Sarasota County Wins State FAFSA Completion Award

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The Talent4Tomorrow Partnership is proud to announce that Sarasota County Schools has won four awards for highest FAFSA completion rate in the state from the 2017 Florida FAFSA Challenge, a campaign to increase the proportion of high school seniors completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Through leading local efforts made by the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership, 45.5% by Sarasota County high school seniors have completed the FAFSA. This is a 9.1% change over the previous application year, which equates to an estimated additional $513,180 in Pell grants awarded to Sarasota County students. Additionally, the Florida College Access Network (Florida CAN) has awarded Sarasota with the following honors:

  • Sarasota County Schools–“MVP for Large School District” (Having the highest FAFSA completion rate through March 31st, 2017)
  • Riverview High School–“Biggest Boost for Large Schools” (Largest week-to-week change in percentage of students completing the FAFSA)
  • All-Stars”—(Achieving an increase of FAFSA completion by at least 5% over last year):
  • Sarasota County School District
  • Suncoast Polytechnical High School
  • Sarasota Military Academy
  • Booker High School
  • Venice Senior High School
  • Sarasota High School
  • North Port High School
  • Riverview High School

 

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Talent4Tomorrow Partners and Sarasota County School District Officials accepting the award for “MVP for Large School District”

 

The Talent4Tomorrow Partnership is a community collaborative known as a “Local College Access Network”, and consists of CareerEdge Funders Collaborative, Education Foundation of Sarasota County, The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, Sarasota County Schools, UnidosNow, and United Way Suncoast. The Talent4Tomorrow Partnership seeks to increase career awareness and postsecondary attainment through increased college and career awareness, aspiration, and affordability initiatives. Kevin Cooper, President of The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce stated, “Every dollar counts when it comes to accessing post-secondary education.  When we come together, focus together, and lead together, it’s gratifying to see results getting our students one step closer to where they and we want them to be.  This is a truly great example of leadership through collaboration.”

The Talent4Tomorrow Partnership has spent several months planning and executing FAFSA awareness and support activities, including FAFSA completion assistance during community- and school-based events. Community volunteers as well as financial aid officers from Ringling College of Art & Design, State College of Florida, University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, and Keiser University assisted families of high school seniors in completing the FAFSA form at North Port High School, Booker High School, and Sarasota High School, as well as community-based FAFSA events and United Way Suncoast VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) programs.

According to the Florida College Access Network, less than half of all eligible Sarasota County high school students in 2012-2013 completed the FAFSA form, thus leaving over $2 million in Pell Grant dollars untapped. 59% of Florida students in 2013 were eligible to receive a Pell Grant, which awards up to $5,815 a year per student.


For more information regarding the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership, contact Mimi Cirbusova at mcirbusova@sarasotachamber.com or (941) 556-4038.

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From the Chair’s Corner: Small Business is Big Business

The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce is committed to the support of business in

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Chair | George McGonagill | Questar Construction

the greater Sarasota region. As is common in most communities, your Chamber is certainly reflective of the community that invests in it. For Sarasota, that means that your Chamber is comprised mainly of businesses that carry less than 75 full-time employees. In fact, 80% of your membership is made up of those businesses.

Having worked for one of the largest employers in the region, Sarasota County Schools, and now as an entrepreneur with a small business, Questar Construction, I can say with certainty that the Chamber strongly supports the full spectrum of business sizes here in our area. However, it is the small business that drives so much of the economic engine in Sarasota and within your Chamber. It may come as a surprise to many that more than 60% of businesses in the United States have less than five employees. Furthermore, over 30% of workers in the United States are employed by businesses with less than 100 employees.

To be certain, regardless of size, business isn’t an easy endeavor. However, it is the small-business start-up that perhaps best embodies the spirit of entrepreneurialism. Roughly half of all small businesses will close within their first four years. That alone may speak to the importance of community support for small business. Those making the trek forward are our friends, family, and neighbors. It is critical for all layers of the community to support their efforts in hopes that our half is the half that succeeds, that our community be the place where small business beats the average. That’s not just something that would be nice, it is something we should strive for.

