The Small Business Committee of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce Presents
Impact: A Seminar Series for Small Business
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Sara M. Hernandez is a Business Banker, serving as Senior Vice President with First Citizens Bank. With over 20 years of proven experience in getting deals done, Sara still enjoys helping business owners with their finances while creating meaningful relationships.
The self-proclaimed “Latin from Manhattan”, Sara landed in Miami over 40 years ago. She has served as a board member for the Florida Grand Opera, the Miami Beach Chamber, the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce and History Miami. In addition, she is the past president of CREW Miami and the current Chair for the Miami Center of Architecture and design.
Somewhere between a deal and a good book is where you can find her.
Senior Vice President, Business Development
EWM Realty International Coral Gables, Florida
Patrick has worked for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices EWM Realty since 1998. Starting as a Realtor-Associate, he transitioned into management in 2002 and senior management in 2006. Over the last 14 years, Patrick has overseen the Development Sales Division, Corporate Relocation, Foreclosure/REO Sales, and other special projects and initiatives for the company.
He has served on the Board of Directors for the Realtor Association of Miami-Dade County, and Florida Realtors. He also served as Vice-Chair of Government Affairs and Board Chairman for the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce.
With a focus on improving arts education in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Patrick also serves on the Executive Board of New World School of the Arts and President of the New World School of the Arts Alumni Foundation where he is also co-founder.
Mike is a Director of Recruitment at Northwestern Mutual of Coral Gables. He has over 14 years of experience in talent acquisition and employee management in South Florida. Mike grew up in Silver City, New Mexico where he attended Western New Mexico University. Since his arrival to South Florida in 2004, his mission has been to make Miami the friendliest city. He has a passion for bringing people together and making a difference in the lives of others.
• He is Northwestern Mutual’s top recruiter for years 2019 & 2020 in the South Florida region
• Ranked Northwestern Mutual’s #4, of over 240 recruiters, in the country for his recruitment of people of color in 2020
• He is personally responsible for the recruitment of Financial Advisors in South Miami and regional director responsible for Miami-Dade campus recruiter(s)
• In 2015 he created For The Love Of Volleyball, a social volleyball organization that has grown to over 500 local members that come together each week for physical activity, fun, & fellowship
• He volunteers providing weekly career and life coaching to disadvantaged youth with HANDY, Inc. (Helping Abused Neglected Disadvantaged Youth)
• He is a co-creator of Wilton Onesie Wonderland, a yearly event that has raised over $14,000 for local non-profits
• He is the creator of Paws4Paws, a night-time pet parade that raises money to support animals living in the homes of terminal LGBTQ patients
• He is Vice-Chair of community affairs for the Coral Gables Chamber of commerce and sits on the Board of Directors
• He is co-chair of Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce’s Young Professional Network
Mike takes the view that he hasn’t met a stranger, just a friend he hasn’t made yet. This view is reflected in every area of his professional and personal life.
Active member of the Coral Gables Chamber since 2017. Active member of the Executive Committee and Board of Directors since 2019. Former co-chair of the 20/30 Committee.
MARTHA DE LA PEÑA ROJAS
Corporate Social Responsibility Manager
Martha de la Peña Rojas serves as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Manager for Guidewell, Florida Blue and the Florida Blue Foundation. In this role, Ms. de la Peña Rojas leads and manages CSR initiatives that advance the community-driven mission and support strategic growth for Broward, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Indian River, Okeechobee, Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties. Overseeing community partnerships and investments, Ms. de la Peña Rojas ensures that Florida Blue builds its brand and corporate reputation, engages its workforce and increases organizational effectiveness in the local market.
She joined the company in 2002 and has served as Manager of Employee Programs and Events, and of Market Development. Prior to joining Florida Blue, Ms. de la Peña Rojas worked in Banking and Finance as a Chief of Staff and Special Events Manager. She has extensive experience in community relations and investments, corporate marketing, employee engagement and event-planning.
Ms. de la Peña Rojas holds a Masters in Business Administration with a specialization in Health Sector Management and Policy from the University of Miami, as well as a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Miami in both Psychology and Sociology.
She is active and serves on the Boards of Directors for a variety of local civic and non-profit organizations including the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, where she is the Immediate Past Chair.
About Florida Blue
Florida Blue, the state’s Blue Cross and Blue Shield company, is a leader in Florida’s health care industry. Its mission is to help people and communities achieve better health. Florida Blue has more than 5 million health care members and serves nearly 18 million people in 12 states, two U.S. territories and the District of Columbia through its affiliated companies. Headquartered in Jacksonville and with regional offices here in South Florida, the company has a rich history of serving and enriching the quality of life in the diverse communities it serves. Florida Blue and the Florida Blue Foundation give back by supporting various organizations and causes that strengthen the places we call home. Florida Blue is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies. For more information, visit www.FloridaBlue.com.
