A multi-talented entrepreneur is working to create a better future for children and adults | Business Observer


If cities and towns could give out MVP awards for economic development, Yvonne Fry would have a strong case for receiving such an honor from Plant City.

The founder of Fryed Egg Productions – she uses the title “head cook” – Fry is a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to branding, marketing, public relations, event management and many other duties business development. And, in addition to being a single mother, the 50-year-old is an unapologetic evangelist for Plant City, where she was born and raised.

“I’m in for fierce competition, but I want to be the chief cheerleader in my community,” she says. “I love it. I’m so grateful to have a home…a special place that has a sense of community, where people care about each other and care about our home.

This sense of caring is evident in Future Career Academy, a workforce development initiative that Fry helped develop in his role as CEO of Workforce Development Partners, a nonprofit that also created the Best Jobs in Florida adult program. Now in its seventh year, FCA has been a big hit with non-college high school students in Plant City, East Tampa, and southern Hillsborough County, who, prior to graduation, receive classroom instruction in subjects that will set them up for success. , such as resume writing, how to dress for work, interpersonal communication, and other soft skills they’ll need not only to interview and land a job, but also to prepare for a productive career.

Then, as the students prepare to register, they take part in a “Future Fair” – designed to be much more than just a standard job fair, it features food, fun and energetic discussions of local leaders such as Plant City Mayor Rick Lott – which connects them to dozens of local employers. This spring, Future Fairs were held at TPepin’s Hospitality Center in East Tampa, Hillsborough Community College’s Plant City campus, and The Regent, an event space in Riverview.

Future Fairs are followed by Dedication Days — celebrations of FCA participants who have been hired by local businesses or enter training and apprenticeship programs.

In the 2021-22 school year, FCA reached some 7,000 students and partnered with employers such as TECO, Mosaic Co., Publix, BayCare, Coca-Cola, Stingray Chevrolet, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Ace Hardware and others. Several sponsor companies paid for vocational training opportunities for students, ensuring that graduates will enter the workforce as debt-free as possible.

Next year, Fry says, FCA will expand to every high school in Hillsborough County, and it could quickly expand even more. “We’ve had requests from counties across the state,” Fry says, adding that the companies also want to help the program expand to more communities. “The demand on both sides is there.”

Fry further describes FCA as a synthesis, if not the culmination, of the many facets of his professional life. In her marketing work, she frequently deals with business owners and CEOs and has found that invariably “the #1 thing that keeps them up at night is labor,” she says. . “Having a wide range of knowledge about different types of businesses and being able to feel their ‘heartbeat’ has helped prepare me for what I’m doing with this nonprofit.”

Even as a busy professional and single parent, Fry has made time throughout the year to volunteer at her children’s schools. This experience led her to wonder how students are prepared for successful and productive careers and lives, even if they don’t plan to pursue higher education.

“What is their path after graduation, if they don’t go to college?” she says. “How do we really prepare them for this next step? I look at what I’m doing with this nonprofit and tell people, “No matter where you are, everything in your life has uniquely prepared you for today.”

This statement could easily apply to Fry’s personal journey. Graduating from high school in 1989, she was determined to leave small-town life behind and enrolled at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

“I followed a boy there,” she said. “Obviously it didn’t work. But being in this place, the poorest state in the union, has been one of the greatest gifts.

It didn’t take long for Fry to make friends at Southern Miss. One of them invited Fry to his family for the weekend – a memory that stuck with him decades later.

“I get there, and his house has dirt floors,” she recalls. “All weekend, we ate kidney beans and rice because it’s a nutritious meal that’s cheap to prepare. These things were just the reality of what people around me were dealing with.

This experience, so early in his college years, reawakened Fry, who spent part of his childhood on the family farm, but didn’t struggle with dirt floors and lack of food. After graduating from Southern Miss, she returned to Plant City.

“It’s ironic that I came back pretty quickly,” she said. “At the time, a lot of us wanted to leave (Plant City) – we thought there was nothing here; there is no opportunity.

With FCA and Best Florida Jobs, Fry created an abundance of opportunity for subsequent generations of Plant City and Tampa residents. But there is still work to be done. She is seeking more businesses to join FCA’s Business Advisory Councils, which meet a few times a year to assess needs and plan events in the communities the organization serves and plans to serve.

“You bring the right people to the table with the right process, which means you build relationships and open up dialogue,” she says, “and the magic will happen.”


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