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No. 1 Tax Tip for 2018: Hire a Professional to Help You With Your Biz

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Go Your Own Way may have been a hit for Fleetwood Mac, but it’s not good advice for small businesses and startups when it comes to dealing with taxes.

Theresa Turner, a certified public accountant who operates Tax Happens LLC in Tampa Bay, describes getting the help of an accountant or attorney as a priceless investment. Consider the expense of hiring a CPA versus the cost of fines if you make incorrect deductions or claim a business expense and the Internal Revenue Service comes back three years later and assesses fines and penalties.

“The cost of a consultation with a qualitative licensed professional is minimal in comparison,” Turner says. ”

“You simply don’t know what you don’t know,” Turner added. “At a minimal, have a consultation with a CPA and or attorney to assure you are in compliance and to know when you will need their services.”

The need to get professional help only heightened in 2018 with companies now operating under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the new tax plan ushered in by President Donald Trump.

According to Fundera communications manager Shira Almeleh, the new tax code sets into motion new deductions and credits that will affect each small business’s tax liability differently. And what’s most important is that those changes have already kicked in.

Turner says expect the new tax laws to have a mixed impact.

“Some taxpayers are better off, and some are worse off,” Turner says. “It depends on where you live and if you have business expenses.

“My client base here in central Florida most negativity impacted are W2 employees with out of pocket expenses their employer doesn’t reimburse them for.  These are mainly sales people who incur travel and other expenses to make the sale. They can no longer deduct these expenses as a miscellaneous business expense.”

Here are six areas that need your immediate attention as tax season approaches.

Always Keep Separate Books and Records  

Inaccurate record keeping can lead to inaccurate tax returns and that can lead to fines and penalties. It’s that simple.

The IRS lists the expenses you should track on its site: These include gross receipts, purchases, expenses, travel/transportation, assets and employment taxes.

StartUp Magazine suggests using online tracking software or — stop us if you’ve heard this before — or hire a tax attorney or professional.

Turner says the most efficient way to track expenses is to run the business through a separate bank account or credit card.

“Keep all receipts,” Turner says. “You will need them if audited.”


Track Those Miles

Business miles are deductible. There are countless phone apps that can do that for you. Remember, Turner says, business miles are not just to and from clients or customers.

“Miles to meet with your CPA, insurance agent or attorney regarding business are business miles,” Turner says.


Know the Definition of a Business Expense

Business expense must be “Ordinary, Necessary & Reasonable” or the IRS will not allow the expense. Turner says it’s important to understand the type of business you operate. That’ll help define the expense.

“What qualities for one business may not qualify for another,” Turner says.


Start Up Costs are Deductible

Make sure you track money spent before you started your business. This is particularly important in regard to large equipment purchases. The change in the tax law offers an increased benefit if you buy heavy equipment, a vehicle for work.

According to Jean Murray’s blog on The Balance Small Business site, “These accelerated depreciation deduction limits have been increased as an incentive for businesses to buy.”


Don’t Make It Personal

Personal expenses are not deductible. That suit you picked up from the dry cleaner closed the sale but unless it is a “uniform” that someone wouldn’t wear outside of work it is not a business expense.

“Yes, some of us wear makeup and get our nails done for business purposes, but it’s still not deductible,” Turner says. “However, clowns can deduct the cost of their makeup and clothing.”


Dinner and A Show?

Meals with a business purpose or related to a business event are now 50 percent deductible. Eventually, you won’t be able to deduct them at all. And, as of 2018 entertainment is no longer deductible.

“Enjoy taking your clients to that hockey game but you cannot deduct that business expense,” Turner says.

Some experts say the impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act won’t be fully understood for at least a couple of years. It’s critical that businesses pay close attention to not only the tax codes but how the U.S. Treasury Department frames and rules on the legislation passed by Congress.

Handling your taxes independently through an app or web site might have made sense when you worked for another company, but now, it’s not personal, it’s business. Get some professional help, and remember, Go Your Own Way was about a breakup, not about being a solo entrepreneur.


5 Tips to Get More Out of Holiday Events than Cookies and Cheer   

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If you believe holiday events and parties represent a time to indulge, imbibe and ignore business opportunities, you’re totally missing why entrepreneurs and start-up owners consider this the most wonderful time of the year.


Sprinkled sugar cookies in December may have you baking up new business in January. Ugly sweaters can have you dressed for success after the new year. With the right approach, you can turn holiday events into business happenings.


Here are five actions you can take to get more out of your next holiday event. 


Have A Holly, Jolly Good Time 

It’s imperative you show up with the right attitude for holiday parties. If you arrive with thoughts of, “I should be shopping” or “I hope my mother-in-law doesn’t come early,” it will dent your efforts to not only network, but to have a good time. Wrote Uber Brands founder Jonathan Long in a blog for Entrepreneur, “It’ll be obvious to everyone around you that you don’t want to be there.”


Of course, putting on a happy face can prove challenging during the holidays, especially if you haven’t had a good business year. The experts, however, say a lack of success makes it even more important to be present and start building towards the next year.


“You gotta show up like you belong,” career coach Kathleen Brady told Inc. 


Wrap Yourself Up 

We don’t mean put on a jacket before you go outside.  We’re talking about playing to party themes and meeting expectations. If it’s an Ugly Sweater Party, wear an ugly sweater. That sounds so obvious, but every year you can find Scrooges at a holiday event who refuse to play along or underdress for more formal seasonal gatherings. Make the right fashion choices, and since it’s that time of the year, consider accentuating outfits with something special. The kids will say you’re being “extra,” but a Christmas tie or themed piece of jewelry can work to your benefit.


Sherry Alcorn, an author and entrepreneur, takes it a step further, suggesting in an Entrepreneur article that people don Santa hats.


The beauty of a Santa hat is that it tells the world that you’re approachable,” Alcorn said. “You’ll attract conversations by wearing it. Be bold, funny and cheerful by wearing your Santa hat and you’ll never know where a conversation will lead you. 


The Best Present Is Presence 

Networking always requires striking a balance between quickly sharing your aspirations while learning about the hopes of the people you engage. You need an introductory statement, an elevator speech, to initiate conversation. Make sure it contains those positive affirmations and avoids the negative buzz words.


 You’re not trying to start a new business, you’re not trying to develop a new app, you’re doing it. Full stop. Avoid a tone of desperation or uncertainty. Exude confidence and let the offers of help come to you. Be clear about your goals, but also be clear about where you want to improve. 


 The key is striking the balance between confidence and cockiness. The former should be authentic but positive and leads to gifts under the tree. The latter is defined by humble brags, fake boasts and will result in only a lump of coal. 


All You Want for The Holidays Is Dialogue 

Of course, after you serve up your hopes and goals on a silver platter, you want to pivot and invite the person on the other end of the discussion to deliver their own treats. 


Job search expert Alison Doyle says, “Your contacts can provide valuable information if you aren’t too busy doing all the talking.” 


Business consultant Molly St. Louis suggests taking it a step further and becoming a connector, learning of someone’s passions and then helping them connect with another person at the party who can potentially help them fulfill those passions. 


“People appreciate it when you do the networking for them,” St.Louis wrote in an Inc. article. “They come to know you as someone who is connected, and gets things done.” 


We Three Kings Travel Together 

The experts vary on if you should arrive at an event with partners or follow that North Start alone. St. Louis says bring a “wingman” because two people can cover more ground. Alcorn, however, says going it alone will keep you from congregating in the corner with your pal. Clearly, you want to make new connections. 


Perhaps, it’s best to bring a friend or two, but make a promise to each other to spread out and work the room. One of your three kings can arrive with frankincense at a moment when the conversation lags and help you ease out of the discussion. They also can find someone whose business interests may align with your goals. If you’re talking to a friend, others may be more inclined to approach you. 


But make sure you don’t sequester yourself in the corner and strike up a conversation only the two of you can enjoy. You can’t deliver the gold or receive.  


Make A List, Check It Twice 

So how do you avoid getting caught up in the revelry and failing to make the event pay off for your business? Enter the festivities with some specific benchmarks. 


