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My father always told me, “there is only so much dirt, Sweetheart so make sure you get your piece.” He and my mother were sort of accidental landlords in that we were being evicted from our childhood home so the owner could sell to a developer. The lot our house was on had two other homes on it and so they were forced to buy all three or start over somewhere else. They bought and thus began their journey into real estate investment in the Central Coast of California, leading to a long and successful enterprise. I learned a lot by watching, participating, and eventually going to work for a major lender in the mortgage industry before finally settling into a successful residential real estate career. I have picked up a lot of information and experience along the way and wealth through real estate requires business savvy and a willingness to learn.


Understanding the market and knowing the type of market you are in is key to leveraging it for your (and your clients’) benefit. We have all heard the terms buyers’ market and sellers’ market, but what do they mean and how do they impact your investment and personal purchase decisions? First you must understand how the market is explained through inventory. In a balanced market, if all listings in the MLS were frozen today, it would take approximately six months to sell all homes currently listed. If it would take longer than six months, we would be in a buyers’ market and if it took less than six months, we would be in a sellers’ market. Inventory is expressed in months, so if I say that in the month of September we had a 1.3 month supply of homes on the market - we would be in an extremely hot seller’s market (which by the way, is where we are). 




Logic says low demand=high supply, thereby driving prices down and high demand=low supply, thereby driving prices up. From an investment perspective, you want to buy low and sell high but there are layers to property investment. For example, are you looking to buy and hold property to create additional cash flow? How long do you plan to hold? Do you understand the implications of divesting and depreciation recapture? Are you looking to buy and flip property for more immediate profits? Are you prepared for the tax ramifications? Are you planning to purchase a home to live in and eventually convert it into a rental? What are your goals? How do you plan to pay for this investment? What is your breakeven point? What kind of spread are you looking for? 


Once you clarify your goals, you can create a plan of action and implement. Real estate investment should always be in your long-term portfolio but educate yourself so you can choose the right path for you. My parents were accidental landlords, but they built their portfolio into a highly successful retirement plan. There is truly only so much dirt, but with a little patience, hard work, and education, you can make sure you get your piece.



The Small Business Development Corporation was established to assist individuals who desired to become a business owner. They offer many programs to help you prepare for this new venture. However, this does not come without a cost. The most expensive cost one would pay for all of the services the SBDC offer is human value. The value an individual brings to an organization increase the wealth of those being served. The previous owner of GIN Associates, Center Director for SBDC at Hillsborough County, Business Strategist, Finance Director, Mary McCloud Bethune Education Award Winner, SBC Advocate Award Winner, Adjunct Professor, and Executive Director for Community Development Financial Institutions, all accolades and titles for Carol Minor.


If you are fortunate to schedule an appointment with Carol you will have found a jewel. During these times of financial unrest and our new way of living Carol’s message to Business Owners is quite simple, adjust. This is the new norm. Businesses fail not because of their inability to perform their duties as a business owner, they fail because they are not willing to adjust. As COVID-19 continues to destroy businesses there still is hope; however, your strategies must change. Many companies are struggling through this pandemic and many have lost millions of dollars due to a lack of cash flow. Cash flow is the amount of money coming in must be greater than the amount of money going out.

During one of the many educational sessions at SBDC Carol Minor and her team helps new business owners fully understand how Cash Flow works. Many people arrive at the point of Entrepreneurship without financial literacy, this hinders their ability to receive the capital needed to start the business. Carol reminds us of how simply saving five dollars a day toward your new idea is worth more than you could imagine.


During the savings process you can begin to learn more and more about your idea. One might say that it is easy for someone who is in finance to talk about saving money, that is all they do. Carol desired to be an Executive Assistant in her youth, but she found her passion in finance shortly after working for a major financial organization.


This passion was fueled by her desire to serve the disenfranchised and those mostly in need. In her own words, “small businesses gravitated to me”. Her tenure at SBDC is somewhat of a legacy in the making as she has reached the pinnacle and set up succession for her children and staff. For more information about the SBDC and services offered, visit https://sbdctampabay. com/carol-minor/. 

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Initially starting out as “something to do and learn to improve upon her skillset,” Jessica Reed eventually launched a marketing mogul of a company, Diace Designs. Today, it is the behind-the-scenes marketing firm behind some of the most recognizable brands in the country. Earlier this year, during a pitch competition, Diace Designs was selected to be one of the finalists to support the 2021 NFL Superbowl in Tampa, Fl. It’s a big win and a fitting way for Jessica and her outstanding team to celebrate 10 years of being in business as they hit that milestone the same month.


The Superbowl is a big stage to play on, but this is not Jessica’s claim to fame. What really launched her success was Airport Concession RFP Design/Responses. These changed the trajectory of her marketing firm leading Diace Designs to win contracts around the country servicing many major airports. Like most Entrepreneurs, Jessica started wading into the start up world while still working for her past employer. Also like many others before her, she took advantage of voids and growth along the way as she developed new relationships and more knowledge in her area of interest.


It didn’t take long for her to realize that she was ready to take the next step. Originally from New York, both of Jessica’s parents were business owners; therefore, she was familiar with putting in the long hours. However, she didn’t take things for granted and assume she knew all there was to know. Instead, she invested in lots of business coaching and adjusted her plan over and over again to ensure she would ultimately reach the milestones Diace Design was aiming for. Jessica says, “as a business owner you must not be afraid to pivot in order to meet certain objectives and goals.”


