For LaKendria Robinson, the director of the Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV Host Committee’s Business Connect program, the pandemic has “been both a blessing and a curse.” The program was created to ensure local companies — particularly those at least 51% woman-, veteran- or minority-owned — are part of the bidding process for Super Bowl-related contracts. Super Bowl LV is scheduled to be played Feb. 7 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
One of the Business Connect program’s key mechanisms is networking — getting vendors in the same room, so they can potentially develop strategic business relationships that will endure long after the Super Bowl has left town. The COVID-19 crisis sacked those plans.
“We haven't been able to physically meet with all of our vendors,” Robinson says. “The pandemic happened as soon as we selected our vendors.”
That was the curse. The blessing? Being able to transform Business Connect into an ongoing educational program via monthly webinars that allow vendors to meet, virtually, with key NFL contractors.
“We got every single NFL event contractor to hold individual workshops with the business lines that they directly buy from,” Robinson says. “Vendors had an opportunity to talk to the contractors, ask them questions, understand their procurement process, understand their timeline and then receive some really good tips and advice on how they could be successful in bidding with them.”
The webinar series also included workshops throughout the summer that focused on strategies for surviving the economic downturn, so vendors would still be able to bid for and fulfill Super Bowl contracts. One of the workshops featured representatives from several companies that had successfully won contracts for Super Bowl LIV in Miami.
Robinson, who says she seriously considered becoming a teacher before embarking on a career in nonprofit management and economic development, has embraced the change in course and prefers to look on the bright side of the changes that have swept the cultural and economic landscape.
“We’ve been able to bring some very valuable and powerful workshops and opportunities to [vendors],” she says, so much so “that if there was no pandemic, we probably wouldn't be able to do quite as often.”
Name: LaKendria Robinson
City of residence: Ruskin
Employer: Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV Host Committee
Title: Director of Business Connect and community outreach
Birthplace: Quincy, N.Y.
Years on the Gulf Coast: Six
Marital status/children: Married with two children
Alma mater/degree: Master of Arts in organizational management and leadership from Ashford University; Bachelor of Science in political science and communications from Florida State University
What community group or organization are you most involved with? Minority Enterprise Development Corporation, Tampa Bay Spark and Gamma Theta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.
What's the weirdest job you've ever had? Working in a call center that offered the pursuit of higher education to recently unemployed adults. It was rewarding but also mentally draining. Sometimes you have to give people what they want. Nothing more and nothing less.
What's your top tip for being productive? Don’t answer emails first thing in the morning. Emails have the tendency to overrun your day and throw off your schedule. Aim to complete at least one task in the morning before you answer emails. It will give you a boost of confidence and help you feel accomplished. Plus, if your day is derailed by emails, you won’t feel so terrible about it!
If you could have a side hustle, what would it be? I would be a life and career coach. As a Black woman who grew up in a rural community, I had very little idea about what to expect as I started college or how to progress through my career. I would love to share the tips I’ve learned along the way.
What's your favorite off-hours activity? I’m a self-proclaimed foodie and love cooking, so during my off-hours, I cook and try new recipes. I am also an avid Food Network watcher, so that fuels my desire to cook new and exciting meals for my family and friends.
What's your favorite board game, game show or video game? I love the game of dominos. My late grandfather taught me how to play at an early age. No matter how good I got, he would always win. He was a domino master. He eventually taught me his strategic moves to win and outthink my opponent.
What’s your go-to delivery service (DoorDash, Uber Eats, GrubHub, Bite Squad, etc.)? Definitely Uber Eats
What do you use most — Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams or Google Meetings? Zoom is my go-to platform.
What’s the best binge-worthy show you have enjoyed during the pandemic? "Ozark," hands down. I hadn’t watched it before the pandemic, even though I heard others rave about it. I was instantly hooked after the first episode and can't wait for the new season — whenever that is.
What’s the longest virtual meeting you’ve been on since mid-March? Two and a half hours. It was maddening.
How many times had you used video for a work meeting prior to the pandemic? I have a highly engaging career that requires me to build relationships and attend various community events. So I rarely used video for work meetings. The pandemic has forced me, like many others, to shift the way I work to continue to produce results.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned during the pandemic? What I’ve learned most during this pandemic is to pivot early. By shifting to a new strategy that greatly changes your organization during unprecedented times like these, it keeps you competitive in the marketplace. Also, you will find the most opportunities for growth and become a leader in that area.
What do you miss most about the world pre-pandemic? I really miss going to the movies. My husband and I are big movie buffs, so it was our go-to date night. It’s uncomplicated and relaxing. We’ve done our best to recreate movie date night at home, but it is not the same. There is something about the smell of movie popcorn, plush reclining seats, theater surround sound and an oversized projector screen that is unmatched!.
What have you been spending more time doing during the pandemic? I’ve spent considerably more time exercising and being outdoors. Initially, it was to help my kiddos burn off excess energy, but it has been therapeutic for my husband and me also. We take long walks or bike rides every day. I’ve also rededicated myself to outdoor bootcamp workouts three to four times each week, which is insane considering Florida weather.
Do you prefer working from home or working from an office? I prefer a hybrid working model that includes remote work and in-office work. I find I am more productive when working remotely, yet in-office working allows me to fulfill my need to socialize with others.
How have you kept up camaraderie with colleagues during the pandemic? I maintain camaraderie with my colleagues via phone, FaceTime and Zoom meetings. We have virtual lunches and happy hours to account for not being able to physically see one another. Although it looks different, it has been a great way to stay connected.
What’s the first thing you’ll do after the pandemic? Take a long, relaxing vacation.