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Legacy Vacation Resorts All In with Business for Good Approach

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In March, Orlando, Fla.-based Legacy Vacation Resorts (LVR) announced that it had officially achieved Certified B Corporation status. Clean the World, also in Orlando, is another organization that has achieved the B Corporation designation. If you do a search on Hospitality on the B Corporation site, you will find just 15 businesses listed. Among them: Taos Ski Valley, Inc., Qbic Hotels, and the Sleeping Lady Resort. Other hospitality-related businesses can be found under other categories such as Catering & Meeting/Event Management and Travel & Leisure. There are currently more than 2,500 Certified B Corporations in more than 50 countries. One of the most well-known companies: Patagonia, Inc.

This past week I had an opportunity to meet with Jared Meyers, Co-Owner of LVR. Jared is very passionate about the Certified B Corporation program and is doing everything he can to spread the word about it. Jared co-founded the Florida for Good movement, which funds free resources and events to facilitate the spread of business for good and the Certified B Corporation program. Since its inception, LVR has donated more than $50,000 to Florida for Good’s charitable endeavors, with Meyers also dedicating a significant amount of his personal time and income to its growth.

“B Corporation looks at the entire business and how it treats the environment, community, employees and governance,” Meyers says. Participants first complete the free B Impact Assessment. While using the Assessment, one can set goals for improvement, compare one’s performance to similar companies, and learn best practices pulled straight from the Certified B Corp community. The assessment is evaluated by B Lab. Participants are asked to supply supporting documentation. As one example, Meyers says LVR had to submit proof, by county, that it pays its employees a living wage.

A Reasonable Annual Fee

Once the Assessment and supporting documentation is validated (a minimum score must be met), a business can become a B Corporation. There is a reasonable annual fee scaled to the size of the business. Fees start at $500 a year. Companies with more than $1 billion in annual sales will pay $50,000 or more. Participants must recertify every three years. There is no initial onsite audit, but one can occur over time. Representatives of B Corporations gather annually at a Champions Retreat. There are also regional gatherings.

In addition to its Certified B Corporation Status, LVR is a member of 1% for the Planet and donates 1 percent of sales to charitable causes. LVR also offsets the carbon footprint of the stay of each guest who books through the LVR website. LVR offers an option for guests to donate 5 percent of their reservation to a charity of their choice and has a goal of reducing its carbon emissions by 25 percent by 2025. The company is doing that through retrofits as it renovates its properties—LED lighting, water-saving fixtures, insulation, occupancy sensors and more. The company is also a partner of Conscious Capitalism International, an organization that maintains a philosophy based on a simple idea that when practiced consciously, business innately elevates humanity.

“With these various internal changes, partnerships and our B Corp certification, I sincerely believe we will experience company growth, as well as an additional type of traveler at our properties,” said Meyers in a press release announcing the B Corp certification. “These new travelers will share our values and place importance on social responsibility, environmental responsibility and sustainable travel when it comes to selecting their accommodations. I am looking forward to the relaunch of the brand and the many ways in which the company will contribute to the greater good for years to come.”

Legacy Vacation Resorts becomes first B corporation certified multi-state hospitality company in the US

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA – Florida-based Legacy Vacation Resorts (LVR) has officially achieved Certified B Corporation Status, becoming the first multi-state hotel and vacation ownership company in the country to secure the prestigious designation. Administered by the non-profit, B Lab, Certified B Corporations are businesses that voluntarily meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose through third-party review. The certification for LVR comes on the heels of a year-long process to align every aspect of the company with B Lab’s requirements. In that time, LVR has introduced multiple efforts towards a more sustainable business model, including carbon footprint offsetting, waste reduction and enhanced recycling efforts, sustainable lifestyle awareness campaigns, green-focused renovation projects and a living wage initiative for employees in its eight locations across four states.

Certified B Corporations, or ‘Certified B Corps’ are accelerating a global culture shift by building a more inclusive and sustainable economy through a redefinition of success in business. Certified B Corps use profits and growth as a means to achieve positive impact for their employees, communities, and the environment. In order to secure the designation, Certified B Corps must achieve a minimum verified score on the B Impact Assessment, a rigorous appraisal of a company’s impact on its workers, customers, community, and environment, that will ultimately be made public on their website for complete transparency. Furthermore, the certification does not simply prove where a company currently excels, but actually amends legal governing documents for the business, committing ownership to consider stakeholder impact and the balance of profit and purpose for the long term.

