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Influential Women of Tampa Bay

Influential Women of Tampa

Influential Women of Tampa Bay

March is Women’s History Month, and we decided to take the opportunity to interview some of the influential women we’ve worked with that are shaping Tampa Bay with their local businesses and/or career paths.

Influential Women of Tampa  Jen Azzarelli, Co-owner & Director of CAMP

CAMP is a premium, boutique fitness studio in South Tampa that has become a local favorite in fitness. They offer circuit, yoga, and indoor cycling classes in a fun, motivational atmosphere.

How does your current role align with your personal passions? How have those passions inspired your ideas and decisions at CAMP?
I think my current role aligns with my personal passion for living a healthy lifestyle and my professional passion for the hospitality industry. It’s united all of my experiences, both personally and professionally, to this point. I sort of feel like everything I’ve ever done has led me to CAMP. My experience at summer camp growing up, along with Jamie’s (CAMP’s other co-owner), inspired the brand. My experience in the hospitality industry, in both restaurants and events, has helped with the customer service and planning aspects. My experience as a mother has taught me that not everything is in my control. The list goes on…and Jamie brings a large list of her own. I think the coolest part of the business for us, is not only the connection that we’ve built with people in our community, but also the ability to continue to live a healthy lifestyle and work on our personal practice.

Are there any women/mentors in your life that have inspired you and motivated you to get to where you are currently?
Yes, most definitely! I went to college in Philadelphia to study Hotel and Restaurant Management. My dream was to own a restaurant, so when I went looking for my first big job, I knew I wanted to work for a successful female restauranteur. The restaurant industry is a male-dominated industry so there weren’t many to pick from, especially at the time. So I chose the top two female restaurateurs in Philadelphia and applied for a job at both restaurants. It just so happen that my interview, at Fork Restaurant, was with the owner and we had an instant connection. I chose the job she offered me, which was nothing like the job applied for, and have looked up to her every day since. She is an incredible example of female strength – she’s smart, hardworking, courageous, and not scared to speak up, make changes, and pivot, when necessary. I learned so much from her about the industry, but more importantly, I learned so much about being a leader… a female leader.  I feel so grateful to have been taken under her wing and to have had the experience of working for her.

As a woman shaping business and leadership in Tampa Bay, what accomplishments are you most proud of?
I am most proud to be a mom. It’s a really hard job and it’s not always a glorious one, but it has taught me so much about myself and just how strong I really am. Building Camp also feels like a massive accomplishment – and it feels a little compounded since I did it (and still do) with the added responsibility of being a mother. It’s not easy to balance it all…and I can’t say that I have it all figured out…but it’s part of the journey, and I think it’s part of what makes it such a big accomplishment. I’m proud of the business that Jamie and I built because we’ve put our heart and souls into it, I’m proud of our team, who brings their constant energy and dedication, for sharing  their talents and gifts with us, and I’m proud of our community for coming together to share their experiences with each other. There’s something so vulnerable and authentic about group fitness – the sweat, the energy, the love – sometimes you share a simple smile, sometimes a bad day, and sometimes something much larger. There’s just something so special about it.

What advice would you give to the next generation of women in business and leadership?
My favorite motto is, “whatever you are, be a good one.” And I like it so much because the truth is that you never know what’s around the corner, so you should always do your best because it could always open a door for something else…and even if it doesn’t, you will create a habit of doing things well, which will carry on with you through your career. So, my advice is to always follow your dreams, no matter how big or small…and to ALWAYS do your best.


Influential Women of Tampa  Brittany Ward, CEO & Founder of a Marketing Whisperer

A Marketing Whisperer is a marketing, branding, and advertising company that connects brands to consumers. They’re all about building relationships in the Tampa community. They specialize in creating, defining, and promoting the unique value of the companies they work with.

Are there any women/mentors in your life that have inspired you and motivated you to get to where you are currently?
My mother owned her business for over 15 years, and before that grew her clientele from nothing over and over again.  Watching her dedication and pride that her work brought made a lasting impression on me.  It also showed me very early that operating your own business was not always rainbows and butterflies.  She was always coming up with new ideas and reinventing her business to stay relevant.  She refused to fail and certainly instilled my “get-it-done” attitude.

