Showing support for the business community

“If the community is happy, then they support your business and if your business is doing well, then you can give back even more to the community.” – Magic Johnson

One of the ways BRIDGE Local supports the business community is by putting together what we call our Co-lab Better Together Mastermind Meetings. These meetings are designed to help entrepreneurs with a specific business concern by bringing together a group of experienced business owners who can add their insight and expertise to a particular problem area for the entrepreneur in the “hot seat”. 

Seeing as we did not have anyone in the hot seat this time, we decided we would discuss ways to support the community as a whole and how we can line up the interest of the community with the business community. 

Editor’s Note: Quotes have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Listening is key

BRIDGE Local Co-Founder Chrissanne Long started out the meeting by mentioning a series of listening sessions taking place in the coming weeks. 

Next week we are kicking off a series of listening sessions with a city commissioner as well as the Lakeland Chamber. We will skip the week of Thanksgiving. Chad McCloud sent a message saying this, ‘We encourage BRIDGE Local members to participate. As city leaders it’s important for us to know how our small businesses are doing…Where do we need to improve as a city so that you have the best chance to succeed?’

I am reaching out to you to participate in these sessions. Generally speaking, commissioners can’t ask you how everything is going and how you are coping with COVID… so this strategy (the listening sessions) is meant to do that. We need to look at creating solutions for those who don’t feel like they are part of the conversation yet. Let’s come up with ideas to take the entrepreneurial ecosystem as a whole and figure out what the challenges are.”

We hope you take advantage of this opportunity to be heard because your voice matters

Provide training sessions

One thing made clear from our conversation was that our business community would like more training opportunities. 

“A lot of the Mastermind meetings I’ve been to provide great info but how can we make that measured? Let’s consider specialized training for areas such as finances, marketing, accounting, brand identity etc. We can gather metrics from that aspect.” – Frank Castiglione, Dynamic Unlimited, LLC

“I am involved with CFBDC (Central Florida Business Diversity Council) so I think one thing we can offer to minority businesses is to offer classes…Many minorities don’t have money to start their business or anyone to loan it to them. We should have courses that will help those people get the basic foundations for business. Six to eight week courses on marketing, starting a business, platinum customer service, etc. would be a great place to start.” – Kelvin McCree, Laser Focus Leadership Solutions, LLC

There is a divide between new businesses who just start out and still look “unpolished” and people who are doing business as side-hustles…How do businesses GET OUT of those negative views because they look ‘unpolished’ and therefore risk being bunched into the uncertified and unofficial businesses? There needs to be more education on this.” – Jasmine Decelle, Jasmine Decelle

Let’s work together

“A lot of what Jasmine said resonated with me. I’ve lost business. We have the problem where people are recommending others who are not CPAs. Even though I was a professional and had fancy stuff, my first logo was me going into Microsoft Word and boom a logo was created! I didn’t have anything official until last year. I didn’t even have a website. Let’s teach people! So many people come into my office and have no clue what they’re doing. I would love to get us to a point where we are teaching people.” – Allison Brown, CPA 

Here’s some questions Chrissanne Long came up with for us to consider:

  1. How do we accelerate growth for entrepreneurs in Lakeland?
  2. How do we shortcut the path to success?
  3. How do we not base it on luck? 

“One part of obtaining these goals is these conversations. How can we bring this info together in a way to help support people? Being an entrepreneur is an amazing opportunity to choose what you want to do and what you’re passionate about. It’s also one of the best things you can do for your community to support people and help them achieve their dreams.” – Dianne Kaplan, 1st Priority Staffing

Support during difficult times

“One of the other parts of this journey of entrepreneur is when we fall on difficult times and we know we have this family,” Chrissanne Long states. “I want to get back to our roots. At the beginning of LBL (now BRIDGE Local) we supported others who were falling on hard times. There was unity around one of our own. Lora Gardner has been a member of our team for many years and has been battling cancer on and off. We want to make sure the cancer stays away but she has to pay out of pocket for a PET scan.

We want to lift each other up and let people know there’s a place to go for help. When we are standing in the silo of independence as entrepreneurs we try to figure out things by ourselves; But we need to be close enough to be able to read that in people’s lives. If we are people of integrity, we don’t need to look at others in a snooty way but instead we need to cultivate a community where loving others is part of what we do.” This is why we are reaching out to our BRIDGE Local family for support. If you’d like to learn more about Lora’s situation, please visit

Join the conversation

If you missed this conversation and would like to participate in the next one, please follow us on Facebook for event reminders. You’ll also have several opportunities for your voice to be heard in our upcoming listening sessions. We look forward to seeing you next time!