The Las Vegas Business Press’ Rising Stars of Business Class of 2014 is a tenacious group.
Many started on the ground level, climbing the ranks quickly. And as our honorees approach the pinnacle of their careers, they don’t hesitate to help others achieve their goals. Philanthropy and education are common extracurriculars for these professionals.
Representing varied industries, from banking and law to construction and gaming, our Rising Stars possess the qualities necessary to success in Las Vegas: leadership, drive and a connection to the community.
After careful consideration, we give you our 10.
CONSUMER MARKET MANAGER, BANK OF AMERICA
A summer job as a bank teller turned into a career in finance for Edgar Velazquez.
He graduated from Bonanza High School in 2003 and thought a job with Bank of America would prove to be a good experience in the business world while he worked toward a degree in criminal justice at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Velazquez earned the degree in 2008, but never left banking.
After 10 years and several roles, Velazquez is Bank of America’s consumer market manager for retail banking and distribution, a regional manager position in which he oversees 13 banking centers with 120 employees.
“I have always had an interest in banking,” Velazquez said. “Bank of America gave me an opportunity to grow and move forward in my career. I do use what I learned in my degree from time to time in banking, but I’m very happy with this career choice.”
Velazquez spent just a year and a half as a teller before transitioning into a personal banker role.
“I was able to sit with clients to help provide financial solutions for their needs,” Velazquez said.
The bank oversaw his development of leadership skills and soon Velazquez became a branch manager. He moved to four branch locations in the Las Vegas Valley before his current promotion. Each time, Velazquez moved from a smaller branch to a larger branch.
He said the current role allows him to focus on the development of the branch employees and the commitment to the bank’s customers.
“I realized in college that I was going to make banking my career,” Velazquez said.
He has received several awards of excellence during his Bank of America career. One of the branches he managed was among the top 7 percent of all Southern Nevada banking centers.
Velazquez is involved with several community organizations, primarily in the Las Vegas Hispanic community. He established the Las Vegas Hispanic Latino Organization for Leadership Advancement Chapter in 2010, which promotes mentoring opportunities.
He was nominated each of the past three years for the bank’s Global Diversity & Inclusion Awards.
“Coming from the oldest of three boys, I understand the guidance needed to set a career path,” Velazquez said.
“There are specific demographics the bank is reaching out to and looking to attract. I’m very passionate about that.”
— Howard Stutz
PRINCIPAL, HOULDSWORTH, RUSSO AND CO.
Accounting has a new face, and Jessica Sayles is proof.
Sayles, a principal at Houldsworth, Russo and Co., is a young Hawaiian woman who shuns the accountant stereotype.
“When you think of an accountant, you think of them sitting in the corner, saying, ‘Don’t bother me, don’t talk to me,’ ” Sayles said. “I want to change these perceptions.”
Sayles began her career at Houldsworth, Russo and Co. as an intern in 2007. She stayed with the company and rose through the ranks, becoming an audit manager, then a CPA, and today she is a principal.
The firm specializes in audit and tax works for nonprofit organizations and small businesses.
“It’s really passionate people who don’t necessarily have a financial background,” Sayles said.
Sayles is also a part-time instructor at UNLV, teaching governmental and nonprofit accounting to graduates and seniors.
It’s a way to give back to the academic community where she earned her bachelor’s degree and master’s. It also allows her to keep a pulse on the university’s up-and-coming next generation, she said.
Sayles came to Las Vegas from Hawaii in 2001, with a goal of keeping strong ties to her culture.
“They call Las Vegas the ninth island. It’s pretty connected here,” she said.
She competed in hula dancing for six years and dances for fundraising events. She previously served as treasurer for the Las Vegas Hawaiian Civic Club and is finance chairwoman.
Recently, she and a team of professionals formed Pacific Rim, which gives advice to struggling minority-owned businesses. Accountants, marketing experts, lawyers and insurance professionals volunteer their time.
Currently, Pacific Rim finds candidates through word of mouth, but the group hopes to soon formalize the application process.
Nonprofit organizations and giving back are themes in Sayles’ life, ones she attributes to her culture, her mother’s positive influence and her company’s culture.
