2016 Harambee Awardees

Abraham Lincoln Lewis Awardees

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    Patrick Barnes, President/CEO

    20160216 - BBIF Harambee Celebration Images by 106FOTO-243Patrick A. Barnes, P.G. is a professional geologist and environmental justice advocate. He began his career in 1985 working for the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University as a research assistant in seismology, rock mechanics and borehole geophysics. His research focused on the hydro fracturing and characterizing tectonic stresses in abandoned oil wells in western New York State. In 1988 he joined Tibbett, Abbot McCarthy and Stratton (TAMS) a New York based Civil Engineering firm. From 1988 until 1994 he was Project Manager/Department Head at Dyer, Riddle, Mills and Precourt (DRMP), a central Florida based Civil Engineering firm. Read More


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    Michael E Hicks Jr., President/CEO

    20160216 - BBIF Harambee Celebration Images by 106FOTO-251Mr. Michael Hicks has been involved in the field of Technology for over twenty years. He received his BS Degree in Computers and Information Systems, from Florida A&M University in 1988 through the Navy’s BOOST program. After receiving his commission, Mr. Hicks was accepted into the Naval Flight Program where he was designated a Naval Aviator in October 1989. During his career as a Naval Officer he flew Electronic Reconnaissance Missions in the EP-3E from May 1990 to May 1993. He was one of a few African American Naval Aviators to obtain a Designation as Electronic Warfare Aircraft Commander from VQ-1, in addition to many other awards Mr. Hicks was awarded the Naval Air Medal with First Strike for missions flown in support of Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Read More



Robert L. Burns, CEO

20160216 - BBIF Harambee Celebration Images by 106FOTO-256Bob started R L Burns Inc. in 1994 on the values of providing quality construction solutions to his clients. He boasts over thirty years of experience in the construction industry with an educational background in woodworking and furniture design. He has extensive experience with a variety of construction methods such as Design/Build, General Construction and Construction Management. Bob is a leader in the industry and the driving force behind this team encouraging superior performance and innovative solutions. Bob’s dedication to providing quality service is the mission, which he encourages all of his staff to act upon. Read More


Champion Entrepreneur Awardee


Teresa Myers, CEO

20160216 - BBIF Harambee Celebration Images by 106FOTO-237Teresa Myers emigrated from Vietnam to Philadelphia in 1975. After working eight months as a bookkeeper’s assistant, she earned her Associates degree in Fashion Design from Tracey-Warner Fashion Design School (now The Art Institute of Philadelphia). That same year she opened up her own dress shop which she sold four years later. In 1984 she moved to Jacksonville, Florida and began work in accounting for Hydrolec, a growing company that produced hydraulic power units used in the recycling industry. After working for 13 years for Hydrolec, she left her position as Chief Financial Officer to partner with her husband in the development of a company that he purchased; Seth Pumps. Read More


Business Leadership Awardees

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    AAJ Technologies

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    Amjad Shamim is the CEO and Managing Partner of AAJ Technologies. In this role, he sets the vision and strategy for the organization, drives growth and expansion, and fosters its customer-focused culture. Amjad has nearly 30 years of leadership and management experience in the IT industry. Prior to joining AAJ Technologies in 2000, he managed multiple IT divisions for large healthcare technology organizations. He has deep expertise in both technology and strategic planning, and enjoys overseeing the development of innovative solutions that help clients to increase efficiency and gain a competitive edge. Read More


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    Shelli Freeland Eddie, Esq.

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    Shelli Freeland Eddie has practiced law in Sarasota County for 11 years. For nearly 6 years, she served the State of Florida as an Assistant State Attorney for the Twelfth Judicial Circuit of Sarasota County. She has practiced in the private sector and is admitted to practice law before the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida and The Florida Bar. Shelli graduated from the University of Kentucky, with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a Doctorate of Jurisprudence degree in law.  Read More


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    Sterling Blake, CEO

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    Sterling has always been a very ambitious man. Perhaps the passion for his landscape and irrigation business, Sterling Silver Scape and Sod, is derived from his humble beginnings as a farm worker in his Jamaican homeland. As a young man, Sterling dreamed of the possibilities offered in America and arrived in South Florida in 1979. He worked for six years in the sugar fields, until settling in Osceola County in 1985. Sterling adds, “ I had the option of moving further North, but given my love of agriculture and wanting to pursue work in that industry, staying in Florida was a better fit.” Read More


Rising Business Awardees

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    Aquarius Pools

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    Carlos has always had the heart of an Entrepreneur. Since he graduated UCF in 2008 with a B.A. in Business Administration, his dream was to eventually be his own boss. His first job out of college was a great learning experience for him as a manager for Sherwin-Williams stores where he was nationally recognized and awarded for his outstanding performance in sales and management. Only a few years later, from making prudent financial decisions and with the invaluable assistance from BBIF, his dream came true. Before turning 30 years old, Carlos officially owned his own business, Aquarius Pools. Read More


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    Wendy Lu, CEO

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    Jax Medical Billing, Inc. provides Billing, Consulting and Credentialing Services for individual and/or group physician practices. The company offers practice management, front office training, in-depth financial reports, and strategic growth management based on changing Government and Insurance policies and regulations. The company’s focus is the development of client and company relationship. The company’s growth is based on their established client’s referral. In the course of the company’s seven years in business they have had 43 physician practices, of which 30 are still active. Read More


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    Nahomie Ductant, CEO

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    Nahomie Ductant has over 13 years of executive management experience in the food industry. She is a champion at the operation of successful multi-million dollar businesses. So it comes as no surprise when she took her talents to start her own company- Roses’ Delight, Inc., and build a family legacy in 2009. She is the epitome of perseverance despite all obstacles, as she pushed to meet her goals of a major government contract in her first year in business. She achieved her first sale/ contract from Miami- Dade County public school just months after opening her doors. Read More


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    Mitchell Learning Academy

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    ReShawndia Mitchell is currently the Owner and Center Director of Mitchell Learning Academy. Mrs. Mitchell, a native of Jacksonville, graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Health Education and minor in Business Administration from the University of Florida. She then furthered her education at the University of North Florida where she obtained a Master’s degree in Public Health. Mrs. Mitchell became extremely interested in early childhood education after working in the field of public health for over 7 years as a childcare injury prevention in-service trainer as well as a health policy coordinator focused on childhood obesity. Read More


Cultural Diversity Corporate Awardee


Wells Fargo

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Connie Smith serves as Program Manager for the Wells Fargo Works for Small Business®: Diverse Community Capital Program. The program is a three-year initiative that will deliver $75 million in grants and lending capital to Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) that serve diverse-owned small businesses. The program is one component of Wells Fargo’s plan which seeks to address the challenges that diverse small business owners face when starting or growing their businesses. Prior to her current role, Connie served as Florida Community Affairs Manager.

A 20-year veteran with Wells Fargo, Connie is active in her community. She is the immediate past chair of the Nonprofit Center of Northeast Florida and serves on the Florida Education Foundation Board.

She is a member of Class XXXIII of Leadership Florida. She was selected as one of the Jacksonville Business Journal’s 2010 Women of Influence and holds a B.A. from Vanderbilt University. She is based in Jacksonville