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Here are stories of local entrepreneurs, including my own: When I was laid off in 2011 from the Times, I decided to pursue my own dreams with LocalShops1 and freelance writing. After almost 20 years at newspapers, I knew the transition would be a big one. Friends who had been through this path told me to expect lots of laughs and lots of tears. And they were right. If you'd like your story featured, email me at


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Hurricane Irma Recovery: Resources for Local Residents + Businesses

Posted By LocalShops1, Monday, September 18, 2017


Below are some resources available for local businesses affected by Hurricane Irma. We will be updating this list as more information becomes available. If you have any suggested resources we should add, please email


The US Small Business Administration provides low-interest, long-term loans for physical and economic damage caused by a declared disaster. Loans are available to business owners, homeowners, renters and non-profits. 
Learn more here:




Local residents with losses due to Hurricane Irma may register for disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 
Learn more here:





SBA representatives at the center can provide information about disaster loans, answer questions and assist businesses in completing the SBA application. The center will operate within the offices of Pinellas County Economic Development, at The EpiCenter, 13805 58th Street North, Suite 1-200, Largo, Florida 33760. Hours are 9 am to 6 pm Monday through Saturday.

Learn more here:



Applications are accepted through Oct 31 from qualified for-profit, privately held small businesses with 2 to 100 employees. Loans from $1,000 to $25,000 are offered on interest-free basis, on 90- or 180-days terms.
Learn more here:


All Emergency Bridge Loan applications, and required documents, must be submitted to the SBDC office at the University of South Florida, or at one of the field offices, including these in the Tampa Bay region:

Tampa Port Authority Building
1101 Channelside Drive, Suite 210, Tampa, FL 33602

USF Connect Building
3802 Spectrum Boulevard, Suites 109 and 111, Tampa, FL 33612-9220
Field Office (813) 974-9080 or (813) 974-5238

Entrepreneur Collaborative Center
2101 East Palm Avenue, Tampa, FL 33605
Phone: (813) 204-YBOR (9267)

Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce
15588 Aviation Loop Dr, Brooksville, FL 34604-6801
Phone: (352) 796-0697
Pinellas Economic Development Center
13805 58th Street North, Clearwater, FL 33760
Phone: (727) 453-7200

USF St. Petersburg
140 7th Ave., South, Davis 108, St. Petersburg, FL 33701
Phone: (727) 453-7200
CareerSource Suncoast Center
1112 Manatee Ave. East, 
Bradenton, FL 34208
Field Office (941) 714-7449 ext. 2219 (Manatee County)
(941) 714-7449 ext. 2121 (Sarasota County)

Information provided in this survey will be shared with state and local agencies to expedite implementation of appropriate disaster relief programs for businesses.
Take the survey here:

Hurricane Irma victims in Florida have until Jan. 31, 2018, to file certain individual and business tax returns and make certain tax payments. This includes an additional filing extension for taxpayers with valid extensions that run out on Oct. 16, and businesses with extensions that run out on Sept. 15, the IRS says.
Learn more here:

The Insurance Information Institute has answers to commonly asked questions,
Learn more here:

St. Petersburg
Pinellas Park
More links to come ...


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SBA Opens Pinellas Business Recovery Center in Largo

Posted By LocalShops1, Monday, September 18, 2017


 PINELLAS COUNTY, FL - The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced the opening of the Business Recovery Center (BRC) in Pinellas County on Sept. 18, to help businesses impacted by Hurricane Irma.  SBA representatives at the Center can provide information about disaster loans, answer questions and assist businesses in completing the SBA application. 

The Pinellas County Business Recovery Center will operate within the offices of Pinellas County Economic Development.

Pinellas County Business Recovery Center
The EpiCenter - Pinellas County Economic Development
13805 58th Street North, Suite 1-200
Largo, Florida 33760
Opens: Monday, September 18 at 9:00 a.m.
Hours: Monday - Saturday9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

"The Pinellas County Business Recovery Center at Pinellas County Economic Development will assist our local companies in their recovery from Hurricane Irma," said Suzanne Christman, Senior Business Development Manager at Pinellas County Economic Development. "By deploying our staff and hosting the team from the U.S. Small Business Administration, we hope to create an efficient and effective one-stop operation for local businesses to get the assistance they need to recover from the storm."

