Influencers: Meet 8 local Black leaders you will want to know

The voices of many inspirational individuals who’ve used their courage to create, explore, and share their experiences, resound throughout the Tampa Bay Area. Through successes and failures, passions and beliefs, each has their own unique story that shaped who they are today. 

Those stories -- from neighbors, co-workers, group members, and even complete strangers -- can sometimes resonate with you enough to change your view of the world around you. All it takes to hear those stories is taking a moment to slow down in our fast-paced lives and simply listen. 

Below are some of those stories worth hearing, learning from, and sharing. The people highlighted are just a few of the Tampa Bay Area’s many Black leaders who let their voices be heard on a wide range of topics for the betterment and growth of the larger community. 

Nicholas Glover
Vice President, Government Affairs and Advocacy, Tampa Bay Chamber; serves on the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)’s Citizens Advisory Committee; Hillsborough County’s Citizen Advisory Committee; City of Tampa’s Citizens Budget Advisory Committee; Chairman of the Urban League of Hillsborough County; member of the Board of Directors for Metropolitan Ministries and Onbikes; a 2020 Tampa Bay Business Journal 40 under 40 award recipient; and a member of Leadership Tampa 2021, the 50th class

Working in his role for the Tampa Bay Chamber the past two years, Nicholas Glover Nicholas Glover, Tampa Bay Chamberleads public policy efforts on behalf of businesses in the region (Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas) blending work in government and commerce. 

“Marrying the two in this role has allowed me to leverage my experience in the private sector and community involvement,” Glover says. “I’m a systems thinker and am passionate about figuring out the sources of problems upstream and then building coalitions and partnership to find solutions.” 

A proud graduate of the College of Charleston in South Carolina, he received his bachelor’s degree in Political Science and got the chance to serve as President of the Student Government Association. Additionally, he completed Harvard Business School’s CORe program in Business Analytics, Economics for Managers, and Financial Accounting. 

His accomplishments on the legislative front include advocating for fully funding Tampa Bay Area hospitals, limiting civil liability related to COVID, protecting consumers against pandemic-related fraud, establishment of the Office of Minority Health and Health Equity, and more.
 
“Admittedly, I’m an impatient, mission-driven person. The progress I’ve had a hand in influencing is rewarding,” Glover says. “My passions aren’t just on display in my role at the Chamber; I’d like to think that I’m also a servant leader.” 

He also routinely gets the opportunity to bring in dignitaries and national leaders to showcase the region’s business community. 

Glover considers his family to be “the blueprint of general growth” within the history of our country’s promise and shortcomings on full display while he was growing up.
 
“I’ve watched my family members serve selflessly and indefatigably, and I’m eager to continue that legacy,” Glover says.
 
Participating in the NAACP’s Youth Entrepreneurial Institute helped shape him into who he is as he got the chance to interact and be inspired by business leaders who not only looked like him but molded what kind of person he wanted to become.
 
An example of adversity that stands out for Glover is what occurred during the Great Recession during 2008-2009 when many individuals on his team at NASDAQ were downsized.
 
“That was a major setback, but it became, for me, an opportunity in disguise,” Glover says. “I was able to decide in those difficult moments that instead of merely chasing the banner, I would figure out a new path to, yes, do well -- but to also do good.” 

As a creature of habit and introspective, Glover explains that he often measures his adherence to his focus on service, routinely asking himself, “Am I proud of the man I’ve become? Have I used the tools and talents that God has given me for the betterment of my community? Have I built a worthwhile and lasting legacy?” In the upcoming 10 years he hopes to continue to bring people together to solve problems, advocate for small businesses, and play a part in ensuring prosperity throughout every corner of our region.

