As CEO of a 15-year tech business accelerator and incubator, Tonya Elmore's entrepreneurial leadership has shifted the business landscape in St. Petersburg. Through the creation of TEC Garage, Elmore has helped local entrepreneurs identify and grow business opportunities in multiple sectors that range from education, hospitality, medical services and healthcare. Elmore's long, innovative career in technology and entrepreneurship provides the expertise to facilitate major growth in early-stage technology firms that produce long-lasting economic impacts in the county. Her pioneering achievements have positioned her as one of the top 20 technological leaders in Tampa Bay.
Years in St. Pete
Organizations involved in
Pinellas County Economic Development Advisory Board, St. Pete Innovation District Advisory Board, SunCoast Developers Gold, Gulf Beaches Magnet School's Center for Innovation and Digital Learning, USF, St. Pete Center for Entrepreneurship, St. College of Business, amongst many others.
What gets you out of bed every day?
My son and my job. I really enjoy working with entrepreneurs and innovators.
Why St. Pete?
When I moved here 25 years ago, to be honest with you my family thought I was crazy. But I looked at a couple of things. I love the waterfront, the parks, the proximity to almost anything- airports, beaches, Disney World in Orlando - and it was just a wonderful community feel to it. And I also knew that anyone in my family would love to come here on vacation.
What is one habit that you keep?
I dedicate part of my day every day for my son. Making sure he's a priority and gets some of my undivided attention, because I would work all the time and he asked me one day if I worked 24/7 and I said, "no." But it feels like that to him. Another habit that keeps me grounded is prayer at the end of the day. It calms me, makes me focus and gets me ready for my next day.
who are some people that influence you?
Tampa Bay is very different from when I was younger and I lived in Knoxville; it's a much more engaging, giving community so I think I have been blessed by many influencers instead of just one. Definitely, my board who helps drive our mission at TEC Garage forward is a big one for this community.
What is one piece of insight - a book, methodology, practice - that you would share with our readers?
Learn every day. When younger in life it was either going to college or working to make money. Those two things. Learning and making money seems to go hand in hand, so continuous learning is my biggest one.
What is one thing you wish you knew about your work 3 years ago?
That we would quickly outgrow the space that we're in. That we could have planned a bit better for growth, even though we did strategic planning when we started the concept of moving downtown and working with entrepreneurs ... just the demand for our services and how they've grown.
Moving to a larger space. We're looking at moving to a 20,000 square-foot space in downtown before the end of summer. And eventually, a longer-term planning five years from now - moving into a 45,000 square-foot purpose-built innovation center.