Of course, be reasonable. You may come off as overbearing if you try to seal a new deal with someone downing eggnog. St. Louis cautions to never ask for money. Restraint will come if you look to plant seeds for a future harvest. 


“You’re trying to create on-ramps to build relationships,” Brady said. 


Targeting a specific number may seem to take the joy out of your holiday spirit, but it fuels the focus needed to walk away with more than just a sugar high after overdosing on homemade fudge and gingerbread. Long, the Uber Brand founder, says goal setting can help determine how long you stay at the party. 


“For example, you might want to establish three connections that can develop into business relationships. Do the same with holiday parties. Go in with a goal and work the crowd until you meet and exceed that initial goal.”

Holiday celebrations

5 Marketing Ideas to Make December a Month to Remember

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It’s more than the season of giving.

When it comes to new business, it’s the season of receiving.

It is not uncommon for service-based entrepreneurs to grow disenchanted with December, assuming no one wants to invest in services during the holidays.

However, savvy business leaders insist you can develop new leads, new conversations and, most important, new customers during the season.

Crankset Group founder Chuck Blakeman told Inc. it’s a mistake to think people are so focused on gift shopping and parties they have no time to conduct business. Blakeman said while holiday obligations fill the nights and weekends for potential customers, the days stand as remarkably quiet.

“I used the holidays to push my business forward significantly while other businesses were focused on opening and throwing away fruitcakes,” Blakeman said. “In fact, between Christmas and New Year’s I had three to four high-quality appointments every day, and in most cases, I was the only business activity those people had on their calendar the whole day.

“They were glad to get out of the house for a cup of coffee and I had their full, rested attention.”

With planning and preparation, you can turn the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day into Happy Holidays. Here are five steps you can take unwrap success before Jan. 1.


Leverage Your Email List

You’ve spent all year making connections and building your email list. Now enlist the holiday season to make those connections count. It’s a reflective time of the year and people want to be greeted by genuine sentiment. Reach out and touch someone. Thank them for being a valued supporter, express hope that you’ll strengthen the relationship in the new year.

Then, consider one of those added bells to turn the friendly email into a business generator.

Utilize the Subject Field with a special holiday greeting.

  • Extend an email invitation to meet for coffee or hot chocolate. As Blakeman said, they’re not as busy as they think.
  • Craft a series of promotional emails with a special discount to boost business. Count down to the special day and tie inspirational messages to the promotions. Marry the holiday spirit with special offers.
  • Offer solutions like, “How to handle the holiday rush?” or “Great gifts for great prices.” Even if they aren’t related to your business, people will remember you helped them ease the strain of the holiday season when it comes time to do business.
  • Aim your messages towards connecting in the new year. Be specific in setting a date in time, if possible.


Holiday-Themed Promotions

The holiday sale comes across as remarkably unoriginal but change your mindset. There are ways you can frame your business solutions to make a connection. Consider these:

  • It may sound trite, but the “12 Days of Christmas” approach can actually work. It fits into the theme of the season and can boost business. Wrote AppInstituteblogger Chris Meier: “A ’12 Days of Christmas’ campaign might seem cliched, but aside from being thematically fitting, it lends itself very well to time-limited offers, and the ability to create a sense of urgency. Alternatively, style it like an advent calendar.”
  • Another approach can opt for building brand over building business. Some companies use the holiday season to generate donations for a specific cause or nonprofit. You can promise a certain percentage of your service fee to an organization looking to service the needy.


Have An Event

Sure, people already have a lot of holiday parties on their list, but if you wrap your event in the right theme, it can be a fun time for customers and prospects and a business generator. Certainly, it requires a deft touch, and you need to get a return on your investment instead of just feting people for the fun of it.

Here are a few considerations:

  • Partner with a related company to minimize costs. Consider teaming with other coworkpartners who are not competitors but compliment what you offer.
  • Keep the length short. Sure, partying from “7 p.m. until the cows come home,” worked in college, but a more measured approach is required here. A simple happy hour or reception from 5-7 p.m. will do the trick.
  • Create a good mix. An accountant shouldn’t invite only accountants. Look to bring together people from different businesses who might benefit from connecting. If possible, including a media member or two who might be receptive to a pitch (see below).
  • Give away raffle prizes that include discounts on your services. Of course, mix in a prize to draw folks in, but also include lures for your business. Keep in mind it doesn’t have to be a grand give-away. People are as enamored with the since of winning something as the actual value.


Make Greeting Cards Meaningful

A lot of folks send greeting cards with all the zeal of taking out the trash, and consequently, that’s where they end up. If you’re going to send them — and it’s a questionable practice given the environmental impact — make them count. Here’s how:

  • Be thoughtful. A hand-written message will carry more weight than a scribbled signature. Personalize it with words that reflect appreciation, even if it’s a potential customer and not a regular customer. If it’s a customer you lost contact with, use the holiday card to re-establish the relationship.
  • Create a better photo bomb. A picture related to your business or services, themed for the holidays, will be more effective than a cliched Hallmark artwork. Remember, people are receiving a lot of greeting cards. Distinguish your piece. Have fun. Maybe feature you and your pet or you and your family. Even consider being goofy.
  • Include a small gift card. A slight discount can, again, distinguish your card from others, and they serve as a reminder to think of you in the coming year.
  • Tie your greeting card to a nonprofit effort. Like the aforementioned ideaabout a promotion tied to a nonprofit, it also can work with a card. ValPak, a St. Petersburg-based direct mail and digital marketing company, once sent out holiday greeting cards made out of a special biodegradable paper and embedded seeds that you could plant in your backyard and nurture. The fact a company that deals often in paper products delivered a card that reflected a care for the environment did wonders for its brand, even if few actually planted the card.
  • Forgo the Christmas card. How about a New Year’s greeting? From a business perspective, it makes sense because people will begin to assess where they are and where they want to go in 2019. “Don’t get lost in the Christmas card shuffle,” Blakeman says. “And everyone celebrates New Year’s.”


Push for Earned Media

The holidays possess the reputation for being a slow time for business, but it’s dreadfully slow for media outlets. Staffers at newspaper and television stations often take vacation during the holidays, and those who work through December long to find a story that hasn’t been done before. The opportunity to win over a reporter or editor may be the highest during the holidays, but you need to have the right pitch.

  • Be unique. Every reporter out there has grown weary of doing the story about the Christmas tree tent and the mall Santa Claus. If your greeting card features a unique photo, if your holiday event benefits a nonprofit, if your holiday-themed promotion stands out, it’s a potential opportunity to be the subject of a story.
  • Media outlets are undermanned all year and even more so in December. If your promotion or business idea represents a trend, include other businesses engaging with similar practices in your media release. It saves the reporter a step and backs your assertion that this really is a trend.
  • Include empirical data. If your unique holiday offering addresses a rising issue or taps into a burgeoning trend, reflect that with a little research. It may be as simple as surveying your customers and presenting the reporter with a percentage: 68 percent of the respondents surveyed believe the holidays is a good time to generate new business.
  • Make your pitch personal. In the release, which should be emailed, include a couple of asides that indicate you’re a regular reader or viewer of the media outlet’s content. Go beyond the standard compliment and offer details from a specific story or report the person you’re pitching recently produced.


At Rising Tide Innovation Center, we can help you parlay the holidays into a happy season of business success. And in case you’re wondering, our ugly sweater party is Dec. 7.


Thank you!

Can ‘Thank You’ Notes Change Your Business and Your Life?

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Thank you, take-out restaurants who put two spoons and two forks in the bag, for being nice enough to assume that all this food I ordered is for two people.

— Jimmy Fallon, May 23, 2014

Comedian Jimmy Fallon’s reoccurring routine of writing “thank you” notes on the Tonight Show stands as one of his best trademarks.

Fallon regularly brings attention to the mundane and the trivial by pretending to write notes on fancy stationery to everything from cotton candy to delayed flights to the comic villain Venom.

They lead to big laughs, but entrepreneurs may not realize the comical expressions reflect the importance of weaving gratitude into their daily lives. A focus on what motivational speaker Curtis Zimmerman calls an “attitude of gratitude” can lead to greater personal and professional growth.

