The spirit of entrepreneurship filled the room on Thursday, February 13 during the YEA! CEO Roundtable event. At this event, students from the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) at the Valdosta
Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce received personalized business and networking advice from four local CEOs, including:
Damian Grey, Owner, FilmStory
Molly Deese, Vice President & General Manager, Wild Adventures Theme Park
Kent Buescher, CEO, U.S. Press
Jason Bellflowers, Owner, Virtual World Technologies, Inc.
The CEOs volunteered one-on-one time with middle and high schoolers while answering their questions as they prepare to launch and run their own businesses as part of their YEA! class.
The students were interested in the speakers’ education backgrounds, early business plans, life lessons and more.
Buescher, a “life-long entrepreneur” was happy to share tips learned from his wide array of business ventures.
“The best lesson business can offer is to learn to accept change,” he shared.
He wanted to be sure that the students were not discouraged if the business they intended to begin was not what they ended up with.
“Change is necessary to keep up with the times and can lead to new lessons and success,” Buescher added.
Grey was also eager to share some of his learnings and victories.
“My biggest success was learning to love the process of starting a business,” said Grey. “You learn so much along the way and I am grateful I figured that out and can appreciate it” he added.
The CEOs answered with transparency and were willing to share both their success and failures to better the students.
“Some of my best clients are ones I initially made mistakes with,” Bellflowers revealed. “They’re not loyal to me because of what happened, but because of how I came back from it. The best advice I can give is to always take the extra step and make it right,” he said.
Deese reiterated the importance of customer service.
“You have to build relationships; it makes a difference” she preached. “In my business, it is all about the people.”
YEA! teaches kids ages 11 to 18 how to identify their passions, develop a business idea, write a business plan, pitch investors for funding, and obtain all the necessary components to create a fully, formed and functioning business or social movement by the end of the 26-week class.
For more information on YEA! contact Betty Morgan at the Chamber at 229-247-8100 ext 234.
PHOTO CAPTION: Pictured Jason Bellflowers (Virtual World Technologies, Inc.), Kent Buescher (US Press), Molly Deese (Wild Adventures Theme Park and Damian Gray (FilmStory) spoke to local students at the YEA! CEO Roundtable Event.
The Chamber Ambassadors honored The Aesthetic Center, a sector of Plastic Surgery Associates, with a ribbon cutting on Thursday, February 13th to celebrate their grand opening and rebranding.
Having created a business within a business, the center separately brands their services from their branch head, Plastic Surgery Associates, to reach more of the community and better communicate what they can offer.
The Aesthetic Center is a fully functional MedSpa that provides both surgical and non-surgical treatments to their patients.
“We are separately branding our MedSpa since we provide much more than surgical procedures,” said Dr. Sonya Merriman, owner. “Non-surgical procedures have become more and more effective in helping people accomplish their goals. This combo enables us to provide full-spectrum options that can be tailored to the patient’s needs."
The Aesthetic Center's services include but are not limited to injectables, microblading, laser hair removal, laser skin rejuvenation, skincare regimens, sclerotherapy and much more.
The Aesthetic Center’s team prides themselves on being honest with their patients and tailoring every procedure plan in a way that provides exceptional service and happy clients.
“We provide an exceptional patient experience with exceptional outcomes and we are honest about what we can accomplish for our patients,” Dr. Merriman added.
No matter what service The Aesthetic Center is providing, it is always top priority to use safe, ethically proven products and procedures that help their patients feel confident and leave with a smile on their face.
To learn more information about The Aesthetic Center visit them at 230 Northside drive or call their facility at 229-242-3002.
PHOTO CAPTION: The Chamber Ambassadors honored the Aesthetic Center with a ribbon cutting to celebrate their grand opening and rebranding.
A recession in 2020 is unlikely, according to three top economists addressing nearly 200 top business leaders at the Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber’s Business Outlook Breakfast, sponsored for the seventh consecutive year by Southeastern Credit Union on February 11 at Rainwater Conference Center.
Economic experts assessed expected performance on the national, state and local levels. Dr. Roger Tutterow, Director of the Econometric Center at Kennesaw State University, Dr. Jeffery Humphreys, Director of Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia, and Dr. Cynthia Tori, a professor of economics at Valdosta State University were in agreement that overall, the future looks bright for the U.S., the State of Georgia and Lowndes County.
