Tampa Bay Business Women Awards 2023: Valerie Lavin

Valerie Lavin is a retired Army first sergeant and the founder of Luminary Global. The company’s mission is to help citizens, government, first responders and military protect their families and save lives of citizens in their communities, at home and abroad, by ensuring they have access to supplies needed to sustain life.

Lavin is devoted to helping veterans, and their families, start their own businesses. Since retiring in 2014, she has woven herself in the entrepreneurial ecosystems throughout the United States supporting early-stage startups. A partnership with other veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs led to the creation of Action Zone, an organization supporting the military and veteran community in their pursuit to become entrepreneurs.

WHAT CHALLENGES HAVE YOU FACED IN YOUR CAREER? HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THOSE CHALLENGES?

Women holding leadership positions in a male-dominated military suffer the added obstacle of gender bias. My experience was no different. I served alongside, and led, male-dominated units populated with assertive men who questioned my ability to fight in war and to lead them to battle. I overcame their resistance, and earned their trust, by heightening my physical fitness and mental toughness to match, or exceed, their own. I mastered my analytical skills, trained physically to reach my peak and sharpened my weaponry skills, competing equally against them. My troops knew I was capable of leading them in war, as I had during peacetime, because I met each challenge, just as they did, and we all succeeded together. I also learned to harness my emotions, casting away falsely preconceived notions of female leadership styles and excessive display of emotions. It was equally, critically important that I mentor other military women to learn to be effective leaders, on or off the battlefield. I have carried these skills as I transitioned to the civilian sector, leading by example and lifting other women to be leaders throughout the country. 

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR PROUDEST PROFESSIONAL MOMENT?

Serving my country, in a war zone, and bringing all my soldiers home alive has been my greatest professional accomplishment. Going to war is scary, but not as scary as having someone’s son or daughter in your ranks, hoping you have prepared them to defend, not only our country and each other, but themselves.

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