“You don’t have to be the mold,” she said. “You can be something different and still be successful.”
— Kristy Totten
VICE PRESIDENT OF CORPORATE MARKETING, BALLY TECHNOLOGIES
During her five years overseeing investor relations for SHFL entertainment, Julia Boguslawski was often told by shareholders and analysts that the gaming equipment provider might be a good match in a merger with rival Bally Technologies.
Last November that speculation became reality when Bally completed its $1.3 billion buyout of SHFL.
The deal created the industry’s most diverse gaming equipment provider with seven divisions.
It also presented Boguslawski, 34, with the opportunity to move into a new role as Bally’s vice president of corporate marketing.
Instead of dealing with the investment community, Boguslawski and her team are tasked with marketing and communicating externally with Bally’s customers — the casinos worldwide that use the company’s slot machines, gaming systems and other casino management products.
“It’s a much wider universe and we have to align with sales and have a very consistent message,” Boguslawski said. “There are a lot of similarities to the jobs.”
At SHFL, a much smaller company, Boguslawski wore many hats. In addition to investor relations, she oversaw corporate communications, public relations and social media. Those added duties led to her being named the youngest vice president at SHFL.
“I was writing the (quarterly earnings) conference call scripts and it made sense for SHFL to have one voice with consistent messaging and a consistent tone in dealing with investors and media,” Boguslawski said.
During her time at SHFL, the company’s market capitalization grew from $300 million to $1 billion and the stock price climbed from $6 per share to $17.
Even at a much larger company, Boguslawski said the messaging is consistent, but with different departments working together.
“At the end of the day, the goal is to sell more products and promote the corporate brand,” she said.
Before joining SHFL, Boguslawski spent four years with CNL Hotels & Resorts, including two years working as manager of investor relations. The hotels were purchased by Morgan Stanley in 2007.
Boguslawski was a Rhodes Scholar state finalist in Florida and holds an MBA from Rollins College’s Crummer Graduate School of Business. She is involved with Spread the Word Nevada, having served as a reading mentor in its “Books & Buddies” program.
— Howard Stutz
PROJECT SUPERINTENDENT, PENTA BUILDING GROUP
Tony Cornell’s college gig became his full-time career.
Cornell was a student at the College of Southern Nevada in 1997 when he took a job as a construction laborer for a contractor at McCarran International Airport.
It was the perfect time to jump into the building sector — major projects such as The Venetian and Bellagio were underway, and Las Vegas was in its heyday as America’s boomtown. But it took Cornell a few years to appreciate construction. He nearly took a job in 2000 as a maintenance engineer at Paris Las Vegas, but decided to stick out construction for one more year to get vested in his union pension.
It turned out to be a pivotal year: Cornell rose from laborer to foreman.
“I went from being entry-level and handling back-breaker jobs every day to using both my back and my brain,” he said. “I started to enjoy what I was doing, and having that mindset of wanting to see what the next step was.”
Cornell’s next steps took him to his current position as a project superintendent for PENTA Building Group. He’s overseeing the remodel of the Sahara into the SLS Las Vegas, one of his most challenging projects. It was built in phases from 1952 to 1997, and has “a lot of hidden gems,” he said.
That’s the case for a lot of the work Cornell does, though. It wasn’t easy transforming the aged San Remo Hotel into Hooters, and it was just as tough when Steve Wynn gave PENTA five months to build the high-end Encore Beach Club — a project that would have taken 14 months in any other market.
“I do a lot of problem-solving every day. It’s probably 70 percent of what I do. Sometimes, we have to deal with major structural problems. It becomes extremely challenging when you dig up an area that’s supposed to be new footing, and you find a power line that’s feeding the Stratosphere.”
But Cornell isn’t proudest of his construction work. Rather, he says his safety record is his biggest accomplishment. Cornell holds weekly safety meetings to make sure employees follow protocols, and he introduced the company to vending machines that sell safety products such as glasses. Sales from the machines pay for recognition of PENTA’s monthly Safety Champion. In his seven years with PENTA, Cornell has just one minor injury on his job sites. PENTA honored him three times with its companywide Presidential Safety Award.
