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Feb 24, 2011
Category:In the News Thankful Thursdays General 
Posted by: Jessica

The words “thank you” said to a police officer must seem pale in comparison to what they do on a daily basis.

I can’t imagine putting my life in danger every day for complete strangers.

This isn’t a fear most officers have—they just know they have a job to do, at whatever cost.

After 31 years with no fatalities, the St. Petersburg Police Department has had three officers die in the line of duty in less than a month. To call this a tragedy is an understatement.

Officer Jeffrey A. Yaslowitz and Sgt. Thomas J. Baitinger were killed by Hydra Lacey as the officers were serving a warrant on Jan. 24. Officer David S. Crawford, a 25-year veteran, was shot by 16-year-old Nicholas Lindsey as he responded to a prowler call on Feb. 21.

What frustrates most of us who are merely by-standers is that we don’t know how to help. How do you help an officer’s wife or kids when you don’t know them? How do you offer support?

The Police Benevolent Association is selling t-shirts for Yaslowitz and Baitinger and will probably have one for Crawford shortly. This may seem like a simple idea—how can buying a $15 t-shirt really help these families in need? The original goal was to sell 500 shirts and they have now sold approximately 26,000! With 100% of the proceeds going to the wives of the fallen officers, that’s $195,000 for each family!

The next time you think a small gesture doesn’t count, remember how a t-shirt helped two distraught families stress a little less about finances during their time of mourning.

The only positive aspect of any atrocity like this is to see how a community responds. And I can tell you I’m proud to see how the Tampa Bay and St. Pete communities have stepped up in response to the deaths of Yaslowitz and Baitinger.

I’m sure we’ll do the same for Crawford.

All we need is a t-shirt and a few folks with big hearts.

Feb 3, 2011
Category:Thankful Thursdays General 
Posted by: Jessica

For small business owners, simply saying the word “taxes” can send us into a angry rage.

Luckily, there are accountants like Tonya Seay with Strategic Success Builders who make this not-so-fun part of owning a business tolerable.

I met Tonya in a networking group called the Women’s Insider Circle in Tampa. After I spoke with her, she came to my home and looked at all the information and questions I had regarding some tax laws for small businesses like mine. Turns out, I owed the Florida Department of Revenue some money I was unaware of so she quickly put me at ease saying that we’ll figure it all out.

Getting this kind of news when you think you do everything right (I am quite the “Girl Scout” when it comes to my business), is shocking and honestly, depressing. I won’t go on a political rampage here about taxes because everyone has their own personal gripe and no one needs to hear mine. The bottom line is that Tonya makes it easy by meeting you at your home or office, working on your timeline and keeping her rates low so that you do the right thing—hire a professional accountant who knows what they’re doing!

Tonya is not only kind and personable but she works hard for her clients and it shows. She keeps all your information confidential so I feel I can trust her when divulging financial matters about my business.

My husband I plan to use her this tax season for our annual tax preparation for the household. I highly recommend her and once you hire her, you’ll see why you won’t want to go back to massive companies that don’t have a personal touch.

You can contact Tonya at

Oct 21, 2010
Category:General Thankful Thursdays 
Posted by: Jessica

Once again, I have to thank my fitness boot camp trainer, Carrie Kukuda (aka The Someday Coach), for keeping me on track for the last year.

I am unlucky in that I was not blessed with natural athleticism so I never played sports in high school and have never been particularly interested in exercise.

I’ve tried almost everything—gyms, DVDs, group classes, personal trainers, Taebo, Pilates, yoga, biking, etc. The list goes on! I don’t think I’ve ever truly committed to anything so therefore, I quit whatever exercise I try about three months into the program. I either get frustrated because I don’t see results or I come up with an excuse as to why I can’t do it any more (money, fatigue, time, etc.).

I am amazed and so proud of myself for committing to boot camp and staying in the program for one year! For me, this is a huge accomplishment. And I have no intention of quitting any time soon. I may curse Carrie when I’m in camp but I always thank her later when I see the results.

