Page 1

Issue 1 | 2019

SYNERGY A collaborative guide to economic discovery

presented by:

Leading Gainesville Four men are disproving the negative stigma of black men in the workplace.

men and women of Vision and Purpose

Discover Women and Men of Vision and Purpose. Residents who are leaders in their fields.

TABLE OF CONTENTS Community cooking dreams on maple street Jason and Edwinna Hurst share their experience running two Maple Street Biscuit Companies.........................................Pg. 12

aidan augustin Augustin describes his adventure of starting up his own business ............................................................................Pg. 18

Follow the Leader John Bacon shares tips on how to become a successful leader ..................................................................Pg. 21

leading men of gainesville


Stigmas about poverty and crime don’t define African-American men in America. Among the many storylines that highlight inner-city tragedies and tense relations between authority figures and African Americans, there are bright spots all around the country that show how much progress black men are making. Read more here.........Pg. 67

Men and women of vision and purpose


Though it is the year 2019, there continues to be a racial divide in America. Much of this divide is created and perpetuated by the media. As an organization, we realize the importance of having a voice and the power of voices. We are telling the story of local men and women and showcasing the greatness of the black community. These are the men and women that you won’t see on the 6:00 news, but make just as big of an impact. Read more here.........Pg. 72

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR Dear Reader, Thank you for picking up the inaugural issue of SYNERGY — A Collaborative Guide to Economic Discovery. SYNERGY is the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects. Which means that we can do more together than we can do separately!

President Gainesville Black professionals Recently, the results of a study called “Understanding Racial Inequity Editor in Alachua County,” reminded us of the racial inequity that we see Synergy Magazine everyday. The study was not surprising to many because we all know


the despair, the divide, and the gap that continues to exist. Initially, I didn’t understand why we were doing this study. However, after the study was completed, after reading the results, and after watching the community respond to the study, I understood its purpose. I understood that the true value of the study is not the study, but how we respond to it. SYNERGY is our response to the study. Gainesville Black Professionals was incorporated in 2016 with a mission to increase communication, collaboration, and networking between professionals, entrepreneurs, and business owners to create potentially profitable partnerships and business ventures. Since incorporating, we have hosted events and created platforms with the intention of bringing people together to work together. SYNERGY is the latest edition to our platforms. SYNERGY is a magazine and so much more. SYNERGY is an introduction to the local business owners, professionals, and entrepreneurs who make our community so wonderful. SYNERGY is an opportunity to connect with and support local businesses, organizations, and individuals in the endeavors that mean so much to them. SYNERGY is a celebration of our diversity and individuality and the acceptance of these differences. SYNERGY is a chance for us to make a difference together. Let’s be SYNERGISTIC!

synergy staff Alanis Thames

Alanis is a junior sports journalism student at the University of Florida. She is from Orlando. She is the online sports editor for the Independent Florida Alligator.

cherrie hughes

Jasmine Jones Jasmine is the owner of J. Jones Enterprises LLC, a firm focusing on breathing life into small business owners by creating practical business solutions.

John Bacon

Cherrie has called Gainesville home since 2013. She has created and managed programs in the US and abroad and enjoys new challenges.

John is a business-focused management professional, offering more than 10 years of experience and expertise in leading profit-generating operations for professional and trade associations.

Devoun Cetoute

Kevin Mcdowdell

Devoun is a senior journalism student at the University of Florida. He the magazine designer and metro editor for the Independent Florida Alligator.

Kevin is a Gainesville native, and graduate of the Visual Arts program at the University of Florida. A freelancer specializing in video production and photography for as long as he can remember.

erika dawkins

lukisha king

Erika is the founder of It’s Only Write Communications and the head of social media for Allstar Financial Group. She currently resides in Columbia, South Carolina.

Lukisha has lived in Gainesville for 26 years. She has worked in higher education for 15 years at Santa Fe College and with the intellectually disabled community.

Heaven taylor-wynn

Trey Ford

Heaven is a young media professional who aspires to cultivate dialogue and amplify voices of color as an entertainment host and correspondent.

Serial Entrepreneur. Creative Strategist. 14 years of sales experience between B2C & B2B. Co-Founder of Gainesville Black Wall Street, a subsidiary of OAK.

jacki donaldson

voleer thomas

Jacki has been writing and editing since 2004, when a scary breast cancer diagnosis lead her to start blogging about health and wellness and then happily spiraled into a career in publishing.

Voleer is a College of Journalism and Communications alumna from the University of Florida. Thomas is currently a photojournalist and reporter at WCJB-TV in Gainesville.

The Gainesville CRA is bringing more options for living and working east. Heartwood and Cornerstone will bring new housing stock and jobs to the Hawthorne Road corridor. Gainesville’s Community Redevelopment Agency is funding and incentivizing major investments in East Gainesville with two transformative initiatives. The first is Heartwood, a 15-acre community that will feature 34 new single-family homes, nestled in the shade of old growth oak trees. The neighborhood will include walking and biking paths, water features, and thoughtfully planned outdoor spaces. Heartwood is located at 1717 SE 8th Avenue, in close proximity to excellent schools and less than two miles from downtown Gainesville and approximately 2.6 miles from the University of Florida. The neighborhood will address the community’s need for new housing stock in East Gainesville that meets a diversity of financial conditions. The master plan and homes were designed with attention to sustainability, function, and style and will create a new, urban look in east Gainesville. Both the community and the CRA envision Heartwood as a vibrant, inclusive, single-family neighborhood that is integrated into its surroundings.

Less than ½ mile down the road from Heartwood is Cornerstone, another CRA initiative that will be transformative for the area. Cornerstone is an expanded campus of commercial buildings on the 13.6 acre site that includes GTEC (Gainesville Technology Entrepreneurship Center). GTEC is a small business incuba incubator run by Santa Fe College. The property is owned by the City and the CRA is redeveloping it on the City’s behalf. This will be the first site in decades to encourage and bring a variety of businesses to east Gainesville. The CRA has substantially completed the necessary infrastructure improvements, including 10 ready to finish build on pads with finished parking areas, increased lighting, landscaping, and walking paths. Concept Companies has purchased one of the pads and is building a new facility for Merieux Nutrisciences, an international food testing company that will be relocating approximately 50+ jobs to Cornerstone from

To stay up to date on Heartwood, go to

their Archer Road location. The remaining pads are

HeartwoodGNV.com and fill out the form at the bottom,

li listed for sale, with Front Street Realty as the agent.

or call the Gainesville CRA at 352-393-8200.

Cornerstone can accommodate a variety of businesses including food, office, and light industrial. Interested businesses or investors should contact Nick Banks at Front Street Realty, 352-505-4609.


cynthia washington

Cynthia Washington Story by: Voleer Thomas

A courageous woman with a passion for change and action.


or the last 22 years, Cynthia

and economic development for their


Washington has owned WCI

cities, counties, and states.

“We want to ensure that they’re

and gone around the nation

“It’s been really fun,” Washington

qualified,” Washington said. “If

helping federal government agencies


they’re qualified, you can’t deny

meet their socioeconomic and

Cynthia says the business


diversity goals.

development company offers

She says her top priorities in

Now they are branching out to the

screenings and make sure the

running her business is creating

state and local governments and

businesses are qualified then

equity in government practice,

really helping them create diversity

presents them to the government for

ensuring jobs are created, and



“I’m always looking for who can I help and who can help me,” Washington said. “Be aware of the resources around you and utilize

Difficulties are going to come but I’m going to remain the same.

them properly.” Washington strives on making sure WCI continues connecting the government with the businesses she helped developed. “We make certain that we understand what their weaknesses are, what their strengths are and then we help them with those weaknesses and we push those strengths.” Washington discussed how she overcomes difficulties in her business. “Difficulties are going to come but I’m going to remain the same,” Washington said. “Stay focused, keep your vision in front of you.” Washington has another business she has in the making called ‘Madam President Inspires Network’ which she says was created to inspire building economic development for

tell you what to do but how to do it,”

other business owners and create a


Washington said. “That’s how you

community for people who want to

“When you have contracts, it’s a

will be successful.”

help each other.

guaranteed source of income for any

Washington says one of the

Topics such as health and

community,” Washington said. “We

strategies she uses to keep the

wisdom will be discussed to help

call ourselves the ‘global connecters’

business going for over 20 years is

entrepreneurs on their path towards

because we can connect to anybody

being diligent.

running successful businesses and

anywhere. We’re not limited in any

“Diligent people are successful

continue to inspire them along the

capacity or capability.”

people,” Washington said. “You


WCI created 14 ebooks—seven

continue in your effort even when it’s

“Inspiring means you’re going to

on entrepreneurship and seven on

hard; that’s diligence to me.”

move them forward in their efforts,”

government contracting.

Another strategy she uses is being

Washington said.

“We believe that we shouldn’t just

aware of the resources.



/ˈnetˌwərk/ I magine you are mixing, mingling and taking business cards from everyone during a networking event. Then, a week later, you find these business cards and cannot remember the face, reason or why you needed that person or their services. Unfortunately, this is a well known practice of networking. Fear no more, I am here to ensure you know how to network with purpose. First, the art of networking is about knowing what you need. If you need a photographer, do not spend 30-minutes talking with someone about branding. Of course, be polite but move on and make your way around the room. So what should you do if you catch yourself in a 30-minute conversation? At this moment I would deploy the “business card swap” method. If you have not done so, give this business owner or professional your business card and take theirs. Let them know that you

Story by: Jasmine T. Jones

valued the conversation, but you have a few more people you would like to meet. Shake hands and depart. This tactic will act as a gentle reminder of why everyone is at the event - to network. Second, when you get a business card, write down where you met the person and a describing feature. Example, XYZ professional mix & mingle - navy blue glasses with baby sharks around the rim. Taking the time to write down these facts will help you remember why you kept this card. As much as we try to rely on our memories, it can be the enemy of progress. Write it down! This hint will change you networking life, trust me. Lastly, networking is supposed to be productive work and fun. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed by it all, take a break. If you miss one or a few opportunities to network, your professional network will not collapse. Just like life, balance is key. You could take that time fostering

Building a network is the first step to success your existing network. All too often we can get into a networking frenzy and continually search for the next best person to add to our network. By doing this, we neglect the same network that helped bring you to the success you have today. Maintaining your network could be a simple check in email or customized holiday cards. No matter the communication form, keep in contact. Business is about relationships. This means your network consists of real people. The fundamentals of networking are the same as life. Treat people as you want to be treated, be honest and open, create a sense of transparency and most importantly, have a little fun. Networking does not have to be a chore if you use these mentioned “net-hacks.”




-2 6












Rosa Parks Station Streets

university lodge


e have seen an AfricanAmerican president. We are finding more AfricanAmericans on television. And we are witnessing African-Americans rise to positions of leadership across the nation. As we grow and strengthen as successful and influential people, organizations within our community help promote the Black experience. One such organization is the Improved Benevolent and Protective Order Elks of the World (IBPOEW), Inc. The objective of the Elks, like most African-American fraternal organizations, is to provide financial, spiritual, and emotional support to their communities and add value and improve self-esteem among African-Americans. The Elks are fully committed to economic, personal, and academic advancement in every phase of the African-American experience. The IBPOEW currently has 500,000 members in more than 1,500 lodges worldwide. The IBPOEW is the largest Black fraternal organization in the world. The IBPOEW strives to ensure “that the welfare and happiness of its members be promoted and enhanced, that nobleness of soul and goodness of heart be cultivated, that the principles or Charity,

gainesville GROUP help elevate black experience Justice, Brotherly/ Sisterly love and fidelity be inculcated, that its members and their families be assisted an protected and that the spirit of patriotism be enlivened and exalted.” One of these 1,500 lodges is located in Gainesville, FL. The University City Lodge 1218 & Temple 900 located at 511 SW 4th Avenue Gainesville, FL, was established November 1, 1996. It’s founding fathers were; E. A. Cosby, T. Coward, E. Brown, H. McClunney, H. Quarterman, G. Thompson, G. Alexander, V. Jones and R. Brown. These named individuals are the building trustees and their names are on the cornerstone of the Elks lodge.


