MEET
JESSICA
RIVELLI
FOUNDER OF WORKING WOMEN OF TAMPA BAY

In her twenties, Jessica Rivelli experienced what she calls a “quarter-life crisis.” After working in television news production since the age of nineteen, and studying journalism at Elon University, Jessica was in search of a change of pace, and a way to make a difference in the world around her. She spent 2008 networking, exploring BNI groups, philanthropy events, chamber of commerce meetings, and more, but found nothing quite fit for a young woman Entrepreneur like herself.

 

“I call it the Goldilocks Syndrome,” Jessica says. “I tested all these things that didn’t quite fit.” Jessica found herself wondering what she wanted from a networking group, and if she could fill that gap. She drew on her experience in television production, recalling engagement tactics and events that she saw success with.

 

“I want to show up to an event for an hour. I want it to be casual. I want it to be fun. And then I want to leave with a little goody bag. This is what my priorities were in my twenties,” she tells The Pioneer. Never one to wait for what she wants, Jessica decided to organize a networking event tailored to her vision. In November of 2008, she hosted the first meeting of Working Women of Tampa Bay at Casa Tina, a local woman owned restaurant. Six months later, she had a networking foundation on her hands. Jessica credits the rapid growth of Working Women of Tampa Bay to a “perfect storm” of economic and technological change. In 2008, social media was just reaching the mainstream, and Jessica took advantage of the free marketing these platforms provided.

That is the true mission of Working Women of Tampa Bay, to educate, inspire, and motivate women Entrepreneurs. By connecting women from a variety of fields, at different levels of experience, each with their own expertise and skills, Jessica has created a coalition for women to share knowledge and build each other up as professionals. Before Working Women of Tampa Bay, one may have heard of a group of professionals networking and trading skills and pictured a smoky room, men in suits with glasses of brandy and leather briefcases. Working Women of Tampa Bay took this tried and true boy’s club model and adapted it for the modern woman.

 

“I think Entrepreneurship is the key for women to continue to progress as a gender, because Entrepreneurship allows you, what I feel is, total autonomy over your own success,” says Jessica. “In order for us as women to break the cycle of poverty and break, if you want to say patriarchal inclinations…Entrepreneurship is a great way to do that, because you are literally in the driver’s seat of your own success.”

 

This has proven true for many of the thousands of women Entrepreneurs Jessica has encountered in her decade running Working Women of Tampa Bay, and it may lead one to wonder: why aren’t more women exploring Entrepreneurship? This is a question Jessica, and Working Women of Tampa Bay, are looking to answer in the coming years. “Our next steps are identifying the barriers that women have from starting companies, and also identifying the barriers to why they don’t take it to the next level.” Jessica believes she has found some key culprits in women’s hesitancy to step into the world of self-employment and business ownership.

 

“It comes down to affordability, and it comes down to a support system and resources,” she says. Working Women of Tampa Bay has always valued affordability, with the high cost of membership for other networking clubs being part of Jessica’s motivation to start her own. They provide classes on what Jessica calls “hard-skills and soft-skills,” technical elements of running a business as well as leadership and personability skills. They offer networking opportunities several times a month, both for members and non-members, including virtual events. Working Women of Tampa Bay has also begun a partnership with First Home Bank, to provide financial education as well as small business loans to businesswomen.

 

Their non-profit Working Women’s Foundation also provides grants to women just starting out. Most of all, being a part of Working Women of Tampa Bay provides members with a support system, a network of women invested in helping each other succeed. As Jessica herself has said, in so many words, Working Women of Tampa Bay could not exist without the working women who participate in it. Every Entrepreneur needs a support system and Working Women of Tampa Bay provides one of the strongest and fastest growing this city has to offer.

In addition, the recent economic recession left many women, previously employed in the professional world or working in the home, looking to break into the world of Entrepreneurism. “You had this economic need, you had this free marketing that came from social [media],” Jessica reflects. “And then you had a new way of networking. Our way of networking was just fun. Affordable, super affordable which has been a tenant of ours from the very beginning, and at night.”

 

The perfect combination for a new kind of network, built for the new kind of businesswoman. While Working Women of Tampa Bay grew faster than Jessica ever expected, she found support in her new network as well. “I am a benefiter of Working Women’s education and support system,” she says. “I am the product of my own business.” Jessica describes how Working Women of Tampa Bay took off “like a dog sled” and it was through “so many women who surrounded it with love and nurtured it” that she was able to grow the network. “What’s so beautiful about Working Women is that you’ve got so many women at those different levels, and they can all help each other.”

