[TALLAHASSEE, FL] – In celebration of its 10th Anniversary of the Power Forward Speaker Series, First Commerce Credit Union, in partnership with the FSU Office of Research, brought not one, but TWO world-renowned Sharks from ABC’s “Shark Tank” to Tallahassee on January 30. Real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran and cybersecurity tycoon Robert Herjavec shared personal insights about overcoming obstacles at a young age and lessons learned along their road to success.
People traveled from as far as Central Florida and South Georgia to see the Sharks. Long-time Power Forward fans may also remember Corcoran as the first speaker for the inaugural event in 2013, setting the stage for a decade of inspiring entrepreneurs who have presented at the event. Corcoran’s return to Tallahassee, along with Herjavec, made the 10th Anniversary event the biggest and best yet.
In her opening remarks, First Commerce CEO Cecilia Homison noted the vison for Power Forward 10 years ago was to inspire local business leaders and give them tangible ideas for nurturing and growing their companies – along with budding entrepreneurs including students. She said over the past decade, audiences have witnessed unforgettable moments with Power Forward speakers—from Steve Wozniak’s foreshadowing of AI to another “Shark” Mr. Wonderful’s (Kevin O’Leary) insights on Wicked Good Cupcakes, and last year’s inspiring pitch to students by Zillow co-founder Spencer Roscoff.
Corcoran had the audience laughing as she recounted the ups and downs of her business journey. She drew upon lessons from her mother and growing up as one of 10 children sharing a two-bedroom home. She encouraged audience members to be persistent and to use their imagination. She also shared examples of how she put these practices to work in her own life.
Herjavec spoke briefly about his humble beginnings and transformative journey from Yugoslavia to Canada and then the United States. He recalled first learning that he was “poor” from childhood bullies. Herjavec, an only child, said he believes it’s crucial not to complain, but to “find a way through obstacles.” He cited the importance of confidence and said, “You have to love what you do and have passion.”
As an added wow factor, audience members got to watch two business pitches to the Sharks live on stage. Students from FSU’s Jim Moran College of Entrepreneurship, Madysen Howard and Macy Maiocco, shared their one-stop website resource called Emmcee, which connects vendors with planners of Greek Life and campus events. Jessica Ridgway, associate professor and director of Graduate Studies at the Jim Moran College of Entrepreneurship also pitched her patent-pending product “Clip to Care,” a small attachment for nursing bras that allows mothers to raise and secure their shirts while nursing.
After each pitch, the Sharks did what they do best, asking tough questions and sharing valuable advice about the business pitch. Dr. Susan Fiorito, Dean of the Jim Moran College of Entrepreneurship, facilitated the two business pitch presentations.
Shonda Knight, Executive Director of Community and Media Relations for Leon County Sheriff’s Office and First Commerce volunteer Board member, served as emcee for the event, and award-winning journalist and WCTV Eyewitness News anchor Julie Montanaro moderated an engaging discussion with Corcoran and Herjavec, as well as an audience Q&A.
The co-presenting sponsor for the 2024 Power Forward Speaker Series was FSU’s Office of Research. Platinum sponsors included Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet, Fasig Brooks Law Offices, FSU’s Jim Moran College of Entrepreneurship, and the Office of Economic Vitality. Gold sponsors included Fiserv, Tallahassee Community College, and VR Systems. Media sponsors were iHeart Media/WFLA-FM, Lamar, Tallahassee Democrat, Tallahassee Magazine, and WCTV.
Over the past 10 years, the Power Forward Speaker Series has brought wildly successful entrepreneurs to Tallahassee. Past speakers include Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak; Kevin O’Leary of “Shark Tank”; Spencer Rascoff, Co-Founder of Zillow and tech entrepreneur; Randi Zuckerberg from the Facebook startup team; Chris Gardner, CEO of Happyness; Chip Conley from Airbnb; Peter Diamandis, Founder of the XPrize Foundation; and NFL legend and entrepreneur Jim Kelly.
For more information about the Power Forward Speaker Series and First Commerce Credit Union, visit FirstCommerceCU.org/PowerForward.
ABOUT FIRST COMMERCE
First Commerce Credit Union is an award-winning, full-service, #LocalStrong financial institution dedicated to empowering generations and transforming the communities it serves for over 80 years. First Commerce received the Credit Union National Association’s highly competitive 1st place Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Community Service award back-to-back for its #LocalStrong COVID pandemic initiative in 2020 and the #FlamingoChallenge for breast cancer patients in 2021. The credit union serves more than 70,000 consumer and business members across North Florida and South Georgia and has more than $1 billion in assets. First Commerce offers best-in-class consumer and business products and services. The credit union also offers free financial literacy resources in person and online through the FCCU Foundation, as well as comprehensive financial planning and investment services through its subsidiary Six Pillars Financial Advisors, and commercial and personal insurance through First Commerce Insurance Agency. For details, visit FirstCommerceCU.org or call 850.488.0035 or 800.533.5772. Insured by NCUA. Equal housing opportunity lender.