“As a credit union, we have an obligation to serve the community and we can’t think of a better way than to support the Chamber,” said Mike Gudely, president of Southeastern Credit Union. “This breakfast is relevant to everyone in our community. Understanding the economy is incredibly important for all and we are delighted to help bring this opportunity.”
Tutterow noted that while an 11-year trend of growth is unusual, it does not necessarily indicate that a national recession is imminent. While Tutterow feels that the odds of a recession in 2020 are less than 30%, he noted that the Cornonavirus and possible the impacts of future tariffs can impact future growth.
Humphreys was likewise confident that a Georgia recession in 2020 is unlikely. Consumer spending, stability in Federal Reserve support, home building, increased development, higher defense spending, and continued population growth are the economic ingredients that will fuel future growth.
Trade deals and tariffs, he said, are the wild card. "Georgia is the 11th largest export state and 7th largest import state in agricultural goods,” Humphreys said. Trade wars have hit rural Georgia harder than other areas of the state and could lead to a mild recession for the rural areas in 2020 if expanded.
After reiterating what Tutterow and Humphreys said about economic growth, trade, and the Coronavirus, Tori went on to talk about the Chamber’s proposed Valdosta Area Business Incubator. “Business who get their start in a small business incubator have an 87% success rate,” said Tori. The failure rate for non-incubated startup businesses is about 80%.
Tori noted that the Lowndes housing market has stabilized and begun to improve, although we have yet to regain the pre-recession value of Lowndes County homes.
Tori touched on the structural changes happening in the retail market, economic headwinds that will affect the local area, and the strengths of the local labor force generated by VSU and Wiregrass Tech.
For more information on the Business Outlook Breakfast and future events, contact Betty Morgan at the Chamber at 229-247-8100 extension 234
PHOTO CAPTION: Dr. Cynthia Tori, professor of economics at Valdosta State University speaks on the economic outlook of Valdosta at the Chamber’s Business Outlook Breakfast.
The Chamber Ambassadors honored Langdale Place with a ribbon cutting on February 11, 2020 to celebrate 28 years in the Valdosta-Lowndes County community.
A premiere senior retirement community, Langdale Place offers a blend of seclusion and accessibility with southern grace.
Executive Director, Jan Brice stated, “There is something different going on every day, and the interaction with all of our residents is fun and rewarding.”
For the past 28 years, Langdale Place has been passionate about keeping their residents happy, active and motivated.
“We are constantly doing upgrades to keep our building looking new and inviting,” said Brice. “We offer so many activities both in-house and out and are always striving to keep our residents motivated.”
Langdale Place retains an average occupancy of 95 percent throughout the year, and maintains high food and survey scores.
Langdale place has been a member of the Chamber since 1991.
Visit Langdale Place at 1720 Windemere Drive or call 229-247-4300 for more information.
PHOTO CAPTION: The Chamber Ambassadors honored Langdale Place with an anniversary ribbon cutting.
Running for office is a daunting task. There are countless steps to take before your name is printed on the ballot.
The Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber, Home Builders Association of South Georgia and Valdosta Board of REALTORS® co-hosted their fourth Campaign Academy, a two-night workshop series designed for hopeful candidates and their campaign committees to learn tips on running a successful campaign from the Lowndes County Board of Elections, current and former elected officials, and Landmark Communications, one of Georgia’s top campaign consultants.
Mark Rountree, president of Landmark Communications, took the floor as the first evening’s keynote speaker.
Described as the “go-to guy for the 1,500+ campaigns that he has managed” by the Chamber’s Government Affairs Council Economic Development Division Chairman, Gary Wisenbaker, Rountree is an expert when it comes to running a successful political campaign. His presentation focused on writing a campaign plan, messaging, targeting swing voters, fundraising and polling.
Knowing that many new candidates are eager to jump in, Rountree urged them to start slowly and construct a stable plan before raising their profiles.
“Everybody wants to start making speeches and go door-to-door at the start of a campaign, but they haven’t put together the fundraising side or completed their campaign plan yet,” Rountree shared. “Campaigns that win are those that have first focused on fundraising and strategy, then moved forward.”
Lowndes County Board of Elections representatives were on hand both nights to provide detailed information about qualifying to run for office and the reporting requirements that can derail a campaign if not adhered to carefully. Would-be candidates had the opportunity to experience the new voting equipment being used throughout Georgia.
An added bonus for night two of Campaign Academy was the roundtable discussion with current elected officials who shared their experiences and advice with participants, who shared tips for effective communication with voters through radio, television, newspaper, billboards and social media.
