Members in the News

  • 11 Dec 2017 10:18 AM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    TBOWIT Member, Renee Pobjecky, was quoted in the following Bay News 9 story!


    Thousands of Polk County Haitians impacted by end of protected status
    Read below or online here


    LAKELAND -- 


    The Trump Administration has ended protected status for Haiti, forcing tens of thousands of Haitian immigrants to leave the United States by July 2019 or live in the shadows.

    It hits home for the estimated 5,000 Haitians living in Polk County.

    Magistene Silorent is one of them. The English as a Second Language Teacher is raising his five year old American born daughter alone, as well as sending portions of his paycheck back to Haiti, so his parents and siblings can survive.

    His daughter speaks very little Haitian Creole. It's the reason the college-educated Winter Haven homeowner is upset the federal government is telling him to return to Haiti.

    The Polk County school district includes 1,761 households with students who speak Haitian Creole, according to spokesman Rachel Pleasant. That accounts for 1.6 percent of its student population. 

    "She doesn’t know anything in Haiti. To bring her to Haiti it would be very hard for her and me too,” said Magistene Silorent.

     Silorent has been living in the United States legally for the past 8 years with a temporary protected status or TPS for short. The designation was granted to Haitians after the 2010 earthquake destroyed Haiti.

    With it, he's able to work and drive legally in the United States. Going back to Haiti he said is unthinkable.

    "I can not go to another country now to start over,” said Magistene Silorent.

    "It's something very hard for everybody when they heard that because if you are here, you work, you are not a criminal. You do everything good. You pay taxes.”

    On Nov. 20, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke terminated the status, citing improved conditions in Haiti since the quake.

    “Since the 2010 earthquake, the number of displaced people in Haiti has decreased by 97 percent. Significant steps have been taken to improve the stability and quality of life for Haitian citizens, and Haiti is able to safely receive traditional levels of returned citizens,” said a news release from the agency.  “Haiti has also demonstrated a commitment to adequately prepare for when the country’s TPS designation is terminated.”

    When asked what his family had to say about the conditions in Haiti, Silorent said, “I talk to my family and friends there and what the government says is not true. Haiti is not better. It’s the worst now. “

    Silorent hopes bills that several lawmakers have introduced to give Haitians access to permanent residency in the United States  will pass. One of them was introduced by Rep. Carlos Curbelo, (R ) of Florida.

    If the bills don’t pass, immigration attorney Renee Pobjecky said there are  a few  options for Haitian TPS holders wanting to remain in the United States legally. 

     They could enroll in college and apply for a student visa or have an American family member sponsor them.

    "If you're married to a US citizen or the son or daughter under 21 or the parent of a US citizen then you may be able to adjust your status to permanent lawful status in the United States. So again there are different situations,” said Renee Pobjecky.

    She recommends those affected seek the advice of an attorney.

    “I am very concerned. I’ve had several clients come to my office who’ve gone to non-lawyers. They have been the victims of scams. Petitions were incorrectly filed. They were ultimately denied, sometimes losing years. For example, if you are a US citizen sponsoring a brother or sister, the waiting time is 13 years. So if that petition was filed several years ago, you don’t act timely on it, you may lose all that time that was pending and to start over is going to be an extreme delay,” Pobjecky said.

    She said people who can't afford a lawyer should seek out charitable organizations like Catholic Charities for reduced or free help.

    Like many of the other 32,000 Haitian TPS holders in Florida, Silorent is praying things will change and he won't be forced to leave in 2019.


  • 02 Nov 2017 3:12 PM | TB OWIT (Administrator)



    That was fun!” was overheard by a guest leaving the 2017 TBOWIT Annual Awards Dinner held this past October 26th at the Tampa Yacht Club. It was quite the evening! TBOWIT stands on three pillars: networking, education, and scholarship and all three were touched at this wonderful gathering. Emcee, TBOWIT President, Christyna Doege, led the program, which included the following (in order of appearance)

    • Watching a Brazilian fashion exhibition put on by Patricia Lacognata, Couture Trading Co.
    •  Listening to an enlightening panel discussion with three immigrants to the U.S. all leaders in their field: Patricia Lacognata, Couture Trading; Martha Arellano, Bank of America, Haim Goldenberg, Cyber Car Store - Moderated by Olga Pina, TBOWIT immediate past president
    • Surprising Olga Pina with a 20-year TBOWIT service award (!)
    • Happily awarding scholarships to two deserving students who are going far
        Undergrad:  Isabelle Eugene, USF
        Graduate:   Winnie Mulamba, USF
    • Listening to Alexandra Reichert, graduate of Academy of Holy Names and soon Dartmouth as she explained how she used her scholarship to work with underserved women in Ecuador.
    • The Highlight of the evening – awarding the International Person of the Year to Honorable Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey who had an awesome acceptance speech!

    Thank you to all of our sponsors!












