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Community Voices: In celebration of Women Entrepreneurship Day

Jessica Rivelli

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Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

Welcome to the Catalyst’s Community Voices platform. We’ve curated community leaders and thinkers from all parts of our great city to speak on issues that affect us all. Visit our Community Voices page for more details.

At Working Women of Tampa Bay, we celebrate Women Entrepreneurship every day, but November 19 is a day designated to celebrate, embrace and empower women entrepreneurs. Women Entrepreneurship Day (WED) began in 2013. Today, WED is celebrated at the United Nations and in 144 countries.

According to the National Association of Women Business Owners, there are almost 12 million women-owned businesses generating nearly $2 trillion in revenue every year. Data shows that since 2007, the number of women-owned companies has grown at five times the national average, with 1000 new women-owned businesses starting every day.

Tampa Bay often ranks in the top metro areas for women entrepreneurs in studies like one done recently by Business.org. Their researchers found that 25% of small businesses in Tampa Bay are owned by women. That’s not surprising. As the Founder of the largest women’s networking organization in our area, I’ve seen the excitement and interest in female entrepreneurship steadily climb over the past 10 years. Four years ago, we launched a nonprofit, the Working Women Foundation, to help boost business ownership among women in Tampa Bay. Since then we’ve had 200 apply for seed money, and we’ve awarded $35,000 to 50 of those applicants.

One of those recipients, Michelle Turpeau, Founder of SocialVive Marketing, shared why she thinks Tampa Bay is a great place to start a business. “I’m grateful to live in this amazing, supportive area full of opportunities and authenticity! There are so many valuable resources for minority-owned businesses like mine.”

Lori Bishop also recently opened a business. Blush Tea and Coffee has been open for about a year now in St. Petersburg. She recalled how supportive her tribe was when she shared with them her plans to open the shop. “The support was amazing, from my loved ones, neighbors, total strangers and everyone I met through the Chamber. St Pete is incredibly supportive of local small businesses.”

Chambers play a key role in helping start-ups succeed. Ami D. Govindaraju is the Operating Partner of DryBar Tampa. She belongs to the South Tampa Chamber of Commerce, which is led by a female CEO: Kelly Flannery. “Tampa Bay is a diverse, growing market with a healthy environment for new businesses to launch and succeed,” Govindaraju explained. “The days of the ‘good ole’ boys club’ is coming to an end.”

There are countless free or affordable resources for women entrepreneurs in Tampa Bay, including more than a dozen chambers, SBDC, SCORE, The WAVE, STRIVE, The Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship, Rising Tide Innovation Center … and the list goes on.

“Tampa offers the best combination of community and resources for female entrepreneurs to grow and support each other. The connection of a mid-size city where female leaders are accessible like Mayor Jane Castor and Rita Lowman, along with big-city resources like Embarc Collective, funded by Jeff Vinik. It’s truly a unique place to do business,” shared Out Front Brands CEO Theo Prodromitis, who recently testified in front of the Small Business Committee on Capitol Hill.

Tampa Bay is the best of both worlds when it comes to doing business. “It’s a large metro area that has a small town feel and is incredibly supportive of small businesses like mine,” explained veteran business owner Cindy Dervech of Breezin Entertainment. Sharon Fekete, a.k.a. The Doctor Whisperer, agreed. “Tampa Bay is big enough to sustain a company and small enough to stand out.”

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