PENTA has taken notice of Cornell’s achievements: The company just made him part owner.
“I really have a goal to make PENTA known not only as a great contractor, but also as a great company.”
Part of that mission involves community service.
Cornell volunteers with Opportunity Village, HELP of Southern Nevada and Rebuilding Together, which renovates homes for low-income homeowners. The native Las Vegan is also helping revive the city’s historical Huntridge Theatre, offering his time and labor for remodeling.
— Jennifer Robison
ONCOLOGIST, COMPREHENSIVE CANCER CENTERS OF NEVADA
Dr. Anthony Nguyen, an oncologist at Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada, received a personal lesson about treating cancer patients just a week or two into his medical school career at the University of California at Irvine.
In 1997, a busy surgeon used the lobby of a community hospital in Orange County, Calif., to inform Nguyen’s dad that he had Stage 4 lung cancer, the younger Nguyen said.
Nguyen, 38, of Henderson, a married father of two young kids, couldn’t believe how callous the doctor was for not showing the proper empathy or respect toward his father 17 years ago.
Nguyen, a cancer and blood doctor, recalled driving his dad, a former South Vietnamese air force pilot who didn’t smoke, to chemotherapy for 3½ years while attending medical school in Irvine.
“I learned how to empathize with cancer patients,” said Nguyen, a San Diego native who grew up in Garden Grove and Laguna Hills in Orange County, Calif. “I was sitting there living it. It’s horrible. Nobody should ever live through that.”
That’s why Nguyen knows that the disease affects everyone — the patients and their families.
“When my dad was sick, he was treated at the university at Irvine and I was there. We sat in the patient chairs. Then 10 years later, I was the doctor and talking to patients,” he said. “I know what it’s like to wait for a scan to hear the news.”
Nguyen attended the University of California at Irvine, graduating in 1997 before staying on campus to attend the medical school and graduating in 2001.
He moved to Nevada in 2007 for his job at Comprehensive Cancer Centers, where he joined a staff of about 400, including 30 doctors.
He left the familiar confines of Irvine for the Las Vegas oncology job because “sometimes you have to spread your wings.”
He also linked the cancer center’s culture of offering “freedom to do what you want with your patients.” Nguyen met fellow Californians at the center and found good mentors and colleagues.
Nguyen treats all types of cancers. And he’s open to all treatments.
“Not everyone is interested in chemotherapy,” Nguyen said. “You have to use everything you have.”
— Alan Snel
GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS ATTORNEY, NV ENERGY
Chelsie Campbell’s career has taken her to an unexpected place.
But after seven years in the utilities industry, Campbell says she can’t imagine herself doing anything else.
Campbell is an attorney in government affairs for local electrical utility NV Energy, where she recommends corporate strategy, and provides support for completing initiatives that affect energy delivery and operations.
In short, Campbell helps keep your lights on.
It’s a bit of a detour from the broadcast journalism career she envisioned while a journalism undergraduate at UNLV.
It was Campbell’s activity in UNLV student affairs and advocacy that changed her path. Several community contacts and professors saw her work and urged her to consider law school and government affairs. Campbell graduated from UNLV’s Boyd Law School in 2005, and joined NV Energy in 2007 after a friend told her about a media relations opening there. Campbell moved into government affairs in 2010.
“I love the utilities industry. It’s a constant challenge in that there’s always something new to learn. It’s always changing. And specifically with government affairs, I love that I get to be involved in the community. My job allows me to get out there and work with organizations and nonprofits.”
Campbell is a native Nevadan. On top of her bachelor of arts in communications and her law degree, she has a master of arts in justice management from the University of Nevada, Reno, and she’s wrapping up her graduate certificate in renewable energy from UNR’s School of Engineering. Plus, she’s getting ready to start her doctorate in public affairs at UNLV.
Before she joined NV Energy, Campbell was editor-in-chief of Nevada Family Magazine and La Familia de Nevada. She also worked for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and for presidential, congressional and local campaigns. She understands grass roots: Campbell created Nevada’s first Latino-based, youth-led political organization. Campbell was also in 2007’s inaugural class of Emerge Nevada, a political-leadership training program for women. And she’s vice chairwoman of United Way of Southern Nevada’s Young Philanthropist Society, as well as a board member of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Southern Nevada.
