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The Trailblazers: Rewriting the Narrative

The editorial team has a special attachment to our new series, The Trailblazers: Rewriting the Narrative, because so many of us feel that media portrayals of women have been too one dimensional. Today, women are doing incredible things in all fields – from science and technology to finance, law, business, athletics and more. With the Trailblazers series, we hope to highlight and celebrate female role models, encourage more equal and just representation in the media, and help foster a more tight-knit community locally helping women find mentors, business partners, friends and more.

Danielle Kelley

Standing on an elliptical machine at the gym I notice groups of women coming from a dark room on the other side. They were smiling, laughing and didn’t have the UGH expression I was wearing at all. What was this rolled up mat they were carrying? crossed my mind first. Before leaving I looked at the class schedule to find Yoga there. I didn’t really know what that meant but I knew they were on to something more than that silly elliptical machine. I went to the next scheduled class. It was weird but I felt great so I went back again and again for a couple of years even following the teacher when she opened her own studio. I felt stronger and calmer after every class but life seemed to take control as my career started demanding more and more of my time. After becoming a mommy Yoga became more something, I was going to do rather than something I did. Read more>>

Jessica Shaw

I was born into a family of pet lovers so I was set up for success from the start. From an early age, I wanted to be a vet but I ultimately decided that wasn’t exactly what I was looking for as a career. In my senior year of high school, I decided to apply for The Art Institute of Tampa with the major of Digital Photography. I graduated from there in 2013 and started a marketing/photographer job in April of 2014. I lost that job in October 2016 and after 400+ application denials or never getting a call back I decided to try the freelance route. To this day I continue to do freelance but my real passion came to me a few months into freelance life, Dogs. When it hit me one day, I felt that feeling everyone talks about when they know their true calling. I am meant to be a photographer of pets and their humans! Read more>>

Misty Jones

My parents were in the military so I spent my childhood traveling the world and experiencing other cultures. I believed everyone was kind and that all people are equal. Upon moving back to the US after graduating HS, I realized that I seen the world with rose colored glasses. It then became very important to me, to speak out for those that are less fortunate. My business is a place where all people feel welcome no matter their race, culture, or sexuality. I have also come to realize over the years the importance of supporting women. I want them to not only look beautiful but to feel beautiful. I can remember showing someone the back of my camera during a boudoir shoot and she said “wow, I really am beautiful”. It was a moment I will never forget. Since that my focus has really shifted to women.  Read more>>

Jennifer Vieira

When I was 12, my dad handed me his old Canon camera he had bought in the 1980s. It was metal, a little clunky, and only worked every other press of the shutter button. I didn’t know anything about cameras or taking pictures, but I had been artistic since a very young age, so the possibilities intrigued me. My love for photography blossomed when I saw how I could catch the light just right coming into the lens and create artistic visions of objects in front of me. From the beginning, I wasn’t interested in creating a realistic representation of what I saw, but more of what I felt, the emotion an object invoked in me. Years went by and I eventually bought a modern-day version of that ancient Canon. I never stopped taking pictures of the world around me, but something new had caught my interest. Read more>>

Jessica DeLeo

The Movement Sanctuary owners Aaron Tremper & Jessica DeLeo saw the need for a circus space for the existing movement community here in Saint Pete! Our space is here to cultivate creative collaboration, challenge both the mind and body, and learn a new and exciting way to get to know yourself. We started by saying YES and had a tribe to back us up. Read more>>

Kristin Verhine

I’ve been a Speech-Language Pathologist since 1998. I have spent most of my career working with children with various speech and language impairments. In 2003, I had the opportunity to move to Japan for a year to teach English. During and after that experience, I realized I would one day like to pursue a career in accent modification. After returning from Japan, my husband and I settled down, bought a house, then a dog. We welcomed our first child into the world in 2005 and our second in 2008. Time marched on and the dream of working with people on their accents seemed like it may never become a reality. Read more>>