Marcus Howard
CEO of the e-sports education startup MetArena; President of Tampa Association of Gaming, a nonprofit dedicated to growing the gaming industry and STEAM youth programs in the Tampa Bay region; coach of the Inclusion Lives Here Committee (Synapse)

Since he was 6 years old, Marcus Howard has been playing and building video Marcus Howard, MetArenagames. His interest started after he got Super Mario Bros 3 on Nintendo for Christmas. This began to inspire his interest in technology and by the time he was in 9th-grade, he started coding his own video game on his TI-83+ graphing calculator. He has now been working in the gaming industry for the past 10 years. 

Consulting with schools and other brands, he helps them understand that they have gamers within their group and shows them how to use video games to virtually engage their entire community.

In looking at the future, he’s hoping that sometime during this year or next year he will be working on his company, MetArena, full time; then three years down the line, he and his team are aiming to sell his company; and within five years, he’d like to get into angel investing. With angel investing, he hopes to create pathways for prosperity among communities of color, and within underrepresented groups in the gaming industry to help them get the funding they need to launch their businesses. 

In 2013, Howard and his twin brother, Malcolm, launched ProjectMQ to solve the largest problem in the global video game industry: game discovery. After five years, PayPal selected ProjectMQ out of over 20,000 applicants nationwide as the top digital service of their 2018 business contest. In 2019, he co-authored a book published by the University of South Florida, The Business of Esports, and during the same year, was a featured speaker on the “Tampa Bay and the eSports Industry” panel at USF’s Esports Summit, and on the “Level Two and Beyond: The Future of Esports” panel of Skillshot Media’s Esports Summit at the Georgia World Congress Center. 

With his new company, he and his brother partnered with Junior Achievement’s STEAM summer camp a couple of years ago, getting the opportunity to introduce a video game course in which they used video games to teach kids how to build games. This not only showed them how to code, but also how to start and run their own companies.

“Unfortunately, here in the U.S., less than 2% of Metra Capital goes to Black-owned businesses despite the fact that 83% of Black teams play video games here in the U.S. which is about 15% higher than every other racial demographic here. There’s a gross disparity between Black people as consumers of the gaming industry and Black people as producers and wealth generators in the industry and I want to fix that problem,” Howard says. “I’m driven to create the space that I wish I had when I started in this ecosystem so that there’s access to the resources, mentors, and support that other demographics have in this space.” 

In working toward this goal, this coming fall, his company will have a full launch of their platform, combining education and entertainment to make esports accessible to brands of all sizes. Separately, Howard also advises a number of startups from around the world, many of whom are underrepresented, leveraging the experience he has to create high value introductions for them and hopefully access to capital and partners.

Currently, he is working on building a “Gaming and Esports” digital course and publishing his second book, Innovate Gaming and Esports, in hopes of helping students and their parents/teachers understand and see that there are 100+ STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) career opportunities within the $174B video game industry. 

His uncle marched with Dr. King and did a lot of work in the Civil Rights Movement during the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. “A lot of his work inspires what I do today, and a lot of what my dad has done throughout his career inspires my work ethic,” Howard says. “That’s where I come from, a family of hard workers who put in a good day’s work and take pride in contributing to their communities. I honor my family as a whole.” 

He sees tremendous opportunity at the intersection of video games and education and wants to help education as a whole to be more relevant and effective for today’s students. He’s seen first-hand how much harder it is for individuals who are minorities to get funding.
 
“I’m very heavily focused in creating change in our local community, but I also recognize that lack of access exists everywhere,” Howard says. “It’s a lot to handle at once, it’s certainly not easy, but it’s important work and that’s why I do it.”

Fred Johnson 
Artist in Residence and Community Engagement Specialist at the Straz Center; founding member of the Transformational Leadership Council (TLC); Senior Fellow Artistic Director at Intersections International; owner of Voh’armics Global LLC; vocalist, author, painter, Sacra-Sonic Quantum Emanations Sound Healer

“Art has been an important part of my life for all of my life,’’ says Johnson. “I can’t Fred Johnson, Straz Centerremember a time where singing wasn’t important to me, where performance wasn’t important to me. It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a child.’’ 

