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Archive for January, 2016

Extraordinary Woman: Trimeka Benjamin

Posted on: January 29th, 2016 by Angela Ardolino No Comments


Trimeka Benjamin started as a marketing executive in healthcare, but her first client was more glamorous: NASCAR.

“I originally wanted to get into mass communication as a freshman in college, but one day my car broke down and my mom and dad had to pick me up from class,” says Benjamin, the owner of Swim Digital Group, a digital agency she started in 2009, and the mother of two young boys. “My dad pulled off a slip from a flyer that was on the job bulletin board at school for a marketing internship at NASCAR’s New York office, and the rest is history.”

Not too long into her career, Benjamin knew she wanted to have her own firm. “Being on the client side for so long, I know how hard it is to have an agency that understands how to quantify value of marketing dollars in ways that a “boss” could understand. So I spent years working in the industry, learning my trade, and grasping this concept of how digital strategy ties to overall growth – and then there was Swim,” she says. “It was an amazing ride that taught me so much about marketing and the future of content ownership and digital media.”

What do you think is the secret to your family’s success?
Well, if you know Anthony and I, you know that there is really no secret to why we are successful as a family. We love each other to pieces, and we are an amazing team. We have and continue to work really hard at making sure that we are each other’s biggest cheerleaders, pinch hitters and best friends. I just couldn’t image anything that I do being possible without the support I receive from Anthony.

When we made the commitment to being entrepreneurs, we also committed that we would be 100 percent steadfast to the “home team.” We both understand that nothing can happen outside of our family that can fill our hearts as much as a happy and balanced marriage. Because of this, it makes all the “crazy” much more manageable and exciting.

What is your biggest fear?
Time. Until I was married and had my children, I would have to say I was pretty fearless. But as a mother, wife, and career woman, I have come to learn that you can never be in two places. Because of this, I fear that I will miss precious moments – moments that I can never get back. I find myself holding my babies so tight and taking pride in spoiling them, kissing my husband and holding his hand – even if we are just home watching the news. Time is so precious and it is one thing that I can’t figure out how to get more of – and losing it is a little scary.

What advice would you give to other women?
My advice would be this: Don’t take yourself so seriously. Don’t have so much pride, that you miss those women around you that want to help you succeed. I would not be where I am today without the support from amazing women like Mindy Murphy, Lisa Brock, Jessica Rivelli and Renee Dabbs (to name a few). Recognizing this, and knowing you have a support system of amazing women – opens you up for opportunities to be bigger and better than you could imagine.

What is your proudest moment?
I have to say that I have three moments that I am blessed to celebrate every day for the rest of my life. April 4th is the day that Anthony and I promised to love and support each other for as long as we live. May 21st is the day that I gave birth to my first son A.J.; and October 29th is the day that my baby Christian was born. All three days helped shape me and my life in ways that I would have never imagined.

What is your biggest achievement?
My biggest achievement was taking the leap into entrepreneurship. Owning your own business is not for the faint hearted. And doing what it takes to grow a business is for wackos (myself included). And I love it more and more every single day. Knowing that my sons will grow up knowing that they can follow their dreams and love and support a wife who is following hers as well means so much to me. I just hope their future wives thank me.

What makes you happy?
There are so many things! My parents, my friends, my clients; they really all make me happy. But what makes my heart smile is the look in my two boys’ eyes when they first wake up in the morning and see “mommy.” There’s nothing like it.

How do you relax and take time for yourself?
Well, I’m an extrovert. So I actually need people to relax… something along the lines of sitting by a fire pit, with a glass of wine, with my husband and closest of friends while the kids are playing—and some great music.

What kind of message would you like to give women in the community?
Opportunities to connect and meet people in Tampa Bay are plentiful. From The Junior League of Tampa Bay to professional organizations like Working Women of Tampa Bay – there are cool ways to find other women who are where you are in life and in your career. Joining these types of organizations gives you more exposure to advice, mentors, and support than you could imagine.

What else would you like to share?
Having balance is hard. Choosing what (or who) gets your attention at any moment isn’t easy, but knowing that life and the pathway to success are full of these choices and they will present themselves daily makes it easier to face when they arrive. Between my business, my family and my community involvement – I am at full throttle for 18 of the 24 hours in a day. But this also means that I had to become friends with a very special word: “No.” I try not to use it often, but when I do; it is because when faced with choices, I am getting better at choosing what (or who) needs my attention at the moment

What is your favorite thing to do with your family in Tampa?
I have to say, we just love Tampa. We love everything about raising our children here. One of our favorite places is the Glazer Children’s Museum. I took our oldest son, A.J. to Glazer in 2012 and he was addicted. We also can’t get enough of the Florida Aquarium. And our “not so hidden” hidden treasure is SPC’s Leepa Rattner Museum of Art, just a quaint but cool place to see modern and contemporary art.

