Trish Leonard, the director of marketing for community outreach at Florida Gulf Coast University, educated members of the Greater Fort Myers Beach Area Chamber of Commerce about the opportunities for small businesses at its monthly luncheon at Sunshine Grille at 8700 Estero Blvd. on Thursday.
Leonard, who has resided in Southwest Florida since she was a child in 1969, relayed the message to small business owners to take advantage of new ways to increase business through a diverse collection of programs and services by the Small Business Development Center at FGCU.
"I'm passionate about small businesses. I am a small business owner as well, so I do understand the struggles you have to go through," she said.
Trish Leonard, director of marketing for community outreach at Florida Gulf Coast University, tells Beach Chamber members about marketing plans, business plans, training opportunities and education through the Small Business Development Center.
Leonard began her business called TLC Marketing and Creative Services in 2008, and the Small Business Development Center was one of her clients back then. She is known for placing her heart in support of many local charitable and civic causes.
Though the hub of the Small Business Development Center is located on the campus of FGCU, it has offices throughout the five county area including local sites in Port Charlotte, Cape Coral, Naples and Bonita Springs
"We are a no cost, confidential small business advisors for small business owners in Southwest Florida," said Leonard. "Our goal is to assist small business owners with business consulting as far as marketing plans, business plans, training opportunities and education through some of our signature programs."
In 2011, SBDC counseled 1,242 clients and helped 154 training programs while assisting 390 veterans, 905 minority businesses and 1,764 women.
"Women are coming out and opening businesses. We are not just talking cosmetics. We are talking about real business owners," Leonard said.
She referenced a peanut butter and jelly luncheon featuring 275 P&J sandwiches from leftover events to thank FGCU faculty members.
"It doesn't cost a lot to do some of those things," said Leonard. "Those of you who do marketing should change the word 'cost' with 'investment.' It is an investment in your time."
SBDC is holding a social media seminar at the Beach Chamber on Tuesday, Oct. 23. Presenter Ingrid Molina, who attended the Chamber luncheon, will teach participants the basics on how social media aids in increasing the business bottom line. Investment is $20 for a few slots left.
SBDC is funded by U.S. Small Business Administration and matched by grants from FGCU. There are 34 SBDC centers on college campuses throughout Florida.
"It's important to take a look at your marketing plans to see how we can help you," said Leonard, who cited name tags as one great source for self-marketing.
"We have a lot of services to help you. That's why we are here."