“The other thing that’s always been important to me has been community because I was one of those children who, early on, had a troubled life,” Johnson continues. “I was in foster care in the early years of my life and, luckily at the age of 5, was adopted by two wonderful people, but, when you start your life out like that, you face some challenges. There were a lot of things about life that I didn’t necessarily understand and troubled me, growing up not really knowing where I came from.”
 
All of these challenges helped shut him down emotionally at a young age, he says. But music, theater, singing, and performing awakened his sense of self and empathy for others.

Through the arts, Johnson was able to connect and engage with all kinds of people he otherwise might never have met. Grateful for arts being a turning point for him, he works to give other kids the chance to find their passion while being a part of the community. 

“Creative expression and ambassadorship have been my way of engaging with the world to try to help to eliminate some of the ills and challenges, to manifest change in the world, and eliminate some of the discrimination that, as a human community, we create for ourselves,” Johnson says. He’s been in this line of work for the past 55 years and plans to continue on this path as long as he can.

In the wake of George Floyd’s death, the Straz Center has further pushed the value of inclusion, creating the I.D.E.A. (inclusion, diversity, equity, accessibility) initiative, which Johnson held a crucial role in creating. Though many individuals of color create art, there aren’t many who have the power of decision-making, he points out.
 
“When you look at some of the nuts and bolts of the engagement between the arts institutions and the community, there are some major gaps and challenges, but we like to look at it as some major opportunities to deepen our relationship, to create an opportunity for more people in the broader Tampa Bay community to really understand the contribution and the richness of the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) community,” Johnson says.
 
Those opportunities sparked the Straz Center to make a commitment to be sure to create more opportunities for Black and Brown members of the community into positions of decision-making.

I.D.E.A. outlines a 10-point action plan to fulfill their goal with their first step being to conduct learning sessions to implement an organizational learning plan enabling everyone to recognize the societal challenges of BIPOC (Blacks, Indigenous and People of Color), while rejecting white privilege in all of its forms. These 10 commitments have the power to change and take control over discrimination in the local community, creating a safe place for all individuals to express themselves. 

He’s also a full believer that art can heal. 

“[After the first COVID lockdown] people again realized that art and creativity is one of the most important things that can touch and transform our hearts,” Johnson says. “I believe that now the art community and the artists of the world have the tremendous opportunity to serve as catalysts to remind the human family of the richest elements of our humanity.”

Johnson has always used his talents to inspire and touch people’s lives, reminding them of all the joy around us.
 
“Being Black in America has colored my engagement in the world. At a very, very early age, my father said to me, ‘Look, life is going to be tough. Life is going to be a challenge for you. But you have to make it in spite of,” Johnson says. “I believe that I have a responsibility to articulate to people how ludicrous it is to discriminate against somebody, or to hate somebody, or to be fearful of somebody just because of the hue of their skin.”

Things can change if we truly just take the time to listen and to hold onto hope, he encourages. In addition to his work with the Straz Center, Johnson contributes to the community by sharing his story to raise awareness about racism in our world.
 
“It’s not about just what we choose to do, this is really a human question of how do we choose to be,” Johnson says.  

Visit the Straz Center website for more information about the I.D.E.A. initiative

Tavis Myrick
Executive Director of the Gentlemen’s Quest of Tampa Inc.; Program Director for A Bridge of Hope Teen Transition Center (BOH); professor at the University of Tampa

A native of Fort Pierce, FL, lifelong Educator Tavis Myrick earned his BA degree in Tavis Myrick, Gentlemen’s Quest of Tampa Inc.Sociology from the University of South Florida, his MA degree in Mathematics Education from the University of Tampa, and then went on to earn his Educational Specialist degree from Nova Southeastern University in Educational Leadership. 

“In the second grade, I had what they called a late bus, so when school was dismissed, my bus wouldn’t come until about 30-45 minutes after. So I would stay in my classroom with my teacher and she would teach me the math lesson for the next day,” Myrick says. “I would master the content with this one-on-one instruction and when the next day would come, she would literally sit at her desk during the math lesson and eat her lunch while I would actually present it, as a second grader, to my peers.” It was then that he knew in his heart that teaching was his passion. 