The SBA offers low-interest, long-term disaster loans for physical damage and working capital. To be considered for this assistance, business owners need to apply by the deadline. The filing deadline to return applications for physical property damage is Nov. 9, 2017. The deadline to return economic injury applications is June 11, 2018

Additional information on the disaster loan program may be obtained by calling SBA's Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955(800-877-8339 for the deaf and hard-of-hearing) or by sending an email to Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via SBA's secure website at

Pinellas County Economic Development is open to assist Pinellas companies with their recovery. Please visit for updates and business recovery resources.
  • Pinellas County companies requiring assistance with Florida Disaster Bridge Loans, please phone (727) 453-7200.  
  • Pinellas County companies needing assistance with other items, please phone our main line at (727) 464-7332.  
  • REPORT DAMAGE TO YOUR BUSINESS from Hurricane Irma.  This is the primary portal for private sector damage assessments and recovery.  The information provided in this survey will be shared among various state and local agencies to expedite implementation of appropriate disaster relief programs for businesses. Shortcut:
  • APPLY FOR A SBA DISASTER LOAN. Low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration are available to individuals, businesses and nonprofit organizations. The loans can be used for loss and damages not fully covered by insurance. Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via the SBA's secure website. The filing deadline to return applications for physical property damage is Nov. 9, 2017. The deadline to return economic injury applications is June 11, 2018. Shortcut:
  • APPLY FOR A SHORT-TERM FLORIDA DISASTER BUSINESS BRIDGE LOAN. The Bridge Loan provides short-term funding until an SBA Loan or insurance reimbursement arrives. The purpose of the Emergency Bridge Loan Program is to provide a source of expedient cash flow to Florida small businesses impacted by a disaster. These short-term, interest-free working capital loans are intended to "bridge the gap" between the time a major catastrophe hits and when a business has secured longer term recovery resources, such as sufficient profits from a revived business, receipt of payments on insurance claims or federal disaster assistance. Shortcut:

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Meet Adam + Heather, Entrepreneurial Couple Times 2

Posted By LocalShops1, Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Adam and Heather Torres may be the ultimate entrepreneurial couple. Not long after their daughter, Mirai, was born, they opened two businesses together.


Here is their story:

Adam and Heather met at Methodist University in 1996, and married a few years later. In July 2014,  Adam lost his corporate job during a round of layoffs and decided to follow a lifelong dream and start a handyman business. Going on his own after 10 years with the same company wasn't necessarily easy, but looking back, "it was a blessing in disguise that he got laid off," Heather says. 


That same summer the couple opened another company, True Vintage Eyewear , which sells stock vintage glasses and sunglasses from the 1950s to the 1990s at markets and festivals throughout Tampa Bay. The Torres are now working on an e-commerce site to sell the glasses online, and eventually, the plan is to open a brick-and-mortar storefront., Heather says 

"It took a couple of months of working together before we had a good groove," Heather says.
Every week they schedule a date night "so we remember we're also a couple, and not just business partners," Heather says. "I also help Adam remember to eat well and drink a lot of water. It's simple, but he will work for hours on end sometimes when he gets focused on something and forgets to take care of himself. And vice versa.  If one of us is sick, both businesses can fall apart pretty quickly.
"We love working together because we're working with our best friend.  We crack jokes all day, but we can also lift the other out of a foul mood quickly when needed."


The Helpful Husband can be reached at 727-748-5525 or True Vintage Eyewear is on Facebook and Instagram, and you can also reach them by email at



Did you leave the corporate world to start your own business? 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 LocalShops1, is available for freelance projects: writing, editing, design, marketing and social media. She can be reached at or 727.637.5586.



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Who Won the LocalShops1 Windowfront Space for the Month?

Posted By LocalShops1, Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Last year, Melinda Workman, owner of This Life Photography in St. Petersburg, booked the window-front space at the LocalShops1 Shop for February 2017. But since then her life got incredibly busy and she didn't think she would be able to adequately make use of the space. Instead of trying to sublet the space and recover her costs, though, she decided to pass it forward to another local business through a Win the Shop for a Month contest
The response was tremendous! Below are excerpts from the entries she received, listed in no particular order. Make sure to go to the very end to see who Melinda chose to give her month to, and why!