From a personal perspective, new age leaders like Deepak Chopra point to research that indicates gratitude, along with love, compassion, empathy, joy, forgiveness, and self-knowledge, is a vital attribute of our wellbeing.

“Gratitude magnifies the spirit and promotes well-being,” wrote authors Eric Mosley and Derek Irvine in their book The Power of Thanks. “In good times and bad, authentic appreciation creates perspective, literally stepping back from the distractions of the moment and affirming something more lasting than passing circumstance.”

How does the existential focus translate to more business success? When people who embrace a positive attitude and transfer it to those they encounter, they attract people who can help build their success. It’s not just about possessing a positive attitude about yourself, it’s about possessing positivity about those you work with and those you encounter.

Zimmerman’s trademark response when someone greets him is, “I’m living the dream.” Chopra says colleagues will be more interested in helping someone who is optimistic, constructive and encouraging.

Tim Askew, founder of the sales firm, Corporate Rain, makes a habit of saying, “thank you” not only to the CEOs and business leaders he deals with, but to their assistants and receptionists.

“Research increasingly shows that thanking folks not only results in reciprocal generosity (where the thanked person is more likely to help the thanker), but stimulate eleemosynary (charitable) behavior in general,” Askew wrote in an Inc. article.

Gratitude also can help managers build more successful teams in the workplace. Vibe communications president Lori Worth said practicing and showing thankfulness helps the manager connect with more people and be more receptive to learning.

“Our business and personal lives collide, like it or not, and one affects the other,” Worth wrote for the Thinking Bigger blog. “The ability to be grateful is key to life balance and happiness, and this transcends into business.”

The question becomes how you go about infusing positivity into your life. Here are four “Be’s” to Being Big on Gratitude, with a little help from Fallon.


Thank you “everything bagel” for being the only breakfast food that looks like it was dropped under the couch two weeks ago.

— Jimmy Fallon, July 20, 2018

Be Mindful

You may not want to start the morning with an “everything bagel” from under the couch, but you should consider a moment of reflection that both unclutters the mind of stress and anxiety and refocuses it on positive attributions.

Many consider meditation a key step to generating the positive attitudes that can lead to peace of mind and happiness. ABC News anchor Dan Harris, who once had an on-air panic attack, touts the virtues of meditation in two best-selling books, including 10% Happier.

“I would say the biggest difference for me is not being so owned by my emotions,” Harris told the Washington Post. “I still experience plenty of difficult emotions – most notably for me is anger. But it’s like you have an inner meteorologist who can see the storm before it makes landfall. You’re less likely to be carried away by it. That makes a huge difference.”

A lot of tips exist on how to begin a meaningful meditation routine, and there are a lot of different forms of meditation. Harris said a good way to start involves sitting in a reasonably quiet place and focusing on the feeling of your breath coming in and out.

“Every time you get distracted, you start over again – and again and again,” Harris said. “For many people, the moment they get distracted their ego tells them that they are failed meditators. What you need to know is that the moment you notice you were distracted, that’s a victory. It means you’re doing it correctly.”

Another misconception is that meditations requires an inordinate amount of time. Yet Harris and other experts believe 5-10 minutes a day can make a difference in your life.

Chopra recommends starting with what he calls “The Four Soul Questions:”

  1. Who Am I?
  2. What Do I Want?
  3. What Am I Grateful For?
  4. What Is My Dharma or Purpose in Life?

Along with meditation, visualization can help. The related practice focuses on envisioning your success and how you need to reach out.

Sometimes success can stem from doing something visual. Robert Emmons, a University of California-Davis psychologist and author of, Thanks: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, says simply keeping a gratitude journal — regularly writing brief reflections on moments for which we’re thankful — can significantly increase well-being and life satisfaction.

Two studies cited by HappierHuman state a gratitude journal increases optimism anywhere from 5-15 percent.

The gratitude journal is essentially a version of Fallon’s “thank you” notes, just without the sardonic wit.


Thank you clogs for combining all the frumpiness of slippers with all the discomfort of having a cutting board strapped to your foot.

— Jimmy Fallon, Oct. 12, 2018


Be Positive

Of course, the positive person learns to appreciate the slipper-like quality of the clogs instead of the sensation of having a cutting board strapped to your foot.

A simpler application involves appreciating the blessings of life.

Zimmerman, who has delivered his motivational musings at Florida State University’s freshman orientation sessions for more than 10 years, says his motto of “Living the Dream” stems not from a desire to be catchy or cute, but a sincere effort to be positive.

“After realizing the amazing opportunities I’ve had in my life, I began saying ‘I’m Living the Dream’ every time someone asked me how I’m doing,” Zimmerman said. “I don’t say this out of blind optimism. I say it because it’s a constant reminder of how blessed I really am.”

Such greetings seldom fail to elicit a smile from the greeter. There’s a positive energy that connects with strangers and coworkers.

According to a article, multiple research efforts have revealed that gratitude makes people kinder and friendlier, and that because of that, grateful people have more social capital. This means that grateful people are more likely to receive help from others for no reason other than that they are liked and appreciated.

The research also indicates that gratitude demonstrations lead to less pressure, stress and anxiety. Those who embrace gratitude also feel more supported by their peers and colleagues.

Business coach Michael Jacobs told Entrepreneur that changing his mental attitude led him from several failed startups to a successful app business.

“Being thankful for what you currently have immediately releases any negativity that you might be holding onto,” Jacobs wrote. “Gratitude instantly puts you in touch with the feeling of love. Where love resides, fear and all other negative emotions cannot.”


Thank you, unused chip clips in my kitchen for letting me pretend I don’t finish the entire bag of Fritos all at once.

— Jimmy Fallon, Sept. 28, 2018

Be Aware

Meditation and positivity should lead to heighten awareness on a number of fronts. It’s awareness of your God-given gifts, awareness of life’s positives and awareness of how opportunity can arise out of crisis.

Chopra said the answers people seek during meditation may come later in the day, when awareness and appreciation of inherent gifts begin to materialize.

“Pay attention and notice when time seems to stand still, when you feel completely absorbed in what you’re doing as you use your talents to serve yourself and others,” Chopra writes. “Following these steps will expand your ability to follow the trail of your destiny as it unfolds before you moment by moment.”

Gratitude for blessings and gifts will help shape your purpose, and the sense of purpose will allow you to more successfully take on challenges. There’s a spirituality associated with this level of awareness, but it’s practical applications in business cannot be ignored.

Sharing your gifts can boost your purpose and capitalize on the advantage positivity delivers to your entrepreneurial effort.

“If someone is looking for advice, help them out,” Michael Jacobs writes. “Do not hesitate or doubt your value. Even the smallest of gestures or thoughts shared can cause a massive shift in another individual’s perspective.”


Thank you, hard taco shells, for surviving the long journey from factory, to supermarket, to my plate and then breaking the moment I put something inside you.

— Jimmy Fallon, March 24, 2014


Be Driven

Yes, even after you incorporate mindfulness and meditation, re-enforce your attitude with positive admonitions and grow more aware of your purpose — even after you do all of those things — you may sit down to dinner and have your hard taco shell break the moment you put something inside it.

It happens.

Just as we suggest beginning the day with meditation, you can end it with a fair and upbeat assessment of what you achieved in the last 24 hours.

Start with all you have to be grateful for on that day and every day. It’s particularly good to identify different aspects that merit appreciation. The emphasis on gratitude should shape your actions.

“In my experience, if you have a goal to improve something in your life, starting with gratitude can be extremely effective,” wrote therapist Ryan Englestad for the website Shine. “I have noticed in my own practice that if I acknowledge being grateful for my wife first thing in the morning, I am more likely to make her tea or get a chore done that she then won’t have to do.”

Next, review specific goals and tasks you set out to meet that day, whether it’s meeting a deadline, appreciating your wife or simply extending your gratitude to others. A hand-written or electronic to-do list can help with the assessment. author and nonprofit expert Allison Jones found herself bored keeping a gratitude journal, so she shifted to setting specific goals and sharing appreciation with others.

“Instead of focusing on the idea of gratitude, I’m much more specific about completing acts that demonstrate gratitude,” Jones wrote on

Celebrate the good deeds done and commit to completing the unfinished acts.

