TV host has faith in power of media

Published May 22, 2007

Jill Isaac stands before the cameras in the WEDU studios putting the final touches on the latest episode of Small Business Academy, but not without displaying her penchant for perfection.

She begins the take but stumbles ever so slightly. I'm not even sure why she stops, but she starts over. She does it again before achieving the perfect closing on the third take.

The stops and starts make me wonder if the frustration of being both producer and on-air talent for the show ever becomes too taxing, but nothing seems to dent Isaac's love of television.

"For me, it's about the influence and impact it has on the masses, " Isaac said. "Society needs steering, and it's not going to necessarily happen through books anymore."

For the past eight months, Isaac has tried to steer people into the world of small business. The show profiles local entrepreneurs in an effort to inspire others.

The next installment, which airs Thursday at 9 p.m., explores how family-run Sol Davis Printing dealt with the death of Wilbert Davis, one of the first soldiers from Tampa to die in Iraq.

Upcoming shows will feature Jeffrey Hess of Hess Fine Arts and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.

With WEDU sitting in a local enterprise zone, the station has a goal of promoting business development. Both Isaac's show and a second program, Suncoast Business Forum, aim to educate about business opportunities.

Her show debuted in September. Reaction from friends and even strangers has Isaac convinced of the program's impact.

One person asked her about starting a tea room after seeing a profile of Kim Pham, co-owner of Tampa's Kaleisia Tea Lounge.

"I'm helping people. I know I am, " Isaac said. "I'm encouraging them to get off the miserable situation they're in with that minimum-paid job and inspiring them to start small businesses."

Diversity also plays an important role.

"Tampa Bay is completely diverse, but it's not being represented through the airwaves, " Isaac said. "If you look at the representation of the community, it's not reflected in TV."

Isaac said she empathizes with entrepreneurs because of her own background. She worked as a producer for a number of small television news networks in Asia after graduating from the University of Toronto.

Her resume includes productions in such cities as Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Hong Kong; New Delhi; Bangalore, India; Singapore; Bangkok; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; and Karachi, Pakistan.

She returned to North America to earn two master's degrees from Seton Hall's Whitehead School of Diplomacy and International Affairs. Now she calls St. Petersburg home and says the area around the Vinoy Resort looks just like Singapore.

In addition to the show, Isaac also teaches a class on intercultural communications at the University of Tampa.

Television, however, remains her first love.

"This medium is one of the greatest influences out there, and I think that gets me excited, " Isaac said.

It makes me want to take a chance. Almost.

That's all I'm saying.