The Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce and Georgia Power commended Kona Ice of Lowndes on their safe practices and redirection by naming them the Industry Innovation Winner.
COVID-19 stopped countless businesses in their tracks. The spread of the virus became a top concern causing cancellations for nearly all events in a group setting, which is where mobile shaved ice truck Kona Ice of Lowndes typically thrives.
Kona Ice of Lowndes graced Valdosta for the first time in 2017 and can be easily spotted traveling or parked with the truck’s bright colors and iconic, larger than life penguin. They deliver the purest, most refreshing shaved ice with over 60 flavors and thousands of flavor combinations. The Kona Ice truck also features a popular “flavor wave,” which is a self-serving flavor option for maximum customization.
With their recent acquisition of an additional truck and a free portable, free standing kiosk, Kona Ice is often found three places at once multiple days a week.
When the pandemic reached our area, Kona Ice owners Brenda and Russell Hassenstab were fearful of the unknown.
“We lost 11 schools we had contacts with in one week,” R Hassenstab shared.
At the time, the best decision seemed to be closing up the truck for two weeks then reevaluating. For the community driven Hassenstabs, this change in pace lasted just three days.
“COVID hit and killed everything,” R Hassenstab said. “It took us three days to realize shutting down was doing a disservice to our community.”
Since residents were rarely leaving their homes with social distancing in mind, the Hassenstabs arranged for Kona Ice to make neighborhood visits bring shaved ice directly to their fans. To create even more of a special yet still safe experience during such unprecedented times, Kona Ice reached out to other local food trucks inviting them to team up on the neighborhood visits.
“We were treated like a ray of sunshine in the neighborhoods,” B Hassenstab recalled. “Parents thanked us for bringing some excitement to their door.”
While boosting community morale, Kona Ice maintained their safe practices while implementing additional health and cleanliness features.
“We never touch the ice we serve,” the Hassenstabs explained. Kona’s shaved ice goes straight from the freezer, to the shaver directly into the cup. All Kona Ice employees also added masks to go with their gloves.
For additional safety, all high contact areas in the trucks and kiosk are treated with Microshield 360. This antibacterial applicant is applied in a two-step process that first removes germs then is followed up with a strong, protective coating.
Kona Ice has no intention of ending their safe, clean regime.
Have you seen Kona Ice of Lowndes in your neighborhood or at your workplace? Book them today for fun, refreshing and safe experience by checking out Kona Ice of Lowndes on Facebook or call them at 229-300-6605.
COVID-19 has brought gatherings to a halt for months which has certainly affected us all in some way. While this result of the pandemic has cancelled a few plans for the majority, the event industry has had to completely rethink their livelihood.
The Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce and Georgia Power recognize this hurdle and commend Event Point on their safe redirection by naming them the first-ever Industry Innovation award winner.
Event Point is a locally based event production company that “carries the stress for you, during the process of building and running your event,” shared Chris Shelton, Senior Project Manager.
“For once, you can sit down and enjoy dinner at the event you planned,” added Josh Taylor, Project Manager.
Event Point normally sets up their state-of-the-art equipment at your venue location complete with speakers, lights, podiums and more while running the show behind the scenes. Their expertise ensures there are no awkward moments or technical difficulties.
When gatherings sizes steadily decreased, Event Point’s schedule came to a standstill; however, it did not take long for Shelton and Taylor to redirect their energy.
“We wanted to create a safe way to still bring the same extraordinary experience to our clients,” shared Shelton.
Event Point completely redesigned one room in their office to virtually bring an event to you. The setup is a mock stage featuring curtains draped behind up-lights, framing a podium and microphone. Four large digital monitors, an audio monitor and multiple cameras are across the room only visible to the speaker.
“We can pre record presentations or run them live,” Shelton explained. “Viewers would never know the speaker was not standing on a real stage.”
Event Point also has the capability to host Zoom interactive conferences as well as hybrid events. While some are beginning to feel comfortable hosting in person events, attendance still can’t be as high as normal, so Shelton and Taylor hope to help bridge this gap.