Alice Burnett

I was born and raised in St. Petersburg. My grandmother was a stylist for 29 years, so I grew up in her salon. I tried the college thing for a few years but ended up gravitating back towards hair and attended the Aveda Institute of Tampa Bay in 2016. I graduated in February of 2017 and immediately started working at a well-known salon in the area. I left that salon in June of 2018 and in August of that same year I signed on with Blo Blow Dry Bar to open my own franchise location. Read more>>

Junise Belizaire

I have always had a desire to help people. So, it is no surprise that I became a nurse. After years of working in a hospital, I decided that I needed more and I wanted to make more of an impact on my patients. So, I went back to school and became a nurse practitioner. I loved what I did. I loved the difference I was able to make in someone’s life. It was not the ability to prescribe treatment for their disease or give a diagnosis to bring peace of mind. It was the ability to listen, to bring healing with touch, and to care. Unfortunately, that love and fulfillment slowly began to fade. I started to hate going to work. I hated being asked to do things that I thought were not ethical. I hated being rushed from patient to patient. But even more so, I hated that my patients were seen as nothing but numbers. Read more>>

Teresa Restom Gaskill and Egle Mateo

We are Egle and Teresa, owners of The Art of Science, LLC, in Saint Petersburg, Florida. We started our business in 2015, investing $300 of our own money! The idea for this business came when, as parents, we struggled to find high quality, affordable summer programs that offer a breadth of disciplines. We decided then to combine our strengths (Egle is an artist and Teresa is a biologist), and design a trial program for the summer of 2015 to see if there would be any interest. To our surprise, it was a great success! Parents and kids enjoyed the high quality, creative, outside-of-box projects, and requested we offer the program year-round. Now, we offer after school programs in eight different schools, summer programs every year, and, recently, we have added adult classes. Read more>>

Coco Crowder

Event planning began as a hobby very early in life. I’ve definitely come a long way from planning sweet sixteen parties on notepads for my sister and I, to planning baby shower’s for elite local city government officials. I honestly thought I was going to be a teacher; I had my first classroom layout figured out by second grade. Little did I realize that be doing this, I was setting my path in motion towards a future in events, planning and design. I wasn’t until I got to college that I truly started taking the actual act of event planning seriously. I joined and led various event committees during my time at the University of South Florida which opened up a lot of learning opportunities for me. My first real paying gig was by way of my sorority sister, she asked me to plan her wedding. Read more>>

Maurice Lawrence

Growing up I was always picked on because of speech impediment I suddenly started working out in my early teens. As my body began to change, my confidence started to grow. I began to control my speech impairment. I noticed the more I stayed in fit, the more great things started happening for me. Workout started as a habit and became a lifestyle for me. I began to go around the country to different gyms picking up routines and ideas from other fitness people. I’ll ask so many questions from trainers, owners of gyms, and many professional bodybuilders. This career became my passion and once there’s passion, it’s not work anymore. Mobetterfit has arrived!! Read more>>

Donald Stokely

I took up photography as a hobby when my son was born in 2005. I was hired to photograph a friend’s wedding shortly after and I have been hooked to wedding photography since then. Other than a photography class in college, I didn’t have much formal training, but I read books and studied the work of many of the prominent photographers in the area. I am always a student of this arts and willing to continue learning from those who are willing to pass on their knowledge to a guy like me. Over the years, my business grew from photography to photo booths, video production, and DJing. I am passionate about what I do and delighted to connect with the people I have served over the years. Read more>>

Roy Foley

After college I worked in corporate America for 15 years. I started riding a bike to get into shape. I would hang out at a local bike shop and one day they offered me a job. I left my secure career to become a bike fitter. I worked for a few bike shops in the area and eventually ventured off on my own. I worked in small offices throughout Tampa. I am in my 8th year working for myself and 13 years as a bike fitter. My most recent expansion was moving into an old historic building in west Tampa on Main Street. We moved in 2 months prior to COVID. Our space is a studio for people to custom fit bikes, endurance coaching, bike service and coffee shop. My parents both passed away this past year. The last place they got to see was my new space before they passed away. I just started a Charity called THE SOCKS charity. Read more>>

