ST. PETERSBURG — As the saying goes, “Shoot for the moon; even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” It seems that is just what Bri Stewart, co-owner and founder of Bri’s Business Expo & HealthCare Center, intends to do in her work, as well as encourage and inspire the same level of dedication, achievement and hard work in others.
Bri’s Business Expo & Healthcare Center is a new resource for people from all walks of life in the community to have direct and affordable access to healthcare courses, test preparation for certifications, resources for finding professional jobs after course completion and beyond.
Located at 8424 4th St. N, Suite M, the courses offered include the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) prep, First Aid training, Home Health, Medical Technician and the Patient Care Technician (PCT) courses, all taught by Stewart.
Her mother and eldest son is the inspiration for her business. Stewart became a single mother at the age of 19 and worked at a fast food restaurant. She longed for a better life for herself and her child.
Her mother encouraged her to finish high school and continue her education. Stewart enrolled into Pinellas Technical Education Center, now known as Pinellas Technical College, and earned her certification as a medical assistant.
With her thirst for knowledge unquenched, she went on to St. Petersburg College to enroll in the nursing program, where she graduated in 2005 and earned her license to become a Registered Nurse (RN).
Stewart was the first child to go to college in her family, a point of pride for both her and her mother.
Her first job as a RN was quite serendipitous. Her mother was having a procedure at Palms of Pasadena Hospital right after she earned her license as an RN, so she filled out an application.
Within the space of a few days, she was hired and immediately put into the Telemetry unit. There was a learning curve, but she soon got the hang of it and ended up being a charge nurse.
Stewart developed her healthcare business with a focus on assisting students who become mothers at a young age and are raising children with little to no assistance, as well as people who are high school dropouts with a desire to pursue a college education, but who possess limited finances to make their dreams a reality.
She seeks to provide all her students with hope and encouragement that no matter how difficult circumstances may seem, they will be able to overcome adversity and have a successful career after completing her courses.
“That’s what I’m here for; to make sure you get there and know what you’re doing so that you can go out and be a role model for your kids or yourself and be successful and make your parents happy,” Stewart said.
So why is the word “expo” added into the name of her business?
“I added expo because it’s more than just coming in and learning healthcare skills and going out and getting a job. I do try to have vocations that are hiring; I try to have places for you to go to get a job; I hand out postings and flyers in my class because I’ve been there.”
This ties directly into her philosophy of life and her teaching style as well. She actively encourages her students to keep pushing.
Known as a warm and welcoming person who gives her students hugs, Stewart takes a direct interest in getting to know her students to see how she can help. She even posts listings of affordable rentals on her Facebook page, explaining that some students lack housing and some only have internet access through their cellphone.
The courses offered currently include two different CNA prep courses, one of which are four days and costs $150 up front. This course prepares students for the state board tests.
The second CNA course runs for six weeks, and cost $350 with a down payment of $50. This course offers students more individualized attention from Stewart.
She offers courses in Home Health Aid for a cost of $175, which are held two days a week for a term of six weeks. The PCT course is $200 and five days long. In those five days, Stewart teaches students extra skills that are necessary for success.
If there is only one person enrolled for any class, Stewart still offers the class, not wanting to close avenues to students who are anxious and determined to learn. Stewart jokes that the only thing she does not offer are courses in childcare; however, she has a large network of resources and knowledge of her community and can point students in the right direction, as well as for any other courses they may wish to take in numerous fields.
Stewart occasionally runs specials on the Med Tech course for a lowered cost of $25 and does a buy-one-get-one half-off for some of her other courses as well.
Stewart discussed the stigma that is currently associated with being a CNA. She stated that many people within the profession have a habit of discounting their usefulness and within the healthcare industry as a whole.
“Many people say, ‘I’m just a CNA,’ but it is such an important job. It’s a professional job, despite what some might say,” she averred.
Stewart went on to explain that being a CNA requires spending numerous hours with patients and that nurses rely heavily on them to be their eyes and ears, often detecting changes within the patients before the nurses themselves.
Being a CNA requires a license through the State of Florida’s Board of Nursing, a clean background check and a certification in CPR and first aid. The CNA test consists of a computer portion, where multiple-choice questions are answered. A skills portion is also given in which the test taker performs an indirect greeting to a patient, proper hand washing procedure, how to properly assist the patient in getting in and out of a hospital bed and wheelchair, how to help feed the patient and what to do if the patient is choking.
Stewart makes her students perform in front of an evaluator as a test run in preparation for the exam.
PCT is remarkably similar to CNA, but the PCT prep course does not require you to take a state board exam. Both professions work in hospitals, but PCTs can also work in home health aid, which Stewart’s courses prepare her students for, teaching them the entry level skills they need to get along.
The CPR course is for the everyday normal layperson, although it is required as a prerequisite before entering many of these jobs, and the first aid course teaches the basics of cleaning wounds correctly and so on.
The home health course teaches skills such as housework and cooking for patients with assisted living requirements, and the Med Tech course preps students for working with patients within assisted living, passing out medications to patients, making beds properly, and so on.
While all of this is going on, Stewart is fortunate enough to have her mother, as well as her significant other, who is currently her business partner and keeps her grounded with constructive criticism.
“I love my mother to death; she’s always there for me. My mother is my number one cheerleader; she always supports my ideas and she is behind me 100 percent,” she said adding that her mother hands out flyers in the community to help Stewart with her business.
Another person who advances Stewart’s business and enriches her student’s lives is Ramonica Anderson, a healthcare industry professional who hires many of Stewart’s Med Techs after graduation. She works directly with Stewart to assist students in finding and placing them in jobs down the road, thus solidifying yet another aspect of their futures in the professional healthcare industry.
In the future, Stewart wants to open up a larger facility with more instructors, and perhaps starting a companion business, for which she plans to develop a class that would offer job placement right away.
“I desire for them [my students] to be successful and to do more; it’s not about me, it’s about them,” she stated.
Her advice for future students? “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up, there are people that want to help you and see you succeed; and your future starts here with Bri’s Business Expo & Healthcare Center.”
This mother of three is a woman to watch. She and her new healthcare center are going places, and they are taking St. Pete with them.
You can get in touch with Stewart through Facebook or contact her directly at (727) 487-1077.