SHE ROARS PUBLISHED BY SRQ MAGAZINE 2022 EDITION
RESTAURATEUR LADIES LEADING THE WAY
STRONG WOMEN OF THE REGION
MEET THE WOMEN WHO ARE TAKING THE LEAD IN OUR BUSINESS, EDUCATION, HEALTH AND PHILANTHROPY COMMUNITIES.
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contents she roars 2022
6 THE LADIES WHO LEAD If the future is, indeed, female, Sarasota’s food and beverage industry is in great hands. She Roars Magazine recently hosted a panel discussion with a group of seven prominent women who have staked their livelihood on creating exceptional food and beverage experiences. We sought to bring together a group of powerful, brilliant female entrepreneurs, chefs, and culinary creators at various points in their respective careers, to celebrate their talent and tell their stories.As you’ll see in the discussion that follows, women in this industry may come to it from disparate paths, but each share a common bond and some similar tales of overcoming adversity to achieve success. Interview facilitated by Kevin Allen | Photo by Wes Roberts.
30 AT THE HELM Ashley Brown, the CEO and president of the Women’s Resource Center (WRC), has ushered in bold changes to the organization—continuing to bring more valuable services to Sarasota and Manatee counties. Written by Abby Weingarten | Photography by Wyatt Kostygan.
strong women of the region 13
rejuvenate: womens wellness and beauty 31
REALM RESTAURANT GROUP
BLAZE OF HOPE
CENTER FOR REVITALIZING PSYCHIATRY
Michelle Hermey FERGUSON SKIPPER PA
SARASOTA GULF COAST REALTORS
in conversation: elizabeth fisher good 26
Elizabeth Fisher Good
TAKE STOCK OF CHILDREN, MANATEE
Elite Medical Spa Sirius Day Spa The Blue Door Spa
THE FOUNDATION UNITED
This page left to right: Kevin Allen, SRQ Magazine; Jennifer Martinez, Elevation Tea; Natalia Levey, Kojo and Speak’s Clam Bar; Michelle Wolforth, State Street; Stefania Fochi, The Empanada Girl; Christine Nordstrom, Five-O Donuts; Jenn Sayko, Chateau 13 and, Nancy Krohngold, Nancy’s BBQ.
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This page, left to right: Christine Nordstrom, Owner, Five-O Donut Co.; Michelle Wolforth, Executive chef, State Street; Jenn Sayko, General Manager, Partner, Chateau 13; Nancy Krohngold, Owner, Nancy’s BBQ; Stefania Fochi, Owner, The Empanada Girl; Jennifer Martinez, Owner, Elevation Tea; Natalia Levey, Founder, Hi Hospitality Group (Speaks Clam Bar, Kojo).
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IF THE FUTURE IS, INDEED, FEMALE, THE SARASOTA REGION’S FOOD AND BEVERAGE INDUSTRY IS IN GREAT HANDS. SRQ Magazine recently
hosted a panel discussion with a group of seven prominent women who have staked their livelihood on creating exceptional food and beverage experiences. We sought to bring together a group of powerful, brilliant female entrepreneurs, chefs, and culinary creators at various points in their respective careers, to celebrate their talent and tell their stories. Naturally, this panel represents only a fraction of the women who are shaping the Sarasota/Manatee dining and food and beverage scene. But as you’ll see in the discussion that follows, women in this industry may come to it from disparate paths, but each share a common bond and some similar tales of overcoming adversity to achieve success.
Queens of the Restaurants
THE LADIES WHO LEAD How seven prominent women are shaping the Sarasota region’s culinary future. interview facilitated by kevin allen.
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THE LADIES WHO LEAD
HOW WOULD YOU CHARACTERIZE THE STATE OF SARASOTA’S FOOD AND BEVERAGE SCENE TODAY, AND WHAT DO YOU THINK IT HOLDS FOR THE FUTURE? NATALIA LEVEY, FOUNDER, HI HOSPITALITY GROUP (SPEAKS CLAM BAR, KOJO): I think it’s really exciting to see the
rejuvenation, because in talking to a lot of people historically, Sarasota used to be a big foodie town. I’m very excited, very optimistic. I’m so happy to see so many more women on the scene and doing amazing things, andI feel like this is the regeneration, rejuvenation of what Sarasota’s dining scene could be. STEFANIA FOCHI, OWNER, THE EMPANADA GIRL: People are coming in with new ideas from outside of Florida and bringing a little slice of culture that’s different from what’s always been here. And every time I go to a new place I’m like, “Wow, this is incredible” and the chef is from DC, or Chicago, or New York. It’s just fun to see that diversity coming in and adding a little bit of flare to what’s here. The food culture here is so dominated by chains, and I feel like so many people are comfortable there and they kind of expect it. So it’s so nice to see Sarasota starting to step out of that a little bit, and people making real food from scratch with care and putting care into the ingredients and what they do. As a foodie who loves to go out to restaurants specifically for that, it’s been such a breath of fresh air. MICHELLE WOLFORTH, EXECUTIVE CHEF, STATE STREET: People are buying (homes) here and it’s not just seasonal. People are coming to live here. So it’s definitely changing. CHRISTINE NORDSTROM, OWNER, FIVE-O DONUT CO.: I moved here in 2001, right out
of college. I started under Michelin star Chef David Kinch of Manresa at his first restaurant, Sent Sovi, in Saratoga, Calif. I was married very young when I was 20, and my ex-husband wanted to move to Sarasota. I had offers to work for four different Michelin star chefs, and I said, “I’m sorry, I’m not going to take it. My husband wants to move to Sarasota.” They said to me, “Why are you going there? There’s no food scene there.” And I’m like, “Well, I’ll
go help make one.” And that was kind of my mentality: to dig in deep, start early, and be a part of that movement. JENN SAYKO, GENERAL MANAGER, PARTNER, CHATEAU 13: I grew up on Anna
Maria Island and we moved here when I was little. Growing up in a little surfer town, you go to the beach, you do your thing, you get a burger. Food wasn’t really a thing that I think we thought of. And I remember walking into Cafe L’Europe, when I was eight years old in high heels for the first time — with socks — I’ll never forget that. But I remember walking in and the waiters were dressed nicer than we were. And I think that, like (Fochi) said, I think it’s definitely a rejuvenation because there was a really funky, cool food scene here, but it was small and protected and nobody had ever heard of it. And then the audacity of people grew a little bit and the curiosity of the patrons. People are now a little bit more comfortable going outside their box. You do see them Googling (to learn about ingredients) at the table, which boosts their personal confidence. But I think that people taking risks, which all of you are doing, is what we need. NANCY KROHNGOLD, OWNER, NANCY’S BBQ: I grew up here in Sarasota. And for a small town, especially growing up — my folks moved here with me in 1956 — it was already something of a resort town, just much smaller. The whole food scene and what Americans want to explore and what chefs have done has really changed a lot in the past 20, 30 years. I haven’t been to too many non-resort towns that offered the variety that we did even 20, 30 years ago. But yes, the sea change of what’s going on with innovative foods, innovative menus. I applaud all of you. Everyone’s known what barbecue is for 300 years. I’m not doing anything innovative. And even what you’re doing with donuts, Christine, they’re not the donuts I grew up with. But I applaud all of you for pushing the envelope and introducing the clientele to new things and the kinds of things that they’re often reading about that restaurants “in the big cities” are doing.
WHAT ARE YOU REALLY GOOD AT? WHAT’S THE ONE THING THAT YOU FEEL YOU DO BEST? KROHNGOLD: Well, obviously I’m good at running my mouth. I would say when I started my business, I had no money with which to start it. I did a little one fold brochure and business cards and I was a graphic designer, so I didn’t have to pay for design. So from very early on, I was a self promoter and relied upon guerilla marketing. And I think I was good at that. It got the business off the ground. It got people learning about Nancy’s. And obviously, without sounding too immodest, I think I demonstrated I was good at making barbecue, which I fell into, but at a knack for making a type of barbecue that many people knew from the Carolinas or other places they said wasn’t being offered here. So I kind of found a niche. And there weren’t a lot of barbecue places around, and there still aren’t in Sarasota. We’ll never be like Texas or North Carolina where there’s 30 of them within a 50 mile radius. But I found my niche. I used to set up one step ahead of the code compliance truck and sell barbecue off a corner until they chased me away. And that’s how I first started getting my food out to the public, was typically setting up where I wasn’t supposed to be. SAYKO: I would say open mindedness. I
think being open to flavors, people, styles, colors, orientations, ethnic backgrounds, whatever it is. I think that, especially because I’m in the front of the house pretty much all the time, when you’re dealing with the public constantly for a two to three hour dining experience, you have to know how to navigate personalities, because they’re all over the board. It’s what makes the world a wonderful place. And it also makes the world a difficult place sometimes. But just whatever people bring to the table, I think that there’s good in everybody and there’s good in every dish. What I see in this room is that it takes all kinds and a rising tide lifts all boats. So the more we all do our thing and the more we’re open to life, and the world, and our customers, and our staff, I think that it just makes us better.
