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Members in the News

  • 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!


  • 07 Apr 2018 10:34 AM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    GroYourBIz is seeing a Tampa Chair 

       As info, OWIT International is a partner of GroYourBiz


    GroYourBiz is looking for women leaders who would be great GroYourBiz Chairs to facilitate peer-to-peer business advisory boards in Canada and the USA – ideally an entrepreneur with a passion for helping other women grow their businesses.

    The best thing about being a part of GroYourBiz is the community it creates for like-minded women entrepreneurs, whose skills, expertise, inspiration and energy are brought together under a professional Chair through MyBusinessMyBoard™ Advisory Board. GroYourBiz members are committed to seeing their business flourish and believe that “no one of us is as strong as all of us”.

    Here’s some guidelines we follow when considering GroYourBiz Chairs/Managing Directors: http://groyourbiz.com/membership-info/become-a-gyb-chair/

    Contact Barbara.Mowat@GroYourBiz.com for more information or to apply.


  • 14 Mar 2018 3:40 PM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    Meet fabulous fellow TBOWIT Member,  
    Renée Pobjecky, POBJECKY & POBJECKY, LLP!


    • How long have you been a member of TBOWIT?
        I have been a member for 3 years
    •  What drew you to TBOWIT?
       I met Christyna during a “cruise” through Tampa Bay with the Port Authority and the Winter Haven Chamber Leadership Class.  I was excited to learn that a group of international women exists in Tampa.  I enjoy meeting new professionals and learning from others.  TBOWIT has been a great resource and networking channel for me and my firm.
    • What do you do for work? What does it involve?
       I am an immigration attorney and I love my job.  Everyday I help individuals achieve the “American Dream,” by immigrating to the United States.  My clients include artists, athletes, and investors.  One of my favorite cases, involved dancers with the Alabama Ballet Company.  I was in awe of the sacrifices they make on a daily basis to maintain a top physique to dance professionally.  My practice has been busy with a recent surge in ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement) Raids.  The firm assists employers during crisis situations, such as an ICE Raid or Audit.  Additionally, we focus on providing preventative services to employers in an effort to reduce such risks.  Such services include the creation of clear protocols for E-verify compliance and Social Security No-Match letters
    • Where did you grow up?  
      I was born in Temple, Texas but moved to Polk County, Florida as a young girl since my mom was homesick.  I attended the University of Central Florida for my undergraduate degree, but returned to my Texas roots and attended Baylor Law School for my juris doctorate.
    • Give us one fun fact that we would not guess about you?
       I “surfed” down a volcano in Nicaragua.  
    • Did you have any mentors in your life?
       I would not survive as an immigration attorney without mentors.  I still have them. I am blessed that the American Immigration Lawyers Association has a Mentor Directory.  When I first started practicing immigration law, I relied on my mentor for a myriad of cases.  Not only did she help me, but she also helped my clients.  I am always learning, and a mentor is a valuable resource.
    • Who inspires you?
       Mother Teresa.  She was not afraid to venture into the slums to help the poor and sick.  Surprisingly, as a nun, she had business savvy and took on the task of creating, managing and growing her own religious order of nuns.  She had a hard time accepting “no” and she was not afraid to approach dignitaries for help and donations. Despite her fame, she remained humble.   
    • What’s one piece of advice for women entering international business or work in general?
       Always be receptive and open to opportunities and do not be afraid to choose a road less traveled.  Do not hesitate to connect with women in your industry, it only takes a phone call or an email.  If given the opportunity of a face-to-face meeting with a mentor, remember to listen.  Always send a hand-written thank you note after someone has donated their time and advice.  


  • 17 Feb 2018 6:57 PM | TB OWIT (Administrator)

    Hear from a fellow global member of OWIT, Violette Ruppanner, of

    OWIT Lake Geneva, Switzerland




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

    I became a member of OWIT (Lake Geneva chapter) in 2008. The chapter itself – then called Geneva Women in International Trade (GWIT) was founded in 2000.


