Monthly Archives: May 2017

SB2 Reporting Out: GOOD PEOPLE The Tourism Economy, May 18


Left to right: Moderator, Wes Roberts, Panelist, Elliott Falcione, Keynote, Alfredo Gonzalez and Panelists, Jeff Mayers and Rick Piccolo. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan. 

Last Thursday, SRQ MEDIA’s SB2: GOOD PEOPLE The Tourism Economy breakfast symposium shed light on the current state of tourism regionally and state-wide as marketing budget cuts loom on the horizon.


Opening presenter, Jeff Mayers from The Resort at Longboat Key Club welcomes guests to SBQ: GOOD PEOPLE The Tourism Economy. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan. 

After opening remarks by series sponsor Jeff Mayers of The Resort at Longboat Key Club, John Horne of the Anna Maria Oyster Bar introduced keynote speaker Alfredo Gonzalez, Vice President of International Sales and Market Development at VISIT FLORIDA to the crowd sharing a tongue and cheek story of Alfredo’s college days working at Bennigan’s. “Alfredo and I actually go way back. You see he spent is college years as a server at Bennigan’s and I think most of us can confidently state that we have dined there at least once. Bennigan’s is now closed. Alfredo I am looking at you,” Horne joked.


Jeff Horne from the Anna Maria Oyster Bar introduces Keynote, Alfredo Gonzalez to the crowd. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan. 

Gonzalez began his presentation by addressing the elephant in the room; VISIT FLORIDA’s impending budget cut by the state government. He stated, budget cuts will make it more difficult to reach out to potential tourists around the world, but the state’s de facto tourism bureau will maintain strong partnerships overseas and domestically to ensure destinations in the Sunshine State won’t be overlooked. “Last year we had a $75 million budget,” Gonzalez said. “If things don’t go well over the next couple days, that $74 million will drop to about $25 million. That will make things very difficult for us, but nothing is over. In 2010 we had $31 million and we still broke records.”

The Florida Legislature, which just concluded its regular session earlier this month, budgeted just $25 million for VISIT FLORIDA after Governor Rick Scott requested $100 million. Gonzalez noted a new budget won’t go into effect until July, and, so far, Florida has seen tremendous visitation, with about 30.2 million visitors recorded coming into the state in the first quarter of 2017.

Gonzalez ended his presentation with a kudos to the Gulfcoast region and our commitment to creating a quality visitor experience. “I would like to congratulate you more than anything else. This destination almost behaves like its not in Florida; you’re so unique in what you have. Keep doing it because we are going to need the help this year. Utilize your uniqueness, utilize your amazing ability to satisfy people’s needs and I tell you regardless of how much money you have or we have—I know if you have this type of product and this type of commitment, there will be no problems. We will see dips, but we will not see chaos.”


Keynote Speaker, Alfredo Gonzalez of VISIT FLORIDA, addresses the current economic state of Florida tourism. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan. 

Between bites, guests picked up thought provoking insight from some of our region’s powerhouse tourism organizations: Jeff Mayers of The Resort at Longboat Key Club, Rick Piccolo of the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, and Elliot Falcione of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. Panelists spoke on the impact of budget cuts but also how this shortfall can be made up in the region.


Left to right: Jeff Mayers, Elliot Falcione, Wes Roberts (center, moderator), Alfredo Gonzalez and Rick Piccolo. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan. 

“First of all, from a marketing perspective we need to be able to embrace the changes in technology and use the proper vehicles for our messaging. Secondly, I believe we need to be increasingly relevant. Its important that our voice is heard, for people see who we are and continue to come to Sarasota as it is a great destination. Finally, we have such great bones here as far as the beaches. Those of us who live here know the arts and culture and restaurants and community. These great surroundings will never change as long as we don’t lose sight of who we are,” said Jeff Mayers, General Manager of The Resort at Longboat Key Club.

Elliot Falcione, Executive Director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, noted how local marketing efforts have worked to complement exactly what visitors expect in the region as a destination, which is an improvement over past years when surveys showed most couldn’t place Anna Maria relative to Tampa, Sanibel or Boca Grande. “Our brand is now penetrating against competitors really well, and that’s with the second smallest budget on the West Coast of Florida aside from Port Charlotte,” says Falcione.