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THE LADIES WHO LEAD
LEVEY: I’m very shy, very awkward, very nerdy, which made me really good at seeking knowledge and kind of an insatiable knowledge seeker, which led to insane amount of books that I read of courses that I take, which leads to me constantly bringing improvements to our culture with a huge focus on wellness and mindfulness. That’s just a big part of my life. FOCHI: I’m Argentine, and I grew up in a culture where food was such a big deal, but it was also a way that people connected. And so we get together in Argentina, it’s always over a meal, over food. And so I grew up in a culture where food equaled love in a certain way. And one of the things that I really appreciate about having the freedom to be an entrepreneur and to do my own thing is that the empanadas are the boat through which I can express that. And it’s something that every time I hire people in my team, that’s the foundation through which we do everything. Just consciously being grateful for the opportunity of what we’re doing. It could be just an empanada, but we appreciate every ingredient, every way of cooking, every detail. The farmer’s markets are our main jam. And so having that one-onone connection to share the gratitude and to do all the steps with love, from the purchasing to the actual making. We spend one day a week just making the dough and then one day a week just chopping onions. But all of it is just made with that energy of love and gratitude. Just being able to expand on that with my teams and then with everybody that comes to our store or the farmer’s markets and just spreading that love in this infinite loop, I feel like something that I do best and that I love, and it makes it worthwhile. WOLFORTH: I’m definitely strong in a lot
of aspects, and I’ve learned with some really talented Michelin rated chefs all over the world. And I think I’m really strong with executing events and building a talented team around me, because it’s tough in this town. I’ve secured a really good amount of talent to be able to do what I do every day because it would not be the same restaurant without surrounding yourself with some talent. We make everything from scratch. It’s breads, it’s pastries, that scratch-made pasta, in-house
butcher. You have to be someone that is good at other things so that you can focus on the things that you’re really good at as well. So I feel like surrounding myself with talent, executing great food in this town, I feel like that’s my niche. NORDSTROM: The first thing that came to my mind was handling extreme amounts of pressure. That’s the basis and the core of who I am. I had a lot of trials and tribulations, so it made me able to handle a large amount of pressure. I subscribe to the belief that if this was easy, everyone would do it. KROHNGOLD: Amen. That’s one of
my mantras. NORDSTROM: It’s one of the main things I live by. If I’m in bed crying and can’t get up, I’m like, “If it was easy, everyone would do it. Now get up and go do it.” And that’s pretty much how I motivate myself to be able to keep going forward. I, like Nancy, started with absolutely nothing. It was negative when I started. So I had five failed businesses and it took me 15 years to become an overnight success. So, what am I really good at? I’m really good at getting back up. I’m really good at putting one foot in front of the other every day. And I’m really good at figuring something out that I don’t know how to do. I do all my own branding. I do all my menu design. I do all my own books. I do all my projections. I do my own kitchen designs, store build outs, project management. I do it all because I also am really good at loving to learn. Like Natalia said, it turns voracious. You want to keep getting better every day. And so my goal is that I’m a better person and better business woman. MARTINEZ: Watching the buying behaviors of my customers and paying attention to what the majority of my target market is looking for. As a business owner, I have to be able to adapt my products to the culture I am in. Coming from Austin the items that would appeal to people there are not the same as what the comfort level is here in Sarasota. I think this is one of the reasons we have been able to break through fairly quickly in such a difficult and less popular (than coffee) industry.
WHAT’S THE MOST MEMORABLE THING YOU’VE EVER CREATED OR TASTED? FOCHI: My client base said, we need a breakfast empanada with bacon and eggs. And I was like, blasphemy! Telling an Argentine to put scrambled eggs in an empanada? I resisted for approximately a year. And as soon as I made it, an immediate bestseller — I sold double breakfast than literally everything else. And as soon as I had the breakfast, somebody was like, will you make a vegetarian breakfast? Okay. I did. And so that’s how I went from eight flavors to like 29. I have to say, one of the most memorable experiences I have had of anything I didn’t make was Kojo. I remember going to Kojo and being like, how is this in Sarasota? Where did this come from? I remember the first time going through the menu, I went with a friend of mine. It was our first time and it was an adventure. We were like, oh my god, just all the decorations and just the menu, just going through it, we ordered so much food. I mean, it was incredible. And it was at brunch, no less. It wasn’t even dinner! I’ve spent this entire pregnancy dreaming of the cabbage pancake. I remember sitting in Kojo being like, where am I? This is incredible. (To Levey) Just, thank you. It was just incredible. And it’s so nice to meet you, the woman behind it, because it was totally life changing. LEVEY: Thank you. May I give you a hug? (They embrace) SAYKO: The most memorable thing for
me, I was eight years old and my dad still lived in Texas. He would come pick us up for the summer so we could go visit and we stopped in New Orleans and he took us to Commander’s Palace. And I never knew in my life that there was a difference between eating and dining. Something was happening on a plate versus just something sitting there. And I remember thinking, this isn’t food, this is more. And I think that’s why I created Chateau 13, because I want to share all the places I’ve been in my life and the experiences I’ve had, the bad, the good. It’s like welcoming people into your home, and I feel fortunate that I get to be out there.
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MARTINEZ: The mint julep was the most challenging. To get that flavor out of it that customers were looking for, and keep the health benefits, but be able to give this homage to my childhood that I had going to Disneyland. That was kind of a big goal of mine. So that one took a lot of patience. The first 50 iterations of it were absolutely disgusting and we had to drink them and just keep going forward. But that one has become a fan favorite and it’s something that rose to the top as far as what people are looking for from our shop. KROHNGOLD: It was in the early seventies. A boss of mine took me to the Eastern Market in Washington DC, which is kind of like a farmer’s market. It goes back decades and decades, and it’s open food stalls. She said, I have to take you to this stall. We’ll go there for lunch. And it was barbecue pork, pulled pork — the real deal — pulled, no sauce on top of it. That’s a food memory and a food taste that I never consciously connected to doing barbecue almost 30 years later. But just today, I was thinking about it: That’s the first time I had barbecue and knew how great it was. LEVEY: The first serious culinary stamp
or memory was this special chef’s roll, and it’s only in Tao, in New York on the Upper West Side location. None of the other Tao’s in the world have that one. But it was just the most incredible sushi roll I’ve ever had in my life, to date, which became the inspiration for our Kojo role and Kojo itself. It was so good. It was so incredible, so fresh. Just burst of flavor in my mouth. WOLFORTH I ended up moving to Chicago on
a whim to work with two-star Michelin chef Danny Grant. And he was interviewing me and I was going through taking the position and he offered to have me come and eat at his restaurant, Rya. This kitchen was the most exquisite kitchen I’ve ever walked into. And I had the experience of eating a nine-course tasting menu by this two-star Michelin chef. I couldn’t even tell you what I physically ate. I just appreciated how much went into every single dish. I remember a sphere that was nitrous frozen. It was dredged. It was fried when you broke it open, and it was this cheesy, melty, gruyere bomb. I make something
NORDSTROM: We just opened our new
similar to that, which is gougères stuffed with goat cheese, caramelized onions, and gruyere cheese. That’s a very similar profile to that, but not the nitrogen and not freezing and all that. It was just one of those moments where, wow, this is talent. WHAT IS THE UNIQUE QUALITY STRENGTH THAT YOU BRING TO YOUR WORK AS A WOMAN THAT MAKES YOU GREAT AT WHAT YOU DO? NORDSTROM: Empathy. Hands down. Not that men can’t be empathetic, but I feel that it’s more of a natural trait that comes to women and it’s more of an ingrained character trait to be empathetic. Success — a deep success and satisfaction — is nothing more than a collection of human relationships. So I have relationships with my staff. I have relationships with my customers. I have relationships with my vendors. It’s all relationship management and I feel that women do that best. As a woman, I take great pride in my business acumen and how I treat other people in my business. My staff stay with me for a long time. So I feel like that women just bring a different dynamic into the management. I had problems with gaining traction or respect early on in this particular business I’m in now. And it was hard. And my therapist said to me, if you were a man, how would a man speak to those people that are disrespectful to you? So now when I have an employee or someone’s disrespectful, I compartmentalize, flip a switch, and I take on a masculine mentality. Women like us in this industry require masculine and feminine energy. And men, it’s harder for them to tap into that feminine energy than it is for women to tap into masculine energy. I can drop the hammer in a heartbeat if I need to, because that’s my livelihood. So I feel that’s one of the unique qualities that I’m able to do is to switch between that feminine and masculine energy, to be able to hold my own. KHRONGOLD: So true. And even if it’s a
kitchen full of women, there’s still a very masculine dynamic there. WOLFORTH: Even when men come into
the back kitchen and they’re vendors and they’re like, I’m looking for the chef. I’m like, sorry to disappoint you.