Story by: LuKisha King


University City Lodge 1218 & Temple 900 are a staple within the Gainesville community. The lodge organizes and participates in community service events, some events include the celebration and recognition of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, sponsoring annual scholarships to incoming freshman from their scholarship foundation, and hosting weekly community gatherings for social interaction. The University City Lodge 1218 & Temple 900 has a section within the University of Florida library recognizing the lodge’s beginning and its founding members as well as their contributions to the Gainesville community.

jason & edwinna hurst

jason &



At the restaurant, I have more opportunity to ... touch and inspire people. Story by: Jacki Donaldson

Building a Legacy for Their Children on maple street


In 2012, after working for five years as the video coordinator for former University of Florida Women’s Basketball coach Amanda Butler, Edwina answered a call to move into the ministry. She worked for six years with Alive Church before the invitation to enter the restaurant business arrived. “I was very content in the ministry and had no plans of stepping out,” Edwina said. “I was going to support Jason from the sidelines as I have

Jason Hurst had long wanted to

Edwina Hurst’s bucket list never

done with all of his great ideas. I was

honor his grandmother, who passed

included owning and operating

going to pray for him and encourage

when he was in high school, by

a restaurant, but the Augusta,


providing an avenue for people to

Georgia, native who played four

But after some soul searching, she

gather and enjoy the comfort of soul

years of college basketball at the

accepted the idea in her heart.


University of Montevallo in Alabama

“I am stubborn,” Edwina said.

But for a while, life got in the

and graduated with a degree in

“I had to step outside the four

way, and Jason, born and raised in

Kinesiology, is no stranger to

walls of what I considered to be a

the west suburbs of Chicago and a

answering God’s call.

ministry. At the restaurant, I have

graduate of Florida A&M University, instead traveled a different path. He worked on Wall Street (loved the job but hated the hours), transitioned into pharmaceutical sales, flexed his entrepreneurial spirit and opened a maintenance contracting business, and then became a real estate agent. He currently works full-time with Front Street Commercial Real Estate Group. He now also owns and operates — with his wife, Edwina Hurst — Gainesville’s two Maple Street Biscuit Company locations, one in Butler Plaza and one in the Tioga Town Center.



more opportunity to have spiritual

that prides itself on gracious service,

closed on Sunday to allow employees

conversations and touch and inspire

comfort food with a modern twist,

a day of peace and comfort, they

people, engage in their lives, and

and immaculately clean spaces.

often partner with churches on area

serve comfort in the form of food and

Their mission is to help people,

events, and they hold back part

fellowship. Now, the restaurant is my

serve others, and be a part of the

of their profits to give back to the


community, which lines up with

Jason and Edwina, who met at

their life values. Maple Street and the

Alive Church, have been in business

Hursts are a perfect match.

since summer 2018 with Maple

In addition to communing with

Street Biscuit Company, a faith-based

each other, they also share the love

organization of community stores

of Christ. Their two restaurants are

Their mission is to help people, serve others and be a part of the community. community and their employees. They also make great food with quality ingredients; they craft most menu items in house and serve some of the best locally roasted coffee. Jason and Edwina, who are always thinking beyond themselves, are working to leave a legacy for their 9-year-old son, Josiah, and their 2-year-old daughter, Jaisen. Before passing their business on, though, they plan to open 10 stores in 10 years (one store per year).


john sanchez

john sanchez Grateful for Life’s Obstacles and pushing forward


ohn Sanchez does not give up. The Miami born and raised Vice President at Capital City

Bank in Gainesville has been pushing boundaries his entire life. His grit and determination have earned him several notable successes: He founded the first Hispanic fraternity at the University of Florida (UF), swiftly rose through the management ranks at Walmart, and has made a name for himself as a skilled relationship builder in banking. John, a husband and father of five, names work-family balance as one of his most significant accomplishments. John attended UF at the urging of his high school accounting teacher who knew John would excel in Gainesville. John, a big-city kid and die-hard Hurricanes and Dolphins fan, was not so sure. “I came to UF but did not have any school spirit,” John said. Small-town Gainesville was a culture shock for John, and as he tried to engage in the campus community, specifically by joining a fraternity, he found himself feeling out of place as a Hispanic student. “I was sold on the idea of a fraternity,” John said. “Most of my friends joined traditional AfricanAmerican fraternities, and I entertained joining one. The other alternative was a white fraternity. One night, I sat in my dorm room

thinking, ‘Why do I have to choose?’ I have been choosing black or white my entire life. How many other students have felt like me?” John set out on a mission to find a Hispanic fraternity at UF, and when his efforts failed, he decided to start one. John, 18 at the time, learned that although he could start an organization, seeing the project through would take longer than the four years he would spend attending college. His other option was to find a nationally recognized Latino fraternity and start a chapter at UF, which is what he did. Lambda Theta Phi arrived on campus in 1995, and John graduated

Story by: Jacki Donaldson

in 1997 after helping launch chapters at Florida State University (FSU) and the University of Central Florida (UCF). John, the first president of Lambda Theta Phi and one of nine founding members, is still involved with the fraternity; he speaks, offers workshops, and supports the organization that espouses “Chivalry Above Self.” After college, with a degree in business management, John began working for Walmart, and he completed a six-month management training program in three months. Impressed by his achievement, John’s managers asked him about his goals, and John shared that he planned to be a store manager in two years and a district manager in five.

The managers told John that his goals were unrealistic, but John disagreed. In 18 months, John received a promotion to store manager, and just as he was on track to becoming a district manager, he was staring down a life change. John was headed to a high-executive position when his now-wife, Lisa told him in 2005 that she would not marry him if he did not slow down. “In 2004, I worked from October to January and never took a day off. I opened my eyes and looked at the events of the past two years,” John said. “Maybe becoming a CEO was too much.”

A conversation with Lisa sealed the deal. The battle between John the CEO and John the Family Man was over. John transitioned to a new career in banking for a better work-life balance. John’s first banking job was at Bank of America in New Jersey, where within six months he turned the worst-performing store into a top three store. John later moved to Gainesville to be near Lisa’s family and has spent the past nine years building strong relationships with business owners and community members and works hard to make a difference.

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lexley shelton

lexley shelton


when it comes to technology, lex is a jack of all trades Story by: Voleer Thomas


exley “Lex” Shelton is a jack of all trades when it comes to the technology field. The Gainesville native has two degrees in IT (information technology) and studied theatre, business, and media. He is the coordinator of media services at Santa Fe college in the educational media studio.

business can test your patience because you can see where you want to go and you can see where you’re going but you’re not there yet.” Shelton is also an entrepreneur for his network called ‘Catalyst Television Network.’ He said the 3-year project is a multi-generational style network and tailors to different people. “That’s my goal--is to have

What sparked his mind to use the word “Catalyst” as the name for the network was when he was talking to his friends and he said, “This right here might be a catalyst for change.” The word stuck with him ever since. “If things go well, it will change the face of the city and the state,” Shelton said. “This can really be the push.” Shelton said his faith keeps

Shelton said his priorities are: customer service, getting the job done correctly, and achieving success without trampling everybody else in the process. “In this field it’s difficult for some people to understand that,” Shelton said. A man with vision, he is determined to use all of his talents. “One of the major difficulties for me is patience” Shelton said. “I am a very patient person but sometimes

something for everybody,” Shelton said. His goal is to provide TV series, films, short films, spoken word, live comedy specials, and sports coverage on his network. He also plans on teaming up with successful channels on YouTube and incorporate them into the network. “It’s very ambitious,” Shelton said. “It’s a lot of big projects wrapped up in one.” Shelton has called it “The Untitled Project” for years.

him going and it’s one of his strategies he uses for his success. “Even if it doesn’t work out, I’ve learned so much and I’m grateful for the opportunities,” Shelton said. “Knowing that you don’t know everything. Don’t be afraid. If you fail, dust yourself off and keep going.” Shelton said he has multiple businesses: two IT companies, an app company, and a property management company.


The businesses are called NeoFocus Entertainment, Network Solutions and Integration, Deliverance Pictures company (which takes pictures and capture video for non-profits and churches), and Happy Rage Quit

which is an app he created which is similar to a video game. “Through life I realized I like a lot of things,” Shelton said. “Every time I find a need [I say], ‘I wish I could find a company that could do this. I guess


I’ll start one to do it.’” His father has his own construction company for over 30 years called M.Shelton Construction and his family owns a property management company called Shelton Properties. “I want to show young Black men that you can do other things,” Shelton said. “The smartest people in the world are the richest people in the world.” Shelton is a part of ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ at Santa Fe College and has a group of young men he mentors. He plans on creating a program for children to know film, audio sound engineering, programming, ethical hacking and making apps. “I want to be able to properly create environments where students can actually foster their learning and go to higher heights,” Shelton said.


aidan augustin

Aidan augustin

Feathr’s Aidan Augustin Is a Start-Up Success Story Story by: Jacki Donaldson


idan Augustin calls himself a Gainesville evangelist. Like many, he came to the city to attend the University of Florida (UF), and he loved the place so much that he stayed. Aidan, who lives downtown and walks and bikes just about everywhere, is a cheerleader for Gainesville’s culture, from coffee shops and nightlife to Depot Park and monthly Art Walk events. He also has a deep affection for UF even though he did not complete his intended engineering degree from the prestigious university. “Halfway through my junior year, I hit pause on school to work full-time

on a startup,” Aidan said. Aidan, the 28-year-old co-founder and president of Feathr, a software company that builds marketing tools for conference, trade show, and festival organizers, started working with his co-founder on Feathr’s concept while still in college and then left school to focus on his business, which he incorporated in 2012. Most of Feathr’s growth has occurred in the past three and a half years, and the company now has 50 full-time employees and three offices and doubled its revenue in 2018. Aidan attributes much of his early momentum to the support he received from Gainesville’s startup

community. Feathr was one of the first businesses to move into the Innovation Hub at UF (now UF Innovate | The Hub) just as the building was opening and unveiling its state-of-the-art technology incubator. “The Hub played a key part in our early entrepreneurial journey,” Aidan said. “We are one of their success stories, and now we try to pay it forward.” Feathr was not an instant success. “Like most entrepreneurs, we were too emotionally attached to our first idea,” he said. “You have to test, validate, and gather market feedback,



and in our case, we moved from one idea to a second idea to a third idea, which finally clicked and took off.” The three distinct chapters of Feathr history include the original product, a mobile app for digital business cards; the second product, a mobile app for conference and trade show attendees; and the final and current product, a suite of technology to arm marketing teams with the tools to promote their events. Feathr is no longer an app but rather a living, breathing online toolkit available by annual software license. Customers, most of them non-

You have to test, validate and gather market feedback.

profits, renew to stay current and receive new features and capabilities. Aidan said that Feathr’s recent success is the fruit of several years of failing, screwing up, and learning. “Hopefully, this is just the beginning,” he said. “We have aggressive goals for the next three years.” Aidan is still hungry. “Feathr is still small in absolute numbers,” he said. He and his co-founder, Aleksander Levental, aim to keep growing their business — and their employees. “We want to do right by our team,” he said. “We offer not only good financial compensation, but also an exciting work environment with the opportunity for rapid personal growth.” As the president of startupGNV, a local non-profit that helps aspiring entrepreneurs, Aidan also works

to grow the next generation of Gainesville startups. “One of the things I love most about our community is that people operate from an abundance mindset rather than a scarcity mindset,” he said “Feathr received a lot of mentorship

and support in our early days, so I’m excited to play that role for others.”

A Museum of Ideas, A Place to Learn and Create Engaged. Curious. Inspired. Visit the Cade Museum for Creativity & Invention, a place to meet featured inventors, to be engaged in our labs, be curious in our exhibits, and be inspired to ask questions. (352) 371 - 8001 811 S Main Street, Gainesville, FL 32601 www.cademuseum.org


Gainesville & Alachua County

Check out the online event calendar, explore parks & trails, discover museums and attractions, and find local restaurants at:




Follow the Leader


n elementary school, teachers usually designate a “leader” whom classmates follow throughout the day whenever they leave the classroom to go to recess, the cafeteria, and other daily activities. As a child, you follow the leader because teachers tell you to do so. But in today’s workplace, the idea that staff members will follow the leader simply because someone tells them to is not the reality. True leaders do not always come with an official title. But true leaders still gain and keep followers, and together, they propel the goals and objectives of a team or organization, whether those goals are to drive revenue, grow membership, increase profits, or something else. True leaders also earn buy-in from all involved – staff members and stakeholders – by showing vulnerability, making an investment in resources and people, and using personal influence for good.

Vulnerability strengthens your ability to relate As a leader, you have to understand that being vulnerable is not a

Story by: John Bacon

Be the Leader Everyone Wants to Follow

weakness. This characteristic makes you relatable and approachable. People want to build relationships with other people. However, some leaders by title alienate themselves by not connecting with others. How do you become vulnerable without crossing personal or professional lines?