“At the start of this journey, I simply began researching ways that I could utilize my resources and abilities to improve society. Through that process, I learned of others directing the prosperity of their businesses towards the greater good,” said Jared Meyers, Co-Owner of Legacy Vacation Resorts. “The most credible businesses doing so were Certified B Corporations. They stood out to me because of their wholistic view of the business, the rigorous verification of business practices, and their values aligned with mine. I am beyond excited to be part of the team that achieved this distinguished certification for Legacy Vacation Resorts.” 

Hoping to inspire other organizations to follow a similar path, Meyers co-founded the Florida for Good movement, which funds free resources and events to facilitate the spread of business for good and Certified B Corps. Since its inception, LVR has donated more than $50,000 to the group’s charitable endeavors, with Meyers also dedicating a significant amount of his personal time and income to its growth. As part of their missions, LVR and Florida for Good encourage companies to take the free impact assessment so they can learn how they measure up against other businesses and learn about the areas in which they can most improve.

Each of the new initiatives introduced as part of the certification process led to the debut of a shift for LVR toward a more sustainable legacy. As part of these efforts, travelers can now offset 100% of the carbon footprint from their stay when booking directly through the resort. In addition, the company offers an option for guests to donate 5% of their reservation to a charity of their choice. Furthermore, they have forged a partnership with Clean the World, another Certified B Corp, that recycles their used hygiene products and repurposes them back to vulnerable communities around the globe. They are also working on their existing buildings to create green renovations by utilizing eco-friendly materials and energy star appliances and fixtures, and they supply electric vehicle chargers at each property, further encouraging the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Internally, they are creating a culture of sustainability with employees by encouraging them to make sustainable choices in their daily lives, making a commitment to spend $300,000 annually on raises to ensure each employee is paid a living wage and offering opportunities to receive paid time off in pursuit of volunteer activities as part of their “Day of Hope” campaign launched in 2018.

“This brand relaunch showcases our commitment to a more sustainable future,” said Tony Picciano President & Chief Operating Officer. “We are so pleased to have been officially awarded our B CorpTM Certification and look forward to the continued implementation of sustainability efforts throughout each of our properties. Our mission at Legacy Vacation Resorts is to help families and friends create unique and lasting memories on their travels in a way that is respectful to the environment, employees and the communities where they are found, and we feel that we will now be able to deliver on that mission better than ever before.”

In addition to becoming a Certified B Corporation, LVR is the only multi-state hotel company to be a member of 1% For The Planet, a network of more than 1,500 member businesses, numerous individuals, and thousands of nonprofit partners in more than 40 countries. The organization is fostering a global movement, inspiring businesses to support environmental solutions by making a simple commitment to donate 1% of their revenue sales to various charities working in one of six core focus areas including climate, food, land, pollution, water, and wildlife. The company is also a proud partner of Conscious Capitalism International, an organization that maintains a philosophy based on a simple idea that when practiced consciously, business innately elevates humanity.

“With these various internal changes, partnerships and our B CorpTM certification, I sincerely believe we will experience company growth, as well as an additional type of traveler at our properties,” said Meyers. “These new travelers will share our values and place importance on social responsibility, environmental responsibility and sustainable travel when it comes to selecting their accommodations. I am looking forward to the relaunch of the brand and the many ways in which the company will contribute to the greater good for years to come.”

Conscious Capitalism aims to expand in Tampa Bay

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A national organization that promotes the idea that business must have a purpose beyond profit hopes to get a stronger foothold in the Tampa-St. Pete area.

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“I think there’s a lot of momentum in Florida and in Tampa particularly right now,” Alexander McCobin, CEO of Conscious Capitalism Inc., told St. Pete Catalyst in an exclusive interview at Startup Week Tampa Bay on Wednesday. “That’s one of the reasons the Florida chapter is part of Startup Week — because we want to introduce this to more businesses, both those that are already having an influence and those that are going to have an influence in the future.”

McCobin was accompanied by Jared Meyers, chairman and owner of St. Petersburg-based Salt Palm Development, a real estate firm that has become a certified B Corp. That means the company has been certified by the nonprofit B Lab as voluntarily meeting higher standards of transparency, accountability and performance.