store and I’m standing next to my ops manager, who’s a guy, and all these vendors would just walk in and they walk up and they stand in front of him, and he goes, can I help you? And (the vendor) goes, yeah, I’m here to talk to the owner. I want to drop off some supplies. I go, have at buddy. I’ll see you later. They learn very quickly with me that it’s a matter of respect. It’s a basic respect thing. As a woman in this industry, you have to be able to dig your heels in — literally, your heels — and hold your own. KROHNGOLD: Last night, about six o’clock, one of the staffers from the front of the store came up, I have a little office in the back, and she said, There are some guys at the bar. They want to meet you. So I go out, oh, the food is great. We love it. So, you’re Nancy? I said, yeah. And they said, well, the Nancy of Nancy’s Barbecue? And I said, oh, yes. I get that all the time. And sometimes they think there isn’t even a real Nancy. I think the subtext of that is this must be owned by a man, especially because it’s barbecue. They can’t believe that a woman is doing it. So they said, so you own this place? I said, yes. He goes, this restaurant is yours? I said, yes, I am the owner. And then they proceeded to start telling me things to do. The question always starts with, have you ever thought about. . . ? Dude, I’ve been doing this for 18 years. Trust me. I think about this 24/7. There’s nothing I haven’t thought of. I love men, but there’s always going to be a segment who look at us as being a duck out of water in this business. NORDSTROM: Cheers to always being greatly underestimated. KROHNGOLD: I draw my greatest satisfaction from being underestimated. SAYKO: It’s acceptable for us to have emotion.
And I think sometimes for men it’s not, and that’s a disadvantage that we can play into an advantage. You teared up, I tear up, that’s a beauty that I think we have within our souls. I think we as women have a deeper understanding. You can look in that person’s eyes and know that you’re not a bad guy. You’re just coming across kind of douchey. srq magazine_ OCT22 | SHE ROARS MAGAZINE live local | 11
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THE LADIES WHO LEAD
KROHNGOLD: You’re just ignorant. SAYKO: And I think that gives us an edge
and makes me tear up. Because it’s hard sometimes. And I don’t think they know we pour our souls into this. This is who we are and you’re in my house. If I could be president, I would force every single person, male, female, I don’t care, to work in a restaurant for a month. Around the globe. Because dealing with the public is difficult and wonderful. And it’s Russian roulette when you walk to that table because you really don’t know what you’re going to get or the fact that this dish is absolutely perfect. And they’re going to roll on social media and say it wasn’t, they didn’t love it, but it really is wonderful. I go to the table and we’ll talk about it. Give me your feedback. You think it’s too salty? You don’t think it’s salty enough? Whatever it is. I know it’s a perfect medium rare and you don’t, but I’m going to suck it up anyway. KROHNGOLD: But you never get to tell them they’re wrong. SAYKO: Correct. And that’s where the
customer is always right, I think that as a female, there can be a delicacy about us, which I’m not always delicate, but I know how to be. And that sometimes I truly have teared up at a table and then they end up apologizing to me and I was like, I didn’t mean to. I think letting them know that that is an emotion that affects us, we can be hurt and we can feel good and we can be proud. And just channeling all of that. People think that our emotion is our downfall, but it’s a strength. FOCHI: For sure. And that’s a very specific feminine energy. We depend so much more on a sense of community and lifting each other up. I feel like that’s almost genetic, which is really beautiful. And it’s one of the beautiful things that women bring into business — that sense of collaboration. Where instead of being threatened, we are collaborative. . . NORDSTROM: And unified. FOSHI: Right. I started when I was 21, and I looked like I was probably 15. And so I’m in my mid-thirties now. I experienced so much of the, oh, who’s the owner? Me. You look
so young. Yes. Yeah. I usually attribute it to half being really young and then half being a woman. And then the combination of both … lethal. To where now people come to the booth and they’re like, oh, you should make this empanada. And I’m like, yeah, sure. Thank you. Great idea, sir. WOLFORTH: Like the 29 flavors in front
of you right now. FOCHI: Oh my gosh. Yeah, exactly. I mean,
it’s really funny. But on the flip side, because we have that kind of collaborative female energy, like you said that we are all in a sense, a mother to our people. It’s kind of that caretaking energy that we are able to translate into our food. There’s a reason why it’s always mom’s food was the best, or grandma’s food. It’s a really beautiful thing to go to an establishment and then feel that feminine energy in the space, in the food. It’s just got a certain depth that, not that man can’t achieve it. Right? But there’s just a certain quality and essence when a woman is creating it in there, focusing on the details. Because I love details, like the garnishes on your (Levey’s) bar (at Kojo). One of the first things I noticed. I was like, “Somebody knows what they’re doing.” I saw the cups of all the dehydrated fruit, and I was telling my friends, I was like, “They do this because they don’t sell this.” You can’t just buy this beautiful dehydrated grapefruit slice. And it’s just those details that I notice specifically in womenowned establishments, and that attention to detail, and the compassion, and the empathy. My number one priority, aside from the food, is making sure that my team is taken care of, because when they feel taken care of by me, everybody can kind of jump in on that vibration, take care and support each other through their individual needs. And then that translates to the customer. KROHNGOLD: It’s a culture that you’ve built. FOCHI: Right. Exactly. And sometimes it takes a woman to really build and nurture that foundation, to cultivate that kind of flow. And I think that’s just a really beautiful, specific female trait. We are the anchor of the homes, we create life, we give it, we nurture. We do the exact same thing in business, and I love that.
KROHNGOLD: My earliest food memories, and it may be the same for everyone here, are things that my mother or one of my two grandmothers made. The things I remember from my toddler days. It was women. SAYKO: And that’s not just physical
nourishment. That’s nourishment of the soul. MARTINEZ: Everything that everyone’s
saying is so true. I’ve had similar instances where I’ve had more free education from men than I can even hold in a book. I had a similar thing happen where a couple weeks after we opened up the shop, my dad just happened to be in there just hanging out. And they live in Port Charlotte, so he made the long trip up, so he was just kind of hanging out for a little while. He’s never been a part of the business in any capacity, but he happened to go behind the counter to grab himself a drink at the same time this guy walked in, who apparently wanted to offer to buy the business. He completely bypasses me, who’s standing right behind the counter, obviously working there, and he goes over right over to my dad. The guy just keeps going on and on, and so finally my dad’s able to cut in. He’s like, this is not my business. This is my daughter’s business. He’s like, well, where is she? And because I’m younger, I’m actually not younger, but I look younger than I am. So his perception is that this younger female cannot possibly own this business. He was told in the nicest way, this is not for sale, but thank you very much. But that kind of patience of not getting so offended that you just want to offend back. One of my biggest superpowers is just being patient. As a mother, you have to look at your kid and you want their talents and abilities to be similar to yours, because that would make life really easy. But it’s looking in and seeing no, they have different gifts. They have different missions in life. And being able to find that and pull that out. I apply that to the business. What are you good at? What you’re hired for may not be what you’re going to do a few months from now because you actually really shine here. And getting people in the right places, allowing them to be the superstar there and let them continue to grow the way that they want to. SHE ROARS
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RECOGNIZING THE WOMEN TAKING THE LEAD IN SARASOTA + MANATEE | PHOTOS BY WYATT KOSTYGAN + WES ROBERTS.
STRONG WOMEN OF THE REGION Sharing the Stories of Women In Leadership as They Guide Our Region's Business and Independent Sectors.
