The winners in four categories were honored at a luncheon on Nov. 4.
Guy Vincent has traveled the world, driven all over the country, owned an art gallery in Key West and still would rather be in Sarasota and Longboat Key than anywhere else. The area and the business community feel the same way about him, as the Wyland Gallery owner took home the award for Small Business Person of the Year for 10 or fewer employees on Nov. 4.
"I loved the business from the get-go," Vincent said. "I've been here for about 23 years, I was an employee of the company, I was the director of the gallery here, and we turned this into the second-biggest selling Wyland Gallery in the country out of 20 galleries. I've had a consistent staff here, and about four years ago, we took full ownership ... I gotta tell you, I've been all over the United States and I wouldn't live anywhere else."
Vincent was one of four small-business owners honored during the Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce's annual Small Business Awards luncheon. Longboat Key Chamber board chair Willie McLaughlin said the purpose of the day was to celebrate and highlight the success of the organization's members after the "most challenging 18 months of (their) business lives." The luncheon was the largest in-person gathering of chamber members since before the pandemic.
"Resiliency and revival," chamber President Gail Loefgren said. "That's what we're talking about today. You're all still standing, so congratulations."
The 2020 Small Business Awards was held less than a year ago, in conjunction with the chamber's Annual Meeting, after it was pushed back due to the pandemic and Hurricane Eta. As the Small Business Council worked to narrow the nominees to come up with their winners through the interviewing process, they asked several questions about how each business had dealt with the pandemic and managed to innovate and stay afloat.
"There were a couple of these that were within one or two points," Small Business Council Chair Al Benincasa said while giving out the award for Small Business Person of the Year with 11 or more employees. "That's how close it was, so everybody's a winner as far as I'm concerned. But this is another true story of a turnaround. This is a CEO who was brought in to fix a company. Not only was day-to-day business affected by COVID, but so was the staff. The first phase of transformation had to come through a cultural change in turning around the current employees that they have, and get them to believe in the new mission and goals ... At the time, business was being decimated by COVID. The second thing they needed to do was to create value for their business. They were able to turn this company around and they flipped this company around and over a two year period, they increased the net income by 100%."
After the awards had been handed out, attendees dispersed or gathered by the winners to give their congratulations.
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