Joy Hmielewski

Well, I’ve been doing photography for 9 years, so it’s been a pretty long journey. I always deep down wanted to be a photographer and I’ve been taking photos since I can remember. It’s still funny to think that Joyelan Photography is really my job. I went to college and did all of the things people tell you to do, but at the end of the day this is the only thing I have ever truly loved doing. The brief answer is: hard work. I work extremely hard to give my clients a good product. I’m an over communicator most days, but that’s because I believe that every person I work with is important and deserves a good experience. I’ve photographed weddings in different states and countries, I shoot portraits, and now I’m working on expanding some services. Read more>>

Angel Foster

It all started in August 2008. I was at a crossroads in my life. I was telemarketing at the time and was struggling to keep my household together. I was faced with a choice to buy my oldest son some diapers or pay my light bill so we would have power. It was at that moment that the Everest University commercial came on the radio in my car and I called the number before the commercial even ended. That next day I was in the admissions office taking a placement test which landed me to choose between medical assistant or massage therapist. I knew that I wanted to own a business so I could pass it down to my son when he was old enough and I needed the freedom to make my own schedule due to me being a single parent. That following Monday I was in class and my journey began there. Read more>>

JoAnna Esposito

We lived in Connecticut growing up. I was born as an artist and I am a true believer. You either are born with it or not. It’s nothing you can learn. If you decide later in life to become an artist then it was always in you and chances are, someone in your family before you is also an artist because it’s proven to be hereditary. For me, I know I inherited my talent from my mother, Bette Esposito who was a well-known fine artist from Connecticut. She taught me everything she could about art at a young age (I’m talking months old and until the day she passed away in 2008). She was a true artist in every right and she also taught all the kids she came into contact with how important their imagination is and how to use it. She’s the one that got me interested in art. Read more>>

Pete Marin

Started my airbrush apprenticeship back in 1993 in Portland Maine. Worked with my boss and teacher at a retail mall kiosk painting t-shirt. Moved to NH where I work for another airbrush company and eventually purchase the business with an associate artist. After 6 years I sold my half of the business to my partner and moved to Florida. Continued to airbrush everything from t-shirts, to murals, and automotive. Started doing events that grew slowly over 10 years until I decided to focus solely on this which helped my business to expand to 8 artists and a small team for marketing and administration. We now travel all over the country painting party favors live for events. Some of our events are small birthdays some are large multiday events with thousands of attendees. Read more>>

Michael Ethyn

If experience speaks volumes, then Michael Ethyn could quite possibly write several books! In 2009, after realizing tremendous success in his previous career, Michael decided to follow his creative passions and enter the salon industry. Since then, he hasn’t looked back! After graduating from Redken’s Salon Professional Academy, Michael has made it his goal to seek out education from the best in the industry, enhancing his skills and building on an already huge passion for hair. In the last few years, Michael Ethyn has trained under Roy Naccour at J. Joseph Salon & Spa, trained at the prestigious Redken Exchange in New York City, taken close to a countless number of courses at annual Premiere Orlando International Beauty Events, attended the Redken Symposium in Las Vegas, been actively involved in multiple Centricity and A.M.F. hair shows. Read more>>

Desiree Campbell

I was in the medical field for over 10 years and needed a change, I left my medical job to return to school for Medical Esthetician, This is where my passion for beauty really began. I was struggling financially during esthetics school. There were times I slept in my car because I didn’t have enough money for gas to go home and back to school the next day. So needless to say, graduation couldn’t come soon enough. I was offered a job right after graduation, however, was soon disappointed. I was told to use products and services that did nothing for the skin. Sell, Sell, Sell. I honestly believe in products and services that truly change the skin which is why I left the esthetics world and returned back to the medical field. I worked in Dermatology for the next 2 years and loved every second of it. Read more>>

