Entrepreneurs help make the Pier’s Marketplace a success

Terry White, owner of Cashew Brittle by Son’ni Boi & Petal, Inc., is thankful to be one of the original 17 vendors at the Pier’s Marketplace.

By Joyce Nanette Johnson, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — The rebirth of the St. Pete Pier has enhanced and stimulated the city’s dynamic growth. The 26- acre pier was developed as a first-class tourist destination where both locals and visitors could enjoy panoramic water views, restaurants, entertainment, a children’s play area with splash pad and fishing docks.

The billowing net sculpture entitled “Bending Arc” by Janet Echelman is a sensory experience of changing lights and shapes. At the same time, the Discovery Center and Wet Classroom provide educational information and one-on-one experiences about the Tampa Bay ecosystem.

Most importantly, the Pier has generated business opportunities at its Marketplace for local entrepreneurs such as Terry White, owner of Cashew Brittle by Son’ni Boi & Petal, Inc.

“I have always made different types of hard candy and granola, and started making brittle about five years ago as a hobby,” said White. “It’s always been a passion of mine to make desserts that taste good.”

White wanted her friends and family to snack on treats made with all-natural ingredients, and her goal is to create delicious delights that her customers will find unforgettable.

White researched classic, southern recipes for brittle and “tweaked them” until she came up with her personal brand. “My feedback was from relatives who are known to be excellent cooks, and their taste buds are right on time,” she said. “They are brutally honest.”

Positive feedback from friends and family motivated White to move forward with plans to make her dream a business reality. Word traveled fast regarding her tasty brittle, and soon she was requested to share her confections at events all over Tampa Bay.

She heard a news report saying that the city was offering vendor opportunities at the Pier and would be holding upcoming informational sessions throughout the city regarding the application process. She attended one of the jam-packed sessions, completed all processes, and received the email letter of acceptance from the mayor several months later.

“When I saw the email, I just wanted to cry,” White stated. “I felt so grateful and thankful.”

White feels that the name of her first business, Cashew Brittle by Son’ni Boi & Petal Inc, is unique and prophetic.

“Nothing was resonating, and then I prayed, and the name just came into my mind,” she explained. “Later, my aunt told me that my dad’s nickname when he was growing up was ‘Sonny Boy.’ I was also reminded later by a friend that in college, my nickname had been Petal.”

White said she put her heart and soul into her budding enterprise. Her sales are growing, and she is excited about sharing the history of this southern treat with children who stop by her booth.

“I’m respecting my growth process because every bag of brittle that goes into a customer’s hand is growth for my business.”

Janet Echelman’s newest permanent work, Bending Arc, is composed of 1,662,528 knots and 180 miles of twine, the aerial sculpture spans 424 feet and measures 72 feet at its tallest point.

White encourages other women to follow their dream. “If something is nagging in your gut, you dream about it, and it won’t let you go, it is something [there] for you to investigate. Stay persistent.”

She also stresses that networking and gaining business advice is invaluable. White received start-up operation information from several business education and mentoring operations, such as SCORE, a non-profit resource of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

“Connect with those who are experts in what you’re not an expert in,” she advised.

From Operation Startup, she learned the importance of guidance from mentors. White benefited from their high-impact challenging workshops, mentorship and networking. From the Women’s Business Center, she was invited to attend a course instructed by Julian L. Nichols with Focus On You.

“This was a six-week commitment after work with a 45-minute drive for me,” she said. “This was a life-changing experience, and it really helped me understand the concept of branding.”

White remains inspired by a compliment from a 93-year-old customer who she claims started her on the entrepreneurship road with an encouraging letter that said: “Most generous, fantastically delicious Cashew Brittle, a giant step into sweet tooth heaven.”

“Being selected as one of the original 17 vendors is an honor,” White exclaimed. “It is great to be a part of something new that adds more culture, vibrancy and opportunities for people to connect in a positive way.”

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The Marketplace is located just past the Pier Welcome Center on the entryway onto the Pier. It is a collection of 17 diverse, independent vendors that offer an array of products all under the comfortable shade of a solar roof.

“The Pier’s retail shops and the Marketplace are managed by Colliers International, which is a leading real estate professional services and investment management company,” explained Stephanie Addis, director of retail services for Colliers. Addis has been on board with the pier redevelopment team, and city representatives, including Mayor Rick Kriseman and Deputy Mayor Dr. Kanika Tomalin, since the new pier’s plans began.

“Everyone agreed they wanted to include small businesses into the plans,” she said. “We wanted it to be open to a lot of different people who did not ever have a brick and mortar business.”

There were four informational sessions held from August 2018 – May 2019, and Addis also provided personal technical assistance with the Greenhouse applications. There were a total of 70 applications submitted and vetted by the pier redevelopment team.

“No credit check was performed,” Addis explained. “However, we wanted to know if they had a business or marketing plan, profit and loss statement, entity information, experience managing a business, and their start-up expense. We also wanted to know from them what they felt made their offering unique.”

Addis said it was important to her to be a part of the pier project because it holds a special place in her heart. Her daughter loved the inverted pyramid and cried when it was demolished.

“It is where she took her first school field trip in kindergarten,” she explained. “I wanted to be involved in helping to make it something that people will love for generations to come.”

Click here to inquire about vending opportunities.

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