Gallerie 909  }  Carla Bristol
Local Art Gallery featuring art from the African, Caribbean and Latin diaspora.  We sell paintings, jewelry, clay work, selected wearable art, bags and much more.  We also host several community events. 
I would display items from the gallery and I would do an excellent job promoting the space during my month-long location in Gulfport!!!!!  I am a #1 supporter of LS1 family and use every opportunity to talk about and promote the wonderful efforts of LS1. I have the best disposition when engaging with customers and would serve as a resource while there with all sorts of creative ideas, including free hugs for everyone (even thought who don’t know they need it).


Be-Bops  |  Priscilla Kidder
Custom swimwear design company. I specialize in flattering pin up style swimsuits.  
I would have a rotating display of swimwear and fabrics available for customers to choose their own swimsuit design and I would take custom orders and assist customers on which swimsuit is best for their figure.  I live two blocks from the shop and when I am not there, I can be called or texted and will most likely be able to meet up with a client within a few moments. I have been a Gulfport resident since 1985 and worked at a local design house on Beach Blvd. for several years. I have a unique business model as a custom, bespoke swimwear designer which is a great fit for a beach community such as ours. Also, swim season will soon be upon us and who wouldn’t like to have something custom made that looks fabulous?  



I design and sell bespoke boutique inspirational jewelry  
I would love to set up a mini pop up boutique showcasing my jewels  I would use boho chic style props and make it a boudoir inspired look, romantic and cute for Valentine's.  I would also donate 10 percent of all sales to a local charity. I would love the chance to set up a boutique and be part of a community to drive my business forward for 2017.  I especially like Gulfport, too, and I love art and all things whimsical. Creating a magical romantic themed space would be fabulous!  My wedding anniversary is on Valentine’s Day --  21 years wed to my sweetheart.  Would Love to be able to earn some extra cash to treat my hubby to a night away in Gulfport!  


Creative Chaos  |  Elizabeth McCann
Original handcrafted jewelry and paintings
Affording space and shows is very tough at the moment and I would love to test out new products and pieces. I would make the space my own little shop and use it as a workspace to create new pieces and build my business’ following. ... February is my birthday month! :) However, I am aware that I have already had the opportunity to be in the shop. If someone else who hasn’t been able to applies and fits with who you feel should be in the space, I understand.
High-quality gift items for children that inspire creative thinking and imagination. Products include dress-up accessories like embroidered wands and tiaras, felt masks, wings, animal ears and tails, plus felt activity sets that teach basic skills like math, color awareness, and the human body. I also make tooth fairy pillows, plush animals, key chains, seasonal embroidered headbands and more. I’m also working on a line of party craft kits which I hope to release in early 2017. 
I have a solid reputation for quality and customer service. I have almost 3,000 sales on Etsy and ... my “happy uterus” key chain was recently featured on Buzzfeed and sold over 150 pieces. I can easily stock the store with a variety of inventory that would appeal to families with children 10 and under.  ... I would fill (the shop) with lots of merchandise that is well organized and packaged along with an activity area for younger children to enjoy while parents shop. My husband builds my displays specifically for my products supplemented by purchased fixtures. My branding is colorful and cheerful, which would be a good complement to the exterior of the shop. Since I am a full time business owner, I am able to staff the shop daily. ... I think it would be great for my business by providing an opportunity to grow and meet more local customers.


Pretty Practical Bands  |  Keren Thillet
Patent-pending specialty headbands that are two products in one. The headband and hair tie are fused. 
I believe showing an invention inspires others to think of ways they can reinvent things themselves. I want others to say, “how clever”, and get their brain thinking differently. Thanks for the opportunity!!!  I would place my products on my custom made pegboard display. Would have demo headbands, and literature. 
Limbo Chihuahuas  |  Mary  Barrett
501c3 non profit dog rescue  We save lives - little dog lives 
We would love to do is and since we all are volunteers and work we could share the space. We sell items for donations -- many donated items as well as handmade items, artwork, etc. We would also have adoptable dogs available for people to visit with and hopefully adopt. We need the donations and we need to find homes for our dogs. We are neat , clean and would love to use the space.  

Mobile Day Spa Creations  |  Martha Ross
Specializing in BeautiControl treatments. spa quality, anti-aging treatments for the face, hands, feet & body.  I teach clients how to use treatments at home to save them both time and money. $2M Liability insurance.
I’ve been renting the other space in the shop once a month for oxygen spas.  I’m expanding and looking at brick and mortar options (so this would be)  great exposure, I would offer on the spot treatments, try before you buy as well as retail options.  Also 1 on 1 consultation spa sessions. 

