Estero Women in Business

Women-led companies are thriving. According to the National Association of Women Business Owners, more than 11.6 million firms are owned by women, generating $1.7 trillion in sales. And the economic contributions of women-led firms continue to rise at rates higher than the national average.
In Estero, women business leaders are making their mark in many, diverse industries. Meet some of Estero’s top business leaders, who just happen to be female!

Jamie C. Grofik
General Manager, Coconut Point

Jamie Grofik, general manager of Coconut Point Mall

With more than 30 years of experience, Jamie Grofik has been leading operations at Coconut Point Mall since 2007. Outside of the office, she sings with the Naples Philharmonic Chorus, engages in competitive sailing and skiing, volunteers with Susan G. Komen SW Florida and is active in the Junior League of Fort Myers, an organization of women committed to improving communities through educational and charitable endeavors.

What advice would you give to a young woman starting out in your profession?
Learn all you can about your company and your industry and take advantage of the knowledge of the employees who have worked there longer. Figure out what’s important on the path to advancement and work toward those goals. But remember, it’s not all about you!

What keeps you going day after day?
I love my property — it’s like being queen of my own little kingdom — and it comes with a golf cart! What’s not to like? Best of all, it’s never the same day twice, so there’s never time to be bored.

Dr. Alexandra Konowal
Owner, Konowal Vision Center

Dr. Alexandra Konowal

A board-certified ophthalmologist, Dr. Alexandra Konowal opened the Konowal Vision Center in Estero in 2003. She is skilled in a variety of vision-enhancing surgical techniques including laser cataract surgery, corneal transplants and LASIK.

How did you decide upon your profession?
My grandmother was blind with macular degeneration and was not able to read or navigate around the house. I wore glasses and contact lenses until I had LASIK performed, and this really influenced me to value the importance of good vision. There are few fields in medicine as rewarding as giving people the ability to see.
Who have been your mentors?
When I was in medical school, only 10 percent of my class was female. Today, half of those entering medical school are women, and 24 percent of ophthalmologists are female. As the first female fellow in the Ophthalmology department at Rush Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center in 1995, my mentors were all male academic ophthalmologists who taught me the importance of quality patient care and excellent surgical skills.

Linda Quiroz
General Manager, Coconut Point Honda

Linda Quiroz, Coconut Point Honda

Linda Quiroz has been in auto sales since 1990 and spent 15 years as the General Manger of an Acura dealership in Boulder, Co., before seeking out the sunshine and taking the top job at Coconut Point Honda in January.

How did you decide upon your profession?
I started as a sales professional at age 19 and have loved this business! I was waiting tables, and two sales managers from the local car dealership came in every Friday after work. They convinced me I had the personality to sell cars.

What advice would you give to a young woman starting out in your profession?
Hard work and persistence will go a long way. Back in the day, you never saw women in charge of all the men who were selling cars — and it’s still rare. As a female, people always assume you somehow got something for nothing. I didn’t know anybody. I worked for it.

 

Kim Hastings
Lawyer, Owner of Kim M. Hastings, PLLC

Kim Hastings Hi Res

Kim Hastings has been practicing law for more than 30 years, starting in Cleveland. She relocated to Southwest Florida in 2004 and opened her own practice in Estero in 2007, concentrating in the areas of employment law, human resources counseling and business litigation.

How did you decide upon your profession?
Silly as it may sound, there was a television program titled “The Paper Chase” about Harvard Law School students and a particularly cantankerous law professor. I was the first person in my family to go to law school, and I really had no idea what the actual practice of law entailed.

What challenges do women face in the business world?
I was raised to believe I could do anything. What a surprise to learn that the lawyer every client wanted was the “gray-haired man.” Until male leaders value what women bring to the table, women will continue having to be smarter, work harder and produce more notable results than their male counterparts.

Carissa Carroll
Principal, Bonita Springs Charter School

Carissa Carrroll at Bonita Springs Charter School

Carissa Carroll has been an educator in Lee County for 23 years. A longtime resident of Stoneybrook of Estero, she is entering her seventh year as principal at Bonita Springs Charter School.