 

Jessica says, describing it as, “A beautiful ecosystem of all these different kinds of women at all different phases in their career or their business.” “There are different, amazing women in our community, and by connecting one-on-one, I’ve been able to see what they do really well and emulate that.” Jessica says. Through growing Working Women of Tampa Bay, attending the expert-taught classes they offer and engaging with members, Jessica estimates she’s spent over a thousand hours learning about the very skills that helped her to grow her network over the past decade. “I am grateful for Working Women, because I am a better Entrepreneur because of it

Angela
Valencia
 
Hometown Talent
By: Antonio Jalisco

The word Entrepreneur was
first mentioned in the 18th
century, denoting a person who
undertakes a project. However,
over time the word seemed to
settle on the ears of those in
the tech space. This has been
the inherent truth until recently.
Entrepreneurs as we know come
from many backgrounds. They are
Carwash Owners, Corner Store
Owners, Restaurant Owners and
the list goes on and on. Yet rarely
do you hear the word used when
you refer to someone in the
television industry.
We often refer to those on
television as Celebrities or TV
Stars. Entrepreneurs are the last
word we use when referring
to those who are on the silver
screen. I thought it was important
to break this down to you so that
we can debunk what we see as an
Entrepreneur vs. what the original
meaning of the word actual says.
Now that we have gotten the
preliminaries out of the way,
meet Angela and Valencia, two
Entrepreneurs who just so happen
to be television stars. “Who are
you two?” was the first question
fired off and without hesitation
these two fully energized young
ladies responded, “we are Singers,
Producers, and Children of God.”
Oh, by the way they are also “Irish
Twins”. If you do not know what
an Irish Twin is, keep reading,

we’ll talk about that later.
Angela and Valencia are the
Producers and Actors of the
hit series “Daddy We’re Back”.
This series was shot on scene in
Tampa, Fl and throughout many
of the locales we see every day.
This project was derived out of
their many years of singing and
performing on stages throughout
the city. While attending a
Christian Musical Festival they
began to expand their talents.
A dream deferred is a dream that
stink like rotten meat, words from
the great Langston Hughes. This
would not be their testament.
They quickly began to write, cast
for actors/actresses and explore
telling the story of two young
ladies returning home after “life
happens”. Not only does life
happen for them, it happens also
for their co-star Dennis Mallen,
who plays their dad.
Producing a sitcom is no easy feat
by no stretch of the imagination.
There are so many moving
pieces to this puzzle that must
be perfectly connected for the
intended outcome. We asked
Angela and Valencia, “how did
you pull it all together with
such poise?” “We learned a lot
along the way, when you are
working with many personalities
and skillsets, it’s about taking
direction and partnering with

people who have done this work
before and learn from them.”
Angela and Valencia started out
singing at age 6 and 7 years of
age, literally 9 months apart. There
is your definition of an Irish Twin.
When two siblings are born of
the same parents 9 months apart,
they are called Irish Twins. Their
parents would, in their own words,
“push them in front of the line to
sing”. They would perform skits,
plays and sing throughout their
neighborhood and in front of
family and friends.
Our interest continued to pique
during this interview, because at
no point during the interview did
they mention learning to produce
a sitcom, run cameras or write a
script, so we asked the obvious,
“were you mentally prepared for
such a task?”
“You have to broaden yourself, get
comfortable being uncomfortable”
stated Angela. “We came into this
space via a music video, once
we got there, we began to learn
other areas that we were not

familiar with. If you have an idea
or challenge in your mind, start
putting it together, hook up and
network with those who want to
do more.”
Daddy We’re Back a dramedy
with true to life issues that
everyone has experienced or
know someone experiencing it.
One of the scenes from the series
shows the two of them on the
phone confiding in each other
about life and the challenges they
were facing. Life is full of both
challenges and surprises.
Some of them are good and
some are great. As we were
about to send the article to print,
we received a phone call from
Angela and Valencia, informing us
of some great news, their show
had been picked up by Glewed
TV!! Glewed TV is a streaming
television network accessed
through Smart TV, Roku, Apple
TV, Fire TV and many more. Be on
the lookout for their new season
as well as be on the lookout
for Angela and Valencia as they
redefine the word Entrepreneur.

Veterans as
Entrepreneurs

BY DR. RUSS BARNES

Today’s Entrepreneurial
environment requires certain
attributes from those who choose
to participate. Entrepreneurs
in general are responsible for
innovations that change the
nature of the world we live in.
They take on the impossible.
They do what others say cannot
be done. They are unaffected by
the odds and continue to pursue
solutions until they succeed.


The Entrepreneurial environment
demands of practitioners a
“creativity” mentality and an
equally important “organization”
mindset. Frameworks provide
the structure needed to measure
progress and it would be
impossible to make appropriate
and effective business decisions
without established parameters. If
this sounds familiar, it should.