As a woman shaping business and leadership in Tampa Bay, what accomplishments are you most proud of?
Well, first of all, I’m flattered you would consider what my agency is doing as shaping our community.  I genuinely feel so fortunate to have such a collaborative community of women in business in Tampa Bay.  I always feel like there is someone to answer a question or give guidance.

I am most excited about becoming known in our community as an industry expert in our field.  Being asked to speak at a five-thousand-person summit this year, among other workshops and panels has been humbling.  I’m so excited to see how this visibility will give us the chance to continue devoting more time to learning and staying on the cusp of the industry’s emerging trends.

What advice would you give to the next generation of women in business and leadership?
I would pass along the lessons and support that was shown to me, which is don’t just sit at the table: speak up!  I had some fantastic leaders that allowed me to be part of the conversations in business, most of which were far beyond my experience at the time.  But, I always found that my outsider’s perspective brought unique solutions rather than cycling through the list of mediocre “previously-used” ones.  Speak up, especially when you’re not sure if it’s the right thing to say.  And, you might just surprise yourself and those sitting next to you!

What’s the next step? Where are you going next, and what are you hoping to accomplish in your career?
This year I will be more focused than ever on developing our unique niche.  From the beginning, I didn’t want to be everything to everyone so I will continue to get deeper in the social and influencer marketing verticals.  Create Collabs, the social media influencer division of the agency will take precedent this year and launch a website dedicated solely to giving brands and influencers a place to connect for advertising and authentic content creation.

Most importantly, I’m focused on taking that niche and scaling it to hire more people, create more jobs, and help more businesses grow to their full brand potential.


Influential Women of Tampa  Theresa NeSmith, Owner of Theresa NeSmith Photography

Theresa NeSmith is a highly sought after South Tampa portrait artist specializing in headshots, branding, beauty, and families. She shares the stories of her clients with timeless portraits that embody the true essence of the people in front of her lens.

Are there any women/mentors in your life that have inspired you and motivated you to get to where you are currently?
My mom was my biggest fan and encourager. I lost her this year but feel her still cheering me on. She was such a hard worker and loved ALL people. She taught me how to not give up on my dreams and to love others unconditionally.  She also showed me how to be a great mom. I hope to give my kids the same love and devotion she gave to me.

As a woman shaping business and leadership in Tampa Bay, what accomplishments are you most proud of?
I was a very successful teacher before leaving education. I love that I can share my journey with other women encouraging them to make bold and brave decisions. I have recently started a networking group for women focused on sharing the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur and focused on empowering one another.

I also started a fundraiser “Redeeming Beauty”, for a local charity. The fundraiser celebrates and highlights local women in the Tampa Bay Area who have or are making strides in their industries.  A portrait of each women is displayed a long with their story. The 3rd annual exhibit will be in September.

What advice would you give to the next generation of women in business and leadership?
Be patient with your growth. Nos are not a sign that you are on the wrong path. If you feel passionate about your journey find ways to make things happen. Don’t give up. Also, focus on your why and help others a long the way!

What’s the next step? Where are you going next, and what are you hoping to accomplish in your career?
I want to be a master photographer. I have just started entering photography competitions.  I want to push myself as a creative while growing my business with more clients to serve.


Influential Women of Tampa  Norma Elizalde, Technology & Project Management Director of Ciccio Restaurant Group (CRG)

Ciccio Restaurant Group is a Tampa based restaurant management company that oversees some of your favorite restaurants like Ciccio’s, Green Lemon. Taco Dirty, Better Byrd, Fresh Kitchen, Daily Eats, and Sweet Soul throughout the state of FL.

Are there any women/mentors in your life that have inspired you and motivated you to get to where you are currently?
My mother and sisters have greatly influenced my drive to pursue what I love the most.  Cooking, traveling, and books have always been part of our conversations at home since I can remember.  Every time I go home to visit my family, the discussion after ‘how are you’ turns into food and places they have discovered and they would like me to try.

As a woman shaping business and leadership in Tampa Bay, what accomplishments are you most proud of?
I am most proud of paving the road for other women interested in restaurant technology, which is more than making sure your Point of Sale system and printers are working.  I am very proud to work in a company full of opportunities and where you can define and build your own career.