Chamber president Myrna Ballard says it’s important to continuously groom our community’s future elected leaders. “Our Government Affairs Council wants to make the process a little easier to understand and navigate for anyone interested in running for public office, but especially for those who have a pro-business orientation,” Ballard said. “Communities with elected leaders who understand the essential role the business community plays are Georgia’s most successful and prosperous communities.”
For further information, The Lowndes County Board of Elections can be reached at 229-671-2850 or by emailing Deb Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PHOTO CAPTION: Chamber Government Affairs Council Chairman, John Page and Military Engagement Division Chairman, Nick Lacey join keynote speaker, Mark Rountree (center), President of Landmark Communications.
The Chamber Ambassadors named The Flower Gallery Leading Business of the Week on February 3, 2020.
The Flower Gallery has been in business for 45 years, 20 of which have been lead by owner, Susan Mullis.
A Chamber member since 1990, The Flower Gallery has expanded its brand and maintained its presence in the community, most specifically in Downtown Valdosta.
The business is a full-service floral company that provides flower arrangements for weddings, parties, anniversaries, special gifts and more nationwide.
With a majority of their sales coming from wedding arrangements, the Flower Gallery has recently created a second website, www.flowergalleryweddings.com, that exclusively showcases their previous work and options for wedding arrangements.
The Flower Gallery also offers a range of high-quality home décor options.
“When people walk in, they’re pleasantly surprised with how pretty and stocked our retail section is. We have a wide variety of quality home décor and encourage people to come in and have a look around,” said Mullis.
The Flower Gallery team prides themselves on providing reasonably priced arrangements that complement each customer.
“We love to please people. When they receive flowers, it brings peace, joy and genuinely calms their soul. I love that we can provide comfort to people when they need it most,” said Mullis.
For more information on The Flower Gallery, stop in their store at 127 N Ashley Street or call them at (229)-242-1001.
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
PHOTO CAPTION: The Chamber Ambassadors named the Flower Gallery Leading Business of the Week
Students from the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) at the Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber were introduced to Jessica Sharp, owner of Ink & Cotton, a local screen printing and embroidery shop.
Sharp shared need-to-know tips about setting up an online business. She explained the pros and cons of e-commerce along with how her website has had an impact on the sales within her own business.
“It is my pleasure to speak on behalf of my background and experiences in e-commerce to the YEA! students. Anything I can do to contribute to their success is worthwhile,” said Sharp.
As part of the YEA! program, students are introduced to all facets of the business world including, but not limited to, advertising, insurance, graphic design and web development.
Over the course of this year’s YEA! program, students will launch their own very unique businesses.
As a non-profit organization, YEA! relies on the generosity of the community and of sponsors; people who identify with entrepreneurship and want to help pave the way for the future business leaders of tomorrow.
“YEA! strengthens the community, and the community strengthens YEA!,” said Gayle Jagel, the Founder and CEO of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy. “Our program managers and instructors seek out people in the business community to help students’ dreams become reality.”
During the course of the 26-week program, more than 30 local businesses become involved with YEA! at various levels. Students work in close cooperation with local business leaders, community leaders and educators who use their personal experiences to demonstrate how to transform their ideas into tangible businesses that create economic and social value.
For more information on the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, contact Betty Morgan at the Chamber at 229-247-8100 ext 234.
PHOTO CAPTION: Jessica Sharp, Owner of Ink & Cotton teaches the YEA! students about e-commerce.
An Ambassador’s job is to be a representative and a surrogate, and that certainly defines the role of the Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber Ambassadors.
“We are 39 members who represent the Chamber at about 100 activities each year,” explained 2019 Ambassador Chairman, Sally Sutton. “We like to think of ourselves as cheerleaders for our fellow Chamber members.”
The Ambassadors are a recognizable group, always sporting their green blazers as a sign of prosperity for the business community. They attend almost every Chamber event eager to welcome new businesses and celebrate the old.
Through these events, the Ambassadors have the privilege of meeting and “recognizing the business owners making a difference in the community,” explains Michael Smith, a new Ambassador.
The goodwill group of volunteers is said to not only support other businesses, but “genuinely cheer each other on,” as described by Brittany Ray, another new addition to the group.
They celebrate each other in their respective businesses and when they hit certain benchmarks within the Ambassadors Program.
The Ambassadors gathered on Tuesday, January 21 for an awards ceremony reflecting the fourth quarter of 2019.