The United States military
operates in much the same
way; a combination of creativity
and structure. It’s impossible to
anticipate what the next war may
bring and yet the military plans
and prepares with exceptional
rigor, ready for whatever comes
its way. A few local area veterans
who are leveraging their military
experience to put a stamp on the
Entrepreneurial landscape and
inspiring other veterans to
follow suit are:


Valerie Lavin (Army), with
Luminary Global, provides
superior prehospital and
emergency preparedness
products to Emergency Medical
Service (EMS), Fire, Law
Enforcement, Military Personnel,
and Citizens.

Charlynda Scales (Air Force), is
the founder and owner of Mutt’s
Sauce, LLC. The product is a multipurpose
specialty sauce, infusing
sweet, tangy and a little bit of heat
into each spoonful.


Dr Tammy Foster-Knight (Air
Force)
, with Optional Solutions,
LLC. sells high quality, widely
accepted medical equipment
and supplies including personal
protective equipment (PPE).


Susan Fererra (Air Force), is the
owner of Freedom Information
Systems, a Woman-Owned,
Service Disabled Veteran-Owned,
Small Business government
contractor that provides
program management, strategic
communication, and organizational
development services.


There are myriad reasons why
people who have served in any
branch of the Armed Forces are
well-suited to be Entrepreneurs,
but here are five which create an
unshakable foundation for success:


Quitting is never an option.
Servicemembers are screened
and filtered to continually test
their tenacity. Training does more
than provide enhanced skill; it
builds the belief that there is
always an opportunity to turn a
situation around through intellect
or effort. When failure appears
imminent and chaos reigns, the
service member peers through the
pandemonium seeking a way to
shift the circumstances. Military
training instills the mentality that
there is always something else
to be tried. Training proves to the
servicemember that what they

think is a limit is only a gate to
the next level of performance. By
association, that same training
prepares the servicemember to
succeed as an Entrepreneur.


Preparation. A commonly heralded
quote in the Entrepreneurial world
is, “by failing to prepare, you are
preparing to fail.” This sentiment is
also highly regarded in the Armed
Forces. In the military, training
never stops. The standards are
high and those who can’t sustain
will have to move on. Longevity
in the military is not a guarantee.
It takes perseverance, desire,
determination, and belief in the
mission. Threats are ever present
and we can’t depend on superior
technology or overwhelming force
to guarantee victory. It is imperative
in both the military and business
that you always be prepared.


Resourcefulness. Lack of resources
is not an acceptable reason for
failure. Sometimes circumstances
provide limitations that make it
seem impossible to meet mission
requirements. The resourceful
servicemember is expected
to identify and work around
those limitations to successfully
achieve the desired outcome.
The responsibility to adapt and
overcome is drilled into every
servicemember from day one.
Similarly, Entrepreneurs rarely
have enough money, people, space,
material, or time. Resourcefulness
is the Entrepreneurial attribute
that enables progress in the
face of adversity.


Leadership. This is the most
powerful asset the military has
in its portfolio of competitive
advantages. With national security
on the line and the possibility
that your leader may not be
around to provide direction, every
servicemember must learn how to
influence people to
achieve the goals of the
organization. Some leaders
are born, but most leaders are
made. The military happens to
be a leadership making factory.

Leadership training is provided for
every level of responsibility.


Results focused. Military
operations are highly complex.
It’s easy to get caught up in
bureaucracy when trying to
manage numerous programs,
projects and processes across
multiple units and an extensive
chain of command. The sense
of urgency and significance can
cause one to lose sight of the
mission in an effort to complete
the task list. Servicemembers
learn to keep their focus on
results and put first things first.
In business, the primary result is
profitability. Coming up short of
that objective in business means
people lose their employment.
Keeping the primary result
foremost helps the business
owner prioritize actions and
effectively apply resources.


With these 5 foundational pieces,
a former servicemember has
the attributes, the training and
experience to begin their journey
into the world of Entrepreneurship
as has been proven over and
over again. In fact, several wellknown
companies were founded
by veterans, including: FedEx,
Sperry Shoes, RE/MAX, Walmart,
GoDaddy, Nike, and more.


Veterans have a long history of
creating companies that change
the landscape of business. That
legacy continues to the present
day. According to the Small
Business Administration, more
than 2.5 million businesses are
majority veteran owned. Those
businesses account for $1.14
trillion in annual revenue and
employ 5.03 million people
nationally. It would be wise of you
to keep an eye out for veteran
owned businesses emerging in the
Tampa area.

Just Like
Candy

It’s not just about the bus tour it’s about a
lifestyle of equality and I want people to know

BY: JADE WHATLEY

There is not much Black people
in the City of Tampa do not
know about Candy Lowe. Her
name continuously came up in
every conversation I was having
surrounding Black people in
the City of Tampa. I must say
to a certain degree I was even
surprised to hear several White
people reference her as well.
“Have you talk to Candy Lowe
of the Black Business Bus Tour?”
This was a frequent question
since we decided to do a
combined Superbowl Theme/
Black History Month Issue.


