Inspire InitiativeRegister Today!
What is Inspire Initiative?
Let’s Celebrate Women!
Welcome to our second edition of the Inspire Initiative…a movement USSA President, Kitty McGowan, created last year to celebrate, empower, showcase and support the women of the yachting industry. While we are often outnumbered by the “boys” in nearly every sector of our industry, we’ve succeeded and grown in number….oftentimes breaking down barriers in high heels and a skirt!
What we are NOT. The Inspire Initiative is NOT another association to join. But rather it serves as a continuing reminder of our individual and collective strength through a series of events and engagements around the world designed to unite all of us in the focus of creating something bigger.
The spark that was ignited during our inaugural event last year has grown into a roaring fire spreading our positive and inspiring message worldwide!
We are working to build on last year’s success…to engage, challenge, educate and encourage all of us to be an inspiration in our own lives. This year’s program will invigorate and inspire all who attend by bringing together a variety of keynote speakers and panelists who have broken through their own barriers and relentlessly pushed their way to the top.
There are many ways to get involved…as we know it takes an army to make magic happen. Please take a few moments to review how you can join our initiative and be the match that ignites a spark in the lives of others.
2023 Panelists to include:
Bob Denison has accomplished 3 cool things in his life: 1) He was the Marlins first bat boy; 2) He married the prettiest girl alive, Daniella. Together they figured out how to have kids: Rivers, Nora Summer + Scout; and 3) Bob gets to leads the best team of yacht brokers and industry professionals in the world at Denison Yachting.
There are about 175 of them and they work out of 22 offices across the U.S. and now in Monaco.
Back in 1948, Frank & Gertrude Denison visited Fort Lauderdale on their honeymoon and decided to stay, buying a local business and renaming it Broward Marine. This business went on to build military vessels to support U.S. and Allied Forces, and later built private yachts, at one point becoming the largest employer in Fort Lauderdale.
Broward Marine built more private yachts over 80’ than any boat-builder in the world in the 20th Century. When Bob talks about ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’, he means it. He would be homeless if it wasn’t for the support of those that went before him, specifically his grandparents, parents, and 2 incredible uncles.
Dara Torres, the most decorated US female Olympic athlete of all-time, NY Times best-selling author, fitness advocate, motivational speaker, entrepreneur, and mother, started her career on the international stage by breaking her first world record at the age of 15. This incredible feat was accomplished on the way to her first of 5 Olympic appearances, in Los Angeles at the 1984 Games.
Torres who owns 4 Gold, 4 Silver and 4 Bronze medals was never someone that competed for the accolades instead for the challenge of doing what no one else has ever done. That intense passion for the unknown has driven Dara to represent the US from age 15 to age 41. This incredible journey, 26 years on the Olympic stage, has never been accomplished by any other American athlete and serves as the backdrop for Dara’s incredibly motivating speeches delivered to corporations all over the world. As one of the most requested female keynote speakers, Dara captivates audiences with her story of overcoming obstacles such as her age both young and old, injuries, insecurities, eating disorders, being bullied and others on her way to one of the most storied Olympic careers ever. Torres was inducted into the United States Olympic Committee’s Hall of Fame in 2019 along with other iconic Olympic athletes such as Nastia Liukin, Apolo Ohno, and Misty May-Treanor.
During Dara Torres’s career, she was a Wilhelmina model, named the first athlete model featured in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, hosted the most successful fitness infomercial of all-time the Tae-bo program with Billy Blanks selling over 10 million DVDs, and also worked on Cindy Crawford’s Crepe Erase which generated hundreds of millions of dollars in sales.
Dara has been a spokesperson for hundreds of companies including Toyota, Quaker Oats, Speedo, CaniBrands, Amlactin, and others. Dara is visible regularly on CBS Sports’ We Need To Talk, the first-ever all-female sports talk show that airs nationally, focusing on women’s perspective of sports.
Additionally, Dara is an entrepreneur and has invested in several companies including CaniBrands, a leading CBD company in addition to owning equity in two (2) Barre Method studios. Dara has found being an entrepreneur as challenging and competitive as being an Olympic level athlete says Dara, “I always remember my father being in business for himself, so I am sure that is where I got the hunger for wanting to be involved with ownership. I love the competition and the passion to succeed so my skills are always getting better, but my desire to make my companies great is always there!”
Dara is involved with several charities as well including Princess Charlene of Monaco’s global initiative on drowning prevention, the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation. Dara travels the globe in support of the Princess and her cause, trying to save children in need of assistance from drowning.
