SUN CITY CENTER — Every Wednesday at 11:45 a.m., a group of 20 to 35 business folks gather at the Sun City Center Area Chamber for a brown-bag lunch called The Exchange. It’s a casual affair — and deliberately so, said facilitator Dana Dittmar.
“We started in January 2011 at the request of members who wanted a noontime opportunity to network,” said Dittmar. “It seemed all the other groups meeting around town were either early or after work.”
Unlike many networking groups, The Exchange is open to non-members, as well.
The 75-minute gatherings feature an opportunity for everyone to stand up and give a one- or two-minute description of their business, the products or services they offer and the type of referral they’re looking for. Usually there’s an educational segment of five to 10 minutes on topics ranging from marketing strategies and customer service to website navigation and social media.
Everyone brings their own lunch.
Dittmar poses a question each week designed as a way for participants to learn about each other as people and to nurture the relationships they are building. They might include, “If you could have dinner with anyone dead or alive, who would you pick and why?” or “If you were guaranteed to be successful in a different profession, what would that be?” or “What is one of the worst jobs you’ve ever had?”
“Everyone wants to do business with folks they know and feel comfortable with,” Dittmar said. “The question is used as a way for us to get to know each other as people.”
There’s no ongoing obligation; participants can come as often as they like, Dittmar said.
Chuck Bingham of Lifestyles After 50 magazine likes the venue. He’s been coming to The Exchange for two years.
“It’s an opportunity to get to know other local merchants, what they do and how they do it,” he said. “And its an opportunity to develop personal relationships with like-minded business owners.”
Hal Jeffery, a professional speaker and radio host, agrees.
“It’s one of the many ways the chamber seeks to get people involved with one another,” he said. “What I like about it is it’s more than just business.”
For more information, call (813) 634-5111.