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  • 05 Jun 2019 1:23 PM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    How long have you been a member of TBOWIT?

    I’ve been a member for the past year.

    What drew you to TBOWIT?

    After launching my business, I wanted to participate with the bi-national chambers - but there are so many! When I learned about TBOWIT, I knew it would be a good place to become more engaged with Tampa Bay’s international business community. I’m so happy to have the opportunity to continue to learn from the wealth of experience of our many members.


    What do you do for work? What does it involve?

    My business is Accord Protocol, and I’m a certified Intercultural Protocol and Business Etiquette trainer. I do seminars and workshops for business people, organizations and students in Business Etiquette/Soft Skills and Intercultural Protocol and Etiquette. It involves finding out the specific needs of each business or group and tailoring a seminar or workshop for them. If it’s an international project, there is always research involved in getting all the right information for that particular country or region.   


    Where did you grow up?

    I grew up in Detroit, Michigan. I moved to St. Petersburg halfway through high school when my dad’s company offered him a position in Florida.


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

    One of my favorite pastimes is Latin dance and salsa.  A friend got me interested several years ago, and I was hooked right away! The music just drew me in. I don’t have much time for it these days, but once in a while I get out with friends for a night of dancing.


    Did you have any mentors in your life?

    My mother was my first teacher when it came to etiquette.  My parents raised six children and it wasn’t easy, I’m sure, but my mom did a good job of teaching us all to be well-behaved and well-spoken. Thanks to her, I feel like the business etiquette side of things comes more naturally than it might otherwise.  


    Who inspires you?

    My friend, Rose Marie - when I moved to Florida in high school, she became one of my first friends. Rose Marie was born in Chile, raised in France and the U.S. and spoke English, French, Spanish and a little Portuguese.  I was already studying French and very interested in foreign languages and we became good friends right away. She went on to marry a man from Switzerland, moved to Zurich and learned Swiss German. We’re still best friends. The last time I saw her was at her home in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. When we first met, she was the most international person I knew, and has always inspired me in the way she can switch languages on a dime.


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

    Be yourself and be genuine, always. Universally, when people sense that you’re being genuine, it builds a sense of ease and trust. It will work in your favor no matter where you go.

  • 27 Feb 2019 11:03 AM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    To find past TBOWIT Webinars log into the Members-Only section.


    Guests can access all of these webinars too by becoming a member at the low price of $60.00. Can't beat that price anywhere else in Tampa Bay!  

  • 27 Feb 2019 10:54 AM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    Meet Vanessa Zabala, a member of OWIT International's Virtual Chapter.  Did you know that we had a virtual chapter?  We do!

    Vanessa is also the chair of OWITCon Tampa Bay and is on the lookout for speakers and topic ideas. You can email her at  zabalavane@gmail.com


    • How long have you been a member of OWIT Int'l? 

    I have been an "official" member of  OWIT since the end of the previous international conference in Kenya. 

    • What drew you to OWIT?

    I found OWIT when I was looking for women's organizations in the state of Florida in order to encourage them to invite accredited women to a conference my company was putting together in order to teach them what it takes to become an angel investor. Currently, about 94% of angel investors in Florida are male and women entrepreneurs receive less than 2% of that funding. In a pursuit to change those statistics, I called Jennifer Diaz to learn more about OWIT and our ability to partner for this cause. As we learned more about each other and shared my background in innovation tools, she invited me to be a speaker at the Nairobi international conference, so I went!

    • What do you do for work? What does it involve?

    For work, I wear three main hats. 

    1) Director of Impact Development for the Orlando Economic Partnership. I help set the culture and practice of intrapreneurship and design programs for the community to learn innovation tools for themselves and companies. 

    2) Adjunct Professor at the University of Central Florida. I am currently teaching technological entrepreneurship to graduate students and also teach/ have taught social entrepreneurship.  

    • Where did you grow up?

    I was born in Venezuela and moved to Miami when I was 8 years old. So I mainly grew up in Miami.  

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

    I used to be a clown when I was in high school. 

    • Did you have any mentors in your life?

    Many! and they are the reason I am where I am. Beginning with my parents, to teachers, and moved on to bosses and worked up the courage to start asking speakers at conferences and events I went to. It has been the thing that has taught me the most about managing work and life EQ. 

    • Who inspires you?