MELISSA BEACHY, GLOW DERMSPA SHARON CAROLE,
ANNE LEBARON, TAKE STOCK
REALM RESTAURANT GROUP VILIA DRAGOVOY, CENTER FOR REVITALIZING PSYCHIATRY
JAIME MARCO. EVOLVE BUSINESS LISA MOORE, BLAZE OF HOPE HALLIE PEILET, THE HAVEN LAURA RODE, SARASOTA
MICHELLE HERMEY, FERGUSON SKIPPER PA DEBBIE LAPINSKA, PGT INNOVATIONS JENNIFER LEE, MODERN WEALTH
OF CHILDREN, MANATEE
GULF COAST REALTORS JESSICA ROGERS, CHILDREN FIRST NATASHA SELVARAJ, BERLIN PATTEN KAY YODER, RIPPLE AFRICA
9/13/22 2:46 PM
STRONG WOMEN OF THE REGION
WOMEN WHO ROAR NOMINEE | 2023
MELISSA BEACHY, MMSC, PA-C
DIRECTOR OF GLOW DERMSPA, MASTER INJECTOR, DERMATOLOGY PHYSICIAN ASSISTANT
"My approach to aesthetics is ‘I want everyone to notice, but no one to know’." IT HAS BEEN MY PRIVILEGE TO WORK exclusively in Dermatology since the start of my career. Early on I developed a passion for cosmetic dermatology and entrepreneurship. I believe there is truly an art and a science to aesthetics. In this field, I am able to be both creative and artful, as well as technical and medical. I have over 10 years of experience as an aesthetic injector and absolutely love what I do. As an entrepreneur, I have grown the cosmetic division of Arsenault Dermatology, expanding to create a stand-alone company, Glow Dermspa. As the Director, I lead an amazing team of MDs, PAs, aestheticians, and staff who daily seek to build meaningful relationships, curate memorable experiences, and deliver exceptional natural-looking results, with kindness, care, and a commitment to excellence. I oversee the clinical operations, marketing, recruiting, and training to maintain a creative, quality culture. Everyday I’m thankful for the opportunity to help patients see, enhance, and become more confident in their natural beauty.
GLOW DERMSPA is a luxury aesthetic clinic for women and men, located in Lakewood Ranch, Florida. Created by the skincare experts at Arsenault Dermatology, we combine world-class aesthetic services with a concierge-style level of personal care and attention. Clients experience luxurious skincare treatments delivered by highly-skilled skin professionals, using innovative anti-aging and beauty-enhancing techniques. We offer a complete menu of cosmetic services including aesthetics, Botox®, injectable facial fillers (i.e., Juvéderm and Restylane), threads, laser resurfacing, pigment and vascular laser devices, fat destroying treatments, chest and neck rejuvenation, and platelet-rich plasma (PRF) therapy for both facial rejuvenation and hair loss.
GLOW DERMSPA BY ARSENAULT DERMATOLOGY 9023 Town Center Parkway, Lakewood Ranch, FL 34202 941-264-1161 | glowdermspa.com @glowdermspa
9/13/22 2:47 PM
MICHELLE LAJOIE HERMEY, SHAREHOLDER
STRONG WOMEN OF THE REGION
FERGESON SKIPPER, P.A.
"Michelle is that rare lawyer who combines a laser focus on the details of a transaction with the warmth and understanding of a trusted family advisor. I 've worked closely with Michelle on an almost daily basis for 25 years and I could not ask for a better colleague." — Richard R. Gans, President of Fergeson Skipper, P.A.
A BOARD-CERTIFIED REAL ESTATE LAWYER and shareholder with the Sarasota-based law firm of Fergeson Skipper, P.A., Michelle Lajoie Hermey brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to her clients based on an extensive educational background. Prior to becoming an attorney, Ms. Hermey served as a Certified Real Estate Paralegal with the firm. Ms. Hermey graduated with honors from the University of Maine. She then went on to attend Stetson University College of Law, where she earned her Juris Doctorate in 2006 and was recognized with the William F. Blews Pro Bono Service award. Admitted to the Florida Bar in 2007, Ms. Hermey became a board-certified real estate lawyer in 2013. She is licensed to practice before the Middle District Court of Florida and all local and State Courts in Florida. Ms. Hermey’s Bar Association memberships include The Florida Bar and Sarasota County Bar Association. Additionally, she is a member of the Bay Area Real Estate Council, the Real Property, Probate and Trust Section of the Florida Bar, Attorney’s Title Insurance Fund, Realtor Association of Sarasota and Manatee, and BNI Core Connections. Ms. Hermey is a past chair of the Sarasota Realtor-Attorney Joint Committee, past chair of the Sarasota County Bar Association Real Property Section and past vice president of BNI Core Connections. In 2021, Ms. Hermey was included in SRQ Magazine’s Elite Top Real Estate Attorneys. When it comes to real estate law, Michelle Lajoie Hermey is one in a million.
FERGESON SKIPPER, P.A. Named a 2022 “Best Law Firm” by U.S. News – Best Lawyers Tier 1 Sarasota: Tax, Trusts & Estates Law; Tier 2 Sarasota: Litigation, Trusts & Estates FergesonSkipper.com 941-957-1900
9/13/22 3:03 PM
WOMEN WHO ROAR NOMINEE | 2023 STRONG WOMEN OF THE REGION
CEO, FOUNDER, MODERN WEALTH
"Do something today that your future self will thank you for."
MY 52-YEAR JOURNEY AS A FINANCIAL ADVISOR has been met with much self-motivation, humbling successes and failures, opportunities to lift others, personal growth, all to develop and harness my best self. Living life with intentionality and encouraging others to do the same—whether it’s taking that once in a lifetime trip, pursuing a new career endeavor, or going back to school (all financially pre-approved, of course)—is a great strength of mine. My most important accomplishment is nurturing the persona of Aunt Jenn or AJ. Making a deep connection to another human being, especially a child is tremendously rewarding and powerful. There has not been a role more important in my life. My beautiful nieces and nephews have been a long-time objective; be there, listen, encourage, comfort, stretch, teach, grow, hug, play games, cook, create, and become that resource, that trusted adult, and fun aunt. As a financial advisor, I try to apply this philosophy to my work. For me, it’s about encouraging women to take financial control, acting as an advocate for women in financial transition—whether it be helping through a divorce, navigating an inheritance, retirement, or selling a business—being a sounding board through life’s most challenging moments, and truly being a resource to help guide them to the next level of their journey. I’ve found that many women can be unsure of where to start on their financial planning journey. To me, financial planning is not that complicated. What do you have? And what do you want? My first book, Squeeze the Juice: Live with Purpose, then Leave a Legacy is a risk-free interview with me; a look behind the curtain. It’s a two-hour read, and you will know if we are a good fit. Only then can you truly consider coming on this journey to financial freedom with an advocate. It all comes back to creating a life with intention. Will you take this journey?
MODERN-WEALTH is a financial advisory firm dedicated to working with individuals, often focusing on women, in financial transition. I have found that a relationship with an advisor is most critical at the intersections in life where emotions collide with financial events. Whether you are experiencing divorce, a business client expanding or selling your operation, navigating an inheritance, retirement, or a couple wanting to make sure they have provided for their family, Modern-Wealth may be a fit. We are about building long-lasting relationships, digging deep to understand what drives clients, and encouraging clients to communicate their most important wants and needs to their loved ones.
MODERN-WEALTH 6710 Professional Parkway, Suite 201B Sarasota, FL 34240 | 941-251-0510 modern-wealth.com/
9/13/22 6:51 PM
STRONG WOMEN OF THE REGION
WOMEN WHO ROAR NOMINEE | 2023
CEO+FOUNDER, BLAZE OF HOPE
" Together we can spread hope like fire!" MY SWEET SON BLAZE WAS DIAGNOSED with liver cancer at 7 months old. This was the hardest time of my life by far. I had to take a leave from my job because he was so sick and we spent most of our time in the hospital. Blaze endured aggressive chemotherapy and multiple surgeries. Sadly, Blaze passed away at 13 months old. During this time, I was able to stay with my baby boy, able to be a mom, able to sleep in the hospital bed with him nightly, not missing a precious moment of time with him. My community banned together to ensure provisions for my son and I were met. Donations were made, fundraisers were held, even jars collecting funds were placed on counters of convenience stores. The compassion, love, support, and prayers gave me hope in my greatest time of need. While at the hospital, I saw other families desperately in need of hope of their own. Not only were they struggling with the unexplainable sadness and pain involved, but they were also struggling to meet their personal financial responsibilities. These people chose their child instead of their mortgage payment; a choice no parent should have to make. This experience has driven my whole life from that point forward. What motivates me is my dedication to honor my son by showing the same love, compassion, and grace for others as I once received. I created "Blaze of Hope" a 501c3 non-profit organization that provides financial assistance to families of hospitalized children. We have an army of volunteers that spend their time raising awareness and building community through our numerous events and fundraisers. Every day I am thankful for another opportunity to spread HOPE like fire. “Chin up, Chest out, and Smile.” MY SECRET SAUCE Be love, Give love, Spread Love MISSION Blaze of Hope provides financial assistance to families of hospitalized children with life-threatening medical conditions, raises awareness, builds community, and enriches lives with HOPE!
