Lake Nona resident and longtime entrepreneur Vanessa Perez has learned a lot about starting and growing businesses. She’s since turned her experience into a business that helps other women do the same. 

WOMANtrepreneur is a business development working group that Perez started in 2020, which brings women entrepreneurs together. Perez calls it a business advisory board and shouldn’t be confused with a social or networking group. While members may make great friends and practical business connections within the group, the aim is to hold women business owners accountable and on track to meet their business goals. 

Like most good business ideas, Perez came up for the concept of WOMANtrepreneur when she found she needed something like it herself. “I was struggling with growing my own business and I wished I had a group of like-minded businesswomen I could turn to.”

Perez, who holds a bachelor’s degree in business management from the University of Central Florida and a certification in nonprofit management from Rollins College, has experience running both for-profit and nonprofit businesses, including a corporate wellness business and a neighbors in need nonprofit. 

Perez’s nonprofit work earned her a grant through the City of Orlando. Recently WOMANtrepreneur was honored to be one of the recipients of the Avalon Park Group’s (APG) million-dollar entrepreneur fund. These accolades are wonderful, but Perez says for her one of the greatest rewards of her work is being able to help other women entrepreneurs.

Across the country there has been a big uptick in the number of people who have started their own businesses in response to the pandemic. 

Tara Hill of Orlando is one of those. She, along with her husband, decided to start two businesses in January 2022. Hill says that after years of doing painting and landscape design work for other companies, it was time to take a “leap of faith” and open their own businesses. 

“I love the vibe of my (WOMANtrepreneur) group. They put pressure on me which is something I need and want. It helps me make sure I’m doing everything I can to make my businesses successful,” Hill says. 

Lasheena Williams says because of Vanessa’s vision, she was able to quit her 9-to-5 job and will be opening a physical office for her nonprofit just one year after joining the working group.  

Perez says she needed both a pat on the back as well as little (or sometimes big) pushes when she started her first business. She encourages other women interested in starting a business to stop putting off their dreams. “I can’t tell you for sure if your business is going to be successful. But I can say it made a big difference for me to finally just “go for it.”


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