  • 04 Oct 2017 2:15 PM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

      How long have you been a member of TBOWIT?
      Almost one Year

       What drew you to TBOWIT?
    I feel that International careers are very unique and dynamic and it is always good to network to see how others handle challenges in our areas as well as to assist with staying up to date with changes.   Not to mention, it’s good to know people who understand what you do as so few outside of our industry have knowledge of all of the intricacies we deal with daily.

    What do you do for work? What does it involve?
    Intl. Trade compliance for a pharma organization. 
      This is a very broad responsibility in my company; everything from transactional review for imports and exports, to policies and procedures, export sanctions, Foreign Trade Zones, agent management, auditing,  FDA import regulatory and other government agencies.   

    Where did you grow up?
     I grew up in Minneapolis – those who know me can hear my accent which is still there after many years of living in Florida.

    Give us one fun fact that we might not know about you 
      I love going to hard rock festivals and jumping up and down in the pit!   I guess I need to blow off steam after spending my work day  around process, procedures and regulation. :)

    Did you have any mentors in your life?
     I have many mentors both personal and professional.  My husband, who owns his own business, is a great sounding board for ideas on process; I have a friend who spent many years in law enforcement and is great for ideas on transferring regulation into procedures.   Within my company, I never hesitate to reach out for advice in all areas and levels.          

    Who inspires you?
    My parents have always inspired me to work hard, be fair and give my best to those around me. They have always been great examples to follow.  (And they try to keep me “Minnesota nice” – that’s a struggle, but we all keep trying!)

    What’s one piece of advice for women entering international business or work in general?
      In dealing with many individuals, try to seek knowledge of their wants and needs, approach all individuals as a partner, but always keep your integrity intact and be calm, open to change and others’ ideas and never burn a bridge – no matter what occurs. 


  • 30 Aug 2017 3:53 PM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    Find the link to Kim's presentation here - Past Events & Summaries 

  • 25 Jul 2017 11:32 AM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    Meet Your Fellow TBOWIT Member!
    Holly Herman
    , Bloomin' Brands


    -How long have you been a member of TBOWIT?   
     I joined TBOWIT in the Fall of 2015.

    -What drew you to the club?
    When I relocated to the Tampa Bay area, I wanted to expand my network with a women's group that shared similar interests and backgrounds.

    -What does your job involve? What do you do? 
     I work for Bloomin Brands Inc. as a Senior Accountant on the International team. My role involves partnering with local teams in our international equity markets regarding the monthly and quarterly financial reporting. In my professional experience, I've been able to learn about the business practices and cultures in Japan, Brazil, Canada and many countries in Europe through
    financial and operational support roles.

    -Where did you grow up? 
    I grew up in a suburb north of St. Paul, Minnesota.

    -Give us one fun fact that we might not know about you.
      I am training for my first marathon this January.

    -Did you have any mentors in your life? 
    Early on in my career, I had a manager that was a great mentor and leadership example. I also have a supportive network of professional women in different fields that are great thought partners for career advice.

    -What’s one piece of advice for women entering international business or work in general? 
     Don't be afraid to take on stretch assignments to learn something out of your area of expertise. You never know when you may use that knowledge or skill in a future role. 


  • 25 Jul 2017 8:00 AM | TB OWIT (Administrator)


    Have you ever heard of Buccaneer Beads?

    I hadn't until this past year, when my company was on the hunt to purchase custom Gasparilla beads. I met the owner, Jen Amato, and learned about this hidden gem in our city. I don't want to give away to much scuttle because we should invite Jen to speak about her successful bead business and her launch into importing direct from China.

    This past July 15th, I along with TBOWIT member, Laurel Evans, XPO Logistics, were on hand to see Jen's first direct-from-China container come off the boat at Port Tampa Bay. Of course, there was mischief as Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla was on hand trying to steal some of that bead booty.    Pirates, Beads, Oh My! It was a argh-full day!   - Christyna Doege, TBOWIT President


      Here's a link to the video & slideshow   Video   Slide Show





  • 18 May 2017 3:20 PM | TB OWIT (Administrator)









      Marli Budricks

      Buyer/Logistics Manager


    How long have you been a member of TBOWIT?

    I just joined TBOWIT in March 2017!



    What drew you to the club?

    A TBOWIT member first told me about the organization, and it sounded like a great place to learn more about international business and trade. I’m pretty new to this industry and you don’t know what you don’t know – and there’s a lot I don’t know. The opportunity to learn from strong women with different experiences is something I look forward to.


    What does your job involve? What do you do?

    I am currently the buyer and logistics manager for Valor Fitness. We manufacture, import and distribute fitness equipment to customers across the USA and Canada. My job is to make sure we have inventory – from analyzing information for purchasing decisions - to making sure the containers are received successfully at our warehouses.

    Where did you grow up?


    I grew up in Mossel Bay. It’s a small town on the south coast of South Africa. I had an incredible childhood and was very blessed to grow up in such a beautiful country and town. I am also fortunate to have immigrated with my family after high school and love being a US citizen now. This is the country of opportunity after all!

    Give us one fun fact that we might not know about you

    I was an EMT and Firefighter for several years and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from Flagler College.


    Did you have any mentors in your life?

