More than 50 women sat in a circle inside St. Louis Church. A session of the St. Petersburg Theater was held in the entrance hall of the St. Petersburg City Theater on Friday morning. Mrs. Pete.
Taylor Adams, the network group’s director of communications, walked into the circle, microphone in hand, wearing a sign that said, “Fuck it. Fuck it. Let’s do it.” She kicked off the meeting.
“We’re the largest, fastest growing, sexiest entrepreneurial group for women in the Tampa Bay area,” she said of the group. The women around cheered.
The theater hall is a step up from The Crislip Cafe on Central Avenue, where the St. Pete Girl Bosses started meeting about a year ago. Along with the word of mouth came the growing size of networking groups — gatherings of women business owners to cheer each other on in their businesses.
St. The Pete Girl Bosses Facebook group has grown to over 3,100 members since its launch. About 160 people signed up for a paid membership program launched last summer. The group also launched its own podcast called “Bosscast” at the end of the year.
If they do this every week, St. The Pete Girl Bosses meet in the theater lobby on Friday mornings to discuss specific topics. In early December, they focused on themes of use of social media and other online tools. As the meeting kicked off, leaders advertised their first health passports, and members could buy nearly a dozen life coaches, energy readers or psychics—all of them women.
They then split into smaller groups—pairing women from different industries, such as real estate, coffee bean distribution, CBD retail, yoga, and more—to jot down suggestions on pink Post-it notes. They anonymously shared their notes with random people in the room. They then discuss profits for the week, which online tools help them run their businesses, and how chasing money distracts them.
While many women came to the social event, some members said they stayed because they found someone who understood what they were facing. The group’s sense of community makes it a safe space to make friends and get feedback on your work.
Founder Sandy Bean, 45, said she started the group after she transitioned from a teacher to the owner of an academic enhancement center for gifted students — realizing she was missing community in the process.
While psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs prioritizes security and alignment, new entrepreneurs often flip the pyramid to focus on self-actualization and sacrifice security to achieve business goals, says Bean. Having a community you can rely on is key to rebuilding those safety nets, she said.
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Bean said she tried other online groups, but had a hard time forming real friendships. She noticed that some women were not being heard.
“Go to these online groups, women, they’re very smart. But they can’t always talk,” Bean said. “It’s different when you’re in a mixed crowd. I’m not trying to throw men under the bus or anything, but it’s just different.”
So Bean invited five other women she knew to meet at a coffee shop, created a Facebook group, and chose the St. Pete lady boss “Sarcasm.” She expects about 20 people to sign up. A few days later, she said there were hundreds, then a thousand, in the group. Now, women from Dunedin, Sarasota and even Lakeland are coming to the conference.
“We started doing in-person workshops and volunteering, and (St. Pete Girl Bosses) turned into a business very quickly, not at all as fast as I expected,” Bean said.
For Clara Clayton, a 57-year-old health coach, she said many of the online groups she was involved in shut down during COVID-19 and never restarted.
At first, Clayton joined Facebook groups and started attending Zoom coworking meetings. Then she started attending happy hour events before moving on to larger weekly meetings.
The group helped her get new clients and provided advice when she needed it. She likes St. Pete Girl’s boss so much that she’s become their brand ambassador.
“It’s not just about exchanging business cards. It’s about building deep relationships,” says Clayton. “Passing off cold cues, that’s not for me.”
Many local women entrepreneurs struggle with a lack of education in business practices beyond their expertise — areas such as sales, marketing or product pricing — or lack of access to investors and community resources, said Jennifer Schultz of St. Louis. Vice President of Pete Girl Bosses and owner of The Crislip and The Merchant, a gift shop attached to the café.
“The magic of this group allowed me to find experts in other fields who could help educate me and other women in areas that might not be our strong suit,” Schultz said. “I never wanted to be the smartest person in the room. People, I want to meet other people who can help me learn and help other women learn.”
Many women also collaborate and visit each other’s stores or book meetings with each other.
A health insurance agent shared with her group that the high point of her week was when every one of her appointments for the past 7 days was booked by a lady boss.
When The Canary, a Center Street home improvement and gift shop, opened in November, owner Allie Padin credits the group for helping her connect with commercial real estate brokers, small business attorneys and general contractors — all of which helped her get the business off the ground quickly.
Schultz hosted a pop-up at her store during the holidays to support a “female boss” flower arrangement business, The Roaming Petal.
Erica Holland, 29, of Roaming Petal, said the group helped her triple her network in a short period of time and opened up new opportunities to partner with other local businesses.
Holland, 29, said: “I run my business by myself, just me. When I need to ruminate, or when you feel overwhelmed by how crazy it all is, there’s a support system of other people to ask questions. It’s really helpful.”