He started his career teaching at three different high schools in Hillsborough County and was later promoted to become an administrator in the local high schools.
 
“In 2018, I decided I wanted to impact a larger number of at-risk students from outside of the political walls of our education system,” Myrick says. He then launched his own nonprofit to help these at-risk children. As the Executive Director of the Gentlemen’s Quest of Tampa Inc., he formed a program for middle school and high school males in Hillsborough County who may be struggling to graduate high school. He works with students to help them see their true potential and all that they can accomplish by supporting and encouraging them to make the right decisions to get them on a path to success. This upcoming school year, Gentleman’s Quest is looking to add a STEM-based program (science, technology, engineering, math).

With his position at A Bridge of Hope Teen Transition Center (BOH), he provides services to foster care youth who aren’t participating in a traditional education setting by assisting them to successfully get back into it, allowing them to potentially achieve their high school diploma or GED while in the program. This may include those who are currently unenrolled, suspended, or expelled. 

“My ultimate goal is to be able to expose all students to careers and life pathways that help them to identify who they are becoming and who they’re supposed to be in their adult life,” Myrick says. “For me, it’s about the moment when you see a lightbulb go off in students’ heads because they’ve been struggling with something, and as a result of your influence, they finally get it.”

As an African-American, he’s able to serve those who may need someone who looks like them to show them what success is. In general, for some minority students, it can be hard for them to identify with the struggle or path of an individual who doesn’t look like them, causing them to put up this invisible wall because of their race, because of the pain and traumas they may have had to endure. Having these diverse teachers leading them inside their school can help those students make their matriculation process a little bit easier. 

“We teach integrity, we teach honesty, and we teach accountability to our youth so that they can recognize that it’s OK to make a mistake, but you have to be able to communicate what you did wrong and what you’re going to do in the future so that that doesn’t happen again. … Any program that I create, I create so that we can have a better future. I create so that kids have no excuse not to be successful. That’s what it’s all about,” Myrick says. “There’s a passage in the Bible that talks about how there are some people that plant seeds and there are some people that water seeds. You may not see the increase today, but the increase is going to come. That’s how I think about it … regardless of what I see in a kid, regardless of what trouble comes of how they respond to our influence. I just believe that we’re making a difference in their life and that our future is going to be brighter because of it.”

Natasha A. Pierre
Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)-Hillsborough affiliate (NAMI Peer-to-Peer Program Leader, Family-to-Family Program Leader, Connection Recovery Support Group Facilitator, Ending the Silence Program Leader, Smarts for Advocacy Program Leader, In Our Own Voice Program Leader, Homefront Program Leader). Serves on the Board of Trustees for First Unity Spiritual Campus in St. Petersburg; a faculty member of the Institute for Leadership and Lifelong Learning (iLLLi.org); Mental Health First Aid- Adult Certified; Certified Peer Mentor Coordinator; Self-advocacy Trainer; FL Broad of Education Work Readiness Trainer; Career Counseling Information Referral Trainer; Florida State Supported Employment Specialist; Professional Life and Career Coach; Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) Facilitator; Reiki Level II Practitioner 

Natasha A. Pierre globally shares the importance of self-awareness, self-advocacy, Natasha A. Pierre, National Alliance on Mental Illnesscommunity building, and effective legislation. 

An award-winning speaker, author (Provoking Thoughts Volume 1: 101 Inspirational Quotes for Daily Life), certified professional life coach, and mental health advocate with over 20 years of experience, she’s working on another book that will cover all things on grief, losing nine people herself in just two and a half years. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 2, post-traumatic stress, generalized anxiety, and EDNOS, she’s able to relate, empathize, and connect on a deeper level with everyone she works with. 