Katie Hagan, FHG Marine Engineering
Katie Hagan is the Owner and Chief Operating Officer of FHG Marine Engineering Inc. She co-founded FHG at age 28 in 2018. Katie is on the Board of Directors for the Marine Industries Association of South Florida (MIASF) and Board of Young Professionals in Yachting (YPY) USA as the Mentorship Director. She also serves as an Ambassador for She of the Sea advocating for diversity and inclusion in the yachting industry and is a member of Women's International Shipping & Trading Association (WISTA). Katie graduated from the University of San Diego summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a Bachelors in International Relations and Minor in Asian Studies (Chinese). While studying at USD, she sailed around the world at age 19 with Semester at Sea aboard the M/V Explorer. She later lived and worked abroad in Chongqing, China. Before joining the maritime industry, Katie was involved in humanitarian diplomacy working for several years with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as Head of Chancellery at the ICRC Delegation to the United Nations and at the ICRC Regional Delegation in Washington, D.C. She is from Scottdale, Arizona.
Kristin Bernard, the Founder and CEO of Côtes de Femme Wines
Kristin Bernard, the Founder and CEO of Côtes de Femme Wines earned her bachelor’s degree in Human Environmental Sciences from the University of Alabama. While in college, she studied both communications and human development.
In 2019, Kristin created Côtes de Femme as a Certified Woman-Owned wine and lifestyle brand now with four years of national distribution offering premium wines from the best wine regions of the world at affordable pricing in an unforgettable bottle.
Côtes de Femme translates sides of woman, representing the many shapes, curves, tones, and types of women. Côtes de Femme focuses on empowering women in their marketing as well as their charitable donations.
Prior to creating Côtes de Femme Wines, Kristin is also a lifestyle guru and fitness innovator where she has created multiple fitness programs that have caught on to her fitness peers. Kristin is a published author where she created a fitness certification for a Bungee Fitness Program accepted by the National Association of Sports Medicine and the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America.
Kristin, and her husband Andy, now married over 26 years, are true entrepreneurs where they have created a few small businesses. They have three adult children, their son Nate, and two daughters, Katie and Maddi. They currently live in Huntsville, Alabama.
Kristina Hebert is the President and CEO of Ward’s Marine Electric, a third generation family owned business that started in 1950, specializing in vessel electrical systems from equipment sales to engineering and refit to new build. Her degree in political science has proved beneficial, not simply in her role as President but also her leadership roles in industry associations and legislative initiatives.
Over 27 years of experience with Ward’s has taught her that the top priority is to evolve the business, keeping pace with the industry, and maintain the family core values. Our motto is..”There’s a wrong way, there’s a right way and there’s the WARD’s WAY.” That is how we achieve excellence.
President – On the Ball:
Marc Nudelberg is a coach, author, and entrepreneur. He leverages his experiences as a Division I football coach and President of On the Ball to help individuals and their teams adopt the 1% better mindset. Marc delivers energy, passion and competitive drive while helping others focus on the details and develop processes that produce results.
Rhoda Mae Kerr
Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr
Rhoda Mae Kerr was sworn in as the City of Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue Chief on July 2, 2018. With the appointment, Kerr became the City’s first female Fire Chief in the 106-year history of the department.
Chief Kerr was honored to serve as the Interim Assistant City Manager for the City at the beginning of 2019 starting January 1, responsible for the oversight of the City’s operational departments consisting of the Department of Sustainable Development, Parks & Recreation, Public Works, and Transportation & Mobility. Chief Kerr champions the day-to-day operations with the City Manager serving the City and if designated, steps forward to assume the Manager’s duties in his absence.
Chief Kerr brings more than 35 years of experience to her position where she oversees a staff of more than 450 professional firefighters and administrative personnel and directs day-to-day operations for the fully accredited department that responds to more than 54,000 calls annually.
Prior to joining the City of Fort Lauderdale, Kerr spent almost 10 years as Fire Chief of the City of Austin, Texas, managing one of the nation’s 20 largest fire departments, with nearly 1,200 sworn personnel, 113 civilian personnel, and 47 fire stations. From 2004-2009, she served as Fire Chief of Little Rock, Arkansas where she was instrumental in the implementation of a bond program to renovate the City’s fire stations, upgrade communication equipment, and complete a Fire Training Academy.
A fourth-generation firefighter, Kerr began her career in the fire service in 1983 with the City of Fort Lauderdale. Over the next 20 years, she steadily rose through the ranks serving as a Firefighter, Driver/Engineer, Lieutenant, Battalion Chief, Division Chief, and ultimately, Fort Lauderdale’s first female Deputy Fire Chief.
