Valerie Ellis Lavin is a retired Army First Sergeant and the Founder and CEO of Luminary Global, proudly partnering with her husband, Jeremy Lavin, who acts as the company’s COO. Luminary Global provides emergency products and gear to EMS, Fire, law enforcement, military, and citizens - those who are the lifeline between preventable death and hospital care. She is also co-founder of a nonprofit called Action Zone, which helps veterans and their families build and grow their own businesses, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions.
Years in St. Pete
I’ve been here since 2013, so 10 years.
Organizations involved in
I have my own company, Luminary Global. I am also the co-founder of a nonprofit called Action Zone, which helps veterans and their families build and grow their own businesses. I am a recent graduate of Leadership Tampa Bay. I also serve on the board of the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions.
What gets you out of bed every day?
Aside from my love and zest for life in general, community service and giving back to my community is very important to me. My father used to always say, “Pay your taxes and contribute to society.” And I think that my time in the military amplified that, where you’re just constantly contributing to make lives every day.
Why St. Pete?
I was still active duty when I moved to Florida. I got stationed at MacDill Air Force Base at Central Command in 2011. I met my now husband in 2013, and when I retired (from the military) in 2014, I wanted to be closer to the water. So we packed up and moved to St. Pete and never regretted it. We absolutely love living here.
What is one habit that you keep?
Drink lots of water!
Who are some people that influence you?
I already mentioned my father and obviously my husband, who is also my business partner, is somebody who influences me and has been invaluable to the growth of our company. My co-founder of Action Zone, Rosie Lee. She’s a former military spouse and a serial entrepreneur, and her desire and tenacity to help the military community become entrepreneurs is inspiring. I have many colleagues who have now become friends that inspire me by the work they do every day. My friends Bridget Bello and Jason Baker, the team over at Tampa Bay Business, have been instrumental in my transition from the military into becoming a small business owner in the community.
What is one piece of insight - a book, methodology, practice - that you would share with our readers?
I truly believe every American should serve in the military for a minimum of four years. There’s so much to be learned about personal growth and what you’re personally capable of doing physically, mentally and emotionally. When you go into the military, it tests the boundaries of everything you think you are.
What is one thing you wish you knew about your work 3 years ago?
How hard entrepreneurship is. I grew up in a family where my dad, uncle and grandfather owned their own businesses, and even though I witnessed how hard they worked, to now be walking in their shoes is so much more significantly difficult than what I witnessed with my own eyes. That is part of the reason why we formed Action Zone, to help close the information gap and the experience gap of what it truly means to start your own business.
I’m a new member of ISPS, so I’m very excited to help with implementing their strategic plan and expanding the institute statewide. I’m working on starting another business, despite saying that entrepreneurship is so hard! But it is addicting. I’m just excited to continue contributing to the Tampa Bay region, which is so rich with resources and opportunities. I just love everything about it.