Whether she’s on the job or volunteering, Campbell’s philosophy is the same.
“I was born and raised in this community, and NV Energy has been a part of the community for more than 100 years. My function is part of a larger team, and we make sure folks understand we’re in the community because we care about the community. We want to make sure that when customers pay their bill, we’re providing them value in terms of excellent customer service. Ultimately, I want them to understand that we’re partners with them.”
— Jennifer Robison
KARL O. RILEY
ASSOCIATE, SNELL & WILMER
Based on his academic career — a degree in international business from Washington University in St. Louis and a law degree from Northwestern University in Chicago — it might seem Karl O. Riley hails from the Midwest, but the 30-year-old commercial litigation lawyer is a true Nevadan, born and raised in Las Vegas.
“My parents told me that if I studied hard I could go to the best schools,” Riley said. “Honestly, I just listened to them as much as possible.”
Although he was accepted to Princeton and Yale, Riley, a graduate of Las Vegas Academy, opted for Wash U because scholarships meant he wouldn’t have to take on student loans.
A background in business has helped Riley’s law career, which mostly deals in business-to-business transactions. It helps him understand clients’ needs and also helps him explain to judges.
After graduating with a business degree, Riley went to work for a Fortune 200 company but felt “like a cog in a machine,” and decided he wanted to do something different.
“I enjoy working but I also enjoy helping my community,” he said. “That’s why I went to law school.”
Riley passed the Nevada Bar in 2010 and went to work at Snell & Wilmer, where he remains today, working on problem transactions, litigating bank loans, employment discrimination suits, and representing residential and manufacturing clients.
“The litigation side is more fun because it’s like a war — an intellectual war,” Riley said.
But most disputes settle out of court, he said, and he tries to prevent litigation. His goal is to make sure clients get the best outcome without unnecessary expenditures.
Outside of work, Riley directs Kappa Alpha Psi, which aims to broaden the life experiences of young minority men through mentorship.
“It provides experiences they might not have, outside school, their homes and their neighborhoods,” Riley said.
Riley was recently named the young lawyers division chairman of the National Bar Association, the nation’s oldest and largest association of predominantly African-American lawyers and judges.
He enjoys tennis and is working on a tennis tournament that will benefit local charities.
Whether he’s working, volunteering or playing, Riley aims to help his community. It’s all about giving back.
— Kristy Totten
GENERAL MANAGER, SOUTH POINT
Ryan Growney’s rapid-fire word delivery is no match for his frenetic energy at South Point.
One day, the 34-year-old Las Vegas native might be seen riding horses in jeans and boots to help move cattle for an equestrian event at the hotel’s famed equestrian center. The next, Growney could be in a suit and tie to greet customers and advise employees on a new project, such as the under-construction championship bowling center.
For Growney, that’s just part of the job. He’s been South Point’s general manager for more than three years.
Growney’s job is in his DNA. His dad, Mike Growney, worked as Gold Coast’s general manager when the casino was operated by South Point owner Michael Gaughan.
The younger Growney said he’s honored that his office sits right next to Gaughan’s office.
“Some people want to grow up to be Michael Jordan. I grew up wanting to be Michael Gaughan.”
Growney does know basketball. The 2002 Georgetown University graduate was student manager of the school’s famed men’s basketball team.
He applied for law school, but chose a casino life.
Growney’s hyper personality suited a variety of casino jobs, which ranged from working as a dealer at The Orleans to Barbary Coast general manager in 2006.
“Every job was different with different days off and pay scales,” Growney said. “The learning curves are high and fast.”
Some days at South Point he will do a 5 a.m. TV news spot and then work until 10:30 p.m. It comes with the territory, Growney said.
His idea of relaxation is hitting the gym at least three times a week.
But even then it’s hard for him to get away from work. Once when he was working out, another gym customer came over and pitched him on a slot promotion from Minnesota
He may be young for a casino general manager, but Growney said he makes sure to respect the older employees. He recalled that when he was a 26-year-old general manager of Barbary Coast, there were workers who had started working there before he was born.