Chief Kerr has been a pioneer and trailblazer in the fire profession for decades. In 2015, she was the first woman elected President of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) in the 142-year history of the organization. She served as President of the Metropolitan “Metro” Fire Chiefs Association from 2016 - 2017 and is a former President of the National Society of Executive Fire Officers (NSEFO).
In December 2016, Chief Kerr was appointed by President Barack Obama to the National Infrastructure Advisory Council, where she along with academic, public, and private sector experts, advises the sitting President on matters regarding the security of critical infrastructure and related information systems.
Chief Kerr holds a Master’s in Public Administration, a Bachelor of Arts degree in Physical Education and Health, and an Associate’s degree in Fire Science Technology. She earned two certifications from Harvard’s program for Senior Executives in State and Local Government, and is a graduate of the Executive Fire Officer Program. Prior to entering the fire service, Chief Kerr was a coach and physical education teacher at the high school level for 12 years.
Chief Kerr is an avid sports enthusiast, enjoying cycling, golf, tennis, and skiing.
Rose Damen is the Managing Director of Damen Yachting - the Dutch superyacht builder behind the iconic Amels yachts, SeaXplorer luxury expedition yachts and Yacht Support vessels. A company which offer clients the largest superyacht facility in the Netherlands and is world-renowned for the very highest quality superyachts above 50 metres in length. The yard, where more than 1500 craftsmen and women work, has delivered more than 60 Amels superyachts, including its Limited Editions range up to 83 metres in length, and also operates a busy Refit and Full Custom division.
Damen Yachting is part of the Damen Shipyards Group, of which Rose is a third generation family shareholder. The group is the world leader in specialist shipbuilding including superyachts as well as advanced naval ships, high-speed craft for coast guards, and complex offshore construction vessels. The group comprises 50 companies in 28 countries, including 35 shipyards, and with 12,000 employees. Damen delivers over 200 ships annually. In 1927 the Damen brothers founded their first shipyard in the Netherlands.
Before joining Damen Shipyards full-time in 2014, Rose earned an MBA from INSEAD, with a focus on entrepreneurial management. This followed five years’ experience in fund management at Intrinsic Value Investors (IVI), a London-based institutional investor. Before joining IVI, Rose worked for a non-governmental organisation in Sri Lanka, and completed an internship at ABN AMRO Jakarta. Besides living and working in Asia, Rose also has Asian family roots.
Rose holds a degree from Erasmus University in the Netherlands and has also passed all three CFA exams. She is a founding trustee of the Dutch Masters Foundation and a member of the development board of the National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam. Rose enjoys outdoor sports, has sailed around the world and is a mother to 2 young daughters.
Together with her sister Annelies Damen, Rose was winner of the 2017 Enterprising Women of the Year Award for the category over $100 million in annual revenues.
Captain Sandra Yawn is a world renowned captain in the yachting industry with over 30 years of experience. Yawn’s love for the ocean propelled her to achieve the highest status as a mega yacht captain in a male dominated industry. Her dedication and attention to detail has earned her an outstanding reputation in an elite class of captains as the recipient of the prestigious Distinguished Crew Award for the International Super Yacht Society in 2006 when she was able to ensure the safety of all guests, crew, and the even the vessel during a catastrophic fire off the coast of Yemen.
Yawn, always the professional, earned a United States Coastguard Masters of Oceans 1600T/3000T and the United States Coast Guard and Maritime Coast Guard Agency Class IV CEC. She values professional organizations and remains an active member of the Captain’s Advisory Council for SeaKeepers Society, International Super Yachts Society, United States Super Yacht Association, and the Professional Yachting Association.
The undeniable resilience Yawn possesses has not only pushed her to the top of the yachting industry but also allowed her to focus on philanthropic collaboration, ocean advocacy, and children’s education. Yawn is an active board member or advisor for many philanthropic groups including the Jacksonville School for Autism, a not for profit organization that Yawn’s sister founded for the captain’s nephew, Nicholas.
Yawn continually uses her experience and life’s trials and tribulations to educate and help others. She survived a life threatening motorcycle accident, threat of pirates, and even cancer. She appeared on the Emmy Award winning talk show The Doctors in hopes of sharing her personal experiences to educate others about cancer and health.
Yawn is currently the captain on Bravo TV’s reality show Below Deck Mediterranean. Yawn’s unique leadership style of embracing teachable moments to train and educate her staff have earned her fan favorite accolades. Yawn is a hands on type Captain who leads by example and is not afraid to do whatever it takes to get the job done.