True leaders take the time to listen to those around them because they know that listening puts them in a position to understand where a person is coming from and to give

sound advice. You become vulnerable when you empathize with someone else and that, in turn, strengthens your ability to relate to that person. Listening shows others that even if you have not experienced what they are going through, you will never dismiss their feelings or concerns. Listening demonstrates that as a leader, you are willing to be present to help with whatever people are going through with the end goal of navigating them back to the path to grow your team and accomplish your



goal. Leaders have an innate ability to make others feel stronger in uncomfortable situations, and the first step to getting there is to listen.

Investing in your team True leaders understand that the most important investment they can make is in people. They know that giving their teams the resources and support they need ensures that everyone has the opportunity to succeed. To keep my team at Naylor invested in each other and in our work, I show that I am not afraid to be in the trenches to accomplish our shared goals. Some may see my investment in our team’s day-to-day obstacles as a sacrifice, but I have found it is the best way to understand the challenges we face and invest in the team’s success. A word of caution: Do not fall into the mentality of “That’s not my job.” Your organization’s success is everyone’s goal, which makes it everyone’s job to help get there. Investing in your people may not necessarily be part of your job description, but it is a choice that true leaders make every day. It also

allows you to hold your team to a higher standard. Building honesty, trust, and credibility in my relationships has allowed me to hold my team accountable for what I need from them. Great leaders invest in and build trust within their teams, but also across departments and with customers. In “The Servant,” author James Hunter says, “Leadership is about getting things done through people. There will always be two dynamics involved: the task and the relationship.” Building relationships while finishing a task is the definition of leadership. Never forget that you have a job to do, but know that to finish that job successfully, you need the people around you willing to give it their all.

Position power vs. people power In my sales organization, one part of my leadership role is as group publisher to a team of veteran sales professionals. I sometimes joke that sales is as

much a part of my daily job as theirs. Working in inside sales is a tough job – even for professionals who have done it for years. As a sales leader, I continually battle the repercussions of rejection. How can I motivate a team that hears “no” more than “yes”? I am able to lead because I have personal relationships – I call it “people power” – as well as a title that gives me “position power.” True leaders balance position and people power. They understand that their title gives them authority, but they do not abuse it. They listen well, they solicit feedback from their team while making decisions, and they are not afraid to make tough decisions. Hunter explains that power is the “ability to force or coerce someone to do your will, even if they would choose not to, because of your position or your might. Authority is the skill of getting people to willingly do your will because of your personal influence.” True leaders balance given power and earned authority. Sometimes, you may have to use your power to get things done, but because of your authority, you can motivate and empower your team to complete the task with minimal disruption.

Follow the leader Business leaders are not born; they evolve and grow over time through experience, challenges, and triumphs. The lasting legacy of a leader is determined by their followers, team members, and bought-in believers who fight to achieve the goals and objectives that move their organization forward long after the leader has changed titles, left the company or organization, and shifted power to the next generation.

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delivering resources

for families

and children A


Gainesville Sun in a letter to the editor from community volunteer

Story by: Jacki Donaldson


Alison Law and caught the eye of Dorothy Benson. These women had never met, but their paths were about to intersect. Through a series of what now seem like fateful decisions and coincidences, the women met to discuss what the data meant to the community. In that moment, and during subsequent months of hard work, the vision for SWAG was born. In 2009, Dorothy and Alison connected with young mothers in the community after they learned that the moms needed something positive for their kids to do after school.

mazing things happen when

to the community, University of

Dorothy and Alison helped

caring, compassionate

Florida’s Dr. Nancy Hardt published

transport a group of moms to

people come together to

maps that pinpointed a one-square-

the Alachua County Board of

work toward a common goal.

mile area in southwest Gainesville

Commissioners so they could

Collaboration and mutual respect

where in one year’s time as many

advocate for the resources their

that turned into deep friendships are

as 450 babies were born to parents

families needed.

what makes the story of Southwest

living below the poverty line.

Two years later, the SWAG Family

Advocacy Group (SWAG) special.

Alachua County Sheriff Sadie

Resource Center (where families can

SWAG has a wonderful history,

Darnell had similar maps that

access supports such as help finding

but before the group existed, a

showed a high concentration of

a job, a food pantry, a clothing closet,

local community leader named

crime in the same square-mile area.

after-school enrichment, and parent-

Joan Canton had a vision for her

This information published in the

child activities) opened in Linton

neighborhood. Almost 20 years ago, Joan moved into Linton Oaks, and soon after, she started working to help revitalize the area. Joan, along with some of her neighbors, became the voice of the neighborhood. Their goal was to provide residents in their community with the resources they needed to flourish and to ensure that resources would be delivered in a way that respected the residents. “When you have a stake in what you are doing, you do it better,” Joan said. Around the same time that Joan’s group was working to bring resources



Oaks. Soon after, the group began working to create a clinic in the neighborhood, just across the street from the resource center. Just as the clinic seemed to be on track to open, Dorothy moved to Kentucky. After Dorothy moved, another Dorothy, Dorothy Thomas, entered

450 babies were born to parents living below the poverty line. the picture when she delivered a donation of coats from her son’s kindergarten class to SWAG’s Family Resource Center and felt an immediate love for the place. “I did not know anything about SWAG at the time,” she said. “But as soon as I walked in the door, I felt a connection.” Dorothy Thomas quickly went from someone who was just “dropping off coats” to someone deeply invested in the mission of SWAG and what it was doing to empower the community. Before long, she was asked to step in and help the clinic project, which was in peril because of budget considerations, and she helped raise the money to make the clinic a success. Two years later, Dorothy Benson moved back to Gainesville, just in time for the SW Health Clinic ribboncutting ceremony. Together, the “Dorothys,” as they have become known, began working to open the newest SWAG resource: The CHILD Center, an early learning center where children 6 weeks to 5 years old from the SWAG neighborhoods can access high-

23428 quality early childhood care and education.

3.565 x 9.625

The CHILD Center, which opened this past summer, is a result of a partnership with several community


organizations in Alachua County and the University of Florida’s Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies. Because SWAG aims to serve families of all ages and stages and in life, the need for the CHILD Center, also located in

Great leaders inspire our communities

Linton Oaks, was critical. Dr. Patricia Snyder, Director of the Zucker Center, has also played an ongoing role with the CHILD Center. “I have been in this business for more than 30 years, and this CHILD Center is remarkable,” she said. “This is a great model for the country for helping families and children get a leg up.” This group’s decision to raise funds and put together the partnerships to build the CHILD Center inspired them to bring these same resources to children all throughout Alachua County, and three and a half years ago, they began advocating for a local children’s services council that was on the November 6 ballot. The Children’s Trust referendum, which passed, will provide the leadership and funding to care for all of Alachua County’s children starting prenatally and through a child’s high school years. Joan Canton, whom Dorothy Benson calls a pillar of the SWAG community, has witnessed the SWAG neighborhoods come to life. Joan, an active volunteer at the Family Resource Center, still lives in Linton Oaks, and she plans to stay. “If everyone who can leave leaves, then we are not truly helping,” she said. SWAG partners with many different organizations to help make life easier for low-income families by helping them to help themselves. Not only have these ladies brought

In every community, there are people who can inspire others to work for positive change. True leaders know how to forge a consensus and create a lasting legacy of success. It’s an honor to recognize Gainesville Black Professionals. wellsfargo.com

resources to the community, but they have also developed a deep love and respect for each other. “We have such a patchwork quilt of people involved,” Dorothy Thomas said. “We each bring our perspectives, background, and skills to the table. Sometimes, our differences require us to have hard conversations, but these conversations are what make our projects better.” Dorothy Benson added, “A lot of great things have happened over the years because some very good people really cared and never quit.”

© 2018 Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. IHA-23428

courtnie nichols

Courtnie Nichols: Travel Entrepreneur By Age 30

courtnie nichols


Story by: Jacki Donaldson


ourtnie Nichols

Courtnie takes care of all the

school. I have been on five

records all of her goals

details during an excursion.

cruises. I lived overseas with

in a planner.

If you want rum and not

my husband when he played

When she was 21, she wrote

vodka in your hotel mini-

professional basketball.”

that she would own a business

fridge, Courtnie makes

Courtnie’s husband, Darris

by age 30. And sure enough,

it happen. If you have a

Nichols, whom she met in

she did.

food allergy, Courtnie

college, is an Assistant Coach

Now 31, Courtnie is the

communicates your dietary

on the University of Florida

proud owner and travel

needs to the hotel staff. If

Men’s Basketball staff, and the

architect of TravelBash, a

you end up stuck in Nairobi,

couple has moved five times

travel boutique she started

Kenya, you call Courtnie.

for coaching jobs.

in late 2016 and launched in

If you just want to show up

“This is the first time we’ve

January 2017.

and enjoy yourself while

been with a program for more

Courtnie specializes in

someone else handles all of

than two years,” Courtnie,

romance travel and girls

the details, Courtnie, with her

who is often on the road

getaways and retreats in

young, vibrant, passionate

supporting the Gators, said. “I

Mexico, the Caribbean, and

personality, is your girl.

am a natural-born traveler.”

Europe. TravelBash is not the

Courtnie’s attention to

A self-proclaimed city girl

typical travel agency of years

clients is what makes her

from St. Louis, Courtnie has


stand out. So does her vast

always loved experiencing

“I don’t consider myself

travel experience.

new cultures, and because

a travel agency,” Courtnie

“Ever since I was little,

people always ask her for

said. “I do more than book

my parents exposed me to

travel advice, starting a travel

travel. Booking travel is

travel,” Courtnie said. “My

business was a natural move.

transactional. I am more of a

dad took me to Greece for

Courtnie, who has a

personal travel concierge.”

two weeks when I was in high

professional background in

development and fundraising, started her travel business as a passion project and has developed it into a full-blown venture that keeps her plenty busy. She employs one parttime virtual admin who lives in UK (a friend from West Virginia University, where her husband played basketball); one UF intern; and one part-time digital guy, also a UF alum, who lives in Los Angeles. Courtnie and her team do



Femcity, a professional women’s business network that helps female entrepreneurs. Courtnie works by appointment only every day except Sunday, and she is happy to consult with clients in person or electronically. “I don’t have to see people to book them,” she said. “I can meet with them in a coffee shop or on Skype.” Courtnie’s advice for those interested in traveling is to avoid touristy areas. “Become a local. Don’t be a tourist,” she said. “Immerse yourself not offer domestic travel services,

the best,” she said.

but Courtnie does create travel

Most of Courtnie’s business comes

guides and eBooks to help folks

from referrals, and she partners with

navigate that process. Courtnie is

local businesses and advertises on

very niche focused. “I can’t be the

social media.

expert at everything if I want to be

She is also part of a group called

in a culture to truly appreciate it. Try something new just one time.”

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fareed ‘reed’ johnson

Story by: Voleer Thomas reflect those who buy them. Running a business has its fair share of obstacles, and Johnson uses strategies he developed to keep the business going. “Persistence,” Johnson said. “Not giving up will keep you in business and working off the weaknesses of competitors and using those strengths to connect to customers.”


areed “Reed” Johnson is the owner of Blush Hair Extensions, which is currently located at 530 North Main Street in Downtown Gainesville. Blush Hair Extensions sells natural hair products, cosmetics, and bundles of hair. The name for his business was created when he was looking for something feminine and wanted to sell products that will make customers blush. That’s how the name ‘Blush Hair Extensions’ was born. Johnson is from Gainesville, Florida. Although his professional background is in the justice area, he is currently a commercial driver outside of his business. The beauty supply store opened its doors in March 2018 and along his journey he learned many lessons

working in the beauty supply industry. Before opening the store, Johnson had a mobile hair extensions business. He continued with his vision as an entrepreneur when he ended the mobile business and began his search for a location and found a building on Main Street which he said will provide more accessibility to customers. “My top priorities are to build an inventory that reflects the community’s preferences and promotes the most healthy hair care,” Johnson said. “I also intend on developing a community relations program that focuses on developing entrepreneurial skills in the local youth.” Johnson loves connecting with the community and interacting with customers. He wants the products to

As an owner, Johnson wants to cater to the community’s needs by carrying products they are interested in. “We want to only carry products that interest our local market,” Johnson said. “It takes time to cycle through customer requests and understand what is in demand and what is obsolete. We’re just being patient and also learning from our customers.” Johnson said the feedback he has received since the opening of the beauty supply store has been promising. “It’s an honor to have come this far from the idea stage,” Johnson said. “However, there’s plenty of work to do still.” Johnson plans on expanding inventory and is looking forward to taking their marketing team to the next level. In the meantime, Blush Hair Extensions will be closing its doors on Main Street but will continue the

Fareed ’reed’ johnson

shaping a beauty supply store around a diverse community



fareed ‘reed’ johnson

operation of retailing hair extensions until the new location is open. Johnson said instead of signing a new lease after the beginning of the year, he believes it would be best to relocate. After speaking to other business owners as well as customers, he realized there were characteristics at the current location that he said will limit the growth of the business. Some of those characteristics are rear building parking, in store lighting, and limited signage and advertising space on the building. Closing the store down and relocating was a hard decision to make but Johnson is ready for the next chapter of Blush. “It’s bittersweet,” Johnson said. “It’s the end for the caterpillar but the beginning for the butterfly. The next location will offer so much more and will reflect the learning lessons of the previous location.” Johnson said they are in the planning phase for the new location and this time they will be collaborating with a beauty supply consulting company out of Atlanta. He hopes their experience in the industry will help his business grow. “Soliciting their help will ensure the right products and operations are in place to truly have a successful store,” Johnson said. The new location of the store and the date of it opening is pending but Johnson said he intends on remaining in the Main Street area.

sherman merricks


sherman merricks Sherman Merricks Is Everything He ever Wanted To Be Story by: Jacki Donaldson


herman Merricks’ mother,

what he wanted to do with his life.

