St. Augustine, FL – With a name like “She is Fierce!” it’s easy to conjure up an image of women with perfectly coiffed hair, power suits and stilettos, and in fact, the women’s networking business event was all that and more.

Inside the exquisite Treasury on the Plaza building in downtown St. Augustine, professional women from all walks of life were laughing, hugging, mixing and mingling as they caught up with one another, excited to attend the return of the She Is Fierce! event.

Anita Comisky, Kelly Youngs

Hosted by She Is Fierce! founder Kelly Youngs, the evening was a powerful example of what can be achieved when women whole-heartedly embrace one another not just in business, but in life.

“We are a global women’s community network that is founded in St. Augustine, but we have members all over the world,” said Youngs in between greeting colleagues.

“This is a really special evening for us because we are coming together for the first time in such a long time. We do a lot of events, we do a lot of professional development events and opportunities for women to come together, to learn and hear really inspiring speakers, but this is just about fun and being inspired. It’s a different kind of night for us, as our signature event, about being inspired and hearing from women and their real stories,” she said.

With a background in media and a desire to meet, hear and truly connect talented women, She Is Fierce! Was created by Youngs in 2015.

“For me, it’s what this is really about. There are so many amazing women’s organizations out there, but for us, we really try to be different. We’re about bringing women together and creating real connection, giving them resources that they need to get ahead but understanding we aren’t all trying to get ahead in the same way. Everybody has a different goal and comes from somewhere different, so we want to see them succeed in a way that’s meaningful to them,” explained Youngs, already looking to the future.

“For the next year, we founded a sister company that is a professional development and leadership company, so we are still going to be supporting women in that role but it’s a lot more about learning and helping female, and male leaders, as well, and then of course growing our global community.”

Attracting attendees from across northeast Florida, it was a blend of government, private sector and philanthropic leaders, eager to hear from the evening’s keynote speaker, Anita Comisky.

Comisky, founder of Amelia’s Toffee, shared her story of connection with one of northeast Florida’s most unique companies, Rethreaded, navigating the pandemic as a growing successful, woman-owned business and how she’s helping blaze a path for the next generation of women by sharing the value of building relationships.

“I think that that’s the only thing there is. A very good friend who I got to know really well during COVID told me that people aren’t interested in transactions, they want connections. I think that is really important, that binds us all together, and we can really have an impact and influence on our community if we work on our connections to each other,” said Comisky.

Anita Comisky

The pandemic brought forward a real sense of need among people to deepen the connections in business.

“I think that had gotten lost over the last couple of years with all of the emphasis on social media and the reels and the fast blasts. People don’t want that. They want to know who they’re dealing with and what their story is. What I’m hoping is that everyone here realizes the power of connection and what those powers of connection can do to your own local community.”

Jacksonville-based Rethreaded offers women a new lease on life who have been part of the human trafficking industry. Assistant manager of business development Stephanie Patton, was on hand to share her personal story as a changemaker, joining half a dozen other women recognized throughout the evening for their contributions to the community.

Stephanie Patton

“We’re here tonight because we recently acquired Amelia Toffee. Anita has retired and allowed us to carry on her legacy through her toffee. Now, it’s going to be another avenue for a woman to discover her talents and passions as a part of Rethreaded. We’ve partnered with Anita for a long time and her heart is a big part of it. She used our coffee to infuse into the coffee toffee. She used our honey in her honey butter toffee. When she started thinking about this and conversations started to unfold, it felt like a good fit,” she said.

Inspired by She Is Fierce!, Patton is proud to be part of such a supportive community and joined Comisky, Flagler Health+ Program Coordinator for Care Connect+ Jennifer Wills, and creator and executive producer of the talk show ‘Still Surviving’ Claresa Baggs on stage for a panel discussion about their personal and professional stories.

Jennifer Wills, Claresa Baggs, Anita Comisky, Stephanie Patton

“I think it’s a great organization. It’s a great event to honor women who are doing big things in our community. I think it’s great when we can elevate those around us and give them an opportunity to see other women who are elevating themselves. It inspires everybody around them,” said Patton.

What The Professionals Are Saying:

Kendra Barwick: Blue Water Jewelers, Diamond Professional: I love She Is Fierce and these events because when you walk in a room full of empowered and talented entrepreneurial women, you can feel the energy. It helps me to go back to my job and career, and feel inspired.

Diane Leone, Kendra Barwick

Diane Leone: Author, Diane Leone Design: The last time attended was a while ago when she was just starting up. Super inspired by just the motivation of it and what she’s done with all it. That’s very motivating for me.

Kristi King, Lori Brandel

Lori Brandel: United Way of St. Johns County Board of Directors, VyStar: I think that women are fierce and how it ties in with United Way is because it gives us the ability to get out there, make a difference in our community and we stand strong, and we stand proud in the trenches with all the nonprofits, all the women and children in the area. What we want to do is we want to help them feel valued, appreciated and bring self-worth back to them. We lean on each other, collaborate and bring our resources together to make a difference.

Gina Marie: New Lotus World Dance Company: I think it means being a leader, being a role model, providing stability to women, particularly when things are difficult, like during COVID. It was a difficult time to teach and provide leadership, but I found it within me to do it and change the course of my teaching from live to online, like so many people. I just wanted to be there for them. I think it’s great to network with other women who want to provide leadership in the community. Being a role model is important to me personally. I’m a mother, grandmother and wife of 26 years and I love providing an opportunity for women to flourish and grow.

Gina Marie, Erica Rivera

Erica Rivera: Certified Sexual Assault Services Advocate: It is absolutely essential that women help each other out because we need to build community. It’s the only way we’re going to rise above.

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