May 15, 2024
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South Coast Business & Technology Awards announced 2024 honorees


2023 SCBT Entrepreneur of the Year Elizabeth Cholawsky. (courtesy photo)

When Andrew Firestone and Jess Parker founded Santa Barbara-based StonePark Capital together, the two were just happy to create something in the city they’ve known their whole lives.

“For us, to be able to build our business in our backyards is very special,” Firestone told the Business Times.

Now, almost a decade later, the two aren’t just building a business but rather their own legacy in the hospitality industry.

It is why the pair is being honored as the Entrepreneurs of the Year at the 2024 South Coast Business and Technology Awards.

“It is certainly an honor, it’s humbling and we’re just grateful for and excited to be recognized,” Firestone said.

This year’s event will be held on June 11 at the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort beginning at 5 p.m. 

Net proceeds from the event benefit the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara and since 2001, this event has generated over $3 million in scholarships for over 1,100 students countywide.

Entrepreneurship runs in the Firestone blood, with his great grandpa founding Firestone Brand tires, his father being a wine magnate, and even his brother founding the popular beer brand Firestone Walker Brewing Company.

“The thing I love about it most, however, is that it’s all different. We’re not drafting off one another in terms of the businesses. Maybe the spirit, the energy, the direction, the drive, all that is the same, but we are all doing something totally different than what anybody else in my family has done previously, and that’s exciting for me. That’s a real point of pride,” Firestone said.

Firestone noted he and Parker first identified their first project in the hospitality industry in 2012.

“We just looked at each other and saw we liked doing this together and that’s how it was born,” he said.


Aside from Entrepreneurs of the Year, six other people and/or companies will be honored at the awards dinner on June 11.

The winners include media company Noozhawk winning Excellence in Service, Tecolote Research winning Company of the Year, Jackie Carrera being honored with Executive of the Year, Zohar Ziv being highlighted with the Pioneer Award and Santa Barbara companies Rabbit and Pearly being recognized as Rising Stars in the county business scene.

Noozhawk Founder William Macfadyen told the Business Times that “It is always gratifying to be recognized for the impact we are making.”

Noohawk is an online-only local news company that aims to cover Santa Barbara County and draws about 23,000 readers per day. 

“Since our first day in 2007, we have strived to put our community first and it’s something we think about daily — with our news coverage, our advertising partnerships and the in-depth projects we tackle,” Macfadyen said.

Ziv first came to the United States 48 years ago with the ambition to become a great success in this country.

He has done just that, with one of his biggest accomplishments being serving as the CFO and COO at Deckers working at the Goleta-based powerhouse from 2006 through 2015.

In his time at the company, Deckers grew from $250 million in revenue to a more than $2 billion powerhouse with employee count growing from about 240 to over 5,000 across the globe including about 400 in the Santa Barbara County area.

Before his retirement, he was also in charge of helping Deckers set up its new headquarters. Despite looking at various locations, Ziv told the Business Times the company wanted to stay loyal to the community and decided to stay in Santa Barbara.

Today, Ziv is still working as an entrepreneur, mainly founding a fast food company in China that went public just last year and even giving back as a member of the Santa Barbara Angel Alliance as well as working with other nonprofits.

“I am very honored and thrilled with this opportunity and I am always thankful to use all the experience that I have gained and some of the rewards I have gained and be able to give back,” Ziv said.

“It is our responsibility to give back to our community.”

Carrera knows all about giving back. As the president and CEO of the Santa Barbara Foundation since 2018, Carrera has led the Foundation’s efforts to refine its strategy, develop financial and human resources, drive new revenue opportunities, refine the business model, and further develop the donor base and endowment. 

Since 2018, assets have grown by $362 million to approximately $862 million. She was also a key leader of the region’s COVID-19 Joint Response Effort and Funders’ Collaborative which mobilized nearly $40 million to help communities through the pandemic. 

“I’m honored to collaborate across Santa Barbara County to build solutions to our community’s most pressing issues,” Carrera told the Business Times via email.  

“Doing this (work) means I’m part of incredible collaborations among subject matter experts, philanthropists, foundations, nonprofits, business, education, and government, so I’m usually surrounded by people who care deeply about our community. It’s all about partnerships and that brings me joy, every day. I’m grateful for the work I’m part of, and grateful for this recognition!”

Pearly CEO Jeff Cole is a Santa Barbara native and said he is “very honored” to be recognized as a Rising Star.

The company aims to “help dental practices save time on billing and annoying admin tasks while also making the financial and billing experience for patients way more modern and better.”

“Dental like most healthcare is a little behind the times and we’re hoping to bring them forward we now work with over 1000 dental offices across 45 states,” Cole said.

“But Santa Barbara has such a great entrepreneurial supportive culture with so many incredible large companies and people who’ve are willing to help out small startups so feel very honored to be included in this award.”

Rabbit is a female-founded apparel company. Co-founder and CEO Jill Deering was honored at the Pacific Coast Business Times 40 under 40 list in 2023.