Sherman worked in an administrative

a single mom who worked

After graduating from Southeastern

job for a while. But he found himself

tirelessly to raise Sherman

University (a small, private Christian

unsatisfied and continually looking

and his younger sister, told her kids

college in Lakeland), where he played

for the right professional path.

when they were young that despite

basketball for four years, he and his

“I kept searching for what was

their disadvantaged background, they

wife, Cristina, wanted a change of

going to be my career,” he said. “And

could do anything.


I knew it was not going to be in an

Sherman, now 35 years old and the

In 2005, the father of one of


founder and owner of Gainesville’s

Sherman’s teammates invited

Sherman’s career was destined to

Dynasty CrossFit, believed his mom.

the young couple to visit him in

be in a gym. But first, it was in his

“I latched onto what she told me,”

Gainesville, where he served as a


Sherman said. “I am now everything

pastor at The Rock Church. Sherman

One of Sherman’s Gainesville buddies

I wanted to be and more.”

and Cristina liked what they saw, and

introduced him to CrossFit workouts,

Sherman, originally from Winter

they made Gainesville their home.

and knowing that Sherman was

Haven, Florida, was not always sure

Employment followed, and

miserable in his job and had worked


sherman merricks

as a fitness trainer in college, he encouraged his friend to open a CrossFit box (CrossFit centers are called boxes because they resemble a box made of cement walls that contain bars, weights, and ropes). “With that seed planted, each day at work was more miserable than the day before,” Sherman said. To test his buddy’s idea, Sherman began training folks before and after work at parks around town. When balancing two jobs became too much to manage, Sherman shared with Cristina that he wanted to leave the office job and pursue training fulltime. “We made it official and opened up shop in our garage,” he said. Sherman’s first clients were Cristina’s friends. “In the beginning, we had only women,” Sherman said. “And we still have a strong female presence.” After a year of growing his at-home business via word of mouth, Sherman realized he needed a bigger location. He first rented space at Sun Country’s Millhopper gym, and then he moved into his current 5,000 square-feet space at 3737 SW 42nd Avenue, conveniently located off of I-75, where he has spent the last four years. Dynasty CrossFit, which earned its name from Sherman’s desire to one day have several locations (like a dynasty), is 8 years old, and Sherman is thankful that he started his business when he did. Eight years ago, Gainesville only had two or three CrossFit boxes; now, Sherman counts about 13. “Back when I got started, opening a gym was easier,” he said. “I got in at a good time and just had to pay a

minimal fee up front to be my own

a lot of knowledge, confidence, or


money,” Sherman said. “I was putting

Now that CrossFit is mainstream,

in 16-hour days.”

the already difficult start-up process

Still, Sherman never doubted that

is more challenging.

he was making the right move.

Starting a new venture can be

“I am super positive and a big dream

terrifying, and being a small business

guy,” he said. “Even when things get

owner can be tough.

tough, I just cannot quit.”

“In the beginning, I did not have

jill williams

Jill Williams


From online cosmetics line to storefront glamtique Story by: Voleer Thomas


ill Williams is the owner and founder of Jay-Jill Cosmetics and opened a glamtique on 2835 NW 41st Street, Suite 210 in Gainesville, Fl. Williams was born in Gainesville to CJ and Florence James also known as Flo James and was raised in the city. She graduated from Gainesville High School and is married to Albert Williams. Williams says she comes from a family of entrepreneurs. “My mother owned ‘Flo’s Beauty Salon’ on NW 5th avenue back in the day and my dad currently owns ‘James Janitorial Service,’” Williams said. “With both parents being entrepreneurs, it made me more business oriented.” Williams sold products for cosmetic companies such as Avon and Mary Kay. As she was selling the products, she decided to create her own

line and launched Jay-Jill Cosmetics in October 2012. Williams graduated from Florida State College in Jacksonville where she received her Skin Care Specialist License. “I am in the business of bringing out the beauty in women,” Williams said. Williams is also the owner and founder of JSW Models & Productions LLC and is a model and actress who had speaking roles as background talent in Georgia and Florida. The Jay-Jill Glamtique opened its doors in February 2018 and offers skin care, beauty products and supplies. The glamtique also provide facials, cavitation and lipo treatments, brow tinting, keratin lash lifts, microblading, spa parties, and a mobile spa. Her participation in fashion shows drew a lot of attention

to her makeup talent. She said her inspiration behind her success was her mother who told her to get her license as a esthetician. “My top priorities include building and growing the Jay-Jill Cosmetics Brand and to introduce the Jay-Jill Cosmetics Glamtique to the Gainesville community,” Williams said. Williams went to manufacturers and tested the products herself to confirm that the products work. She sells a variety of cosmetics. Williams also wants the glamtique to be a space for anyone who wants to showcase their passion as a beautician. She used social media outlets such as Instagram which she has landed product features in magazines such as Essence Beauty and Sheen Magazine for “Products You Should Know For Women Of Color”. Williams makes sure to keep the faith whenever obstacles may arise. “My difficulties I have found have been due to not having capitol and the immediate funds to do what I want to do as fast as I’d like to do it,” Williams said. “ Williams said she is looking forward to growing both businesses locally and nationwide.


Nkwanda Jah

Story by: Voleer Thomas


kwanda Jah, Executive Director for the Cultural Arts Coalition, a non-profit organization housed at the Wilhelmina Johnson Center on 321 NW 10th Street in Gainesville, is grateful for her community/village, which for 40 years this coming Spring has supported the Cultural Arts Coalition. The organization, which launched in 1979 and became a non-profit in 1983, strives to educate and empower the community by establishing and maintaining communityoriented programs through arts, culture, and social awareness. Nkwanda, who 30 years ago changed her birth name, Mary Ann, to Nkwanda Jah, which means “rebirth of the spirit of God,” works in community activism and program development. As a social entrepreneur, her priorities are the environment, youth development, and cultural and ethnic heritage. She makes sure to always have a plan and works to build trust and be committed, passionate, and humble. She said that she sometimes faces challenges, specifically funding. Nkwanda, who is from Grandin, Florida, in Putnam County, shared that the Cultural Arts Coalition

provides many programs. Here are a few:

Annual 5th Avenue Arts Festival

It celebrates black culture through the arts and 40th anniversary will happen April 19-21, 2019.

enviromental ambassadors A five-week summer program that teaches teens to protect the environment and gain job training skills.

girl power Helps pre-teen girls build strong minds and bodies through enriching experiences.

after-school science program Through science and math, students learn to be good stewards of their environment.

arts in public schools Delivers presentations about African and African-American art and culture in schools.

Nkwanda employs several strategies to be successful in her community activism. “I have had to combine grants, donations, memberships,” Nkwanda said. But she is grateful for the support she has received thus far, and she is forever for the community/village that provided resources to the Cultural Arts Coalition when they were in need.

nkwanda jah

supplying the community with beneficial cultural programs

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Bringing new educational opportunities I

remember the feeling of anxiety as I scoured the Alachua County Public Schools website, created a schematic of potential magnet programs for my son and finally compared my findings with other parents at every possible opportunity. This was our experience when helping my son apply for 6th grade Magnet school programs. The experience was reminiscent of applying for college. We experienced the highs and lows that are a part of any selection process – from the excitement of attending the open houses, the euphoria of the on-site shadow opportunities, to the anxious but resolve submission of the application and the lows of rejection and finally the relief of acceptance. At times, the process felt confusing and we asked ourselves as parents constantly, ‘are we doing everything we can to help our child succeed? After all our effort and tireless analysis, we took a deep breath and submitted our application. During the process I didn’t dare to confess my anxiousness to other parents. I was afraid that there was a secret code to unlock the mysteries of Magnet program application and selection process. A code that everyone had access to

except us. Afterwards, I did comically confess to my ‘mom friends’ my experience and to my surprise, I found that I was not alone. For many African American families, the educational landscape for their children can seem even more daunting

Story by: Cherrie Hughes

than my experience and impossible to navigate. As a result, African American families are less likely to consider their children for magnet programs. The consequence of this is a significantly lower rate of minority students in these programs.


In addition, there is an academic achievement gap among African American children performing lower than their colleagues in the classroom. The Office of Equity and Outreach in Alachua County Public Schools was established in 2017 to proactively address those achievement gaps. The Director, Valerie Freeman facilitates training for Alachua County teachers and administrators, creates community and parent networks designed to make opportunities for African American students more accessible. In addition, her office supports the many programs designed to provide students who historically have been overlooked, the opportunity for enrichment, mentorship, and advocacy. It is because of the efforts of this office that the Magnet application process will look differently this year. More importantly the office is available to answer any questions,

concerns or to help you as parents navigate what may seem a murky system. Traditionally magnet programs have enjoyed a decentralized process that was wholly supported and orchestrated by the host school. That means that the school followed the County eligibility standards but had 100% discretion in which students were chosen for the program. The new change means that the host school will now choose only 75% of the new students to the program, while the other 25% will be chosen through a districtwide lottery system. It is designed to provide a centralized and objective approach in the selection of students to these programs. Hopefully, this new process will remove the bias that has historically excluded many African American students. All students are encouraged to apply when the new online application process goes live on January 8th. If you would like more information about the application process and the magnet programs visit the Alachua County Public Schools site to find your program of interest at: https://www. sbac.edu/Page/29448. So, here I am again this year. I am better prepared as we embark on this magnet journey now for my daughter. The uncertainty


is still there but thanks to this new process, I no longer feel like I need a secret code. It is my hope that the intention of this program will do the same for other African American students and their families in Gainesville. Here’s How You Can Make A Difference: Ms. Freeman states that community involvement is essential to the success of these efforts. There are many opportunities to volunteer, mentor and to support the academic efforts of Alachua County Public School students who may need extra encouragement. To see a listing of District Wide Programs please visit https://www. sbac.edu/Page/2853. You can contact, Liz Starke starkef@gm.sbac.edu (352) 955-7250 ext 252 for more information. Partners in Education https://www. sbac.edu/Page/2851: If you own a business and or would like to learn how your business could partner with Alachua County Public Schools contact, Kelley Kostamo kostamkb@gm.sbac.edu (352) 955-7250 ext235. If you would like to invite Ms. Freeman to speak to your organization or group you can contact her at: freemavd@gm.sbac.edu.

