Advice from some of the city’s brightest entrepreneurs.
By Salomé Gómez-Upegui Photos by Adrian O’Farrill
Over the past decade, Tampa has steadily become a fast-growing city, attracting entrepreneurs and business owners from all over the country. In 2021, for instance, LinkedIn deemed Tampa Bay one of the nation’s fastest-growing metropolitan areas for entrepreneurs, and women have had an essential role in developing the city’s thriving economy.
According to the US Census Bureau, 21% of businesses in Tampa are owned by women. And, in 2022 alone, these companies produced around 5 billion in revenue and employed over 85,000 workers in the area, which goes to show the power and importance of female founders in the city.
What’s more, female business owners who succeed pave the way for others who are inevitably encouraged to follow in their example and pursue their own dreams. On that note, here is a look at women-owned businesses thriving in Water Street Tampa, inspiring an entire community in the process.
Kristy Craig Anderson, who co-owns Dwell Home Market with Jeff Kale, has been in the area for almost 20 years. Theirs is a unique concept store that seeks to bring ease and joy into furniture shopping with a remarkable selection of pieces sourced from all over the world.
“Tampa has flourished over the past decade,” says Anderson. “We’ve seen a lot more diversity in general, and the majority of small business owners that I know are women, so it’s been really exciting to see Tampa step up to the plate.”
A one-minute walk from Dwell Home Market, there’s Predalina, a Mediterranean restaurant featuring a stunning dining room, two patios, and a bar, while also offering in-house retail and hand-crafted wares.
Owned by Blake Casper and Allison Adams, the duo at the helm of Tampa-based hospitality company Oxford Commons, this chic eatery is an homage to their great-grandmother, Predeliana Oliviera, who lived 101 years by the sea and led a life deeply influenced by coastal communities. A unique place for Tampa Bay residents to create memories, this restaurant is a perfect example of the many ways a woman’s life can inspire those around her.
Adams believes those who are looking to start a business, but don’t know where to begin should “go to speaking engagements, coffees, networking groups, even exercise classes—introduce yourself and make friends,” she says. “And then when you’ve made it, give back to those starting at their beginning, give back by being someone else’s support.”
Swigamajig is the latest endeavor of chef Jeannie Pierola, a trailblazing restauranteur with a rich Cuban and Spanish heritage that often makes its way into her widely acclaimed dishes. Over the course of her successful career, Pierola has been selected as a semifinalist for the prestigious James Beard Award five times.
Adored by locals, Pierola spent a decade as the executive chef at Tampa’s beloved Bern’s Steak House and its sister restaurant SideBern’s, before starting Edison: Food+Drink Lab in 2012. Edison’s Swigamajig is a spinoff of her celebrated restaurant, described as a “fish kitchen for modern swigs and seafood bites—a no-frills Channelside container shanty that’s all about cocktails and the catch.”
A stone’s throw from Swigamajig, there’s Jeni’s Ice Creams, a popular ice cream spot with more than 80 shops and distributors across the country. Started by Jeni Britton more than 20 years ago in Columbus, Ohio, a curious Britton, at 22, added cayenne pepper to chocolate ice cream to see what it would taste like, and never looked back. She decided right then and there to devote her life to making ice cream.
Today, Jeni’s thriving company is known for carrying one-of-a-kind flavors inspired by unexpected pop culture, historical, and artistic references, and made with fair trade ingredients, including fresh milk sourced from family-owned dairy farms.
A unique destination for one-of-a-kind fashion pieces and gifts as well as a flower bar, Joyful Notion was founded by Tampa local Crystal Johnsen.
Going the extra mile for her beloved customers, Johnsen offers a wide range of tricks on Instagram, showcasing creative ways to wear many of the garments on sale at her boutique, tips to build capsule wardrobes, and even ideas to create showstopping concert outfits.
Founded by husband-and-wife duo Ben and Lisa Prakobkit, The Modern Paws is a fun and friendly pet store with a mission to “raise awareness about the importance of pet health and nutrition in the community” by offering products, foods, and treats that promote a healthy lifestyle for pets.
“Tampa is phenomenal for small businesses,” says Lisa. In particular, she recalls getting help from the Small Business Development Center in Tampa Bay when she first started in 2015 as an e-commerce business that operated from their apartment. “They have a lot of valuable resources, no-cost consultations, and they really help you get started,” she explains.
Lisa believes reaching out to the community for help and advice is a great tool budding business owners should always consider. “If you’re serious about your dream, it’s really important to reach out to others who have already gone through it and are willing to offer advice.”
Co-owned and run by locals Alicia Whitis and Erin Greco, BodyRok is a unique fitness studio that offers hybrid pilates classes that can be customized to fit a wide range of workout needs.
Featuring both group classes and private sessions, BodyRok seeks to bring wellness to the Tampa Bay community with forty-five-minute sessions that combine high-tech pilates reformer machines, music, and colored lights to provide a workout experience that’s both entertaining and effective. Hoping to engage with the local community beyond their studio, the duo behind BodyRok also offers mat pilates outdoor classes at Sparkman Wharf once a month.
Founded by Danna Haydar, Battery is a waterfront restaurant and bar focusing on fine bourbon, great wine, and delicious food. A serial entrepreneur based in Tampa, Haydar is also the owner of C House, a restaurant in Seminole Heights. And she’s currently in the process of launching Pyper Malone, a high-end line of hats set to be available later this year.
Reflecting on the best recommendation she can offer someone starting a business, Haydar says “Sometimes, when you think about launching a business, it feels very overwhelming, so my advice is one of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther King Jr.: ‘You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.’”