South Florida’s Power Women

Amy Ballon Partner

Hemisphere Sales Group
401 E. Las Olas Blvd., 14th Fl. 
Fort Lauderdale

Decide what is most important to you and follow through with it, advises Amy Ballon, an experienced luxury real estate development professional. The sales and marketing guru, who is also an accomplished musician, recalls a particular commitment she made to have time for her career and two children, who are now young successful adults.

“I auditioned for the Florida Philharmonic Choir, and was accepted.  However, the practices for the choir ran on the same evenings as my son’s roller hockey practice. Once I realized this, I decided the priority was to attend my son’s practices,” Amy says. “At the end of the day, it’s not what you did that your children will remember, it’s the moments and memories shared together they will hold dear. They remember when you were there for them and what you did together.”

Amy, whose expertise is in selling transitional properties that have set the benchmark for other projects to succeed in their areas, has worked on such notable projects as Ocean One in Sunny Isles Beach, Las Olas Riverhouse, Canyon Ranch Living Miami Beach, and The Ritz-Carlton Residences at LA Live.   

After serving as Vice-President of Development for Century Marketing International, The Agency, and most recently, One Sotheby’s International, Amy decided to partner with another single working mother, Lisa Whitaker, to create Hemisphere Sales Group, a full-service consulting, sales and marketing company.   

Having a passion for real estate, and a desire to offer an intimate boutique approach, Amy started consulting in 2014.  After a few months, she began working with Fernbrook Florida, and together they are selling the first luxury condo to be built in Pompano Beach in over a decade: Sabbia Beach. The property is destined to become one of South Florida’s most desired new addresses, offering only 72 oceanfront residences.


Bonnie Barnett

MRI Scan & Imaging Centers
3122 East Commercial Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33308

Bonnie Barnett has dedicated her life to bringing every element of the Arts, to everyone. Her passion for the Arts goes back as far as she can remember.

“I come from an artistic family and have loved collecting beautiful things since I was a young child,” Bonnie says. “When you see extraordinary art and hear beautiful music, it sparks the most wonderful feeling inside. I hope that I can bring that to as many people as possible and share my experiences.”

Bonnie has worked diligently to pass on her love and knowledge of the Arts since 1973. She currently serves on the Executive Board of the Broward Performing Arts Center; a Board Member of the Museum of Art/NSU; Chairperson of Broward County’s Public Art and Design; Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival Advisory Board; Advisory Board of the Hollywood Art and Cultural Center; and board member of Funding Arts Broward. She chaired Public Art for the State of Florida for eight years under three secretaries of state.

She is a collector of contemporary art, and has her own consulting business. She and her husband are constantly traveling the world to see established contemporary art and emerging artists.

Bonnie recently used her eye for art and beauty to transform the family’s medical business. She and her husband, Robert L. Kagan, M.D., just completed the renovation and redesign of their 7500-square-foot, renowned MRI Scan & Imaging Center in Fort Lauderdale. The center has state-of-the-art MRI, PET, CT and Ultrasound, and is one of the most advanced centers in Florida. The couple’s mission was to create a soothing, spa-like environment to put patients at ease.

 “When people enter the typical medical facility it can be a very jarring experience. It’s so important that they feel relaxed, in a comfortable environment,” says Bonnie.

Bonnie gracefully juggles her art world and her medical world, with the help and support of her loving husband. She has raised three of her own children, and has an extended family that includes Robert’s three children and their spouses. Bonnie is proud to be the grandmother of 13 grandchildren. 

“To really appreciate your time with children and grandchildren, do the things they like to do,” Bonnie says. “It’s important to share memorable experiences with your grandchildren.”


Durée Ross

Durée & Company 
10620 Griffin Rd., Ste. 208
Fort Lauderdale

Durée Ross, president and founder of Fort Lauderdale-based public relations, marketing and special events firm Durée & Company, has a thriving career, plus dedicates a great deal of time to philanthropic activities. Yet, she still finds ways to spend quality time with her family. 

“Only you know how to try to strike a balance in life for you and your family, so do what works for you – don’t let society tell you differently or make you feel badly about your choices,” says Durée Ross, who founded her firm more than 15 years ago.

The mother of two has been growing her award-winning firm at a rapid pace over the last several years, and at the same time, expanding her office space to accommodate the growth.  