    People who never give up and fight the good fight. One of the people that inspires me the most is Temi. She was my maid when I was in Venezuela and due to her inability to get an education, she did not become a business leader. She has the natural knack for it but because she was born into a family with few resources and in need of every family member to work, she was unable to get an education. 

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

     Ask for advise and guidance. No one person knows everything and no one builds an empire by themselves. 


  • 30 Oct 2018 11:35 AM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    Rachel is an experienced business attorney with a strong background in corporate and intellectual property matters. Rachel began her career in New York City working for two international law firms. Most recently, Rachel was a Partner at the Tampa law firm of Hill Ward Henderson, where she served as a trusted advisor to a multitude of private equity, venture capital and other strategic investors, as well as to companies of all sizes, stages and industries. The most rewarding aspect of Rachel’s career as an attorney was the opportunity to advise her clients with respect to their strategic direction and broader business goals.

    An alum of the Young Judaea movement, Rachel developed an affinity for Israel from a young age. Rachel had an opportunity to live in Israel during a semester spent studying at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She has also been active in the local Jewish community for most of her childhood and as an adult, since moving back to Tampa nearly 10 years ago.

    Rachel is also a proven leader, having served in high-level positions for local nonprofits, on government committees and for local and national bar associations. Most recently, Rachel served as President of Tampa’s Gasparilla International Film Festival. A Tampa native who has also worked in other major cities, Rachel brings a unique perspective, deep local ties and a passion for supporting and improving her hometown.

    Rachel attended the University of Florida where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. She earned her Juris Doctor, cum laude, from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University in New York City. 


    A quote from her colleagues that was read at the Annual Awards Dinner

    "What impresses me the most about Rachel is her unwavering drive and passion for making FIBA successful.  She is constantly moving in many directions, but all of them are singularly focused on helping FIBA to take the next step forward.  She is masterful at making connections and opening doors for our companies from Israel to do business here in the Tampa Bay area.  Her to-do list is always long, but Rachel always takes things in stride and keeps things in perspective.  Her true pride is her family – who we get to see from time to time as her two little boys love to sneak into our office to grab a snack on their way to play basketball or swim lessons at the JCC. "


  • 25 Sep 2018 3:37 PM | TB OWIT (Administrator)


    · What drew you to TBOWIT? 
     Upon recently returning to the Tampa Bay area after spending time abroad, I wanted to connect with leaders in the international trade field. Fortunately, while working with Devon Barnett, she made me aware of this amazing group of hardworking professionals and the role international trade plays in the region.

    ·   What do you do for work?
      I am the new International Business Coordinator for the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation. A majority of my role is coordinating the trade missions for Global Tampa Bay – the regional collaboration between Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas county. For both the Tampa EDC and Global Tampa Bay, I work to help local Tampa Bay companies in exporting to foreign markets through consultations, connections, and export sales missions. On another front, I work to promote the region to foreign companies interested in investing in the Tampa Bay area through FDI missions and consultations.

    ·  Where did you grow up?
     I grew up in Maryland, north of Baltimore City.

    ·  Give us one fun fact that we might not know about you
     I love to hike and once hiked Colca Canyon (one of the deepest in the world) in an earthquake.

    ·  What’s one piece of advice for women entering international business or work in general?
    As a recent graduate, my advice is to never get discouraged when entering the business world as there is still so much to learn! Ask as many questions as you can because you never know where one conversation may lead to. The international business sector provides such incredible opportunities, so make the most of whatever events or engagements you may find.

  • 07 Aug 2018 8:42 AM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    Meet your fellow TBOWIT Member!


    Carol G. Rodriguez Calderon 
    Záväzok Marketing, Packaging & Brand Consultants, LLC
    Záväzok Group, LLC


    She lives inspired with an unlimited passion to produce impact changes as a blessing channel engaged in the utmost growth of each individual, entrepreneur, company, country, economy and society; through trust, respect, faith, integrity, ability, competence, character, intent, and results.

    For Carol G. Rodriguez, the founder and CEO of Záväzok Group, LLC; Záväzok Marketing, Packaging & Brand Consultants, LLC; and Záväzok Ecclesia, there is only one word that best describes her MOTTO: ZÁVÄZOK, that means Commitment.

