News flash: Young business professionals live in Brandon.
The suburban family community does not conjure images of nattily attired young folks trying to move up the corporate ladder, and a recent Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce survey indicated a majority of people believe Brandon is not a good place for young professionals.
In steps the Young Professionals of Brandon (YP Brandon), a new chamber group hoping to provide fresh networking opportunities for professionals under 40.
Over breakfast at Mimi's Cafe, I talked to 38-year-old LaQuinda Brewington, one of YP Brandon's charter members, about the group's inaugural event this Thursday, how young professionals have been miscast and her public relations business, the MarQuin Group.
Pull up a chair and join us.
ERNEST: So there are young professionals in Brandon? Who knew?
LaQUINDA: Yes, there are. I was thinking about it this morning and I think this group is like being 19 years old because 19 is such a weird place to be. It's not 18 when you become an adult. You're not really a teenager anymore, but you're not legal. You're kind of floating out there trying to find your way and that's kind of how we are.
So you're not in college anymore, but you're not fully established.
Yes, you have to find a way to make it. That's what I see people in YP Brandon doing. They're young people who honestly want to make a difference in the community, otherwise they wouldn't be members of the Brandon Chamber of Commerce, first and foremost. The second thing is there aren't a lot of opportunities for us as young professionals to get out there and make a name for ourselves, particularly in a community like Brandon. People here are very close-knit. You have people who have been here for generations and it's difficult to break into the circle.
You know a lot of people don't believe the next generation is interested in philanthropy or being community-oriented.
We've heard it, too: that we're not necessarily community-oriented, we're not engaged in what's going on, we're a very selfish kind of generation. This is our way to say, "No." We live here, we play here, we work here, so of course we have a vested interest in making sure this community continues to thrive and grow. To be a part of that is not only our responsibility, but for a lot of the people in this group, it's our privilege.
What can people expect from this first event?
We don't know what to expect, but it's our first opportunity to reach out and give back. We're raising money for All Children's Specialty Care of Brandon and we're trying to not only make a name for ourselves, but we want to make it a fun kind of event and make it engaging for people who may not necessarily be a part of the Brandon Chamber. Hopefully, word will build about these YP events and people will start understanding what the purpose of this is and they'll start supporting it.
You started your own PR business two years ago. Where did the name MarQuin come from?
It is actually an amalgamation of mine and my husband's first names. We're nerds. We thought about it so long ago — wouldn't it be great to have a logo for our relationship?
You guys are nerds.
The first step to realizing you have a problem is recognizing it and stating it (laughs). I thought about what our relationship means and I was talking to my designer: "I'm going to start this company and this is the name of it and this is the kind of relationship my husband and I have." Within a day, he came back with this logo which is the symbol of Marc embracing Quinn with the M wrapped around the Q. We immediately thought that was the most dynamite thing we had seen.
How do you balance work and family?
It's tough. We have two children and the youngest has Down's syndrome. That's why raising funds for Specialty Care is near and dear to my heart because I know firsthand some of the things they can do. For us, the balance was tough because we're both very driven people and we both have a need to make a mark. We're not necessarily people who believe that he who dies with the most toys wins. We really want to make a difference.
"But it's tough with all the appointments that my daughter has and my other daughter needs attention, too. My husband had started traveling too because he works for HSBC Bank and has groups he's responsible for in Asia, India and Canada. It was getting tough for us to balance."
Fortunately, I have a great spouse who was very supportive, who was saying whatever you need to do to make your dreams come true, I'm here for you. I'm really thankful for that.
DESSERT: A postscript from Ernest
The MarQuin Group handles a variety of PR tasks for clients, including media releases and Web site design. She lists the Family Enrichment Center, a faith-based foster care agency, among her clients, and also played a role in the launch of GlaxoSmithKline's Alli weight-loss drug. Prior to starting her own business, Brewington held posts with the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections and TECO.