“We can adjust our in-person events to make them suitable to a virtual audience, too,” said Shelton. “While some guests are physically present, we can live stream an event for at home viewers simultaneously.”
Guests utilizing the Event Point’s virtual event space have the opportunity to be the only one present in the room ensuring social distancing.
For those who feel most comfortable going live from their own office space, Event Point can easily transport their equipment to best suit the client.
Shelton encourages anyone who is interested in hosting a professionally produced, virtual event to set up a consultation. For more information and booking, visit their website eventpointhq.com.
The Chamber Ambassadors honored The Tree House Thrift Shop with a ribbon cutting on July 21, 2020 to celebrate the store’s expansion to a new location.
Established in 2013, The Tree House Thrift Shop is a high-quality store selling items generously donated by the community.
“All donations are filtered, screened, and cleaned (especially during COVID-19) by volunteers who place items on our sales floor,” said Lindsey Rogers, Senior Marketing Specialist. “Items are only displayed for sale if they’re in excellent condition, and many donations are brand new items.”
The proceeds collected support a nonprofit hospice organization in the Valdosta area.
“We love what we do because our store proceeds benefit patient care for Hospice of South Georgia, the community’s only nonprofit hospice organization,” said Rogers. “Hospice of South Georgia provides compassionate comfort care to anyone facing a chronic illness during curative treatments, as well as when an illness becomes life limiting.”
The Tree House is passionate about giving back to those who help keep the community healthy and safe.
“The Tree House offers multiple sales and discounts on a weekly basis including, 20% off total purchases for SGMC employees and military,” said Rogers. “We also like to give back to our community partners. When we do not sell items on our floor or receive donations that are not in excellent condition, we donate these to shelters and other nonprofit organizations.”
The Tree House is a proud member of the Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce.
“Our chamber has always been at our side to help network with our local business partners through chamber events and educational opportunities,” said Rogers. “They have helped us enhance our outreach and marketing through publications, ribbon cuttings, business of the week, and billboard promotions with collaborating companies. We are grateful to our local chamber for their support!”
For more information about The Tree House Thrift Shop call 229-293-9881.
Valdosta is back in business and the Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce celebrated in a safe yet exciting way.
All members open for business were invited to be a part of the Chamber’s week-long Grand Re Opening Celebration. To practice social distancing, one Chamber Staff member and one Chamber Ambassador made appearances at these businesses to welcome them back and snap some photos to use in order to promote them to the community. Each group was also part of a collaborative video. Both Chamber representatives wore face masks at all times.
“As the voice of the business community, we knew we had a duty to promote our members who need the community’s support now more than ever,” expressed Myrna Ballard, Chamber President.
20 total businesses were visited throughout the week by a variety of Chamber Staff and Ambassadors. Businesses involved in the Grand Re Opening Celebration include:
A Plus Junk Removal & Moving Services,
Ella’s Top Corral,
Holiday Inn Express Lake Park,
Horizons Xtreme Fitness,
Jumpn’ Jacks 4 Kidz,
Kellie Rae Photography,
Kona Ice of Lowndes,
Kreamkles Rolled Ice Cream,
Mercer Hughes Real Estate Group,
PeaceWay Counseling & Mediation Services,
Recoil Trampoline Park,
Southern Grace Gifts,
The Flower Gallery,
The Valdosta Mall,
Valdosta Chiropractic & Rehab,
Wild Adventures Theme Park and
Winnersville Elite Cheer and Dance.
All businesses are open and hope to receive customers in a safe fashion.
Jump’n Jacks 4 Kidz reopening date aligned perfectly with the Chamber’s recognition. Being a family place, they wanted to get the word out about their safe practices.
“We want to make everyone feel comfortable at Jump’n Jacks,” Said owner, Monica Dominey. “We require the use of masks and gloves by our employees, encourage the use of masks and social distancing with our customers, continually sanitize bounce houses and arcade games, use a cold fogger to further sanitize the building and take everyone's temperature,” she shared.