I have changed my outlook about exercise because of Carrie. I now see it as a priority and part of my everyday routine, instead of an “option”. I hate missing camp and only do so if I have a photo shoot that cannot be rescheduled or if I’m sick. Even when I go on vacation, I try to do something active or bring along home workouts and my kettlebell so I don’t get off track.

When Carrie says she loves her job because she changes lives, she’s not kidding. If you would have told me one year ago that I would still be in boot camp and would have lost 39 inches of fat, I would have told you that you were completely delusional!

And beyond what Carrie provides, I’ve made some wonderful new friends. These women inspire me and motivate me every day. From the comic relief to friendly competition to kind encouragement, I always get what I need from them and I hope they know I wouldn’t still be in camp without them.

One of the funniest compliments I’ve gotten since I started is from a dear friend, Kym Klass. She’s a runner and a bad ass. She runs ten miles with ease and doesn’t need medical attention so I find her incredibly awesome. She told me there’s no way she’d do our boot camp and doesn’t know how we get through it. I feel the same way about her running but it feels so great to hear that from someone I think can do anything.

So, for the next year of boot camp, I plan to tone the new muscles I have and work on my problem areas more. I plan to make better decisions when it comes to what I put in my body and focus on my successes, not my failures.

Jun 24, 2010
Category:General Thankful Thursdays 
Posted by: Jessica

Have you attended a networking meeting and felt like everyone was trying to force their product or service on you?

I’ve been to plenty of them around the Tampa Bay area and Networking Girlfriends is one of the best with no hard-core sales pitching. It’s organized by my boot camp trainer, Carrie Kukuda (The Someday Coach), and the information I’ve gathered from it is worth the cost alone. We meet once each month and it’s only $40 per year.

This week I had the pleasure of shooting business head shots for ladies before and after the meeting at Piccadilly in Tampa. And because it’s summer time and so many people are on vacation (and trying to figure out what to do with their children), we had a small turnout. So, about 8 or 10 fabulous females attended compared to the usual 20 to 30 women.

The smaller group was nice for a change and we were able to discuss networking marketing topics and each other’s businesses like we never have before. We talked about social media, discounts, referrals and helping others first.

In this economic climate of everyone trying to “Sell, Sell, Sell”, it was nice to be in the company of quality women who know their businesses speak for themselves.

Jun 10, 2010
Category:Thankful Thursdays General 
Posted by: Jessica

May 31, 2010
Category:Thankful Thursdays General 
Posted by: Jessica

*I'm posting my Thankful Thursday entry today since it’s Memorial Day and this may be something our military families need right now.*

I have a dear friend who is a military wife whose husband is a Major in the Unites States Air Force and they have a six-year-old daughter. I love them all dearly and have always wanted to do something to show them I care.

Then I met Executive Director Lisa Berg from Operation Hug-A-Hero.

You might think this organization is like any another non-profit looking for donations but to me and so many military families, they are much, much more. They offer peace of mind, love and companionship to those children who are left behind when moms and dads are deployed.

Through Hug-A-Hero, anyone can order a “Daddy Doll” or donate $25, the total cost of the doll. I decided to collaborate with my friend’s husband so we got a photo of him to print on the front, a personalized message on the bottom and for just a few extra bucks, we got a voice recorder for inside the doll so his daughter could hear his voice once he deployed to Afghanistan.

He gave her the doll right before he shipped out and I’m told she didn’t say much at first. She just hugged the doll and played the prayer over and over again. Now I'm told she won't sleep without it and she took it with her on vacations and sleepovers.

Lisa Berg honestly gives her heart and soul to her family and the military. For this, I admire her a great deal. She manages to juggle a family, being a military wife AND running Operation Hug-A-Hero. She does everything to honor and recognize our military and I have the upmost respect for her.

If you’d like to help, you can donate money (of course), buy a doll for a family in need (the military families receive dolls free of charge) or ask someone at your company if they’d like to sponsor the organization. They have many more requests for dolls than they do donations so if you’ve always wanted to show your support and didn’t know how, this is an easy, inexpensive way to do it!

