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Let’s Connect, Bradenton!

Every Thursday, a group of small business owners, working professionals, and entrepreneurs from Manatee and Sarasota County gather for the “Let’s Connect” Networking group

Meetings are free to attend and take place every Thursday morning at Connect. The group is made up of all types of professional industries including banking, consulting, digital marketing, and photography. The meeting is sponsored by Bank OZK and hosted by Connect Bradenton. 

The networking group that is now known as “Let’s Connect” began in 2017.  

“I was looking for a way to connect and collaborate with like-minded individuals without the cost or pressure,” said John Lang, of Bank OZK. “I hosted a similar type of networking group in Sarasota before accepting a position with Bank OZK in Bradenton.  I started the Bradenton group from scratch with some assistance from a business partner of mine,” he said.

John Lang of Bank OZK moderates the meetings.

Attendees are allotted 30 minutes of open networking before the official meeting begins. Members gather around the free coffee and snacks or chat near their chairs with other members in the group.   

The meeting commences promptly at 9:00am, and each attendee gets an opportunity to share a  30 second commercial for their business. They have the choice to sign up prior to the meeting through Eventbrite or sign-in on the morning of the meeting. This is a great way to showcase your business and learn about others’ in the process.

Once the opening round of speakers are done, the meeting hears from that week’s “spotlight speaker.” They get five minutes to share  a more in depth commercial for their business. Members can sign up to speak and are assigned a specific date. During the final segment, the group members are given the chance to share a “thank you” for a successful referral, or a testimonial for another member’s business. 

What started out as a small group of 10-15 weekly members, has now ballooned to over 50 attendees every week. In November, the group had its biggest attendance to date with almost 60 people. “Let’s Connect’s Facebook page is almost 475 members strong and John doesn’t see the momentum slowing down anytime soon. 

“The ‘Let’s Connect’ group is a fun, energetic, positive, cost efficient way for entrepreneurs, business owners, and professionals to collaborate. The meeting encourages more personal relationships and strategic partnerships by learning more about each other personally and professionally,” said John.      

“We are a group of professionals who thrive by supporting one another to grow. I’m grateful for our group.”

Ebony Cauley – Owner of Virtually Yours
Listening to a 30 second commercial

Networking is a crucial part in marketing a business, and the “Let’s Connect” group is attended by so many awesome locals and business professionals. Ebony Cauley, a virtual assistant and Bradenton resident, started attending the group last summer for her business Virtually Yours

Ebony enjoys “the supportive connections I have made so far, as it is encouraging to be among other thriving business owners that I admire.” Ebony appreciates the camaraderie and authentic relationships she’s built through the group. 

“Each member genuinely participates in wanting to meet for a one on one to share their experience and knowledge. We are a group of professionals who thrive by supporting one another to grow. I’m grateful for our group.”

Members having a one-on-one after the meeting

Newcomer, Michael Conte, echoes this sentiment. Michael owns Investigators Home Inspection

“I’ve only been a member of ‘Let’s Connect’ for two weeks and have already received multiple referrals,” he said. “I love it. The place has a good vibe. Everyone is friendly and willing to help others grow their business. Thanks for having me.” 

Wade Hamilton, Connect Bradenton’s Macro Manager, realizes how special this group has become. 

“I have told many people about how much I appreciate this group, and its inherent collaborative nature,” he said. “That is not as common as it should be in networking groups and business culture. It’s about more than just sales & referrals, it’s about relationships and a supportive community of business professionals.”

If you can’t attend “Let’s Connect” on Thursday mornings, don’t fret. “Let’s Connect” hosts another option for weekly meetings on Tuesdays at EnRich Bistro during lunchtime at 11:30am. The meetings are $15 and includes lunch.  

This growing community of like minded people is a great asset to downtown Bradenton and Manatee and Sarasota counties as a whole.

Photos by Pablo Ortega Photography

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