Other businesses appreciated the chance to share their safety protocol and the opportunity to connect again.
“It was so refreshing to see some familiar faces – masked, of course!” said Kyle Webb of Ella’s Top Corral.
The Chamber Ambassadors shared the excitement of the businesses to be getting back out into the community.
“Since March, we have been supporting the business community from afar, but it was great to get back out there and visibly celebrate our members when they need it most,” shared Ambassador Chairman, Lisa Register.
The Chamber Ambassadors look forward to continuing to ease back into the community in a safe way.
COVID-19 has changed how businesses of all kinds are directing their efforts. The search for a new normal continues as many gear back up for business. The Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber and Georgia Power teamed up to create a three-part webinar series titled “The Power of Energy in a Pandemic” to provide guidance from local community leaders on how to power through times of uncertainty.
“There has been a change of pace in many ways,” said Joe Brownlee of Georgia Power. “We hope these topics can help direct us to a new normal.”
Numerous brick-and-mortar businesses had no choice but to ask employees to work remotely for at least a limited amount of time. For some, this is may continue. Even with the right resources, this atmospheric change is likely to affect one’s work while learning to adapt.
Long time remote worker, Sally Sutton of Anchored Media Marketing, took over the discussion to share her path to productivity while working from home.
Sutton understands the potential struggles of working from home that may not pose threats in an office.
“Don’t beat yourself up if you do find yourself distracted,” Sutton expressed.
She says that a consistent, dedicated workspace with organized time blocks is a good place to start.
Georgia Power’s Joe Brownlee served as the series’ moderator and also snowballed off of Sutton’s tips for working at home. He shared proven ways to decrease one’s energy use while spending more time at home than usual.
Brownlee welcomed Paris Shields of Valdosta Premier Counseling as day two’s guest focusing on internal energy.
While our workload and styles may look different, we all have been affected internally as well. Shields hoped to help viewers “maintain mental and physical wellness going through a pandemic.”
“The best thing we can do is focus on the positives,” said Shields. “Instead of focusing our energy on how long this stage will last, we should ask ourselves what we can do with this time that we usually are unable to do.”
Our emotional wellness is exceptionally important as we redirect our energy to prepare for businesses reopening. A variety of local businesses have done their part to set safe trends and help others transition back into business in an admirable way.
Kara Jones of US Press shared their focus on producing floor decals to promote a social distance. They hope their services will help “promote commerce but also public safety,” Jones shared.
Floor decals is not a new product for US Press, but they have been able to take this previously offered service and make it helpful and relevant.
“We have produced floor decals for years, but most of the time they have been used as a branding opportunity. Now, they are a way to promote social distancing amongst patrons,” Jones said.
Wilkinson’s, another local industry, has also tapped into another part of their work to better suit the community’s current needs.
Wilkinson’s has been “producing home textiles for 50 years,” shared Fred Wilkinson. “The masks fit right into what were doing since we already had the fabric and machines.”
When beginning to create the masks, Wilkinson needed a way to protect his own employees and hoped to help others as well.
“We have closely followed the CDC’s guidelines through COVID-19. Our masks help our own employees and others,” Wilkinson said.
To share more safe practices when reentering the workplace, Amanda Martin of Barnes Drug Store joined the conversation.
“First and foremost, we must make sure we are following the CDC’s updates,” Martin expressed. “As an essential business that never fully shut down, we had to make sure we implemented all of their guidelines.”
Martin proceeded to share tips for other businesses to remember when reopening their doors.
“We started employee temperature check very early on with no contact thermometers,” Martin said. She recommended investing in this product and shared how to obtain them.
The Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce Young Entrepreneur Academy (YEA!) students did not miss a beat finishing up their year, despite the pandemic.
YEA! Is a 26-week program that teaches kids how to start and run their own business. Through the period, they wrote a personalized business plan with the help of mentors, met weekly learning from various local business professionals and took field trips for hands-on engagement.