In 2018 Diace Designs did just that, pivoting to begin focusing more on Airport concession and space development. She credits trusting the process and not being afraid to say no if the opportunity does not fit with your company’s objective as the main way to get past the obstacles that come up and achieve success. Jessica’s company helps other businesses develop and convey their message by preparing content that immediately renders results in the market. It does not matter if you are a new business or have been around for a long time, Diace Designs can help. Fully understanding the client has been instrumental to their success and having the proper mentorship goes a long way when designing an “ace of a higher standard.”




Solita’s House is a beacon of light for many Entrepreneurs and individuals in the Bay Area. This stand-alone organization is the only one within the tri-county area that offers a full suite of services that empowers those classified as “risky” by creditors to buy a home, start a business, and/or begin building wealth.


The name Solita translates to “lonely” or “alone” in Spanish and is a perfect fit for the organization which was named after owner Aidza Antonio-Thomas’ grandmother. Born in Panama, Aidza first began to climb the corporate ladder when she came to America.


It wasn’t long however, before she realized that there was a gaping hole in the housing market here. It was obvious that there were very few educational or financial programs designed to help those of color and Caribbean decent in the housing industry. She knew she had to do something to change that.


The transition from Employee to Entrepreneur is often hard and challenging but Aidza’s mindset was quite different. She stated, “if I don’t succeed, I can always go back to corporate America”. With this in mind and a full understanding of the community that was depending on her, she left the corporate world and opened Solita’s House 14 years ago as a non-profit organization.



Becoming a nonprofit afforded her potential clients an opportunity to take full advantage of all of the services Solita’s House offered. Entrepreneurship is not easy, but it affords many luxuries not offered by an Employer. Things such as flexibility, creative thinking, personal value proposition and an opportunity to serve others beyond the scope of employment. It has been challenging but rewarding and Aidza knows that the positive impact of her organization’s work on the community far outweighs any negatives.


She carries the weight of her Grandmother’s name around everywhere she goes, always focused on living up to that name and remaining confident and true to those she serves. This, coupled with her of her won’t stop, don’t stop attitude toward Entrepreneurship, is the foundation to her success.


2020 shook up a lot of things in the world, and the business world was thrown on a roller coaster of unknown twists and turns. As we were closed, distanced, or ran our businesses with limitations, we not only had to find new ways to sell but also to network. Enter the age of virtual networking. Whether you are comfortable on camera or want to hide under your desk, you can’t deny that technology has given us a safe, efficient, and impactful gift of network access. And it’s here to stay.


New networking. Even as we return to “business as usual,” business networking will forever be changed. The reasons why? We have found new ways that are as effective as the old ways and are superior in efficiency. No travel time means you can block several networking meetings in a smaller time period resulting in more connection and more time for income producing activities. The new networking is a wave you should definitely ride to stay current and competitive in a changing marketing landscape. I network as a Tampa-based copywriter and small business strategist, but I’ve been passionate about networking in the Tampa Bay area since I entered my first business venture as a pediatric therapist 14 years ago.


While I prepared to open a clinic, I studied successful business owners and noticed they all had one thing in common a potent network of other flourishing Entrepreneurs. I quickly realized the old adage was true- It’s not all about what you know. It’s also about who you know. Up until mid-March, maybe like me, you had a couple networking groups on your calendar each week. Chamber groups. Local business owner groups. Women’s groups. After-hours mixers. Perhaps, you’d meet for coffee to connect with individuals as follow up to group events.


Before March of this year, my Facebook events and Eventbrite notifications were teeming with networking opportunities, but by April, in-person networking came to a screeching halt. Ingenuity is often born of adversity, and during these last many months, we’ve seen creative networking grow through growing use of video conferencing platforms. In what seemed like an instant, Zoom became more than a video conferencing platform. It became an action verb we quickly assimilated into our everyday business talk. “Want to Zoom later and talk about collaborating?” “Let’s do a Zoom coffee.” I probably say phrases like this at least five times a week. We also saw Google and Facebook ramp up their virtual meeting room offerings to give the public virtual office offerings. In addition to being active in several Tampa networking circles, in 2018, I founded a women’s networking group in the Tampa Bay area called Hearts and Heels. Prior to COVID-19, we had one big meeting each month to connect on a business development topic and socialize over dinner. Mompreneurs had this date on their calendars to break away for much needed self-growth and connection time. Those of us busy during the day with our clients looked forward to an evening to share a glass of wine, celebrate each other’s business wins, and talk one another off the cliff when challenges presented. Over the two years Hearts and Heels has been physically meeting, we have also grown a very active online group. When I realized in late March that meeting in person was going to be a no-go for a while, I admit…I freaked out and froze. After a couple months, I pushed myself to open virtual meetings for my group, because I recognized at a time where we felt not only individually isolated but like floating islands of businesses with no bridges to one another, it was critical I got over my feelings (fears) about presenting and hosting meetings online to provide virtual connection and networking opportunities for women. Interestingly, during the time we entered what felt like a real-life episode of the Twilight Zone to now has been Hearts and Heel s’s largest growth spurt.

Whether or not video conferencing is your preferred way to network, times are changing. It’s become necessary to become adaptable to stay alive. It’s time to brave the sweating palms and disdain for seeing yourself on a screen, and grow with the changes instead of waiting for a return to old ways. Maybe you’re reading this, and networking feels daunting for you. You’re a newer business owner or an introvert who has been watching the business community from the sidelines. You were about to dip your toes in the networking waters when “the ‘rona” threw its hat in the game and a wrench in your plans to give it a go. There’s good news. Whether you were well drenched or a toe dipper in networking, the playing field has been leveled for us all, as we’re all adapting to the new virtual ways of doing networking. There’s no better time than now to dive in, because it’s kind of weird for us all! Here are some tips to help you not feel like a fish out of water but like your online networking time is valuable to your business AND that you are contributing to the meetings.