Corine Potter

My love for beauty started as a child. I used to put my mom’s makeup on, tear out model photos in magazines and try and copy the looks and I always got myself and my sister ready for school dances. I worked at the department store when I was 16 and I used to go to the Este lauder counter and put makeup on customers all the time even though I worked the perfume counter. I never knew I was going to go to beauty school and become a makeup artist. I started working in a salon when I was 20 and never looked back. Now, almost 11 years later, I am my own boss, having worked on countless commercials, a few feature films, more photo shoots then I can count and a few music videos. I’ve even worked on live TV. A few years back I even added my own product line to my business. I have makeup products as well as a lash and brow growth serum. Read more>>

Chelsea Lopez

I am the owner of Tipsy Tampa Bartender & Events. I have been in the biz (ITB) for over 13 years! My own business all started with my regulars at one of the bars I was working at in Tampa about 4 years ago. They were planning their wedding and they needed a bartender! They asked me and I said yes! I had to work out the logistics but at the end of the day it was amazing! I loved helping them, figuring what and how much they needed to buy, setting up, working, and breaking down. We had such a good time and everything was perfect. (It was also Cinco de Mayo so a lot of Corona’s were served! After the wedding my regular kept referring me. I ended up doing another wedding shortly after. Now, 4 years later I have a whole team! We have expanded and offer Bartending as well as coordination services. I am extremely thankful. Read more>>

Taeler Buchanan

I maneuvered my way through a few circles and found the perfect cast for my first pilot project, Hollywood (Invisible Ties) which just recently premiered on Amazon Prime and RokuTV. I actually wrote, directed and produced it solo so I’m majorly proud of my first baby! I’m currently writing, directing, and producing a mini-drama series with my production company called “The Things We Survive.” Ever since I made that first step in 2017, I’ve gotten a lot better, gained a lot more knowledge, and have met some AMAZING people in this industry. Read More >>

Alina Smith & Elli Moore

Luckily, we have actually had so much fun on our journey! I think the best piece of advice we could offer women/ anyone in the industry is to partner up with another creative! The reason we feel like we have had such a smooth ride is that we have each other. We are stronger in numbers, and a solid team will move quickly because members of a good team will all have different strengths. We find that we really compliment each other and feel very confident in what we do because we aren’t alone. This industry can be scary, but when you are certain someone has your back, you feel fearless. Read More >>

Dalal Alrashed

I came to the United States of America in a full scholarship from the Ministry of Higher education in Kuwait to pursue my degree in Art in Journalism/PR, I started my journey at the California State University of Northridge majoring in Marketing, however, I realized how unhappy I was. For that reason I decided not to waste my scholarship in doing something I don’t like, I switched my major to journalism/PR and many people asked me why this major. Read More >>

Kimmie Jeppson

I’ve had extremely sensitive skin and suffered from terrible eczema for half my life. I tried almost everything on the market and spent thousands of dollars on dermatology appointments, prescriptions and beauty products that promised so much but delivered little results and comfort. Eczema is extremely painful and uncomfortable. After my 2nd child was born in the winter, my eczema flared up in the worst way. I had dry, dull skin that was accompanied by stretch marks, breakouts, and dimples on the back of my thighs and behind. I was MORTIFIED! Fast forward to Easter dinner where I saw my Aunt Jenifer, who has always had the most gorgeous skin. I asked her what she did to have beautiful, flawless skin. She said to make a Coffee Scrub. I went to the store the next day and picked up Coffee, coconut oil and sugar to make a natural scrub.  Read More >>

Katy Erin

However, within my first two years of living here, I was hit quickly with the fact that writing for a living was just as much a pipedream as acting was. I realized if I was going to be a starving artist and follow my dreams in the big city, I might as well commit to a dream that was actually mine. But I was already “in it” as a writer – I’ve never been able to let go of one thing to commit fully to the other. And because of that, I’ve been lucky enough to work as a showrunner’s assistant through several pilots and four seasons of TV, which has given me access to an incredible support system as a writer, as well as skills in producing and directing I didn’t even realize I was learning. Read More >>

