the last tactile generation.” “We played with our imaginations, instead of video games,” he says. After a short stint living in Australia, Duplay returned to the desert and got a job working for PBS until he discovered his own creative niche: making commercials all over the world. “After the recession, we became more local,” he says. “We do as many as five commercials a week … This is a perfect town to be doing this.”

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Real Estate Agent, The Hamilton Co.
Coachella Valley’s architecture brought Josiah Hamilton here in 2003. He will tell you his agency sells more than real estate. “We are an art gallery with a focus on design-conscious homes that create a lifestyle,” he says. Eighty-five percent of his business is focused on this niche. “We aren’t just selling homes; we are changing people’s lives through architecture,” Hamilton says. “This valley allows freedom of expression for a creative person. That’s why architecture can be so expressive here. Palm Springs has been a breeding ground for this.”

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Director of Marketing, Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa
Josh Herman moved west three years ago from the Washington D.C. area, not only for his job as director of marketing at Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa, but also for the adventure of experiencing another side of the country. Although he knows it is a common perspective that most of the valley residents are from an older generation, Herman sees a new, exciting group of younger professionals continuing to shine. “I think my generation will be known for its hard work and passion,” Herman says. “They have found careers that match their personalities.” The father of 2-year-old Mackenzie, with another baby on the way, sees the highlight of his life so far watching his daughter grow.

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CPA, Lynne Bushore CPA
Christine Jeffers grew up in the desert, but moved to Los Angeles for college and a taste of the big city, happily returning five years ago. “I appreciate and respect Palm Springs so much more now,” she says. “I see a younger crowd with more jobs and businesses … There is a lot to do; you just have to look for it.” Jeffers treasures her career working in an all-female CPA firm that she says really concentrates on knowing its clients. “I want to be caring, like Lynne,” says Jeffers, referring to her boss, with whom she works primarily in forensics.

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Chef/Owner, East Meets West Catering
The former chef for Viceroy Palm Springs’ Citron restaurant wanted to maximize his creative side. In 2006, Aaron Kiefer began his East Meets West Catering business. “It is a different menu and environment every time,” he says. “Every day is a highlight.” Kiefer’s youngest daughter, Mia, led to the chef’s passion outside of work. After Mia was born in January with intestinal obstructions, Kiefer and his wife set up a foundation to help families with hospitalized children. “Mia spent eight months in the hospital, and we discovered some families could not afford to visit,” he says. “We help families with hotel rooms, groceries, gas cards … The foundation spreads awareness with a website (www.kidswithmia.com) that lists events and positive stories on people doing great [with this illness].”

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CEO, American Cab
Greg Klibanov is literally on the move. The CEO of American Cab in the desert and Ambuserve in Los Angeles owned his first medical transportation company at 22 years old and his first ambulance company at age 26. Klibanov seized the opportu-nity a year ago to form American Cab, now splitting his time between residences in Rancho Mirage and Palos Verdes Estates. “In 10 years, I hope to be the biggest transportation guy in the western U.S. — a transportation mogul,” he says. According to the self-made, goal-driven family man, success comes through self-confidence, while being open to failure. “It just makes you stronger,” he says.

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CFP, Wealth Strategist, Integrated Wealth Management
Certified financial planner Brandt Kuhn grew up in La Quinta, leaving to attend college as a business major at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He got into the financial industry while still in college. “I was 19 when I started in the business, doing everything from opening accounts to answering phones,” he says. “Soon I was talking to clients and putting financial plans together.” In September 2009, Kuhn joined Integrated Wealth Management. “Tax laws are changing and getting so complex; you have to be an expert,” he says. “There is a passing of the torch in the valley … My goal is to be a staple in the community — someone you can go to for truthful and well-thought-out advice.”

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Owner, Cheeky’s Palm Springs
Palm Springs native Tara Lazar returned a few years ago, after working in San Francisco in the finance business. Her restaurant, Cheeky’s, has become a favorite breakfast and lunch destination, known for its farmhouse-fresh “adventurous” menu and community edible garden. Lazar creates the menus and does most of the cooking. She is especially enthused about launching a school program called GROW that teaches children the importance of food that doesn’t come from a package. “Hopefully, they will see and taste how much better fresh food is,” says Lazar, who looks forward to children picking the fruit and vegetables they planted from seeds and then taking part in cooking/nutrition classes.

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Policy Consultant/Activist
Paul Lewin has deep ties to the desert: His father and grandfather had well-respected art galleries in Palm Springs. “I grew up shaking hands with famous artists, as well as licking stamps,” Lewin says. He was raised around Latin American art, which he ultimately saw as the tie that united him with community involvement and the plight of Latin American countries. “It was fully united when I went to Nicaragua and deep into Mexico,” he says. “I realized the great inequities.” The former member of the Palm Springs Sustainability Commission and current board member of Witness for Peace has a passion for merging political issues with art. “You can reach people’s hearts through art,” he says.