The individuals earn points by attending events. When a certain number has been reached, they are awarded an official Chamber Ambassador name badge to wear on their green blazers.
Paula Avery (Colson Printing Co.), Desiree Hagan (Winnersville Elite Cheer & Dance), Cherise McKinnon (Sip With Cherise), Brittany Ray (Coastal Home Care, LLC) and Michael Smith (Greater Valdosta United Way, Inc.) reached this status in the fourth quarter of 2019.
Chamber Chairman of the Board, Lee McArthur, awarded those present with their badges.
Ambassadors join the program for a variety of reasons, one of which is to make business connections.
“In order to help my company grow, I knew I had to become a part of something bigger than myself. As a Chamber Ambassador I have made invaluable connections in the community & met so many new friends,” Ray said.
In terms of community involvement, becoming an Ambassador seemed like the logical next step for Avery.
“Being an Ambassador allows you to participate and be a part of the Chamber in a more up close and personal way,” explained Avery. “You personally meet the businesses and community members, which is amazing.”
Hagan also enjoys the involvement and “celebrating the many great achievements of others in the community.”
In addition to learning about the business community at each event, the Ambassadors spend a great deal of time together and are happy to learn from each other through internal networking.
“I see this circle as my mentors as I begin my entrepreneurial journey after a career in the Air Force,” McKinnon said.
As a young professional, Hagan also enjoys the mentorship.
“Sometimes it can be difficult to connect with others in the business community, but being an Ambassador has helped me make connections both inside and outside of the group,” she added.
Keep an eye out for these green blazers in the community. This bunch is more than willing to make a new connection.
For more information on the Chamber Ambassador Program, contact Lauren Pope at 229-247-8100 ext 231.
Photo Caption: Chairman of the Chamber Board of Directors, Lee McArthur, awards Brittany Ray, Cherise McKinnon, Michael Smith and Desiree Hagan official Ambassador name badges.
The Chamber Ambassadors honored Moyer’s Pressure Washing with a ribbon cutting on January 24, 2020 to celebrate becoming a member of the Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce and to share their business with the community.
Moyer’s Pressure Washing specializes in cleaning residential and commercial properties by using a soft wash method.
“As a pressure washing business, we are always looking for innovative ways to complete our jobs, one of which is by using the soft wash method to ensure a clean property with no damage,” said Brandon Moyer, owner. “We take pride in being called, “South Georgia’s soft wash experts.”
In addition to becoming a new Chamber member, Moyer is also new to the community. Originally from Albany, Moyer is excited for the move to Valdosta and the opportunity to expand his business and meet prospective customers.
“As a mobile business, I am able to go to my customers for all of their exterior cleaning needs, but I chose to primarily locate in Lowndes County because I see potential for my business to grow and prosper,” said Moyer. “I love what I do because I enjoy being able to see the smile on my customer’s face when I have restored their property back to its original glory.”
According to Moyer, the Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber has provided the opportunity for his business to advertise and meet other business owners in the community.
For more information about Moyer’s Pressure Washing, please call (229) 449-5493.
PHOTO CAPTION: The Chamber Ambassadors welcomed Moyer’s Pressure washing to the Chamber and the community with a ribbon cutting.
The Chamber Ambassadors honored Herring Septic Service, Inc. with a ribbon cutting on Thursday, January 23 to celebrate their new Chamber membership and business expansion.
Owner, Craig Wisenbaker, purchased Herring Septic Service eight years ago. At the time, it was a small business with only one pump truck and few services offered. The business has since expanded.
“Over the past eight years, we have added an additional pump truck and services including repairs and replacement of drain field and jetting, new septic and drain field installations, pump station repairs and septic inspections,” shared Wisenbaker.
Herring Septic Service is a company that is dedicated to making sure that all your septic tank needs are handled correctly and in a timely manner. They are also adamant that their work has a positive effect on the environment.
“At Herring Septic Service, our aim is to provide the type of septic services that keep our clients’ waste removal systems running smoothly and our environment protect,” says Wisenbaker.
Five years into ownership, Wisenbaker brought his son on board. With his help, the business has grown exponentially. The father-son team brings a family-oriented feel in all they do, which is a priority at Herring Septic Service.
For more information on Herring Septic Services visit their website herringsepticservice.com, email them at email@example.com, or call them at 229-356-1786.
PHOTO CAPTION: The Chamber Ambassadors honored Herring Septic Service with a ribbon cutting celebrating their new Chamber membership and business expansion.