BRIDGE Local by LBL.

Formerly Lakeland Business Leaders (or LBL). BRIDGE Local has made lifting up entrepreneurs, local marketers, and business owners it’s mission.

Before the BRIDGE

Lakeland Business Leaders was established in 2010 by Chrissanne Long and Craig Hosking before it was branded to BRIDGE Local in 2019. Originally, Lakeland Business Leaders was created to help businesses in the Lakeland area connect to customers who are looking for local solutions in real time. LBL was sustained by members looking for referrals, networking opportunities, and chances to collaborate, inspire and grow with each other.

When the idea for BRIDGE Local (previously “Lakeland Business Leaders”) was just forming, it was out of our founder Chrissanne Long’s personal desire to be surrounded by positive people who were also building their businesses. Chrissanne, who had recently started building her own business, was quickly learning that other entrepreneurs were the only ones who would understand what this journey meant, the good and the bad, the struggles, the successes, and the feeling of having many people relying on you and your ability to create something where nothing existed before.

More Value, More Resources

She wanted to help others looking for their tribe, to find others who were facing the same challenges, dealing with the same growing pains, and otherwise learn from each other. A recent article on the Florida Observer stated it thusly:

“BRIDGE Local will serve as a hub for networking, collaborating and learning — not from titans of industry or gurus of commerce but from one another.” [source] 

There is a place for everyone to find their tribe. Our tribe believes in making opportunities equitable and accessible – no matter who the founder or business owner is. Every business is important to the local economy.

After years of serving the beloved small business community in this way. Lakeland Business Leaders grew and a new way of serving was discovered – a way to bridge the gaps. While our values remained the same, we quickly discovered that there were more valuable and efficient ways that we could serve our members.

Our mission became centered around more tightly connecting all of the resources available to local businesses, local consumers, and our community as a whole.

BRIDGE exists to emphasize that message.


While we understand there is no place, (including BRIDGE Local) that is perfect for everyone, we want everyone to know they are welcome.  We’re not just for established businesses – we’re for the startup, and the folks still dreaming of starting a business, as well as the ones who have found their niche and are growing and thriving in the local community. This is the lesson we learned from the first 9 years of building Lakeland Business Leaders. And this is why BRIDGE Local has taken its place.

BRIDGE Local is committed to supporting the ideals that are held by local entrepreneurs, and providing the resources, connections and opportunities local entrepreneurs need to thrive, not just today, but for generations to come. We’re committed to building a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem that sets entrepreneurs of all walks of life up for success. 

BRIDGE Local believes in being a hub for these resources and continuing to celebrate and encourage genuine connection and collaboration. We are committed to making a meaningful difference in our community and truly listening to small business owners and entrepreneurs to improve the small business environment. Small businesses are the backbone to our community, and we’ll always tirelessly advocate for them.

A rising tide lifts all the ships,
and we’re raising the tide.

Entrepreneurial ecosystems in most communities are not set up to ensure that the individuals running a local Mom and Pop Shop will be seen as “entrepreneurs.”  The ecosystems in most communities aren’t designed to look for ways to ensure economic opportunity is accessible to those who are just getting started, or those who don’t have financial backing, or have certain connections. The ecosystems in most communities have a definition for what “entrepreneurship” is and if someone doesn’t fit into whatever that definition is, there’s really nothing in place to connect that person to the resources they need to help them build their business. 

This is why BRIDGE exists. To connect the little guys, the brand new business owners, the local “mom & pop shops”, the established entrepreneurs, the daring start-ups, the one- or two-man operations who didn’t quite know where they fit. Everyone deserves (and needs) an outlet, a source of connection to like-minded people, and representation. 

The term “bridge means a lot to us. It symbolizes connection, teamwork, progress, and transition.

It’s a structure that makes it possible for someone to move from once place to another, allowing someone to grow, move one, move forward, continue.

For us, it also means so much more.

Ready to dive in?

Become a BRIDGE Local Insider today!

Meet the Team

Chrissanne Long


Craig Hosking



Chief Strategy Officer / Project Manager

Amanda Hamilton

Web Creative Director

Jon Camargo

Membership Support Director

Tonya Tucker

Digital Content Specalist