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Having an actor father (Gary Lockwood) and a mother who is both an actress and infomercial mogul (Denise DuBarry Hay) gave Samantha Lockwood an early and strong sense of creativity and business savvy. Lockwood, also a certified Bikram yoga instructor, left college to jump full time into an acting career. Her first major movie, Shoot the Hero, is being distributed by Warner Bros. “on demand,” as well as on Pay Per View and Netflix. Parts in commercials and a pilot for a desert-set show keep her busy when she isn’t painting or running her jewelry business. This month’s issue of Genlux features Lockwood modeling her fresh-flower jewelry, derived from her early days of waiting tables while going on auditions. “I was told if I wore a flower in my hair, I would get a bigger tip,” says Lockwood. “My tips nearly doubled.”

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Vice President, First California Bank
Christy Majors was in the first graduating class at Palm Desert High School, which she attributes to giving her a sense of community. Her mother insisted she get a job before graduation. Since working as a teller at Wells Fargo, her banking career has escalated. She credits her big breakthrough as refinancing Indian Wells Tennis Garden in 2006. The Indian Wells resident is proud that she is one of the youngest and few women vice presidents in a mostly male-dominated industry. “I have a strong sense of social responsibility — community, environment, and building strong families,” says Majors, who serves on many local boards. “I love to be able to connect with people — make changes and shape the future.”

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Executive Director, Reynaldo J. Carreon M.D. Foundation
While a student at Cathedral City High School, Gloria Margarita received a scholarship from the Reynaldo J. Carreon M.D. Foundation. After attending University of Southern California and completing graduate work at Columbia University, she freelanced for The New York Times and began a broadcast career as a reporter for NBC in Fayetteville, La. She returned to the desert after KMIR-6, the local NBC affiliate, offered her a weekend anchor/reporter position. “I love that everyone realizes this is a small community, and we all have to contribute to it,” Margarita says. She found her way of giving back to those in need in October 2009 when she became the executive director of the Carreon foundation, overseeing scholarships to kids with disadvantaged backgrounds. “We are supporting them and building self-esteem,” says Margarita, who also teaches media at College of the Desert.

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Film Producer
Fresh out of film school, Kyle Mengelkamp is already preparing to produce his first movie — about a wedding videographer who is going nowhere until opportunities arise upon his meeting a funeral director. Mengelkamp, who has always been passionate about producing films, started a film festival at his community college. “I learned teamwork, leadership, and focus,” he says. “All of this applies to making movies.” Mengelkamp says he would love to premiere his first feature at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, because “the Coachella Valley has made me who I am.” Recently, he produced a promotional video for the nonprofit Old Town Artisan Studio in La Quinta, with the goal for this and all his films to “inspire people through film.”

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Gemologist, The Estate Jewelry Collection
Lesley Portman grew up in her family’s jewelry business. “My first memories are diamonds and rubies,” says Portman, sporting a 27-carat sapphire ring from an estate in Italy. “I thought I would go to medical school, but I don’t even remember making the choice … I love jewelry.” An avid tennis player, the gemologist splits her time between the family’s El Paseo store and Toronto. As the basic decision-maker in the Palm Desert store, she enjoys feeling in control. She cites animal causes as her true passion. “My family supports every animal cause there is,” says Portman, who owns two cats.

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Co-Owner, Brandini Toffee
Leah Post and good friend Brandon Weimer were 15 years old when they wanted to raise money for a class trip to Italy. Too young to get jobs, the enterprising teens decided to sell toffee. “Within six weeks, we had paid off both trips in full, plus had spending money,” Post says. “In 2008, we appeared on The Martha Stewart Show and that summer became the youngest in the world to win the Gold sofi, or the Golden Globe of the gourmet food industry.” The two opened their first retail outlet last year in Rancho Mirage, but are also juggling full-time college studies. “There are many tremendous teenagers in this valley doing spectacular things,” Post says.

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CPA/Partner, Peterson · Slater · Osborne
When Pedro Rincón and his wife, Brenda, were ready to begin a family a dozen years ago, they moved from Los Angeles to the desert. “My wife’s family was here, and homes were less expensive,” he says. “It was a better area to raise our daughter.” Rincón, who serves on the board of YMCA of the Desert, believes in the importance of giving back and having an impact on young people. “Everything I’m involved in has an emphasis on youth and their development,” he says. “I would love to see my daughter fulfill her dreams.”

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VP, Amidei Romano Group, Merrill Lynch & Co.
Twelve years ago, Joseph Romano passed on the opportunity to play in the NFL to continue building the wealth-management team at Amidei Romano Group. Romano, who received a full football scholarship to Kent State University, gave up his dream of playing pro ball to develop strategies to manage his clients’ finances. The 2008 Reuters Top Advisor, who is passionate about time with his family and friends, sees his peers as embracing technology to get better at what they do. “I am part of a generation that brings innovative solutions to various circumstances that are thrown at us on a daily basis,” he says.