Help give a little homeland security...

“We have been able to give out almost 800 dolls in the last year.   While this may sound like many for such a small non-profit organization, we are not able to currently keep up with demand.  Most recently we have been putting families onto a waiting list while we push hard for donations and sponsorship.  We would love to hear about any companies that are interested in becoming a Corporate Sponsor for our organization.  One of our visions is to partner with defense-affiliated companies that provide materials, technology, etc. for our troops to accomplish their mission. Allowing these industries to come full circle and provide comfort for the Little Heroes left behind shows their commitment and support for our military beyond providing the important tools; we are an excellent opportunity for them to express that support.”  –Lisa Berg

May 27, 2010
Category:Thankful Thursdays General 
Posted by: Jessica

Chances are, you’ve already seen Ro Martinez. It might have been in an Amscot advertisement or a commercial for AT&T or Busch Gardens.

Ro is a successful model which makes her a successful modeling coach.

“My goal is to help people reach their dream of modeling and acting without spending a fortune, while avoiding scams,” said Martinez. “I want to share my years of experience with others so they can overcome obstacles and make it easier for them to succeed.”

I first worked with Ro when we collaborated on a modeling photo shoot for one of her up-and-coming models, Oscar. Since I had never worked with Ro before, it was hard to know how the session would go. When she arrived, she had everything Oscar and I could possibly need for a successful photo shoot.

We met at a park in Ybor City in Tampa and only had about an hour to make Oscar a winning portfolio. (It helped that Oscar is already good-looking with a great attitude!)

Not only does Ro know exactly what will sell so her client will get bookings but she has an amazing attention to detail. It was like having my own personal art director by my side looking at lighting glares, clothing issues and skin tones.

For photographers, sometimes having another “leader” on a photo shoot can be difficult. The photographer may have one idea, the modeling coach has another and the model comes up with a third. But working with Ro makes a photographer feel like more than just a person behind the camera who pushes the button. She listens to ideas and offers her own with a pleasant demeanor while still serving the needs of her client.

“I offer career guidance to show the variety of work available to models and actors.  Assistance is given during photo shoots, posing, hair and makeup and photo selection with the ultimate goal of finding agency representation,” said Martinez.

She also wrote a book called Modeling At Any Age, “a comprehensive instructional guide that can be followed by anyone with a strong desire but to motivate by sharing my experience as well as showing photos of a variety of models of all ages, body types, and ethnic groups.”

Check out Ro’s portfolio here and see what she can do for your modeling career!

*Photos by Jessica Leigh Photography*

May 20, 2010
Category:Thankful Thursdays General 
Posted by: Jessica

The first thing you’ll notice when you meet Helena Trangata is her smile. She gives off an energy that makes you want to rub against her in hopes of stealing some of it.

Helena is another rare networker who’s goal is truly to help others first. If you do your job and do it well, she’s happy to tell everyone she knows about you and your business.

The first time I photographed Helena was for Bras & Boas, an event held every few months as a pampering party for women complete with a mini-boudoir portrait session shot by me. She unleashed all the sass she had and brought the event to a new level with her humor and gusto. When she received her 8X10 print from the event, she carried it around with her to show others my work and her beautiful photo. I don’t know anyone who takes that much effort and personal time to market another person’s business.

The next time I photographed her was for a business head shot. She continues to tell people about my work and if they mention “head shot”, she’s there with my name and number.

While Helena is a funny, entertaining woman, she is also a professional on all levels. She was a sales representative for Arbonne but now she has embarked on a new journey as a life coach for Bellisimo.

“I was selling Arbonne (and still am) but found that many of the women had self esteem issues. A Compass coach talked to a room full of us gals about what we would do with more energy. The women shared and emotions flowed. I left there feeling as though I had left a powerful church service. Yet as I said to a friend that night I am not sure what to do with this,” said Helena.

She began working with Compass in October of 2009 but continued to sell Arbonne.

