Women in Tech Group Expands Horizons in St. Pete

WTE holds events every month, as well as online webinars and tech mentoring, always free of charge. Photo courtesy of WTE.

It’s no secret that St. Petersburg, particularly downtown, is a growing hot spot for new-to-the-heat Floridians. Many of these transplants are young professionals, particularly tech professionals, including growing numbers of women in tech. 

Traditionally, the technology industry isn’t known to be the most inclusive for women, and that’s the reason for the Tampa-born Women in Tech & Entrepreneurship (WTE) organization. 

“I founded WTE in 2022 after witnessing the glaring gender disparities in tech and entrepreneurship,” says Raechel Canipe, CEO of WTE. That year, WTE was a small community effort in Tampa – happy hour groups paired with business conversations about how to thrive in the industry. But then it grew like wildfire. 

In 2024, WTE now supports branches in Tampa, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, and beginning in May, St. Pete. The WTE St. Pete group and all sister branches are dues-free for members, and all events and mentoring opportunities are free of charge. 

“I wanted to eliminate financial barriers that might prevent talented women from accessing the support and resources they needed to succeed,” Canipe explains, “and nearly 50 events and six chapters later, I’m proud to maintain a steadfast commitment to completely free membership and events.” 

Humble Beginnings 

Canipe is originally from North Carolina, but her roots are deeply planted in the Tampa Bay area. 

Raechel Canipe is the founder and CEO of Women in Tech & Entrepreneurship. Photo courtesy of WTE.

“My journey has led me from growing up in a one-bedroom trailer in Polk City to couch surfing in Ybor City while I bootstrapped WTE,” Canipe said. “For nearly 14 years, I’ve called the Tampa Bay area home. This community not only shaped my journey but is also where WTE was born. It holds a special place in my heart, and I am deeply invested in its tech community and the boundless potential it offers.” 

The young CEO is far from her couch surfing days, however. Canipe is the vice president of marketing and sales at RevStar, a Tampa consulting firm, and has often personally funded WTE operational costs and organized volunteer-run events. In the last year, WTE has begun to receive donations and funding, and Canipe hopes that in the next five years, the group will expand to more than just Florida. 

“My vision … is to take our successful Florida model, which thrives on community building, near-peer mentorship, access to industry-leading expertise, and providing our members with opportunities to take the stage, and expand it nationally,” Canipe says. 

Ladies in Tech 

Like all WTE chapters, the St. Pete branch is run by a board of directors, all local, and all women in the tech industry. 

JoJo Kalita is the St. Pete Events Chair and a former Old Northeast resident. These days, she lives just outside of the neighborhood and is the vice president of customer success at 4th Down Solutions, a tech company that specializes in providing platforms to the life science and pharmaceutical industries.

Kalita knows what it feels like to be the only woman in a room full of men. “I had to learn how to navigate these obstacles alone, and it was difficult. I often wished I had a community like WTE then to support me through those tough times,” says Kalita. “That is why we are here now: Our community provides guidance, support, and the right connections to help women grow both professionally and personally.” 

Brooke Beeler, WTE co-chair, lives in the Crescent Heights and is focused on bridging the gap between the local women in tech, and the money and opportunities in the St. Pete area. 

“So many people are moving here right now … there is a huge influx of wealth into St. Pete,” Beeler said. “Right now, there is a huge disconnect between local tech startups and local capital – both human and financial. WTE is positioned to be the convener and connector between those groups.” 

Women in Tech & Entrepreneurship organization expanded to St. Pete last May. The nonprofit group is dedicated to elevating women in the technology industry. Photo courtesy of WTE.

The goal is to get more tech-oriented women in the game, which is why WTE’s CEO actively mentors and recruits female STEM students at USF. 

“My drive is to get local capital to fund local tech startups that hire local tech talent,” Canipe says, “and WTE is building those relationships and connections monthly.” 

How to Get Involved

You don’t have to be a full-blown coder or an app developer to be involved with WTE. Co-chair Beeler herself entered the tech world by accident, by way of a marketing position where she found herself ghostwriting technical articles for a tech-based magazine. 

All women who are interested in joining the family might want to start with an event, Beeler suggests. Each month, WTE holds both in-person happy hours connecting professionals, and online webinars from experts in the industry.

“One of the things that makes St. Pete so special is our love for our city and each other. That dedication to our community is one of the hallmarks of our organization too. Just like a new neighbor is made to feel ‘home,’” Beeler said. “WTE welcomes transplants, remote tech workers, new founders, recent grads, and anyone with an innovation mindset. We are eclectic.” 

Learn more about WTE and its coming events at wte.network.