A dozen young people in Okaloosa, Walton and Santa Rosa counties were recognized in 2012 for their achievements by a regional business magazine.
Business owners, an editor, a farmer, a county commissioner and several others were selected for 850 Business’ 40 under 40 list, which ran in issues published throughout 2012.
“They made me look 1,000 times better than I do on my best day,” Freeport resident Luke Langford said with a laugh.
The 31-year-old farmer owns Cypress Cattle & Produce Co., a 1,100-acre farm in Walton and Holmes counties that features a produce market Langford started by accident rather than design.
“I overplanted a garden one time and the next thing I knew I was in the produce business,” he said.
Langford was featured in the first group of nine people in the February/March issue of the Tallahassee-based magazine, which caught the eye of a young professional who eventually was placed on the list herself.
“I remember when the first issue came out I thought, ‘These are really remarkable individuals,” said Sabrina McLaughlin, executive director of marketing and creative services for the University of West Florida.
McLaughlin said she was impressed by their diverse backgrounds and skills, but never expected to be selected for the honor herself.
When she was notified, the 33-year-old said she knew it was because of several factors, including her family, co-workers, faith and ability to learn from her mistakes.
“I tell my students … if you learn nothing else in this class, (know) that you have to learn from your mistakes and maintain that positive course,” she said. “Don’t do it again if you can help it.”
Lessons accumulated over time likely helped land now 27-year-old Jessica Proffitt on the 40 under 40 list.
The former corporate public relations professional barely had launched Proffitt PR in Destin when she was notified about her nomination.
“I freaked out. It was amazing,” she said with a laugh. “It was a big leap of faith, leaving the corporate world.”
An equally large leap helped land Tijuana Flats co-owners Brian and Jenna Leigh Burger on the list.
In late 2006, the then-newly dating couple decided to buy the Fort Walton Beach restaurant after working in other restaurants of the chain.
“We both knew it was a good company,” said Jenna Leigh, 31. “If we failed it was just because we didn’t try hard enough … All we had to do was work hard.”
Six years later and after the purchase of a second restaurant in Pensacola, their theory has proven true.
Hard work also landed six other Okaloosa and Santa Rosa residents on the list. They are Jason Kimbrell, the regional director of operations for Lifeguard Ambulance Service; Farron Cousins, an editor, radio producer and blogger; Jeremy Johnson, a Realtor; Nathan Boyles, an attorney and Okaloosa County commissioner; Jonathan Tallman, the owner of The Tallman Group in Niceville; and Chris and Heather Thomas, the co-owners of Destin Vacation Boat Rentals.