Weaknesses are not to be ignored. Everyone possesses areas of improvement. As Zimmerman says, optimism doesn’t have to be blind. But shortcomings shouldn’t dominate your thinking.

“If you focus solely on what you’re not, you’re not going to experience joy or success,” Zimmerman writes in a blog. “Don’t let the world define you by your weaknesses, and don’t define yourself by them either.”


Networking Advantage of Coworking

Cowork Culture: The Networking Advantage of Cowork Spaces

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Coworking is NetworkingMost cowork spaces offer a snack area with coffee, tea and other amenities.

But some may not realize the cowork comes with a cupboard full of networking ingredients that can prove vital to startups and entrepreneurs looking to cook up success.

The recipe for establishing and sustaining a business varies for every outlet and every person, but it always includes an emphasis on networking. Tom Farley, who stepped down as president of the New York Stock Exchange in May of 2018, once told Fortune, “I owe every job I’ve ever had to networking.”

Of course, networking often requires a combination of ingredients. It’s more than just engaging in idle chit-chat or telling someone all about yourself.

“The mark of a good conversationalist is not that you can talk a lot,” said noted Silicon Valley venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki. “The mark is that you can get others to talk a lot.”

But once you get them to talk a lot, what do you need them to say. Aspiring business people may need to add the advice of a more experienced leader into their mix, throw in several cups of needed feedback or add a dose of collaborative aid to their success stew.

No matter the need, the cowork space proves to be ideal for those needing to spice up their business brew. Here are five specific network advantages you can find in the cowork’s pantry.


Networking in a cowork space can lend entrepreneurs the focus they need to turn passions into the professional endeavors.

A study featured in a 2017 Forbes article revealed that those functioning in a supportive working environment stay on task 64 percent longer than those working in the solitude of their home or alone at a coffee shop. The study also revealed that those immersed in a cowork environment experience better levels of engagement, higher success rates and lower levels of fatigue.

Embracing a workplace that breaks down the restrictive nature of corporate cubicles, encourages interactive conversations and creates community can yield benefits just through adding a dose of human caffeine.

As the famed journalist Jane Howard once said, “Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”


Any cowork that brings together startup owners and first-time entrepreneurs can prove beneficial because it can generate added energy. When a group with similar aspirations come together, they can share challenges, explore opportunities and develop mutually beneficial friendships.

At the same time, coworkers tend to attract entrepreneurs who possess different skillsets and different types of businesses. This diminishes a sense of competition, and in some instances translates into innovation.

Cowork spaces often foster these common paths with events and presentations from experts ranging from digital marketing to health and wellness.

Says business coach Michele Jennae: “Networking is not about just connecting people. It’s about connecting people with people, people with ideas, and people with opportunities.”


Once the walls come down, so to speak, and the community grows, the advice can flow. The cowork fosters mentor-mentee relationships with entrepreneurs occasionally delivering the advice one day and accepting it the next.

Feedback remains tantamount in the pyramid of business networking. It can steer you away from bad decisions, guide you towards good decisions and provide a sense of comfort about your progress.

Shared information is a key step for entrepreneurs looking to expand their knowledge base.

As businessman and author Robert Kiyousaki says, “If you want to go somewhere, it is best to find someone who has already been there.”


The logical evolution of energy, feedback and community is collaboration. As the trust grows, the friendships develop, and the shared interests can morph into a joint effort. The startup may team with the freelance marketing consultant or the entrepreneur may partner with the web designer to create an inviting web site.

It starts, however, with a foundation of entrepreneurial spirit.

“A friendship founded on business is better than a business founded on friendship.” said the iconic John D. Rockefeller.


In the end, drawing upon the networking opportunities offered at a cowork space can help members find the ingredients that make up a quality approach of networking: support, feedback, insight, resources and information.

Research from a recent Harvard study suggests that the combination of a well-designed work environment and a well-curated work experience are part of the reason people who cowork demonstrate higher levels of thriving than their office-based counterparts.

Ultimately, a good cowork space like the Rising Tide Innovation Center, makes the focus as much about people as it is about furniture, quiet spaces and comfort. In doing so, it fosters the kind of environment where people can thrive.

As the old Chinese proverb states, “If you want 1 year of prosperity, grow grain. If you want 10 years of prosperity, grow trees. If you want 100 years of prosperity, grow people.”

Come to Rising Tide and see how we’re growing people, entrepreneurs and community to create great networking opportunities.


World’s First Climate-Smart Zone? Disaster Leads to Innovation

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Hurricane Maria and Jose Menace the Caribbean and North Atlantic. Elements of this image furnished by NASA

Disaster May Lead to Innovation in the Caribbean

Clean-up crews will ship more than 580,000 cubic yards of debris off the U.S. Virgin Islands this fall.

That’s enough scattered pieces of waste and rubbish in the wake of two 2017 hurricanes that hit the islands to fill 175 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

The mountain of debris reflects just how far the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and other Caribbean nations must climb as they continue to bounce back from the devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Fallen trees, downed power lines and flooded streets dotted miles of landscape after the Category 5 storms blew through within a two-week period. The hurricane double-dose overturned cars, sprinkled rubbish over the land like confetti and collapsed tin roofs like an accordion.

The two hurricanes took lives, destroyed infrastructure, demolished housing and public facilities and gutted the tourist-based economies in many of the island nations. A year later finds blue tarps still resting in place of roofs.

As the clean-up efforts continue, the USVI, Puerto Rico and other island nations face a complex question: How do they merge recovery with resilience? A group is pushing to rebuild infrastructure, so it not only brings back a sense of normalcy, but leaves the islands better prepared to handle the next major storm.

Federal funding programs are in place to boost recovery, but the requirements of each program leave challenges in terms of addressing the planet’s changing dynamics. The USVI, Puerto Rico and the other nations will have to overcome obstacles to use the funds to deal with climate change and strengthen its resistance to catastrophic storms.

But a movement is in place to bring about those improvements.

Changing With The Climate

Shortly after the hurricanes, the international community committed to making the Caribbean the world’s first climate-smart zone. In the last year, 26 countries and 40 private and public sector partners move towards the goal by creating a coalition to participate in the Caribbean Climate-Smart.

As defined by the World Bank, climate-smart zones reduce vulnerability to a range of climate-related hazards and natural disaster risks by targeting a number of improvements:

Building resilient infrastructure

Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation and other pollutants

Emphasize healthy ecosystems on the sea to support the blue economy

Promote healthy ecosystems on land for food security

Enhance energy security via promotion of energy efficiency, renewable energy and use of low carbon sources

Incorporate one or more of the Sustainable Development Goals in all major projects sponsored by participating governments.

The Inter-American Development Bank has committed a billion dollars towards the accelerator’s goal of promoting a climate smart zone.

Even though the U.S. Virgin Islands joined the coalition, the projects approved and funded thus far focus more on speeding recovery than meeting climate smart goals. The USVI expects to utilize $1.86 billion dollars of Community Development Block Grants for Disaster Recovery from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and $2.47 billion dollars from Federal Emergency Management Agency to fund recovery efforts.  Approximately a quarter of the HUD funds will be used for replacement of housing.  The bulk of the other funds are directed to roadway and utility repair.

The focus of the recovery projects in the USVI is consistent with federal policy. In the U.S., recovery resources are deployed under the auspices of FEMA in coordination with other federal agencies including HUD, the Small Business Administration, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The government rewards communities which have engaged in pre-disaster planning, but only encourages mitigation and adaptation as part of post-disaster recovery projects in limited circumstances.

Navigating the Regulations of Recovery Funds

There are several sources of disaster recovery funds after a presidential declaration of disaster occurs.  The Stafford Act supports disaster recovery through three programs:

The Individual Assistance (IA) Program provides funds to homeowners shortly after a disaster to make temporary repairs to their homes. The funds, administered through FEMA, are designed to allow individuals to make their homes safe for habitation.

The Public Assistance (PA) Program reimburses communities for repair costs related to public infrastructure and for costs of debris management and removal, but limits coverage to damage caused by the storm, not deferred maintenance. A sub-program known as the “406” can lend assistance, but it requires case-by-case assessments and cost-benefit analysis that can lead to delays.

