TAMPA —Tampa Bay Spark founder Tammy Charles took a little time to bask in the afterglow that comes with being named one of the top young professionals in the Tampa Bay area.
But in the weeks since the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce bestowed upon her its Deanne Dewey Roberts Emerging Leader Award at its 7th Annual Emerging Leaders of Tampa Bay meeting, there's been no dawdling — only a push to level up.
"I have this thing with awards," Charles said. "I believe that when you receive recognition, there's more responsibility."
There's work to do, like planning more Spark Sessions after its successful December debut, or lining up partners for next fall's Spark Summit conference.
Charles also is active with Women in Leadership in Tampa Bay, a collective of Christian women business and community leaders that helps members advance their business or ministry ideas. And there's TMC Strategies, the consulting business Charles founded to help nonprofits and social enterprises map out plans for development and fundraising.
In between, there's meetings with those she's advising as well as her own mentors and check ins with her network.
Charles said she feels it's her duty to help everything and everyone connected to her perform well.
"If I'm on a come up, everyone else needs to be on a come up too," she said. "I've got to make sure I'm using this (award) for the greater good."
Named after founder Deanne Dewey Roberts, the award is described as a "tribute to an individual who exemplifies outstanding professional values, demonstrates the ability to go above and beyond the expectations of a leader, and serves as an inspiration to the community."
The goal is to live up to the example set by Dewey Roberts, a community leader and founder of PR firm ChappelRoberts who passed away in 2012, Charles said.
"For me, there's ways in which I want to impact and I wish that legacy to live on before I die," she said.
Charles, who holds both an undergraduate degree and an MBA from the University of Tampa, said her mission to help those around her was inspired by a visit some years ago to Haiti for a tech conference.
"I saw the poverty there and it shaped me," she said. "It ignited something within to make a difference."
The gathering of top tech gurus from uber wealthy Silicon Valley in the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere showed Charles that no matter how devastating the circumstances of a person, place, or thing, "there's still potential."
After finishing graduate school, Charles plunged into nonprofit work and held positions at Metropolitan Ministries and Frameworks of Tampa Bay before striking out on her own.
A self-described "systems-focused person", Charles said she founded Tampa Bay Spark to bridge her passions of community development and ecosystems. And Tampa has proven to be the ideal setting for a venture that has attracted a flock of supporters.
"I'm finally following my true North," she said. "When you do that … it makes it easy for people to come along with you."
In the greater community, Charles served as community outreach chair for Emerging Leaders of Tampa Bay, where she led the organization's community development initiatives including a nonprofit fair and a program to steer more young professionals to serve on corporate and nonprofit boards.
Charles's selection as an emerging leader wasn't a surprise given her lengthy professional and community resume, said friend and collaborator Allysen Kerr.
"She's always been very tenacious and ambitious with her pursuits in life," she said. It's a reflection of her passion for the community."
And she recently joined Solomon Davis Jr. as co-chair of this month's 39th annual Tampa Organization of Black Affairs Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Breakfast.
Charles's background and professionalism made her a good fit for job, which requires the co-chairs to work alongside the planning committee, said James Ransom, chair of TOBA's economic development committee.
While all eyes may be on her, Charles said her success is fueled by the input and guidance of friends like Kerr, mentors and partners.
"It takes a team," she said. "We're not meant to do these things alone."
Contact Kenya Woodard at email@example.com.
IF YOU GO
TOBA MLK Breakfast
The Tampa Organization of Black Affairs will hold its 39th annual Martin Luther King, Jr., Leadership Breakfast at 6:45 a.m. on Jan. 21 at the Hilton Tampa Downtown, 211 N Tampa St. For tickets and more information, visit tinyurl.com/y835smn8.