“This isn’t just work for me, this is my life. … I wanted to bring my passion, now that I’ve achieved some recovery that allows me to work,” Pierre says. “I understand how hopeless it can feel to not understand what’s happening with your body and mind, I understand not only societal stigma, but self-stigma, I understand how it feels to be hopeless, not from a textbook, but I understand it intimately.”

Pierre holds a degree in broadcast journalism and English and used to be a reporter, working in TV,  radio, and print, as well as pursuing modeling and acting, however, after her diagnosis, she realized her true passion was a completely different career path.

“The whole point is that a diagnosis is not a death sentence. It is very possible to live with a mental health diagnosis and still thrive, you don’t have to put all your hopes and dreams on the shelf just because you have a diagnosis,” Pierre says. 

Her social media DMs are always open to anyone who’s needing support. 

“The bottom line is I want people to live, I don’t care what it is [that they’re dealing with], I just want them to know that there is hope and if no one else on the planet can offer you hope, then I, a person who has been an inpatient for three and a half months, a person who has had a Baker Act, can,” Pierre says. “I once had a girl reach out to me on Instagram from Bulgaria after I posted a picture saying, ‘I just want to live,’ and she said, ‘I was about to take my life and I saw your post,’ and I said ‘that’s why I do it ...’ Our society needs brave faces and so I’m taking one for the team.” 

Born and raised in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, she’s a child of immigrants from Trinidad and Tobago. She didn’t grow up with race consciousness, not even knowing that she was considered ‘black’ until she came to the U.S. for college. She attended Duquesne University for her bachelor’s in mass communications and Cornell University for her Social Security Administration Work Incentives Practitioner credential. In addition to finishing her book, she’s looking to create a couple of online courses (adding to her current course called the Wellness Tool Kit) and continue public speaking.

“With all of the accolades, degrees, and certificates that I have, they’re great and I share them, I mention them, and I put letters behind my name for people who respect that and value that, but for me, that’s not what makes me proud,” Pierre says. “My greatest accomplishment is choosing to live and choosing to fight. I agreed with myself that I would do everything within my power to take back my mental health. That’s what makes me proud -- that I bet on myself.”

“What I’m proudest about for me and for my life is not what other people would say; it’s every time that I stepped away from a ledge, every time that I said, ‘I threw away pills,’ every time I didn’t drive over the side of a bridge, every time I went to a support group, every time I reached out for help,” Pierre says. 

“As a human you’re going to be tested, you’re going to go through things, whether you have cancer, a mental illness, whether you lost a baby, whatever it is, you’re going to go through human experiences and you can’t crumble because you’re going through it,” Pierre says. “I’ve done a lot in my life smiling. Every career that I’ve had, I’ve done very well and I’m always smiling, even in times when I’ve been in the most pain. I want people to be aware that a smile is not indicative of someone’s mental health, that sometimes after we ask how someone is doing, we should wait for the answer, and then wait for any other communication, body or social cues that may indicate that fine doesn’t mean fine. It’s also for people to know that it is possible to be in pain, in agony, to be grieving, to be hurting, and still live your dreams.” 

You can’t wait for your life to be perfect to take a leap of faith toward your dreams, she says, because that perfection may never come. 

In the words of Joyce Meyers, and a quote Pierre has always held close to her heart: “If you’re scared, do it scared. If you’re nervous, do it nervous. If you’re unsure, do it unsure.” Looking back on her life, Pierre knows she’s followed every one of her passions, so she can’t sit with regret wishing she did this or that, because she has taken her life back and will continue to advocate for mental health and be that person to remind you to never give up. It will get better. 