The third program is the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) which is a grant-based program designed to fund future storm mitigation efforts.  However, the government links eligibility to disaster declarations, so even after it issues a grant award, receipt of these funds is often delayed. Historically, the process has been so cumbersome and uncertain that many homeowners choose not to participate.

A second piece of federal legislation is the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000.  This act adds to and consolidates earlier programs for Flood Mitigation Assistance and the Severe Repetitive Loss Program and adds a pre-disaster mitigation program to fund proactive risk reduction in advance of a storm.  The program is competitive, and funding is limited, so not all communities are awarded funds.

After any disaster, there are also supplemental appropriations by Congress to fund the various agencies disaster relief efforts that are not covered under the Stafford Act.  This highly political process involves lobbying by disaster-stricken communities and states, and in cases of multiple disasters in multiple jurisdictions, sometimes leads to competition for funds.  Supplemental funds are awarded with general rules as to their use. A designated agency must administer the funds.

These funds are directed toward perceived needs based on the impacts of disaster and can include costs of infrastructure repair and replacement, housing, social services, economic recovery and agriculture. Lead agencies can include HUD, FEMA, the US Army Corps of Engineers, EPA, or any other agency with responsibility under the National Response Framework and the National Disaster Response Framework.

Prioritizing Resistance Within the Federal Framework

Federal agency disaster recovery efforts occur based on two interrelated frameworks.  The National Response Framework is designed to address immediate disaster response to protect health, welfare and safety of disaster-stricken communities. The framework document can be retrieved at

The National Disaster Response Framework (NDRF) is implemented following catastrophic disasters to coordinate long-term recovery efforts. The framework document (second edition) is accessible at:

It is through the latter framework that communities can begin to implement mitigation and adaptation efforts as part of disaster recovery.  The NDRF appoints lead and supporting agencies based on these subject areas: Community Planning and Capacity Building, Economic, Health and Social Services, Infrastructure Systems, and Natural and Cultural Resources.

The government tasks each lead agency with subject matter responsibility with developing pre-disaster programs designed to build relationships between state and local community disaster coordinators. Immediately after a disaster, these same agencies, under direction of FEMA, carry out immediate disaster recovery roles, and then, when the community is secure, transition to the longer-term programs for recovery planning.

In all cases, the work on disaster recovery is supposed to involve the local community as well as state and territorial governments.  The federal framework envisions federal agencies as facilitators and technical assistance.

The timeline for agency action under the NDRF stretches over multiple years.  However, the funding for these activities comes only from supplemental appropriations and annual agency appropriations in the federal budget.  Thus, the effectiveness of the federal government in providing services related to mitigation and adaptation can be constrained by limited resources.

Directing Funds to Resilience

Within this regulatory framework, the USVI Hurricane Recovery and Resilience Task Force was established in October 2017 to guide expenditures of recovery funding. Appointed members included federal agency representatives, local government and business leaders, private donors, including Bloomberg L.P. and the Kenny Chesney Foundation, and the owner of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. Federal agencies provided technical assistance and coordination. The task force, charged with prioritizing longer-term recovery projects and needs, released its final report on September 6, 2018, (available at

In total, the report includes 228 recommendations, addressing climate analysis, energy, communications, transportation, water, solid waste and wastewater, housing and building, health, vulnerable populations, education, economy, nonprofits and government response to disaster. Recommendations include:

  • Strengthen telecom towers and bury the aerial portions of the internet fiber that serves the territory.
  • Rebuild seaports, expand container ports and add another customs office.
  • Strengthen and modernize airport terminals.
  • Harden and rehabilitate existing water distribution systems, including replacing old pipes.
  • Rebuild schools and hospitals to withstand future storms.
  • Develop a housing retrofit program for houses built before 1996.
  • Diversify the energy system and develop microgrids for critical facilities.
  • Develop cloud based back up of government records.
  • Switch to buried cables for all government offices.
  • Replace streetlights with roundabouts.
  • Conduct a territory wide drainage study.
  • Add redundancy to the wastewater system.
  • Close the landfills.
  • Mandate a recycling program.
  • Expand public water systems.
  • Reform energy power purchase process.
  • Update building codes.
  • Install back-up generators at critical facilities.
  • Create an emergency operations center.

Many of these recommendations would further climate-smart initiatives.  However, implementing the recommendations will require pairing local funding with federal disaster relief.  The limitations on federal funding, as described above, will pose a challenge.  For instance, rehabilitation of existing water distribution systems and closing the landfill, which has operated under EPA consent order for many years, may not qualify for federal disaster relief funds as both projects relate to pre-existing infrastructure deficiencies.

At the same time, because the USVI economy continues to struggle with approximately 50 percent of hotels inoperable due to storm damage, and job loss at 7.8 percent since the hurricanes, local funding is also limited.

Summary: Post-Storm Resilience Efforts Remain Cloudy

The combination of federal regulations and limited local funding make it unclear how much progress will be made in the USVI towards the creation of a climate-smart zone. It also remains to be seen how successful other Caribbean islands will be in reaching that goal, as the resources available to many countries are much more limited than those available in the U.S. territories.

Hopefully, the Climate-Smart Accelerator will provide the vehicle to rebuild a resilient Caribbean, and the international community and the private sector will step in to fill the gaps in government recovery programs.


Clifton and Jake

Member Spotlight: Clifton Fischer, Doggery Craft Ice

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Doggery Craft IceClifton Fischer and Jake Essman can speak the language of ice.


They attend conventions on the packaging of ice, they can detail how the best ice comes from water that’s taken through a five-filter process and then softened. They even know the meaning of the word turbidity, the measure of the degree to which the water loses its transparency due to the presence of suspended particulates.  


Yes, we had to look up turbidity in the dictionary.


“It’s ridiculous how much we’ve learned,” Fischer said.


For more than a year, Fischer and Essman, his soon-to-be son-in-law, have teamed with partner Troy Noonan and delved into world of processing, packaging and selling clear ice.  


Both Fischer and Essman have an appreciation for the finer spirits. Fischer estimates he bought a drink at bars in 72 different countries during his 27-year stint in the Air Force. Essman has worked for both ABC Fine Wine & Spirits and Total Wine. 


The business, Doggery Craft Ice, sprung from the realization cloudy ice that contains excessive amounts of air bubbles, minerals and that lovely freezer taste ruined the flavor of their favorite bourbons. 


“We started researching ways to improve the taste and clarity of our ice cubes just for our personal use,” Fischer said. “We found that freezing water in a similar fashion to how a pond or lake freezes creates a clear ice product.” 


Now Fischer and Essman, operating out of the Rising Tide Innovation Center cowork in St. Petersburg, are confident that clear ice will emerge as a new trend. We spoke to Clifton and Jake about the evolution of their entrepreneurial business, how clear ice aligns with the rising desire for fresh foods and why they chose the name “Doggery.” 


How did you come up with the idea of clear ice? 


Jake: We like to drink a lot of whiskey. That’s kind of where it started. 


Clifton: When Jake was working at ABC and Total Wine, whenever something special would come in, we would grab a bottle of it and try it out. We had our freezer chocked full of silicone molds that made squares and spheres. It got to the point that we were noticing the silicone molds got a minerally smell to them. 


Jake: Even before that, we had started to talk and ask, “How do you get clear ice?” Then we started to pursue it and found the red neck way of doing it. 


Clifton: We were freezing blocks of ice — 8 x 12 by 3 inches thick. We would sit in the kitchen, get some charcuterie at the house and the two of us would be cutting and hacking making custom-cut blocks at the house and sticking them in the freezer, so we would have them for our personal use. We’re like there has to be a way to do this. 


And it was a trip to Chicago for your wife Tina’s birthday that really sparked the entrepreneurial spirit in you two?  


Clifton: We were up there at the hotel and they sent us up to the bar. We ordered two Eagle Rare Bourbons on a rock, and they came out in the glass and he had a perfectly cut 2x2x21/2 inch perfectly clear block of the ice. I looked right at Tina and said this is what we’ve been looking for. She goes what do you mean? I said I think there’s a void in the Tampa/St. Pete area. No one has this. So literally, from October of last year (2017), we’ve been researching and studying and learning everything we could about the process of making clear ice. Then, the whole animal of how you sell this to clientele? 