natalya bannister

Natalya Bannister


Leaders Show Up Everyday Story by: Virginia Grant


show up every day for the girls.”, states Natalya Bannister as she passionately talks about her role as Executive Director of PACE Center for Girls Alachua. Natalya was identified as a leader early in life. Even before the age of ten, her parents, teachers and most anyone that met her saw something special in her. She had a natural ability to defend any point and was an advocate for things that she was passionate about. Everyone, including Natalya expected her to become a lawyer. To begin her career in law she enrolled at the University of Florida

to pursue a Bachelors degree in Family, Youth and Community Science. While approaching graduation she began studying for the LSAT and decided to volunteer at the local Boys & Girls club as a practicum for her specialization in youth development. While volunteering at the Boys & Girls club she recognized her true passion was to serve underprivileged youth. Natalya states that the practicum, “Completely changed my life. This was something that I had to do. I took a huge risk.” She says that taking risks is a trait of great leadership. She also

believes that leaders are accountable and look for opportunities to gain more responsibilities. Which is exactly what she did at the Boys & Girls Club. Her first full time position there was in community outreach and each year she asked for more and more responsibility. Not always getting compensated for these extra responsibilities she states that she just wanted to learn as much as she could. This desire to learn and master skills eventually led to her promotion to Vice President of Operations. As she was learning on the job she continued her education


at the University of Florida and obtained her Masters Degree in Health Education and Behavioral Science. As her love for the Boys and Girls Club grew, so did her love for Gainesville. She remembers, “Gainesville became very dear to my heart after learning how compassionate people are about helping the youth here.” She was confident she would continue her career at the Boys and Girls club for many years to come until she was asked to interview for the position of Executive Director for the PACE Center, she recalls this as a pivotal point in her career. “I remember the girls interviewed me, it was an instant connection – they needed me, and I needed them.” Nataylia knew this was where she needed to be, was meant to be. She knew that she could make a

difference and she wanted to be in a place that she could effect change. She had made major changes at the Boys and Girls Club through the development of many programs with four of them receiving National Awards through Boys and Girls Club America. She knew that stepping away would be ok because she had given the Boys and Girls Club everything she had. As a leader at the PACE Center she feels she is responsible for building an effective culture, a culture that allows her staff to thrive, enjoy what they do and be in a caring atmosphere that is also results oriented. She believes that it is important to build a team that is loyal to the mission and to carrying out that mission every day. Though she has no plans on leaving her current position, she believes in succession planning. She thinks that it is important to build and cultivate


from within. She supports her staff and their growth. She states, “It is critical to have a team that has different strengths that compliment one another. Team members need to have opportunities to grow to their fullest potential.” After spending some time with Ms. Bannister it is evident that she shows up everyday for her students, her staff and her community. She possesses a unique leadership style that combines advocacy, passion and love for community. She’s not afraid to take risks or make unpopular decisions.

Prepare for later, now. Contact me for life insurance. Latalyia Mcknight 352-371-2204

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rom the lemonade stand to the corner office, you always knew you were born to be your own boss. So, you did your research, wrote your business plan, won over investors, raised capital from family, friends, and even the bank, you even hired employees by leveraging company assets in place of a benefits package. So now that you’re ready for business, what’s next? Directing sales? Growing a loyal customer or follower base? Developing a strong brand or enhancing your market’s positioning? Leveraging your competitive advantage? Streamlining operations? All the above? Establishing or growing your business can feel daunting at times. However, you do not have to do it alone. American author, political activist and lecturer Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” Regardless of your company’s position in the marketplace, level of success, size or life cycle — whether a sole proprietorship, small startup, second-staged firm or a large-sized corporation, you can bridge any gap

Story by: Xposure Consulting Firm

Top 5 Reasons Why Businesses Should Outsource

by strategically hiring a consulting firm. Neither you nor your team have to be all things to all people — at least, not any longer. Here are the top 5 reasons why you should consider outsourcing your professional services’ needs:

Saves time and money. Hiring and onboarding the right talent is not only timely, but also expensive. When calculating an employee’s wages, one must consider the basic salary,


employment taxes and benefits. The costs to this point are typically in the 1.25 to 1.4 times base salary range - e.g. the cost range for a $50,000/ year employee might be $62,500 to $70,000.1 These costs do not include recruitment, whether using a recruiting platform or in-house human resources professional, or training and development. However, hiring a consulting firm eliminates the need for costly positions.

Reduces workload. Hiring a consulting firm will free you to run your business. For instance, you will no longer have to conduct selfguided research on the latest industry trends for fields that may not be your area of expertise. It also frees up your team to do just what you hired them to do — grow your business. Outsourcing business functions, such as accounting, marketing, event planning or even human resources, will lighten your team’s workload and ensure there is constant focus on the task at hand. A more manageable and realistic workload increases productivity, spurs creativity and bolsters morale.



Provides flexibility. While deciding whether to hire a consulting firm, you are inevitably making a strategic decision regarding how to best fulfill the needs of your business. In doing so, you have now customized the scope of the contract and achieved fluidity with the payment structure. For instance, you may determine that specific, a la carte services work best because you have an immediate need or maybe you determine that you prefer a packaged service offering because it offers the better return on a long-term investment. Depending on which option you select, you can work with the consultant to negotiate or even create a custom fee structure that works best for your timeline and budget. This strategy grants you control over the length of the business relationship and encourages stronger accountability. With any fee model, one should request status reports to ensure that the objectives of the agreement are being met. Here are a few example fee models: hourly billing, daily rates, retainers, projectand return on investment-based fees.

when you hire a consulting firm you gain access to their team’s skills. Multiplies resources. When you hire a consulting firm, you gain access to that team’s technical, industry, and institutional knowledge, specialized skills, depth and breadth of experience, credibility, and networks. Those connections prove to be beneficial when the consultants must interface with other vendors on your behalf. Elicits new perspectives. An outside firm that has no preconceived notions of how your company operates can work with you and your team to provide honest feedback and objective insights. A consulting firm is to serve as an extension of your team. In doing so, they can help you routinize redundant tasks, develop standard operating procedures and establish best practices.

The benefits experienced from hiring consultants can be bountiful; however, it is all in how you leverage their services. 1 Statistic derived from a MIT web article titled, “How much does an employee cost?”


power suit

power suit

Story by: John Bacon

power selling I

love shopping. I shop department stores all the time searching for that perfect item for any given occasion. One trip in particular taught me a huge lesson about the power of consultative selling. I went to a department store in search of a new suit to wear to a wedding. I didn’t have a clear idea about what kind of suit I wanted, and there were so many options to choose from that I almost gave up on my search. After picking a few items to try on, a sales clerk approached

me to ask if I was looking for something in particular. I told her I was trying to find a suit, but because I was satisfied so far with the items I picked up, I declined her help. After trying on everything, I found a suit I wasn’t in love with it but liked enough to purchase. As I walked out of the dressing room, the same sales clerk was standing by waiting for me, so I asked her if she liked my suit Her response: “No, it’s not my favorite.” I was taken aback!

Does she not want/need the commission? Isn’t the customer always right? She continued, “I’m going to pick out several suits for you to try on.” From her five suggestions, I found a suit I really liked. The wedding was a success, and several other guests complimented me on how well I was dressed. Since that experience, I’ve worked with the same sales clerk whenever I shop that department store. I had an epiphany. The sales

power suit

clerk did not let me purchase what I thought I needed; she used the power of consultative selling to sell me a product I truly enjoyed — and by doing so, she earned my future purchasing loyalty. She was honest and gave me some options I did not pick myself. She asked about the items I typically buy and made suggestions based on my answers. She acted as a true consultant and partner in my purchasing process. Anyone who sells a service or product, should ask themselves how they can use the power of consultative selling to create a better fit between their customers or clients and the product or service being offered. Creating a consultative relationship between you and your customers — will result in a better transaction that brings more satisfaction to both parties in the short- and long-term. Four concepts that shape the concept of consultative selling: 1. Honesty and integrity. 2. Value 3. Trust 4. Ongoing communication 1. Honesty and Integrity The sales clerk, being an expert on men’s formalwear, did not let me purchase the random items I selected just to get an easy commission. She told me “no.” She asked me probing questions about my likes and dislikes in order to find a suit that worked for me.

We must be the experts that lead consumers down the right path toward their goals. Speak up if your experience tells you what a potential customer or client is asking to buy won’t yield their desired result. Offer the better solution. Explain the value of other options, even if they are more expensive, which leads us to the next point: 2. Value When the sales clerk told me she didn’t like the items I picked up, I was shocked because I’ve never had someone tell me “no” while trying to sell me something. She taught me two things: I needed her help more than she needed my business, and she believes in her products and her product expertise. That’s valuable to any organization or business. To successfully sell something, you must convey to the buyer that he needs the product to reach his goal. You must believe in the value of your product. Have pride in the services you provide! Assuming the client is a fit for what you offer; your job is to educate them about how it will enhance their operations and help them select the products they need based on their goals and objectives. 3. Trust After the sales transaction was complete, I was off to the wedding. I looked and felt great, and others confirmed this via their compliments. With these results, I trusted the clerk’s fashion expertise so much that I referred others to her. Trust leads to return business. As a sales organization, we


believe ROI and having a presence go hand in hand. You will not achieve one without the other. Our ability to be the experts with our clients, find out what their goals and objectives are, and educate them about the best way to achieve those goals helps build the framework of a great client relationship. 4. Ongoing Communication Communication with the client does not stop when the transaction is complete. This sales clerk sends me emails and calls occasionally to let me know about deals or new styles in the department store. She keeps our lines of communication open so that I continue to place my trust in her, continue to give her business, and continue to look sharp. As sales professionals, it is imperative we continue to communicate with clients with whom we build relationships. Whether it’s a quick phone call to get feedback or just to check in, make the effort to steward your relationships. You want to make sure that clients remember you. Work on incorporating these concepts into your selling practices and watch how the relationship with your business and revenue grows. Be honest about what you can offer. Show off the value of your offerings. Earn their trust as they make a transaction with you. Then cultivate the relationship further so they invest with you again. Good business isn’t sold; it’s earned.


mental health

mental health

awareness While October is designated as Mental Health Awareness Month, it is important to recognize the need and the progress that has been made in talking about Mental Health year-round. As many of us know, mental health is often viewed as less crucial than other parts of our health and wellness, and is often swept under the rug due to the stigma that comes along with it. What should be recognized, is that mental and physical health are inseparable, as one can sometimes have an impact

on the other. This leaves mental health with just as much importance as our physical health. Since more and more people are opening up and discussing mental health more freely, it is necessary to stress these two important factors: 1. Mental Illness Won’t Heal Itself. But It Won’t Last Forever The stigma surrounding mental illness can play a very important role in the lives of those suffering. This leaves many in silence, hoping they

Story by: Erika Dawkins

will simply “get better.” Research shows that the fear of being labelled can dramatically affect someone’s willingness to disclose their illness and seek the treatment they need. You have to be proactive! Waiting around for it to go away is not the best method in dealing with mental illness. Seeking help is the first step to healing! 2. Seeking Help and Educating Yourself Isn’t Anything to Be Ashamed Of

mental health

It is ok to talk about mental illness. When people are more aware of the resources available to them, they are more prepared to seek help for themselves. While we often think to educate those who may be suffering, we must also prepare ourselves to help guide friends or family in their time of need. Next Steps There are various types of mental health treatment. Everyone’s needs are different and a mental health professional can help you identify which treatment is best for you. Here are a few types of mental health treatments: • Support Groups • Psychotherapy (individual, group, family, behavioral, etc.) • Medication

• Outpatient Treatment • Inpatient/Residential Treatment If you or someone you know is suffering from mental illness there is help out there. Here are a few great resources and organizations that will help: National Alliance of Mental Illness: www.nami.org NAMI is an organization that educates and advocates for people with mental illness and their families. Their website provides education on mental health conditions and tons of other resources National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (24/7) Get help immediately if you or someone you know is in crisis. Calls to this lifeline are confidential and toll-free and goes to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network.


Treatment Referral Helpline: 1-800662-HELP (4357) This helpline assists you with locating treatment services in your area. National Institute of Mental Health: www.nihm.gov If you want to learn more about mental health and mental disorders, this website has free and easy to- read publications available to you. For Life-threatening Emergencies call 911 or go to a Hospital Emergency Room Sources:

US National Library of Medical National Institutes https://www.ncbi. nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15491256 National Institute of Mental Health https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/ find-help/index.shtml




vercoming fear, and releasing the comfort of certainty, is a big part of stepping into the entrepreneurial space. Take the risk. It is well worth it, especially in the new “gig economy” with prices rising and technology expanding. Multiple streams of income, I believe, are essential for living a pleasurable lifestyle with all of the perks available to those who obtain the resources to enjoy them. False Expectations Appearing Real The way to address those negative expectations and premonitions of obstacles, is to face them head on. But for some reason, although every story, fiction or nonfiction, novel or movie, speaks of attacking fear in this manner, we seem to forget this action step when facing our own fears. Yet, fear is the only thing that gets smaller when you run towards it. Face Everything And Rise. Uncertainty is one of the seeds of

take risks through knowledge of self fear. Another name for doubt, it causes us to hesitate when we should be pushing through. In Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Human Needs”, the need for certainty is the 2nd most basic need, only less basic than the need for food, water,

Story by: Trey Ford

stepping into business means losing your fear

and shelter. The need for certainty and security only feeds the ego. The human need for fulfillment can only be experienced through creating impact outside of oneself. All growth happens outside of the comfort zone. Just like a muscle, faith

must be built through the experience of stress met with the resistance of will power. So where can we extract the power of will? From the place of alignment and clarity.