Durée & Company draws clients from the legal and medical sectors, lifestyle, real estate, restaurant and hospitality industries, nonprofit community and more. Durée’s current client roster also includes The Jills®/Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate, Feeding South Florida, Jacob D. Steiger M.D./Steiger Facial Plastic Surgery, BRIO Tuscan Grille and BRAVO! Cucina Italiana restaurants, Riverwalk Arts & Entertainment District, Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, Boys & Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade, Lubell Rosen, Rising Tide Car Wash social enterprise and Gladstone & Weissman, P.A. 

Consistently honored for excellence in public relations, Durée’s most recent awards include 2015/2014 Gold Coast PR Council Bernays Awards; a 2014 American Business Award, also known as The Stevie® Awards; the 2014 Lifestyle Media Group Up & Comer Award – Public Relations Category and 2013 Sun Sentinel Top Workplaces for People on the Move Award.

She also volunteers her time to nonprofit organizations such as the American Heart Association (AHA), Broward Women’s Alliance, United Way of Broward County’s Envision Founding 40 group and Women’s Executive Leadership Committee, and Ghost Light Society at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.

“Honestly, balance is baloney. There’s no such thing – I just try to do the very best I can to make time for everything that is important to me,” Durée says. “I’m extremely fortunate to have a great support system and an incredible husband.”


Erika Vallina

Smarty Fit Party, Inc.

Creative ideas happen all the time, but it’s the ideas that come from the heart that truly give life to an idea. “People can feel my passion and my positive energy when I speak about my business,” says Erika Vallina, founder of Smarty Fit Party. The mother of two grown children spent years balancing her work in the fitness field with her family life. “I was a soccer mom, active in the PTA and as a school volunteer,” she says. “I was wearing many hats, but I also realized that one day I would have the time to devote to an idea that is very important to me.”

About a year ago, she launched Smarty Fit Party, a company that offers children, teens, adults and seniors an interactive party concept that provides age appropriate activities that focus on all muscle groups and fitness levels. “After 10 years in the fitness field, I saw a need. Everyone spends so much time on the phone or behind a computer,” she says. Using her knowledge as a Certified Personal Trainer and Childhood Fitness Specialist, Erika created a company that gets kids and families up and moving. She is driven to bring fitness back to everyone’s lifestyle, and have fun while doing it. “Remember field day when you were a kid? Think of Smarty Fit Party as a company that brings field day to your child’s birthday party, a corporate event or even a fun get-together with friends,” Erika says.

Smarty Fit Party also offers one-on-one personal training for all ages and is launching the Smarty Fit Party Kitchen, which will offer gourmet, healthy meals and recipes. Smarty Fit Party Kitchen currently offers an event designed to introduce healthy recipes and food preparation to children. After a personal training session, participating children are accompanied into the kitchen to discuss healthy eating habits and prepare a fresh, nutrient-rich meal that provides the important vitamins and minerals they need.

“I am very passionate about fighting childhood obesity, which is on the rise. The Smarty Fit Party idea has all children in mind by making exercise fun and parties even more exciting,” Erika says. “The Smarty Fit Party Kitchen’s program for children was conceived in the belief that if you teach a child good habits, they will carry it with them for a lifetime.”

The ability to make this “idea from the heart” a reality has been the perfect opportunity at the perfect time in her life, Erika says.

“Everything in life happens for a reason, and when it is supposed to,” she adds. “Staying positive and surrounding yourself with positive people helps you keep moving forward.”


Karli Vazquez-Mendez
Vice President, Financial Advisor

Morgan Stanley
595 S Federal Hwy, Suite 400
Boca Raton, FL 33432

Finding balance in life is a moving target, says Karli Vazquez-Mendez, Vice President and Financial Advisor at Morgan Stanley in Boca Raton. Karli began working at the age of 15 in a local credit union, and by 22, was the youngest branch manager of one of the largest credit unions in South Florida.  In 2007, she transitioned to Merrill Lynch and later Citi Private Bank where she helped her team grow to $1 billion in assets under management (as of May 2014). Now at Morgan Stanley, she continues to advise many high net worth clients to even greater financial success, which is often a 24/7 endeavor.

At the same time, Karli pursues her love of music performance and strong commitment to serving the community of Boca Raton, where she lives. An accomplished violinist, who routinely plays gigs for Univision, she is also an active member of the Junior League of Boca Raton, where she is heavily involved in community outreach. 