1. Get a 60 second commercial together. You will need to introduce yourself to the virtual room. Read a cue card taped to your monitor to make sure you use this 60 seconds as effectively as possible. Highlight how you serve, who your ideal client is, and what sets you apart from the pack in your industry.

2. Project the image you want others to see. Show up to a virtual event looking professional (even if it’s just business on top and you keep your pjs on the bottom). Sit in a space of your house that is free of visual clutter.


3. Create meeting goals. What connections do you need to make? Are there resources you need or want to share? What do you want to learn? Your goal may be to simply attend a group and get more comfortable with networking in general. Define what you want from the experience.


4. Recognize that the true reward is in the follow-up. If you attend one or 100 networking meetings and never extend your efforts beyond the meeting itself, you’ll probably be in the camp that says, “Networking didn’t work for me.” If someone in a virtual meeting sounds like someone you’d like to connect with, send a private chat in the chat box letting the person know you’d like to connect. Think how you may serve this person as well as how you’d like to leverage the connection.


5. Keep correct perspective. Networking is not a one and done, and many people unfortunately look at it this way. They will state, “I didn’t make a sale,” or “No one was interested in buying my products.” Networking groups are to create referral connections, and connections take time to build. Remember, people need to build rapport with you before they will refer to you.


Above all, be authentic. Serve don’t sell, and keep in mind to give to a networking group as much as you want to get. Set a networking goal this week. Be brave and try a group if you haven’t. Embrace virtual networking, because it’s here to stay!




The words “make a joyful noise” have a different meaning to Crystal Johnsen the owner of Joyful Notion, Tampa’s first lifestyle boutique and flower bar, located in Sparksman Wharf in Downtown Tampa. As the first clothing store to sign on at the newly developed Sparksman Wharf located in Channelside, Crystal knew that they had to do something different to really stand out.


She wanted to offer something that would appeal to a niche market, something to completely set her apart from any other retailers that would follow. The answer? Flowers! Flowers were the distinction. As an Entrepreneur, Crystal knew she had to be creative and think outside the box. It turns out that adding a Flower Bar when she pitched to the development owners was the dealmaker, giving her access to one of Tampa’s hottest markets in the quickly growing Water Street neighborhood.


When you enter the unique 1,400 square foot shop, you are immediately engulfed with the smell of beautiful flowers. Aside from the flower bar, Joyful Notion features women’s clothing and unique gifts as well as seasonal items. When asked if this is her happy place, Crystal’s response was an immediate, “yes.” Crystal is not new to the boutique business, therefore, opening during COVID did not hinder her progress.


She knew that her experience prepared her for whatever the market had to offer. As the business continues to grow, it is likely one day you may happen to stumble upon a Baby Shower, Wine Tasting, and yes a Bridal Shower taking place at this beautifully decorated boutique.


These are just a few events that have taken place at Joyful Notions adding to the unique strategy Crystal wanted to display all while “making a joyful noise" in what used to be a quiet downtown retail location and is quickly growing into a shopping and food destination in Tampa.


“Attention on deck!” These are words that the owner of Eternity Events of Tampa has said many times over the course of her 20 years serving her country. Lorelle Camacho is a Retired US Navy, Petty Officer First Class and she is also the owner of one of Tampa’s newest event planning companies. Now, she is demanding the attention of the entire Tampa Bay Area.


Lorelle began working her passion while in the Navy. She has been the driving force and creative director behind the scenes, setting up events for Change of Commands, Awards Boards, Promotional Events, and Retirement Ceremonies. It was something she enjoyed as it allowed her true gift to be put on display around the world. In transitioning from the uniform to Entrepreneurship, she attributes her success to being both mentally and physically prepared for the shift thanks to her own strengths.


Lorelle mentioned that the military does very little to prepare service members for transition to business owners. Instead, they focus on other quality of life interests such as school and long-term employment.


Although Lorelle was well prepared for both and even applied for several jobs, she kept returning to her gift. It was a strong pull for her and it didn’t take long to realize what she was truly meant to do. The end result of following her dream is Eternity Events.


This one-stop shop for all your event planning needs provides an array of services for for pop-up weddings, sweet 16 events, welcome home events for service members, and many others.


This November, The Tampa Pioneer had the pleasure of sitting down with Johanna Sanchez of the Women’s Business Enterprising Council (WBEC) Florida Regional Branch, to learn all about the benefits and processes of becoming a WBEC certified business. In addition to being the Tampa Bay Coordinator of WBEC, and a member of their staff for five years, Johanna is also a former elementary school teacher and runs her own parenting blog out of her home. She was brought onto WBEC by Nancy Allen, President and CEO of WBEC Florida and a personal mentor of Johanna’s. With her help, we’ve compiled a list of everything you should know when considering WBEC certification.


What is WBEC?

Women’s Business Enterprising National Council (the “National” is struck when discussing a regional branch) is a national certifier of women-owned businesses in the United States. They certify that a business is at least 51% woman-owned and operated. The purpose of this is to promote diversity and authenticity in business.

Who can get certified?

The WBEC pride themselves on the quality of their certified businesses and their specific standards. To be certifiable, a business must be owned and operated by one or more women, who control at least 51% of their company from the top down. Your business also must be well established, as WBEC will request your financial reports to verify your business.


How does a business get certified?

