More than 50 women sat around a circle inside the entrance hall of the St. Petersburg City Theater on Friday morning for a meeting with St. Pete Girl Pussy.
The networking group’s communications director, Taylor Adams, entered the circuit with microphone in hand, wearing pink earrings that read, “Screw it up. Let’s do it.” I started meeting.
She said of the group, “We are the largest, fastest growing, and most attractive female entrepreneurial group in the Tampa Bay area.” Women cheered around her.
The theater hall was a step away from The Crislip Cafe on Central Avenue where St Pete Girl Bosses began meeting nearly a year ago. The networking organization has transcended the space with the spread of word of mouth—women in business have been coming together to be cheerleaders for each other in their ventures.
The St. Pete Girl Bosses Facebook has grown to over 3,100 members since its launch. About 160 people are part of a paid membership program that debuted last summer. The group also launched their own podcast called “Bosscast” at the end of the year.
As they do every week, the St. Pete girls meet in the theater hall on Friday mornings to discuss a particular topic. In early December, they focused on the topics of using social media and other Internet tools. The meeting began with the leaders announcing their first passport to wellness, and members could sign up for access to nearly a dozen life coaches, energy readers, or psychics—all of them women.
Then they broke into smaller groups—which brought together women from a variety of industries, like real estate, coffee bean distribution, CBD retail, yoga, and more—to jot down advice on pink sticky notes. They shared their notes anonymously with a random person in the room. They went on to discuss their earnings for the week, what online tools helped them run their businesses and how chasing money can distract from their tasks.
While many women came to network, many members said they stayed because they found people who understood what they were dealing with. The group’s sense of community made it a safe place to make friends and get feedback on their work.
Founder Sandy Bean, 45, said she started the group after she went from being a teacher to owner of an academic enrichment center for gifted students — realizing she was missing out on community in the process.
While psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs prioritizes integrity and consistency, Bean said, new entrepreneurs usually flip the hierarchy to focus on self-fulfillment and sacrifice security in order to reach business goals. Having a community they can count on is key to rebuilding these safety nets, she said.
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Bean said she tried other networking groups but struggled to make real friends. I noticed that some women’s voices were not heard.
“Going to these networking groups, the women are so amazing. It’s very different when you’re in a mixed crowd. I’m not trying to throw guys under the bus or anything, but it’s completely different.”
So Bean invited five other women she already knew to meet at the coffee shop and created a Facebook group, choosing the name St. Pete Girl Bosses “ironically”. She was hoping 20 people would sign up. Within a few days, she said, there were a few hundred in the group, then a thousand. Now, there are women from Dunedin, Sarasota and even Lakeland who come to the meetings.
“We started running in-person workshops and volunteer events, and (St. Pete Girl Boss) quickly turned into a company that was not at all what I expected to happen so quickly,” said Bean.
As for Clara Clayton, a 57-year-old wellness coach, she said many of the networking groups she was part of were shut down during COVID-19 and never resumed.
At first, Clayton joined a Facebook group and started attending Zoom co-working sessions. Then I started going to happy hour events before joining the bigger weekly get-togethers.
The group helped her get new clients and also advice when she needed it. She enjoyed St Pete Girl Bosses so much that she became a brand ambassador for them.
“It’s not just about exchanging business cards. It’s about forming deep relationships.” Clayton said. “Passing cold threads, that’s not for me.”
Jennifer Schultz, of St. Pete Girl Bosses, said many local businesswomen struggle with a lack of education in business practices outside their area of expertise — in areas such as sales, marketing, or pricing their products — or access to investors and resources in the community. Vice President and owner of The Crislip and the gift shop attached to The Merchant Café.
“The magic of this group allows me to find people who are experts in areas that can help educate me and other women in areas that may not be our strong suit,” Schultz said. “I never want to be the smartest person in the room, 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 shops or book sessions with each other.
One health insurance agency told her small group that the high point of her week was that every appointment she had in the past seven days had been booked by a girl boss.
When Central Avenue’s home decor Canary gift shop Owner Allie Padin opened in November, and has credited the group for helping her connect with a commercial real estate agent, small business attorney, and general contractor—all of which helped expedite getting her business off the ground.
Schultz hosted a pop-up in her shop during the holiday season to support fellow flower arranger, The Roaming Petal.
Roaming Petal’s Erica Holland, 29, said the group helped her triple her network in a short period of time and opened up new opportunities for collaboration with other local businesses.
“I run my own business, it’s just me,” said Holland, 29. “Having a support system of other people to ask questions when I need bounce ideas or when you feel overwhelmed by the craziness of the whole entrepreneurial thing has been really helpful.”