How did you decide upon your profession?
As a little girl, I always played the role of the teacher for my siblings, neighbors, cousins and stuffed animals. I started my career at Lee County Public Schools as a kindergarten teacher.

Who have been your mentors?
I have come across two extraordinary mentors. Dr. Linda Serro at Florida Gulf Coast University exposed me to a greater love of literature to help young scholars achieve their reading goals. In my leadership role as principal, I have had Mr. Wayne Smith by my side as a close mentor. He serves on our School Advisory Council and fully supports our mission and vision. He continuously encourages me to build community connections. At his recommendation, I serve as co-chair for the education sector of the Blue Zones Project of Southwest Florida.

Cheryl Willett
Owner, Willett Business Management, Inc.

Cheryl Willett

Cheryl Willett has been working with business owners in Southwest Florida since 1999. She launched Willett Business Management in 2005, helping clients achieve financial self-confidence to meet their business and personal goals.

How did you decide upon your profession?
From the time I was a teenager, I loved accounting. My grandfather was the superintendent of a school lunch program. I assisted him in recording cash receipts and the number of meals sold. My grandmother was a bookkeeper for a county organization and prepared taxes. In the early years of my career, I followed in her footsteps.

What local connections have you made to help you grow your business?
The first thing I did was join the Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce, which had a huge impact on my business growth through building relationships and developing resource partners. I am also a member of the Estero Chamber of Commerce. Additionally, my husband and I are Rotarians and practice “service above self.”

Tricia J. Pallak
Owner, The Wood Floor Company

Tricia Pallak_The Wood Floor Company

Estero resident Tricia Pallak started The Wood Floor Company in 1998 — while six months pregnant with her third child! The original location remains in Naples, with a second location recently opened in Bonita Springs showcasing an expansive selection of flooring options. This year marks the 20th anniversary.

How did you decide upon your profession?
I answered an ad for “one super human to run and operate a wood flooring business.” That job taught me way more than I ever thought I wanted to know about wood floors. I was fascinated by wood and the ability to create a custom floor with just raw materials. Let’s just say, it became a love affair with the industry.

What keeps you going day after day?
My passion for the industry. It’s just that simple. I love assisting and helping homeowners create their new space, whether it’s a whole house or one room. Your home is your refuge and sanctuary. It’s important that it’s perfect for each individual.

Madelin Espino
Owner, NU World Title, LLC

Madelin-Espino1

Madelin was born in Havana, Cuba, and came to the U.S. with her family as an infant. Drawing from over 20 years of passion for the real estate industry, Madelin runs NU World Title, helping realtors, sellers, buyers and investors navigate the complicated terrain of the Southwest Florida real estate market.

How did you decide upon your profession?
After 10 years of being a hairdresser and a skin care professional, I needed a change. In 1999, I sold the beauty parlor and purchased my first “fix and flip.” There began the love for real estate.

What obstacles have you overcome to advance in your career?
The downturn of the of the market in 2008 was devastating. You either learned to work the short sales and foreclosures, or your career could come to an end. I quickly applied myself and found that even in the worse times, you can thrive.

Christina Calderon-Carrillo
Owner, True Care Community Acupuncture

Christina Calderon-Carrillo

Christina Calderon-Carrillo worked as a physical therapist for more than 10 years before opening True Care Community Acupuncture in Estero in 2015. She is a board-certified, Florida licensed acupuncturist and herbalist specializing in pain management.

What obstacles have you overcome to advance your career?
The biggest obstacle to my profession is the lack of public knowledge regarding the benefits of Chinese medicine. However, I am pleased that our profession is becoming mainstream and more doctors are recommending acupuncture to their patients. In Florida, we are licensed and insured as Primary Care Physicians. I can’t wait to see where our profession will be 10 years from now.

What is your personal definition of “success”?
All I have to do is “LOVE,” do the best that I can for others, and the rest is taken care of on its own. Success to me is being able to make a difference every day, whatever it may be: a hug, a smile, an encouraging statement, or simply giving someone hope!

Yes No