Salt Palm also is a member of the Florida chapter of Conscious Capitalism.

The national organization works with businesses to help them run on four tenets:

Higher purpose.  That means more than just maximizing profits and trying to achieve a greater ideal.

Taking care of all stakeholders. “Instead of thinking that if they are going to benefit one group, they need to take away from another – for instance, if they are going to help employees they must be harming customers or shareholders – getting them to a win-win-win mindset where you can benefit customers by benefitting your employees and shareholders and finding those interconnected opportunities,” McCobin said.

Conscious leadership, or leaders who focus on “we” rather than “me” and bring out the best in all around them.

Conscious culture, which involves creating environments where people are able to bring their full selves to work.

National retailers, including Whole Foods Market and The Container Store, are among the partners of Conscious Capitalism. So is Echo Park Automotive, a Dallas-based used car dealership.

“What is incredible about them is this is the used car field, where you typically don’t think about conscious business whatsoever,” McCobin said. “What they did is identified their purpose was to infuse happiness in all of their employees’ lives, and they focused on building out that culture, and in doing so, created a thriving business, growing from $40 million revenue in the mid 2000s to hundreds of millions of revenue in the last couple of years, which led to them merging with a larger company to share this with other used car dealerships around the country.”

A study of 28 public companies identified as the most socially conscious showed that 18 of them outperformed the S&P 500 index by a factor of 10.5 between 1996-2011, according to a 2013 report in the Harvard Business Review.

For Salt Palm — which became a certified B Corp in March 2018 — it’s a little early to measure return on investment, Meyers said. But it’s had a personal impact on him, making him more excited about doing business.

“It’s made us a better community partner and brought more visibility to what we do,” Meyers said.

Salt Palm just completed the first phase of The Sabal, a development at 532 4th Ave. S., with four townhomes. A second phase with four more townhomes is under construction, with two of those already sold.

The company bought carbon offset credits, designed to reduce the environmental impact of the development, from Carbonfund.org for the first phase of the project and plans to do so for the second as well, Meyers said.

Salt Palm also has a standing commitment to put at least 50 percent of its profits back into the community. Last year, the company put 100 percent of its profits back, although Meyers added that doesn’t mean the company will do that every year, and he doesn’t expect other businesses to meet that benchmark.

“When buyers come in to look at our project and they hear our story, it has a feel-good element,” Meyers said. “Buyers know that the profits we generate go back to the community, and we are encouraging other businesses to adopt these business models.”

St. Pete businesses taking pride in social responsibility

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Americans are choosing to spend their money on goods and services that align with their values, and companies are responding to customers’ demands to be socially responsible.

Animal crackers were set free. No more caged boxes. McDonald’s turned its golden arches upside down for International Women’s Day. Nike’s advertisement about risking it all to stand for something featuring Colin Kapernick.

These are a few of the many recent examples of how companies align with social issues.

Alex Rodriquez is the President of YMMY Marketing and Advertising, and the author of “Digital Bacon.”

“Now it’s about features and benefits and values so do your values connect with mine? You see that in millennials and generation Z even more,” Rodriquez explained.

Jared Meyers of Salt Palm Development noticed the trend and co-founded Saint Pete for Good, a group committed to the highest moral, social, and legal standards.

“We’re the only company in St. Pete that’s a Certified B Corporation, but hopefully that will change soon. That’s part of our goal,” Meyers said.

Certified B sends a financial signal to consumers about a business.

“They know they’re supporting a business that puts at least half of their profits back into St. Pete,” Meyers says.

Saint Pete for Good shares success stories, helps businesses network, and supports community improvement. When a company joins St. Pete for Good, they pledge to balance profits with community pride.

“We want them to make that commitment that, ‘I believe in this,’” Meyers says.

Mike Cromwell of Sabal Smart Homes showed us a neighborhood beautification project downtown.

He says Sabal is working to build environmentally-friendly homes.

“We’re doing our best to become carbon neutral,” Cormwell said.

Nearby, Three Daughters Brewery is working toward Certified B status. Jessica Bodkin, the brewery’s community relations manager explained how Three Daughters works to be more sustainable.

They donate used grain to feed livestock and help fight hunger.

“Typically, once it’s used you dump it out, so now we can recycle thru and use it again,” Bodkin explained.

They also grow locally-sourced hops, take steps to conserve water, and give to Bay Area charities.

