Tampa Bay Business and Wealth has reached its second birthday. And, wow, what a year. Back in September 2019, no one could have predicted that in six months the world would shut down, but we marched on.
In 2020, we produced three issues from home, conducted interviews via Zoom and moved our popular networking series to a virtual format.
At the time of publication, we hadn’t had an in-person gathering since March 12 and, boy, do we miss our CEO Connects with those wonderful cover stars.
Rick Thomas kicked off Volume 2 of our magazine issues. One of the most striking things about our discussion with him was the loving emotion he projected when he spoke about his wife, Sandy, children and grandchildren. Otherwise, he was soft-spoken and often stoic. This is a man who truly appreciates his family, in a very endearing way.
Michael Lundy is a straight shooter. Not surprisingly, he’s intelligent and diligent about choosing his words wisely. For our interview, he was incredibly open and forthcoming, making for a refreshing, off-the-cuff conversation. Our favorite part of the conversation was talking about how he met his wife, Andrea. Apparently, she needed a little convincing to continue the courtship. All worked out. In fact, on the day of the interview, we ran over our time and were told he would be late meeting his mother-in-law, Susan Blackburn, for dinner. We’re sorry, Susan.
Valerie Marks, affectionally referred to as Val by those that know her well, was a joy to speak to. Smart and witty, she’s very open and generous with her lessons learned. Funny story about her interview, she was dog-sitting for her daughter at the time and also had a dog of her own. They stole the show, and TBBW publisher Bridgette Bello and I spent most of the time, each with a pup nearby, accepting all the pets. We love that about our visits to people’s homes.
What’s not to love about Robert Hessel? He’s smart, and funny, and loves to have a good time. All things we appreciate here at TBBW. We met him at his home, which at the time he shared with two dogs. He had only lived there for a short time and he promised we would get an invitation to the housewarming party. We choose to think we haven’t received that invitation yet because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Right, Rob?
Doyle Carlton III was probably one of our favorite interviews. Not because we don’t love all our other cover interview subjects, but just because he was seriously, just one of the kindest—gentlest—people, and his story was truly so interesting. We completely lost track of time listening to him recount the history of his family. If you ever get a chance to meet him, do it. You’ll fall in love, too. We call him Paw Paw, affectionately.
Our first “couple,” and our last CEO Connect before COVID-19 struck. The Perrier’s were another great story that we enjoyed telling. We had the event at Tampa International Airport, and it’s surreal to think about how we had no idea a month later, the world would look so different. We conducted their interview, together, at their new warehouse space in Pinellas Park and enjoyed fresh lattes in the conference room. Things looked different then, but one thing has never wavered, the amazingness of their coffee. We were happy to order Kahwa iced coffees during the lockdown—doing our part to support the local businesses.
Monica Hernandez was so much fun. She opened a lovely bottle of red wine for us, and we sat around her dinner table laughing for most of our interview. It’s truly a joy when we have an interview that feels like friends hanging out, rather than an interview. We always tell people we want our interviews to be a fun experience, but with Monica, it was just relaxed and natural. It was also a hoot watching her puppy jump up and down, literally on all fours.
Bobby Harris, a longtime friend and all-around great guy, was also a great interview. Our biggest surprise? Who knew Bobby was such an animal lover and enthusiast? The afternoon truly went … to the dogs. But, seriously, Bobby was a rags-to-riches narrative, having started his business in the Great Recession and, at the time of the interview, quietly executing a cool, and high-profile, celebrity logistics endeavor.
We’ve seen our share of serial entrepreneurs, but Joe Johnson might take the cake, so far. He’s started, sold and started again—in multiple disciplines and industries. His sprawling estate, in Bradenton, is filled with his five children and beautiful wife. He said the drive to Tampa every day wasn’t something that he was missing since bowing out of Welfont. His next adventure is timelier than anyone could have known, directed straight into the reimagining of education—and it was pre-COVID-19 when the idea was born.
Jane Mason had the distinct honor of being our first-ever (and hopefully last) Zoom cover story interview. It was during the peak of quarantine and we are grateful for Jane’s flexibility, and eagerness, to work with us but would have enjoyed it a lot more had we been able to visit her in Bellaire. It was a pivot (it’s now a TBBW drinking game when someone says that word) and we all made it work, but it just isn’t the same as being face to face.
With Stu Sjouwerman, we were welcomed back into a home, albeit with all the safety measures in place. We collectively decided next quarantine, we are headed to Stu’s mother-in-law quarters. What a house! And it was unfortunate, we did not bring our swimsuits. His pool would put some resorts to shame. It was also our first “group” interview, Stu, flanked by excited members of his team who never said a word or attempted to censor us, but who beamed with pride about their company and CEO.
Our interview with Vincent Jackson could have gone on for days—had we not wanted to be respectful of his time. From the current state of the NFL to COVID-19, to Black Lives Matter, there weren’t many topics that we didn’t touch upon in a meaningful way. Jackson had so much valuable perspective, and insight, to share and was forthcoming about every answer to every question. What a delight!