Getting to Know Sonny Flynn – Women’s History Month

Sonny Flynn, Owner/CEO of Alligator & Wildlife Discovery Center, John’s Pass Rescue, and BITE Trolley


Please share a little bit about your background personally and professionally.

I was raised in the hospitality industry. My parents owned a little pizza parlor, and I started helping there once I was tall enough to reach the tables. I also found my love for cooking.

Today, I am Owner of the Historic John’s Pass Alligator & Wildlife Discovery Center that has been a staple Attraction in Pinellas County for a decade, drawing thousands of excited visitors annually. Our mission focuses on wildlife preservation, animal rescue, and education.

I have dedicated myself to saving thousands of animal lives by adopting them or assisting in the relocation of unwanted pets. By educating the public through my Wildlife Education Center, my staff and I help visitors to understand the needs of certain species and what it takes to have them as pets. I believe by educating the public about the needs of certain species and which ones are good household pets and the ones that are not, will help eliminate the numbers of neglected and unwanted pets in society. Before this, I had more than 30 years of success in the tourism and hospitality industry.

My most recent adventure is BITE Trolley. More than just a transportation company, we are adding an entertainment factor, with animal ambassadors, music with students from School of Rock, and the occasional guest brewery.

How did being a woman affect your professional path/path to leadership?

Being a woman in business, I met some challenges along the way, but it was those challenges that created even more drive and determination for me to accomplish any goal I set for myself. Without those hurdles, I would not be the strong, compassionate leader I am today or have the success.

How do women positively impact Florida’s hospitality industry?

There are several women I have met along the way that have had a huge impact on the hospitality industry. They are restaurant/bar owners, general managers of large hotels, and leaders in our trade association and local chambers, to name a few. Although the hospitality industry is very competitive, women are more likely to support each other and help each other grow. They recognize strength in numbers and maintain compassion. In my opinion, the successful women dare to dream and multitask well to get it done.

What qualities make a great female leader?

Self awareness, connection, compassion, resilience, and persistence

What does Women’s History Month mean to you?

Women’s History Month is important. We have overcome a great deal, but we have some more work to do for equality. To see the women of past and present recognized for accomplishments is amazing and long overdue!

Is there a woman from history who you admire? Why?

Queen Elizabeth. Under her rule, England became a major European power in politics, commerce and the arts.

Why is it important for more women to be recognized in leadership roles?

Female leaders create a more diverse workforce, generate broader societal impacts, and serve as role models. Recognizing them will benefit both men and women in career advancement, pay equity, and will aid in changing workplace policies.

What piece of advice would you give to women coming up in hospitality?

Dare to dream! In unity we all succeed! With patience and perseverance anything is possible.

What professional, personal or community service driven accomplishments are you proud of?

Alligator & Wildlife Discovery Center & John’s Pass Rescue are my proudest accomplishments. It is an honor to save animals, share conservation efforts, continue education programs, and now with the farm go back to my beginning and support culinary programs.