1. Business

New St. Petersburg co-working group targets local women in business

ST. PETERSBURG — There's no shortage of co-working spaces in the Tampa Bay area.

But local entrepreneurs Maghan Morin and Jeanine Suah saw a gap in many of them: they're often male-dominated and lack a sense of community for female entrepreneurs.

That's why Morin and Suah, who own the social media marketing company MRKT Reach and professional development agency Organiza Systems, respectively, collaborated to create The Doyenne Company. They say this approach to co-working — hosting free networking, collaboration and motivational events specifically for women at different locations — is the first of its kind in Florida.

"I think we need more exciting, engaging things that women really want to attend," Morin said. "They need that, 'You go, girl. You can get it done.' "

She said they didn't want to keep the secret of solidarity to themselves, so in December 2017 they started organizing free pop-up co-working events for women at local venues like Intermezzo Coffee & Cocktails and OpenHouse in St. Petersburg.

Twelve to 15 women attended the first event, Suah said. The next month, they had more than 100.

Brooke Boyd, founder of St. Petersburg-based marketing agency Hype Group, heard about the Doyenne Company's pop-up events from a coworker via social media.

Hype's team in Austin, Texas works out of co-working spaces, Boyd said, but it was a first for the St. Petersburg team of 14. She said her company's members took up half the space at Intermezzo and ended up staying the entire day.

"After that, my eyes were opened to this networking and co-working and remote working type of style," Boyd said. "I implemented a free remote day for my staff to where anybody within one month can work anywhere off-site."

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"Maghan and Jeanine were just awesome," Boyd said. "They lit up the room."

Doyenne and Hype soon established a business relationship, working together on upcoming events and brand awareness projects.

Suah said that the more she and Morin interacted with local women in business, the more they found that many women in corporate leadership don't take as many risks in their career goals because they don't see themselves represented.

"Women get empowered. They get inspired," she said. "But they don't have that next step."

They plan to launch Doyenne's new business model of building skill sets for women to move up the corporate ladder on July 11 at Rococo Steak restaurant in St. Petersburg. For their first full-day corporate workshop, Doyenne will cross the bay to co-working space Industrious Tampa on July 19.

Suah said her experience with networking as a black female entrepreneur in the Tampa Bay area has been mixed: she's met some wonderful business partners, but also some cliquish ones.

"Society has trained us to think that there can only be one of us at the top," she said.

Suah said that Doyenne seeks to encourage the opposite: that women are stronger, as business leaders and individuals, together.

"The hard part of us being women of color is we don't see ourselves represented," Suah said. "It's hard for us when we don't see women who look like us in positions of power."

When Morin graduated from St. Petersburg High School, she found that most of her friends moved away to New York City and Los Angeles instead of returning to St. Petersburg because they were more likely to find jobs and be hired there.

"Jeanine and I think it's important that St. Pete has two black female leaders," she said.

But they won't stop with St. Petersburg. Morin says Doyenne will expand to Miami and Los Angeles in August and Chicago and New York in September.

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Contact Hannah Denham at Follow @hannah_denham1.