All growth happens outside of the comfort zone. The ability to define gives us the ability to fulfill. Definitions done right are crystal clear. For a few moments, consider these questions: How crystal clear is your vision, your purpose, and your why? Where can you get that clarity or more clarity than you already have?

Last year I took the Wealth Dynamics Profile Assessment and though I felt very confident that I knew myself well, the articulation of my strengths, opportunities, and best suited partnership strategies was extremely insightful. Through a better understanding of oneself and how we best relate to others in the constructs of business, we can take purposeful actions with boldness, even if we are uncertain of all that lies ahead of us. We can do so with this awareness, because we are certain of ourselves, and the genius that lies within us.

The people who present what society perceives as fearlessness encounter just as many or most likely MORE uncertainties daily than those I believe one answer to the playing it safe. So their lives second question is, from are not absent of uncertainty, knowing thyself on a deeper rather their lives are more level. abundant in the certainty of knowing themselves, and You have been you for following their flow. Run ___(mentally insert age toward whatever is stopping here)___ but how often do you from pursing your you get outside of yourself, so wildest dreams. to speak, and do a full walk When we take risks our true around. vitality can be expressed. Consider the toddler, at an Isn’t it interesting how in age and size where almost networking situations we anything could be considered focus on the question “what a risk, but they do it anyway. do you do?” more than the And they do it BOLDLY, with question “who are you” child-like faith. or ”who am I”? Especially when I AM is arguably the most powerful phrase in the universe.


chineme ogbuefi

From passion project to paper

Story by: Heaven Taylor-Wynn

Alinda Saintval, 21, is a senior visual arts studies student at the University of Florida. Art is not only what she does, it’s who she is. She aspires to work for herself and one day illustrate children’s books. She accepts requests for commissioned pieces through her instagram @artstrokes_. Where it started

Chineme Ogbuefi, 19, is a senior nutritional science student at the University of Florida. She founded Chiwrapz, a company selling authentic, Nigerian head wraps, back in August of 2017. She wanted to give people the chance to express themselves through their headwraps. Her products can be purchased online through her Etsy store or through her instagram account @chiwrapz.

For 21-year-old Alinda Saintval, art is quite literally life. A young woman who sometimes faces challenges making time for her personal art says there’s always a way.

people can do that?” From then her passion for art flourished. She’d developed a knack for details and drawing better than other students when the opportunity presented itself. Her cousin bought her a set of drawing pencils and a sketchbook. Fast forward two years and she’d turned to painting. It was kismet.

“There is no balance. I’m just winging it,” the visual arts studies major said. She spends almost every waking moment creating, whether it’s for her personal portfolio or assignments for class. Luckily for her, it doesn’t feel like work. “I’m always willing to lose sleep over completing a painting. It’s somewhat a therapy.” It all started back in her childhood when her cousin Andre brought home a painting of an angel baby kissing another on the cheek. She said “I remember thinking,

When it all first started she was painting for likes, molding her pieces into what she thought others wanted to see. All of this on the contrary from what the members of her Haitian household believed would warrant financial success. Her mom has since come around to the idea of her daughter working as a freelancer after witnessing what she’s able to earn from commissioned pieces thus far. Chineme Ogbuefi, on the other hand, says she’s always wanted to start a business. She visited the country of

alinda saintval

her heritage, Nigeria, last summer and a friend asked her to make some head wraps for her. The friend later suggested researching the market for the product. She borrowed business advice and strategies from her dad who’s well-versed in the arena and shortly thereafter Chiwrapz was born. “I have always worn head wraps but

Nigeria and a tailor who also gets a cut of the profit. Alinda’s work helps her to further her ultimate career goal-- to not work for someone else, ideally illustrating children’s books. She says her lifestyle requires an immense amount of dedication. A not-so-traditional social life, Alinda says she hardly sees other people except for when she’s on campus headed to class. “Otherwise, I’m cooped up in my room,” she said, “paintbrush in hand and netflix or music on play.” Being that as it may, she’s taken advantage of this opportunity to work on her social and leadership skills. An introvert by nature, the artist doesn’t make a point to meet new people but always makes new friends when presenting her work.

I didn’t really think it was something people would like to wear,” she said. What are you going to gain from it? For both young entrepreneurs the obvious, of course, is some extra cash to meet some unmet needs or to splurge. Either way, it’s no secret that college students are more often than not strapped for cash. For Chineme, there’s more fruit to be reaped from her hours of labor. “It gave me the courage to talk to people,” she said. “I walk up to strangers handing them my business card and even follow random people on social media.” She’s building her network, growing more confident in her product and giving back to her homeland. As a Nigerian-American, Chineme has not only helped herself, but also some of her relatives. She works with her aunt who gets the fabric direct from

“The ultimate goal is to create what I desire and move the hearts of others with my creations,” she said. The purpose in her brands center around a latin principle Duende which means to the ability of art to deeply move a person. Alinda has admittedly grown in the last three years into an artist who she says has more eyes on her than she’s ever expected. She’s built a following of more than 1,300 people on her Instagram account where she posts her painted backpacks, graduation caps, canvasses and more. Looking to the future Although Chineme is currently studying nutritional science at the University of Florida, her post-grad plans look a little different. “After I graduate, Chiwrapz is going


to be my number 1 priority,” she said. She’s got an abundance of ideas and plans that she hopes to implement for this endeavor to really take off. Through nutritional science, she aspired to ultimately help people by working in the public health field. Not all is lost however given that her company encourages good work ethic and has created some opportunities for people in Nigeria. Alinda means to stay true to her work and create things she’s always proud of regardless of how many people are receptive. “I don’t want to count on commissions and creating other people’s ideas. I know to stick to what moves me first before I present it to an audience,” she said. A word for aspiring entrepreneurs To those thinking of starting their own business, these ladies have a few words of wisdom. - Just do it like Nike. - Be open minded and know that in college people often want to support but are sometimes unable due to funds. - Don’t sell yourself short. Find your demographic and work with it. Look for events to possibly display your work to get eyes on it; that starts a crowd. - Don’t be afraid to market yourself. Both of these ladies use social media to their advantage to find clientele and update followers about what to expect. - Most importantly BE PASSIONATE!


virginia Grant


grant V

Story by: Jacki Donaldson

Gainesville Black Professionals Closes a Gap in Gainesville

irginia Grant felt unsettled after making Gainesville her home seven years ago.

She recalls thinking that perhaps a gap in communication existed and maybe she could help bridge the gap.

The city’s population of about 130,000 people — more than 80% of them white — seemed divided and cliquish to the newcomer, and as a result, she felt disconnected. “Part of me wanted to move away,” she said. “And part of me wanted to stay.” Virginia, who was born in New York and grew up near Ocala before moving to South Florida, turned inward and realized that she had not done enough to learn about the city. “I had not truly navigated Gainesville,” she said. “I did a selfcheck and told myself that I needed to get to know the city before checking out.” Virginia did not check out. Instead, she immersed herself in the fabric of Gainesville. Her most compelling revelation came from two programs she attended that taught her about the city and county governments. Her behind-the-scenes visits to various departments convinced her that Gainesville community leaders do want people to feel like they belong. “But many people were not feeling connected,” Virginia said.

In October 2016, Virginia, who has a master’s degree in mental health counseling and works full-time as a therapist, launched Gainesville Black Professionals (GBP), Inc., a non-profit organization that creates a space where black professionals can connect and network with one another, learn about events and activities, and relax. “We don’t typically get that in Gainesville because it is a predominantly white community,” she said. Membership in GBP is not exclusive to black professionals, however.

“Our push is for diversity, and if we want to promote diversity, we must model what we are asking for,” Virginia said. “For example, we don’t want to sponsor a mixer or a gala that is all black, and we do not want SYNERGY magazine to feature only black professionals. We aim to be the frontrunners of diversity, and we do not believe we can continue to exist in silos.” Virginia kicked off GBP with a gala during her first year as executive director. The gala was a huge success with multiple sponsors and 150 attendees. The gala’s warm reception told Virginia that she was on to something. “People were buying into the potential and were investing in it,” she said. Her next event, a mixer, drew a crowd of 125 people. Virginia now has a team of ambassadors to help her deliver quarterly mixers, “Hello Gainesville” podcasts, a monthly article in the Business Report of North Central Florida, Men and Women of Vision and Purpose awards, and now, SYNERGY magazine.


“That feeling of disconnect is partly because no one has been showcasing the impact of the black community,” Virginia said. “We can’t live in Gainesville and not showcase the black community.”

GBP has made significant strides during the past two years, and members now total about 1,500. “We have formed a strong group in a short time,” Virginia said. Still, she has more work to do.


“Gainesville has about 130,000 people,” she said. “Do the math. We have not done anything yet.” Virginia, who is continually working to increase membership, awareness, and reach, said that her long-term vision includes helping to draw more black professionals to Gainesville, connecting them while they are here, and empowering those who move out of town to expand the reach of GBP. Virginia, who has one daughter, Iyana, and two grandsons, Eli and Isaiah, is thankful she stayed in Gainesville, which has turned out to be a supportive community. “I have always received a lot of support,” she said. “And support is what keeps us going.”


GROWTH TOGETHER We’re committed to your community and ever yone in it


Our community needs your help.

Rebuilding Together North Central Florida is working hard to improve the lives of our community by making their homes safer and healthier. We are looking for skilled and unskilled volunteers to help make a difference. Could that be you? Learn more at www.rebuildingtogetherncf.org

edwennia galloway


gets new spa


for kids

Trinity’s is perfect.”

Story by: Devoun Cetoute

Edwennia galloway opens a dream spa


Mitchell – after seeing how beautiful the store was in Facebook. She said they wouldn’t stop smiling and talking about going back.

From large princess chairs to pink and gold decorations all around the store, there is no doubt Trinity’s has children in mind.

“Gainesville doesn’t have anywhere to go for kids that are kid-friendly,” Mitchell said. “When you walk into other salons you smell that harsh chemical smell and I really didn’t like taking them there, but they really liked getting their nails painted.

dwennia Galloway, 42, has spent the last three months materializing a dream years in the making. Galloway is the owner of Trinity’s Day Spa, 2441 NW 43rd St., which is the only girls and teen spa in Gainesville.

Since opening on Nov. 2, parents are already talking about their great experiences. Chassidy Wilson brought her 6-year-old daughter, Alana Dinkins, to Trinity’s to celebrate her birthday after seeing pictures on Instagram. “I loved it,” Wilson said. “I have never seen anything set up like this. The chairs, the walls, everything is nice. I love it, I think this is the best place.” Tamara Mitchell says she brought her two children – 12-year-old Caitlyn Mitchell and 6-year-old Kylee


Sitting done and speaking with Galloway gave us the opportunity to see a little into her life as an owner. Q: What did you do before owning Trinity’s Day Spa? Did it ever conflict with trying to open the business? A: I have 18 years of banking experience. I was a loan officer for the last nine years and I’ve achieved so much since then. I was trying to bring this vision to life at the same time that I was working at the bank, but it was very hard because I worked banker’s hours. There wasn’t much I could do before 9 a.m. and there wasn’t much I could do after 5 p.m. My vision was lacking, so I had to step out here in faith. I walked away from banking to follow my dream. This was what I really wanted to do. Q: What struggles have you faced trying to get the spa off the ground? A: I was trying to do this all by myself and it became so overwhelming trying to find where to get things from. I reached out to a buddy of mine who does interior decorating on the side and asked for help. I spent August and September renovating,


edwennia galloway

made. A fee just to get the chairs through customs. A fee for just the warehouse. Not to add the fee for renting a U-Haul. So, once you figure all of that just the chairs alone were very expensive. Then you have to keep in mind, the building before me was an old chocolate store. So, it was simply green inside. Very green. I had to get painters to come in and strip the entire place from top to bottom. Paint is very expensive when you have to buy so much of it. On top of that you have your regular rent to pay. Q: What did you envision for the business and have you reached that goal despite the struggles? A: The goal in my mind was to have a place where little girls could come and feel like this is for them. A place where they could come and feel like a princess. For the most of it, I have reached that goal. I would say I have reached 80% of it because it was a vision and when I walk into the store I see my vision. The other 20% is just the traffic flow, which the vision will gravitate the traffic flow to come in. Of course, there is more that I see myself doing in a year from now. But this is the foundation of it right here and this is what I visualized.

and the first week of October. Not realizing how much work needed to be done to have my vision and my dream come to reality it took a little more time because I didn’t want to settle.