What makes the ice an integral part of a good whiskey drink? 


Clifton: You can look at water in itself. You can either have filtered water or you can be a filter for water. There are items in that water that are going to pollute, even at the most minute level, whether it be liquified calcium that’s in the water naturally, or iron or chlorine. All of these things change the flavor profile of any beverage. I’ll get you a big ice cube and if you enjoy a good Coca-Cola, and you put these cubes in your Coca-Cola and you drink the other, you won’t ever go back. It enhances the flavor by not adding anything to the actual beverage itself. 


How do you purify the water to make the clear ice? 


Clifton: Our filtration system has five chambers on it. One is a sediment filter and then we have three high-efficiency, very small micron filtration cannisters that it goes through, then it goes through a carbon filter and then we send it through a softening unit which completely takes out chlorine and iron and anything that’s going to change the flavor of your beverage. This is just good tasting water and you’re freezing it and putting it in your drink. 


It’s reminiscent of how people from New York say the bagels and the pizza tastes better in New York because it’s made with New York water. 


Jake: I like to look at it in terms of a chef. A chef is always going to be cooking with the freshest ingredients. Everything matters that goes into that dish. It’s the same thing with a cocktail, with your baseline being ice. Ice is in almost every cocktail, it’s almost a third of your drink. So, if that ice is tainted with minerals like he just explained, it’s going to affect the way it tastes. 


If I blindfolded you, could you tell the difference between a whiskey drink with your ice and some ice from, I don’t know, 7-Eleven? 


Jake: I bet you I could do it off the smell. 


That’s fascinating. How did you come up with the name “Doggery?” 


Jake:  We were tossing around names from the prohibition era, words that were used back then and we came along this name, “doggery.” A doggery is a speakeasy or an illegal drinking establishment. The reason it’s called a doggery is because they hid it in dog kennels. Between my family, his family and our other partner’s family, we have 19 dogs. We love dogs and we thought it fit. 


What’s the biggest challenge in getting this business off the ground? 


Clifton: The most challenging thing is getting people to understand it’s not a luxury item, it’s a necessity. Here’s a prime example: Of the 72 countries I’ve been to, I bet better than 50 percent of them don’t even have potable water on a regular public system. We’re ensuring purity and clarity and quality of this ice product. And it is food grade. 


Jake: Plus, ice is the No. 1 selling food product in the world. 


Clifton: And we’re providing a product that is above the quality levels of just about anything you’ll find. 


Doesn’t your product fit right in with the increasing emphasis on organic, fresh and farm to table? 


Clifton: Yes. One of the things we pride ourselves on is a lot of time our freezer doesn’t have a whole lot of stock in it. We literally will put the water in the tank, freeze it, pull it three days later, cut it, dry it, bag it and deliver it. We don’t have thousands and thousands of cubes sitting around waiting for someone to buy them. In our industry, it’s the closest you can get to farm to table. 


Are you confident you can make this work? 


Clifton: Yes. The Tampa Bay area all the way down to Sarasota, we’re literally on the precipice of just blowing up. I know it. I can feel it. There’s a desire for it and the people that are not buying it yet, either haven’t seen it or don’t know about it. 


Jake: It’s going to become the standard thing. I truly believe we’ll reach the point that when someone goes to a bar and they don’t have clear ice, they’ll just go somewhere else.

Linda F. Ramirez

Member Spotlight: Linda Ramirez , Latin Film Festival

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Latin Film Festival St. Petersburg, FloridaLinda Friedman Ramirez develop an affection for Latin American culture while growing up in Western Pennsylvania as a child of parents of Eastern European descent.

It’s as improbable as it sounds, but the Friedmans began making drives to Mexico in the summer. Linda recalls first visiting Baja. Then, her mother offered to take anywhere to celebrate a special birthday when she was in high school.

She chose Mexico City.

Ramirez built on those cultural introductions during college at George Washington University. She eventually married — and divorced — a Mexican-American but her fondness for the art of the Americas and its people remains strong — so strong she’s leading the effort behind the inaugural Tampa Bay Latin Film Festival, set for Oct. 18-21, 2018.

The four-day celebration features four invited films, 11 competing for awards and a series of symposiums.

Ramirez, who speaks fluent Spanish, recently shared her thoughts about her passion for the culture, her plans for the festival and why she thinks it can help improve the image some Americans hold of immigrants.


Describe your passion for Latin America and its arts. It’s a bit surprising coming from a woman who grew up in Western Pennsylvania.

In the ’70s, I interned, and worked for an organization called the Pan American Development Foundation in Washington, D.C. It was an affiliate of the Organization of American States. I was a young person in my 20s and it was a really great experience because it was exposure to Latin America. In addition, I traveled to Central America, I traveled to the Dominican Republic and later to Chile and Argentina. It enhanced the fascination I had for Latin America.


So that explains the interest in the people, but what about the art?

You know, it probably started in Washington, D.C., and being exposed to a lot of great art. The Hirshhorn Museum. It’s not that I’m not interested in other art, but (Latin American Art) is something I’ve gravitated to.


You went on to earn your law degree at Willamette University College of Law in Oregon, but even there you maintained the connection to Latin America

I stayed there for about 30 years and I practiced first in Salem, Ore., and then in Portland, Ore. A large part of my practice was clients from Mexico and Central America for two reasons. One, it was an emphasis I wanted to have because I did speak Spanish and it was an enjoyable part of the practice. Also, at some point I had a contract with the state of Oregon to provide indigent criminal defense to Spanish-speaking clients.


So, you come to Florida to be closer to your parents who had retired here, and you eventually opened up the Feathered Serpent Gallery in 2012 in St. Petersburg’s Edge District. How did it go?

I calculated that we had over 30 different exhibits over a four-year period. The theme of the gallery was Latin America and Latin American arts. We exhibited a number of local Tampa Bay artists. We also had artists from abroad. The biggest thing we did is we hosted a delegation of artists from Honduras. They came to St. Petersburg and we had 80-100 paintings exhibited for 10-12 days and they were really fine people.


Unfortunately, you had to close the gallery in 2016. Did the rental rates get to be too expensive?

The Edge is not what it is today, but in addition our art was a niche art. And the other thing is, as you know, art galleries aren’t an easy business. There have been a lot of art galleries that have come and gone in St. Petersburg.


People come in to look, but they don’t buy.

Right. They come into look and a lot of people appreciated our cultural events but at some point, it wasn’t economically a good idea.


Now your interest in Latin American arts flourishes through the film festival. How did that come about?

In 2013, I approached Tony (Armer) about adding Latin American films to St. Petersburg’s Sunscreen Film Festival. In 2013, our gallery actually gave an award at Sunscreen for Latin American film. The next year I wasn’t involved but after that I started helping with the program and Latin American film.


What inspired you to step out and do your own film festival?

I was just felt it was time to do something more exclusively branded to Latin American film.


What has been the reaction in the local film community? Do you sense people are excited about the festival? 

Very definitely. One of the great things is I had already worked with some other people in the community on Sunscreen. So, there was already a group of people that had an interest, and some of those people have become good friends. So, when I started working on this, I said it’s going to be a small project and fairly limited, but I’ve had this great group of people who have volunteered and collaborated.


You had a collaborative effort on the poster for the festival, right?

We had a meeting to talk about the poster and we all talked about the concept and what we wanted it to express. One of the artists ended up doing the original drawing of this heart that’s kind of the shape of Latin America. That was Gabriela Valencia. Then Kim McDaniel actually casted it in ceramic. Then Gabriela painted it and Geraldine Arredono photographed it and created the poster. So, I see the poster partly being a process of people sharing their interest.


What are some of the films people can expect to see at the festival.

One is a film made by a female director in Colombia and it’s a drama based on her true-life experience of her father being assassinated. The daughter of this professor is very traumatized but she’s very angry and she wants to find the person who did it. The story has to do with her actually finding him.