“From the airport perspective, our infrastructure is in excellent shape,”Rick Piccolo, President and CEO of the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, said setting the area apart from built-out destinations like Miami and Orlando. “This is a boutique community, and I look at the airport as a boutique airport. I tell people we are Whole Foods to Tampa’s Publix and Punta Gorda’s Save-A-Lot.”


Alfredo Gonzalez and Rick Piccolo discuss bringing international carriers to the region. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan.

In addition to SB2 regulars, SRQ MEDIA hosted students from Booker Middle and Booker High School, eager to gain some insight on the hospitality industry. Elliott Falcione, addressed the next workforce generation, by stating: “The best thing you can do moving forward is continue to polish your people skills. Where I have been successful is relationship building, communicating and knowing the resources that I have available to get things done. We see so many students coming out of college that do not have those personality traits that really integrate with our industry.”


Booker High School Principal, Dr. Rachel Shelley and her students at SB2 GOOD PEOPLE: The Tourism Economy. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan. 

We couldn’t have learned the incredible things from this engaging discussion without our series sponsors: CS&L CPAs, The Resort at Longboat Key Club, Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport and SB2 GOOD PEOPLE keynote sponsor: Anna Maria Oyster Bar. Thank you for supporting the SB2 series, but most importantly, thank you for the ways you give back and help people in our community each and every day. Your example inspires us.


Representatives from SB2 Series Sponsor The Resort at Longboat Key Club. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan. 

Click here to read the article about SB2: GOOD PEOPLE in SRQ DAILY. A gallery of images from SB2: GOOD PEOPLE: The Tourism Economy is available online. The 2016-2017 SB2 season will conclude on Thursday, July 20 with SB2 GOOD HAND: Building Capacity In Our Independent Sector featuring Keynote Speaker David infrastructure, President & CEO of the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation. To purchase tickets, visit

SRQ MEDIA “ROARS” at the Women in Business Leadership and Awards, April 27



From left to right: SRQ Media’s Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, Ashley Grant, 2017 Trailblazer Award Recipient, Nancy Bernardini, 2017 Hear Me Roar Keynote Speaker, Ria Rersad and 2015 Hear Me Roar Keynote Speaker, Pam Van Der Lee. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan. 


On Thursday, April 27, the mighty roar of SRQ Media’s “Hear Me Roar” Women in Business Leadership and Awards Luncheon echoed from Bradenton all the way to Venice as this year’s winners and finalists were announced to a sold-out crowd at The Francis in Downtown Sarasota.


Guests shopped Jo Malone presented by Saks Fifth Avenue Sarasota during the Pop Up Boutique experience. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan. 


Guests enjoyed a glass of bubbly while perusing through pop up boutiques representing some of our favorite local retailers, including Barton and Gray, Diamond Vault, Jo Malone and Laura Mercier courtesy of Saks Fifth Avenue Sarasota, New Balance Sarasota, PAINT Nail Bar, Philosophy and Vines, Pineapple Yoga, Scout and Molly’s Boutique and The Ritz Carlton, Sarasota Spa.

Keynote Speaker, Ria Persad speaks on self confidence and enjoying the journey you are on. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan. 

After Mike McMullan of Seaside Bank kicked off the afternoon and welcomed those in attendance, the multifaceted keynote speaker, mathematician, classical musician and child prodigy Ria Persad, CEO of StatWeather spoke on her empowering journey of determination, courage and her belief in maintaining a ‘happiness perspective’. In addressing the audience, she noted, “The joy in life isn’t in ‘arriving’ – it’s in the journey itself.  We seldom ever ‘arrive’, and that ‘arrival’ doesn’t usually take the shape we think it will.  99.99% of our life is spent in the journey, so let’s enjoy this very moment and time we live in to the very fullest. Our greatest inspiration and our greatest catalysts in life can be from our places of greatest suffering, as we rise up from those places with strength and courage.”


2017 Trailblazer Award Recipient, Nancy Bernardini speaks on the importance of mentorship. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan. 


In receiving 2017 SRQ Trailblazer Award, honoree Nancy Bernardini, General Manager of Gurwitch Products/President of Laura Mercier and RéVive and leader of the $200 multi million dollar global luxury cosmetics and skincare enterprise, brought the house down and elicited peals of laughter from the crowd with the hilarious opening of her acceptance speech, “I’m supposed to follow an astro-physicist? – I sell lipstick!”, she joked and continued with her connection-centric philosophy, “This day is about you. Celebrating you and your accomplishments and applauding you for your leadership and mentorship. I am a believer in the transformative power of mentorship.  I have had a strong mentor throughout my career and I actively mentor others. My advice to you is to tap into that power. Mentor others, seek out a mentor yourself, connect with others.”


