Black Excellence: Standouts in Business | Florida Panthers (2024)

Black Excellence: Standouts in Business | Florida Panthers (1)

By Florida Panthers


SUNRISE, Fla. -In celebration of Black History Month, the Panthers will commemorate the third season of the ‘Celebration of Black Excellence’ Series presented by Amazon which recognizes South Florida community members going above and beyond.

From Black executives, owners to educators, producers and healthcare workers, the ‘Celebration of Black Excellence’ series recognizes individuals that were nominated by colleagues, friends, family and more for serving the South Florida community

Honorees' stories and achievements will be highlighted throughout Black History Month at and via Panthers social media platforms @FlaPanthers and @FlaPanthersCARE.

So far, the Panthers have highlighted honorees in nonprofit and .

In this week of "Celebration of Black Excellence," the Panthers are proud to highlight seven standouts in business.

Account Executive – Salesforce & VP of Events – National Sales Network, South Florida

Jasmine Garrett is a sales and marketing professional working for the cloud-based software company, Salesforce. Before working in the tech industry, Jasmine worked in industrial sales at Grainger Industrial Supply. She is currently on the leadership team for National Sales Network, South Florida as the VP of Events. She has dedicated the past two years to reviving the South Florida Chapter by curating events for the community by expanding participants professionally, personally, and through the diversity of thought. Jasmine is an active member of the Black Professionals Network and Salesforce’s Boldforce, Black Business Resource Group. She has experience leading diversity initiatives for business resource groups and has been recognized as one of the top diverse sales professionals in the nation.

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Airport Director – Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport

Rufus James is the Airport Director at the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport (FXE). He is responsible for the day-to-day operations and management of the one-thousand-acre campus. Under his direction, the Airport’s economic impact has increased from $839M in 2014 to $3.9B in 2023, ranking FXE seventh out of 129 airports with the greatest economic impact in the state. He has elevated aviation career awareness and education through multiple annual events including an Aviation Safety Expo, Aviation Career Day at FXE, and Flying Classroom, which is an interactive K-8 program that integrates science, technology, engineering, and math through expeditions and aviation. Additionally, Rufus collaborated with Broward County Schools to initiate an Avionics Technician Program at Atlantic Technical College & High School (ATC), and recently Rufus secured a partnership with the Barrington Irving Technical Training School (BITTS), which will cultivate a diverse & skilled workforce to meet the growing needs of the aviation, transportation, construction, & manufacturing industries. Rufus also co-founded the Uptown 5K on the Runway, which brings the community together to celebrate Uptown Fort Lauderdale, aviation, and compassion towards others. This event has raised over $400,000 for Trustbridge Hospice since its inception in 2019. The unique and uplifting experience is held on the Airport runway at FXE. Rufus is a member of the Florida Airport Council Board of Directors, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance Board of Directors, is Chair of the Alliance Aviation Sub-Committee, and the Career Source Broward Board of Directors. Rufus is married to Hermine James and they have two sons, Nigel James, currently serving as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, and Tyler James who is attending school at the United States Military Academy (USMA).

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Principal, The Beautiful Works, Inc.

Satonya Baker is a brand expert with over 20 years of sales, marketing, and brand management experience.Her leadership, entrepreneurial spirit, and passion for creating elevated experiences have kept her at the heart of billion-dollar industries (entertainment, luxury goods and commercial real estate). In 2013, Satonya founded The Beautiful Works, Inc., an experiential marketing and commercial property management agency. Over the last three years, she spearheaded a $3.6M economic impact to minority-owned businesses, and for further legacy impact, she is producing a documentary, and developing programs that inspire arts and culture with rich stories of heritage to the Black community. Satonya has volunteered with organizations that fight homelessness and promote arts and culture. Recently she authored and published a children’s book titled “The Very Best Part of Me”, which spreads the hope of infinite possibilities to children around the world.