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Owner, Royale Projects
Rick Royale spent many years writing songs and touring as a musician before opening his first art gallery a decade ago. “[My wife] Paige and I started what was to become a highly acclaimed, underground, contemporary art space in downtown Los Angeles,” he says. The Vancouver native moved to New York when the gallery closed, then back to California for a job at a Palm Desert gallery. “I moved to Indian Wells to work in art and to enjoy the incomparable desert lifestyle,” Royale says. Creating a strong program of important and exciting artists in his own gallery, Royale Projects, is the highlight of his career. “We strive to bring the highest-quality exhibitions of leading-edge, contemporary art to the valley,” Royale says.

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Vice President of Membership, Palm Desert Chamber of Commerce
An Indio High School graduate, Katie Slimko attended College of the Desert, with an emphasis on nonprofit management and early childhood development. That led to her post as director of the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert for eight years. The urge for “something different” brought the self-described “fantastic bowler” to Palm Desert Chamber of Commerce. “At the chamber, I am very involved with the local business community,” Slimko says. “A big part of my free time is spent volunteering with charities.” She serves on the auxiliary board of Sheltering Sisters and helped with the YMCA fundraising campaign this year. “I’ve learned that nonprofit work and being involved in the community is important,” she says. “It can change the world.”

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Department Manager, Leeds & Son
The grandson of the founders of Leeds & Son jewelers, Brett Stein has been in the family business for as long as he can remember. “It was my day care. And in high school, I rode my bike over and cleaned toilets,” he says. After managing the company’s stores in Hawaii for two years, Stein returned to manage the watch department at the El Paseo store. A self-professed hopeless romantic who married in March, he is passionate about family and traditional values. “I was raised on ‘Sinatra days,’ being a gentleman and the idea that behind a good man is a good woman,” he says. “When you sell romance every day, it’s nice to believe in it.” Family and hard work motivate Stein. “The great things in life are worth working hard for,” he says. “We are all measured on the life we live, not on things we acquire.”

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Operations Manager, Proper Solutions Staffing
A temporary position got Meegan Sullivan her full-time career in the temp business. “I took a temporary position in San Diego with Proper Solutions eight years ago,” she says. “When [my current] position opened up, I took it … I fell in love with this area.” Sullivan thrives on matching employees and businesses. “When they come in and tell me their electricity will be turned off if they don’t get a job today, I just hope that I can help them,” Sullivan says. She is excited about her role as a Big Sister to a 13-year-old girl. “I got her a library card a few weeks ago. It was her first one,” Sullivan says. “Becoming more involved in the community keeps me grounded.”

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Principal, Engage Marketing Group
According to Jim Umberger, life is about “following your passion.” After 20 years working in corporate marketing, he left to follow his own passion through his marketing agency, where “everyone works from home” and clients are national and global. Umberger and his wife have traveled to 19 countries and adopted three children, including a daughter from Russia. They are now adopting a son from Kyrgyzstan. Umberger’s pet project and client in the company he formed with Ryan Frederick is The Orphan Campaign, which aids orphans around the world. “At the same time, it gives kids the message to be selfless, to help others,” he says. “It is important to value what’s really important — not the material things.”

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Mortgage Banker, International City Mortgage/Integrated Wealth Management
The in-house mortgage banker for Integrated Wealth Management, Hugh Van Horn focuses on people’s needs and goals for the future. He sees his future as opening more branches of the business to help more people, as well as getting more involved in lobbying government officials to aid consumers. Calling himself the “only tap-dancing loan officer you are apt to meet,” Van Horn has an extensive background in musical theater and serves on several local boards that bring culture to the valley. “I have a wife and three kids,” Van Horn says. “I never wear a tie to work, and I get to help people save money.”

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Co-Owner, Brandini Toffee
Brandon Weimer’s family toffee recipe led him and high-school friend Leah Post to travel to Italy for a class trip and straight into their business, Brandini Toffee, at the age of 15. Four years later, the two have a retail location in Rancho Mirage, where they produce, sell, and ship toffee. “I am very passionate about entrepreneurship,” says Weimer, who is attending the University of
Arizona. “Aside from Brandini Toffee, I am always in search of another great idea.” After graduation, he plans to return to Brandini Toffee full time. “Having been a business owner from the age of 15 has given me the greatest learning experience that a teenager can get,” he says.

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Director of Membership Development, Palm Springs Desert Resorts Convention and Visitors Authority
As director of membership development for the valley’s marketing and tourism agency, Jonny Westom works with each of the desert cities and more than 500 local businesses, as well as major airlines and other cities and organizations around the world. His greatest personal goal is to become a stronger community leader and help develop a better society. The Palm Springs resident loves listening to ’80s glam rock. “I listen to music 80 percent of my time awake and use it to fall asleep and wake up in the morning,” he says.



Group shot by ETHAN KAMINSKY

Special thanks to Ace Hotel & Swim Club, Desert European Motorcars, El Paseo Jewelry, Roberto Madera Salon, and Integrated Wealth Management