To be certified by WBEC, a business needs first to apply to their regional branch. They will submit proof of owner’s gender, such as a driver’s license or birth certificate, proof of ownership, a sworn affidavit, and a

processing fee. They will also submit a full financial report, including tax reports, proof of investment by female owners, bank authorizations, and financial statements for the business as well as a full personnel report for the company. Documentation of ownership, business structure, stock certificates, and more are also needed. A full list of all required documents can be found at wbenc. org. Following verification of all paperwork, a regional representative will visit the business site. The entire process takes about 90-days.


That sounds like a lot, is it worth it?

Being certified by WBEC comes with numerous benefits to the business and owner(s). Certified businesses have the exclusive privilege to use the WBEC seal in their advertising, to use the Woman Owned logo on retail materials, to utilize the WBEC Press Release template when making business announcements, and to promote their business through WBENC national events. Business owners also gain access to local and national events, such as corporate matchmaking sessions to connect small business owners with corporate partners. Johanna says the Tampa Bay region, under the instruction of Pres. Nancy Allen, is currently looking into an angel investor pitching event for certified businesses as well. Enterprisers receive recognition through a series of annual awards and are eligible for scholarships and additional training. WBENC even partners with the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth to bring certified enterprisers the Tuck WBENC Executive Program. For those not looking to go back to school, professional and personal training is also offered in small seminars and webinars through the national and regional branches. By becoming certified, enterprisers will also receive access to a complete list of supplier diversity and procurement executives

from hundreds of corporations and agencies that work with WBEC.


What if I’m not ready to be certified? Maybe your business is still new and starting out. Maybe you aren’t prepared to cover the large contracts associated with WBEC’s partners just yet. Maybe you just want to test the waters before you go digging through your records for all those tax reports and payroll files. If you aren’t looking to be certified yet, but still want to experience what WBEC has to offer, there are opportunities for you, too. WBEC Florida holds regular events, including networking meeting, webinars, and open forums, both in person and online. You do not have to be certified to attend. One recurring course, Certification 101, is help on the 2nd Thursday of each month, and is recommended to anyone considering certification. Johanna also lets us in on an upcoming membership program, which will allow uncertified enterprisers access to exclusive events and opportunities in the coming year. To learn more about local and digital events, visit


When The Pioneer sat down with Michelle Turman over video chat this month, the first thing I noticed was her tangible presence. Even through a screen, she gives the air of a woman with a plethora of experience, who anyone would be lucky to learn from. And that’s no act, the early life of Michelle Turman reads much like the summary on the back of a Women’s Lit novel, in the vein of classics like Eat Pray Love or Julie and Julia.


Born in Bradenton, Florida and raised in the Tampa Bay area by a single parent, Michelle learned from an early age the value of hard work. At seventeen years old, she was studying at Florida State University and working as an intern at the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg. Already Michelle had a list of goals, earning her master’s degree and becoming a CEO among them. Little did she know that one day she would be making history in Florida’s Fine Arts world.


Or at least, that’s how I envision such a book would be marketed, and the vision is only helped by the passion with which Michelle speaks. When discussing why she chose the field of art history, she says, “[I] remember thinking how much it just made sense to me in the travels, and understanding history and making that accessible to everybody really excited me.” Shortly after earning her degree, Michelle moved from intern, to curator gaining the opportunity to work on exciting exhibits such as Treasures of the Czars and Alexander the Great. The experience she speaks most proudly of however, is her time as curator for Premier Exhibitions Inc, and their exhibit of Titanic. As part of this experience, Michelle traveled with the touring exhibit to bring the history of the Titanic, a personal passion of hers from childhood, to millions. She is also the youngest woman to date to have ever dove the Titanic wreckage sight, having been only twenty-seven at the time of the dive. She says of the experience, “I didn't think in my wildest dreams that I would ever get to go…it’s a little bit scary, but if I was ever asked to again I would in a heartbeat.”


However, Michelle was not finished breaking barriers. After her time with Premier Exhibitions Inc, she returned to Florida, now with a master’s degree from the University of Southern Florida in Art History. In 2001 Michelle checked another record off her list, taking the position of Executive Director and Chief Curator at the Gulf Coast Museum of Art, making her the youngest woman in Florida to hold a museum

director position. “That was something I was very proud of, but it was also very daunting,” Michelle says. “What do you do when you finally get to your goal?”


Michelle tells The Pioneer one secret to keeping momentum, is to regularly make new goals. “I'm a checklist [person]. I don't know any other way. I've been that way. I literally make my goals out every year and I've done it since the time I was 17.” Michelle urges young professionals to set goals for themselves and celebrate the achievement of those goals at each step. When you’ve completed a goal, set a new one. She also marks innovation as an important trait, stating that innovation is the difference between a pioneer and a copy. “You want to innovate and you're not going to recreate. And I think that makes a difference.”


For Michelle, after reaching her goal of Executive Director of a museum, and serving in that capacity for nearly a decade, it was time for a new challenge. Thus, the launch of her own company, Catalyst Consulting Services. Catalyst offers consulting, training, and fundraising services to Entrepreneurs, primarily nonprofits. Michelle describes the business model as collaborative, “It is not a model, for example, where they pay me a percentage and I find their work, they're equally hungry. They stay hungry, right? But we make a commitment. We make a one-year commitment to market each other, to have them on our virtual platform, to train. We bring them in a different scope of work. And at the end of the year, we say, were we each successful in this partnership? And how we define success.”


This new and unconventional business model harkens to Michelle’s views on innovation as a key to success, “It's a conscious choice to be an innovator and to be a pioneer and to be willing, to not really follow that crowd and have, quite frankly, confidence in yourself to get up every day and say, I'm going to choose to be different and do something different.” 

