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Destin's Top 10 Under 40

Meet Destin's Rising Business Owners

Article by Cheryl Forde

Photography by Forever Young Images - Alexander Rea - Shanna Magnuson - Mayeska Sand

Originally published in Destin City Lifestyle

#10 Russell Hale

39, CEO, SNH Technologies 

“I took apart my mom’s electronics in elementary school and then put them back together, just to see how they worked. She was not happy then, but now she sees where that curiosity has led me.” Growing up, he always gravitated to anything engineering and knew he wanted to start his own business one day. 

Russell cultivated a career in technology with major corporations such as FEDEX, Bank of America, International Paper, and Autozone to name a few. A decorated combat veteran, he also collected civilian professional certifications (e.g. Cisco, ITIL, VM Ware, etc.) like travelers collect tchotchkes just to meet the demands of his work. The Hale family put down roots in Walton County six years ago and last year, Russell launched SNH Technologies. 

“SNH. Smarter Not Harder. Our job is to make technology simple and easy so you can get back to doing what you do best.” 

“Our team is best in class for each area,” he notes, comparing his company to his past experiences where there was always a gap in expertise. "I beam when I think about it…building our SNH  team has definitely been our biggest accomplishment.” Russell has built SNH Technologies as a one-stop shop so business owners don’t have to juggle it all themselves. His 24/7 technical support includes partnerships with over 200 engineers!

“Honor God in all that you do” is the motto for SNH Technologies, and part of that is to make sure that SNH is a good community member, not just a great service provider. The company has donated a work-from-home office consultation in which they audit a work-from-home office and revamp it. SNH sponsors Mentoring Emerald Coast and is planning to host a technology-focused lunch series with the Greater Walton County Chamber later this year.

#9 Maggie Matthews

32, Owner & Bridal Stylist, Margaret Ellen Bridals

Maggie grew up in Greenville, Mississippi, wanting to be a dress designer. Along the way, she set her childhood dream aside, but fashion and apparel were still in her future. In January of 2018, she opened her bridal shop with a new passion for building relationships with brides. Their success is documented in testimonial after testimonial at

“I don’t care if a bride walks out of here without a dress. I want her to feel that she was loved on and celebrated really well while she was in here.”

She is in her shop every day assisted by two other bridal stylists delivering a one-on-one experience in their newly-built, elegant 4,000 sqft venue in Santa Rosa Beach. They’ve helped 1,021 brides and counting. Maggie offers nine dress lines from designers around the world, including selections from the prestigious New York Bridal Week.

Margaret Ellen Bridal has been named Best of the Emerald Coast every year, and is a member of the Wedding International Professionals Association.

#8 Tilly Souriyseng, 36

Owner and CEO, The Beauty Experts

Tilly is a local business powerhouse and Master Esthetician with a humble beginning who has allowed her passion for beauty to take her on an amazing journey! Born in a UN refugee camp in Thailand, she immigrated to America from Laos in 1987, settling in Arizona.

Tilly started a “home-based business doing lashes in the spare bedroom of her apartment at Misawa AFB…” A licensed esthetician, she opened her first location after moving to Eglin on March 4, 2018 with $12,000 that she kept in a shoe box. Within three short years, she was managing two new locations. Today, she is stunned to find herself at the helm of a business grossing over $1 million annually!

She also runs The Beauty Experts Training Center, where estheticians receive training and certifications in the main services of The Beauty Experts - lash extensions, clinical chemical peels and skin care, body waxing and natural body contouring.

She selected 13 employees for their passion and amazing work ethic. She’s excited to see new estheticians ‘make anywhere between $45k to $85k within their first 1-2 years’. 

Tilly prioritizes training employees in communication and problem-solving skills to ‘become confident in their professional approach to their clients…’

The Beauty Experts’ community involvement includes: ABWA, Chambers of Commerce in FWB, Gulf Breeze, and Minority CoC in Pensacola; Women’s Entrepreneur group (FWB CoC), Take Stock in Children, Gulf Breeze Area Foundation, Shelter House FWB, support to youth sports, churches.

20-WORD PULL QUOTE: My approach has always been to follow my passion! You know that burning feeling deep down inside your soul when you talk about your passion?

#7 Ryan Holloway

36, CEO, Holloway Yacht Charters

Ryan Holloway is an Alabama native, whose family’s love of the water brought them to the Emerald Coast. Ryan always loved the boats more than the beaches. He went on to graduate from Auburn University with a degree in Finance and International Business, then earned his MBA. He spent ten years in revenue cycle management for hospitals with his family’s company Holloway Credit Solutions of Alabama - headquartered in Montgomery, AL.

This seemed to be his future until his father passed away in 2018. Ryan lost his drive to continue that work. ’After Dad passed away, I was looking for something to get closer to him.’ They had shared two things - boating on Lake Martin and Auburn football. After finding the right boat with his wife Heather, he earned his 100-ton US Coast Guard Master License.