Air5 Networks  |  David Hollowell
We are starting a new MEP (Multiple Entertainment Platform) business scheduled to launch the end of this month, so the timing is perfect.  
We would use the space to set up the platform in order to show the variety of entertainment available, and the versatility of the product. The platform system is filled with and will offer Live TV, movies, music, books and games. Our goal is to present a comprehensive and exciting entertainment experience that you can enjoy anytime, anywhere. All that is required is a “hotspot” connection (all we need is the WIFI available) to enjoy this system. It’s truly amazing!! We have been loyal supporters and LocalShops1 members from the very beginning, with our company Insurance Underwriters. Now we are at the very beginning of our new business!  The program will be sold on a multi-level basis, meaning any business can create an additional market with the program, simply by displaying it as we will demonstrate (if we win the contest).
Historic Shed  |  Jo-Anne Peck
We design and build custom garden sheds, detached garage and cottages that complement historic Florida homes.
The company is owned by my husband, Craig, and I who bring diverse but complementary skills to the table (I do the design work, he’s in charge of building). We’ve been in the shed business since 2008, and in business as historic preservation consultants since 2000. It’s a very niche product for a niche market. Since Historic Shed is in the far reaches of the Tampa Bay region (all the way in Brooksville), we have to rely on print and internet advertising to reach our main markets (Tampa and St. Pete along with other Hillsborough/Pinellas towns with historic cores). No one gets to touch or feel our product unless they peek into previous customer’s back yards, so they make purchases completely on faith and photos of our work. Use of this space would allow us to direct customers to a central location where I would like to place a small (outhouse sized) shed with all the bells and whistles. We would then be able to send all our inquiries to one central location to see our work first hand. We have a large Facebook and Twitter following, as well as emailing list, so can direct a good amount of traffic to the LocalShops1 store. Therefore our use of the site would be good for LocalShops1 and the other vendors that have advertising material there, as well as for our own use. We’ve been LocalShops1 members since its very beginnings. 


Jessi's Flaming Fruit Sauce  |  Jessi Budiansky 
Locally made gourmet, multi-use sauce

I would display and sell my sauces as well as demo some recipes. I would love to do a few cooking demonstrations. We just passed our two-year mark and are looking to expand our audience. I'm also thrilled to be able to highlight the quality of local artisan products available.  I try to use other vendor products in my recipes.  My sauces are absolutely delicious, but they are also low sugar, low sodium, fat free, gluten free, soy free, but free, vegan and have no artificial ingredients or preservatives



Wild Boy Sauce  |  Jon Webster 
Locally Crafted Hot Sauce, No Preservatives, Flavor First, Then heat

I would have a display with assorted bottles and recipe ideas, We have a moderate following, hoping to grow.


Necessories  |  Dyan Lena Demidio
Boho Feme Funk Boutique.  Our mission is to provide a venue for women worldwide to sell their goods. Products include clothing made in the USA, Italy and India; handcrafted jewelry from Florida, Italy and Turkey; vegan-friendly handbags from Spain and Canada; art from Florida and Hawaii; and more.
My pop up  shop would be an eclectic visual experience. I am able to bring whatever the space provided. My current shop at 683 Central Ave. in St Pete is closing Jan 31. I bring affordable luxury with a bohemian flair. Each customer feels special with my personal attention to detail. All jewelry purchases empower an individual female to continue her mission  of creativity. I would be honored to be part of your mission
Cutco at Home  }  Michelle Linden
Tell us about your business:
High quality kitchen tools that making perparing fresh and healthy foods a breeze. 
I would really utilize the space and bring new customers into the shop. I would do the best I can to get as many new customers there as possible.  I would host recipe classes, sip & shop events (sip wine, prepare snacks, & shop Cutco products- may have another vendor or two set up as well), service station (certain days/times for local customers to bring Cutco in for free sharpening), and networking meeting/collaboration. 