When it became unsafe to meet in person, the forward thinking 11-18-year-olds eagerly continued classes virtually through Zoom.us lead by Program Director, Betty Morgan.
“2019-20 YEA! year will likely be one we will always remember because of COVID-19! However, our YEA! students rose to the occasion, like true entrepreneurs looking for ways to overcome obstacles. Virtual presentations were not my ideal opportunity, but it worked!” said Morgan.
To complete the program, each student gave a shark-tank style virtual pitch to a panel of investors competing for real start-up money. The judges received each presentation digitally along with a final copy of the corresponding business plan.
Judges included: Clinton Beeland, CJB Industries
Jason VanNus- Lowndes County Schools
Jonathan Miller- Miller Hardware
Charlie Barnes IV- Barnes Drug Store
Jeff Shipley- ENACTUS /VSU Langdale College of Business
Dr. Alex Alvarez- Valdosta City Schools
“I was especially impressed with the adaptability of each student who pitched their business plan via remote recording under the current circumstances,” shared Miller. “It couldn’t be a more fitting time to place an emphasis on the importance of supporting American entrepreneurship. These students expressed a natural drive that reassures a positive outlook for the business environment of the future.”
The awards were announced virtually to all students, parents, and mentors by Betty Morgan.
Chassity Dennis, CEO of Uniquely Made by Chass was named the overall winner earning $1,500 in start-up funds and a full-paid trip to Rochester, NY in August to compete nationally.
Dennis is the daughter of Tiffany and Warren Burgess III. She is a Freshman at Valdosta High School where she served this year as the Class President.
Uniquely Made by Chass is a unique handmade boutique that makes high quality silk bonnets for hair care.
“I came up with this idea because I like to see everyone happy for themselves in their own way,” Denis shared.
Eli Moore was awarded second place earning $1,000 in start-up funds for his business, X-EL.
X-EL is a dog silencer shaker that is also fashionable.
“All dog owners will need this in their lives so that they do not have to deal with their dogs barking all while blending in with the rest of their home décor,” Moore explained.
Moore is the 12-year-old son of Amanda and Jamie Griffin. He is a 6th grader at Pine Grove Middle School.
All other businesses were also successful in earning $500 each in start-up funds. They include:
Deandre Clark, CEO of PoDogWa,
Addison Hasty, CEO of Game Tent,
Nalani Hasty, CEO of Jot Pots,
Rebecca Lancaster, CEO of The Key to Magic,
Jermarion Robinson and Emily Withers, CEOs of Claw Time,
Brooklyn Starr, CEO of Brooklyn’s Bouquet,
Diamond Willis, CEO of LaShanda’s Salon.
Though the classes are complete, all the students plan to continue pursuing their businesses.
“We are so happy with all the support we have received from our community. A big thank you goes to everyone which includes mentors, guest speakers, field trip participates, graphic designers, who is a part of making YEA! a success story in our area,” said Morgan.
YEA! Pitch Event could not have been possible without our sponsors:
ENACTUS/VSU Langdale College of Business
Valdosta City Schools
CJB Industries, Inc.
Barnes Healthcare Services
Lowndes County Schools
Virtual World Technologies, Inc.
For more information on YEA!, contact Betty Morgan at the Valdosta Chamber at firstname.lastname@example.org
It is hard to keep a group as active as the Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber Ambassadors apart. This bunch was thrilled to proceed with their scheduled quarterly awards ceremony… virtually, that is.
The Chamber Ambassadors is a group of 39 individuals who attend nearly all Chamber events including ribbon cuttings, ground breakings and leading business of the week celebrations. They are described as our “Chamber Cheerleaders” and are always happy to welcome new businesses and celebrate the old.
The group is easily spotted in their green blazers which represent prosperity in the business community.
The Chamber Ambassador program is made possible with the help of its sponsor, Biotest Plasma Center.
