JD and Kristina Ribali moved to South Florida from Oregon in 2016 when Kristina began work for a nonprofit organization based in Naples. They soon discovered the town of Ave Maria and fell in love with its warm, welcoming, and family-friendly atmosphere.
The couple purchased the second house to be built in Avalon Park, the Dunwoody design by Pulte Homes, and have been happily making themselves at home here ever since. “We enjoy small-town life,” says Mr. Ribali, “and we love the sunshine and the many friends we have made here.”
They’ve also been making significant contributions to the community through their Top Notch family of businesses, starting with Top Notch Home Pros and Top Notch Living magazine in 2020. Top Notch Home Pros connects homeowners to a network of reliable and helpful home improvement and home maintenance companies. Earlier this year, they extended this concept to entrepreneurs with the launch of Top Notch Connections, a network of Southwest Florida entrepreneurs that is also the umbrella organization for Top Notch Home Pros and Top Notch Living.
Mr. Ribali describes Top Notch Connections as “a community of entrepreneurs and small business owners who are driven to grow our businesses, challenge the status quo, and innovate how networking and business development is done.”
Top Notch Connections also includes Top Notch University, a program that teaches business owners practices to improve and sustain their businesses.
“Our mission for Top Notch University is to help entrepreneurs get the education they need to take their business to the next level,” Mr. Ribali says.
The Ribalis’ latest project is Biz Kidz, an extension of Top Notch University designed to support and assist the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Mr. Ribali says he hopes the Biz Kidz organization provides the same support to the area’s young entrepreneurs that he received as a youngster. “Our mission is to educate kids who have that entrepreneurial spirit,” he says. “I tell the kids at our expos how I got into it: My mom had cucumbers in her garden, and I took those cucumbers and sold them door to door. I knew I had the entrepreneurial spirit from a young age, and my mom realized it, too. She always encouraged me to get out there, find business ideas, and sell my products.
“That’s what we want to do for today’s kids,” he adds. “We want to show them there are other ways to make an income, other ways to launch a business. And we want to be there to help them realize what potential they have.”
Biz Kidz recruits local business owners through Top Notch Connections to serve as mentors and judges and to sponsor prizes for teams that present their business projects.
The first Biz Kidz Expo was held in Naples this past April. The second took place at Oil Well Craft Beer in Ave Maria in May. More than 25 local businesses sponsored the event that brought together kids ages 7-17 to show off their original products and services. Judges assessed 12 team projects on 30 aspects, including overall business plan, marketing strategy, and sales numbers.
The Ave Maria Kidz Biz Expo drew more than 175 attendees, and some booths reported more than $100 in sales. A team of six girls from Eden Park Elementary School won the grand prize for their jewelry business called Dazzle. Second place went to Israel Gallegos for his Big Boy’s Peanut Butter Treats, and third place went to Scholastica Niewald, a sophomore at the Donahue Academy, for her Ave Creations line of original artwork.
The Ribalis are planning more Biz Kidz Expos in Fort Myers, Naples, and Immokalee. They also look forward to growing their community of Southwest Florida small business owners through Top Notch Connections and using the Top Notch community to encourage the spirit of entrepreneurship in future generations.