Deziree Dufresne

Just a few weeks after I sent over that business plan, we launched Acorns & Oaks on January 1, 2018. An educational business focused on teaching creative entrepreneurs how to grow their businesses by design, we offer everything from free articles and worksheets, to paid online courses and 1 on 1 mentoring. And the more I work on Acorns & Oaks, the more I realized just how truly passionate I am about the topics we teach on. Having my own business has been rewarding, but helping teaches other business owners how to succeed as been even more fulfilling to me. Read More >>

Dani Bondurant

Oh, it’s been SUCH a fun journey! Since 2015, I have been designing products with the sole purpose of spreading kindness and positivity in the world! In 2014, I had decided to take a pause in my elementary teaching career and spend more time with my own kiddos, volunteering in their school and being present when they were home. During that time, I also found more space in my life to spend time on my passion for paper crafting, scrapbooking, and creating handmade greeting cards. I sent the cards to anyone and everyone, simply because it made me happy, and I knew it made the recipients happy, too! My friends eventually started encouraging me to try selling my cards, and my business was born! Read More >>

Amy O’Connell and Sarah Brittenham

We think every small business has its fair share of rocky roads! While ours has been fairly smooth, the struggles we have faced were really the result of things we could never have predicted – but these have also been important learning experiences for us. All of the challenges have given us the opportunity to pivot and move with the market. Our advice for other women who are just getting started? Don’t be afraid to pivot. Don’t be afraid to change your original plan or vision if it means greater success. These don’t have to be big changes – but little changes that could make all the difference. Keep your eyes open wide and be open to new ideas! Read More >>

Brooke Breazeale

I started Briya after spending six months working at a chimpanzee sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo. After seeing, firsthand, the devastating impacts of poverty, I couldn’t just walk away and ignore what was happening. Briya is my way to actively support organizations implementing a holistic, sustainable, community-based approach. Read More >>

Jessica Mahnke

I think you can learn and train for any career, but some things are just so innately inside you, it would be impossible to not live them out. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an artist and a designer. As a kid, a blank pad of paper was a thrilling world of opportunity and any box or a found object got my mind swirling about what it could become: countless forts, funny gadgets, Barbie homes. I even remember being given a few small cardboard ring boxes and rigging them together with rubber bands and pencils as pillars to build this multi-level modern apartment complex…. ya know, like most kids do, when they’re nine. Read More >>

Brittany Bouse

I purchased my first home in 2003 when I was just 22 years old, and it was then that I developed such a love for real estate. Shortly after, I went to school to be an appraiser. But before getting my license to sell real estate, I detoured into being a wedding planner and event manager after moving to Colorado from south Florida over ten years ago. After years of planning, managing, and executing one of the biggest days of peoples’ lives, I decided it was time to circle back to my original passion, and I have been rewriting my story ever since. Read More >>

Allie Gilmore

The path of an emerging artist is not set like any other career. Unlike many other professions, there is no “right way” to become a studio artist. Even if you do go to art school, once you are out there are a million different avenues that can be taken in order to make your art-making dreams a reality. If that means taking another job in order to sustain a studio practice and losing sleep to do both, then that is what has to be done. Having to pull late nights in the studio until 2 or 3 am (that’s when I get my best work done!) and then having to wake up for other obligations is not for the weak, but sacrifices have to be made for studio work to flourish. I have definitely had my fair share of missing out on quality time with friends and family in order to “get it all done”. When you are a sole creator, you are ultimately the one who has to push pass those walls to make it all happen. Read More >>