“Supporting the Chamber Ambassador program is an integral piece of our community engagement strategy,” shared Erik Karpicke, Biotest’s Center Manager. “Through the Ambassador program we get to welcome our neighbors, ensure they get started on the right foot in the community, and it helps our overall business grow as well, it is a no brainer for us.”
To recognize their achievements and volunteered hours in the first quarter of the year, the Ambassadors were able to join together from their respective homes through Zoom, a virtual meeting platform.
The social group was thrilled to be able to interact with one another for the first time in nearly a month.
Lauren Pope, the Chambers Ambassador Program Coordinator virtually presented the awards beginning with recognizing the newest Ambassadors.
To become “official,” one must earn a minimum of 100 points. Points are earned through event attendance, referrals and other deeds. At this landmark, the individual receives their Chamber Ambassador name badge.
Three Ambassadors reached this status in the first quarter of 2020” Joni Berkel (Miss Kate’s Tours & Kate’s Kitchen), Karlee Dixon (Chicken Salad Chick) and Robin Salisbury (Langdale Place).
The three newest members are excited to be a part of such an influential group.
“As an Ambassador, I not only get to meet new people in our community, but I get the chance to support local businesses in new ways,” shared Salisbury. “I am incredibly thankful that my employer supports and encourages my involvement with the Ambassadors,” she added.
Deanna Smith of the Investment Centre was named Ambassador of the Quarter. She earned the most points in the first quarter of 2020 out of the entire group.
Smith has been an Ambassador for nearly 3 years.
My experience as an Ambassador has made me feel so connected to our community,” Smith shared. “From the relationships developed with the other Ambassadors to getting a front row seat celebrating the successes of our local businesses, it continues to be one of the most rewarding things I have done.”
You may not physically see the Ambassadors out and about for the time being, but you can trust they are cheering you and your business on from afar!
Health is a top concern across the world for all mankind, but locally owned small businesses have a bit more on their shoulders at this time.
The Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber recognizes that these businesses rely on a steady flow of customers and consumers that have recently come to a halt.
Over 80% of businesses in Lowndes county fall into this category.
Social distance and limited contact has been advised to all and while it is the best practice for our health, these small businesses need our attention through alternate avenues.
In just the short period of time since COVID-19 has reached our area, these businesses are already feeling a hit.
Sue Cox, owner of Covington’s Dining & Catering and 306 North has come up with options to continue to feed the community in a safer, more distant way.
Like many other restaurants, they are offering take-out and curb-side delivery options. Even with these limited contact options, both restaurants are continuing their top-of-the-line hygiene practices provided by the Lowndes County Health Department.
“We continue to train and update our employees to do everything we can for your public safety and the freshness of our food,” stated Cox.
Cox expressed that “all small businesses need the community’s help right now, and we look forward to being here to serve the community at this time, too.”
Thacker Dermatology, like many others have already adapted and made necessary changes.
Though she understands the financial concerns, owner, Dr. Betsy Backe “can’t emphasize enough the importance of staying home.”
The office is only open for high-risk appointments at this time. They are rescheduling all routine appointments or encouraging them to use TeleDerm, a form of video consultation.
For those that must come in, Dr. Backe has “instructed the staff to wear face masks and wipe down exam tables, chairs and door handles between each patient,” Dr. Backe shared.
In addition to taking precautions with her employee’s while in the office, Dr. Backe is making sure they are taken care of financially as well.
Working with a “skeleton crew” to keep numbers down, many of Thacker Dermatology’s employees are not working at the moment.
“I have come up with a policy so our workers can get paid even when they are not here,” explains Dr. Backe.
Gift certificates and skin products are currently available to the public and can be purchased through curb-side delivery.
Stephanie Smith, owner of L.S. Smith Photography has also looked for the “windows” in her business that are “geared towards keeping clients’ experiences awesome” in a safe way.
“Being flexible is key,” Smith states.
While primarily a portrait photographer, Smith has created an outdoor “booth” providing a more spacious, safer environment to capture the same professional look of an in-studio portrait.
Smith is also encouraging seniors to plan ahead for their portraits and purchase a gift certificate available on her website.
