Features July 2017 On The Cover

2017 Fierce Awards

Written By: Alyssa Ramos

Join us for the 3rd annual Fierce Awards


Business in Greater Gainesville created the Fierce Awards to recognize and applaud talented, transformative women in our business community. Since 2015, the Fierce Awards have called to attention the efforts and achievements of more than 50 local leaders.

Presented by D.E. Scorpio Corporation


Barzella Papa
President and CEO of Community, Foundation of North Central Florida

“I would describe my leadership style as the innovator. I’m always looking to spark change and create new thinking to avoid getting stuck in a rut. I prefer to empower my staff and volunteers and help prepare them for leadership roles.”


Jenn Powell
Office Manager/Bookkeeper for Car Keys, LLC.

“You always have to bring it back to the issues.  Everyone isn’t going to like you, and that’s O.K. The people who know me know where I come from; they know where my heart is. I’m not perfect, and I’m not a politician; I just want to serve the public.”


Sara Emmanuel
Office Manager/Marketing Manager of Scherer Construction

“Being the oldest of six children, I started off as a leader by necessity; it is just a role you wind up with. Of course, my style has changed significantly since then, but even when I am asked today how I lead, it’s hard to pin it down – it’s just been a way of life.”


Tara Blythe
Associate Vice President for Talent Management and Chief Strategy Officer for University of Florida Advancement

“I am often described as a servant leader by others, but I would be described best as a situational leader. I center my focus on people. I understand, and I preach that an organization never forgets its most important asset, its talent, and that talent is fundamentally people.”


Amber McClave
Vice President, Operations/General Counsel for InfoTech, Inc.

“I didn’t realize until I was older that other girls’ dads didn’t raise them to be fierce – maybe their moms but not their dads. I was expected to be strong, successful, smart as well as kind and gracious. It was never a question as to whether I was an equal to any partner I may choose or business associate I may encounter. A fierce woman will make the dream happen, will help others along the way and will raise her children to do the same.”


Amy Howard
Owner of Venture Realty

“Fierce women handle their business. They count on themselves to make their goals and dreams a reality. Fierce women make it happen for themselves, and most of the time, they create a place for the people around them to be empowered too. We all need support from time to time, but the fierce ones keep fighting.”


Magi Crawford
Communications Director of Gainesville Regional Utilities

“I like to think that I encourage creativity with my team members. I let them know that I’m not interested in doing anything a particular way just because that’s the way we have always done it. I encourage changes that improve our processes and results.”


Carly Barnes Dodd
Assistant Director for the University of Florida Diabetes Institute

“My grandmother had a plaque in her kitchen that said, ‘Life is grindstone. Whether it grinds you down or polishes you up depends on the stuff you’re made of.’ My family would joke that I should be super shiny by now. I have resolved to always move forward in life, whether sprinting, crawling or resting.”


Staccie Allen
Regional Strategic Operations Director of Med-Trans Corporation

“The most interesting part of my job is that without fail, I encounter a new question, patient care situation or unique challenge every day. It truly demands consistent high-quality performance, and quite frankly, I love the adrenaline rush.”


Melissa Mamatas
Owner/Founder of Mamatas Counseling Associates

“Starting my own counseling practice put me in a very vulnerable position; not only was I starting from scratch with plenty of new bills to pay, but there was a chance that it could fail. Once I embraced that vulnerability, I decided I would either succeed beautifully or fail magnificently, but either way, it would be an incredible learning experience that needed to happen for me to truly feel fulfilled.”


Traci Gresham
City Manager of Alachua

“I have seen progress for women in the workforce over the course of my career. I am a testament to that, as I was the first female City Manager of Alachua when I was appointed in 2009. I believe when young girls see strong role models succeed, it encourages and inspires them to achieve their dreams without limits.”


Mary Chase
Media Consultant Cox Media

“My greatest strength in life is a sincere and compassionate care for people. I grew up in a close-knit Irish Catholic, New England family whom I adored. I gravitated toward sales quickly out of college and found success, not through high-pressure tactics, but through relationship building and taking a sincere interest in my clients’ successes.”


Leanna Iacobellis
Business Development Manager at Regis HR Group

“I don’t see boundaries when it comes to work and growth. The ceiling is where I want it to be and where I set my mind to. A fierce woman in my mind does not give up and continues to strive toward her goals and dreams.”