Q: What financial hurtles did you come across buying all the equipment, decorations and beautifying the store? A: It was very expensive actually. There was a fee to get the chairs

Q: What feedback have you gotten from your customers? A: All of the feedback has been very positive and very hopeful. It has been more exciting for the moms then the kids, actually, because they have been looking for something like this to do with their kids. Once word gets out and everyone knows we are officially open, I have no worries we will probably be flooded out the doors.

From Curiosity to Career With Cox, one connection is all it takes to open a world of curiosity for your child. If your family has a K-12 child and receives government

assistance, you could qualify for high-speed, home internet with WiFi. That means more learning. And more achieving.

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*Restrictions apply. Families with K-12 children who are eligible for the National School Lunch Program, SNAP, and/or TANF; who receive Tenant-Based Vouchers, Project-Based Vouchers or Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (PBRA); and/or who live in Public Housing, are eligible for Cox’s Connect2Compete discounted Internet service offer. Not available in all areas. “No annual contract” means no specific term period requirement and no early termination fees. All Cox services are provided subject to end-user service agreements (including mandatory arbitration provisions) and other policies, which may be found at www.cox.com/aboutus/policies.html. Offer is available to qualifying new residential Cox Internet customers in Cox service areas who meet eligibility criteria. $9.95/month includes Connect2Compete Internet service (up to 15 Mbps download speeds) on a single wired outlet. One WiFi modem included with initial activation (may include refurbished wireless gateway). Additional equipment is extra. Advertised program pricing available while eligibility criteria are met. Includes WiFi network access at multiple locations across the country. See www.cox.com/hotspots for available coverage areas and hotspots. No installation charge for standard install on one prewired outlet. Additional installation, applicable taxes, and other fees are extra. Actual Internet speeds vary and are not guaranteed. See www.cox.com/internetdisclosures for complete Cox Internet Disclosures. Then-current Internet service and modem lease rates will apply when program eligibility requirements are no longer met. Re-enrollment not permitted. Offer, prices and eligibility requirements are subject to change. Offer and eligibility are also subject to Connect2Compete program terms and conditions. Call 1-855-222-3252 for restrictions and complete details, or visit Cox.com/C2C. Connect2Compete is a program to provide home Internet service for families. It is not a school program, and is not endorsed or required by your school. Your school is not responsible for Connect2Compete accounts. No school funds were used for this notice.



Ambassadors of

Gainesville Black Profesionals

The 2018/2019 GBP Ambassadors are Malcom Askew, John Bacon, Ashley Bryant, Erika Dawkins, La’Kendra D. Garrison, Dr. Jaron Jones, Jasmine T. Jones, Dr. Tarielle Jones, Sheena Lewis, Berthina McGuill, Sean McIntosh, Anthony J. Pierce and Alfred Peterson.




movers & shakers

Bringing professionals together

The Movers & Shakers Mixer is a networking social designed to bring professionals, entrepreneurs and business owners from all industries, cultures and backgrounds together. This unique, energetic and interactive non-traditional networking event creates an atmosphere that naturally supports positive connections, which lead to meaningful partnerships. The Movers & Shakers Mixers are held quarterly, please visit our website at www.gbpinc.org to register for the next event.

movers & shakers


sean mcintosh


leading men of gainesville


tigmas about poverty and crime

His team of realtors, Team

succeeded by creating a balance in

don’t define African-American

Dynamo, specializes in real estate

his life and embracing adversity.

men in America.

services and being a resource to

“In every aspect and every career

Among the many storylines that

prospective homeowners.

that I have had there are always

highlight inner-city tragedies and

“Our mission is to provide an

difficulties and challenges,” he said.

tense relations between authority

experience in the home-buying

The fourth professional is Duncan

figures and African Americans,

process that is so memorable in a

Kabinu, who is the founder of the

there are bright spots all around

good way that people would use us

Gainesville Dev Academy (GDEV). He

the country that show how much

for life,” Craig said.

has shown that black men not only

progress black men are making.

Sean McIntosh, the Senior Vice

have the expertise to manage and

According to a CNN report titled

President of Asset Management for

hold positions in other businesses,

“Black Men Making it In America,”

Celebration Pointe, has established

but they can create their own.

more than 57% of black men have

himself by continuously working

Duncan created a professional

made it into the middle class or

hard, planning and making

training school that equips people

higher as adults today. It is up from

necessary adjustments to thrive when

with the skills they need to become

38% in 1960, according to Census

unexpected problems arise along the

web and mobile software developers.

data. Additionally, the share of black


These four men are examples of

men who are poor has fallen from

Kevin Monroe is a well-traveled

how the dynamic black men’s roles

41% in 1960 to 18% in 2016.

businessman who wasn’t afraid

are changing, and it is important to

New opportunities for growth

of taking chances and moving to

continue to illuminate these types of

in a plethora of industries is why

different cities to chase his dreams

success stories and accomplishments

there has been a rise in black-

and seek new opportunities. He is

as minorities in America continue

owned businesses. Black men are

now the Market Vice President of

to climb the ladder to important

realizing that the opportunities to be

Central Florida Operations at Cox

positions in society.

successful in society extend to them

Communications where he has

as well as people of all races and racial backgrounds. Plenty of successful black professionals reside in North Central Florida. And that shows in the following four black professionals located in the Gainesville area who have been examples of everything that black men are doing to disprove the negative stigmas that have surrounded them for years. Craig Wilburn, a real estate broker for Keller Williams Realty, is one of many prominent black professionals who are paying it forward in Gainesville.


kevin monroe

assuming other communications positions in Orlando, Florida. Then, in 2013, Kevin landed at Cox Communications, where he now leads a team of up to 190 employees in the Central Florida market, which spans across Gainesville and Ocala. Kevin’s career as an entrepreneur spans nearly 22 years, and one of the most important strategies of success that he carries with him each day is something that the founder of Southwest Airlines, Herb Kelleher, told him: “Take your job seriously. But don’t take yourself so seriously.” Kevin has learned that incorporating

Kevin monroe Story by: Alanis Thames

he move back to Chicago as the assistant manager for the Chicago

Kevin Monroe’s road to becoming a

Reservation Center with Southwest,

successful businessman has taken

then back to Texas (San Antonio) to

him all over the country. The Market

serve as an assistant manager of a

Vice President of Central Florida

larger reservation center. Then back

Operations at Cox Communications

to Chicago. Although many people

grew up in Rantoul, Illinois, where

would hesitate to move back and

he stayed until after high school,

forth to so many different cities,

and he attended Devry Institute of

Kevin embraced the challenge and

Technology in Chicago, Illinois, soon

took advantage of the opportunities

after. There, he studied computer

presented to him. “Each time, I

science and computer programming.

moved for promotional purposes,”

He went on to secure a position as

Kevin said. “Larger jobs, larger

a reservation agent with Southwest


Airlines in Houston, Texas, and he received a promotion to a supervising

Much larger responsibilities

position at the Houston Reservation

arrived when Kevin joined a

Center for Southwest. “From there,

telecommunications company

I was just building on my career,”

called Ameritech in Milwaukee,

Kevin said.

Wisconsin. He served as the regional manager for small business services

Building his career required that

for the state of Wisconsin before

fun into what he does is essential, and he has also learned that success comes from how you treat people, especially those who work for you. “Treat your employees with respect,” he said. “Treat them with dignity, and treat them as if you work for them. If you keep that in mind, you will be successful.” Respecting his employees has propelled Kevin to success as a member of the Cox team. But the successful entrepreneur has faced difficulties throughout his career, and these situations have taught him the importance of patience. “The main thing that I’ve tried to espouse is that you need to be grounded,” he said. “You need to make sure that you assess the situation. Don’t get too excited. Look at things for what they are, and try to see your way through.” Kevin credits the Gainesville community for helping him along the way. “Gainesville is a tremendous place to live, work, and play,” Kevin said. “I think that great opportunities exist for those who seek them.”

sean mcintosh


sean mcintosh Story by: Voleer Thomas Sean McIntosh, Senior Vice President of Asset Management for Celebration Pointe, Gainesville’s burgeoning mixed-use development west of I-75 on Archer Road, encourages people to find what they love to do and get paid for it. “Really think about what your passions are because too often, people stress about finding a job, earning a paycheck, and putting away money to retire,” Sean said. “These are not bad ambitions, but I think people do not focus on what they love doing and figure out how to make money doing it. I think the earlier you identify what you love, the better

for a small developer as a consultant.

get the job done.

Sean moved to Gainesville after receiving a call from the developers

Strategy #1: Work Hard. “Put in the

of Celebration Pointe and striking

work,” Sean said. “If work needs to be

a deal to become the Senior Vice

done, and you are there and able to

President of Asset Management. The

do it, get it done.”

owner of Celebration Pointe inspired Sean with his vision, and Sean

Strategy #2: Plan. “Don’t allow things

wanted to be a part of it. “His vision

to sneak up on you,” he said. “Always

what you do.”

for this project is amazing, and what

be prepared.”

Sean, originally from Chicago,

even more amazing,” Sean said. “And

Strategy #3: Adapt. “No matter how

I thought this was an opportunity

much you plan, wrenches are going

to bring something valuable to a

to pop up, and somewhere along

community and be a big part of that

the way, you have to adapt and solve


problems as they arise.”

In his position, Sean maximizes the

Sean loves that he gets to interact

value of the assets for the owners,

with so many people in his job. “I

which means he is a member of the

deal with people from all levels of

leadership team that ensures that

corporate structure, all facets of life,”

space at Celebration Point is leased

he said. “I can be serious, but I like to

and remain leased. He also makes

have fun, and I’m a social person, so

sure that tenants are doing well. Sean

the interaction with people is what I

uses the following three strategies to

like the most about my job.”

equipped you will be to not only be successful, but to also be happy at

graduated from Northern Illinois University with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting. He started his career as a real estate accountant with Chicago based General Growth Properties before moving to Atlanta in 2001 for a position as a development director with the same company. Sean eventually moved into property management, where he worked for large real estate companies and received the opportunity to do asset management

he’s done to pull this project off is


duncan kabinu

Story by: Jacki Donaldson


uncan Kabinu met a guy years ago who shared that he was going to open a bookstore. “I remember thinking, ‘He is crazy,’” Duncan said. “Everything is going tech; why would he open a bookstore?” The man explained that he had taken from the community for almost 20 years; he had always consumed, and he wanted to give back and create an environment for people to relax, congregate, and listen to readings. “He changed the way I think,” Duncan said. “Plenty of people have helped me, so I thought, ‘Now, how can I help others in my community?’”

