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Jean and Andy Fox live in Lakewood Ranch and each runs their own small business.
East County Friday, May 6, 2016 6 years ago

Small Business Chamber seeks new platforms

The networking group aims to connect local small business owners.
by: Jessica Salmond Staff Writer

Small Business Chamber of Commerce of Manasota is taking the next steps to growing its organization.

Founded approximately two and a half years ago, the organization is aimed at helping small business make connections within the community in Manatee and Sarasota counties.
The organization has stayed low-key since its foundation; it was free to join and online interaction has been limited to Facebook.

This year, the group is hoping to grow and get its name out into the business community.

Jean Fox, co-founder of the chamber, said some small local businesses can feel lost when amidst large corporations within other chambers of commerce.
“Small business owners often feel isolated— who can I talk to, who can I relate to,” said Andy Fox, her husband and co-founder.

The Lakewood Ranch couple and their friend, Germaine Calderon, started the chamber geared at very small local businesses. When Calderon died, the couple kept the group alive.
The purpose isn’t to compete with larger groups like the Manatee County Chamber or Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance, Jean Fox said, but more as a way to start small business owners off within a networking circle and help them grow.
“A lot of people can’t afford what it takes (for larger groups),” Jean Fox said. “As they grow, they’ll join the other ones too.”

The Small Business Chamber has about 80 members and a group of 30 core business owners who attend the monthly meeting at Cheers to Wine.  At every meeting, each person attending gives a short introduction and then listen to a guest speaker. The goal is to help these smaller businesses connect with one another, Andy Fox said.

“If it’s a really small business, you spend most of your time alone, so you get to mingle with other people too,” he said.

The Small Business Chamber will start charging $50 annual dues this year to help pay for a website on which businesses can put their logos, share information and join the online community. Jean and Andy Fox are also helping it become a nonprofit, with hopes of getting the organization out at events and charitable works to be more involved in the community and get more recognition.

“We’re progressing to the next level — we’re very excited,” Jean Fox said. 

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