Ruth Ross knew only two people in St. Petersburg when she relocated from California in 2017. Although she didn't know much about the area when she arrived, she had a gut feeling she'd found a place where she could be part of something special. Fast forward to 2020 and the retired HR executive, consultant and author has more than found her groove. As an active member of the business and nonprofit community, Ross draws upon her personal and professional experiences to help the city - and its residents - grow, thrive and prosper.
Years in St. Pete
Organizations involved in
I’m very involved with two great organizations. I’m part of Seedfunders, where we invest in pre-revenue startups, mostly in Florida. I’m also active in the St. Petersburg Group which owns the St. Pete Catalyst, Venture Catalyst and the St. Petersburg Press.
What gets you out of bed every day?
This is an amazing community and I was so fortunate to move here three years ago. I was so taken by the energy and vitality of what’s going on in the community and how much I’ve seen it grow over the last three years. Seeing new companies be developed and watching nonprofits thrive and prosper – it’s wonderful to be involved in the community and to be part of the changes happening here.
Why St. Pete?
It’s never about the destination. It’s about the journey. I was living in San Francisco and I lost my husband. That caused me to think about what the next part of my life was going to look like. I was trying to decide where I wanted to live and I couldn’t find anything that really fit what I wanted. Then I talked to my cousin who had bought a place here and he told me to come take a look. I asked him where St. Petersburg was, and he replied, “You know Tampa?” I said yes. He said “we’re much better than the Tampa side. Come over to St. Pete.” I showed up here, went to look at a condo that was being built, flew home four days later and bought the condo. Six months later, I packed up my life and moved here.
What is one habit that you keep?
I really like to walk. Living downtown, I have the waterfront right in front of me, the university, Mirror Lake and Central Avenue. Sometimes I just set off with no idea what direction I want to take – and that’s OK.
Who are some people that influence you?
Absolutely my father. He was a man who had a rough upbringing. He was born in Russia, raised in Cuba and came to the U.S. with a few dollars in his pocket at age 14. And he still went on to become a doctor! He was someone who never took anything for granted. He had patients who couldn’t pay him in dollars so they brought him meals or handmade pieces of clothing. He was a firm believer in getting up in the morning and being passionate about whatever you were going to do that day, and he instilled that value in me from an early age.
What is one piece of insight - a book, methodology, practice - that you would share with our readers?
Well, I actually wrote a book called “Coming Alive: The Journey to Reengage Your Life and Career.” One day, I woke up, looked in the mirror and diagnosed my own disengagement. I realized I had lost the passion for my career of 30 years. I thought about my dad who was always passionate, and I knew that sometimes you have to take detours and flip the switch. No one could do it for me. We all have to take ownership and say if something’s not right, we have the power to change it. That’s been my mantra.
What is one thing you wish you knew about your work 3 years ago?
Work is a funny term for me. I’m twice retired – once from the corporate world and once from being an author and a speaker. Yet now I’m so much more fulfilled by what I’m doing here. Meeting the people at Seedfunders and The St. Petersburg Group has changed my life so dramatically, and I really think we’re making a difference.
There are so many things! When I look at the Venture Capital side, I really enjoy going to meetings of 1 Million Cups, where I hear entrepreneurs and nonprofits telling their stories, and what I’ve seen is how many more people are coming down here. I want to keep mentoring more of these people. I’ve had the opportunity to do it for people from age 7 to age 70, and it’s such a great experience that goes far beyond just writing a check.
With The St. Petersburg Group, what started out as a great idea has now taken on arms and legs and there’s so much to it. I realize there is even more than can be done in the community. The Pier is opening up. Now we have the St. Petersburg Press with so many great books coming out from authors who have stories to tell. I want to continue to encourage people to find their voice, and share their knowledge about this community so we can continue to grow.