In 2015, Duncan, who graduated from the University of Florida with a computer engineering degree and has worked in both sales and information technology, founded Gainesville Dev Academy (GDEV), a professional training school that teaches people to become web and mobile software developers in 12 weeks. Duncan helps folks, many looking to transition in their careers, to acquire valuable skills, which, in turn, allows recruiters to find and retain top talent. And he delivers a program that fits the needs of his students. “Most boot camps are for people with discretionary money and time,” Duncan said. “That model does not fit people who need the most help.” Duncan’s classes take place five days per week from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. to accommodate those who work and go to school. And his cost is almost half of the national average for similar programs. Duncan, who gives 150% to all of his efforts, aims for a 100% graduation rate. “We are not here goofing off,” he said. “We are serious

duncan kabinu about changing lives. We don’t guarantee anything, though. We provide the tools, but the magic has to come from you.” Duncan employs skilled instructors to provide the tools. “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that keeping up with all the latest in tech can be a challenge,” he said. “A younger programmer will be more up on the latest, so I do the next best thing: manage the instructors and offer best practices, leadership, and consulting.” Because technology changes about every six months, the curriculum shifts to match what is happening in the industry, which is why GDEV can be a better option than attending college for software development skills. “Traditional education institutions cannot be as nimble in their offering,” Duncan said. One of Duncan’s graduates told him, “Two college degrees have failed me.” That student is now working in Thailand as a senior software

developer. Duncan recently received via Facebook a message from another graduate who shared, “This was the most amazing experience I’ve ever had.” He is now a software developer for Mindtree, a multinational information technology company. Duncan also prepares kids for careers in coding through a summer coding camp, and in 2019, he offered 25 $400 scholarships for those who needed financial assistance. Duncan, a New Yorker who grew up all over the world — Kenya, Singapore, Japan, Australia, and England, among other locations — came to Gainesville and found a home. When he first arrived at the University of Florida and realized he was the only black student in his engineering classes, he thought, “What am I doing here?” The father of two (Aubri is 23, and Gianna is 11) now knows what he is doing in Alachua County. He is impacting

craig wilburn


Realty and built his team, Team Dynamo, which specializes in real estate services in Gainesville. Craig and his team base their services on one strategy: being a resource. “Very early on, I realized that real estate was not about selling houses for people,” he said. “For me, it was about being a resource to help people make smart decisions.” For many people, buying or selling a home is the biggest financial transaction they will ever make. “As a professional, my highest priority has to be making sure that we equip

craig wilburn

people making decisions with every piece of information possible,” Craig said. Sometimes, he must even guide people to make decisions that are not best for him financially. “That’s OK,” he said. “I’ve always been OK with

Story by: Alanis Thames

year. Two months later, Craig and

that, which is why I knew that I was


Rhoda were having dinner with

not going to get into real estate for

raig Wilburn felt something

Rhoda’s family, and her grandfather

the paycheck.”

inside him whispering to get

gifted Craig with an envelope. In that

into real estate. The Brooklyn,

envelope was a check for the exact

With so much success during the

New York, native was working an

amount of money Craig and Rhoda

past 15 years in real estate, Craig has

average sales job when he started

had guessed would take them a year

found consistency to be his biggest

to feel an urge to do something

to save. Craig called the gift a sign.

challenge. “Real estate has so many moving parts and so many people

different. “I didn’t know what it was,” Craig said. “But through a series of

Craig and Rhoda went home that

involved,” he said. “It’s a miracle

events, I realized that real estate was

night, Craig enrolled in a real estate

that anyone can transition through

the door for me to open.”

class, and three months later, he

the whole process successfully.” But

was working for his first real estate

the challenge does not bother him.

After discussing a possible real estate

company, Bosshardt Realty. “I began

“Our business motto focuses on

venture with his wife, Rhoda, Craig

to learn,” Craig said. “This business

relationships, and we strive to be a

decided to take the necessary steps

was going to require a lot of my

resource for people so that they trust

to enter the field, and he knew the

time. I got into real estate with

us, and we make sure that we tell

first place to start was finances. He

no knowledge of what to do, but I

everyone that we do not care whether

and Rhoda figured they would need

worked my behind off.” From that

we benefit; we just want them to

up to a year’s worth of income to be

point on, he was all in.

make the right decision.”

financially stable enough for Craig to leave his job and step into real

Craig sold 55 homes in 2003 in his

estate. They estimated that saving

first year with Bosshardt. In 2014,

the money would take about one

he transitioned to Keller Williams

women of vision and purpose



changers of the

neighborhood Though it is the year 2019, there continues to be a racial divide in America. Much of this divide is created and perpetuated by the media. As an organization, we realize the importance of having a voice and the power of voices. We have chosen to access and use this power for positive change. Rather than attempt to fight big media, we have decided to start our message at home. We are telling the story of local men and women. We are showcasing the greatness of the black community. We are giving voice to the men and women that have refused to live the stereotypical life, the men and women that are not the statistics that you read about, the men and women that you won’t see on the 6:00 news. We are showcasing the men and women that have obtained post secondary education, have retirement funds, live in great neighborhoods, have obtained upper socio-economic status, raise successful children and give them the best educations, invest in their communities through time, talents and gifts, follow the laws and play by the rules.

men of Vison and purpose MVP/WVP

The Men of Vision and Purpose and Women of Vision and Purpose awards were created to recognize individuals that give back professionally and professionally. Recipients of these awards are individuals who possess a true desire to make a difference in their profession and the community. They have developed a clear course of action to accomplish this and demonstrate it on a daily basis in their personal and professional lives. They are leaders and demonstrate a standard of excellence. Nominations for this award open in July of each year. The nominees go through a selection process to choose the finalists. Finalists are then invited to a private event where they are introduced to the other finalists and go through an interview process. The finalists are then recognized and the winner announced at our annual awards night.


Telling these stories and recognizing these individuals are important to our entire nation. The media has its script which leads to divide and continued racial disharmony. Our script promotes unity, diversity and inclusion. Our script shows us how similar we are, how much we have in common and how much we all work everyday for the basic treasures of life.


men of vision and purpose

Jamar Hebert Partner Manager Cox Communications

Jamar was nominated by his daughter, Peyton Hebert who says that her father has always been a leader. She shares that he began winning prestigous awards at the age of 12 and has had a passion for community since. He serves on several boards locally, is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and recently wrote his first book, Dream it. Plan it, Do it.

Marcus Thompson Co-Founder - Black Men United Marcus was nominated by his co-founder and previous Men of Vision and Purpose finalist, Michael Cox. Marcus co-founded Black Men United, a local organization of men who are committed to making a difference in the lives of youth, with a focus on black males. Marcus is also a teacher and runs the summer program for Leaders of Faith.

john bacon Group Publisher Naylor Associations Solutions John was nominated by two of his colleagues, Becker Holland and Angelica Arbelaez. They both agree that John demonstrates leadership in his career, the community and his personal life. John has an MBA, has published many articles on leadership and success and serves locally on several community boards and organization.

Darrell LInzy Vice-President Lync Support Services, Inc. Darrell was nominated by Lukisha King, president of Lync Support Services. She describes Darrell as a quiet by powerful individual. He’s a leader that doesn’t need to be in the spotlight and is comfortable being supportive and assisting where ever he is needed. Darrel encourages others and is often sought after for advice from colleagues, members of the community and his family and friends.

men of Vison and purpose MVP/WVP

Quentin Graham Personal Trainer Q-Vantage Fitness

Quentin was nominated by his colleague and friend, Saritza St. Thomas. Quentin is a personal trainer and has a special desire to see individuals be their best. He gives back to the community in many ways. Including purchasing meals for the homeless, donating to local churches and supporting the back to school drive at Partnership for Stronger Families.

Adrian Harper CEO NCF & DNA Diagnostics Adrian was nominated by a colleague, Kandra Albury who describes him as the epitome of a passionate and compassionate leader. He engages his employees to help ensure their holistic success. He and his wife began their business 7 years ago in their garage and has now expanded the operation to include an executive leadership team, accessioners, molecular biologists, researchers and scientists.

Kevin Thorpe Pastor Faith Church Owner Suits by Thorpe Kevin was nominated by Romona Jackson, Regional Manager of Wells Fargo. Kevin is an upstanding leader that is widely sought after by many state and local officials, commissioners and leaders for his guidance. He has a caring and unselfish heart and has served as pastor of a thriving congregation for over 20 years.

thank you to our sponsers of these awards

Supporting the success of black males at Santa Fe College and beyond  The MBK Diplomats program offers select students the opportunity to enrich and enhance their college experience with leadership roles and professional development. MBK Diplomats actively plan, coordinate and support MBK events, meetings and conferences, including educational outreach efforts targeting young people in our local community. WANTED: In addition to leadership training, letters of recommendation and priority registration for their classes, MBK Diplomats receive a stipend to pay for their textbooks. Even a small donation can help encourage and support these students.

Mentors The MBK Mentors program helps students to build relationships with professionals within the college and around the community. These volunteers assist students with personal and academic concerns, and provide them with reference letters. Students then serve as mentors to third graders in their community. WANTED: Volunteers are needed to work with our students. If you are a professional who can connect and provide guidance to a student at least twice a month, please contact the MBK program coordinator to start a volunteer application.

 MBK students with a 3.5 GPA or higher are eligible to join Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), the international honor society for students at two-year colleges. The MBK Scholars program offers scholarships to these students, to pay the PTK membership fees. This stimulating community helps to bolster academic achievement. WANTED: The MBK Scholarship fund relies on donations from our community. MBK scholars are expected to give back; they're not just keeping their grades up, they are volunteering their time to mentor other students.

To find out how you can get involved, email MBK@sfcollege.edu or visit sfcollege.edu/MBK

Juvensky Balthazar, 20, Santa Fe College student “Being a first generation college student, I thought I would be on my own. But I'm not! Through MBK I’ve found a network of other students — some from Gainesville and some new to town, like me. Now, I am an MBK Diplomat and Mentor, helping other students connect to the program and the college.”


women of vision and purpose

Norinda Yancey Director of Community Impact United Way

Norinda was nominated by her friends and colleagues, Heather Damron and Christi Arrington. They both agree that Norinda embodies the personal and professional integrity in all that she does. Norinda is a visionary of hope, empowerment and encouragement to all members of our community. Her personal mission is to improve the lives of all citizens in our community.

Angelica Williams Owner/CEO A.W. Management and Consulting Angelica was nominated by Eric Lopez, Jason Booth, Kate Deurloo Danyelle Brewer and Charnise Johnson. They all agree that Angelica is a community advocate, she gets out in the community and beats the pavements while inspiring and changing lives. She is a caring, loving and giving person. She is steadfast and hungry for success and demonstrates excellence in all that she does.

Drumeka Rollerson President/CEO Rollerson Consulting Founder/President Black Nurses Rock Ocala Drumeka was nominated by her husband, Corey Rollerson. Drumeka had a vision to connect nurses and serve the community, so she took the lead in organizing the Ocala Chapter of Black Nurses Rock. Because of her tenacity and leadership, the chapter has grown with leaps and bounds. Drumeka has a heart to help others and does it with style,

LaShay Johnson Founder First Love Yourself LaShay was nominated by a colleague, Ariel Williams. She is described as a living example of what it means to overcome trials and leap into triumph. Her dedication to the advancement of Black children and families is tangible and appreciated by so many. She invests countless hours with at risk girls to show them how to make better choices and the benefits of doing so.

Women of Vison and purpose

Community MVP/WVP

Deborah Bowie Executive Chief of Staff City of Gainesville

Deborah was nominated by her colleague, Steve Jeppson. Deborah is a graduate of Leadership Gainesville 37, mother of four and currently serves as the Executive Chief of Staff for the City of Gainesville. Deborah is extremely knowledgeable and leads with compassion and determination. Deborah gives 100% to everything that she does but always makes time to support those around her.

Zodie Harper EVP NCF Diagnostics and Analytics Zodie was nominated by her colleague, Kandra Albury. She is described as a compassionate leader. Her passion for people is unmatched. Her core values are integrity, respect and team work, the company that she began 7 years ago in her garage has experienced exponential growth. In addition she successfully balances career, marriage and motherhood.

La’Kendra Garrison Owner Integrity Orchid Consulting La’Kendra was nominated by her colleague, Ariel Williams. With everyone that La’Kendra comes in contact with - in the community, church, at work or through her business- her immediate thought is “How can I help? Can I improve this situation? Or make someone’s day brighter?” La’Kendra is intentional, impactful and full of integrity.

Pamela Davis Executive Director Gainesville Housing Authority Pamela was nominated by her colleague Kameelah Spence. Kameelah describes Pamela as a collaborative leader who speaks out and builds strong relationships. Pamela has more than 22 years of experience in the housing industry. She has developed and implemented programs to enhance housing and economic empowerment opportunities for residents and the community.



important tips to get acquainted to gainesville New to Gainesville? Here is some information to help you get acquainted. City of Gainesville 200 East University Ave. Gainesville, FL 32601 (352) 334-5000 www.cityofgainesville.org The City Commission meets on the 1st and 3rd Thursday at 1:00pm in the CIty Commission Auditorium. Meetings are broadcast live on Community 12TV and replayed on Sundays at 9:00am. Alachua County 12 SE 1st Street Gainesville, FL 32601 352) 264-6900 www.alachuacounty.us The County Commission meets on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month at 9:00am in the Alachua County Administration Building. Meetings are broadcast live on Community 12TV. Alachua County School Board 620 East University Ave. Gainesville, FL 32601 (352) 955-7300 www.sbac.edu The School Board meets on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of each month at 6:00pm in the District Office Boardroom. Supervisor of Elections 515 North Main Street, Ste 300 Gainesville, FL 32601 (352) 374-5252 www.votealachua.com Greater Gainesville Chamber 300 East University Ave Gainesville, FL 32601 (352) 334-7100 www.gainesvillechamber.com

Coverage that’s catered to you. Your protection needs are unique. Shouldn’t your insurance coverage be just as well? We are committed to learning what you need. And, just as important, what you don’t. Call us or stop by to get a quote today.

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Profile for Gainesville Black Professionals


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