Avril Stinson
Director of the Minority Business Accelerator & Economic Inclusion at the Tampa Bay Chamber; serves on the Advisory Board for MetArena, the social media app for indie game studios; mentor with Purpose Charity; mentor for USF’s Black Leadership Network; serves on the Board of Directors for the Florida Business Developmental Corporation; Synapse Impact Board, founding member of the Synapse Inclusion Lives here Committee; Hillsborough Community College’s Art Gallery Advisory Committee; Tampa Museum of Art’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force

A South Florida native, Avril Stinson graduated from the University of Florida with a Avril Stinson, Tampa Bay Chamberbachelor’s in public relations and completed her master’s degree in counseling from Marshall University. Upon completing her degree, she took a pause from the traditional workforce and went down the entrepreneurial route. Real estate was the calling, with a focus on rehabbing homes and property management. Philanthropy also caught her attention, and she dove in to assist others in every way she could.

In 2011 Stinson experienced a life transition that forced her to really stop and re-evaluate her situation, thinking about what she needed to do for herself and her two daughters, which eventually led her into the work she is known for today: economic development. During this transition and beyond, having such inspirational and strong mentors guide her through personal and professional development, along with career exploration, has given her the passion help others and give back.

“I really just found a calling and dug into being exposed to the inside knowledge of how Tampa works, the different communities, the eco-business and social ecosystems that help make it a wonderful place to live, work, and play,” Stinson says. “I’ve always loved to give back and so my passion comes from making this region, where I’m raising my family, the best possible place that I can make it by doing my part to help.”

When the opportunity arose at the Tampa Bay Chamber, Stinson was intrigued about moving into the programming side of economic development and entrepreneurial support. By becoming the Director of the Minority Business Accelerator, she now works with the overall mission to help Black and Hispanic businesses grow within the Tampa Bay Region.

“Helping others is my baseline, so I am always very proud of wins that we have as a community, or projects that we work on together. Helping the business community grow and be more inclusive has been very exciting,” Stinson says. “Being able to raise funds and getting others in the community to mentor and support these organizations that are growing our economy and making sure that we are not only surviving but thriving. This is what keeps me going every day, seeing that direct impact of what my work is doing.”  

As the Minority Business Accelerator continues to grow, Stinson hopes that within the next three years they will be able to help even more businesses. She looks up to our community and business leaders as role models, “seeing the impact that strong, passionate local community and business leaders have, [inspires me] to go the distance for those I am serving. I’m proud to be a part of the growth and strengthening of our community,” Stinson says.

Growing up in predominately white neighborhoods as a Black American was an “interesting and educational experience.” With roots from all over and a mixture of a variety of different cultures, her background has given her a heightened perspective on how the world works in an integrated society.

“You see the good, the bad, and the ugly, but such is life,” Stinson says. “I feel almost like a chameleon to a degree because of my exposure. I am able to find ways to connect with people, putting them at ease and feeling comfortable so that way we are just people having a conversation, versus focusing on race or culture. My mantra is that ALL are to be respected and appreciated.”

“Although times are very tempestuous right now, I do see a lot of progress and a lot of promise for the future. Especially when looking at my own two children, and now blended family,” Stinson says. “It’s life. I evaluate all of it and take the positives out of it to make sure that I am just being a good human.”

Christopher B. Tunstall
Housing case manager and group facilitator with ACTS (Agency for Community Treatment Services); worship leader at Tampa Christian Fellowship; Community outreach Director at Tampa Bay Harvest; Florida State Chaplain Licensed through Golden Gate Chaplain International Ministries; Founder and Director/Mentor for the Wynner’s Circle mentoring program; volunteer at Victorious Living Inc.; former child welfare case-manager

“Life will not be promised ‘sunshine,’ but God will give you the ‘grace’ to process Christopher B. Tunstall, ACTS (Agency for Community Treatment Services)through all the seasons and situations of life, which is why I choose not to give up or quit,” Tunstall says. “My trials turned into triumphs and that is why I intend to lead the next generation into their designed purpose.” 

Spending a lot of his time volunteering, he was selected as a sophomore in high school to meet with a City Councilman to brainstorm solutions to mitigate negative adolescent behaviors within Sarasota County. Born in Germany on a military base, Tunstall grew up in St. Petersburg and Sarasota, then moved to Tampa when he was 18. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in human services from the college of Behavioral Sciences at Southeastern University in Lakeland, and has served in the field of social services for the past 15 years. 