Some businesses have no choice but to keep running, such as local accounting firm, Fowler, Holley, Rambo & Stalvey, PC.
Though tax season has been extended, people need to “get their financial reports completed and their taxes filed, but also they need help analyzing how this pandemic will affect their business,” according to Curt Fowler, a CPA at the firm.
Through this busy time, the firm’s goal remains to keep clients and staff safe and do their part to stop the spread of the visrus.
All in person meetings have been suspended and clients are encouraged to drop off their materials rather than come in.
“This is a big change for us,” Fowler admits. “We traditionally have many clients in our offices this time of year, but instead, we are utilizing web and tele-conferences to communicate. We are prepared and ready to work from our homes if that is required.”
Our daily lives may be shaken, but as we are trying to do new things at home, we must get creative to support our local business community. The community can be wiser and stronger than COVID-19 with a few modifications and smart practices.
Nearly 100 21-40 year olds gathered at Georgia Beer Company on Tuesday, March 10th to kick off the brand new group, Valdosta Young Professionals. The group is presented by the Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by Georgia Power Company.
Interested members came together for networking, further information on the organization and a behind the scenes tour of the local brewery.
“The enthusiasm of the participants was fantastic,” said Chris Jones, owner of Georgia Beer Company.
Jones was equally as eager to provide a space for the first meeting of this up-and-coming crew.
“There is nothing like this in Valdosta,” said Olivia Royal, an attendee from Southern Point Investment Partners.
Kristi Hill of the Valdosta Daily Times, reigning Young Professional of the Year, agreed.
“As young professionals, we have a duty to fulfill. I am excited to have a like-minded group of people to accomplish things in the community with,” shared Hill.
While many event attendees found VYP via social media, others were referred by their employers.
Aneesha Johnson of Corteva was happy to pass the information on to her employees and encouraged their attendance.
“Valdosta Young Professionals is a great networking opportunity for my employees. Giving our young professionals the tools to grow will help them, our community and their employer,” Johnson shared.
With the support of Georgia Power, VYP looks forward to future events with their new following.
As the population of young professionals grows in Valdosta, there has become more of a need for them to feel at home and get connection to the community. With this in mind, the group has been established and is open to those who live, work or do business in Metro Valdosta.
VYP is open to all young professionals looking for networking, education and social opportunities with like minded individuals. Membership is free of charge. To join, simply visit www.valdostachamber.com.
For more information, call the Chamber at 229-247-8100 ext 231.
The Chamber Ambassadors honored Farmers Home Furniture as the Leading Business of the Week for March 11, 2020.
Established in 1949 and serving the Valdosta community for 35 years, Farmers Home Furniture is passionate about providing the utmost customer service and home furnishings.
“We are the only ESOP-Employee Owned Home Furnishings retailer in the state of Georgia,” said Tim Carroll, store manager. “We are continuously working to improve the customer experience. This year we will be employing a "mystery shopper" program to help identify areas we can improve on.”
Farmer Furniture encourages and supports their employees be active citizens in the Valdosta-Lowndes community.
Carroll stated, “I have been with the company for 35 years. Farmers encourages and supports community involvement such as our Chamber of Commerce. Through this I have had the opportunity to serve in the Chamber as a past Chairman of Board. Plus, a number of civic projects and being an elected official on the Valdosta City Council.”
Farmers Furniture has been a proud member of the Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce since 1987.
“The Chamber has helped in networking, exposure for my store and opening doors for our business to continue to thrive.” said Carroll. “It is THE voice for businesses here. The Chamber's focus on addressing business issues locally as well as the state and federal governments is unmatched.”
For more information, please visit 3135 N. Ashley Street or call 229-244-0928.
The Leading Business of the Week program is designed to recognize members who have partnered with the Chamber for at least five years. Marcotek Digital Office Solutions proudly sponsors the 2019 Leading Business of the Week program. For more information visit www.ValdostaChamber.com/Leading-Business-of-the-Week