“We decided to make a goal that we give back and strive to give more – so for 2018 were going to give away $150,000 in product donations,” Bodkin said.

As Certified B companies continue to strive, the message seems clear. When it comes to connecting with consumers – What a company stands for is just as important as the product they’re selling.

To register your business with St. Pete for Good or shop at Certified B businesses, visit stpeteforgood.com.

St. Petersburg wins Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge, $2.5 million in resources

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The city of St. Petersburg has won the Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge and $2.5 million in resources to help combat climate change at the local level.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman at Albert Whitted Park to announce that the city was one of the 25 cities that won the challenge. Nineteen other winners were announced last year, including Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cincinnati, Columbus, Honolulu, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland, Saint Paul, San Diego, San Jose, Seattle, St. Louis and Washington D.C.

“As a coastal city, the effects of climate change are more apparent than ever to the residents of St. Petersburg,” Kriseman said. “Through the American Cities Climate Challenge, we’re excited to expand our efforts to achieve our near-term emissions goals and make our city as healthy, safe, and climate-resilient as possible.”

Bloomberg, also the head of Bloomberg Philanthropies which formed the climate challenge with an initial investment of $70 million, said mayors “can’t ignore the risks” that climate change poses because their “constituents feel the effects” at the local level. They don’t always call Congress first with their concerns, “they call their mayor.”

“With Washington asleep at the wheel, cities like St. Petersburg – that are taking bold action on climate change – are more important than ever to encourage even more bottom-up progress,” Bloomberg said. “The response to our Climate Challenge has been so positive – from mayors around the country – that we’ve decided to select five additional winning cities. Tackling climate change goes hand in hand with improving public health and creating jobs, and it’s great to see cities leading where Washington won’t.”

Bloomberg said his philanthropic arm and its partners will work with St. Petersburg to implement climate plans like “the first utility community solar program for energy equity” and expand its residential solar co-op program.

At the beginning of the challenge, Bloomberg invited 100 of the nation’s largest cities to come up with new ideas for cutting carbon emissions. Because of the number of plans being pitched, he said the organization is adding five more winning cities after St. Petersburg.

Before the news conference, Kriseman and Bloomberg met at Kahwa Coffee in downtown St. Petersburg to discuss the city’s climate efforts. The two are also set to meet with Moms Demand Action, a gun reform advocacy group. Bloomberg, who’s been eyed for a potential 2020 presidential run, has been critical of the Trump administration’s actions and comments on climate change.

During a recent Meet the Press interview, Bloomberg said climate change should be a top issue for 2020 candidates.

Kriseman said residents can learn more about the city’s plans to combat climate change and its status as a Climate Challenge winner during an open house from 3:30-6:30 p.m. Thursday at City Hall.

The HIVE presents Life Below Water in St. Petersburg

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Join The IDEAS Hive On December 3 as they explore the challenges and opportunities for preserving St. Petersburg’s Life Below Water, while brainstorming solutions to protect oceans and marine life. The waterways and marine life in Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico are woven into the fabric of the St. Petersburg community. They are the backbone of St. Pete’s thriving tourism industry, which drew in 6,349,500 visitors and $4.89 billion in 2015, as well as the main draw for St. Pete’s peerless marine science community — the largest in the Southeastern United States. Maintaining the health of ocean species is vital for keeping St. Pete a beautiful, vibrant, and sustainable place to live.

Leading the discussion at the event is Clay Louis Ferrara, biologist and Executive Director of The Hive’s parent organization, IDEAS For Us. As a distinguished Rollins alumnus and world-spanning scientist, Clay has conducted environmental and biological research across four continents, and currently works with a wide host of environmental and prosocial nonprofits and organizations to make the world a better place.

Women thought leaders: Bridging the gender gap in Tampa Bay

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Negative messages can crush a girl’s heart. So when Ingrid Harb’s high school counselor discouraged her from applying to four-year colleges, it could have scarred her for life. Instead, Harb ignored the advice, went on to earn her bachelor’s in Business Administration from Trinity University in San Antonio, TX — and began empowering other women.

Today Harb owns Women Ambassadors Forum, a Tampa-based B-corporation that trains women from around the globe to reach their potential.

“Every single woman that has been to my conference has been told that they’re not destined for greatness, yet they achieved greatness,” says Harb, who felt her ambitions undermined by being categorized as an athlete rather than as a scholar in high school.