    Carol G. Rodriguez is a proactive, forward thinking business professional with a solid background with over 20 years in operations, manufacturing, distribution, e-commerce, marketing, traditional and digital advertising campaigns, promotional activities, fund-raising, client relations, social services, human and fiscal resources. Carol is a planner and negotiator, brand consultant, business developer and operational streamlining with a solid record of achievement developing product, packaging design, brand and service awareness, marketing strategies, image and strengthening market position.

    Carol was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico and is pursuing doctorate in Business Administration and has master’s in Global Management, master’s in Marketing and bachelor’s in Advertising. Carol is also a Certified Chaplain. She served as advisor, speaker and board of director member for Professional Organizations, Associations and Brotherhood of Chaplains, among others. Carol has been recognized by important business magazines, newspapers and chambers; and has earned the respect and admiration mainly in the food industry for its dedication, professionalism and results.


    As part of Carol's growth, she worked in a Bakery, a clothing store, the movie theater and at credit card companies to pay her way through college. While studying for one of her master’s degrees, she worked as a receptionist in an advertising agency. An encounter that some people may have seen as a setback spurred Carol’s career drive even further. “Once, while I was working as a receptionist, I told a businessman about my desire to become an entrepreneur of an important company and he made fun of me. In the beginning, of course, I felt bad, but then I said to myself that this comment would not stop me. On the contrary, it made me stronger!” she said.  

    As a women business owner looking to expand, diversify and grow their companies in US and Internationally, Carol became a member of TBOWIT more than a year ago to stay at the forefront of trade and technological developments, having the opportunity to be part of a collective forum to receive support education, to identify new mentors and build alliances with other organizations. For Carol chances of success in life and in business can be amplified by having the right mentors, reason why she has several, among them her parents and husband.

    As an advice for women entering international business or work in general, Carol share a quote that changed her interior at the time of accepting the challenge as an entrepreneur with international vision:   

    “A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action makes your dreams come true.” 



  • 27 Jun 2018 8:58 PM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    It's fun to get to know other OWIT Members!


    Meet Susan Baka, OWIT Toronto, and President, Bay Communications & Marketing



     How long have you been a member of OWIT?  1999 And, when did the Toronto chapter start? 1999


    What drew you to OWIT? I became fascinated with trade and the untapped opportunities for women after hearing about the first Canadian Businesswomen’s Trade Mission to Washington, DC, back in 1997 and was one of the founders of the first Canadian chapter of OWIT (in Toronto) to create an ongoing forum for women interested in expanding business beyond our borders. The like-minded women in the OWIT network continue to energize me and fuel my passion for global work. 


    What do you do for work? I have had my own communications and consulting business, Bay Communications & Marketing Inc., since 1991. What does it involve? In addition to content creation for corporations and governments targeting women business owners and small businesses, I serve as a Regional Representative for  the Trade Facilitation Office Canada (TFO Canada), which helps exporters in developing countries find buyers in Canada.  I am also a Senior Market Access Consultant for a company that acts on behalf of the Great Lakes St Lawrence Governors & Premiers; we provide trade facilitation services like market research, partner searches and in-country appointment setting for companies in five US states looking to export to Canada.


    Where did you grow up?  In a very small town (population about 1,000) in Canada in an area known for tobacco farming, would you believe?!


    Give us one fun fact that we might not know about you I was a tap dancer in my youth.


    Did you have any mentors in your life? Yes, my boss in my first full-time job (in publishing) pushed me to take on challenges that I wouldn’t have seized otherwise .


    Who inspires you? All the amazing women in OWIT from around the world whom I have had the privilege to meet over the years. Smart….savvy…accomplished…and plenty of fun!


    What’s one piece of advice for women entering international business or work in general? Build your contacts, contacts, contacts around the world through joining groups like OWIT and network to develop relationships that can lead to new business….and even to new friendships. There has never been a better time to be a woman in the global marketplace!


  • 22 Jun 2018 6:41 PM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    Congratulations to #TBOWIT member and Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey for being appointed to the National Trade Committee: Committee advises the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative!

  • 14 May 2018 7:19 PM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    TBOWIT Director Susie Hoeller of Hoeller Law Firm participates in the recent “Trade with Africa Business Summit 2018” with Princess Dr. Moradeun Ogunlana, CEO of African Women’s Health Project International; Denise Thomas of World Trade Center Arkansas; & Robin Smith, CEO of Next Phase Foundation in Bentonville, Arkansas on May 10 & 11, 2018

  • 08 May 2018 11:12 AM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    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!


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