Wee Gallery  |  David Pinto
We design, manufacture and distribute art, toys and nursery staples that appeal to babies from the first day of life. The  illustrations by my wife Surya Sajnani depict animals in hand-drawn repeating patterns.  Studies show that patterns like this stimulate brain development.  The art is mesmerizing for babies and appeal to a parents aesthetic.  We have been in business for 13 years and have international distributors in five countries. 
We have operated as more of a design studio and office out of our home for the life of our business; wholesale has been our dominant channel and so we have mainly sold through trade shows. We have a healthy fear of operating our own retail space, but enough experience to understand what we would be taking on. Our products range from cards, books and growth charts to swaddling blankets, cushions and toys so we could fill this small store with our artfully educational goodies and hone our growing pitch to the retail market.  Gulfport is a cute area with lots of young parents and we believe that with the outside space we could have fun, engaging events that will enrich our business and the local community. Wee Gallery is a thriving local business that could really move into the mainstream with the experience that comes from operating a beautiful retail shop in Gulfport for a month. 
Bond Love was started in October 2014 on Etsy and I have had some of my pieces in Twig, a boutique in downtown St Pete, for a little over a year. I started participating art shows just recently. I make painted and distressed wood heart art. I use mostly recycled or reclaimed wood. Most of my pieces have inspirational or motivational messages on them. I make magnets, everyday ornaments, small heart signs, wall art and free standing pieces.
I make and sell all of my pieces on my own. I am also a mom of three kids. I would do the best I can to be at the shop as much as possible, Obviously if someone gets sick or something comes up at home, I will have to put that above being at the shop.  I have never run a shop so the thought of it is a bit scary. But I would love the chance to give it a try. February is the month for hearts and love! I am positive my colorful pieces will draw lots of attention for Valentine’s Day shoppers. Once Valentine’s Day is over, I will still draw shoppers' attention with the inspirational and motivational sayings on my one-of-a-kind pieces. Most of my pieces are shaped like a heart or have hearts on them.  I would love the opportunity to experience being a shop owner. I think This is a once in a life time opportunity and I am extremely excited about it. I love the location of the shop and the possibilities the exposure might provide to my small business. ... I would plan to change up the window weekly to draw attention. I would string colorful hearts across the top of the window and display various pieces on stands. My marketing plan would include word of mouth, Instagram and Facebook advertising.


Snuppets are trademarked reusable snack bags and puppets in one! The characters are drawn by me, fabric printed in the U.S. and sewn right here in St. Pete. I love innovative children’s creations and the environment, and my business combines the two. I feel it is my responsibility as a mom to instill the habit of reusing rather than disposing.  I also create practical reusable storage bags for travel, life and fun!  
I would have the shop open from 9-2:30 daily, close to pick up kids from school and then reopen 3:30-6. I would also be open on the evenings/days of any art walks/markets that are scheduled.  I have three children and the oldest is in high school so they are of the age where they could buy an ice cream at Yummy’s and enjoy doing homework in the courtyard. It would truly be a family  experience!
Having the space would be so much fun! I would use it to feature my creations, but I would also bring my sewing machine and sewing new projects daily (which would be a dream because my current studio is my dining room table!). I have my Snuppets and wet bags but I would also be making beach bags, towels and kids clothing. I love to sew and create and to have a space to share locally would be a dream come true!  I am all about making eco-sensitive products and I want to encourage St. Pete to move in the direction of preserving/caring for our beautiful and precious environment. Gulfport seems like a community that would appreciate this mission.   



Yoga brand that cares about bringing healing and awareness to the community through yoga, meditation and mindfulness.  
I would use (the space to) promote my new location on 2200 1st Avenue South in St. Petersburg and to conduct free mini classes for the community. Also to spread awareness of our seva projects: free meditation training (IAM), Awaken Yoga 4 All Kids; a Volunteer Yoga and Meditation Project at Johns Hopkin’s All Children’s Hospital, and Karma Kitchen; a Mother’s Kitchen Project at Ronald McDonald House West in St Pete, FL. I would also promote the 5th Annual St Pete Yoga Festival, which will be held at Sunken Gardens on Sunday, October 22, 2017.  



And the winner is ... Wee Gallery! 


Here is what Melinda Workman has to say about her decision:


Oh. My. Word. I received entries from so many deserving local businesses to win a free month at the LocalShops1 Pop-up Shop for the month of February! Thanks to each one who took the time to enter. This has been such a difficult decision! Every single one of the entries was impressive and could have easily made good use of the space.


In the end, however, I could only choose one. My business is mostly family, babies and children's photography, and the winning company is also all about family, babies and children. Oh, and, of course, art!