Oh wow.

It’s going to screen at Eckerd College, which is perfect because the protagonist is a college-aged student.


What else?

Then we have a much more light-hearted film about a woman from Argentina who is let go by a family where she’s been everything for everybody for many years. She has to travel to another city and it’s a journey film where she loses her purse and meets a guy and there’s romance. Another film that just won an award from the Mexican Film Academy is called Devil’s Freedom. He interviews victims of Mexican violence and they all wear masks. It’s done so well and it’s not morbid. It’s very intriguing. The last one is a restored film from Cuba. It was made in 1979 and it’s made by one of preeminent Cuban film makers, Tomas Gutierrez Alea.


How would you put into words your passion for Latin American culture?

There are just a lot of good-hearted people in these countries, and it comes through in their art and in their film. Right now, it’s partly because of the anti-immigrant message that’s being put out there by some. I find it sad and really troubling.


Do you feel like the message distorts who they are? 

I represented hundreds of people from Central America and Mexico. It was rare that I found a client I didn’t like. You saw a real spectrum of people, their life experiences, their motivation. You got the sense people they were put into situations because of circumstances. I’m not a soft touch, by any means but …


… you have empathy for their plight?

I think so. If you go into rural parts of Central America and you see how people struggle. A lot of times they have almost nothing, but if you’re there, they will share it with you. It’s kind of like that trite image of someone bringing out their best cup just for you. That’s really a true image.


How do you like working at Rising Tide?

I like it. I was working a lot at home so it’s good to be out in this environment.

Networking in St. Petersberg, Florida

St. Petersburg’s Best Business Networking Opportunities

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Networking over lunchJessica Rivelli can stand in a ballroom filled with 400 women entrepreneurs and business leaders and, seemingly, know them all.

It’s a reflection of how the Working Women of Tampa Bay founder has built her organization into one of the state’s fastest growing women’s business groups. In nine years, Rivelli’s group has risen to include nearly 1,000 members, and she’s expanded with a second chapter in the Orlando area.

Through monthly events, periodic seminars and annual conferences, Rivelli has managed to foster an atmosphere of motivation, education and inspiration.

Yet it’s Rivelli’s natural ability to enter an event teeming with people and emerge with new friendships that serves her so well.

Rivelli knows all too well the importance of networking, and she encourages those to engage with fellow businessmen and businesswomen, even when it can be daunting.

For the shy, the introverted and the increasing number of young people more accustom to communicating via emails, texts and social media, the idea of stepping into an organization’s luncheon or happy hour can be an intimidating challenge.

“If you’re new to the networking world, no need to be nervous,” Rivelli says. “Just remember everyone in the room is there for the same reason you are: to make new connections.

“One tip to make connecting easier is to ask people about the things they are passionate about like family, food and what they do for fun.”

Rivelli identifies approaching every opportunity with a genuine and authentic attitude as an important tenet, and the networker must go beyond what they can gain from the connection.

“Caring about others and creating value for them is the key,” Rivelli said. “Ask them how you can help them. Offer to make a connection for them or send them a referral. When those kinds of relationships are cultivated over the long term, you now have a network of people to draw upon when you have a need.”

But with so many networking options in Tampa Bay, and so little time to invest in events, how does one go about choosing the best opportunities?

Kyle Parks, principle and co-founder of B2 Communications in St. Petersburg, said he aims to go macro and micro. He frequents chamber of commerce events on both sides of the bay to connect with a diverse group of businesses. However, he also targets smaller events that focus on his specific interests.

“We stress to our clients to go narrow and deep with their involvements,” Parks said. “Don’t obsess about how many events you go to in a week. Instead, think about picking groups that match your interests, and also will help your business.

“Get on a committee, get involved,” Parks added. “That will get you a lot further than just going to events and hoping you meet the right people.”

Whether you’re looking for an organization that features broad collections of professionals, or smaller groups that target folks with similar interests, here are six great networking recommendations (in no particular order of preference).

No. 1: Rising Tide Innovation Center

Founded by the attorneys of the Fletcher and Fischer law firm, the cowork space burst onto the scene earlier this year and quickly established itself as a go-to for those looking to connect with a supportive community.

But it also hosts a multiple networking events including a monthly gathering staged by Rivelli.

The center’s other monthly events range from learning events to guest speakers. It also serves as a gathering spot for specific groups. Located in downtown St. Petersburg, the center sits in the heart of the business district and offers a smartly appointed environment in a convenient location.

Says Rivelli: “I admire what the founders of Rising Tide are doing by creating a gathering space for entrepreneurs and executives to connect and create together.”

No. 2: St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce

The chamber continues to reinvent its traditional role as a networking organization. Executive director Chris Steinocher says innovation is key.

“We’ve learned our members want unconventional opportunities to collide,” Steinocher said.

The chamber’s efforts include a weekly “Million Cups” event staged every Wednesday morning where it offers Kahwa coffee and two 9-minute presentations from local entrepreneurs.

At its “Member Appreciation Nights,” the chamber spotlights a new hotspot foodie/beverage place to check out. “Now Trending” is the lunchtime opportunity to network, eat and learn about the next hot topic in the burg.

Of course, the chamber still maintains one traditional approach: ribbon cuttings are a weekly if not daily occurrence. It introduces new entrepreneurs/businesses to the community, maintaining a mission it first started as the Board of Trade in 1899.

Steinocher, however, says the chamber has made a concerted effort to move into the 21st Century with an emphasis on diverse events and times.

“We’ve learned some want to connect in the morning, some at lunch and some after work – so we offer it all,” Steinocher said.

Learn more at

No. 3: Network Professionals Inc., South Pinellas County

This group provides a platform for small businesses to expand their salesforce by networking with a diverse group of professionals. It’s on the micro level, with one person exclusively representing a specific professional category. The group maintains a reputation of being friendly and outgoing, but it’s focus is definitely on business.

The strategy? Members refer business to each other, effectively becoming each other’s sales force. Meetings are weekly and structured for maximum results. Members join to grow their business, cultivate business resources and expand their networking sphere of influence.

In South Pinellas, the organization maintains a number of geographic chapters with some meeting in the morning and others gathering for lunch. For more information, visit

No. 4: Keystone Mastermind Alliance 

Co-founded by small business owners Liz M. Lopez and Tracie Thompson, the Keystone Mastermind Alliance touts itself as an organization that provides a high-quality and active networking environment. It’s particularly focused on helping professionals of all backgrounds.

The KMA Network offers a variety of events that combine networking opportunities with marketing information, access to business leaders and educational workshops. It strives to replicate a corporate support system for small business owners.

“Big companies don’t just have one person making decisions,” Thompson wrote on the KMA site. “They have an executive leadership team and a board of directors. Together they make healthy decisions for the growth of the company, bring new ideas to the table, and join forces to overcome challenges.

“Through our … events, we offer business owners a trustworthy and effective source of guidance and support that actively contributes to their growth and development.”

The networks stages events throughout Pinellas and routinely holds gatherings in St. Petersburg on Fridays. For more information, visit

No. 5: LinkedIn

Okay, this isn’t a macro group or micro interest organization, but for those seeking the convenience of a targeted audience, this social medium can prove valuable. It’s not the face-to-face encounter of a traditional networking event, but LinkedIn often gives entrepreneurs the chance to make a direct connection with someone in their field.

“Social media can be incredibly helpful throughout the networking process,” Rivelli said. “I especially love LinkedIn. I consider it my digital Rolodex. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can be helpful as well especially for small businesses with small marketing budgets.”

If a specific person could serve as a cog with a major business goal, bid to link with them, but remain open to a future face-to-face meeting.

No. 6: Working Women of Tampa Bay

We end where we started. Rivelli continues to offer varied meetups in Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties. The former television producer prides herself on the geographic diversity of her meetings as well as the size and scope. Working Women may offer a simple morning coffee or a luncheon with 200 people and a well-known speaker all in the same month.

It helps that Rivelli strives to make the group all-inclusive.

“It embraces everyone, every woman is welcomed,” she said. “There aren’t criteria on how much you make; you don’t have to be at an executive level.  It’s all women who work. That’s what makes it special.”

