Congratulations, Young Professional of the Year, Murray Devine!

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The Sarasota Young Professionals Group, a program of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, is proud to announce Murray Devine as the Young Professional of the Year announced at the YPG Summit: Thrive hosted at USF Sarasota-Manatee on July 21.

This award, which in years’ past has been announced at The Chamber’s Annual Small Business Awards, recognizes a young professional in the Sarasota region that has demonstrated outstanding leadership personally, professionally, and in our community.

About Murray Devine:

Murray Devine is the Manager of Communications and Marketing at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, overseeing the Foundation’s communications, media relations, social media, and marketing efforts for the last three years. He also directs the branding, strategic communications, and promotional efforts for the Giving Challenge, which benefits more than 600 local non-profit organizations, as well as Season of Sharing, which provides a safety-net for families living under the threat of homelessness. Originally born and raised in South Africa, Murray has been proud to be able to call Sarasota his home for the last 14 years. Murray believes in the power of results-based, strategic communications and storytelling to build movements and drive positive social change in communities. Through his work, Murray most enjoys telling the various stories of good things happening in our region and being able to give back to the community.


The 2017 YPG Summit: “Thrive” and the Young Professional of the Year Award is presented by Kerkering, Barberio & Co. Additional Sponsors include Observer Media Group as Media Sponsor; Community Foundation of Sarasota County as Foundation Partner; Boars Head Provisions Company, Cowork SRQ, and MagnifyGood as Track Sponsors; Willis Smith Construction and TriNet as Gold Sponsors; and Allegiant Private Advisors, BB&T, and Sarasota Ford as Silver Sponsors.

4 BEGINNING TWITTER TIPS FOR BUSINESS

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From 2014-2015 the number of Twitter users grew by 50 million, and it’s estimated that close to 1/5 of Internet users have Twitter accounts. The average Twitter user follows 5 businesses so if you’re not trying to reach your customers on Twitter you’re missing an opportunity.

Twitter is easy enough to understand, just share something 140 characters or less. You can share links, images, or videos. Here are a few other tips for businesses just starting out on Twitter:

Use Hashtags

Twitter is as hard to follow as the ticker tape on a stock page. It’s a constant barrage of messaging, particularly for those accounts that follow a lot of people. Hashtags, or pound signs (#), help people search for the information they want.

Using an appropriate hashtag can expand your business’ reach and help potential customers find what they’re looking for. Employ one specific to your business and use hashtags that are relevant. For instance, Jake’s Jewelry Store might use all, or any, of the following hashtags in tweets with images of gifts for mom: #jakes, #mothersday, #gift.

You can also use popular hashtags of trending topics, when applicable, like #marchmadness or #50shadesofgrey.

Share Images

This tip applies to most of social media but Twitter will display images prominently in the stream so it’s a good way to get your followers’ attention.

Rise Above the Noise

Find ways to stand out from others who are merely posting articles they’ve written. Ask questions. Have conversations. Thank people for sharing your content.

One of the easiest ways to create loyal followers, at least initially, is through commenting on what they share – either by providing your own opinions or asking them follow-up questions.

Avoid sending out automated thank you messages to new followers. While the concept seems nice – thanking them for following you – they come off as exactly what they are, robotic. Plus many Twitter users don’t check their messages box because of a large number of these they receive.

In addition to finding customers and potential customers on Twitter, it’s good to connect with influencers in your industry or audience such as mommy bloggers or niche bloggers.

Follow the Golden Rule

To follow back or not to follow back. That is the question and the answer for business is follow back, or do unto others as you would like them to do to you.

There are exceptions to this rule.

Twitter will cap you at 5,000 following (people you follow) if your followers (number of people who follow you) are not fairly equal. For instance, if you followed 2,000 people but only 500 followed you, Twitter will not allow you to follow any more until those numbers get within (about) 200 of each other. Twitter won’t tell you the exact number that it takes but you will be limited until those follower numbers rise.

You also don’t want your followers and following number too far off of one another because:

  • If you are following too many people, and a relatively equal number is not following you back, it looks like you’re not sharing worthwhile information.

On the other hand,

  • If a lot of people are following you and you’re only following a handful, you look like a bit of a jerk. That’s okay for reality TV stars but people who are using Twitter for business should be a little more congenial.

You can manage your Twitter followers through tools like ManageFlitter, Followerwonk (a Moz app) or Friend or Follow. Many of these tools can help you tell which accounts are spambots or fake accounts or inactive accounts. (You don’t want to spend time engaging those.) They also help you isolate influencers in your area.

There are pages and pages of tips written on topics like Twitter for business but the best thing to keep in mind is your humanity. Don’t make it all about your business and be gracious. Find ways to connect with people on a more personal level and imagine every tweet you’re sending could be seen by your grandmother, unless you’re in the type of business you don’t want your grandmother to know about.


Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and Memberclicks.

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.

Congratulations, Janet & Sharon as Ambassadors of the Quarter!

Congratulations, Janet Arena!

Janet Arena HeadshotJanet was born in Philadelphia.  Lived most of her youth on a farm in Bucks County. Went to Penn State—majored in business education. Very active in a service sorority, cheerleading, and the theater. Went on to Pittsburgh where she taught two years before going to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in East Africa where she taught business procedures to government employees. While there, she took the challenge of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro which she did in three days—19,340 feet (with no oxygen).

Came back to the U.S. where she taught at Suffolk Community College and Nassau Community College on Long Island. At the same time, she completed her Master’s Degree at Columbia University.

Janet moved to Connecticut where she accepted the position of Chairperson of the three high schools in Milford, CT. In 1979, she became President and co-owner of Stone Academy, a business and medical training post-secondary institute.