Throughout his career and serving in so many different positions, the amount of things Tunstall does for the Tampa Bay community is impressive. To name a few: Through volunteering for Victorious Living, he assists with group facilitation, event planning, and community food pantries; in working with ACTS as a housing case-manager, he completes bio-psychosocial evaluations for the chronically homeless population in Hillsborough County while also developing treatment-plans, linking clients to services, and facilitation psychosocial support groups; and he serves at the Tampa Christian Fellowship under Pastors Sixto and Susan Ward. 

He’s the Founder and Director of The Wynner’s Circle Mentoring program, which provides psychosocial, emotional, behavioral, and spiritual support to adolescents and young adults who are considered “at-risk” and experiencing hardship. The goal is to provide them with a support system and help them discover who they are so they can pursue their passion and purpose in life. Recently, Tunstall was presented with the opportunity to be the Community Outreach Director for Tampa Bay Harvest, a non-profit community grocery store that distributes thousands of pounds of food weekly throughout Tampa.
 
“I want to believe that they see my potential, ambition, drive, positivity, and light,” Tunstall says. “Therefore, I was offered such a position to motivate and push me further into the right direction.” 

“My passion comes from the natural desire to help and bring change to my environment. I believe that I am a natural leader and set a precedence of expectations that bring change to wherever I am (i.e., work, volunteer, and service),” Tunstall says. “I understand different trials, pains, frustrations, and victories in life and hope to be an impact that brings change. The nature of who I am makes me a leader.”

Ebony Vaz
Founder and CEO of Above Promotions, a marketing technology, and public relations company in Tampa; Foreign Direct Investment Subcommittee of the Global Coalition Committee with the Pasco EDC; Membership Director for InfraGard; Impact Board for Synapse Summit; Member of USF’s College of Education Cybersecurity Education Advisory Board; and the Diversity Equal Opportunity Committee for Women in MarTech

“Some people say, ‘A rising tide lifts all boats.’ I don’t believe that to be true since not Ebony Vaz, Above Promotionseveryone is equal in this vast sea of life,” Vaz says. “Some people are on floaties or pieces of junk from larger boats hoping to not drown while others are being raised.”
 
A graduate of the University of Central Florida with an Industrial Engineering degree, Vaz self-funded her business and training to make her the expert and full-time entrepreneur she is today. 

From writing a book on marketing strategies for startups ("Because You're Small: Effective Marketing Strategies for Immediate Implementation") to teaching teams at global companies or gathering local underrepresented creatives, she’s enjoyed educating fellow professionals, giving them the knowledge they need to succeed while helping them grow through any crisis they may face. Working on surrounding password information security and being a part of government research on virtual reality, her work has been published in journals. 

“Being a black female entrepreneur has been a hard lesson and I’ve earned every penny. Nothing has been handed to me,” Vaz says. “My path is why I work with various organizations to keep diversity in the forefront and encourage underrepresented kids to pursue their dream and open themselves up to STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) and even how it melds with the arts (STEAM).” Looking ahead to the next 10 years, Vaz strives to launch a tech product to help marketing teams. 

As a resident of the Tampa Bay Area, she wants to see the expansion of startups grow and thrive in Florida.

“For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to focus on helping people reach their goals. As people evolve, they may do other things in life, but some things never change,” Vaz says. “When I learn something new and improved and get to implement it with either nominal or big results, I’m reminded of why I do what I do.”
 

Read more articles by Lauren Wong.

Lauren Wong is a graduate of the University of Tampa with a degree in journalism who is freelancing while she looks for a full-time job. Originally from the Chicago area, she enjoys travel and aspires to be a travel photojournalist. During the summer of 2019, she worked for Premier Travel Media in Chicago and as a correspondent for Input Fort Wayne, another Issue Media group online magazine based in Indiana. She loves spending time outdoors camping, kayaking, and taking pictures.
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