Event shines light on women’s entrepreneurship


Women’s Entrepreneurship Day is one of the keystones of the annual EnterCircle summit. In fact, the summit grew out of a desire in 2021 by Gurpreet Misra, co-founder of the link with husband Raghu, to recognize Global Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, which is Nov. 19.

The annual observance in the United States and elsewhere is spearheaded by the Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Organization, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year.

Women comprise a great part of the marketplace worldwide. About 85% of purchases and nearly $20 trillion in global spending is credited to women.

Each year, EnterCircle reserves one of its days just for speakers to address business from a woman’s perspective. This year, that fell on Friday, Nov. 17.

Jan Spence, CEO for Jan Spence and Associates, kicked things off with her presentation, “It’s Game Time! Leadership Lessons from a Former Female Football Player.”

Spence is a highly sought-after speaker and former member of the Jacksonville Dixie Blues women’s professional full-tackle football team. Her inspirational presentation, one of several she offers, was well-received.

She was followed by Neera Shetty, executive vice president — Office of Social Responsibility and Inclusion, and deputy general counsel for The PGA Tour. Her topic was “Leading Best.”

Father Rich Pagano, pastor at St. John Paul II Catholic Church, proved that a speaker need not necessarily be a woman to talk about issues important to women in business.

His presentation was “Biblical & Experiential Perspective on Purpose,” but it was really about a woman who demonstrated what it means to work hard, sacrifice and succeed to the benefit of her family: his mother.

Starting in data entry, she worked her way up the ladder all the way to vice president of her company without a college degree. It meant working long days, a difficult challenge for anyone trying to balance career and family. But it was something her son learned to appreciate.

“There’s no educator like a good mother,” Pagano said.

Sonya Morales-Marchisillo, CEO of Pinnacle Communications Group, described her journey in creating a successful business in the midst of the pandemic. Jacksonville-based Pinnacle Communications Group is a security company that offers a variety of technological solutions to its clients.

Launching the business in 2020 was no small challenge. Morales-Marchisillo’s request for funding was repeatedly turned down by bank after bank, even the one where she did her personal banking.

But that changed when she met a lender who was willing to back her.

“When I shared my story with First Citizens Bank, they heard me,” she said.

It was a critical component to meeting her goals, and a lesson for anyone following in her footsteps.

“Have a relationship with your bank,” Morales-Marchisillo told the Women’s Day attendees. “If you can’t text, call, email and get hold of your banker and they don’t know your story, they don’t know what it means to do business the way you do, you get a new bank.”

But funding was only one element necessary to her success. Her hard work and tenacity were also important. Even now, after finding success, she still rises at 4:30 each morning.

“What I do when I get up in the morning sets the tone for the rest of the day,” she said.

She offered her audience a wealth of no-nonsense advice. She highlighted the advantages of constantly learning, networking and more. Among the attributes that contribute to success: reliability.

“Commitment is so critical — not only commit, deliver,” she said. “If you tell somebody you’re going to show up, show up. If you tell them you’re going to support their event or their fundraiser, do it.”

And forget the naysayers.

“When people tell you you can’t do it, don’t listen to them,” she said. “We all have the same 24 hours. You are enough. You need to tell yourself that every single morning: I’m enough. I’m going to go out there today, and what I do today will be enough.”

She also encouraged her audience to seek out opportunity.

“If you don’t feel that you’re finding opportunity, create it,” she said.

Next up was Tillery Durbin, assistant vice president of business lending for 121 Financial.

Durbin’s own story is an inspiration to anyone wanting to achieve something and willing to put in the hard work to succeed.

Trained as a teacher, Durbin quickly found that she didn’t care for the career after all. She went to work in retail but knew that would be temporary.

“I decided to do whatever it took to get out of retail and have a better life for me and my son,” she said.

She got a job as a bank teller and worked her way up through a series of promotions to her current position.

Durbin offered her audience a great deal of advice. She spoke on questions one should ask a lender and why banks might need certain information before approving a loan.

Attendees also heard from Tina Bodnar, senior vice president and private banking relationship manager at First Horizon Bank; Jessica Funke Ho of Urban Youth Park; Pauline Sevigny, president of Grace Aerospace; and Dr. Prasanthi Reddy of Rainbow Pediatric Center.

Amy Dix of Authority Speakers Agency spoke on “The Art and Science of Happiness,” and Carolynn Castillo of Absolute Top Dollar gave a presentation titled “Dream it! Plan it! Do it!”