BLAZE OF HOPE 501c3 Non-Profit Lisa Moore CEO/Founder blazeofhope.org 941-232-4568
9/13/22 3:11 PM
WOMEN WHO ROAR NOMINEE | 2023 STRONG WOMEN OF THE REGION
DIRECTOR OF MISSION ENGAGEMENT, THE HAVEN
“People with disabilities see the world through such a pure lens, and it gives me personal perspective as to how grateful I am to be around them. Professionally, it’s easy to want to work hard because my success is their success." HALLIE PEILET JOINED THE HAVEN IN SPRING OF 2022. Her role includes communications and development initiatives. Prior to joining The Haven as the Director of Mission Engagement, Peilet spent four years at SNN, where she started as a general assignment reporter, filming, editing, and writing all of her own content. Peilet interviewed local Holocaust survivors for her special series, “They Lived: Suncoast Survivors of the Holocaust,” for which she received an Emmy nomination and Telly Award. She also went into the operating room to follow the journey of a man’s fight with Parkinson’s disease, filming his brain surgery. She later won a Telly Award for her series, “Inside PJ’s Brain.” Peilet is also no stranger to Sarasota philanthropy. In 2018, she competed in CANDance, a fundraiser for CAN Community Health. During her months training with her dance partner and fundraising, Peilet produced and anchored several segments to educate the community on the nonprofit, in efforts to eradicate any stigma associated with HIV. She raised $14,000 for the nonprofit through her efforts. Peilet first came across The Haven in June 2017, when she did a news segment there for the first time. She knew there was something special about it, and she connected with President & CEO Brad Jones to make sure she never missed a chance to cover any stories at The Haven. Peilet uses her video and storytelling background to share stories of The Haven’s clients, students, residents and their families. She also spearheads fundraising campaigns, including The Haven’s Holiday Hope campaign, which resulted in $122,000 of unrestricted fundraising dollars in December alone.
THE HAVEN 4405 Desoto Road Sarasota, FL 34235 941-355-8808
9/13/22 5:24 PM
WOMEN WHO ROAR NOMINEE | 2023
JESSICA ROGERS VP OF PHILANTHROPY, CHILDREN FIRST
STRONG WOMEN OF THE REGION
“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make."—Jane Goodall. DAILY LIFE “Never underestimate yourself. Who is going to stop you?” PROFESSIONAL “Looking ahead is important. It helps you determine your steps now to get there." PERSONAL
JESSICA ROGERS BELIEVES ACCESS TO OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL IS THE BASE FOR BUILDING A STRONG COMMUNITY. This belief has transformed her passion for helping women, children, and families into a professional career focused on the well-being of humankind. As a mother, she raises her daughter the way that her mother taught her, to strive to make a difference in the lives of those within her community. With nearly 20 years of experience in nonprofit management, fundraising, finance and education, Jessica Rogers serves as Vice President of Philanthropy at Children First, Sarasota County’s exclusive Head Start Program, which ranks in the top 1% of Head Starts nationwide. She represents the agency in advocating for the support of early childhood education and breaking barriers of poverty. During her tenure, she has transformed fundraising and outreach efforts allowing the agency to serve the greatest number of children and families in its 61-year history and being named WEDU PBS’s Nonprofit of the Year. Rogers’ volunteer and philanthropic engagement is wide ranging. She serves on Sarasota County NAACP's Freedom Fund Awards Gala committee and is a former board director for the Junior League of Sarasota, having received their 2020 Sustainer Community Service Award.Jessica is a member of the National Council of Jewish Women Sarasota-Manatee chapter, the USF Tampa Digital Marketing Certificate Program Steering Committee, and past Troop Co-Leader for the Girl Scouts of Southwest Florida. She is a proud graduate of both the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance Executive Academy, and the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership program where she currently serves on their Leadership Alumni Committee.
CHILDREN FIRST 1723 North Orange Ave. Sarasota, FL 941-953-3877 Childrenfirst.net
9/13/22 5:35 PM
STRONG WOMEN OF THE REGION
"Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.." — Arthur Ashe
WOMEN WHO ROAR NOMINEE | 2023
DIRECTOR OF US OPERATIONS, RIPPLE AFRICA THERE’S A SAYING ”You can’t never always sometimes tell.” That sums up perfectly the unpredictability of life. Twenty-one years ago, I never could have envisioned that a family move to Florida for my 11-year-old daughter to pursue her dream of a tennis career, would lead to an involvement with a notfor-profit in Malawi, Africa, that would capture my heart and give it such meaning. Our time living at IMG Academy was an incredibly rich cultural experience—exposing our family to a diverse group of people from all over the world. It was there that we became fast friends with a family from Malawi, who enlightened us about the country and its tremendous needs. After a serious back injury derailed my daughter’s tennis dreams, she decided to raise money for an orphanage in Malawi and traveled there to volunteer during a summer break. That invaluable experience not only changed her life but mine as well. Upon her return, we researched ways in which we could make a difference and looked for an on-the-ground partner with a proven track record. One organization—Ripple Africa—stood out above all the rest because of its emphasis on ‘providing a hand out and not a hand up’ and range of projects addressing the educational, healthcare, and environmental obstacles facing the Malawian people. After years of a successful partnership, we officially merged in 2013, becoming Ripple Africa, Inc. here in the US. My daughter continued onto a profession in medicine and is now an OB/GYN practicing in Colorado. I oversee the American side of operations and love nothing more than taking others to Malawi so they can meet the incredibly warm and welcoming Malawian people and witness the many ways in which Ripple Africa is providing opportunities for them to lift themselves out of poverty.
ABOUT RIPPLE AFRICA Malawi is a tiny, densely populated country located in Southeastern Africa, and ranks as one of the poorest nations in the world. Eighty-five percent of the population lives in rural areas and its rising population is putting tremendous pressure on the country’s natural resources. Ripple Africa, an NGO located in northern Malawi, operates by empowering communities to achieve a sustainable future, believing that the local people can be the solution to many of the challenges they face. In response to needs identified by the community, the organization runs large scale environmental projects, in addition to smaller scale education and healthcare initiatives in and around its base.
RIPPLE AFRICA 6979 74th Street Circle East, Bradenton, FL 941-782-7956 | rippleafricausa.org
9/13/22 5:37 PM
STRONG WOMEN OF THE REGION
CEO/PRESIDENT, REALM RESTAURANT GROUP
“Life is a rollercoaster; for every down, there's an up so just hang on and enjoy the ride" I AM AN ENTREPRENEUR WHO OWNS multiple businesses and properties in Sarasota. I co-created The Realm Restaurant Group with my partner, Chef Christopher Covelli, and together we own and operate Sage Restaurant and Bijou Garden Café. I am known for saving old buildings and turning them into fine dining establishments. I’ve renovated and redesigned the Sage and Bijou buildings, and I am currently working on restoring two other locations to bring more restaurants and venues to Sarasota. I am an outspoken ally to the LGBTQ+ community, and a founding member of Project Pride SRQ, as well as a board member of Equality Florida and a recipient of the 2021 Voice for Equality award. I love improving things. When I see something wrong or neglected I want to make it right. When I bought Sage and Bijou my goal was to preserve the buildings, but once I got inside I realized that with a little work I could make them so much nicer. I do a lot with the LGBTQ+ community because I feel like this is another area where I can help to make a difference and maybe make the world a little better. I've witnessed a lot of injustice and inequality. As a child, I was raised around prejudice and misogyny which not only led me to become a voice for equality but also motivated me to create a world where I could freely express myself. MY SECRET SAUCE Follow my passion. If I don't love what I'm doing then I'm not on the right path. Every day I am thankful for my beautiful children, supportive friends, and this incredible life I'm living. YOUR OUTLOOK IN SIX WORDS. Be kind; have fun; be grateful.
THE REALM RESTAURANT GROUP 129 N.Pineapple Ave., Sarasota FL 34236 941-667-6677 | RealmRestaurants.com
9/13/22 5:41 PM
WOMEN WHO ROAR NOMINEE | 2023 STRONG WOMEN OF THE REGION
EVOLVE BUSINESS CONSULTING / WHEN SHE HAPPENS
"The words and actions we use, have a direct impact on the results we get."
I HAVE BEEN TOLD MY SUPERPOWER is the dedication to helping others grow and develop. When I started my business, it was powered by the belief that I could help inspire others to create a positive change in their world. I am honored to create opportunities of change every day through my works as business coach, ambassador of connection and philanthropic supporter. Whether it’s mentoring others at work, networking, or with philanthropy, it is with great pride that I can give back to organizations in this community as much as the community has given to me. SECRET SAUCE Well, now if I shared that, it wouldn't be so secret anymore, now would it. Honestly though, I consider my secret fuel to be the power of the work I do and the results. I am continually inspired by handwritten thank you notes from clients that I keep prominently displayed in my office. I see these every day and they continue to fill my cup with the secret sauce.
