Since 2010, a growing business networking group, the East Naples Merchants Association (ENMA), has been meeting on a monthly basis to help each other grow their businesses and give back to the community.
The main mission of the association is to help our local businesses grow by patronizing our fellow member’s businesses and offering both face-to-face networking opportunities as well as other co-op advertising campaigns,” said Sandra Simmons, Board member of the Association, “We encourage our members to shop at their fellow members’ businesses first, and with over 100 members and growing, there is a lot you can find by searching on the members business directory on our website.”
Their slogan is “Shop, Eat, Stay, and Play in East Naples,” and the personal products and services, as well as business products and services, are well represented by the members’ businesses.
The networking group meets on the second Thursday of each month from 5:30 to 7 PM at one of their member’s locations, rotating between restaurants, country clubs, hotels, retirement centers, and retail stores.
“Our members enjoy the face-to-face networking over heavy appetizers and beverages, and we often run a special networking activity at the events to mix it up and make sure the attendees meet everyone and have a chance to talk,” said ENMA board member Tom Drummond. “We also like to hear testimonials from our members about their experience using a fellow members’ business service or about products or services they have purchased.”
“A very popular annual event is the January meeting where ENMA member County Commissioner Donna Fiala and Collier County Chief Hearing Examiner Mark Strain give the annual update presentation about what is happening in East Naples in terms of commercial and residential economic development, which helps the association business owner members plan for the future,” said Tim Miller, ENMA board member.
The ENMA welcomes business owners from anywhere in Naples who want to do business in East Naples, and they invite business owners who are seasonal residents in Naples and want to do business here to join the association. Board member Randy Thomas said, “The low annual dues and nominal event fee to cover food costs is a great value, and the events are lively, friendly, casual affairs where everyone can have fun while doing business. The association allows interested business owners to attend an event at no charge to meet the members and see if it is a good fit for their company.”
Kathleen Lettau, ENMA board member, said, “Started as a 501(C)(6) non-profit association, our networking group uses the members’ $60 annual dues and funds raised from small fundraising events to give back to the community by donating to projects that help the school-age kids in the community.”
For the past several years, ENMA has given a cash grant to the Lely High School Business INCubator program, which teaches young aspiring entrepreneurs how to develop a product and bring it to market in a start-up business.
“This past year, the association gave a cash grant to Manatee Elementary School Hurricane Relief Effort to help the kids who lost everything including their school supplies,” said board member Jim Oliver, “and in December, the association gave all the 5th grade students at Manatee Elementary a brand new pair of tennis shoes for Christmas, and provided lunch for the 110 teachers and administrative helpers and staff at the school as a thank you for the fine job they do teaching the kids.”
Face-to-face business networking and word-of-mouth referrals are the oldest established forms of advertising a business. The ENMA networking events allow the members to really get to know each other and build lasting business relationships, and they actively refer business to each other’s companies.
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