What is your biggest inspiration?
My mother has inspired me in so many ways. Prior to her retirement, she paved the way for so many women and African Americans in cities that one would only dare to visit as a professional young black woman. Because of her, I can’t know fear and I can never stop pursuing my best me. She is watching me, she is cheering me on every step of the way, but she will never let me forget where I am and where I came from, and to give more than I receive.


Posted on: January 22nd, 2016 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

Teaching your kids about sustainable living is an important part of ensuring that our Earth outlives us, them and future generations to come. It may seem overwhelming, but it does not have to be. There are a number of ways to teach your children how to protect and care for our Earth and the environment around us.

Be a Role Model
The easiest way to teach your children about sustainability (and anything, for that matter) is to be a positive role model.

Children are like sponges, and they notice the little things. If you want to teach your children about protecting the environment, it’s important that you first do this yourself. After all, “do as I say, not as I do,” has never worked too well with kids.

Look for ways that you can reduce waste or electricity in your home. This doesn’t have to be complicated. For instance, turn off lights when you leave a room in the house, or walk or ride bikes instead of driving, whenever possible. These small actions will send a powerful message to your children.

Use Recycled or Reusable Products
Children will also take notice of the types of products that you use around your home. Reusable water bottles, for instance, are an easy way to reduce waste and teach children how small decisions can make a big impact.

If you can’t find a reusable product to fit your needs, make sure that whatever you choose is made of recycled materials and can be recycled after use. With the green movement being so popular right now, there are a number of products that can be used to reduce your, and your child’s, carbon footprint.

Create Teachable Moments
While implementing green practices may seem easy, it’s important that you teach your child why you are making these changes in your home. Creating teachable moments can be as simple as explaining to your children why they must bring their water bottles home with them from school, and why you do not use the kind of water bottles that you throw away.

In our home, we have several recycling bins and have taught our children which types of products go in each. Now, recycling has become a habit in our home. We no longer have to ask our children to take their old school papers and put them in the bin for paper products.

Make it Fun
Living a sustainable life and reducing your carbon footprint doesn’t have to be boring. There are a number of ways to make this a fun project for the whole family. For example, use recycled materials to do a family art project, or go to the park instead of watching a movie.

At Little Owl Learning Academy, we use recycled materials whenever possible. Items such as paper towel or toilet paper rolls can be used for a number of art projects, while recycled egg cartons can be a great way to distribute paint or smaller supplies. This is just one way that our facility has chosen to support sustainability in our everyday operations.

Planning fun activities is also a great way to keep your kids’ attention when you are teaching them about recycling or reducing waste.

Consider planting a vegetable garden together as a family and have your children help water and tend to the seedlings. When the vegetables are ready to be harvested, your children can help you gather the fruits of your labor and prepare a meal with them.

You may be surprised by how engaged they are in the process, and how much they can learn from a fun family activity.

Sindy Ortiz is the Director of Little Owl Learning Academy (LOLA), a high-tech, eco-friendly childcare facility located in Trinity.


Posted on: January 22nd, 2016 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

Happy family collecting rubbish

The holidays are here and as your kids gather all of their new toys and fill their toy boxes and closets, it is also a great time to teach your kids to give back. Volunteering with the family not only helps to better the community, but also can give your kids the confidence to want to volunteer more as they get older.

When it comes to getting your kids to help the community, it is fun to think outside of the box. Aside from collecting and donating canned goods, there are tons of ways to get the kids involved in volunteering.

Donate Clothes and Toys

Over 13 million children live in poverty, according to Toys for Tots, which means that millions of children will wake on Christmas morning with no gifts to open and very little to look forward to. One of the best ways to teach your kids how to give back is to help the other children who won’t be visited by Santa this year. Have your child go through their toys and their clothes, picking which ones they would like to give away. Sometimes, when kids are donating toys they might get upset because they just think you are taking their toys away, so have them write a letter to the person you are giving the toys to. Having them write a letter to that child will instantly give your kids a sense of what they are doing and how they are really helping someone else.

Another great way to give back with your kids is to check out an Angel Tree and have your children choose a name. They will get the age of a boy or girl and will enjoy going with you to the store to pick out a present for the child they chose from the Angel Tree. It can give them a sense of how they are helping and who they are helping if they see that little boys and girls just like them don’t have toys.