SRQ Media’s CEO and President, Lisl Liang announces the 2017 Leadership Circle. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan. 


Once the awards ceremony was underway, stellar women leaders from diverse regional industries were revealed by SRQ Media CEO and President Lisl Liang sharing poignant, inspirational, empowering quotes from each woman. Hailing from Tampa, South Carolina and even New York, the 2017 Women In Business judges spent time getting to know each applicant, seeing the world from their perspective and taking hours and weeks of deliberation to render their decisions.


Champion for Children, Graci McGillicuddy receives 2017 Women in Business Award and commemorative pin courtesy of Diamond Vault. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan. 


And without further ado, announcing . . . this year’s winner and finalists!

Women in Business 2017 Leadership Circle

Erin McLeod, President, The Friendship Centers, winner
Nikki Taylor , President & CEO, Taylor & Company, LLC, winner
Graci McGillicuddy, Champion for Children, winner
Jennifer Vigne, President, Education Foundation of Sarasota, winner
Karen Windon, Deputy County Administrator, Manatee County Government, winner
Anna von Gehr, Senior Director of Development, John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, finalist
Veronica Brandon Miller, Vice President Foundation, Goodwill Manasota, finalist
Liz Brookins, Senior Marketing Coordinator, Willis A. Smith Construction, finalist
Renee Preininger, Realtor, Sarasota Trust Realty Company, finalist
Susan Moseley, President, Moseley Investment Management, finalist
Shannon Rohrer-Phillips, Co Founder, Visible Men Academy, finalist
Debbie Smith, CEO, Two Trails, Inc., finalist


Michael Chokr of Diamond Vault displays the 2017 Hear Me Roar commemorative pins during the Pop Up Boutique experience. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan. 


When accepting their award, each winner and finalist received a commemorative pin created by SRQ Media in collaboration with Michael Chokr and the Diamond Vault team. Each pin featured a roaring lioness holding a gem in her mouth: a diamond representing Leadership Circle winners and a ruby representing Leadership Circle finalists.


2014, 2015, 2016 and the newly initiated 2017 Leadership Circle ambassadors at the Hear Me Roar Leadership and Awards Luncheon. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan.


Ambassadors from the 2014, 2015 and 2016 Leadership Circles joined the newest inductees as they begin their journey into the Women in Business Initiative as they inspire, collaborate and lead each other and the community in the coming year.


From left to right: Cindi Johnston, SRQ Media’s Executive Publisher, Wes Roberts and Seaside Bank’s Steve Altier at the Hear Me Roar Leadership and Awards Luncheon. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan. 


A huge thank you to our sponsors who have partnered with us to bring the Women in Business Initiative to life: Seaside Bank, USF Sarasota-Manatee, Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Barton & Gray, CS&L CPAs, New Balance Sarasota, Diamond Vault, The Ritz Carlton Sarasota, Sophie’s at Saks Fifth Avenue Sarasota, Muse, Gold Star Limousines, Victoria Blooms, CCAV, PAINT Nail Bar, Scout & Molly’s Boutique, Saks Fifth Avenue Sarasota, Philosophy and Vines, Pineapple Yoga and last but most certainly not least, The Francis. We couldn’t do it without you!


From left to right: Mother Daughter duo, Marjorie Broughton and Nikki Taylor pose with Kimberly Manooshian at the Hear Me Roar Leadership and Awards Luncheon. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan. 


To view a full gallery of images from the 2017 Hear Me Roar Leadership and Awards luncheon click here. Stay tuned for more Women in Business stories as we enter our new 2017-18 season. To download the 2017 Women in Business Awards Supplement, click here. 

“It’s Go Time” SMARTgirl Class of 2017, April 14


SMARTgirl Class of 2017. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan

On April 14, SRQ Media hosted its inaugural SMARTgirl Leadership and Mentorship Summit at the Hyatt Regency engaging 84 girls from the Boys and Girls Club of Sarasota County, Girls Inc., Girl Scouts of Gulf Coast Florida and the Sarasota YMCA with 23 mentors representing our region’s many diverse industries such as engineering and software development to law enforcement, photography and medicine. The luncheon consisted of a curated mentoring program aimed to engage the young women in soft skills training, mentorship and career imaginings.