    What drew you to OWIT?

    The previous year, I had returned from a 2-year stay in the USA (Michigan). Somebody had recommended OWIT to me, saying that that it was a good place to network and meet interesting people. It provided the perfect chance to me, both personally and professionally, to stay connected to the international community and keep up my English.


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

    I am a partner with Strategos SA, a boutique consulting firm based in the French speaking part of Switzerland, since 2011. I have both short term and long term projects. My expertise includes strategy development and deployment, project management, change facilitation and participatory leadership. Every client and project is unique. This implies that each time, I need to listen carefully to the client’s story and think about the challenges afresh. And at the end of the process, also propose real actions


    Where did you grow up?

    I grew up in a small town in Eastern (German speaking) Switzerland. We lived in an old house at the border of the town, close to fields and forests, which we loved to explore.


     Give us one fun fact that we would not guess about you

    I traveled abroad, flew in a plane and saw the sea – all in one single trip – for the first time when I was sixteen (to Crete, with my father). I must have caught the traveling virus then, because ever since, I spend my spare money traveling to places, both in Switzerland and abroad.


    Did you have any mentors in your life?

    Yes, different people accompanied me during different periods of my life, to whom I could reach out when I needed it.


    Who inspires you?

    Nelson Mandela, for his incredible leadership, resilience, humility and dignity


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

    Be clear & explicit about what you want and what not.  Don’t accept any bullshit, from anyone. Be perseverant.


  • 24 Jan 2018 1:45 PM | TB OWIT (Administrator)



    Dear TBOWIT Members,


      Another successful year is under the belt and we welcome in 2018!


    The TBOWIT Board continues to work hard to bring excellent programming that cannot be found anywhere else in the Tampa Bay region.  We kick off January lunch with the Honorable Marie Corbett, former Justice of the Ontario Supreme Court, with her presentation Social Justice and Sexual Harassment Issues Transcend National Borders, which we believe is a timely subject. 


    This year, we are going to amp up our networking events because we all know the invaluable merit of getting out and meeting folks both on a professional and personal level. This year, too, we are going to host more webinars. Everyone on the TBOWIT Board is a subject matter expert in her field. It is time we tap into this source and hear from them. The webinars will be free for members and I cannot wait to learn from these amazing women!


    The 2017 TBOWIT Annual Awards Dinner was a huge success thanks to our generous sponsors and to our members who attended! We are pleased to announce that because of your support we are going to increase the amounts of the scholarships that we award to our deserving undergrad and graduate recipients. Last year’s sponsors were: Gold - Pasco County Board of County Commissioners, Port Tampa Bay, Tampa International Airport;  Silver - Gregory, Sharer & Stuart CPA’s and Shutts LLP;  Bronze - America’s SBDC Florida, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Hoeller Law Firm, & Marine Towing of Tampa.


    We want you, the member, to find value in your membership. To this end, let us know your thoughts on programming or topics that you would like to hear, including webinar topics and speakers. Thank you for your membership. We could not do what we do without you. Tell your colleagues and friends as we want to grow and share. The more members, the more powerful the connections made.


    Here is the roster of your 2018 TBOWIT Board:

    President: Christyna Doege, Port Tampa Bay
    Immediate Past President - 
    Olga Pina, Shutts & Bowen
    Debbie Fallucca, Gregory, Sharer & Stuart, CPAs
    Ilana Goldenberg, Tampa International Airport
    VP of Scholarship:
    Susan "Susie" Hoeller, Hoeller Law Firm
    VP of Membership: Selma Canas, USF SBDC
    VP of Membership Strategy:
    Devon Barnett, Pasco EDC


    I look forward to seeing you in 2018 and learning together more about our world and the interesting people making business happen globally.


    Take care,

    Christyna Doege
    TBOWIT President 2018


  • 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!












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