“As I grew in Compass I found that it truly was my passion to allow women and teen girls to experience stepping into their greatness via affordable coaching – priceless! I became a certified coach in March. I have both private and group coaching available. I have coached for years as a parent (I have two sons and five grandkids), a friend, a manager and as a banker via my many financial licenses – coached many on their financial well being. I presently concentrate on these areas: Spiritual Vision board gatherings, Heart & Soul Massages – a non physical service (to allow a more holistic approach) for spas and resorts, and “take back you” time and energy coaching. During these last few months I have had wonderful people come into my path. Never have I had a more rewarding position. I am truly blessed!”

If you’re looking for a way to improve yourself or get that extra “zing” out of life, talk to Helena. At the very least, you’ll make a new friend with a heart of gold.

*Top photo by Jessica Leigh Photography.

*Bottom photo shot at Bras & Boas event (Helena is third from left).

May 13, 2010
Category:Thankful Thursdays General 
Posted by: Jessica

Sometimes you meet people that were just born to sell. This is Lois Dye in a nutshell.

You’ll find her gabbing in networking groups, talking to strangers in the grocery store and racking her brain for ways to help a fellow business owner.

Lois has a fun, welcoming attitude and truly believes in her product. She makes you believe in it too. Just ask her about Arbonne.

“When I was first introduced to Arbonne I was retired and looking for another start up business of some kind and was told Arbonne had a fabulous business model, so I jumped in with both feet... based on, it's fabulous!,” said Lois. “Then I discovered the products and fell in love with them...especially the one that took my migraine headaches away and the one that improved my wrinkles and sun damaged skin. It was only then that I discovered how I could help other people have fun, look good and earn extra money....and that's why I do this to help others get what their looking for out of life.  Life is all about paying it forward!”

Arbonne is a Swiss-based company that has been selling skin care products for 30 years. Their products are superior to others because they only use natural, botanical ingredients. So, when you use them, you’re not putting harsh chemicals on your skin. You’re adding fruits and vegetables to enhance the natural balance of your body.

When I first met Lois in BLAB, she immediately started thinking of all the contacts she had that would help my own business. She’s sweet, caring and genuine. I find these attributes key in developing relationships with potential clients.

She also has a wicked sense of humor. When I told her I was using an over-the-counter liquid foundation, she laughed and said, “Honey, you’re too young to be ‘painting the canvas’ already. Try this mineral powder foundation.” I thought she was just out to sell me her product but now I see why. I tried the foundation and I love it! My skin looks ten times better and I’ll be an Arbonne client for life because of this one product and Lois’ honesty.

May 6, 2010
Category:Thankful Thursdays General 
Posted by: Jessica

To find honesty, creativity and professionalism in one company, much less one person, is a difficult thing to do.

Jeremy Knauff, Creative Director of Wildfire Marketing Group (WMG), not only talks the talk but he definitely walks the walk.

What I first liked about Jeremy was that he looked and acted the part of a competent business owner without coming off stiff. He’s a kind, funny guy once you get to talk to him but he’s also no-nonsense when it comes to business. I respect that a great deal.

We have worked on several projects together for his business and his clients. Through all of them, he has shown me his vision, given me the reins and then expected me to deliver. Like I said, “no-nonsense”. I think that comes from his background in the military.

Jeremy said, “After I got out of the Marine Corps, I started and crashed my first company in 2000, then I worked in just about every aspect of marketing, ad agencies, internet marketing firms, in-house with Fortune 500 companies, etc. My last job before starting WMG was at an SEO firm. I found out they were billing clients for work that had never been done and when I informed the owner, he fired me. It turns out, he was aware of, and in on it.”

I think that Jeremy’s heart is always in the right place. And it’s rare these days to find someone who knows how to run a business properly and professionally but with a sense of compassion for the “little guy”.

More proof that Jeremy’s marketing skills are worth it: “I started WMG to help give small companies the tools and resources they needed to compete with larger companies. One of our first clients was in the specialty bedding industry, competing against multi-million dollar companies like Select Comfort, Nautilus and Tempur-Pedic. We enabled them to out-market their competitors online, which eventually led to a 54 million dollar contract with the Hilton Hotel Corporation,” said Jeremy.