Women Ambassadors Forum’s goal is to ensure women know how to respond and move on when they hear those negative words, and know they don’t have to go through the pain of that experience alone. Ingrid Harb owns Women Ambassadors Forum.

“Our conference restores woman,” asserts Harb, who also works as Head of Business Development in Tampa for the nonprofit Launchcode. “I’ve been able to restore myself.”

In partnership with the nonprofit Synapse, Women Ambassadors Forum is holding a one-day conference on January 22 to help women of all ages achieve their break-throughs. Themed “Her Time is Now,” the conference is intended to help women plug into the Tampa Bay entrepreneurial ecosystem — and the opportunities afforded by the 2019 Synapse Innovation Summit in downtown Tampa.

“It’s a great way to get women ready to conquer everything at Synapse,” Harb adds.

Learn more by visiting the Women Ambassadors Forum website and clicking on Innovation Forum under Global Forum in the toolbar. Early bird tickets are available until November 15.

“We need to emphasize diversity at a very early stage,” Harb explains. “We have to make sure we open it up for women to be part of this ecosystem.”

Florida earned a D+ for its female employment and earnings index in 2015, according to The Status of Women by County: Employment and Earnings, April 2018, by Julie Anderson and Emma Williams-Baron. Florida ranks 38th in the nation for a median annual pay of $35,000 for women employed full-time, year-round. Some 53.7 percent were in the workforce; 38.8 percent worked in managerial or professional occupations.

“The gender wage gap of 12.5 percent in Florida is much narrower than the wage gap in the United States overall (20.0 percent), due in part to the low earnings of men in the state,” says the report commissioned by the Florida Women’s Funding Alliance, an affinity group of Florida Philanthropic Network.

The good news is that Tampa Bay Area counties, including Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Manatee, and Sarasota, were in the top third for median annual salaries in Florida in 2016, the report shows. Polk County was in the middle third.

McKinsey & Company documents the gender gap for corporate America in its study “Women in the Workforce 2017,” done in partnership with Leanin.Org.

“Women remain significantly underrepresented in the corporate pipeline. From the outset, fewer women than men are hired at the entry level, despite women being 57 percent of recent college graduates,” it notes. “At every subsequent step, the representation of women further declines, and women of color face an even more dramatic drop-off at senior levels.”

Women like Harb are helping make strides toward equality, with help from organizations that seek to elevate them.

One such organization is the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, which is partnering with Accendo Leadership Advisory Group to provide executive training for women in the Tampa Bay Area. The program includes coaching from Accendo’s Co-Founders Cari Coats and Karen Dee.

The Accendo Leadership program at USFSP

Karen Dee, left, and Cari Coats at USFSP“Karen and Cari have proven C-suite experience and the program has proven to be effective in developing leadership skills for high potential women leaders,” says Sridhar Sundaram, Dean of the Kate Tiedemann College of Business at USFSP. “The personal coaching built into the program magnifies the impact for participants.”

The university’s goals are four-fold:

  • address the gender gap,
  • honor the college’s legacy,
  • develop high-potential leaders through key partnerships,
  • and expand the Woman and Leadership Initiative.

“The KTCOB [Kate Tiedemann College of Business] is invested in developing the next generation of business leaders. We do so in our innovative curriculum and programs,” says Sundaram, who holds a doctorate in Business Administration, Accounting and Finance from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. “This executive education course aligns with that goal and also helps support gender diversity within our region.”

The program isn’t for everyone, however. It accepts women with at least 10 years of experience, proven leadership ability, and the aspiration to advance their career one or two levels. A majority are sponsored by employers.

“We want to create a personal and intense leadership experience for each of the participants,” says Dee, a Managing Partner for Accendo. Karen Dee is Co-Founder of Accendo Leadership Advisory Group.

The curriculum includes nine themed sessions as well as one-on-one executive coaching meetings, with the goal of narrowing the executive gender gap. Its LEADForward Roundtables run through next July, and cover topics like “Developing Confidence and Executive Presence,” “Negotiating to Get What You Want,” “Communicating with Power and Authority,” and “Accelerating Your Career Through Development, Networks, Mentorship, and Sponsorship.”

“This is our passion work,” explains Dee, an executive coach with a banking background. “I felt a strong passion around wanting to see more women in the executive ranks.”