Volunteer at a Shelter

“Volunteering with your kids touches hearts, teaches important life lessons and engraves fond, lifelong memories of family bonding,” said Leigh Ann Errico, CEO and founder of Wear the Cape and the kidkind foundation. She also added that understanding and participating in activities to benefit the community is crucial to weaving one’s moral fiber.

A great way to volunteer is to give back at a local shelter, like Metropolitan Ministries. There, not only will kids get the chance to see the people they are helping, but they can do everything from participate in a clothing or toy drive to actually serving those in need.

Ask Kids How They Want to Give Back

Your kids may surprise you when it comes to giving back. Instead of telling them what to do, ask them how they think they could help someone. They might surprise you by saying something as simple as handing out bottles of water to the homeless, or they might run into their closets on their own to start picking things to give. If they aren’t sure, give them some examples and let them decide how they want to give back.

If they are able to give back in a way that makes them feel proud and way that they truly connect with, they are more likely to want to go back and volunteer again or donate again. This can lead your child to living a very happy and fulfilled life, all while bettering the community.

Another important thing to remember is that giving back should be a family affair. It is not only children that are going without this season, but teens and adults as well. Anything you can give, whether it is an old pair of jeans or canned food helps.

For more information on where or how to give back, visit

by Angela Ardolino of Tampa Bay Parenting,


Posted on: January 22nd, 2016 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

As parents, we all want our kids to behave. In a perfect world, kids would be good all the time and everywhere, but that’s a pretty tall order and doesn’t always happen. For most of us, if we have to pick between good behavior at home or good behavior in public, we’ll go for public every time.

When your children throw public temper tantrums or neglect to say please and thank you, they aren’t being their best selves. The good news is that you can help your kids shine in public by teaching them good manners much like you teach them to tie their shoes and make their beds.

Pre-Teaching Social Skills

According to Dr. Nekeshia Hammond, pre-teaching is the key! Just as we wouldn’t expect a child to immediately understand how to bake a cake after the first time we show them, we shouldn’t expect kids to understand manners if it is the very first time they are learning about them.

At a neutral time (everyone’s calm and no one’s in trouble) and before your child needs the skill, describe exactly what you want him to do. Young children learn best when lessons are brief, consistent and repeated often. Give step by step instructions. Think in basic, clear terms, such as, “When someone gives you something, you should look at the person, smile, and say thank you.”

Make instructions clear and concise. Add each step one at a time. Allow your child to practice the steps separately before practicing the skill as a whole. The best way to make the skill “stick” is to have your child practice often and in many different situations with lots of different people. You expect your child to practice soccer skills or math facts as they learn, so why would social skills be any different?

Focus on the Basics

When you first start teaching manners and social skills to your kids, you should focus on the basics. If your children can introduce themselves, say please and thank you, and follow instructions, they will already be ahead of the game. These skills are necessary for being a good friend, classmate, student or person in general. They form the foundation for all social interactions, and it’s crucial that kids learn these early in life.

According to Dr. Wendy Rice, it is important to have playdates and teach your child to socialize early on. This can be one of the most important times for kids to learn important social skills that they will use for the rest of their lives.

When telling your children how or why to do something, like saying please and thank you, remember to be brief; children have short attention spans. Be consistent; you may need to teach a skill multiple times. Repetition is crucial. Model the skills and behaviors you want your child to emulate. Your kids always are watching you! Make sure to provide lots of practice opportunities.

After your child masters please and thank you, introductions and following instructions, you can move on to other important skills that will help him or her grow socially. Teach disagreeing appropriately, listening and respecting differences using the same method. Don’t forget that practice really does make perfect.

Some great books to help you teach good manners are Dude That’s Rude and The Golden Rule. These books teach kids in ways that they can relate to, how to be polite.

Praise Them for Learning

Last, but certainly never least, praise your kids enthusiastically and sincerely when they use their social skills. You cheer when they make a basket or get a base hit after much practice and hard work—in the same way, praising your kids when they use good social skills builds your relationship with them and betters the odds they’ll excel socially wherever they are. Be consistent and praise often, and you will be amazed by the changes in their behavior.

Remember, it’s your job as a parent to teach your kids good manners and social skills. Humans aren’t inherently born with these skills. It is up to you to ultimately raise well-rounded and respected adults. As long as you remember to break the skills down into simple behaviors and have them practice as much possible, your children will catch on quickly and others will enjoy being around them as much as you do.

For more tips on how to teach your kids social skills, visit or check out our January issue.

by Angela Ardolino of Tampa Bay Parenting,