    Yes! Certainly too many to name. From a Chief with the Fire Department to my current employer – each one has had a major impact on my life and taught me so much! I can’t say I’ve ever had a job or boss I didn’t love.

    Who inspires you?


    My mom. She is the strongest, most compassionate, hardest working, best person I know. I could go on forever about how incredible she is.

    What’s one piece of advice for women entering international business or work in general?

    Allow yourself to get uncomfortable. Sometimes the best growth and opportunities comes from being outside your comfort zone.


    Marli Budricks  Buyer/Logistics Manager

    “Find Your    Personal    


       Valor Fitness

       10351 72nd Street

        Seminole, FL 33777






  • 18 May 2017 2:43 PM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    Congratulations to TBOWIT member Selma Canas who won the SBDC Regional Employee of the Year Award announced at the Networks Annual Conference. Here is the blurb from the Florida SBDC at USF website.


    Selma Canas Employee of the Year 

    Selma Canas, CGBP, is the Florida SBDC at USF International Trade Specialist. In 2016,

    Selma worked very diligently every week, every month, every quarter to ensure that she would meet all of her goals, Eileen Rodriguez, Regional Director of the Florida SBDC at USF, said. She has been a dedicated member of the Florida SBDC Network team for seven years; three at University of North Florida and four at University of South Florida. She continuously worked with her stakeholders, Enterprise Florida and the Department of Commerce, to create a significant pipeline of clients in 2016. She had a backlog of Export Marketing Plan (EMP) clients in 2016. In order to better service her clients, she has enlisted her peers throughout the Florida SBDC Network to assist her in preparing and delivering EMPs in the USF region. Her EMP reports garnered $30,000 in program income in 2016.

    In 2016, Canas participated on the Tampa Bay Export Alliance trade mission to the Dominican Republic. She worked closely with the Tampa Bay Export Alliance promoting the event and ensuring that her clients took full advantage of the trade mission. Thanks to her efforts, 11 of the 19 companies traveling on this mission were Florida SBDC at USF clients. 


  • 08 May 2017 2:55 PM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    Congratulations Selma on being selected for the Debbie Lewis Show!


    The Debbie Lewis Show: Selma Canas

    International trade specialist, Selma Canas, helps new-to-export small business owners who are interested in expanding their market overseas. Listen in for some tips on establishing new markets with exports. Canas, based at the Florida SBDC at USF Tampa office, discusses how she assists clients who are interested in expanding overseas, but not sure how to get started, via Export Marketing Plans.
  • 24 Feb 2017 1:09 PM | TB OWIT (Administrator)
    The Tampa Bay OWIT nominated a new Board President - Christyna Doege.  Christyna has been a long time member of the chapter and was also our 2016 International Woman of the Year! We are delighted to have Christyna on board.

    Below is a letter from Christyna..

    Dear TBOWIT Members & Friends,

    I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself as your 2017 TBOWIT President.  My name is Christyna Doege and when I’m not at TBOWIT, I am representing the Marketing & Business Development department at Port Tampa Bay. TBOWIT has some exciting events coming up this year.  However, before I tell you about those events, I first want to ask you:   Do you know what I like about the Tampa Bay Organization of Women in International Trade, TBOWIT?

    • ·         It’s business with an international flavor. One doesn’t have to be steeped in international business, trade, or policy to benefit. From my years involved with TBOWIT, I’ve come away from every luncheon and gala with new nuggets of information on best practices and with the feeling that I learned something that is useful in my everyday life.
    • ·         We are proud of the fact that we award two scholarships every year to university students embarking on an international experience.
    • ·         And, of course, we have to mention the networking. TBOWIT members encompass a wide range of business, services, and products. I have built some great relationships through TBOWIT. 
    • How about you? What pulls you towards TBOWIT?

    Whether you are a regular attendee or you haven’t checked out TBOWIT in a while, we have some exciting events coming in 2017. This February is our kick-off luncheon featuring Challenges and Opportunities in International Construction and Design Project with Alba Rodriguez of Skanska USA Building. We are working on a March luncheon, so keep an eye out for it as it will address some timely topics on tariff and trade issues. Back by popular demand, we will once again host a “wines of the world” tasting event to be held in April. In May, TBOWIT is partnering with EXIM Bank to host the EXIM Symposium: Export Essentials.  This coming September, TBOWIT will participate in a joint event with OWIT South Florida, and OWIT Nairobi - TBOWIT is just one chapter of a global organization!  Plus, our TBOWIT Gala to be held towards the end of October 2017. It’s going to be a fun, full year!  Keep informed by visiting our website at

    Pulling off a great year of informative and supportive events is the work of a team. The TBOWIT Board is a great team and I want to thank the TBOWIT Board for their support and wisdom. I also want to thank our wonderful members. Without you, faithful member, we could not invest in the next generation with our TBOWIT scholarships or find such wonderful speakers. Thank you TBOWIT Members!

    I look forward to an exciting year,

    Kind Regards,

    Christyna Doege
    TBOWIT President 2017 

Address: PO Box 75688, Tampa, FL 33675


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