Accendo operates in Tampa and Orlando. The next cohort at USFSP begins in the fall of 2019. To learn more or apply, follow this link.

“We hope that this partnership [with USFSP] will allow us to touch more women,” Dee adds.

Lauren Fernandez, a Middle Market Banking Director and Senior VP for Bank of America in Tampa, participated in the Accendo program in 2017 with an employer sponsorship. She says she learned “how to step inside the mind of others.”

“They really taught me as a leader how to look at things. We all look at things through our own lens. They really taught me to step out of my own way,” she explains.

Fernandez enjoyed being able to practice her responses in various situations.

“The thing I love most is being able to come in and take a real-life scenario,” she says. “I was able in real time to go back and practice, tweak my behavior and responses.”

In addition to the one-on-one advising, she says she also benefitted from the peer group advice.

A Tampa native, 38-year-old Fernandez credits the women before her for breaking the glass ceiling and bringing up other women with them.

“Women who want it — and go after it and go after it hard — I think can attain anything at any level they choose,” she says. “It’s not without hard work.”

She believes they have a great opportunity in the Tampa Bay Area. “I also believe Tampa Bay is starved for female leadership. Maybe I should say great female leadership,” she adds. “There is a need there.”

What advice does she have for women who want to get ahead?

“I’d say work hard, be visible and sign up for anything extra that is possible. That’s either in your workplace or within your community,” she says.

She also believes in building relationships and volunteering, perhaps on not-for-profit boards.

“Those relationships will help you get to the next level,” she adds. “The more people see you doing a great job, the more opportunities will present themselves to you.”

The Athena Society: Elevating women through networking

Another organization that is working to elevate women is the invitation-only Athena Society, which affords women the opportunity Betty Castor is working to elevate women through The Athena Society.to network and connect with mentors in Tampa Bay. Heading that group this year is Betty Castor, co-sponsor of the state’s Equal Rights Amendment and the first woman to hold the post of president pro tempore of the Florida Senate in 1985.

Castor also was the first woman elected to the Florida Cabinet and the first female president at the University of South Florida, a position she held from 1994 through 2000.

“Primarily what Athena does is raise awareness,” Castor says.

Discrimination can occur because of women’s role as family nurturers, she notes. People might ask, “ ‘What’s she going to do with the children?’ ”

“There’s often a reluctance [to treat women equally], or there was in the past. I think it’s beginning to go away,” she says. “Ah, it’s an insidious thing.”

Athena doesn’t offer ongoing training, but recruits women in leadership roles and encourages them to participate in other organizations with like-minded goals, she says.

“Sometimes you have to make a change if you really feel stuck in an area,” she suggests. “I was an educator, but I was also very interested in public policy. I think the public policy arena is a good place to be.”

These days she encourages younger women to try non-traditional career fields for women.

“It worked for me,” she says. “I also think that some of the non-traditional fields — the science and math — that is working because many more young girls today are choosing those non-traditional fields. They can work their way up.”

Castor points to the importance of having role models and mentors.

“You do need help. You do need to find some role models, but you also have to find some people who are willing to mentor,” she adds.

At a recent Athena meeting, the topic was pay equity for women. Those inequities can be perpetuated after employers ask about current salaries during the hiring process.

“If a woman comes into the company low, she tends to stay low,” Gail Golman Holtzman, a principal with the law firm Jackson Lewis in Tampa, tells the gathering.

She recommends an American Bar Association toolkit as a to help ensure pay is fair.

“Women may not negotiate as well for themselves,” she notes. “I think this is a great resource. It’s something you can use in your organization.”

Simone Gans Barefield, CEO of the Plant City-based Gans, Gans & Associates, Inc., suggests to the group that women seeking raises need to talk about their worth, and what they bring to the organization. “Practice if you aren’t naturally comfortable asking someone,” she adds.

She advises reaching out for help.

“We want to help somebody else, especially those who are a whole lot younger,” she says, referring to Athena members who have been around awhile. “We want to give them the advantages that we didn’t have.”

Striking out on your own through entrepreneurship

In some cases, women become executives by starting their own businesses.

One such woman in Tampa Bay is Monica Leonard, Founder of Molly’s Suds, who used to be a pediatric nurse. Her journey intoMonica Leonard started her own business, Molly’s Suds. entrepreneurship began with a personal tragedy; her daughter Molly was stillborn when they were living in Lakeland in 2005.