“It’s easy to get caught up in your own little world and forget what is truly most important in life, such as helping others. Doing this gives you perspective on what’s happening in your own life and the ability to handle challenges, having seen what others are up against,” says Karli, a first generation daughter of Puerto Rican-Guatemalan descent who spends lots of time with her large, extended family. “Working at something I love and having passions that allow me to focus on higher levels, quiet my mind and keep my body healthy – like music and yoga – are also keys to balance.”  

Having drawn strength from life experiences and these activities helped her navigate one of the most challenging times in her life.

“My mother was diagnosed with a chronic auto-immune illness that required extensive treatment just as I joined Morgan Stanley,” Karli says. “It took everything I had to give the attention required to both high-priority life events, but they both worked out well in the end.”

Having a spiritual focus, great friends and a great dog helped too. 

“You are who you surround yourself with, so connecting as much as possible with positive energy through good friends and a higher power helps provide that foundation of life balance,” she says. “So when the tough times come, you don’t get caught up in why they are here. You just power through them.”


Karyn D. Turk

Principle Wealth and Tax
9897 Lake Worth Rd., Ste. 201
Lake Worth

To be the most helpful to others in our personal and professional lives, it’s important for us to also know when to ask for the help and support we need, says Karyn D. Turk, a registered insurance agent and owner of Principle Wealth and Tax. This is how we all work together to find life balance, she believes.

Her company provides estate planning in tandem with her husband, attorney Evan Turk, along with financial plan consulting, tax preparation and strategy, insurance services, escrow services, investment planning and long term care planning. But before Karyn created the company, and before she married Evan, she knew she would need to plan as caregiver to her mother, who has Alzheimer’s Disease. 

Luckily, that’s when Karyn found Evan, who helped her create a plan designed to help her mother long-term – and then became a very helpful husband as well. Karyn now helps manage Evan’s practice, Principle Counsel – and they both help to raise their six children.

“You can’t do it alone in life,” she says. “Put a support system in place so that you can balance all that is important to you. I am very grateful to have one. I work with great people and have amazing caregiver help with my mom and the children.”

Helping the South Florida community also is important to Karyn. Because she is adopted, she especially enjoys serving as an Angel Mom at Place of Hope, which supports the family adoption community. She also supports JAFCO (Jewish Adoption and Family Care Options) for the same reason, and is serving on the committee of this year’s Alzheimer’s Association Walk in Palm Beach in support of her mother and others who suffer from the disease.

“I feel like I am a part of something bigger when I help other people,” Karyn says. “South Florida is a community that loves giving back, which is one reason why I love it here.”


Kristi Klotz Macy

Casso Macy Law Group
2755 E. Oakland Blvd., Ste. 102
Fort Lauderdale
Growing Families Together
901 S. Federal Hwy. #201
Fort Lauderdale

Doing the work she loves in the company of like-minded people is one important way attorney Kristi Klotz Macy finds life balance.

The former Broward County prosecutor realized that, after having two young children, she would need to change the way she practiced law.

“Judges don’t run on your schedule,” she says. “But I am very committed to using the non-mommy part of my brain, so I wanted to find a way to do meaningful work and still have the right time to spend with my children.”

To find that personal and professional satisfaction, she joined with Jennifer DeMarzo Casso, another attorney with young children, to form the Casso Macy Law Group, which concentrates its practice in the areas of real estate law, business law and dealer law. Also, the two recently partnered with a colleague at another law firm to form Growing Families Together. Created to focus exclusively on assisted reproductive law, the firm’s services include adoption; pre-planned adoption; surrogacy agreements; ovum, sperm and embryo donation contracts; as well as other issues that arise in modern family formation. 

“It really does take a village to raise great children, so finding the right environment to have a meaningful career and have time to do the things you want to do with and for your family is really important,” Kristi says. “Working with people who understand your priorities is essential.”  

So is raising children who understand that not everything in life turns out perfectly all the time – like Kristi’s cooking, apparently.

“The kids are really nice about it, though, and I guess that’s a great trait for them to have,” she says. “My daughter tells me, ‘that’s okay, you make great cereal.’”