So, he doesn’t mind the few gray hairs that are beginning to sprout.
“The gray on the side, that goes a long way,” Growney quipped.
— Alan Snel
PRESIDENT, CYGNUS CONCEPTS
Caitlin Carey opened Cygnus Concepts in April at 28 with eight employees.
Almost a year later, the 29-year-old employs 45 people at her marketing firm that focuses on performance-driven growth from within, not tenure.
“I really wanted to be able to provide opportunities for others,” Carey said of her decision to open the business.
Inside her 3,000-square-foot space, Carey fills a niche by providing face-to-face marketing to small businesses and individuals for Fortune 500 companies.
“My value comes in by being able to replicate sales and adding value for brands,” Carey said.
Her mentor is Melissa White, the person who taught her this business in Portland, Ore. Carey came to Las Vegas by way of Portland after Century Link invested in a new fiber optic technology here.
Her business model is based around client bonuses that she receives for opening satellite offices in other locales. In the past year, employees she’s trained opened outposts in New Brunswick, N.J., and Minneapolis. She has plans to expand into two more offices this year.
“It’s really a management training program,” Carey said of her business.
As for her future, Carey said she wants to have a family and mesh that life with her business success.
“I want to not only be a strong influence in business but I want to be a great mother to my future children,” Carey said.
She’s also focused on philanthropy, and raised more than $6,000 for Operation Smile last year. The organization provides free surgeries to repair cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities for children.
“I think that their cause is really noble and they’ve had an impact already,” Carey said.
She attended the Metropolitan College of Denver where she studied political science and marketing, while playing collegiate volleyball. After college, Carey went backpacking for a year, visiting Europe, India, South East Asia and Central America.
“I knew I was always going to be successful based on how hard I was willing to work,” Carey said.
— Laura Carroll
ASSOCIATE, MCDONALD CARANO WILSON LLP
At 36, David Stoft is a senior associate at McDonald Carano Wilson practicing in commercial and complex litigation, creditor’s rights and bankruptcy, construction law and intellectual property. He was admitted to practice in Las Vegas in 2006 and in Arizona in 2007, attending UNLV’s Boyd Law School.
After college at the University of Arizona, Stoft was working in the finance department for Motorola in Chandler, Ariz., and had some access to the legal department there. At the same time he was deciding what postgraduate degree to obtain.
Law peaked his interest.
“From a career perspective, I just think it’s important to realize we all, I think, have the capacity to learn and grow and continue to do so in your professions. Being an attorney doesn’t really provide an opportunity to get complacent,” Stoft said.
At work, Stoft is representing a client who owns a business on Fremont Street, which places him in the middle of downtown redevelopment efforts and issues, including environmental factors and what people want that area to look like in the future. Stoft’s also involved in the Coyote Springs dispute through his representation of Pardee Homes.
In the next five to 10 years, Stoft said he hopes to be a partner at McDonald Carano Wilson who continues to learn and improve his craft. He also said he wants to remain involved with the Boys & Girls Club, moving them further along their trajectory.
Stoft’s worked with the Boys & Girls Club of Southern Nevada for five or six years, serving on the organization’s board.
“It’s easy to be a part of. The mission and people served by the organization is something that strikes a chord with me,” he said.
Growing up, Stoft had three siblings and parents that, looking back, provided a strong support system and a positive influence on his life, he said.
Now he wants to make sure similar positive environments are open to all kids looking for a safe place to do homework, meet with friends and interact with adults.
Stoft was a member of the 2011 Leadership Las Vegas class, an experience he described as phenomenal.
“I think there’s probably few people in the community that wouldn’t benefit from a program like that,” Stoft said.
In his free time Stoft coaches soccer for girls 7 and younger.
“It’s something I look forward to every season,” Stoft said.
Stoft lives in Las Vegas with his wife, Leigh Anne, and their girls, ages 7 and 2, with a third on the way.
“I’ve always had a competitive spirit and the stuff that I enjoy when I get the opportunity, is play sports to the extent my age will allow without getting hurt,” Stoft said.
— Laura Carroll