For Michelle, Catalyst is one more way to give back to people in whom she sees herself. She says, "I don't think those types of situations, of how you're raised or what you had access to, really defines you, it didn't define me. I was able to travel the world and have access to things because I used my brain, or my intellect." She also remarks that access to funds was an important factor of being able to take advantage of the opportunities she was offered, working to financially support herself through both degrees and relying on the occasional loan. On giving back, she quotes another female Tampa leader, Carol Morsani, “You learn, earn and return.” Michelle says, “I spent my twenties learning, my thirties earning…now’s my time to return.”


And return she has. The list of testimonials from nonprofits Catalyst has served is vast, ranging from museums, to human services, to medical charities. Michelle states they have raised over $75 million for the Tampa Bay area. True to Michelle’s vision of education accessibility, Catalyst also offers virtual training on building your own nonprofit on their website, Michelle’s educational works extends to other organizations as well, such as the Edyth Bush Institute For Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership at Rollins College, the Nonprofit Leadership Center, where she serves as an instructor, and Working Women of Tampa Bay where she assisted in the creation of their “seed money” program that helps young women Entrepreneurs start their businesses. “It matters that you just remember to help pull people up as you come along,” she reflects.


In addition to her professional contributions to the area, Michelle expanded her mission of lifting up Entrepreneurs in 2018 with the publishing of her book, Jumping the Queue: Achieving Great Things

Before You’re Ready. In her book, Michelle encourages Entrepreneurs, particularly young women, to shake away the idea that one must “pay their dues” before they can achieve their goals. "Your work ethic, character, drive, and the results speak for themselves," she says. When asked about the success of her book, Michelle remarks that one great surprise to her was the volume of people who have resonated with it. “It

"I don't think those types of situations, of how you're raised or what you had access to,

really defines you, it didn't define me. I was able to travel the world and have access to things because I used my brain, or my intellect.

was greatly marketed [to women], but I also realized it inspired other people to really just don't be scared and take the risk.” Her advice to anyone looking to jump the queue is, “Take that risk, but…know that you're going to have to put in the work and you're going to potentially fail. But the reward far outweighs that risk.”


Looking back on the year 2020, the last century of women’s liberation, and her own experiences as a woman Entrepreneur, Michelle feels hopeful for the future. “We [have] the opportunity to vote. We have the opportunity to be educated. We had the opportunity to say, I want to work inside the home, outside the home or both. And we also have the opportunity to create the type of life that we want, whether if it's with a partner and that's a male, female, whomever, or we want to do it on our own. And so, I look at everything and I think, wow, what a great time to be alive. And although I had some struggles, that part, I have not lost the fire in my belly.”


For women in the future, Michelle feels the next step is a woman in the White House, “I feel like [women are] very deserving of having more representation in that leadership role. I hope it happens in my lifetime. I believe it will.” As for Michelle herself, she is not finished innovating and reaching goals. “I’ll be fifty in three years, and I’m starting to explore, what does [Catalyst] look like from that point on? Will I still be in nonprofit, or will I do something completely different?” She also notes, “Another book is definitely in the cards for me.”


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 multi-purpose 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



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 servicemember 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 well-known 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.


Two sources for finding veteran owned businesses in Hillsborough County are: https://www.veteranownedbusiness. com/fl/hillsborough/tampa and https://

By: Daryl Hych

Dayana and Kristen of Cyclebar are the female version of Martin Lawrence and Will Smith in the movie Bad Boys. They have been friends for quite a while and they are “Bad Girls for Life!” Together they spent many years helping one of America’s largest financial institutions grow millions of dollars for their clients.


Then, out of the blue, Dayana came to her friend with a proposition she couldn’t pass up. She simply said, “let’s quit and follow our passion”. According to Kristen this was not a big ask, because the passion for the job was not there anymore. Their relationship however, was destined from the start and they believed in each other and knew they were more than their current circumstances.


Dayana, born and raised in Venezuela, came to the United States 17 years ago with $80 in her pocket. She arrived in America just two days before Christmas and she knew that she had to “become” but she had no idea what that would be. Unlike some Americans, Dayana literally saw the land of milk and honey and immediately knew she had to have her piece of the American Dream.


Shortly after arriving, she began working in the financial industry where she met Kristen. This would be the beginning of Bad Girls. As an Independent Financial Advisor, you are responsible for your own income with the support of the parent organization, so making the leap to becoming an Entrepreneur wasn’t really a huge step. But, it was a lot less scary with a partner and Kristen decided to join her in what would become their new passion.


Coupled with passion and a desire to break the mold of tradition, Dayana grew up in a country where the conditions at the time mirrored those of the 1920’s in the United States. The idea that a woman’s place is to be a homemaker was prevalent and education and career took a back seat. When asked about the 100-year anniversary of the Women’s Right To Vote and the suffrage of that day, she said her grandmother would be in awe of the fact that she is not a homemaker, but instead is a thriving Entrepreneur.


These Bad Girls didn’t just “quit their job” and start working for themselves though. They left the security of a career and dove head first into what is often seen as a male dominated market, fitness. They sought out various franchise business opportunities, and after a visit to Cyclebar’s corporate offices they knew right away that this was the best option for them. Within a few days of returning home, they signed the Franchise Agreement and became the proud owners of one of the fastest growing brands in the bustling fitness industry.


That was the easy part. Once signed, the real work began to find the perfect space and establish the business. Location, location, location was their mantra because they knew it would be essential to their success. After doing

an extensive market search, they secured a location in Brandon, Fl off Lithia Pinecrest Road. The space met all the demographical needs for their success and was located in a growing area.