Dr. Laura Sudarsky

eSSe Plastic Surgery
6333 N. Federal Highway, Suite 404
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33308

Achieving balance in life is achieved through making thoughtful choices, and Dr. Laura Sudarsky, of eSSe Plastic Surgery, has had to make a lifetime of thoughtful choices, sometimes giving up a “piece of the pie.” Dr. Sudarsky says, “There were no female role models when I began practicing  so I had to make decisions based on my own instincts, carefully considering what I wanted and needed to do.

Concentrating on my career was very important to me and factored heavily in my decision not to have children.” 

However, this decision has allowed her to travel throughout the world providing children and adults with life-changing surgeries.  Her career continues to grow and expand, and allows her to enjoy the satisfaction of helping people through research, education, and, most importantly, patient care.

Considered a pioneer in a male-dominated field, Dr. Sudarsky was Chief of Plastic Surgery at Good Samaritan Hospital in New York before coming to South Florida and starting her practice. Involved for many years in research and innovation in the field of cosmetic/reconstructive breast surgery, she routinely presents at national conferences, publishes in surgery journals and trains other physicians in new techniques. She is also one of a small group of physicians to be board certified in wound care.

Fluent in English, French and Spanish, Dr. Sudarsky has long been dedicated to working with underserved groups of women and children. She has been recognized by Operation Smile and Healing the Children for her multilingual clinics in impoverished countries, and she is the recipient of numerous humanitarian awards, including a Certificate of Special Recognition from the United States Congress. Her travels in healing have taken her as far as Afghanistan and Bangladesh, where she worked with acid burn victims, and Colombia during the height of guerilla warfare.

Currently practicing at eSSe Plastic Surgery with Dr. Tracey H. Stokes, Dr. Sudarsky has helped to create a place where women can feel completely comfortable talking to their physicians about their bodies in a totally judgment free environment. The practice focuses on aesthetic surgery of the face, breast and body.

“To be at our best and most fulfilled in life, we have to be mindful,” says Dr. Sudarsky, who runs every morning before work to clear her mind for the day. “This often means choosing to do one thing and not the other, even though we often don’t have full knowledge of all the trade-offs when we make those decisions. I think it’s best to be patient about making them.”


Niki A. Higgins
Director of Luxury Sales

Seaside Properties Group at Douglas Elliman 

“Taking meaningful time every day to appreciate the beauty and peace surrounding you will help you find life balance – especially in South Florida,” says Niki A. Higgins, Director of Luxury Sales at Seaside Properties Group at Douglas Elliman.

Niki merged her highly successful luxury waterfront real estate firm in 2012 with the prestigious Douglas Elliman real estate agency, where she continues her career as one of the leading specialists in luxury waterfront and seaside real estate from Miami Beach to Palm Beach. She was the #2 agent in Florida company-wide in 2014 and 2013. She has closed several record-breaking sales throughout South Florida, has been profiled in numerous upscale real estate publications and is a contributor to local magazines.

As busy as she is – working seven days a week for sophisticated buyers with challenging schedules – Niki says she knows the value of “tuning out” time, even for just a little while.

“I spend a few hours each day walking Fort Lauderdale Beach with my dogs,” says Niki, who has two Cairn terriers, Bear and McKenzie. “It helps me de-stress, clear my mind and become a human being again. It’s very cathartic.”

Helping buyers appreciate the waterfront lifestyle in South Florida came easily to Niki, who is considered an expert with 15 years of extensive experience in finding perfect properties for the discerning few.

“Home is important to the soul, so it is very rewarding to help people find a place where they are happy,” she says. “So many people are drawn to the ocean and realize very quickly that every day is paradise in South Florida. I love meeting them and knowing that I am helping them achieve an unparalleled quality of life.”

As a leading authority for sales of exclusive waterfront condominiums, new construction and estate homes from Miami Beach to Palm Beach, Niki’s vast knowledge of the affluent, multi-national buyer ensures that every client will always be shown the best South Florida real estate, at the best value, with the utmost confidentiality. 

“This is truly what I am passionate about,” she says. “Loving what I do every day certainly gives me a sense of balance.”


Susan Rindley
Global Estate Agent

ONE Sotheby’s International Realty

Taking a step back from the world every day to reflect on what you’ve learned and appreciate all you have will not only help achieve life balance, it will help you grow and evolve, says Susan Rindley, Global Estate Agent for ONE Sotheby’s International Realty.

That’s a learned discipline for Susan, who is number 2 in sales for the company in Broward, and helps “artfully unite extraordinary homes with extraordinary lives” on the waterfront in Fort Lauderdale, South Beach, Miami Beach, Hillsboro Beach, Boca Raton, Delray Beach and Palm Beach. 