Mark A. Trowbridge
Mark A. Trowbridge serves as the president and CEO of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, a position he has held for the past fifteen years. He is the chief association executive responsible for the day-to-day success of the more than 1,600-member organization, working with volunteer leaders engaged in the Chamber’s long-term business development strategies and community initiatives. The Coral Gables Chamber is ranked as the number one Chamber in South Florida according to the 2020 South Florida Business Journal.
Some of Mark’s accomplishments at the Chamber include raising the profile of the organization in the community, while building robust programs centered on member growth and advocacy, small business, economic development and tourism. In addition, the Gables Chamber is a best-practice leader in such national movements as Small Business Saturday, our local Permitting Assistance Program, as well as heralded community events like Burgerliscious. Mark has grown the Council of Trustees/GEM Members and Chamber revenues during his tenure by more than 40%.
Prior to joining the Chamber, Mark was Deputy Executive Director for Business Development for the Miami Parking Authority in the City of Miami. Under his watch, the Authority engaged in an aggressive period of growth, with more than $30 million in capital projects in the planning, development and construction phases. Mark also helped guide the formulation of the strategic plan for the Authority during his tenure and was the community liaison for its philanthropic efforts.
Mark worked with the National Football League and local South Florida Host Committee to produce Super Bowl XXXIII and led a volunteer corps of more than 8500 individuals, a role he repeated this past year during Super Bowl LIV as Chair of Recognition and Engagement for the volunteer team. Mark also has provided consulting services regarding Volunteer Management and Leadership Development. He has worked with such organizations as the Orange Bowl Committee, the Sony Ericsson (now the Miami Open), Mayors’ Summit of the Americas and International Pow Wow. Mark also previously served as an adjunct professor at both Barry University and St. Thomas University in their respective Sports Management programs for more than six years.
His community involvement includes Past President of the national board for the University of Florida Alumni Association, and is a Past-President of the award-winning Gator Club® of Miami. He served as Program Chairman of Leadership Miami, where he was honored with the Bill Colson Leadership Award. Mark is an Executive Board Member for Seraphic Fire and serves on the boards of the Miami-Dade Beacon Council, where he is on the Steering Committee for the One Community One Goal initiative, as well as Vice Chairman of New World School of the Arts Executive Board and The Children’s Trust, where he is also Vice Chair. Most recently, Mark joined the Board of City Year.
Mark received his Bachelor and Master of Education degrees from the University of Florida in 1990 and 1992, respectively. Mark has lived in Miami Springs, Florida for the past 16 years, with his faithful canine companion Sir Winston Churchill, having moved to South Florida eight weeks before Hurricane Andrew struck in August of 1992. Since then, he has developed a deep and abiding love for the Miami community.
Eric Gros-Dubois was born in New York City, and raised in Dallas, Texas where he attended Jesuit College Preparatory School, and also Southern Methodist University. After living and working in Paris, France, New York City and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, he attended American University in Washington, D.C. where he completed his JD in 2007 and later his MBA with a focus on finance, in 2008. While completing his MBA, Mr. Gros-Dubois began his career in a high-end tax, corporate and estate planning law firm in Bethesda, Maryland. After relocating to Miami, Florida, Mr. Gros-Dubois accepted a position as a Senior Associate with a boutique Corporate and Commercial Litigation law firm. In 2013, he founded EPGD Business Law in Coral Gables, Florida, and has grown the firm to 15 attorneys covering all areas of entrepreneur and business law, with offices in Miami, Palm Beach, Orlando, New York, Washington, D.C, and Bogota, Colombia. Eric truly loves his profession, and feels blessed every day to work with his team and his clients, and strives to become more than just a lawyer but a trusted advisor for all of the businesses and entrepreneurs who count on EPGD Business Law.
As a Sales Associate with Lowell International Realty, LLC, a boutique residential real estate firm located in Coral Gables, Lauren Billingslea Dowlen has a passion for the South Florida community, building relationships and providing service. With a strong background in marketing, community involvement and business development from her years as a non-profit fundraising professional, Lauren offers clients the perfect package of personal guidance and local expertise.
Lauren is a graduate of Miami Palmetto Senior High School and Florida State University where she majored in Communications and Theater. With a deep appreciation for the arts, culture, and education, she has worked with many of the most prestigious independent schools in our area including St. Stephen’s Episcopal Day School, Ransom Everglades and Palmer Trinity. Her ability to bring people together and her reputation as a dedicated professional enabled her to raise millions of dollars for our community’s finest educational institutions.
Believing in the power of service, Lauren has gotten to know the South Florida community by giving countless hours to others. Her philanthropic involvement includes Past President of Beaux Arts, supporting the Lowe Art Museum at the University of Miami, as well as Past Board Member of the Junior League of Miami and as the Chairperson of the Ambassadors Committee for the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce. She is also a leader at St. Philip’s Episcopal School and Church. Lauren lives in Coral Gables with her husband, Buddy, and two sons, who love to take long bike rides together as a family.
Bringing an unparalleled knowledge of our diverse community, Lauren offers a commitment to providing the absolute best in concierge service and a results-oriented approach that routinely exceeds expectations.