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And so it begins

Posted By Ester Venouziou, Saturday, October 8, 2011
Thursday, Oct. 6, started as a great day. I had just found that had been selected to be featured in a study profiling successful membership-based organizations, and I was excited about the national attention this would bring our Buy Local movement here in Florida.

In the afternoon, I was about to start the second half of my day, my "other" life as a journalist at the St. Petersburg Times.

• • •

I started working at the Times on Jan. 27, 2003, the day after the Bucs won the SuperBowl. I was excited to be there, at one of Florida's most respected newspapers.

For the next five and a half years, life revolved around the Times. I'd meet Times friends for lunch before work, I'd go out drinking with Times friends after work. It seems strange now, looking back, to spend so much time with the same people. But it's not so strange in the newspaper world, where the work is so focused and the hours so crazy, that hanging out with anyone from the outside world is just, well, weird.

• • •

Aug. 8, 2008, I launched It was a business that evolved from a hobby, and one that grew quickly with much community support. It also was mostly a labor of love (aka, "all work, no money"),  so it meant relying on the St. Pete Times and on freelance projects to financially support myself.

Splitting my life between the Times and wasn't easy. It meant neglecting every other part of my life: my home, my friends, my family, my health.

Two specific incidents stick out:
August 2009, boyfriend's birthday: The plan was to take him to the Rays game, but I had also scheduled a LocalShops1 networking event that same night. We went to the game after dropping by the event ("just for a few minutes," which turned to be more than an hour). At the game, instead of paying attention to the players or to my boyfriend, I spent the entire time on my phone, checking in to see that everything was going ok at the event.
May 2011, brother's graduation: My brother received his doctorate degree in math from Syracuse University and I wasn't there. I asked for time off from the Times to attend, but wasn't able to get it. Even worse than not being there: Although I was sad to miss this milestone in his life, I was also relieved that I didn't use up a vacation day for something that was not LocalShops1-related.

• • •

Fast-forward to the present .. I walk in the Times lobby to find out that I had been laid off. And just like that, I had suddenly regained half my life.

I'm thinking that one day I'll look at Thursday, Oct. 6, and know it was of the best days ever.

Are you starting over after a layoff? We want to hear your story! Please email us at, and include your story and contact info. We will try to include as many stories as possible in future blogs.

Ester Venouziou, founder of and co-founder of Gulfport! Magazine, is available for freelance projects: writing, editing, design or social media. She can be reached at or 727.637.5586.

Tags:  ester venouziou  layoff  st. petersburg times 

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