Get Inspired: American Dreamers & Bios

Rajan Chopra, Chopra Coaching

Plenary Speaker

After a long and successful career in trading derivatives for leading global financial institutions, as an entrepreneur, and with senior executive roles in public and private companies, Rajan Chopra brings a lifetime of business experience to coaching, advising and mentoring CEOs and senior executives of Fortune 500 companies, entrepreneurs and investment professionals.

Chopra’s coaching philosophy and style are distinctive from other coaches.  He’s a practitioner, not a preacher. There’s a difference. As a strategic thinker, with deep and broad business experience, he combines his natural curiosity and real-world business experience with powerful inquiry, keen intellect, thoughtful insights, an inspirational style and a foundation of integrity in helping clients move forward from where they are to where they want to be.

Chopra grew up in India, got his MBA degree at Stockholm University, Sweden and subsequently moved to New York where he spent 30+ years trading interest rate derivatives at some of the leading global financial such as JP Morgan Chase and Cantor Fitzgerald.  In between stints on Wall Street he’s had senior executive roles with public and private companies, has founded and co-founded a few start-ups, and has served as advisor to CEOs and senior executives.

 



American Dreamer

Alejandro Badia, MD, FACS, Badia Hand to Shoulder Center

Alejandro Badia, MD, FACS is an internationally renowned hand and upper extremity surgeon at Badia Hand to Shoulder Center in Doral, Florida. Dr. Badia graduated from Cornell University and completed his medical degree at NYU. He served as the worldwide president of ISSPORTH and co-founded the globally recognized Miami Anatomical Research and Training Center (M.A.R.C.) and The Surgery Center at Doral, an elite state-of-the-art ambulatory surgery center.

After years of a successful medical career and a prestigious speaking legacy, he saw a need for specialized orthopedic urgent care centers to efficiently assess and treat a range of orthopedic and sports injuries and founded OrthoNOW®, the only network of orthopedic urgent care centers in the country. Each OrthoNOW® has a team of orthopedic specialists on staff that treat broken bones, sprains, torn ligaments and muscles, cuts, sports and workers compensation injuries.

Dr. Badia, a two-time South Florida Business Journal Top 100 Power Leaders in Healthcare and a Top 100 Under 50 Diverse Executive Leader by Diversity MBA Magazine, has also been honored with Legacy Awards from Today’s Work Comp Professionals and The Doral Business Council. OrthoNOW® was named a “Top Ten Franchise Opportunity” in healthcare by Entrepreneur Magazine and featured in the following media: Franchise Times, Orthopedics This Week, South Florida Business Journal, Franchise USA Magazine and The Miami Herald.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Dreamer

Karen Armando Cohen, Amaize Holdings

Karen Armando Cohen is an experienced leader who has created and operated successful fast-food and fast-casual restaurants for past 30 years in the Americas. Skilled in Negotiation, Catering, Food & Beverage, Budgeting, Marketing and Business Strategy. Strong business development professional and firm believer than everything it’s possible if you have the desire.

Cohen previously held executive positions with McDonald’s and Wendy’s in Venezuela. He currently resides in Miami and is co-founder and CEO of Amaize Holdings, a business model based on arepas restaurants for the US market. He is also president at Mister K Corporation, a consulting firm specializing in restaurant trade, which includes management, new development, site selection, construction, and marketing.

During their tenure in various concepts, Cohen and his partners have been growing locations and providing leadership with quality meals in more than 300 restaurants in the region. Their ambitious standards and expectations for strategic ideas, coupled with a disciplined execution, are critical to Amaize’s successful future growth.

Cohen is a Board Member on the Venezuelan Franchise Chamber; Member, Franchise Council Adviser for Corner Bakery Café.

 


American Dreamer

Justin Irizarry, OrthoNOW®

Justin holds a B.A. in Economics from Cornell University, where he was a 4-year varsity baseball scholar-athlete, and a M.B.A. from The Wharton School at The University of Pennsylvania, where he was a Joseph Wharton Fellow. In addition, he has earned the right to use the Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA) designation, the most respected and recognized investment designation in the world. Justin has more than 13 years of experience acting as a trusted advisor and interim executive for a wide range of companies. His diverse business experience has led him to advise for boards of directors and senior management teams in the education, information, digital real estate, medical, and technology industries. Justin started his career on Wall Street with the Education and Information Group at Scott-Macon, Ltd. As the Vice President of Scott-Macon, he was responsible for sourcing and executing transactions in the $50 – $300 million range. Justin joined OrthoNOW® in 2010 and started the Franchise with Dr. Alejandro Badia in 2012. In addition to his role as CFO, he serves as the Director of Operations of OrthoNOW® Doral.

Justin remains active with his alma mater and serves as a volunteer mentor to incoming freshman as part of the university’s Alumni-Student mentoring program and as a prospective student interviewer for South Florida applicants. Justin was named a Top 40 Under 40 by South Florida Business Journal for his contributions to the South Florida community as the CFO and Co-Founder of OrthoNOW®, the nation’s only orthopedic urgent care franchise, and for his work in developing and activating a business model that changes how South Floridians access expert orthopedic care on-demand and at a cost-effective rate.

 


 

American Dreamer

Mario Murgado, Brickell Motors

In December 2000, Mario Murgado took a leap of faith. After nearly 20 years as a rising star in the Miami-based auto group run by Norman Braman, past owner of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, Murgado decided it was time to follow his lifelong dream of owning his own business. He set his sights on Brickell Automotive Group, a “beat-up” store on Miami’s famed Calle Ocho that was moving 16 Hondas and six GMCs per month. Honda Executive Richard Culliver approved the sale, Murgado recalls, but warned him that he feared the point would never be successful. Murgado was undeterred. “I said, ‘This is all I can afford,’” he says with a laugh.