The Chamber is focused on promoting, supporting, and connecting the small businesses in our region. We are proud to include our annual Small Business Awards as a bridge across the entire spectrum of activities within those areas of focus. As we look to celebrating excellence in the small business community, I am always reminded of the fact that small business is big business in Sarasota. While your Chamber takes the opportunity to award small business excellence one day each year, it provides support for those businesses non-stop, all year long.

George McGonagill

Chair of The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors

President of Questar Construction, Inc.


The 2017 Frank G. Berlin, Sr. Small Business Awards will take place on Friday, June 2 at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota. The event is presented by The Herald-Tribune Media Group.

Save Your Seat for Small Business Awards!

Meet Our Members: Greater Sales Growth

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Give us a brief history of your business/organization.

Greater Sales Growth is the product of almost 30 Years specializing in Sales and Business Management. I have sold $30+Million in Products and Services. Along the way, I perfected many strategies that consistently produce explosive sales results. Using these methods I have repeatedly helped businesses grow 10% – 25% annually.

What are your business/organization’s core values, goals, and overall mission?
We help Small Businesses achieve financial success, peace of mind and a bright future.
How long have you been in business in the Greater Sarasota Community?
16 MONTHS
In a nutshell, what does your business/organization provide its customers/clients?
Greater Sales Growth | The Sales Experts | We Increase Sales Fast
Complete this sentence: “When a customer/client walks into my business/office, they can expect…”
The Most Experienced and Accomplished Sales Experts.
What makes your business/organization unique?
Greater Sales Growth is unique because of its primary focus on Small Businesses. We give Small Businesses, Big Company Resources. We use the same strategies that Fortune 500 Companies have used for decades. Using our methods any business can achieve DOUBLE DIGIT ANNUAL GROWTH
What benefit attracted you to The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce?
The Chamber does a great job supporting small businesses. Since our primary clients are Small Businesses it just made perfect sense for me to join.
Is your company/organization involved in any community/civic activities?
Giving back to the Community is a very high priority. We offer FREE SERVICES TO many SMALL BUSINESSES that are seriously in need providing expert guidance, mentoring and support.
Where do you see your organization in five years?
A Book is in the works. I also hope to add more experts to our Team. We want to help 50 – 100 small businesses in the next 5 years
What are three things your business/organization can’t live without?
No Business can live without (People + Process + Planning) As well as… (Tools + Tactics + Training). We make all of these critical business components work together seamlessly. That is our focus every day!

For more information about Greater Sales Growth, visit their website, follow Show Management on Facebook and Twitter.

Your business or organization could be featured in The Chamber Buzz. “Meet Our Members” is a member spotlight feature on The Chamber Buzz blog and e-newsletter, showcasing our member businesses, their products, and services. To be considered for the spotlight, simply complete this form.

Meet Our Members: Show Management

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Give us a brief history of your business/organization.

In 1976, Show Management opened its doors and became the producers of the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. The company now produces five boat shows each year along with hundreds of special events throughout the year. Specializing in event production, Show Management has made the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, Yachts Miami Beach, formerly the Miami Yacht & Brokerage Show, and the Palm Beach Boat Show, three of the World’s largest in-water boat shows, and the St. Petersburg Boat Show and Suncoast Boat Show in Sarasota, two of the Gulf Coast’s largest in-water boat shows.

How long have you been in business?

Since 1976.

In a nutshell, what does your business provide its customers/clients?

The Show Management Convention Services division offers a full line of decorating and material handling services for consumer and trade show exhibits, including customized floor plans, booth furnishings, storage, and shipping. The Show Management Concessions division manages event food, beverage, and live entertainment services.

Currently Show Management consists of five divisions to better serve the event industry. The two divisions that manage and produce boat shows, offer floating docks and a full line of clearspan tents from 60′ to 165′ in width are Yachting Promotions, Inc. and Yachting Promotions Gulf, Inc.

What are your business/organization’s core values, goals, and overall mission?