If you have a business that has tough competition or you just need to boost your marketing and look a little different than the business next door, try out Wildfire Marketing Group. At the very least, you’ll get to see how Jeremy runs his business and maybe learn a thing or two in the process.

Apr 15, 2010
Category:Thankful Thursdays General 
Posted by: Jessica

It may seem silly to thank my hair stylist but most women (and some men) get it. When you find a good one, you don’t want them to move out of state or change careers or cut their hours. We are selfish when it comes to our hair and that’s ok.

I have been going to Salon II in Carrollwood (Tampa) for 15 years. The owner, Michael Thomassy, is a dear friend of the family and has cut my mother’s hair for almost 30 years. I started going to Michael and then realized he is a popular man and at the time, I couldn’t schedule anything—I was a teenager and way too important to make appointments months in advance!

Then stylist Stefanie Leaver arrived on the scene.

I clicked with her from day one. She is smart, sassy, fun and most of all, she listens to what her client wants.  What a concept! I have been through perms, cuts, blond hair, red hair, highlights, lowlights, razored edges, bobs, and layered looks. And even though some of those are no longer in style now, I always left the salon feeling gorgeous.

Even when I moved to Louisiana for four years, I planned my trips home to Tampa always making sure I had an appointment at Salon II.

Stefanie is also honest, which I appreciate. If I bring in a photo of Carrie Underwood and say, “I want hair like hers.” Stefanie will kindly tell me I can’t have it. She’s doesn’t give you false hope but she also figures out what would look good on you, not Carrie Underwood.

So, I sit down in her chair about every six to nine months and say, “I’m bored with this look.” Instead of smacking me, she simply finds a new style to give me a fresh look and make me happy.

In addition to the wonderful owner and my favorite stylist, there are several others stylists to choose from, two talented manicure technicians and a receptionist with a wicked sense of humor.

If you’re sick of snooty salons where you don’t quite feel at home and want a contemporary place you can count on for years to come, try out Salon II. You won’t regret it.

Michael Thomassy Salon II, 813.968.6977

Apr 8, 2010
Category:Thankful Thursdays General 
Posted by: Jessica

Donna Riski does more than just frame your art, photographs and memories. She offers personal service.

Not only does she have a great selection but she has little overhead because she frames everything in a cottage on her private property. We met in BLAB and I stopped by her cottage to see what all the fuss was about. It’s adorable and so welcoming. I could have sipped coffee on the porch and watched the critters play in the woods all day.

Most of us probably go to Michael’s or JoAnn Fabrics for our framing needs because of all the coupons we hoard and it seems so darn cheap. Donna offers a less expensive price on framing and will deliver it to your doorstep! Does anyone at Michael’s or JoAnn’s even remember your name?

“Picture framing was something I often thought I might take up as a hobby someday after retirement, and then suddenly, after spending a small fortune to have something framed at a local frame shop, it occurred to me that I might be able to go into business doing affordable custom picture framing,” Donna said.

Donna attended the American Picture Framing Academy and officially opened Keystone Custom Picture Framing, Inc. in January of 2006. Donna said, “Of course I spent most of the first year learning all I could to master the craft which is really on ongoing process and only adds to the enjoyment.  I left the corporate world in 2007 and never looked back.”

She also offers appointments at the customer’s home or office and brings the samples to you. She’s available seven days a week to help and she always has a friendly smile.

Apr 1, 2010
Category:Thankful Thursdays General 
Posted by: Jessica

Without a working automobile, most photographers would change careers.

I am lucky to have grown up with a father who knew everything there was to know about cars, how to keep them working and what to do when your daughter blows a head gasket on her first car (oops).

My dad owned a Goodyear store in Tampa for years and thankfully, he taught me about upkeep and maintenance so I would have a reliable car—whether it be my 1986 Sunbird or my 2005 Trailblazer. I’ve taken his lessons to heart and am so glad I did. Who knew I would have a career that would require travel all over central Florida and a second office, in the backseat of my car?