She set out to discover why — and discovered fetuses are exposed to pesticides, food dyes, and other chemicals in our drinking water. Though she tried to find a safer laundry soap, she didn’t locate one that met her satisfaction. Until she created her own.

Molly’s Suds began selling in a farmer’s market. “From there, I just started to roll,” she says.

Leonard was able to quit nursing and use her retirement fund for the business. She moved from a two-car garage into a warehouse, debt free. She has been renting in Seminole, with plans to move into her own 19,000 square foot warehouse in St. Petersburg early this winter.

What advice does she have for other women entrepreneurs? “Until you’re exploding, don’t hire help,” she says.

It’s important to reach out to the people you know. “It’s important to network as much as you can,” she adds.

An effective website is necessary, an Amazon presence critical. “Today’s consumer is a shopper,” she explains.

“The biggest piece of advice I can say is: ‘Just start’,” she adds.

3 Daughters infusing Good throughout St. Pete

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Mike and Leigh Harting know how to make great beer. They also know how to make an invaluable difference in their community.

The Hartings are probably best known as the owners of 3 Daughters Brewing, which will mark its five-year anniversary in December. What people should know about them, is the lasting impact they’ve made in the community by donating time, money, energy and opening their brewery for nonprofits in need of a venue.

What the Hartings understand, and what other businesses are discovering, is it’s no longer just about the quality of the product (let’s face it, 3 Daughters turns out quality products). Today it’s also about connecting with the community in a positive way. That’s how you build a loyal following.

The Hartings for the past five years have operated with those principles in mind, whether it’s volunteering in the community, serving on a variety of nonprofit boards, or donating to various causes. They set the example not only for their staff but also for other businesses looking to establish a foothold in the community.

How serious is this commitment? Consider that in 2016, they created a staff position to help coordinate these philanthropic endeavors. How many craft breweries have one of those? Jessica Bodkin, a native of St Petersburg, spent much of her youth in the city’s rec centers, and made such an impression that the city hired her as a recreation staffer when she turned 18.

Bodkin refined skills working with local businesses on sponsorships and donations for events and field trips for the kids at the rec centers. She discovered how much of an impact a $100 contribution could make and brings that know-how to the 3 Daughters commitment to giving.

The goal for 2017 was to provide $100,000 in donations or in-kind contributions to 200 nonprofits. Mission accomplished. Not ready to call it a day, the Hartings and Bodkin noodled on how to do even more. The result was a series of themed markets showcasing charities that set up booths to raise awareness to their causes. It has helped propel 3 Daughters to meeting this year’s goal of $125,000 pledged to 250 nonprofits.

“We have an engine that is available to those who want to work for their community,” Mike said sitting in the brewery. “The 15 of us sitting here couldn’t do as much individually as if we all go out and do something together. With a focused team, the donated time, energy and effort is multiplied several times over.”

The commitment extends beyond volunteering and donating to charities. At the grand opening five years ago, the Hartings raised an American flag that flew over a military base in Afghanistan – donated by the Green Beret Foundation. You can bet that if folks need a location to honor first responders and the military, or to host a charitable event, 3 Daughters will step right up. Remember that when looking for a cool place to support a cause on a hot day.

St. Petersburg mural festival SHINEs brighter with first-ever title sponsor

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Salt Palm Development, a real estate developer, has matched the city of St. Petersburg’s $25,000 seed donation.

For the first time in its short but mighty four-year history, SHINE — the annual mural fest brainchild of the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance — has found a title sponsor. Salt Palm Development, a real estate development company, has matched the city of St. Petersburg’s $25,000 donation.

Don’t worry, though: SPAA promised it won’t change the name to the Salt Palm Development SHINE festival (and we thank them for that).

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Don’t Boycott Bad Companies, Spend More With Good Ones

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Just as in political elections, people would rather take action to make a statement.

Especially this past year, the idea of “voting with your wallet” has taken on a certain cache as consumers have looked to connect their spending habits with their larger ethical stance. The #GrabYourWallet movement, for instance, took President Trump’s lewd comments as a springboard to encourage consumers not to buy from more than 50 Trump-affiliated brands. And new financial tools, like the impact measurement score from the company Aspiration, help consumers to track the environmental and ethical implications of where they shop.

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