Jessica Rivelli got out of the media business so she could get into the business of entrepreneurship. She launched Working Women of Tampa Bay in 2009 to help women entrepreneurs pursue their dreams of owning their own business. Now, expanded to Working Women of Florida, the organization is the largest women's networking movement in the state of Florida, boasting 850 members and a robust social media following. Most recently, Women Women of Florida has broken into venture world, providing small seed funding investments to get female-owned businesses off the ground.
Years in St. Pete
Organizations involved in
Foundation that provides seed funding for women's start-ups, board member of Dress for Success, YWCA of Tampa Bay, South Tampa Chamber of Commerce
What gets you out of bed every day?
Usually a ton of work. I actually find that my mornings are my most creative, and I have my best flow in the morning. I get right out of bed and don't even shower or anything and I just start working.
Why St. Pete?
I love it here. I was born in Rhode Island but I grew up in Pasco County. Went to Elon, which is in North Carolina. I was so excited to get out of Florida when I went off to college. Started my career in TV and I couldn't get back to here fast enough. I always tell people here who are brand new that there's just a lifestyle and a vibe here that I'm not sure you could replicate anywhere in the United States. I think the closest thing would maybe be San Diego.
What is one habit that you keep?
Following up. I think that's such an important thing, I find that so often business falls through the cracks and relationships fall through the cracks because there's not continued follow-up. So one of the things I vow to do is to follow up with everyone I meet. And I file them in almost a virtual Rolodex in my brain so that when the time comes to give business or to refer, I have them in my head.
who are some people that influence you?
A lot of people say their parents, but my grandpa just passed. He was 92. He had this really carefree, fun, jovial personality. He didn't let things get him down. That's someone I admired and I don't feel like I do that as well as I could. He always used to say, 'You can't cry over spilled milk.' And so I've always wanted to be more like him. One person in the past that I've had a chance to learn from is Pam Iorio, the former Mayor of Tampa. Her philosophy on excellence and executing made a big impact on me. Her commitment to her community and her commitment to making sure she did everything with excellence really inspires me also.
What is one piece of insight - a book, methodology, practice - that you would share with our readers?
I really loved The Four Hour Work Week. I feel like that's almost an old answer now. I think that's 10-12 years old or even older now. I remember reading it right when I was starting Working Women and I was like, 'Yeah, this guy has it right.' I just like the philosophy that your work can finance your quality of life but it doesn't necessarily have to own you.
What is one thing you wish you knew about your work 3 years ago?
I think small business owners, when they start their businesses, don't understand the cyclical nature of small business. It takes several years to get used to that. You may have a rush of business, and then it may dry up. You may have slow seasons and then you may have seasons that are completely packed. I think I always consider small business ownership as like riding a rollercoaster. If I could go back in time to me when I was getting Working Women up and running as a business, I would convey to myself that you just need to relax a little and enjoy the ride.
As I mentioned, we just started this foundation 3 years ago. Every year we've raised more money and given more money away. I feel like there's a really big hole in the market for seed money for women startups. We only give about $500-1000 away, and it doesn't seem like a lot of money. But 10 years ago when I was started Working Women, that's exactly what I needed to just get a website together.