The company now produces five boat shows each year along with hundreds of special events throughout the year. Show Management is actively seeking new venues for additional boat shows in the future.

The 35th Annual Suncoast Boat Show takes place in downtown Sarasota on April 21-23, 2017, at Marina Jack’s, #2 Marina Plaza, Sarasota, FL 34236. Enjoy the great outdoors while pricing and comparing hundreds of boats from the Gulfcoast’s leading boat dealers. See various types and styles all in one place. Cruisers, Runabouts, Bowriders, Sportfishers, Center Consoles, Motor Yachts, Inflatables and more. Shop tents full of electronics, accessories, jewelry, art and clothing all in a festive atmosphere with food, drinks, music and much more. Plenty of downtown parking. Visit www.showmanagement.com for more information or to purchase tickets!


For more information about Show Management, visit their website, follow Show Management on Facebook and Twitter.

Your business or organization could be featured in The Chamber Buzz. “Meet Our Members” is a member spotlight feature on The Chamber Buzz blog and e-newsletter, showcasing our member businesses, their products, and services. To be considered for the spotlight, simply complete this form.

Your Chamber Taking the Lead on Education

Why would a chamber of commerce get involved in helping students get to college?

While it is common practice for school districts, college and universities, and education-focused organizations to participate in chamber membership, increasing postsecondary attainment rates is not typically a role chambers are thought of playing. However, your Chamber has taken a different view.Print

The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce has stepped up to take a leadership role in the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership (T4T); an initiative that focuses on bridging the gap between high school graduation and postsecondary educational attainment. Working in close partnership with organizations like the Barancik Foundation, Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Gulf Coast Community Foundation, CareerEdge Funders Collaborative, Education Foundation of Sarasota County, UnitedWay Suncoast, and UnidosNow (to name a few), The Chamber has been working over the last year to bring about new, innovative programs that help our local students go beyond high school graduation and into a postsecondary program.

One area Talent4Tomorrow has particularly targeted is FAFSA completion. Financial burdens are often cited as one of the top reasons students do not enroll in a postsecondary program. The FAFSA, or “Free Application for Federal Student Aid”, is a federal form that students must complete to receive Pell grants, most scholarships, and other types of financial aid. However, confusion and lack of awareness around this application process cause many to simply not complete the application. According to the Florida College Access Network, 59 percent of Sarasota students were eligible for Pell Grants in 2012-13, but fewer than half of them filled out FAFSA forms, resulting in more than $2 million left untapped by Sarasota County students. Ultimately, this results in fewer students entering quality educational programs that feed our local workforce needs and causes local businesses to feel the pain of seeking out qualified employees.

However, in the 2015-2016 FAFSA application cycle, the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership orchestrated a multi-faceted strategy to address the need for more students to complete the FAFSA. Thus, Sarasota County was recognized by the Florida FAFSA Challenge with awards in eight categories. Even more impressively, these efforts resulted in an additional $283,000 in Pell Grant funds being accessed by Sarasota County students. With those additional funds, many more students have been able to attend technical/trade schools, two-year degree programs, and traditional Bachelors programs. For our Chamber members, this equates to more skilled workers ready to take on important jobs for their companies.

Efforts of Talent4Tomorrow have not gone unnoticed by those around the state and the nation. Recently, T4T partners collected $62,500 in matching funds to procure a $50,000 grant from the Florida Philanthropic Network. With these grant dollars, T4T can begin to work on other barriers to postsecondary enrollment and attainment, such as college and career awareness. The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce is proud to be a part of this initiative, bringing the education and business communities together to help students see themselves not only in our colleges and universities but also as professionals that contribute to the future of Sarasota County.


Submission contributed by Mimi Cirbusova, The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce’s Young Professionals Group Coordinator.

Get The MOST Out Of Chamber Expo

As we near Chamber Expo 2016, the largest “Business After Hours” in the area, in partnership with the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, exhibitors and attendees, alike, want to know how to get the most out of the trade show. Here are a few ways to get involved in Chamber Expo.