EVOLVE BUSINESS CONSULTING / WHEN SHE HAPPENS 11161 E. State Road 70, #323, Lakewood Ranch, FL 34202 | 941-777-4930 | Evolvethebusiness.com / WhenSheHappens.com | Facebook: Evolve Business Consulting / When She Happens | Instagram: @evolve_the_business / @whenshehappens
"Always stay humble and kind."
WOMEN WHO ROAR NOMINEE | 2023
CHIEF HUMAN RESOURCES OFFICER, PGT INNOVATIONS PART OF MY SUCCESS STEMS from the experience growing up Asian in Chicago and dealing with being different, not looking like the other kids, and all the challenges that came with that. I was shy, intimidated, and self-conscious. I always remember that experience when approaching people in personal and business relationships, and it pushes me to go to bat for those who don’t have the strength to speak up for themselves. Also, when I see people who don’t have a lot to give, yet give of themselves every day, it further inspires me to make a positive impact on others. MY SECRET SAUCE I’d say my secret sauce is compassion for others. Sometimes it physically pains me to see someone struggling. I love to get to know people for who they are and appreciate and celebrate their unique strengths. If I can help people recognize the strength in themselves and give them the courage to speak up and be seen and be heard, it motivates me, in turn. EVERY DAY I AM THANKFUL FOR . . . MY FAITH THAT GIVES ME STRENGTH AND KEEPS ME GROUNDED, AND I’M THANKFUL FOR MY FAMILY.
PGT INNOVATIONS 1070 Technology Drive, N. Venice, FL 34275 | 941-480-1600 pgtinnovations.com | linkedin.com/in/debbie-lapinska-b4500414
9/13/22 5:47 PM
WOMEN WHO ROAR NOMINEE | 2023
NATASHA SELVARAJ, ESQ
STRONG WOMEN OF THE REGION
BERLIN PATTEN EBLING
"Always try to be better than the person you were yesterday!” " WHEN MEETING IN PERSON WASN'T AN OPTION I adapted to doing more virtually. As things continued to change and evolve over the last couple of years, I had to be much more flexible and pliable. My biggest strength is being a problem solver and working well under pressure. I have found that even in stressful situations, I can step back, look for solutions to the issue at hand, and encourage other team members to work together and focus on accomplishing our goals. MY SECRET SAUCE The people that I work with! In my professional life, I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by so many phenomenal legal professionals, from our attorneys to our staff. Everyone at Berlin Patten Ebling is always striving to provide the best experience possible for our clients, which helps us stand out. Every day I am thankful for my friends and family, who have supported me and encouraged me to try new things and pursue my goals. Especially my husband, Warren, my biggest supporter, and for my law partners who allowed me to be part of the best team! BERLIN PATTEN EBLING 3700 S Tamiami Trail #200, Sarasota, FL 34239 | 941- 954-9991
WOMEN WHO ROAR NOMINEE | 2023
"Growth is not automatic; it has to be intentional . . . it is not guaranteed. You have to know what ways you want to grow and then take action to make it happen. "
CEO/BROKER ASSOCAITE, SARASOTA GULF COAST HOMES WITH KELLER WILLIAMS ON THE WATER SARASOTA
I BEGAN MY CAREER IN REAL ESTATE IN 2014. I was a new mom hungry to build a good life for myself and my family. I can remember showing property with my son in a baby carrier on my back, for about 3 years. In 2018 my husband Matt joined me in real estate and we both jumped in full-time and began to build a team. We started by developing systems and processes geared towards delivering the highest quality of service to our clients. There were many hours of coaching, several real estate conventions a year and a huge sacrifice on our family time in order to achieve this. These systems and processes, once developed, attracted many sales associates to our team and we grew rapidly from a team of 3 into a multi-million dollar real estate company and a team of 24, in just 4 years. In 2021 our team was named the #1 Keller Williams Team in Sarasota and Manatee County and #2 in the entire North Florida region. In 2022 we launched our agent mentor program allowing our top producing agents the ability to grow as leaders while supporting others in the industry. In 2023 we plan to launch our own charity focusing on providing life and business coaching to young adults in the Sarasota area. SARASOTA GULF COAST HOMES WITH KELLER WILLIAMS ON THE WATER SARASOTA 1549 Ringling Blvd. Floor 6, Sarasota, FL 34236 941 724 9957 | Laura.Rode@kw.com | sarasotagulfcoastrealtors.com Instagram: SarasotaGulfCoastHomes | Facebook: SarasotaGulfCoastHomes
9/13/22 6:06 PM
WOMEN WHO ROAR NOMINEE | 2023 STRONG WOMEN OF THE REGION
VILIA DRAGOVOY CENTER FOR REVITALIZING PSYCHIATRY
"I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul." — Invictus by William Ernest Henley (on my office wall)
MY FAMILY EMIGRATED FROM UKRAINE in 1992 with 2 suitcases and a hope for a better life. It was my parents’ will and determination that taught me to work hard for what I want and not be afraid of taking risks. Especially the resilience of my mom, Dr. Marina Tourkova, who opened the Center of Revitalizing Psychiatry (CRP) almost 20 years ago, inspired me to leave the pharmaceutical industry and join my sister Alina Nagdimunov in taking CRP to the next level. We strive to advance mental health beyond its conventional parameters, and help those who also find themselves navigating new waters, such as a psychological trauma, life in the pandemic, or finding balance in life. Every day I am thankful for . . . my family, who gives me support in both personal and professional endeavors, strength to get through most difficult situations, motivates me to move forward, and inspires me to be better and stronger with every step I make.
CENTER OF REVITALIZING PSYCHIATRY 2033 Wood St. Suite 220, Sarasota, Florida 34237 941-677-3366 | revitalizingpsychiatry.com | facebook.com/FLCRP | We Will Revitalize Your Mind!
WOMEN WHO ROAR NOMINEE | 2023
CEO, TAKE STOCK IN CHILDREN MANATEE
"Women are built so much stronger than we realize." TAKING THE CEO ROLL OF TAKE STOCK IN CHILDREN MANATEE in Oct. 2019 has been my biggest challenge yet. We had to totally pivot our structure and organization to serve our students in a virtual world. Also, learning to raise funds for a nonprofit virtually and making huge strides in growth for our organization. Learning also how to relate to others on a virtual platform. PERSONAL LIFE Women mentors in my life inspired me to become the woman I am today. I learned the value of integrity and giving back and strength. Mentoring is my passion and passing on my learned knowledge to help others is my key to success. I was a single mom and raised two daughters on my own. I learned perseverance and the real meaning of strength. Women are built so much stronger than we realize. My motto is to never give up! Always being grateful and having a positive realistic attitude. MY SECRET SAUCE Gratitude! Do something that scares you every day! I tell my students I mentor this all the time.
TAKE STOCK IN CHILDREN MANATEE P.O. Box 325, Palmetto, Fl. 34220 | 941-713-4454 takestockmanatee.org
9/13/22 6:53 PM
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9/12/22 8:12 PM
OCTOBER 2022 EDITION
IN CONVERSATION WITH ELIZABETH FISHER GOOD ON HER FOUNDATION’S WORK IN ERADICATING SEXUAL ABUSE AND EXPLOITATION LOCALLY AND GLOBALLY
INTERVIEW BY WES ROBERTS EDITED BY BARBIE HEIT ELIZABETH FISHER GOOD CEO/FOUNDER THE FOUNDATION UNITED
WE RECOGNIZE THE WORK THAT YOU’VE DONE AND THE TREMENDOUS ACHIEVEMENTS YOU HAVE MADE IN HELPING TO CARE FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE VICTIMS OF SEX TRAFFICKING AND HOPEFULLY ENDING SEX TRAFFICKING. I UNDERSTAND THAT YOUR PROGRAMS ARE MOVING IN NEW AND EVEN BIGGER DIRECTIONS. CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THEM? ELIZABETH FISHER GOOD: Back in the day, a decade ago when we were beginning, there was a founding vision. There would be this local initiative, which I ran for the last 12 years. But, we had this vision that at one point we would launch a foundation that would attract the truly like-minded, the pure of heart, the ones that are not in it for the self accolades, but rather solutions. Systemic global solutions and the best of the best, and best practices locking arms. That vi-
sion we launched in 2017. We incorporated in 2018. And, the last few years, five years now, we’ve been getting it up and running. I would say the last two years, just full steam. It’s amazing. The best of the best of everything I learned here in Sarasota. I always used to say, coming from Chicago, Sarasota’s like you get to practice in a little petri dish where everybody knows each other. I love all of the state’s attorneys. We’re the systemic scales, the levers to really affect change, to get ahead of it. For those that don’t know, there’s the story of a little girl that was sexually abused when she was four and every system missed her. And, by the time she’s 18, she’s been sold 15 to 40 times a day for seven years. There’s only so much of that you could take over a decade. We have got to get ahead of it. So, the foundation is completely focused on the front end prevention, having every system that missed that girl never miss them again. So, that’s what I’m focused on globally.
