Featured enthusiasts | Jan & Alison Sirota
Jan Sirota lives life in the fast lane. He’s an avid race car driver and cyclist, and a busy Suncoast businessman, philanthropist and volunteer.
Jan spent 30 years in the exciting world of investment banking, specializing in large-scale mergers and acquisitions. He began in New York at Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns. Bitter cold winters led Jan to the balmy breezes of Sarasota in 1996, where he continued as an investment banker at Raymond James in St. Petersburg. After a decade of success there—and reaching a career high of more than 100 M&A transactions—Jan retired to pursue personal goals with gusto.
Almost immediately, he found love and a new partner in life: his wife Alison Gardner, a financial advisor at RBC in Sarasota. Jan credits Alison with helping him dive into the Suncoast philanthropy scene. Together they support many nonprofit groups, including the Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center (SPARCC), Jewish Family & Children’s Service of the Suncoast, Sarasota Ballet, Planned Parenthood, and New College of Florida.
Jan’s personal favorite is Take Stock in Children, which helps to ensure that less-fortunate students graduate from high school with the knowledge and skills to complete their postsecondary education and successfully enter the workforce. The group also provides a four year college scholarship for each student in the program.
Jan mentors four young women, offering advice once a week during meetings in the school library. “I want to do for them what I wish someone had done for me,” explains Jan, who came from humble beginnings. “We talk about the importance of networking and public speaking, paying attention to people, finding out what’s important to them, and knowing how to motivate them. It took me a long time to learn these things.”
Helping others is just one of Jan’s passions. He’s still a businessman with a number of ventures, including a closet company called Carefree Designs. “We’re in almost all new model homes,” Jan says.
Jan is also a devoted cycling enthusiast, pedaling an incredible 40 miles per day, most days of the week. He was one of the founders of the Potter Park cycling group in Palmer Ranch. “It’s part of the Sarasota Manatee Bike Club. We started that in the 90s,” Jan says.
And one weekend per month, Jan trades in two-wheeled excitement for four, racing in his favorite new toy—a bright orange 2017 McLaren 570S Coupe that he purchased through Dimmitt Automotive Group’s Sarasota Studio. “It looks outlandish, but the first time I got into the car and drove it, it felt like I’d been driving it forever,” Jan says.
He drives the McLaren at High Performance Driver Education events in Sebring, FL, where drivers are trained in high-speed techniques on dedicated race tracks. It requires classroom instruction and the observance of strict rules on the track. “There are 40 other cars and we go as fast as we can on the course, 150 miles per hour. It’s like driving through Monaco or the St. Pete Grand Prix,” Jan notes. “I love the risk.”
It’s a life in the fast lane, with twists and turns that continue to take this Suncoast businessman and philanthropist on a wonderful ride.