And the winner is .... Wee Gallery! Owner David Pinto wrote: "We design, manufacture and distribute art, toys and nursery staples that appeal to babies from the first day of life. The illustrations by my wife Surya Sajnani depict animals in hand-drawn repeating patterns. Studies show that patterns like this stimulate brain development. The art is mesmerizing for babies and appeal to a parents aesthetic."


Well, as an artist myself, and a mom (although my "babies" are all grown up!) I love everything about this. Art + babies = how can you go wrong?



Congratulations, Wee Gallery, and thanks to everyone who entered! Here at LocalShops1 we're working on consolation prizes for all the finalists because your stories were all absolutely wonderful, and we want to help you grow your business.




Did you leave the corporate world to start your own business? 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 LocalShops1, is available for freelance projects: writing, editing, design, marketing and social media. She can be reached at or 727.637.5586.




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Businesses that Opened, Expanded and Celebrated in 2016

Posted By Ester Venouziou, Thursday, December 22, 2016

My business highlight for 2016 was opening LocalShops1's first brick-and-mortar space, of course!! At the very end, I'll share insider information on how the LocalShops1 Shop came to be!


But first, check out all the awesome reports from other local businesses in St. Petersburg, Tampa, and throughout Tampa Bay:


🔅 Melissa Lang launched her business, Thread Appeal, July 2016. The St. Petersburg-based online boutique offers limited-edition, affordable clothing, jewelry and accessories, in classic styles as well as the newest trends. The company also offers personalized trunk shows and stylists to help curate looks for a specific occasion, event or just everyday life, and can be found at markets and festivals all over Tampa Bay. (You may have seen them at LocalShops1's Shopapalooza Festival 2016!)


🔅 Studio Kingsley, which features hair and bow ties made out of upcycled computer parts, launched in July 2016 and had their first international customer within the first few weeks. In November and December they hit the ground running, literally, by participating is six markets and selling more than 130 pieces. Plans for 2017 include an expanded product line, revamped website and promoting internationally with digital marketing campaigns, says entrepreneur/artist Tiffany McLauchlin of St. Petersburg.

🔅 Kush Textiles launched its line of Ikat handwoven fair trade baby wraps, expanded their accessory line and hired a virtual assistant. By using remnants left over from the production of their baby wraps and ring slings to design hand-crafted accessories including clutches and toiletry bags, the St. Petersburg company is able to use every piece of material, keeping with its focus of sustainability, says co-owner Christine Mitchell.

🔅 FinFish, "an apparel company with a purpose," opened its brick-and-mortar location in St. Petersburg's Grand Central District in November. The company, owned by Lee McMorrow of St. Petersburg, features high-quality clothing and donates a portion of its proceeds to programs that preserve and protect our beautiful waters. The new shop is at 2253 Central Avenue.


🔅 Grisette Abreu left the corporate world to go full-time with her business, Provisiones-catering to locals. And she jumped right in, participating in three festivals in just two weeks. Abreu also was quick to get media coverage, including having her recipe for Sweet Pepper stuffed with Cheese featured in LocalShops1's Live Local! magazine; and a feature in a new magazine, The St. Petian. Provisiones specializes in Spanish cuisine using local, seasonal and organic ingredients, when available. Among her specialties: Paella-Tapas-Gazpacho-Sangria for parties of 10 to 100 guests.


🔅 Historic Shed has ventured further into the Tiny House world by adding new models and participating at the annual Florida Tiny House Festival, where Historic Shed co-founder JoAnne Peck was a featured speaker. The Brooksville-based company helps homeowners add living and storage space with wood garden sheds, cottages and detached garages that complement their historic homes, and it offers wood window screens, garden gates, and other hard-to-find accessories for historic homes.


🔅 Gulfport artist Elizabeth McCann, aka Creative Chaos, had a big year, her first one after leaving the corporate world to pursue her art full-time. In September she had the honors of being the first monthly resident artist at the LocalShops1 Pop-Up! Shop. Shortly after she was accepted into her first-ever juried art show, and her art was accepted at Florida CraftArt in downtown St. Petersburg and Mermaid Bay Mercantile Co. in Gulfport.


