By Libby Hopkins

Walt Disney once said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Many local entrepreneurs agree with Mr. Disney, so much that they have created entrepreneurial pop-up events in the Tampa Bay area called Tampa Bay Start Up Week.

“Startup Weekend Tampa Bay was founded by a couple of individuals many years ago including Ryan Sullivan and the late Susie Steiner, who was a major community influencer and played a large part in the early stages of the Tampa Bay startup ecosystem,” said President of Tampa Startup Week, Gracie Stemmer. “As individuals over the years we’ve traveled to other Startup Weekends, Startup Weeks, and entrepreneurial summits and conferences to learn how to add value to our events and ultimately to our community here. In 2014 we were chosen as one of seven cities to pilot the Chase funded Startup Week program. We will now be hosting year three of Tampa Bay Startup week and are still amongst the group of six flagship cities powered by Chase. Now we’ve grown so much as an organizing team and have expanded our number of events every year and reach that we’ve started our own local non-profit to run the events, STARTUP TAMPA BAY, Inc.”

This year, Tampa Bay Startup Week will take place February 13-17 and will be held at the Rialto Theatre in Tampa Monday-Wednesday and at Station House in St. Petersburg from Thursday-Friday. “At Startup Week we have local business leaders as both speakers and mentors,” Stemmer said. “The event itself is also attended by local business people to learn something that interests them, or how to start that side project they’ve been waiting to do, or just to connected with other community leaders and entrepreneurs.”

Ultimately, Stemmer and her colleagues want to connect and empower people to bring their ideas to life, to test assumptions, and not be scared to fail. “Bringing an idea to life can mean starting your own business as an entrepreneur or creating a solution to a problem in your community or at your day job,” Stemmer said.

“Whether your idea is a business, an app, an event, or a movement we provide the resources you need to get to grow that idea, pivot, or disprove it.” 

If you would like to learn more about Tampa Bay Startup Week or if you would like to get involved with the organization’s events, visit

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Libby Hopkins
Libby Hopkins has been a part of the Brandon community for more than 30 years. She is a graduate of USF with a degree in journalism. She has been a freelance writer for The Osprey Observer Newspaper since 2008. She also the Executive Director of Center Place Fine Arts and Civic Association. She is a dog mom to her rescue dog, Marshall. She loves being a part of the Brandon Community and she loves sharing positive news about our community.