Well, you guessed it, we sat
down with Candy and we were
taken not only a Black Bus Tour,
but we were also taken all the
way back to King High School
where she once ran track. She
reflected upon how shy she was
in High School and how she
and her friend Lori Larry dug a
hole in her yard, lined it with a
tarp and filled it with water. Just
when you think you have heard
everything about someone
something else is revealed.
Candy is outspoken about Black
Owned Businesses and her
passion toward their success,
but that is not what she wants
as her legacy. She would like her

legacy to be known as a loving
mother, grandmother, one who
loves to just be still, listening to
Kenny Chesney and enjoying a
full moon.


Just like candy, we learned that
beneath the wrapper of life is a
sweet woman who just wants to
see things better for Black people.
Named either by her Grandmother
or Father she got emotional
discussing her Mother. She
recalled a time when her mother
came to her Tea Shop and gave
her paycheck to her to ensure her
business would survive. A mother’s
love for her daughter runs deep,
literally, to the last penny.


Why do we need a Black Business
Bus Tour? A loaded question you
would think, but Candy was ready
for the answer. Paraphrasing,
“look around everyone else
has a community, we don’t, we
are spread all over the place,
so in order for people to know
where our Black Businesses
are, I thought it was important
to take them there.” The Black
Business Bus Tour runs primarily
with volunteers and a few
staff members ensuring that
businesses like The Ward’s Robe
can meet their rent for the month.

Volunteers and staff like Delores
Grayson, Jarvis El-Amin and
Connie Burton to name a few
have witnessed businesses
toured account for upwards
$2000 within the 45 minutes
shoppers spend at their location.
This is a significant amount of
money especially in an economy
we are in today.


Black, Black, Black unapologetically
are words you will always hear
Candy say without hesitation. These
words have shaped her existence
today and in her own words, “I will
run this race until I am on 43rd
and can’t get out” she will forever
be known for her contribution
to Tampa’s Black Entrepreneur
Ecosystem in Tampa, Florida. For
more information about the Black
Business Bus Tour visit: www.
blackbusinessbustourflorida.com

"look around
everyone
else has a
community,
we don’t, we
are spread
all over the
place, so
in order for
people to
know where
our Black
Businesses
are

PROFILE

Faith Without
Works

 

By: Brian Sutton

After serving collectively
roughly about 30 years in
the military, April and her
husband Aaron, decided
to throw their lives in the
arena of Entrepreneurship.
April became a full-time
student and earning a
Bachelor’s Degree and
recently received her
Master of Arts Degree
in Entrepreneurship
from American Military
University.


“Military spouses have a
hard time keeping jobs
when they’re asked to
move by the military,”
April admits. This is very
common with military
spouses, leading April to
begin her first business
venture operating a small
popcorn business, Princess
and the Popper where
she would target farmer’s
markets and local events
to offer her products.
She quickly realized that
there was a big gap in the
industry. “Why isn’t there a
place where you can
just go online and look for
all the available options to
do pop-up shops?”
she recounts.

Like so many
Entrepreneurs today,
she decided to shift her
focus on serving a bigger
need in the market.
She and her husband
then founded fayVen.
FayVen a veteran-owned
marketplace bringing
vendors such as artisans,
crafters, people who work
with their hands and want
to sell their products
in person. They began
building relationships
with venues or anyone
who has available space
to rent, partnering the two
together harmonically to
increase both businesses
revenue. The name,

FayVen is a play on several
words, a lightning strike,
venue/vendor and her
mother’s name.


“I think what can be
frustrating, (is) not
knowing where all the
resources are.” She
elaborates. Vendors need
to make sure they’re
inviting a legitimate
business with things such
as business insurance
and other vital business
information to their market

day events. Ensuring
that the right selection
of vendors and market is
vitally important to the
success of the market
day. FayVen provides that
comfort and security for all
parties involved.


“You don’t have to
know the people in the
community there,” she
says. “You can go to fayVen
to do your research, apply
for an event, go and set
up just as if you were in
your same farmer’s market
every week, you have all
the instructions you need.”


April and Aaron exemplifies
the true meaning behind
the Air Force’s motto
in their business and
daily life; integrity first,
service before self and
excellence in all we do.
“It’s imperative to run a
business with integrity.
There’s a lot behind that
word, but ultimately it
means transparency, and
reliability. Just being there
and being as real as you
can be for your community,
whoever that is.”

"
Military
spouses
have a
hard time
keeping
jobs when
they’re
asked
to move
by the
military