Holly Fuller

Thankfully, within a week of moving, I landed a job at Nickelodeon within their Digital Advertising Department. Working in media was always a goal of mine and I was so grateful to be in the midst of it. A little over a year later I moved into the tech startup world. I brought my background in Digital Advertising to a mobile based startup in Playa Vista. After working in tech for two years, I realized there were not many people who looked like me, an African-America Woman. African-Americans, in general, were far and few between. I thought to myself, we are the main consumers of technology, but we do not have a seat at so many tables. Read More >>

MK McGehee

My hope is that it is getting better for women, my LGBTQ family and people of color, especially – that the opportunities will just keep growing and growing. I’ve been very candid about the physical and emotional abuse I’ve experienced as a woman at the hands of male colleagues and mentors, mainly during my theatre years. The worst was in 2010 and it was a doozy – I ended up in the hospital and then in therapy several times a week to try and regain my mental and emotional strength. I became a shell of my former self and almost dropped out of grad school as a result. I’m glad I didn’t let him have my graduate degree in addition to everything else he took from me. I’m thrilled I was able to push through because it landed me here – and I think now is a very exciting time to be a woman in this industry. Read More >>

Kayla Bertagna and Lisa Ballstaedt

It all started when we had a Korean skincare night on a girls trip to Puerto Vallarta. We were excited to try the masks, but… well, they weren’t great. The masks didn’t have clear directions, they didn’t fit well, and we really didn’t know what we were putting on our faces.

We knew we could do better, so we set out to create something revolutionary. After hours of measuring each other’s faces, countless trips to Korea to meet with skincare chemists, and dozens of nights testing products, we’re proud to announce we’ve created the most innovative sheet masks on the market. Read More >>

Jenny Baek

As we all know, nothing can be easy in life, and so is modeling. Fashion Photography/modeling industry is super competitive and they do not take every single one. It’s been a struggle for me too since I am petite (5’3) and the majority of model agencies still look for models who are tall enough who have more various options including runways and fashion show. Still, I wanted to try my best so I was applying for agencies and also been rejecting lots of time. Read More >>

Mel Brown McGinnis

“I fell in love with poetry in Mrs. Tucker’s 9th grade English class,” and I’ve been writing poetry and prose ever since. I’ve always known that writing is my passion, and someday I hoped I would be able to share my gift with the world on pages. When I was in high school, I had two poems published in my school’s 10th grade honors English literary magazine and from that day to this one, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I was a member of the Speech and Drama Club in high school, and I was hit with the performing bug when I did my first silique in speech class and was cast for the chorus in Greece the musical.

So, you wonder how I ended up becoming an attorney, right? Well, I was born in a small town in Louisiana that Time magazine once called the “poorest town in America.” I came from humble beginnings but was raised with a strong sense of family, faith, purpose and the belief that your beginnings don’t have to dictate where you end up in life. I always had big thoughts and big dreams and the self-belief that I could be successful at whatever I chose to do in life. Read More >>

Valencia Holland

It hasn’t been a smooth road but it’s been worth it. I can think back to my intern days and thought everything was going to be glamorous. Being in the business of fashion, beauty, and image can be tough. I remember catching subways from showroom to showroom, dragging suitcases for blocks to catch a subway, doing things that I never imagined. I got a million No’s before I got the one yes. And when you become the boss of your own company, it doesn’t get easier. You’re now responsible for so much more. My advice to women, no matter what you’re looking to do would be, don’t be afraid to start from the bottom and work your way up. Just because you are passionate about something doesn’t mean you know everything. There is a business side to everything and today, there’s so many more resource available so take advantage. Become a sponge and soak everything up. Never stop learning and growing.  Read More >>

Yazmin Cherety

Throughout my childhood, I grew up seeing my parents work for everything they provided to me and my 3 other siblings. Every day was a new challenge for them because they were in charge of their own business. I always looked up to them and was always inspired to strive to be like them one day. They shaped me into the woman I am now, to not take anything for granted because everything I want or have will come with hard work and dedication. People always ask young children “what do you want to be when you grow up”? I never had an exact answer because I felt there were many things I could be good at, but the key was what I really enjoyed doing for the rest of my life. Read More >>

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