My dad sold his store several years ago so now I rely on the folks at Tire Choice in Land O’ Lakes, Florida. They are truly good people and the manager, Scott, is always up front with me about my vehicle and what really needs to be done to keep me on the road. They have excellent specials and do what they say they will.

It can be intimidating for a woman to approach mechanics because we feel like we’re not treated the same. At Tire Choice, I always feel like I can ask as many questions as needed and leave with a sense of peace about my car.

Check them out on the web and give them a chance next time you need your car serviced. Tell them Jessica sent you!

Mar 25, 2010
Category:Thankful Thursdays General 
Posted by: Jessica

Without the help of great massage therapists, most photographers would limp around and cry about their aches and pains on a daily basis.

Ok, maybe we still cry about our aches and pains but we do so less often when we find the right therapist to work out our knots. I have found those therapists in Lutz, Florida.

I had some hesitation in becoming a member at Massage Envy because there are so many therapists and it's a "corporation" not an independent spa. I didn't know if I would lose that spa feel with so many clients and so many therapists. And how do I know how to choose the right one?

Well, I did have a few that didn't match my taste but out of my testing, I found three of the best therapists I’ve ever met: Kelly, Stephanie and Danielle.

Kelly is stronger than most men I know and can work out any knot or pulled muscle. This hard-core therapist doesn’t push you beyond what you can handle but she definitely works out your problem areas. It helps to ask her to use “70% Kelly strength” in case you’re not used to what real deep tissue feels like.

Stephanie has magic hands. For the full hour you are on her table, her hands never leave your body. She is a master of the Swedish massage. I go to her when I need to escape from my daily life and relax. With her sweet disposition, it’s hard to get up and leave.

Danielle offers a wonderful mix of Swedish and deep tissue massage. She listens to what you say your body needs and adjusts her massage accordingly. No two massages are exactly the same and she cares about how you feel when you leave her table. I go to her when a long photo session or a hard boot camp has torn me down. I’ve never left unhappy.

So, thank you to Massage Envy in Lutz for hiring some wonderful women who not only do their job well but also care about their clients' well-being.

Mar 18, 2010
Category:Thankful Thursdays General 
Posted by: Jessica

Javier Sola is a man with a knack for logos and an abundance of patience.

When I began my freelance business in Tampa in 2005, Javier helped me create a brand for the company with the design of my very first logo. We went through several drafts but he was determined to create something I fell in love with and could use for years to come.

I can admit I am not the easiest person to please when it comes to my business. I am very picky and want to ensure that my company’s image is perfect in my eyes.

Javier quickly realized this about me but he didn’t waiver. He just kept working.

At last, he created the logo that now graces my website, business cards and all marketing materials I distribute. I receive compliments on my cards every time I give them out. The only thing printed on the front is the logo he created.

He’s also designed a logo for a non-profit project I created called Tour of Thanks, which will be launching later this year. (The project will focus on offering free family portraits to active duty military families.)

Javier’s love for design began at an early age in Puerto Rico when he found he loved geometry. Javier said, “Through the years I found out that anything that would have to do with layout or design was meant to be my career in some shape or form.”

After having no luck finding a design school to pursue his dream, he left Puerto Rico as an adult and attended the Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts in Graphic Design.

Today, Javier lives in Tampa with his family and owns Rendered Visions Creative. The company focuses on logo/brand development and web design.

To see more of Javier’s work, please visit

Mar 12, 2010
Category:Thankful Thursdays General 
Posted by: Jessica

Anyone who can make my hair look better than Carrie Underwood’s is on my A-list!

I met Holly in 2007 when I was planning my own wedding for the next year. I already hired a make-up artist so all I needed was a brilliant hair stylist. I had shoulder length hair at the time so naturally I gave Holly a photo of Carrie Underwood (with very long hair) and told her I wanted hair like hers on my wedding day. She didn’t flinch.

Holly not only exceeded my expectations but she also created amazing styles for my bridesmaids and Godmother. She exudes flawless professionalism and a unique talent for making you look better than you ever thought you could.

I was so impressed on my wedding day, I hired her