These 5 Local Stars are Ascending in Business and Philanthropy

Meet five young Neapolitans who have planted roots on the Paradise Coast and are making an impact through business and philanthropy

1. Claudia Dal Lago

Founder and President, Ella Creations, Naples

Photography by Vanessa Rogers

Like many young parents, Claudia Dal Lago and her husband, Mike, left a big city for a more family-focused quality of life. “We set our sights on Naples, where my brother and his family settled,” she says. “My husband received a job offer in Naples, and we have never looked back.”

The public relations maven, who was born and raised in Panama City, Panama, says when she first visited New York City at age 7, she told her parents that one day she would work in “one of those skyscrapers.” She did, and with great success. After relocating to Naples, she opened her own agency to help businesses develop and execute effective marketing and PR strategies. “I’m most proud of the business I created and the level of success it has achieved.”

While her career keeps her busy, both she and Mike, who founded and runs Dal Lago Law, are devoted to their two sons. Together, the family likes to bike, bowl, and spend time at the beach. Dal Lago also makes an effort to give back. She’s served as a guild member at the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples, for example, and has worked with the Hunger & Homeless Coalition of Collier County.

Dal Lago is a woman of many talents. She played competitive tennis in junior high and was even on the Panamanian tennis team. Today, she enjoys cooking and entertaining, and often whips up dishes such as ceviche and empanadas from scratch. She and her family also have a passion for trying new restaurants, both in Naples and on vacation. “I sometimes book travels based on where and when I can get my dinner reservations,” she says.


2. Soren Christensen

Founder and Chief Planning Officer, Advanced Wealth Advisors, Naples

Photography by Vanessa Rogers

Soren Christensen is a driven, prosperous businessman. But when asked to do a brief introduction at speaking engagements, he defines himself first and foremost as the father of two little girls and a proud husband. “I know with 100-percent certainty that I am successful because of the support I’ve had from my wife,” he says.

Christensen and his wife, Allison, knew each other in junior high and reconnected via Facebook in 2011. After just one date, “I was crazy about her,” he recalls. Things happened fast, and he proposed in October 2011. They married in July 2012 and moved from Michigan to Naples that September, bringing with him the financial planning firm he’d established in 2010.

They jumped right into the community, supporting the Humane Society Naples, the Shelter for Abused Women & Children, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, and others. After Hurricane Irma, Christensen created Plans for Our Protectors to offer free financial planning for current and former military service members, law enforcement professionals, and first responders to thank them for their service.

In his day-to-day life, Christensen tries to bring a dash of lightheartedness to the serious business of finance by incorporating colorful dress socks and ties into his professional attire. He also strives to remain grounded by focusing on his family and his roots. He still takes out the garbage at his office—a task he did at 16 in his first job as a movie usher. “As I get more successful, I want to stay humble,” he says. “I’m not saying anything bad about anyone who takes out trash; what I mean is, it reminds me of where I started.”


3. Natalie Gonzalez

Manager of Supportive Care, Avow Hospice, Naples

Photography by Vanessa Rogers

Faith, family, and music have always taken precedence in Natalie Gonzalez’s life. Although she wanted to be a singer when she was little, she didn’t relish getting up on stage, so she sought other ways to share her talents. “I learned I could use the thing I love so much and turn it into a career that helps transform people,” says the South Carolina native.

In college, she studied music therapy, intrigued by how music interacts with the brain and the body. She decided to pursue hospice care and moved to Naples in 2016 to work as a board-certified music therapist with Avow Hospice. In her position, Gonzalez oversees complementary therapies and adult bereavement as well as Avow Kids, a loss and grief support team. Today, she’s working toward a master’s degree in human services counseling with an emphasis on marriage and family relationships to further expand her role.

Gonzalez initially lived on Florida’s east coast, where she met her husband, Miguel, a fellow music lover, at church. She moved four weeks later but says, “He pursued me when I was really not sure how things were going to turn out. We got married last September and are ‘sappy and happy,’ as we like to say.”

When not working or studying, Gonzalez attends Summit Church, where she serves as a backup vocalist and keyboard player on the worship team and is involved in community service projects. She also enjoys watching movies on the lawn at Mercato, fishing at the Naples Pier, and taking part in happy hour downtown. Another passion for Gonzalez is supporting healthy lifestyles and longevity as part of the Blue Zones Project, and she was instrumental in starting a Blue Zones task force at Avow.


4. Rachel Kaduk

Business Development Manager, Seminole Casino Hotel Immokalee

Photography by Vanessa Rogers

If you buy the hype that millennials aren’t hard workers, then you haven’t met Rachel Kaduk. This Florida native knows how to get the job done—especially when working with her team at Seminole Casino Hotel Immokalee. One such example: They recently hosted a party for 700-plus guests after the expected turnout was only 100. It took a massive effort, Kaduk says, but “we pulled it off, and we looked like we were rock stars all along.”

Kaduk, who moved to Southwest Florida in 2002, loves Naples’ myriad opportunities to do good. “I am very blessed to work for a company that has a generous heart for so many great causes and organizations,” she says. Seminole Casino Hotel Immokalee supports the Guadalupe Center, the Everglades Foundation, the Naples Botanical Garden, the PACE Center for Girls, the Humane Society Naples, and many more. High on Kaduk’s list is the Women of Seminole Gaming mentoring program for young women. “I am passionate about lifting up young women to know their potential and helping them achieve their goals.”

Her love for supporting the next generation of strong women starts at home with her 8-year-old daughter, Audrey. Recently, they went on a “riches to rags” vacation. The riches—a trip to New York with three Broadway shows and sightseeing. The rags—camping in Michigan the week after. But regardless of whether she’s at home with her daughter or at work with her colleagues, Kaduk tries to live by these words: “All you can do is all you can do, and all you can do is enough.”


5. Vladimir Trivunovic 

Executive Chef, Ocean Prime, Naples

Photography by Vanessa Rogers

Vladimir Trivunovic discovered a passion for cooking by accident. While in college in his native Serbia, he chose a course in gastronomy thinking it was astronomy. “I don’t know what was in my head,” he says, laughing. He then landed in a hotel kitchen for a school internship and that was it. After graduation, he worked at a North Carolina country club before moving to Marco Island in 2014. He thought about returning to Serbia in 2015 but chose to stay in the United States to earn money to help his mother, who was in need of $10,000 for cancer surgery.

In 2016, he joined Ocean Prime as an executive sous chef and was promoted to executive chef last year at the age of 28. “I like to take care of people,” says Trivunovic, who oversees a team of 20 at the restaurant. “If someone comes to me with a problem, I do my best to help. My style is casual and friendly but tough on standards and exceptional service.”

Giving back is a big part of the culture at Ocean Prime. The chef and his team donate time, talent, and food for events such as the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest and the Paradise Coast Wine & Food Experience. When not working, Trivunovic plays chess, ping-pong, or soccer with friends and visits other restaurants to see what they’re up to. Downtime is rare, but he’s okay with that. “When you like what you do, there will never be stress. I always come to work with a smile because I love being here.”

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