🔅 Jewelry designer May Turner of Tampa celebrated the 10th anniversary of her business, PhoenixFire Designs, in October. May opened her online shop in the very early days of Etsy, the online marketplace for creative entrepreneurs: Etsy launched in 2005, and PhoenixFire was on board the following year.


🔅 David Knowlton of St. Petersburg, owner of, expanded the shop's gifts section, hired another full-time employee and added longer hours (9 am to 7 pm Tuesday through Friday, and 9 am to 3 pm Saturdays). The shop is at 2323 MLK Jr. St N in St. Petersburg. All this while fighting -- and beating! -- cancer.


🔅 Stained glass artist Heather Sheppard-New of Tampa completed her largest projects so far: installing and creating three custom transom windows and two bathroom windows. Heather launched her company, Art by Heather New, after creating her first piece in 2013 with a tub of scrap glass a friend gave her.


🔅 Jessi Budiansky, owner of Jessi's Flaming Fruit Sauce in Tampa, reports that her company's sauces have been picked up by Tijuana Flats, and starting in 2017 will be included in all their restaurants, nationwide.


🔅 St. Petersburg designer Dean Liston joined the team of William G. Interiors at the beginning of 2016, and has had an incredibly busy and successful year, both personally and professionally, he tells us. The company, in business almost 30 years, offers commercial and residential design services throughout the Tampa Bay region.


🔅 Becky Wanamaker's company, An Artful Home in Land O'Lakes, launched at LocalShops1's Shopapalooza Festival 2016. And she got a bonus surprise when editors from the Tampa Bay Times noticed a Shopapalooza promo featuring Becky's custom ornaments. The editors contacted Becky and her pieces featured in Bay Magazine's 2016 Gift Giving Guide! In addition to ornaments, An Artful Home features paintings, artful home décor, and upcycled vinyl record art.

🔅 Wide Sky T-shirts and tanks were picked up by three retails stores in 2016! The shirts, which feature locally inspired designs, are now available at Zazoo'd, the St. Pete Store and the Old Southeast Market, says owner Sara O'Brien, of St. Petersburg.


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And now, here is the background story on the LocalShops1 Shop!


I had been looking for office space, off and on, for quite a while. But being in an actual office, in a building, just didn't feel right. I wanted to be on a main street, near other local businesses, but hadn't found the right space (or, more accurately, the right space in my budget). So I put office space plans on hold, for one, two years.


Then one day this past August, Robynne Swanson of Red Hot Tiki Spicy Gourmet Market told me the shop next to hers was going to be up for rent. It happened to be an especially busy time for me, and I didn't have much time to think about it, much less research things. So of course, I did what every other not-quite-rational person would have done: call the landlord and sign a lease immediately.


A few days later, panic set in: What had I done, taking on an additional, unnecessary expense? But by then it was too late to change my mind. I had already signed the lease (much thanks to Robin and Jack King of Three Birds Tavern for reviewing it) and I had already plastered the news all over social media. So my only option was to go through with it and make it work.


What came next was a mad rush to set up a new website, create marketing materials, and get the space overhauled. I'm forever grateful for all the friends who stepped up to help, particularly artist member Elizabeth McCann (Creative Chaos) and LocalShops1 membership director, Billie Jo, and her husband, Rob Bell, who just happens to be a general contractor (Bell Contracting and Design)! Less than three weeks from when I signed the lease, our space in Gulfport was open in time for Geckofest, the city's biggest festival of the year.


Our shop is only about 450 square feet, maybe even less, but we have maximized the floorplan. In addition to space to display brochures from LocalShops1 member businesses, our shop features monthly resident artists, pop-up businesses and collaborative mini-expos. Starting next year we'll also be hosting a series of hands-on workshops there, in collaboration with Nancy Howe, owner of Tampa Bay Newswire!

So that's the story of how the LocalShops1 Shop came to be! You can read more about it in the Tampa Bay Times and in the Gabber! Better yet, email me at and let's plan a time to meet there! Our shop is at 2908 Beach Blvd S, downtown Gulfport. We are about 6 miles from downtown St Pete and from St Pete Beach, and 20 miles from Tampa and Bradenton!



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Now it's your turn. What were your highlights for 2016? What are your plans for 2017? I'm looking forward to hearing from you!




Did you leave the corporate world to start your own business? 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 LocalShops1, is available for freelance projects: writing, editing, design, marketing and social media. She can be reached at or 727.637.5586


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