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Founding Partner – Demesmin & Dover Law Firm

Victor Demesmin, Founding Partner of Demesmin & Dover Law Firm, is dedicated to legal excellence, community empowerment, and philanthropy. He has demonstrated a profound commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion within the legal profession, while inspiring a new generation of Black professionals. His legal expertise extends beyond the courtroom, as he takes pride in advocating for social justice and equality. Victor received his Juris Doctorate and a graduate degree in Comparative Law degree from the Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law Center. He also holds a Bachelor of Science in business management and entrepreneurship with a minor in legal studies from the University of Central Florida. Victor is also the Chief Business Officer, CEO and Founder of ALL-IN Management Group. ALL-IN is a local Black-owned sports agency that represents the likes of two-time Super Bowl Champion Jason Pierre Paul, former Miami Dolphins linebacker and host of the Pivot Podcast, Channing Crowder, and world-renowned bodybuilder/influencer, Bakhar Nabieva to name a few. Victor is a proud Haitian-American product and is very involved in the community here in South Florida. He is a proud member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated and currently owns six franchise restaurants throughout South Florida. He is fluent in Creole and possesses conversational skills in French. Victor is a husband and a father of three. During his free time, he enjoys playing basketball, training in Jui-jitsu, watching sports, and traveling with his family.

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President & Chief Operating Officer – co*ke Florida

Thomas N. Benford is President and Chief Operating Officer of Coca-Cola Beverages Florida, LLC (co*ke Florida). As President of the local Coca-Cola bottler operating in Florida, he leads an organization with over 4600 associates who serve 21 million consumers and deliver 119 million cases of Coca-Cola products annually. Thomas’ oversight extends across the end-to end business, including commercial operations, planning, revenue growth management, customer management, field sales, product supply, risk management, sustainability, and facilities management. Prior to his appointment to President in 2021, Thomas served as co*ke Florida’s Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer leading the integrated commercial organization, managing the delivery of enterprise-wide strategies and capability building. He was an early member of the team that helped launch the fully integrated Coca-Cola bottler, which has an exclusive sales and distribution territory that serves 47 counties across Florida. At startup in 2015, he became Vice President of Strategy and Planning. Thomas’ career includes tenure with the Halliburton Company, where he served as Marketing and Development Manager of Baroid Fluid Services and Corporate Finance Manager. Before Halliburton, he was an Investment Banking Analyst in the leveraged finance group at J.P. Morgan Chase. His passions for business and economic development have led him to serve as a member of Enterprise Florida. Thomas serves on the Rice Business Board of Advisors for the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University and the Board of the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council. He holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and undergraduate degrees in Economics and Computational and Applied Mathematics from Rice University.

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Regional Policy Lead, Southeast, Amazon

Cristal Cole serves as the Amazon Public Policy lead in the Southeastern U.S., which includes Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands. In this role, she creates and implements a state policy management framework and assists in the planning, coordination, and direction of programs across the region, while providing policy direction and supporting policy and community engagement in cross team collaborations. She has more than 20 years of experience in public policy, cross cultural communications and community relations across various industries. Prior to joining Amazon, Cristal served as AT&T’s Regional Director of Legislative and External Affairs. A former member of the administration of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, she rose quickly and served in numerous capacities within the administration. Cristal enjoys being an active member of the philanthropic community in South Florida and is a supporter of the arts and children’s issues including foster care and at risk youth. She is a member of The Links, Incorporated, Greater Miami Chapter, a member of the Orange Bowl Committee, Past President/Vice-President of the Miami Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc., and currently serves on the Board of Directors of Associated Industries of Florida, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Florida Retail Association, Teach for America Miami-Dade, Overtown Youth Center, the Crockett Foundation and Dibia Dream Foundation. Cristal is a graduate of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, and the proud mother of one daughter.

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President, TriMerge Consulting Group, P.A.

Geraldine “Gerri” Lazarre co-founded TriMerge Consulting Group in 2003 and is currently the President. As a full-service professional management consulting, project and financial management firm, TriMerge, holds licensure as a certified public accounting and temporary staffing agency. In 2020, TriMerge became a certified 8(a) firm with the U.S. Small Business Association, providing audit and assurance services, accounting and financial management, project and program management, staffing and recruitment, tax compliance and consulting and an array of management consulting and advisory services to government agencies, for profit and nonprofit organizations. Ms. Lazarre oversees the firm’s administration, operations, and corporate governance while also providing support to client engagements. She has extensive experience specializing in project and financial management, leadership and strategic vision. Gerri is passionate about her community and loves to serve. She’s been serving on nonprofit and government boards for over two decades, volunteering in her community. She is also a seasoned accounting professional and takes immense care toward the future of the accounting profession, as she created an internship program for accounting students through her firm and, is an Advisory Board Member of Keiser University’s Accounting Department. Gerri holds a Bachelor’s in business administration from Howard University and a Master’s in taxation from the University of Miami.

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Black Excellence: Standouts in Business | Florida Panthers (2024)
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