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Social networking, business networking intertwine at Carrollwood club

Her name is Johnnie Giffin . She works at Saddlebrook Resort. "I encourage everybody to spend money," she tells the group.

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Isn't that what we all want?

"I'm Beth and I get to make a difference sending one card out at a time," says Bethany Eppley of SendOutCards.

Even the financial adviser is upbeat.

"We had a good year last year," says Buck Orr. "A lot of people are crying about everything, but my discretionary clients didn't do too badly."

Around and around they go on a recent morning, in the back room of a breakfast joint, business cards at the ready.

Turn on cable news, and you'll think we're living through The Grapes of Wrath.

But it's a recession-free zone here in the land of business networking. The "r" word, quite literally, is not spoken in close to 90 minutes of introductions and presentations.

Craig Moss, formerly in the restaurant business, is helping his wife launch a fitness boot camp at the Jewish Community Center in Citrus Park.

That, with two children to support.

To avoid giving in to fear, he said, "I get out as much as I can and try to talk to people."

The U.S. Small Business Administration estimates small firms employ half our nation's workers and over the past decade have created about 70 percent of all new jobs. While Wall Street's mess has dried up access to credit and loans, some economists are looking to entrepreneurs to lead the recovery.

"With people getting laid off, some are doing what they have always wanted to do, whatever their passion is," said Bruce Mesnekoff, who is opening Professional Network Connections chapters such as this one throughout the Tampa Bay area. "Even if you really want a job, it's hard to get a job."

The fee-based business, with headquarters in South Carolina, works a bit like Business Network International and other leads groups, with a slight tweak to the rules that lets you join multiple chapters and organizations. Joining costs $250 a year per chapter. Membership is category-exclusive, meaning that if you are a plumber, you'll be the only one. There is one in New Tampa and there will likely be one in Brandon, Mesnekoff said.

The roughly 20 guests in this inaugural Carrollwood meeting sipped coffee and power-networked. They learned 22 ways to better utilize Facebook and Twitter for their businesses from coach Kristine Creely, whose Cachet firm will help you "get out there" for a fee.

From Hilary Adler, second-generation bill collector with Harold A. Adler Inc., they examined the benefits of collections and pondered why people are embarrassed by their nonpaying clients.

Networking takes time, what with service organizations such as Rotary and Kiwanis, homegrown chambers of commerce and clubs such as this one.

Add those hours to the one or two a week (conservatively speaking) that you are supposed to spend updating your profiles on Facebook, Linked In and MySpace, for those all-important younger customers.

But no one was complaining.

"As a group, a lot of times people who own their own business have a state of mind that always has to be positive," Mesnekoff said.

"It's like an athlete. Even if he is in a slump, that cannot be in his head when he is up at bat."

Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 269-5307 or sokol@sptimes.com.

Social networking, business networking intertwine at Carrollwood club 04/16/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 8, 2011 12:13pm]
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