ONE OF THE TREMENDOUS CHALLENGES OF WHAT YOU DO HAS TO BE THAT PEOPLE DON’T WANT IT TO HAPPEN, BUT THEY ALSO AREN’T READY TO HEAR ABOUT IT. IT’S PAINFUL.
FISHER GOOD: You have to hear about it with hope. But, the other piece of it, which is what I’m really focused on now, is the root. Because, the truth is, the reason that certain people are drawn to it and we attract certain people, is the root. One out of three. The stats are one out of three little girls, so one out of three grown women, one out five little boys, one out of five men, carry and hold the secret of childhood sexual abuse. Most people don’t resolve that trauma in their life. So, there are a lot that say, “You know what? I want to be the solution to that.” Now, especially on the foundation side with all of the solutions and literally systemic abilities to open eyes, it’s really attracting a lot of people that care about changing the world. Because, now, it’s a global solution center.
TELL US ABOUT THE CONNECTION BETWEEN SELAH FREEDOM AND THE FOUNDATION UNITED AND YOUR AFFILIATION WITH BOTH.
FISHER GOOD: In 2010, we realized that there was a problem with our local children right here being sold for sex trafficking. I had just come from Chicago to do a women’s event with my friends there. We were trying to find the most underdog charity that we could bring to the light. And, we were told by local leaders right here in Sarasota, “How about the fact that local children are being sold for sex?” And then, they shared those facts of sexual abuse. The children keep a secret. They can’t keep it anymore. Their dad’s abusing them every night. They run away. Within 48 hours, 80% of every little kid that runs away in any zip code is approached by a predator, who then will sell them 15 to 40 times a day. So, I asked, “Who do we write a check to?” And, they said, “There’s no one to write a check to.” So, that is how I was one of the
ENGAGING READERS THROUGH STORYTELLING.
9/12/22 7:17 PM
IN CON V E R S AT I O N
co-founders because we realized there was this need. We started with Selah Freedom. Selah Freedom is still local and it’s running and it’s doing fantastic. Like your first baby. You bless it. You hope it goes on forever. But then, we launched the foundation. Now I’m the head, I’m the CEO. And, I’m only running the foundation arm. The foundation arm is the systemic scaling of the different systems along the way to change the future for girls, to not end up 26 and have not gotten the help they needed. We are looking at a couple of presentations for parents that have to do with the psychological impact of social media. There is increased anxiety and depression on the part of some students. We do see things that parents are shocked that their kids see and hear about. And so it is definitely on the minds of parents and in a lot of cases, they’re not quite sure where to go and what to do.
IT SEEMS LIKE THE ISSUE OF SEX TRAFFICKING AND SEX ABUSE HAS BECOME MORE PUBLIC, THAT PEOPLE HAVE BECOME MORE PUBLICLY AWARE OF THIS ISSUE. FISHER GOOD: I could
tell you for the last 12 years, I’ve been in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune. I’ve been on television, radio, Fox News…practically screaming it and finally, like you said, they’re hearing it a little bit. Because we had Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell. But, what happened then? It still was buried in a week. No one really cares what happened. It’s very, very interesting how few people care. I think you have the victims’ side of it and those people that were abused, care. And then, you have the fact that, I think the stat now is up to 70% of men or women, will consume pornography as a form of sex trafficking. Every time we have a trafficking ring bust, and there’s a pastor in it, a
teacher in it, a father in it, they always say, “I don’t know how I got here. I never would’ve bought a child.” But, it’s a progressive addiction. And, the research is telling us that it is rewiring our children’s neural pathways. They are being rewired to systemically not be capable of forming intimacy. It’s such a different world. So, I think we’re finally getting a little bit of attention.
beautiful. The average age when I started a decade ago that a little girl would send a naked selfie, was 12. You know what it is today? They say seven or eight years old. Because, systemically everything is being broken down and groomed on such a different level. The stat is there’s half a million predators at any given time on social media looking for your children.
IF A PARENT HEARS ABOUT THESE STATISTICS AND TRAGIC SITUATIONS, HOW SHOULD THEY PROCESS THEIR ABILITY TO CARE FOR THEIR OWN CHILD, TO MAKE SURE THEIR OWN CHILD DOES NOT FALL PREY TO SOMETHING LIKE THAT? FISHER GOOD: Let me
HOW DO WE DEVELOP A PLAN OF PREVENTION?
just give you a couple of stats for parents to realize they should care and need to care because these things changed everything. One out of nine children, at any given time, any zip code, are being groomed online. Predators are looking. A parent might say, “We raised our daughter so sheltered. She felt loved. We knew she was safe. She knew she was loved.” But, some guy put up profile pictures and presented a 14 year old boy. But, it’s really a 40 year old man with this profile. And, he is grooming your daughter. He’s grooming your son. He’s telling them, “I don’t know if anyone’s ever told you, but you are really
FISHER GOOD: Well, it’s two sided. The consumer, the buyer is somebody that typically was abused. Everything is learned behavior to the third or the fourth generation, no matter how you look at it. Psychology says that. The Bible says that. Everything says it’s generational patterns, sins of the father until there’s intervention. That’s why the foundation is called the Foundation United, because we’ve built this foundation and we’re uniting with all the best practices and some of the strongest leaders to bring these really proven solutions. We have a program for the schools, kindergarten through 12th grade, all the way up to the superintendents and teachers. We’re teaching systems how to recognize and see what is there so they can see that little girl in front of them that something happened to. Systemically now, we have it for the church. There’s more secrets in the church than
“WE HAVE A PROGRAM FOR THE SCHOOLS, KINDERGARTEN THROUGH 12TH GRADE, ALL THE WAY UP TO THE SUPERINTENDENTS AND TEACHERS.” — Elizabeth Fisher Good beautiful. I think you could be famous. I’m actually a model. Do you want to meet my agent? We’ll just take a picture. Lean in a little closer. Don’t be shy.” And, they say these same words, textbook. Don’t be shy. That’s okay. You’re
out of the church. And, thNe abusers are often, they were victims themselves. So, if you think of a person that’s buying these kids, it’s usually a very broken person that never got the intervention they needed all along the pathways.
ABOUT ELIZABETH FISHER GOOD AS THE FOUNDER AND CEO OF THE FOUNDATION UNITED, Elizabeth Fisher Good is passionate about awakening the calling in others. As a pioneer in the anti-sex trafficking movement for more than a decade, she has helped thousands of survivors find freedom and a new life. Today, she has expanded her work to help all break free from past trauma and self-defeating mindsets, allowing them to fulfill their eternal purpose and destiny! Based upon her book Groomed (Harper Collins, 2020), and decades of experience in counseling, she launched an initiative which empowers families and individuals to walk in complete freedom and transparency that breaks generational pa erns and bullet proofs the family. She is the founder and CEO of The Foundation United, which was created out of her passion to end sexual exploitation and protect children globally. The Foundation United collaboratively provides best practices and proven models to eradicate sexual abuse and exploitation domestically and internationally. Their initiatives create scalable, systemic change in education, law enforcement, healthcare and the church. As the founder of REAL TALK, she helps ministries address the root causes of demand and exploitation, from top leadership to kindergarten. Elizabeth holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology, and is the recipient of the prestigious New York City Global Business Leader Award, SRQ Women Who Roar Award, Tampa Bay Business Woman of the Year Award, and honored as one of NYC’s 21 Leaders for the 21st Century. She has delivered two TedX talks and one Li X Talk to 18,000 military leaders. She is a featured speaker at the 2022 Shared Hope International Conference and the Global Strategic Forum in Austria.
