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Cole Richardson, 30

An entrepreneur and girls' high school soccer coach follows her heart.

Cole Richardson holding a photo of herself and her dad, Ed Stroop.
Cole Richardson holding a photo of herself and her dad, Ed Stroop.
Photo by Mark Wemple
  • Class of 2023
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As a five-sport athlete at Sarasota High School, Cole Richardson saw firsthand the power of sports and the impacts good coaching can have on an athlete. Now she’s getting to put all of that into practice as both a coach and business owner. 

“Sports is more than just ‘sports,’” says Richardson. “It teaches you life lessons and how to be committed to something. It teaches you how to grow from your failures and have a growth mindset. And that can really help you a lot in life.”

Before she became a mother five years ago, Richardson coached soccer and taught high school. Concerned about juggling it all once she had her child, she stepped away from teaching. But stay-at-home-mom life made her a little stir crazy, so she started thinking about business ideas. She originally wanted to open an indoor play cafe for young kids, but the costs were prohibitive. So she pivoted (like any good athlete would) to Happy Tots Play Co., a business focused on mobile parties and events for little ones.

She was inspired by how overwhelmed she felt planning her daughter’s first birthday. “The first few birthdays are so important, but the kids can’t do the bounce places or the pools,” says Richardson. “I felt like there was a need for what I wanted to do.”

She also saw a need for a summer sports camp where girls didn’t feel overshadowed or intimidated by boys. Empowered Athletes All Girls Sports Camp gives girls “something just for them where they can be with their friends in a safe and fun environment and be given the opportunity to explore different sports,” she says.

A common throughline in everything she does? Supporting women. “That’s my thing,” she says. “That’s where my heart is.” She even hires her high school soccer players to help with Happy Tots event setup, giving them a chance to earn some money amidst their busy schedules.

She counts her dad, Ed Stroop, as a major supporter and mentor in her life. “He was my biggest fan growing up,” she recalls. Owner of a local design and construction company, he’s always there to offer business guidance and advice.

And he’ll be by Richardson’s side as an assistant coach in her new role as head girls’ soccer coach at Lakewood Ranch High School, after several seasons at Sarasota High. “I think anything new can be outside of your comfort zone,” she says. “But I think it’s important to stretch yourself.”



Beth Luberecki

Nokomis-based freelance writer Beth Luberecki, a Business Observer contributor, writes about business, travel and lifestyle topics for a variety of Florida and national publications. Her work has appeared in publications and on websites including Washington Post’s Express, USA Today, Florida Trend, and Learn more about her at

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