The first charters ran in March of 2021. The business just took off! Today, Holloway Yacht Charters employs 5 captains and 15 crew members. It was awarded Best in Destin and recognized as the top charter company anywhere from Texas to Miami in its first two years. In 2023, it was named Best Local Adventure experience. Ryan does not take these accolades for granted. He constantly looks for ways to improve.

He is excited to launch a 31’ Center Console yacht in March. It will be available for fishing charters or half-day to multiple-day Crab Island Luxury Trips. Like all of the yachts in this growing fleet, it will deliver a 5-star experience with a customized food program that can include a private chef.

Ryan is a Trustee of the Destin Chamber and one of the top level donors to Tigers Unlimited which provides athletic scholarships at his alma mater.

#6 Brandon Graves

36, CEO, Stronghold SOF Solutions

Graves is from Crawfordville, FL and was drafted as a pitcher for Minor League Baseball out of Valdosta State University. His military career was as a Special Forces Green Beret in the 7th Special Forces Group. Due to his Special Operations background, he wanted a way for prior SOF personnel to have a place called home in the Florida Panhandle. That led him to establish Stronghold SOF Solutions, a 50-acre facility staffed entirely by former special operators. Their unique ability to replicate an operational environment includes a live-fire shoot house, multiple ranges, an airfield, armory and more.

'Work as hard as you possibly can on at least one thing and see what happens. ' -Jordan B Peterson

“We focus on strategic, niche opportunities where we leverage our experience and talent force of prior SOF operators. Our customer base is DoD, LEO, and private companies.” The facilities are suitable for a broad array of users ranging from the SOF community, to SWAT teams, Warrior Poets, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, a flooring company’s corporate retreat and even the Freeport High School Football Program. The young players received valuable lessons in teamwork and leadership that will impact not only their lives, but our community for years to come.

Stronghold SOF Solutions exists “To preserve the warrior culture, to prepare the warfighter, to protect the innocent.” Their state-of-the-art facility is well-planned to support multiple training types. The airfield sports a paved runway. There are berms suitable for up to .50 caliber munitions. Ranges of all kinds including demolitions and even an underground facility. Finally, lodging and conference rooms are contained in a 10,000 sqft Clubhouse.

Graves is responsible for business development, operations, recruiting/hiring, and strategic growth/partnerships. He has rapidly delivered capabilities to the SOF community and so many others. Stronghold was established in 2021 and has already been awarded a 3-year contract with AFSOC and another contract with the State of Florida supporting the Florida State Guard.

Graves is a volunteer member of the Destin Task Force for the Special Operations Transition Foundation.


Tristan ‘TJ’ Martin

33, President, Abbott Martin Group | EXP Realty

TJ Martin is a Pensacola, FL native and son of a custom home builder. Construction always piqued his interest as a young man working on job sites. After college, he worked sales and construction with DR Horton and Holiday builders, then moved into general real estate. In 2018, the Abbot Martin Group was born as a real estate and new construction business spanning from Pensacola to Panama City Beach.

'The Abbott Martin Group performs within the top 1/2% in real estate sales throughout the Florida Panhandle and is within the top 1% in production nationally.’

TJ is talented at creating development opportunities, putting deals together to bring 1,500+ units to the marketplace in the coming years. In 2022, they had over $365 million in Total Sales Volume. They just kept going in 2023, already passing $100 million by February!

However, TJ did not cite a single statistic when asked about his greatest accomplishment. He instead celebrates the environment of the Abbott Martin Group. ‘We are so driven to help each other.’ The realtors then bring integrity and confidence into their relationships with their clients. In an industry where brokerages have soaring annual turnover rates, the Abbott Martin group stands out with many agents continuing the tradition year after year.

They sponsor the My Wish Foundation for children with cancer, sponsor families at Christmastime, deliver homebuying education through Habitat for Humanity in Pensacola and work hard to support all the local vendors. 

TJ PULL QUOTE: My whole business is built off of relationships. Relationships are what create transactions.

#4 Greg Fisher

38, CEO, Tripshock

Greg came to Florida from Michigan while he was in high school. Greg has been an entrepreneur all of his life. Yes, there was a lemonade stand. He studied Tourism at the University of Central Florida and created an online directory while there. Selling that directory became a motivator to do more. Today Greg is not only the CEO of Tripshock, but also a security software and a reservation booking company.

When Greg returned to hotel work, he saw people combing rack cards for things to do. He decided to establish an online means for visitors to easily book excursions.

In 2009, Tripshock started to link visitors to snorkeling adventures or dolphin tours for which Greg received a commission. Tripshock now services 25 destinations, provides jobs for 60 employees/contractors, and manages bookings for over 600 businesses!

Tripshock gives peace of mind to the first-time traveler looking for things to do. After all these years, they are a reputable third-party booking service with long-standing relationships with the excursions they host.

‘I like the challenge of going against bigger companies.’ He credits his current business partner Alex Benko for the software integration that directly books 1,000+ local excursions daily.

Greg hosts a podcast called The Awkward Watersports Guy and former President of the Watersport Coalition in Okaloosa County.

“It’s about creating an environment to engage in watersports in a safe way.”