Tiffany Thomas
Co-owner of Thomas Group Realty

“When I first became a realtor, I was only 23 and felt that my age and lack of professional experience was a hurdle to overcome since most of my customers were twice my age. One lady even told me, ‘Oh, that’s cute that you wear a name tag.’ I was hurt and frustrated but have used that to drive me to be more experienced, knowledgeable and hardworking every day.”

Deidre Dodd
Program Manager for Girls on the Run

“When I first began coaching with GOTR, I found it ironic, after preparing for each lesson, that these messages were just as applicable to myself as much as they were to the girls. They relate to girls, women and everyone.  Just because we, as coaches, are adult women does not mean that we don’t need reminders on how to practice these same strategies in our own life.”


Rebecca Shinholser
Assistant State Attorney/Juvenile Division Chief

“The juvenile justice system is designed to rehabilitate juvenile offenders. I never want to see a juvenile offender end up in the adult system. My hope is that through my work I will lead juvenile offenders to resources that will assist them in becoming successful adults.”


Dr. Naima Brown
Vice President for Student Affairs at Santa Fe College

“Like many minorities, I have experienced the imposter syndrome where I sometimes feel like I do not belong because of my background. When I get that feeling, I remind myself that I may not have traveled the same road as others, but we eventually ended up in the same spot. Not only do I belong where I am, but I bring a unique and much needed perspective that would be lacking if I were not at the table.”


Marcia Conwell
President/CEO Bread of the Mighty Food Bank

“I was a single mother raising four children working full time and putting myself through school. My troubled past has helped me see other people’s worth and be more compassionate to those going through hard times. I have become stronger and more determined to be an overcomer.”


Kathey Porter
Director of the University of Florida Small Business & Vendor Diversity Relations

“Sometimes it is tough because everyone does not use the same lenses or have the same experiences in which to process and relate to each other. It does not mean we will always agree or even get along, but we will be respectful, and people will be heard, given an opportunity and accepted for who they are.”


Norinda Rosario Yancey
Director of Community Impact, United Way

“Being fierce as a woman means buying a tandem bike and trailer instead of a car and commuting daily in rush-hour traffic with three children under seven or returning to college at 31 to make the dean’s list … and becoming editor of the school paper. Being fierce as a woman means you are purposeful, passionate and determined. Fierce means going through the fire for what’s on the other side.”


Joleen Cacciatore Miller
Executive Director of the Gainesville Sports Commission

“Starting out in my career directly out of college in the sports field and in a leadership position, I encountered several challenges. I felt like I had to prove myself, work harder and excel in order to gain the respect of my peers. Nobody can take away my hard work and dedication. Always having strong female friendships, support systems and mentors have helped me get through difficult times.”


Nicole Yucht
Assistant Vice President of UF Communications

“I have always tried to foster a fun and productive work environment. It’s important that no matter where I am on my career ladder, I am able to contribute in a positive way, but when the whistle blows at the end of each day, the real impact comes from the relationships I’ve made along the way.”


Kim Jamerson
Vice President of Marketing of SharpSpring

“Currently, I set goals really high and potentially out of reach. It makes me push myself harder, and even if I miss goals, I feel confident that I got further than I would have if I’d been conservative in setting them. This only works because I’ve done my best to adopt a progress, not perfection sentiment.”


Kathleen Joseph
Mental Health Counselor and Owner of Kathleen Joseph & Associates, LLC

“Being with the people whom I serve – I call them my kids. Being present for those ‘a-ha’ moments with them as they move through their various stages of development and navigate their world. Every time I sit with someone, I get to witness their own story unfolding a little bit more.”


2017 Fierce Awards

Over time, women went from setting the table to finding their place at the table. And while this road has never been easy, this exceptional group of women are a testament to overcoming adversity no matter what shape or form. These women have demonstrated strength, ambition and passion in every regard, and the Greater Gainesville community has only benefited from their contribution. Each of these women come from a wide array of industries with their own set of challenges and experiences to draw from. To discover how these women have blazed their own path, read their individual stories at Business Magazine Gainesville.

Photography by John Sloan

Leave a Comment