Meet Sheri Freeman-Novoa, Bayway Law, P.A.
How long have you been a member of TBOWIT?
I've been a member of TBOWIT for a little less than a year.
What drew you to TBOWIT?
I was at an attorney event where I saw an attorney who is a TBOWIT member speaking about her experience in handling international business transactions in Central America. I asked her afterwards if she knew anything about importing or exporting to and from Nicaragua (it seems like a lot of what you need to know is not shared publicly or online). She recommended that I connect with TBOWIT.
I have family who live in Nicaragua, therefore, we travel frequently back and forth, and my husband and I are always taking notice of which products sell for more in Nicaragua than they do here, and which products sell for more here than they do in Nicaragua. Given that we already go back and forth regularly, it just makes sense for us to look into a business importing or exporting. Having no prior experience in retail or international business, I wanted to absorb as much knowledge and information about international trade as possible so that we can make a well-thought-out plan for starting a business here or there.
Immediately when I arrived at my first TBOWIT networking event, I realized how invaluable the group is for the advice, much of which is based on personal experience, and is freely shared. There are many things you could only know by talking to somebody with personal experience doing business there.
What do you do for work? What does it involve?
I am a commercial litigation attorney. I mostly represent businesses who have a dispute with another business, however my practice is varied and I handle a wide array of litigation cases.
I have practiced law for over seventeen years now. I am a solo practitioner. My lawfirm, Bayway Law, P.A., is located in downtown St. Petersburg. I have clients in the entire Tampa Bay area, including Hillsborough County, and also have cases in Sarasota County.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Iowa and then moves to Boca Raton, Florida, when I was young. They are two very different places. I love them both.
Give us one fun fact that we might not know about you
I love adventurous travel that involves exploring different cultures. In fact, I met my husband, who is from Nicaragua, while travelling alone in Nicaragua six years ago.
Did you have any mentors in your life?
I was mentored by several people, and I highly admire all of them.
The first would be my grandfather, who was a judge in Chicago. He taught me a lot about being a lawyer. I was mentored by several other more senior attorneys in lawschool and after. I was fortunate that all of my mentors emphasized the importance of honesty and integrity in the legal profession.
Who inspires you?
I am inspired almost daily by people I either meet or hear about who survive seemingly impossible circumstances and do not lose hope.
The first name that comes to mind when you ask who inspires me, however, is Rosie, one of my friends since teenage years. She is a single mom of two children whose family is unable to assist her financially, but she powers forward like Superwoman, unafraid of things that would make many people cower in the corner. She has so much momentum that, despite her circumstances, she listens to my gripes, coaches me when I am reluctant to start a diet, and will drive four hours to help a friend paint their kitchen cabinets on the weekend. Her well of energy, love, and generosity is untouchable.
What’s one piece of advice for women entering international business or work in general?
Although men and women are equal and possess the same qualities, we are sometimes different in some ways, and I believe women are particularly courageous and resilient, contrary to many misconceptions you might encounter from people of both genders. So don't ever allow those misconceptions to cause you to doubt yourself. Just plan ahead and be prepared for your project as well as all of the foreseeable contingencies that could occur, and as long as you do this, you should have no regrets.
I look forward to continuing to participate in TBOWIT in the future!