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Young professionals, mentors connect through LWR Business Alliance

Mentor Connect, an LWRBA Young Leaders Alliance program, brings mentorship opportunities that benefit anyone in the business community.

Shawna Hicks-Cranston, the owner of PostNet, says Mentor Connect benefits both the mentors and mentees that participate.
Shawna Hicks-Cranston, the owner of PostNet, says Mentor Connect benefits both the mentors and mentees that participate.
Courtesy photo
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One of the biggest takeaways Ashlyn McCarty had from participating in the Young Leaders Alliance’s Mentor Connect six years ago was the power of networking.

McCarty, who is the area director of sales for Buffalo Lodging, has used what she learned about networking and building relationships throughout her career. Through her networking, she’s learned tools and sales strategies from people who have been in her industry longer than her.

“It was a great opportunity to sit down with experienced business leaders, pick their brain and be able to walk away with advice and tips,” McCarty said. 

Over the years, McCarty has gone from being a mentee to a mentor in Mentor Connect, which partners Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance members with young professionals to begin a mentorship. 

“It’s exciting to be able to help the next generation and see other young professionals grow as leaders in our community,” McCarty said. 

Although this year’s Mentor Connect has been postponed due to scheduling conflicts to an undetermined date, previous mentors and mentees are excited for the opportunity to connect once again.

Ashlyn McCarty, the area director of sales for Buffalo Lodging, says Mentor Connect helped her learn about networking and building relationships.
Courtesy photo

Shawna Hicks-Cranston, the owner of PostNet, has served as a mentor in Mentor Connect for three years. She wanted to serve as a mentor to be able to connect with individuals who are starting their careers and hear their perspective on business, whether it was in her industry or in another industry. 

“So much has changed in the 13 years since I’ve started this business that it’s just great to be able to connect back with the mentees,” she said. “Honestly, I think the mentors get as much, if not more, out of it than the mentees do.”

Hicks-Cranston said as a mentor, she’s able to get “a real, up-to-date feel of what’s going on” in the community and how young professionals perceive it. She equated it to seeing a child’s reaction to visiting Disney World for the first time after being there numerous times herself. 

“When you’re talking to somebody who’s new to business or new to a position and is really excited about it, being able to watch them grow is just really fulfilling,” she said.

McCarty said she will reach out to her past mentors whenever she needs advice and is available for her mentees. 

Hicks-Cranston keeps in touch with her mentees each year, reaching out at least twice per year to check in with them. 

“It’s a great opportunity to see where they’re at, give them a different perspective out of the company that they work in and be able to have them ask any kind of questions they want both for personal growth and professional growth,” Hicks-Cranston said. 

McCarty and Hicks-Cranston said a program like Mentor Connect is vital as people can always use someone to go to for advice and guidance, especially as they start their careers. 

Not only do the mentees benefit from getting to know more business professionals in the area, but Hicks-Cranston said the mentors have an opportunity to connect as well. She said Mentor Connect has given her the chance to learn more about the various businesses in the Lakewood Ranch area and know them on a more personal level.

“It’s the inside scoop of what’s going on in the businesses in our community,” she said. “You get to know their perspective of the business that they’re working with and about the business and the people within the company.”Having the program through the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance gives people an opportunity to learn about the microbusinesses within Lakewood Ranch, Hicks-Cranston said. 

Hicks-Cranston said the program also helps similar businesses collaborate and talk about how to improve each other’s businesses rather than be rival businesses.

“Things have changed a lot,” she said. “Even just in the last 10 years, things have changed a lot in how people do business. COVID definitely changed the way a lot of us do business. It’s going to be exciting to do this program this year because of that fact. How we connect with people has changed. It’s going to be exciting to all get together again this year and see what (mentees’) questions are.”



Liz Ramos

Liz Ramos covers education and community for East County. Before moving to Florida, Liz was an education reporter for the Lynchburg News & Advance in Virginia for two years after graduating from the Missouri School of Journalism.

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