Students from Girl Scouts Gulfcoast Florida participate in coding activity. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan

The summit kicked off with interactive workshops including Brand You, highlighting personal branding and goal marketing,  SMART Inc. Pitch Workshop for budding entrepreneurs, Bright Side Communications Workshop for positive and effective communication in challenging situations and Reverse Interview Workshop designed to provide insight about each mentor’s career path. 


Mentor, Joy Randels listens to girls proposing a business idea at the SMART Inc. Pitch workshop. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan

In between workshops and the luncheon, participants formed teams based on their chosen superpower preferences and collaborated with girls from other groups to develop a name, logo and mission as a team.  The result?  Strategic teamwork, analysis and amazing artwork.  The girls also participated in a Coding Workshop in which they chose the look, name and slogan for the 2017 SMARTgirl Superhero presented at the end of the luncheon. The girls fittingly chose the charge “Its GO Time!


Girls form a superpower group to create team logo, name and mission. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan

Between bites of decadent mac n cheese, participants heard from keynote speaker, Sandra Stone from USF Sarasota-Manatee as well as 4 alumni speakers representing each of the participating organizations; all emphasizing that we have the power to thrive in any industry through empowerment, tenacity and spitfire determination.


Dr. Sandra Stone gives a powerful and inspirational message to SMARTgirl class of 2017. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan

“As an educator, it always brings me great pleasure to see students who are dedicated to learning, who are willing to challenge themselves to maximize their potential, and who are committed to successfully achieving their goals. As I have learned more about each of you during the morning and your plans for continued education and careers, I am confident our future is in good hands!” said Dr. Sandra Stone


SMARTgirl students from Girl Scouts Gulfcoast Florida eager for their workshops. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan

“The SMARTgirl Summit surpassed our wildest hopes and expectations”, said Ashley Grant, SRQ Media’s Vice President Strategic Partnerships. The event was designed to show the girls the amazing array of possibilities and avenues open to them, some of which they had not considered before, and let them know that there are people around ready and willing to help guide and nurture them on their individual paths. The positive energy in the room was so powerful it was infectious – everyone was smiling, enthusiastic and eager to learn.  It was incredibly gratifying to see the connections the girls made with their mentors and each other as they navigated through the workshops and the team building exercises. The experience touched everyone from participants to mentors and sponsors and our staff.  It was a powerful day full of possibility and aha moments that will stay with each of us for a long time.”


Representatives from the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Seaside Bank, Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida and the Sarasota YMCA at the 2017 SMARTgirl Summit. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan

The impact of the 2017 SMARTgirl Summit has resonated well beyond the few hours spent a the Hyatt Regency. Organization representatives, students and even parents have kept the conversation going.

“On behalf of Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida, we give the 2017 SMARTgirl Summit two thumbs up! The impact of this program goes well beyond just a day and aligns with our mission perfectly – building girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place,” said Girl Scout of Gulfcoast Florida’s Director of Corporate Communications, Patricia Ramthun.

Girl Scout troop leader and parent Lynn H expressed her gratitude by saying: “Thanks for treating my girls to such a fantastic afternoon! Lily Gwendolyn, Natasha and Sophia LOVED the SMARTgirl event and talked the entire way home!!! They are all 6th graders and as you know, this is such a special age and it’s so important to keep them engaged in positive events such as this! Thank you, thank you, thank you!”


From left to right: SMARTgirl Mentors Betsey Penewill, Jennifer Vigne, Sarrah Vesselov, Kameron Hodgens, Lee-En Chung, Sherri Sanders, Shana Nichols, Cynthia Holliday, Dr. Sandra Stone, Gabrielle Vest, Laurie Pike, Stefanie Overturf, Minna Traugott, Joy Randels, Cora Imboden, Tammy Kovar and Brenda Janowski. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan 

We would like to thank the Hyatt Regency, Seaside Bank, USF Sarasota-Manatee, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and PSAV for investing in 84 futures and creating a dynamic day for each of these young women.

A special thank you to Everett Dennison for capturing the SMARTgil Summit on video. To view a video recap of SMARTgirl click here.

For a full gallery of photos from the SMARTgirl Luncheon click here.