Considered an expert on luxury real estate worldwide, and interviewed frequently by media such as CNN, NBC’S OPEN HOUSE, Extra, and The Wall Street Journal, Susan is currently working with more than $65 million in real estate transactions to date, with over $30 million closed in 2014 and over $42 million sold in 2013.

“I didn’t always understand the importance of balancing my career with time for friends and family – and for myself. But now I see how it is an integral part of life,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be a huge amount of time – sometimes I just hop in our boat for 30 minutes to relax, breathe and reflect. This really helps me do all the things that are important with renewed energy.”

Making a difference at work and in her community is a priority to Susan, who is a South Florida native. She is active with Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build, Autism Speaks, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundations, PAWS, Heart Gallery of Broward, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and Cancer Research.

Donating both her time and money to the nonprofits, Susan finds that this part of her life often overlaps with her career and personal life. 

“Connecting with people to help them achieve what is most meaningful to them is truly making a difference,” she says. “It’s how we make the world a better place.”


Dr. Tracey H. Stokes

eSSe Plastic Surgery
6333 N. Federal Highway, Suite 404
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33308

To stay balanced in life, it’s important for women to take time out for themselves, says Dr. Tracey H. Stokes of eSSe Plastic Surgery.

“Women tend to put themselves last after kids, husbands and jobs,” adds the mother of two young children who co-chaired the Broward County Medical Association’s Women’s Physician Section. “Sometimes the most important thing we can do is to take some time for ourselves and do something just for us. We are better at home and at work if we do.”

Dr. Stokes recently made the decision to move her successful practice to join with Dr. Laura Sudarsky at eSSe Plastic Surgery – creating a place where women can feel completely comfortable talking to their physicians about their bodies in a totally judgment free zone. The practice focuses on aesthetic surgery of the face, breast and body.

Dr. Stokes’ move was an important part of her own efforts to balance home and work.

“I wanted to be closer to home and the children’s school,” she says. “I also now have back up at the practice. The rewards are immeasurable.”

Having back up at home is also important to Dr. Stokes. Her parents are active in caring for her children.

Dr. Stokes, who chaired the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk in Broward County last year, has chosen a specialty in breast reconstruction and surgery for a very personal reason.

“My mom had breast cancer. At 40 she had a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery a year later,” she says. “That was the catalyst for reconstructive surgery being the majority of what I do now. Helping women recapture their whole self.”

The Harvard-educated physician sees her vocation as one that helps women meet the challenges of life at their most confident.

“If you have confidence, you radiate beauty,” she says. “One of my greatest joys is being involved in a profession that helps make this possible for so many people.”


Tyesha Ward-Haynes

Keller Williams Realty SW
2000 NW 150th Ave.
Pembroke Pines

Even the most demanding of work schedules can be made family friendly with structure and organization, says Tyesha Ward-Haynes, a successful residential real estate consultant and property management professional. This is how the mother of two young children – and soon to have her third – finds balance and alleviates stress.

“It’s all about priorities,” Tyesha says. “Plan ahead, make a schedule and stick to it as much as possible. Both your work and your family will benefit from it.”

Doing this allows one to be truly present and engaged in anything she sets her mind to do, Tyesha emphasizes, noting that she conducts her business a bit differently than many real estate consultants because of this value.

“I only work by appointments,” Tyesha says. “I explain to clients that I want to give them my full attention when I am with them, having set aside the appropriate amount of time to spend with them to best meet their needs.”

Family time also has structure and schedules for her children – and a calendar of activities and appointments for all, so that everyone knows what’s happening at all times. Even Tyesha’s husband, Rufus, knows he has to put items on the calendar if they are important to him, she says.

“He knows it’s in his best interest to make sure he uses the calendar,” she says with a smile.

Having the calendar is part of the constant communication effort that must be made to effectively juggle family and business – and enjoy it all, Tyesha adds. As long as everyone knows they will have the time that is important to them and when that time will be, they feel satisfied.

Setting time aside for one priority at a time is an essential part of being your best – both personally and professionally – she emphasizes.

“You have to know when to turn off. It’s not always about you and your business,” Tyesha says. “Being a caring mother and wife is most important, and I bring that principle of caring into my work for clients every day.”


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