Getting into business for yourself is not easy, not even for these two Bad Girls, but to make things easier they lean on their support system. Dayana credits her husband as being her number one cheerleader. He ensures that when it is down to the last yard, he cheers so loud that it propels her to the end zone. Both agreed that the community is depending on them to be successful; therefore, they will show up everyday and be present for their community of cyclists.


Dyanna and Kristen want people to know that Cyclebar is not just about sitting on a stationary bike. It is about a community of believers and supporters. This uniqueness is what excites them. You can always find these two business owners with their heads together working on strategies. They are always working on how to grow their new business. They understand what it takes to grow a business, and know how to get through all the roadblocks that come their way to reach success.


Kristen shared, “when you decide to go into business it’s important that you have incredibly detailed plans and be prepared to sacrifice time, money, and living arrangements because your life will be changed forever. There is a different mindset of an Entrepreneur versus an Employee and you must be prepared for the shift.” Fear is always a factor with something new, but these Bad Girls use fear as a motivator not as a hinderance.


Cyclebar Brandon is set to open in December of 2020 with future projections of over 400 members. For more information about membership and opening date please visit

By: Daryl Hych

Gina Voneye is the President/Founder of Gina Voneye Marketing Studio also known as GVM Studios is one of Tampa’s newest marketing firms. At the height of the 2020 Pandemic when others were closing their doors and placing signs in their windows with the words “going out of business” Gina decided to jump into action.


As a Marketing Executive for a Fortune 500 company over the last 15 years, Gina is no stranger to fully understanding and deploying marketing strategies to prepare organizations for the shift in the market. GVM Studio gives Tampa Pioneer a few examples of how these strategies can help businesses during a down market.


1. The best time to market is not when things are going well.


2. It is best to market when things are in a downward turn or beginning to balance.


3. You must market when you do not see a steady rise.

The key word for most Entrepreneurs is passion. Gina was no exception to the rule. Her passion for marketing coupled with a desire to be a change maker in her local community compelled her to quit her corporate position and began GVM Studio. She assembled a team of experts and began developing strategies to save these small businesses. “Marketing is not a sprint; it is a marathon. Hang in there, make your company relevant during the downturn.”


Shift your focus: Gina tells the story of a local company that makes Rum, during this downturn, they had to shift their focus and begin making hand sanitizer which smells like Rum. Transform the opportunity and remain relevant.


Three things to keep an eye on marketing: Brand voice, Visual Identity, and value proposition messaging collectively sets your business up for success. If your marketing company does not meet these three objectives it is likely not going to render the results you seek. For more information about Gina Voneye Marketing Studio please visit https://

by Bianca Hych

"Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run that readeth it." Habakkuk 2:2


The gift of Entrepreneurship is truly a gifted skill from God, it is a skillset of leadership qualities that many people do not possess. Therefore you, Mr./Mrs. Entrepreneur was uniquely created by God himself, set apart from the rest of the world. You were created and entrusted to make a lasting imprint into our beautiful world, created to be a pioneer to a new thing that will better the quality of life for humanity with your businesses and your inventions.


Every business/invention starts as a seed of a thought and idea, from a thought and idea it then turns into something that you begin to visualize. From  visualization to a written business plan and from a written plan to full manifestation/fruition.


As with any seed it takes time for the harvest of that seed to come into full bloom. Writing out

the plan of your vision allows you to see it and run toward the reality of it. While you're at this stage do your research, be strategic in your planning and branding, gather all your sources and resources, build your team and your network. And listen to God's inward voice so that he can continue unfolding the whole plan to you. These are the things that will help you to be successful.


Most of all, allow God to be in the details throughout the entire process. Remember He's the author of the gift, the ideas and inventions. One of my favorite scriptures and principles that I live by is; Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and LEAN NOT to your own understanding. In ALL your ways ACKNOWLEDGE HIM and HE will DIRECT your PATHS." 


Be patient, be encouraged, preparation time is never wasted time, never step out prematurely with just the thought/ idea you will fail without the whole vision and plan. God's timing is always the perfect time!

by Rome Johnson

Melva McKay Bass is the platonic image of a Successful Black Woman. The first female Senior Vice President at Suncoast Credit Union, the first Black Senior Vice President, the youngest Senior Vice President at thirty-two years old, and receiving the promotion while in her third trimester of her second pregnancy to boot. This is the image of a glass ceiling, not cracking, but shattering. When you hear someone say, “Women can’t have it all.” Point them to Melva McKay Bass. And when they ask you, “How can I be like her?” Point them toward her office at Suncoast Credit Union.


Suncoast Credit Union is a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) that’s served the Bay Area’s emerging businesses, educators, and underserved communities since 1934. However, Suncoast is much more than your run-of-the-mill bank. Melva provided The Pioneer a look into the many services Suncoast has to offer, some of which are her own creations, and how you can take advantage of them for your emerging business.


As a CDFI, Melva explains, Suncoast is dedicated to serving communities often overlooked by other banks. “We are what we consider to be a low income designated credit union, which means a subset of our demographics, at least 60% or more of the demographics that we serve, are located in what are called our underserved areas…minority or women owned businesses as an example.” While underserved locations, and businesses established in them, can have strong potential, Melva notes that many lenders don’t want to provide loans to small businesses, for fear of small returns. “If you look [from] a return on investment perspective…it takes just as much work, if not more honestly, to underwrite that small loan as it does that large loan. So, by virtue of fact, if banks are for profit, they’re going to go after the most profitable business.”