Yet it’s the supportive nature of the group that helps it thrives. In a world where women can, at times, be their own worst enemy, Working Women fight against the broad-brush assertion and genuinely fosters strong relationships between its members.

“I’ve experienced situations where a woman wasn’t always my best advocate in the workplace,” said Rivelli. “We want Working Women to be a place where women can be each other’s best ambassadors.”

We second that sentiment at Rising Tide Innovation Center. We’re striving to create a team of ambassadors for those who join our cowork collaborative. Every successful entrepreneur and business person rises with the aid of a community, and we enhance our community every day at Rising Tide.


Start-up business

How to Side-Hustle Your Way to a Successful Start-Up

By | Business 'How-To' | No Comments

Collaboration to start a businessWhen Forbes magazine anointed Clearwater native Sara Blakely as the youngest self-made female billionaire in 2012, the Spanx founder proudly boasted on her website: “Putting her butt on the line pays off.”

It’s a line you might expect from someone who dabbled in stand-up comedy and once worked as a chipmunk at Disney. But what you may not realize is that Spanx — the multi-million dollar brand that Blakely initiated as “legless panty hose that offered control without the leggings — started as a side hustle.

According to various reports, including the Tampa Bay Times, Blakely was selling fax machines for Danka in Florida when she originated her idea. She cut the feet off of her stockings in order to wear them under her white pants for a more flattering look.

With only $5,000 in her savings account she first pursued her dream, she continued to work her day job—even after a transfer to Atlanta. It took her two years to fully develop the product and she stayed at Danka even after landing deals with Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman.

It wasn’t until she scheduled an appearance on an episode of Oprah, anticipating a huge boost in sales, that she quit her day job.

The story, however, illustrates that a side hustle can turn into a success, even if you’re not steep in industry knowledge.

“Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know,” Blakely told the Tampa Bay Times. “That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.”

Everyone aspires to be Blakely, seamlessly slide into a side hustle and eventually enjoy success. Here are five factors that can help you “get it done.”



Rebecca Livermore, who turned her side hustle into Professional Content Creation, says one of the nation’s common surnames is “Someday,” noting that Mr. and Mrs. Someday always talk about starting a side hustle, pursuing a passion or elevating above their “soul-sucking job” but never do it.
We’ll address some of the foundational blocks needed to get started—priority, plan, passion, pay—but the side hustle will remain an incomplete endeavor if those elements remain stuck in your mind.

Blakely employed a learn as you go approach but made sure she embarked on the venture even with limited financial resources and scant knowledge about the textile industry. A willingness to learn from early failures and a drive sustained her effort. It took two years just to persuade a hosiery mill to even make an initial run of her product.

“Trust your gut,” she said.

Another great piece of advice: stay mum. Blakely purposely did not tell anyone about her initial legless pantyhose idea for an entire year because she did not want to have to defend it or be talked out of it.

Sure, you want to share your hopes and aspirations with a few friends, but it’s probably best to hold your side hustle cards close to the vest, especially regarding the co-workers at your day job.



The side hustle requires that it stays on the side in the beginning. You have to maintain a focus on your daily duties, so you don’t jeopardize your primary source of income. Daymond John, founder of the FUBU clothing line and a co-star on television’s Shark Tank, worked at Red Lobster for five years while getting his business off the ground. He says his nights as a server helped him serve up security at home in case his fledgling business went belly up. And even after he started bringing in money, he continued to wait tables.

Of course, that doesn’t remain an option if you lose the steady pay of you regular job. Follow these three admonitions to avoid that pitfall:

  • Don’t let the side hustle become a distracting daydream but take a minute when you can to write down reminders about your side hustle.
  • Don’t do work for your new venture while you’re on the clock at your existing job.
  • If the businesses are related, don’t plot to steal clients and make sure you won’t be subject to a no-compete clause.

The bottom line is while you can maintain two separate jobs, you can’t mix business with business.



The best way to separate work from your side endeavors is to hustle in the off hours. So many people say they don’t have time to initiate an outside effort, but it really boils down to making the most of your spare hours.

One key step involves routine. If you get accustom to focusing on your side hustle during a specific time every day, you’re going to generate more efficiency.

Livermore said she made a point of doing specific client work for her side business in the morning before she reported to work. John worked only when his Red Lobster stints allowed time to focus, and he admits to sewing together some of his initial apparel offerings after midnight.

“I said to myself, ‘I’m going to put in three hours on this business a week,” John told Fortune magazine. “If I can last, I’m going to put in eight hours a week.”

Novelist Michael Connelly also spent late-night hours writing his first crime fiction books after covering crime stories for the Los Angeles Times. Interestingly, he had to purchase black out curtains and dim the lights in his home after leaving the Times because he needed the mood to generate the dark, gritty feel of his works.

Now Bosch, the Amazon Prime series in its fourth season, is based on one of Connelly’s most popular characters.

The routine, however, cannot lead to over-working, stress and potential burnout. The side hustle requires work and determination, but it also necessitates a focus on your physical and mental well-being.

“In the early days when I was working around the clock, I reached a point when I nearly cracked,” O2E Brands founder Brian Scudamore wrote in a piece for Inc. “I started having panic attacks and suffered from severe anxiety. I realized overworking myself wasn’t doing me or the business any favors: our growth had stalled and I wasn’t having fun anymore.

“It was only when I learned to delegate to my team that we started to pick up momentum again.”



Julius Davis, co-founder and owner of Tampa-based Volt Air engineering firm didn’t start his business as a side hustle, but he did spend long hours planning a transition for his independent bid. While working for an engineering firm, Davis started acquiring knowledge to venture out on his own.

“My business partner and I, when we were working at another firm together, we would go in on our lunch breaks or our coffee breaks and sign up for classes at the (University of South Florida) Small Business Development Center,” Davis told the Tampa Bay Times. “They had classes on how to start the business … and we attended all those classes they had to offer.

“The key thing was writing that business plan because that forces you to set the roots and foundation for everything you need. It asks questions you really don’t have the answers to, and it forces you to go get the answers and make sure you know what you’re doing.”

Some of the answers must revolve around key financial decisions. If your monetary resources are limited, avoid debt and spend only on the items that are truly necessary. Inc. contributing writer Jeff Haden recently wrote that side hustle entrepreneurs need to be judicious.

“Before you spend money, always ask yourself one question: “Does (this) touch the customer?” If it doesn’t, don’t buy it.

For all of her success, it’s worth nothing that when producers from Oprah reached out to Blakely, she didn’t have a web site. She told Forbes she worked tirelessly but didn’t spend money on marketing and business tools until after the product took off.



One of the biggest keys to generating success with your side hustle involves determining your self-worth.

The business plan must involve setting an incremental schedule for income. You may start with a lower price for your product or services, and then increase it as you gain experience and clients gain confidence in your services. However, be careful not to undervalue your work. The long hours and added effort need to pay off eventually.

Patience may prove as valuable as pay in getting your business off the ground.

“Making the decision to pursue your passion is exciting and rewarding,” Scudamore said. “But try to resist the urge to do too much, too soon. Building a business from nothing is a long, arduous process and it will be slow (at least in the beginning). If you try to grow too fast, you’ll set yourself back.”

Finally, passion remains another key ingredient. Davis, the Tampa engineer, now maintains one of the nation’s leading firms with multi-million contracts at Houston Hobby International and Tampa International Airports. But the business wasn’t always a bed of roses.

His love of the work sustained him in the early days of his independence.

“You have to make sure you have the passion to do what you want to do,” Davis said. “It can’t be money because if you have a passion, the money will come. It’s going to be challenging, it’s going to be frustrating. You may get discouraged and that’s how a lot of businesses (get derailed).

“Some people say, ‘I went out on my own because I want to be my own boss.’ That doesn’t work. You have to find something you really have a passion for and then everything else will fall into place. If you have a passion for it, you’re not going to let it fail.”


The Rising Tide Innovation Center can prove a viable option as you look to find your passion, establish a plan and build your side hustle into a success. In our cowork space, you can find the tools, support and community spirit needed to launch your effort and sustain it through the early days. Pay us a visit when you’re ready to get started.