Exhibitors:

You’ve registered, put it on your calendar and are now preparing your booth and attend. Now what? We are here to give you some tips and feel free to use this as your checklist for the event.

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1. Get your pitch down.

Use your pitch to engage the attendees. You may have a demo or giveaways but don’t let that distract from what you’re really there to do, make connections! But, it is recommended to have a give away to invite attendees to drop off business cards for you to follow up on later.

2. Make your booth inviting.

Don’t over pack your booth with lots of inventory and large items. Leave room for people to engage with you. Try placing your table on the side or in the back of your allotted space to invite them in. And visually, sometimes, less is more with a clean, simple booth that is eye-catching. Plan it out beforehand in your office space with tape on the floor if you need!

 

3. Cut costs & not corners – know when to embellish.

When planning for a trade show, make sure you are investing in materials that you can use for the long haul that will save you money over time.

4. Follow up and evaluate.

Made some new contacts from Chamber Expo? Make sure to follow up with those people! Look for opportunities to share upcoming news on your business. Following up with those you’ve made connections with isn’t just about closing the sale, it’s about determining your return on investment. Think about referrals, retail leads, media hits, etc.

Haven’t registered for your booth yet?

Hurry, there are only a few spaces left. Contact Brittany Lamont to secure your booth today.

Attendees:

Network.

This is why you are there! Talk to everyone – even on the way to the restroom. A simple “hello” and being nice can go a long way. Meet your neighboring booths and exhibitors because you never know when or where your next referral may come from.

For Exhibitors: Don’t leave your booth unattended, you may miss your best future customer!

Engage With Exhibitors.

Drop off your business cards with exhibitors and engage with demos. Make meaningful connections with businesses across two counties! After the Expo, make sure to follow up with those you have connected with.

 


We hope that you have found this article helpful in attending & exhibiting at Chamber Expo 2016, hosted by The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce and the Manatee Chamber of Commerce. To attend, there is a $5 entrance fee at the door.

Chamber Expo 2016
November 9, 2016 | 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Bradenton Area Convention Center
One Haben Boulevard
Palmetto, Florida 34221

Sponsored by: Sam’s Club

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Visit SarasotaChamber.com for the most up-to-date Chamber Events.

Vote Sarasota for America’s Happiest Seaside Town!

The city of Sarasota has been named one of the top 10 “America’s Happiest Seaside Towns 55045036341936194312017” by Coastal Living! Now it’s our turn to rally support and vote to become the happiest seaside town in America!

Vote here (every 15 minutes) daily until midnight, Oct. 17. The winning town will be announced Jan. 11, 2017 and will be featured in the May 2017 issue of Coastal Living and the top towns will be featured in an online gallery.

Why have we been chosen?
The jubilation created from big circus fun never really left the city of Sarasota, even after the Ringling Bros. Circus moved elsewhere.

But maybe the seaside breeze, the white sand and the coastal blue green waters are more to blame. Maybe the “circus” fun never left — after all there is a large circus heritage and tradition that remains in Sarasota to this day. Or maybe the enormous catalogue of arts, dining, attractions and eco amenities have helped to contribute to the “at ease” sensation of vacationing in this Florida Gulf Coast destination!

Sarasota could be considered the definitive happy town. It’s smaller than major metropolitan cities: you can land on the tarmac of the Sarasota-Bradenton International airport and be looking out to the Gulf of Mexico on Lido Beach in a matter of minutes. It’s more cultural than any other city of its scale: with multiple professional theatres, a ballet, an orchestra, an opera and countless galleries and museums. There are more parks and acres of untouched Florida wilderness than you can imagine, not far outside the city limits. Finally, the local chefs come from all over the world and serve dishes that may be considered works of art themselves, often using ingredients from nearby local farms. What else could you ask for in a city our size?

Share your happy town photo! Get on instagram and post your photo using the hashtag #CLHappyTownSarasota and #CLHappyTown.

Vote For Sarasota Here!


Editor’s note: This article, in entirety, is the property of Visit Sarasota County. See original posting here.