This can be a barrier for emerging businesses and Entrepreneurs, as they may lack business history and capital to prove the value of their business. Enter the microloan, one of Melva’s creations. A microloan, as Melva explains, is a very small loan, ranging between $500 and $25,000, offered


to an emerging business, usually less than three years old. But this isn’t just a loan. When business owners go to Suncoast, they’ll receive education in financial literacy and business management as well, to help ensure they understand how to grow their companies financially and professionally. At this time, Suncoast even offers select courses online for free to nonmembers.


In addition to the microenterprise department, Suncoast partners with local groups such as the Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corp. to assist promising startups. Melva explains how this works, “Let’s say that your business came to Suncoast in need of a loan, and we wanted to grant that loan but we needed a little more, what we call, skin in the game. A bit more capital, or something to strengthen the deal. Then the Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corp. also provides up to a 75% guarantee, based on the deal, to assist with obtaining that loan.” Melva notes that while she is the chair of Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corp. Board of Directors, Suncoast has similar partnerships with many other groups. “We work with Operation Hope, local economic development councils… Prospera. Just to name a few.”


Also, in Melva’s jurisdiction, Suncoast offers business insurance, title services, and their new Realty Solutions Department. While all were established during Melva’s time at the company, she does lay claim to the two-year-old real estate service as “my most recent baby.” The real estate service, she explains, helps emerging business owners with securing or selling property for their business, such as obtaining office space or a store front. Whether you are trying to start, expand, move, or insure your business, Suncoast Credit Union has a program for that, and Melva McKay Bass is probably overseeing it.


For Melva though, this is not where her journey ends. “I always wanted to take the practical experience that I've had into the classroom to really, you know, really pour into the young people and really pour into Entrepreneurs.” She talks about the importance of financial education for all people, referencing another Suncoast project, student banking. Suncoast offers sav

ings accounts to students, grades K-12, at student-run banks. While professionals oversee the banking, students take part in the day-to-day running of on-campus Suncoast branches, where they learn the importance of saving, accruing interest, and building credit. Melva says, “Teaching [children] good financial habits and the importance of making sound decisions when it comes to their money and planning carries them through adulthood, through life.”


In the year 2020, it’s important to Melva to continue lifting up minorities and underserved communities not only financially, but in her personal life as well. When reflecting on a century of women’s suffrage, Melva remarks, “You know, it's funny in that I've been in this position for 16 years and I still don't see many people that look like me.” She continues, “There aren’t enough minority women at the table…what has changed is there’s some, but unfortunately there are not enough.” Melva believes in the importance of lifting others up, saying her mantra is “Make room.”


“I’m not afraid. When I see a young person that says I want your job, I say come take my job, because that means that I’ve done something right.” Melva hopes that by being accessible to young people, both professionally and in her community, she can be a role model for black children to follow their own dreams and achieve success. “I always say, when I look back at a child, I see my past and I hope that when they look to me, they see their future and they see the possibilities.”

By: Daryl Hych

While dancing in the shower with her disco ball full of colors illuminating the walls of the bathroom and the music blasting, Dr. Jacqueline Darna is thinking, NOMO. Nomo nausea, Nomo stomach aches, Nomo puking, Nomo headaches and Nomo sicknesses. Dr. Darna reminds me of the words of civil rights leader, Fannie Lou Hamer, “sick and tired of being sick and tired”. Her product Nomo Nausea has totally disrupted the market. There are several products on the market that address similar sicknesses, but none address the quality of life. Due to this lack, Dr. Darna leaped into action. Life for Dr. Darna could not have been more challenging, after an emergency C-section at the birth to her child she began vomiting for several days. Shortly thereafter was the birth of Nomo Nausea. Jackie, as she prefers to be called, was back in the operating room. This time it was to deliver a product to women all over the world to prevent post-partum sicknesses. Reflecting on her traditional education and a home remedy from her stepmother she went back into labor. Jackie began working on a 4-year journey to patent her life changing products. As an inventor she is always thinking of new ways to improve her products and services to her customers, but as an Entrepreneur she looks for opportunities in the market to change the economy. Thought leader, mother, wife and connector are just a few words that describe Jackie as she offers her hand

"With a dream and passion, you can meet your true north of Entrepreneurship.

to share the mission of Tampa Pioneer Magazine. She is an active member of Women’s Business Development Council of Fl. (WBEC) an organization that connect women owned businesses. “Connections are important to business,” she states.


Several years ago, out of the blue she receives a call from Debi Wheeler a highly respected philanthropist in Pittsburg, demanding she be on a flight to Pennsylvania within two days. Debi Wheeler stated in an interview, “all I do is connect the dots and open doors, I create synergy where there wasn’t any”. This is exactly what she did for Jackie. She introduced


her to UPMC Pittsburg to pitch her product as well as later that day she found herself on the practice field of the World Champions Pittsburg Steelers once again pitching her product.


Giving thanks at all times is a norm for Jackie as she literally prepares Thanksgiving cards annually to deliver to those who have been a part of her success.


Jackie gives a special thanks to Brian Hanrahan for listening and being available for quick conversations. She advises any aspiring Entrepreneur that if you can not go through the front door, go through the side door. Give an inch and I will figure out the different ways to achieve success. Dreams do always come true; you must want it bad enough. As an immigrant coming to America Jackie’s father wanted to become an American Doctor. With the smell of shrimp on his clothing, he meets her mother, and education became his magnetic north, as he became an Anesthesiologist. “With a dream and passion, you can meet your true north of Entrepreneurship” Jackie states. With pompoms in hand, a voice only a daughter would recognize her mother is her greatest cheerleader, affirming that she can do anything she puts her mind to.