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IN CO NVERSAT I ON
WHAT IS IT LIKE HAVING THIS PROGRAM BASED OUT OF SARASOTA THAT HAS CHANGED SO MANY PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD? FISHER GOOD: What I love about it is it did start here. Some of the players are still involved. We have state’s attorney’s offices involved. Craig Schaefer’s been a big piece of it. We have some law enforcement still involved locally here. Dimitri Konstantopoulous. Vern Buchanan’s been amazing. I think Sarasota should be very proud. Training law enforcement, trying to get everyone to realize we have a problem. They’re now doing it on a global scale. They introduce them to the Foundation United. We come up with systemic ways that they can introduce this into their country. Most recently, I’m working with Ghana. They’re rolling out the Speak Up and the Real Talk in Ghana. We have Speak Up rolled out in Romania. We’re working with an organization in Thailand. And then, I have a meeting in a couple of weeks with Australia. So, I think it’s amazing to say that it started right here and now it has a global impact of saving children.
HOW CAN SOMEONE MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THEIR OWN LIVES AND BY SUPPORTING YOUR ORGANIZATION OR OTHER CAUSES? FISHER GOOD: Our
website is thefoundationunited.org. There’s each different initiative so that you can go to the Speak Up page, which talks about what is this for your school and, there’s things you could print out. It talks about how to be an ambassador to your community. How you could spread the news in whatever environment you’re in. People could host awareness events. And, of course, they could always donate money. Go to the website, make sure you follow our newsletter,
SRQ M AGAZ I NE AND T H E FOU NDAT ION U N I TE D : : O CTOBE R 2022
click on some of the links on how to get involved. We’d love to partner with people. Anyone can email me directly at info@ thefoundationunited.org.
HOW DO YOU MANAGE TO STAY SO POSITIVE IN TAKING ON THIS MISSION? IT’S A HEAVY BURDEN.
FISHER GOOD: I do feel like it’s my life calling. My faith is super important to me. I was sexually abused when I was a kid. It was through somebody that my family knew well. It is such a lightning bolt of disillusionment as a child. And, we don’t know how to put words around it. And then, it leads to just thinking it was your fault. You end up doing things to numb, and then you over drink or something as a kid.
WHAT ARE SOME THINGS THAT PARENTS, LAW ENFORCEMENT AND DOCTORS SHOULD KNOW THAT THEY MAY NOT BE AWARE OF? FISHER GOOD: People
sometimes think this was a choice. You get an 18 year old and, oh, she’s just a prostitute. They didn’t realize the backstory. There’s no such thing as just a prostitute. There’s a little girl that never believed she had a choice. This is a little girl that had everything stolen from her. Because, from a young age, she was told this was what she was worth. Coming into the hospitals and having the doctors even realize, first of all, a person that doesn’t allow a child to speak, doesn’t allow them to answer, they pay attention now. If you
“WE’RE GOING TO ERADICATE IT. I AM THRILLED. I BELIEVE THE WORLD WILL TURN INTO A PLACE WHERE KIDS ARE ABLE TO GET THE INTERVENTION.” — Elizabeth Fisher Good So many of the women that I’ve worked with over the last decade, they were moved around to 23 rehab centers. They didn’t have a drug problem. They had a shame problem. They didn’t want to feel because they didn’t know how to deal with what happened. I am hopeful now because I was that kid that had my hope stolen from me. And, no one knew how to talk to me about it. It was with me till all through my twenties, just the shame. But now we’re getting ahead of it. We’re getting in there in ways that second graders are going to be armed and they’re going to dispel that shame. It’s the only crime that, when it is done to you, you take on the guilt, the weight and the shame. So, I’m excited now because after a decade of being over here, just watching the fallout in the horrific textbook again and again, we’re now saying, “We’ve gotten some levers.” We’re on it.
have a kid and it’s like, “Well, let me ask you this, honey. How did this happen?” And, the adult quickly says everything. They now know to take a moment.
DO YOU HAVE A SPECIFIC ANECDOTE ABOUT GETTING TO SEE YOUR PROCESSES WORK? FISHER
GOOD: Well, with one teacher, we started going through the trainer material. At that moment, she was just taking it in. She called me one morning and said, “I can’t do this. I was up all weekend. I cried. I’m a single mom. I have two little girls. I was sexually abused. I never told anybody. How do I know my girls haven’t been abused? I don’t know what to do. All of a sudden I’m looking at everything differently.” I’m thinking, “Aha, there you go.” You need to look at everything differently because now she’s a mom with eyes to
see. It’s almost like you’re deaf, dumb and blind until you are able to speak about it. That was awesome. This woman now is one of the champions around the country for us. She helped fine tune it so that she was practicing it on her kids. Now, she’s like Advocate Mama.
CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE WORLD YOU WANT US TO LIVE IN? FISHER GOOD: As a
child that was raised in a world of secrets, my life was secrets. I had things happen to me. Things happen around me. No one spoke of it. There is such damage in not speaking to what you know is happening. As a child, you don’t have a framework to be empowered to rise out of it. It turns you into a young adult, a woman, that is in places and makes choices and gets into relationships that you never would have. If we change everything and we help law enforcement and doctors, these first responders went into their line of work because they wanted to be protectors. Somewhere along the way they grow desensitized. Now, when we work with law enforcement, they say, “You know what? This is the first time I have hope for humanity again.” We’re changing the way everyone looks at everything. Even if they can’t speak about it in their house, they’re going to hit school. They’re going to maybe hit the church. They might go to the doctor and he has eyes to see for the first time. We’re going to eradicate it. I am thrilled and I believe the world will turn into a place where kids are able to get the intervention. Parents are able to get the help and we’re able to speak about this stuff. Most of our issues come from not speaking to the things that are uncomfortable. I think it’s time to get past the uncomfortableness and step into the protection. Kids are worth it. SRQ
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At the Helm
This page: As CEO and president of the Women’s Resource Center, Ashley Brown helps to empower women across all generations, races, ethnicities and backgrounds
CEO Ashley Brown Grows the Women’s Resource Center. written by abby weingarten | photo by wyatt kostygan
and financial expertise, to take us through the merger in 2017. Interestingly, I think the pandemic was a positive for us. Even though we were three years into the merger when the pandemic hit, we were still operating as the Venice, Sarasota and Manatee offices. When we switched to all-virtual programming, we switched to one office. Taking a regional approach allowed us to look at collaborations and partnerships more broadly. We are extremely collaborative in what we do. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE TOP ISSUES OF IMPORTANCE TO WOMEN IN OUR REGION?
ASHLEY BROWN, THE CEO AND PRESIDENT of the Women’s Resource Center (WRC), has ushered in bold changes to the organization—continuing to bring more valuable services to Sarasota and Manatee counties. From a merger of the WRCs in both counties in 2017 to significant growth in advocacy resources, the organization has thrived under Brown’s watch. Born in Georgia, and raised in West Virginia and South Carolina, Brown holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the College of Charleston. She began her career in manufacturing, working for Westinghouse Electric in the large substation transformer division. In 1999, when Ohio Transformer in Palmetto recruited her to be their planning manager, she moved to Florida. She was the first female production manager in a transformer facility in the United States.Brown started volunteering with the WRC in 2000 as a computer tutor, became the finance/development manager two years later, and ascended to the role of executive director in 2003. Since 1979, the not-for-profit WRC has provided women with life skills training, career planning and educational scholarships—a mission in which Brown deeply believes. WHAT DROVE THE PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN THE WRCS IN SARASOTA AND MANATEE COUNTIES? ASHLEY BROWN: The merger started with a transition
of leadership in Sarasota. We had always operated independently but with almost identical missions. We supported what they did but didn’t find ways to truly collaborate. When their long-term director left the Center, it was a good time to talk about merging. The Patterson Foundation provided consultants, and legal
Economic security for women is one—the ability to earn a living wage. Only 24 percent of female heads of households earn above a sustainable wage in our region. The number of women living on the margin is significant. At the WRC, we work with women in identifying career paths and supporting them in obtaining those careers—through scholarships, accessible mental health counseling, career counseling, etc. We’re equipping them with the skills and tools to be resilient, and to pick themselves up and move on when something inevitably happens and takes them off-track. We do public policy advocacy on systems or policies that are keeping women from earning a living wage. Asset building is another top issue—saving for retirement or home ownership. Affordable housing is another issue, as well as access to mental health. One of the best things I think we do is that we have affordable mental health counseling for anywhere from $5 to $40. HOW DO YOU PERSONALLY DEFINE SUCCESS? It’s
going to sound cheesy but I swear it’s true: It’s having that strong sense of self and mental health. It’s also about financial security and the ability to support yourself (so your choices and decisions are based on what’s best for you). That’s why I love what I do so much. WHAT IS ONE THING YOU CAN SHARE ABOUT YOURSELF THAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE? The fact that I started my career in manufacturing is, I think, surprising to people. I was the first female production manager in a transformer facility in the U.S. Another thing people may not know about me is that I am happiest at home. I am a homebody. Give me a weekend with no agenda or schedule and I’m a happy camper. SHE ROARS
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