What advice would you give to the next generation of women in business and leadership?
Be yourself, take risks, don’t settle, travel and if you are too comfortable with what you are doing, it is time to move on.

What’s the next step? Where are you going next, and what are you hoping to accomplish in your career?
For the foreseeable future, I see myself leading CRG Technology to implementing food ordering new solutions.  I’ll also be working on a few dishes for our newer concepts and hope at least one makes it to the menu.  And what I hope to achieve the most is to live a balanced life, and that will be my son’s legacy.


Influential Women of Tampa  Ashley Gaughan, Owner of Ashley Gaughan Interiors

Ashley Gaughan Interiors is a Tampa Bay interior design company that specializes in designing spaces that portray the people who call it home. Ashley believes in a universal truth in design: although every home and family is unique, there is always a desire to come back to a safe haven, sanctuary, and time capsule of everyday memories, and she wants to create that for every client she works with.

How does your current role align with your personal passions? How have those passions inspired your ideas and decisions at Ashley Gaughan Interiors?
My passion is designing a space that perfectly reflects the people who get to call it home. I want all my clients to truly love their space and have it look great and work for them functionally. A lot of my clients at Ashley Gaughan Interiors, have families and I love being able to design their home that they aesthetically love and it also holds up to the demands of having kids, pets, etc.

As a woman shaping business and leadership in Tampa Bay, what accomplishments are you most proud of?
I’m proud that I look the leap three years ago to open my own design firm. Since starting Ashley Gaughan Interiors, I have had the pleasure of working with several clients that have in turn become great friends.

What advice would you give to the next generation of women in business and leadership?
To never give up. The hardest part (I feel) of being a women in business and also a mom to three kids is finding work-life balance. I’m grateful for the flexibility in my schedule to be able to work hard and pursue my career dreams while also being able to be there for my kids school events and take time off when they are sick.

What’s the next step? Where are you going next, and what are you hoping to accomplish in your career?
I’m hoping to keep partnering with builders and homeowners in Tampa Bay and throughout the US and Bahamas to create their dream home and environments. Long term goals would be to open up a studio and have an online shop curated of my favorite items.


Influential Women of Tampa  Jordan Winston, Design Director of Oxford Design Studio

Oxford Design Studio is a full service interior design firm based in Tampa, FL that has clients across the country. Jordan and her team create timeless, authentic environments that also tell stories about the memories and history of the space.

How does your current role align with your personal passions? How have those passions inspired your ideas and decisions at Oxford Design Studio?
I have always been passionate about serving other people and making sure their experience is what they envisioned. Whether it be a restaurant, a small retail space, or someone’s living room, a client is after a beautiful aesthetic, but I have found they they are really seeking an experience and I get to help create how that experience plays out.

There is such joy in designing a space that serves not only those who live or visit there, but also those who work there. It may sound silly, but I’m always asking myself, “does this layout accommodate servers and barkeeps in a busy restaurant, as much as the aesthetics please the diners?” “Will this laundry room design help a working parent with young kids make the most of their time at home?” As a designer, I get to serve others by sharing what I love to do most-creating thoughtful, approachable spaces that invite people in. I want people to know immediately that they are welcome.

Are there any women/mentors in your life that have inspired you and motivated you to get to where you are currently?
My mother. As CFO, she was able to run a successful company while also raising four children. In addition to her role at her company, she opened and operated three children’s boutiques. Her ability to manage her work life and mom life is motivating and inspiring. She never complained about achieving balance between the two. She simply did the work. I am inspired by her work ethic and her loyalty to family.

My grandmother was another inspiring leader. She went to work in order to buy herself a washing machine and retired as everyone’s favorite boss. She never forgot where she started and in treating everyone with value, she earned the respect of all her employees. She inspired those around her to work hard and keep their heads up, even when the job was difficult.  It is no surprise that my own mom followed in her footsteps.

As a woman shaping business and leadership in Tampa Bay, what accomplishments are you most proud of?
I am most proud of our team. We are a team of 5 women who are all passionate about being leaders in the design community. We all work hard to share and create good design because we feel that ultimately fosters pride in a community.

What advice would you give to the next generation of women in business and leadership?
Don’t focus on being a boss, focus on being a team player. We are in this together and women supporting women is the ultimate relay team.