The Orlando Regional Chamber presents AWEsome Women in Orlando, a new series highlighting the region’s top women executives and innovators whose ideas and companies are changing the world right from our own backyard.

The Orlando Regional Chamber, a core component of the Orlando Economic Partnership, recognized a need in the community to unify our resources into a strategically coordinated campaign to propel women forward. All Women Empowered (AWE) is comprised of private, public, and nonprofit partners working to unify our community resources into a strategically coordinated campaign to propel women forward. AWE seeks to amplify stories of women’s initiatives, programs, women in business and women entrepreneurs in the region with a goal of providing resources and programs that equip women with the tools to build the future they envision. 

Be sure to sign up for the Chamber’s weekly newsletter for timely and relevant information to help small businesses and female leaders accelerate growth. You can also find more information on All Women Empowered, including how to add your resource to the women’s business resource directory, here.

To elevate the profiles of women in business in the Orlando region, the Chamber presents AWEsome Women in Orlando, a new series highlighting the region’s top women executives, innovators and movers and shakers whose ideas and companies are changing the world right from our own backyard. This edition features Kay Rawlins, a founder of Orlando City and Orlando Pride, SVP of Community Relations for the Club, President of Orlando City Foundation and a proud member of All Women Empowered. Learn why she says her role of overseeing community outreach lets her interact with all kinds of amazing people and make an impact on the community she loves. 

What brought you to the Orlando region? What’s kept you here? 

In 2011, I came to Orlando to start a professional soccer team. We became a Major League team in 2015, playing our first game in front of 62,500 people. We added a professional women’s team in 2016 and opened our brand-new stadium in downtown in 2017. I’m still here because I love the team and I don’t feel my work is finished yet. 

Why is it important for you to be a member of AWE? What do you hope to accomplish? What will it take to make that a reality? 

I am passionate about championing women, and believe that I can and should use my platform to do so. I am excited about AWE and believe we will help lift up and propel women in our community forward. I believe creating a hub of resources and mentorship that is available to ALL women, regardless of income and circumstance is a change maker. We need to recruit male allies and equip and educate them on how they can truly make a difference in bringing about true equity. 

What makes Orlando the right place for women in business? How does being in Orlando contribute to your business success or personal growth? 

We are blessed in Orlando to have many strong female leaders in all sectors, including our politicians – Val Demings, Stephanie Murphy, Anna Eskamani, Regina Hill and Patty Sheehan, plus the all-female County Commissioners! They represent our diversity, coming from many different backgrounds and ethnicities. There are many women’s organizations that support and uplift each other and several excellent leadership programs. Orlando welcomed us in the very beginning with open arms and continues to do so. 

What makes the Orlando ecosystem unique for women in business? 

There are excellent opportunities to network and attend community events. Although we are a large town now, we have retained that small-town feeling. It makes for a warm and welcoming environment, as you are always running in to someone you know. 

Who or what has influenced you in your career the most? 

There have been many influencers in my life, including my parents who allowed me to dream big and taught me to work hard. A special mention goes out to the female owner of the preschool in the UK that my kids went to, which I eventually ended up owning—long story! She encouraged me to finally go to college, at age 31, and taught me how to run a business. I learned so much about leadership from her. It has stood me in good stead all these years. 

How would you describe your leadership style? 

I am collaborative, supportive and open to ideas. I seek input before making decisions. I have a hands-off approach. I am definitely not a micro-manager, as I have confidence in the talents of my team. 

If you had to describe to an out-of-town friend what it’s like to live, work, learn and play in Orlando, what would you say? 

Orlando is a vibrant, fun, diverse, inclusive and welcoming place to live, work, learn and play. We have sports, culture, parks. We have an airport where you can fly to anywhere in the world, and can get to either coast in a relatively short amount of time. 

Tips that you would give to other women in business in the region: 

Balancing personal and professional is one of the hardest things to do. You will not always get it right, so give yourself grace. Here is something I was told: Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling balls in the air – work, family, health, friends and spirit. Work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back, but the other four are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be scuffed, marked, damaged or even shattered, and will never be the same. 

I am fascinated by leadership styles, and loved studying group dynamics during a business management course. It is important to learn about yourself and your leadership style. There are many online tools, such as DiSC, to discover your traits. These also give insight into how to best work with each member of your team. It is essential to encourage an atmosphere of collaboration, where each team member is seen and heard, success is celebrated and feedback is honest (even when that is difficult). Always lift your team up to even greater success, even sometimes at the risk of losing them.