She moved to Florida in 2003. After working at various jobs throughout the area, she accepted the position in the Marketing Department at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. She is presently involved in various committees for four Chambers, ushers at seven venues, house manager at Venice Theater, serves on the Gala Committees for Goodwill, Save Our Seabirds and the American Cancer Society, works Meals on Wheels every Saturday; Vice President of the Penn State Alumni Association; Executive Committee member and treasurer for the Big Ten Alumni Group.


Congratulations, Sharon Litchfield!

 

Sharon Litchfield HeadshotSharon has lived in the Sarasota community for over 40 years and has been married to Andy for 32 years, with one son, Adam, both of which keep her grounded. They have two rescue dogs, Levi and Ziggy, who are inseparable and a joy every day. Sharon enjoys all activities that Sarasota provides, from walking the Ringling Bridge to exploring what downtown has to offer on a regular basis and all the festivals that Sarasota brings to our community. She loves traveling and exploring other areas outside Sarasota and look forward to many fun trips this summer.

Sharon will be celebrating 27 years at one of the finest private golf clubs in Sarasota, FL, home to the Champions TOUR from 1986 through 2001 as part of the PGA TOUR Golf Course Property Inc. clubs for over 17 years at TPC Prestancia in Sarasota.

Sharon’s involvement with The Chamber is extensive as she serves on three different councils within Thc Chamber: Chamber Ambassadors, Member Services & Small Business Support Council, and the Finance Committee.

In 2014, she returned to USFSM to pursue her Masters in Hospitality and Technology Leadership and graduated in April 2017. Her involvement in many fundraising charitable organizations over the past 25 years includes United Way, Susan G. Komen, MDA, BBBS, Southeastern Guide Dogs and Be The Match Foundation as a Registered Bone Marrow Donor.

Sharon’s philosophy that you need to give back to your community and give to those in need to have a meaningful life.


Congratulations, to both Janet & Sharon! We greatly appreciate the dedication that you give to The Chamber and to The Chamber Ambassadors’ program. Janet and Sharon’s longstanding commitment through The Chamber Ambassadors and other Chamber Programs, make them excellent representatives of The Chamber and its’ programs. Thank you & keep up the great work!

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For information on the Chamber Ambassadors program or to join, please contact Megan Neal or Craig McGonigal

Partnering to Build Your Business

The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce

1945 Fruitville Road | Sarasota, FL 34236

http://www.SarasotaChamber.com

6 Ways to Make the Most of Small Business Week

National Small Business Week 2017 is right around the corner… literally as we turn over our calendars to start May. Now, you’re probably asking yourself how you can support our local small business in Sarasota (at least that’s what I’m hoping you’re asking yourself!). We’ve come up with six simple ways for you get involved in National Small Business Week, April 30 through May 6, whether you own and operate a small business, employed by one, or just enjoy shopping locally!

Run Small Business Week Promotions

Need some inspiration? Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

Reward Loyalty: offer coupons and discounts to your most loyal customers during this week. You can add coupons to your Chamber Directory listing here!

Seasonal Themed Promotions: make this week extra relevant by making spring/summer and outdoor items on sale or by offering warm weather services at a discount (such as A/C Repair or Landscaping).

Special Holiday & Fun Observance Promotions: Get ahead of the game by making Mother’s Day (5/14) & Father’s Day (6/18) gift packages or coupons with purchase that can be redeemed on fun observance days like Bike to Work Day (5/18) or Martini Day (6/19).

Support Other Local Businesses

Take a couple minutes on your way to work to stop into a local small business, snap a photo to share on social media and tag them in it (also, send your photos to communications@sarasotachamber.com so we can share your photos, too!).  Offer special discounts or service to other Small Business Owners. Strengthening your support for another small business will strengthen your messaging to your target audience and will encourage them to support you, too.

Don’t Dip Your Toe In, Jump In

Showing up is 50% of winning. Don’t just promote the week, participate in the week! Google is hosting free webinars and workshops all throughout the week focused on topics important to small businesses. So remember, there is an educational component to the week, as well.

Team Up

Team up with other local businesses to cross-promote each other. Expand your reach by hosting a joint sale, offer to put their business cards or coupons in your storefront for yours in theirs. For maximum success, think of a complementary business to partner with, like fitness centers with nutrition stores or hair salons with boutiques, for example.

Update Your Listings

With more focus on small business during this week, in addition to any promotions you may run, you’re likely to see increased traffic to your website and social media accounts. It’s so simple to update your listings. This means your Chamber Listing, Google listing, Yelp, Social Media Pages (Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, etc.), need to have accurate information displayed for customers to find you.

As a small business owner, the last thing you want is a person learning of a promotion you’re running, but not being able to find your business or get the information to be able to make a purchase. Don’t let misinformation deter your customers!

Leverage Your Social Media

SOCIAL MEDIA IS FREE! Use it. There are countless ways to utilize social media to your benefit business during Small Business Week!

Use popular hashtags like #ShopSmall and #SmallBusinessWeek.

Follow the U.S. Small Business Administration on social media for updates during the week: Twitter @SBAgov and Facebook facebook.com/sbagov

Create a custom hashtag for your business or a promotion you are running.

Tag neighboring small businesses and use local hashtags to spark conversation.

Establish a theme for your Small Business Week social media posts.

While your out shopping at your favorite Chamber Member small businesses, snap a picture and send it to Communications@SarasotaChamber.com to be featured on our social media!

Encouraging awareness, building community, and expressing your passion for small business is the mission for National Small Business Week! Showing passion for small business will encourage your target audience to support you and other small businesses, as well. Have fun with the week and remember to put your money where your home is!

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To search The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce’s Membership Directory, please click here.


Partnering to Build Your Business

The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce

1945 Fruitville Road | Sarasota, FL 34236

http://www.SarasotaChamber.com

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.