Today, that store is one of nine dealerships in the renamed Brickell Motors group, which also includes Audi, Buick, Cadillac, Infiniti and Mazda franchises. Collectively, the group and its 307 employees sold more than 6,800 new and used vehicles in 2014, and neither Murgado nor Brickell Motors shows any signs of slowing down.

 


 

American Dreamer

Jorge A. Plasencia, República

Named one of the world’s most influential marketing and communications professionals in PRWeek’s Global Power Book, before co-founding República in 2006, Jorge was corporate vice president and operating manager of Univision Radio, the nation’s largest network of multicultural-focused radio stations. He played a key role in the integration and cross-platform opportunities of Univision’s television, radio, and digital properties. Earlier, he held the position of vice president of marketing, corporate communications, and public affairs. Prior to Univision, Jorge was vice president of Estefan Enterprises, Inc. and previously served as the first director of Hispanic marketing for the Florida Marlins.

Named one of the most influential Latinos in the U.S. by Poder magazine, Jorge served as chairman of the board of the UnidosUS, the nation’s largest Hispanic advocacy organization. He is the first Cuban-American, first Floridian and youngest person to hold the post.

 


American Dreamer

Mary Spio, CEEK VR

Digital Cinema Pioneer Mary Spio has created content and technologies used by global titans such as Lucas Films, Universal Music, Miami Children’s Hospital, Microsoft XBOX, Tribune News, Clear Channel and Boeing. Today, she is the CEO and President of CEEK VR INC, a developer of innovative virtual and augmented reality content solutions and experiences. CEEK has created VR experiences for entertainment, healthcare and education.

CEEK VR’s recent Virtual Reality Experience with Universal Music won the prestigious Silver CLIO award in the same category as Disney’s Star Wars and Intel’s Lady Gaga Experience and the 2017 Grammy Award. Mary holds several patents in real-time streaming and virtual reality technologies. Spio is an accomplished novelist and screenwriter (A Song for Carmine) and Bestselling author of It’s Not Rocket Science: 7 Game-Changing Traits for Achieving Uncommon Success (Penguin Books), in which she shares inspirational stories to spur readers to move beyond their comfort zones into creating impact and significance. Ms. Spio is on the advisory boards of Amazon and Oculus VR for Good. Spio served in the US Air Force.

 



American Dreamer

Robert Taylor, Burdette Beckmann, Inc.

Robert Taylor was born in Savannah GA and grew up in Hollywood Florida where he attended St Mark’s Lutheran and Hollywood Hills High. His first job was delivering singing telegrams — but he likes to say that he only accepted the job because he got to sing with the actual Doublemint Twins. He then attended Samford University where he still holds the record as the only student to be on Social Probation and the Dean’s List at the same time. Later Robert married Elizabeth (Taylor!) and they had 2 daughters, Shelby and Brantley.

Eventually, Robert joined his father’s small food sales agency; at the time the Burdette Company had 5 employees, 5MM in sales, and operated only in Florida. 35 years later BBI has completed 30 acquisitions, has 225 associates, 12 offices nationwide and sales of more than 1 Billion. BBI holds true to the lesson handed down by its founders: we all have a responsibility to give back. One of Robert’s favorite quotes is by Muhammed Ali, “service to others is the rent we pay for our time here on Earth”.

BBI is a proud supporter of HUF along with Sheridan House, Habitat for Humanity, and First Priority. When not at work Robert enjoys competitive running and cycling despite a fairly obvious lack of natural athletic ability. Most of all, Robert enjoys time with family, working with charities, or finding a quiet place to read from the stacks of books in his home and office.

 


 

American Dreamer

Claudia Zylberberg, PhD, Akron Biotech

Claudia Zylberberg, Ph.D., is a biotech leader with more than 30 years in the field. She is the founder and CEO of Akron Biotechnology, a manufacturer of novel cGMP-grade products for the gene and cell therapy industries. She also co-founded AssureImmune, an adult stem cell bank, for personalized medicine. She holds numerous patents and peer-reviewed publication records. She has developed products to support the industry growth, like cryomedias and others. Dr. Zylberberg has several patent-pending technologies and grants through NIH and the Department of Defense. In early years, Dr. Zylberberg worked at Nabi Biopharmaceuticals, specializing in human plasma derived products. She is a board member of ISCT, the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine ARM, National Blood Foundation, and the National Academy of Sciences (Regenerative Medicine Forum). Other advisory positions include ISO US TAG, BioFlorida, ISSCR, Cord Blood Association, BioFlorida, and Biomedical Engineering University of Miami. She also published a children’s book “You’re full of genes.”

 

 

 


Moderator 

Tom Hudson - NEWTom Hudson, WLRN

In a journalism career covering news from high global finance to neighborhood infrastructure, Tom Hudson is the Vice President of News and Special Correspondent for WLRN. He hosts and produces the Sunshine Economy and anchors the Florida Roundup in addition to leading the organization’s news engagement strategy.

Prior to that Hudson was the co-anchor and managing editor of Nightly Business Report on Public Television. He also served as the host and managing editor of the nationally syndicated financial television program “First Business.” Tom also held numerous other roles, including but limited to serving as a general news as anchor, reporter, manager and talk show host in several markets covering a wide variety of stories and topics.

Tom has received numerous awards and recognitions for his work. He has served as a member of the adjunct faculty in the Journalism Department of Columbia College Chicago and has been a frequent guest on other TV and radio programs. He is also a frequent guest speaker, appears weekly on KNX-AM/Los Angeles for commentary on the investment markets and writes a weekly column for the Miami Herald and the McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

 


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