Just when you think there is Nomo to offer; Jackie’s desire to change people’s lives and a parody of the likes of the Harmon Brothers has literally gotten her in the doghouse. At the conclusion of a routine corporate meeting a little hand raises and asks the question, “what about the dog?”

By: Antonio Jalisco

Who would have ever been able to tell Valerie that she would Retire from the US Army after serving over 21 years? No one. Valerie Lavin is the Founder of Luminary Global. Luminary Global provides First Responders and Regular Citizens with equipment they need to save lives at home, work and at play.


The name of a company speaks volumes about the organization, when asked “where did the name Luminary Global derive;” without hesitation Valerie provided nearly a text book answer, “leadership as a 1st Sergeant we lead people, we bring out the best in people, we solve problems.”


The transition from Soldier to Entrepreneur was not as easy; while attending the local Transition Assistance Program, a one week Pre-Separation Course designed to help service members make a smooth transition to civilian life, Valerie noticed a problem, one that changed her life forever.


She discovered something about herself and her fellow service members, they were not properly prepared for transition and our Veteran population was being underserved as well. Throughout the many articles written, the constant theme for Entrepreneurs is to find a need in the marketplace and fill that need, which is exactly what Valerie did.


However, it did not come without a cost. During this interview we learned that she comes from a family of business owners. Valerie reminds us that, at one point and time the word Entrepreneur was reserved for tech companies, bio-chemical companies, and not for the local business owners.


Failing forward was a lesson well learned, Valerie’s first business did not grow and develop as she hoped, but the lessons she learned along the way was invaluable. As a one –time solopreneur Valerie learned that she thrived in team environments.


The main contributor to the success of Luminary Global is working alongside her husband, many collaborative organizations and a distribution


Luminary’s mission is simple, to provide Emergency Medical Service (EMS), Fire, Law Enforcement, Military personnel, and Citizens with the equipment and supplies they need to save lives at home and abroad. Luminary only partners with industry-leading manufacturers to provide a robust line of EMS, Tactical (TEMS), and Emergency Preparedness products.

pipeline that is unmatched in the industry. For this reason, Private Benjamin would appreciate the company’s core values: Dependability, Discipline and Delivery. For more information about Luminary Global visit
The best way to share about Pamela McCoy, the owner of Boni5de Consulting, is simply by affirming and reaffirming who she is.
While working in a major local bank in Tampa, FL, Pamala quickly came to realize that she needed to do something to make a difference in her community. Soon after that realization in 2008, Boni5d Credit Consulting was born.
This was no ordinary birth however, because the labor was long and in some ways tumultuous. Today, through Pamela's perserverance and determination to help others, Boni5d Credit Consulting delivers passionate credit education sessions in a comfortable environment, enabling all participants to experience a Fivefold E-Methodology from which they will emerge:
Enriched to evolve financially
As an executive within the bank and witnessing the lack and disparity in the credit and finance industry for disenfranchised people, Pamela was compelled to quit her job and start on a journey that she knew would create a positive impact in the lives of so many in the Tampa Bay area. She decided she would take her year-end bonus, leave the bank, and launch her own company.
"I am the Real McCoy. I can do all things. I am not bothered by your lack of professionalism toward me because I am genuine, honest, and sincere.
But, before her dream could become a reality, everything came to a screeching halt when, in September of that year, the company reorganized and eliminated her position which meant no end of year bonus.
Pamela still didn't let this stop her. She was more determined than ever to walk in her purpose, both figuratively and literally. While on a routine

walk, with her husband she asked him, “how do you really feel about me not having a steady income?” He responded in somewhat of a cheer/ chant saying, “Have I ever said I needed you to get a job? Have I ever said we are without because of you not working? /gave I ever prohibited you from fulfilling your dream? I got you. You just do you”. Cheerleaders are the key to success in business and in life they maintain the spirit of winning even when others don’t fully understand your “why”. With her husband cheering her on, she got to work making her dream come true.


Pamala is now a frequent guest speaker for various local and national events cheered on not only by her husband but also colleagues and even her own mentor, Mr. Willie Jolley. He often encourages others to learn from her saying, “follow her; it will be worth your time and effort.”


Entrepreneurship is not for the faint at heart, but with the right amount of preparation and ensuring you continue to fight for your credit worthiness, you can enjoy quality time with family and walk in the destiny you desire as a Successful Entrepreneur.


Facebook, Smart TVs, Cellphones and of course Alexa, I would like to introduce you to Vanessa Ferguson, Esq. Vanessa is the only Privately Owned Intellectual Property and Privacy Act Legal Service with less than 5 years of experience in Tampa, Fl. Her legal services firm may be somewhat of an anomaly simply because she does not have the tenure in years as an IPPA Attorney.


However, that did not stop this “pretty bland, straight forward attorney” from seeking out the best opportunity for practicing law.


When asked, “why did you choose this course of law versus the glamour of the court room, fancy clothes and parading the jury,” she said, “it was not for her.” In her opinion it did not appeal to her. Growing up Florida and graduating from the University of Dayton was full of decisions rather to be a journalist or psychologist.


However, that all changed after joining the debate team, she found her passion. Discovering her new passion, Vanessa entered law school and history begin to write a new chapter for this future attorney. After working for a couple firms and during one of the scariest moments of a person’s life, being laid off, she decided to start her own legal service. Armed with a cell phone, laptop computer, a social media presence

and the full understanding of what challenges await her, she founded Ferguson Legal Services.


Headed into her second year, with her three mentors in tow, particularly Professor Nikki Stowal, a professor from her undergrad and many others Ferguson Legal Services keeps your private matters, private.

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