PULL QUOTE: I believe that the most wealth you ever make in your life will be investing in yourself.

#3 Jonathan Howard

34, Real Estate Entrepreneur & Business Coach

Companies: Florida Charms Vacation Rentals & Realty, Beach Please Vacation Rentals, Trinity Title, Florida Charms Lawn Care, Howard Real Estate Consulting.

Jon was born in Louisiana and raised in Texas. Despite his meteoric success in the world of real estate, that never was his plan. He joined the military at 18 and became a special operator as an Air Force Combat Controller. 

In 2015 he and his wife, Rizz (an Air Force veteran) purchased a condo in Destin. A neighbor suggested they rent out their condo while out of town for the summer of 2016 and that’s where it all started.

In 2017 Florida Charms launched and stood out in the property management space with the quality of its properties, as well as Jon’s leadership and a completely different mindset from being a special operator. “Clients liked that I wasn’t just sales but also the rental company. I wouldn’t fluff rental income to get a sale because I had to answer for those numbers as the management company.” In four years, the company grew from $60,000 to $61,000,000 and 35 employees. 

Their success attracted AvantStay who bought Florida Charms in 2022, and asked Jon to become the Principal Broker for the state of Florida. For that, he oversees all agents and operations statewide.

Jon recently launched a consulting business where he coaches entrepreneurs and excels at helping businesses streamline operations. 

Jon is also building homes on 30A and Naples and plans to build multiple luxury homes a year to sale. 

Jon has a very unique background that includes a bachelor's degree in Aeronautics, Air Traffic Controller, Master Diver, parachuting & instrument-rated pilot with his own plane. 

Jon described his greatest accomplishment as, “Making people financially free. It changed my life and when I see the same for them, that makes me happy.

Jon volunteers with First There & Water Front Warriors. 

Brett Lindell

39, CEO, Pantheon Holdings/Aegis Exteriors (68 Ventures)

Brett is a US Marine Corps veteran with a young family and a love for the Florida Panhandle!

His construction and development company has grown rapidly. They service areas ranging from Mobile to Port St. Joe. They are now the largest siding company along the Gulf Coast offering employment opportunities to over 160 of our residents!

Brett noted that they are ‘kinda like the Chik-fil-A of subcontractors. We are very pleasurable to work with.’ Aegis Exteriors appears regularly in the Top 3 of trades for contractors to work with. Aegis works on new home exteriors, multi-family construction projects, and has a division dedicated to home remodeling. Aegis exteriors have four main categories of service: roofing, siding, windows, and waterproofing.

Brett has a vision of being a $100 million company in five years. He began his company in 2017. In his first operational year, his company worked on 45 houses. The next year 250. Fast forward to 2022 when Aegis completed 2000 exteriors!

This vision is not just for himself. Hiring for attitude over skill, he loves that his company is a venue for people to transition into a trade full of opportunity. One of his full-time employees is dedicated to training only! Also, he insists on work-life balance and puts family first. Taking care of employees is essential to the future of Aegis.

Brett is invested in Walton County. He wants to know that it will still be the kind of place where his children want to live and offer opportunities to families in the future. To be part of the conversation, he serves as Vice Chair of the Walton County Republican Executive Committee.

His giving community spirit exemplifies the culture of Florida’s Panhandle. Aegis Exteriors donated a $50,000 exterior remodel to a family, remodeled an orphanage, and gives regularly to local youth sports.

1-Jorge Lopez, 34

President, Peppers

Jorge Lopez is a local restaurant owner who opened his first restaurant in 2007 fresh out of high school! However, he was already experienced enough to fill the role of manager. He has persistently opened new restaurants since then. His award-winning Mexican food is made with family recipes that have been passed down through several generations.

“It’s not just about making the food. It’s also being committed and sharing the same vision. The vision is understanding responsibilities. Being responsible to our customers, each other, and our community. If you want to be a part of this company, we have to share the same vision.”

The four local restaurants (Niceville, Crestview, Shalimar, and Fort Walton Beach) have 120 employees and he is involved in six additional locations throughout Florida.

Peppers restaurants are casual, family restaurants that delight locals with the finest quality Mexican food. Jorge is serious about quality, insisting on the best ingredients and top customer service.

One of Jorge’s secrets is that all the cooks have been with Peppers for years. For his managers, he is always available to mentor and solve problems, but allows them to build their teams. His key business functions include programming promotions and carefully auditing restaurant orders and sales. Managing ordering responsibly allows him to offer reasonable prices to his loyal customers.

And Peppers does have a following! They have been voted Best in Destin and Best Mexican Food in the area. The corn and flour tortillas made from scratch are a favorite.

Peppers loves its community back. Aware that our future is in our kids, Jorge participates in food backpack drives and provided free lunches at the start of the COVID outbreak. Peppers provide turkeys to local families every Thanksgiving. Then, at Christmas time, they give out free tacos in exchange for toys to donate!

Stop by a Peppers soon and find out why Peppers has been such a fast-growing favorite!

  • Left Brandon Graves Right Tom Morton