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  • 06/23/2021 8:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Meet EMERGE Member: Andrew Troller

    This month, we are sharing a vlog spotlight on one of our new marketing committee members, Andrew Troller. Get to know Andrew and what drew him to EMERGE.


  • 06/07/2021 8:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    VIRTUAL NETWORKING DURING COVID AND BEYOND

    By Lorrie Walker

    I read Christina Ingrassia’s recent article on tips for building a killer network and as an EMERGE Lakeland alumna, jumped at the opportunity to add my two cents on virtual networking during a pandemic.

    I am a financial advisor in Lakeland who landed on virtual networking in June 2020 after it became apparent that all my favorite ways of meeting prospective clients – in-person networking events, coffee meetups, drinks after work and lunch outings – were gone and not returning any time soon.

    Virtual networking on LinkedIn got me through the pandemic. I started new relationships, cultivated existing ones, and picked up clients along the way. It’s a tool I’ll keeping using as the country gradually reopens. You can, too. Here are some best practices to consider:

    THINK OF VIRTUAL NETWORKING AS A LONG GAME

    We do business with people we know, like and trust. Those things take time to build. It’s likely to take longer to reach the “know, like, trust” stage via social media than when networking in person. That’s OK. You may need that relationship today, but will you need it any less tomorrow? Next month? Next year? Don’t rush the relationship. Let it build organically.

    AUTHENTICITY > AUTOMATION

    Don’t do on social media what you wouldn’t do in person. Few things turn my eyes into coin slots faster than impersonal, automated messages from strangers who’ve made no effort to get to know me, let alone determine whether their product is something I want. 

    You wouldn’t approach a stranger at an in-person networking event and blurt, “Buy my stuff!” But people do it all the time on social media and expect a positive result.

    I know tools that help you filter “real estate agents within 25 miles of me” so you can send a mass message sound like a time-saving way to reach hundreds of people with the click of a button. But how many thousands of people must you contact to get a few good leads? How many real estate agents did you thoroughly irk in the process?  

    I have found that reaching out individually to existing connections has led to more meaningful conversations. That leads to better relationships. I believe those relationships pave the way to eventually converting some of those connections to clients. You cannot automate authenticity, so stop trying.

    CONNECT WITH A MESSAGE

    When you find someone you want to connect with on LinkedIn, include a message with that request that explains WHY. It’s a great opportunity to introduce yourself and it helps the recipient understand that there’s a human behind the request. 

    Do you have a friend who already knows the person with whom you’d like to connect? Request a virtual introduction. 

    FIND WAYS TO HELP

    We often only think about what’s in it for us when we use LinkedIn and other social media platforms. We need more business, and we look at our connections in terms of who’s most likely to give it to us. It’s time to flip that. Ask yourself how you might be helpful to your connections.

    Last year when 28,000 Disney employees were laid off, I thought about what a challenge job hunting must be when so many people are pursuing the same pool of job openings. Prior to coming to Allen & Company, I worked in journalism and public relations. I maintain connections in those fields, so I reached out to former Disney cast members – particularly those working in marketing/PR/content development – and asked how I could assist in their job search. I reviewed resumes, made introductions, and shared links to job postings, several of which led to interviews and job offers. It felt great to be helpful. 

    You know what? A couple of those people became clients.

    DIG THE WELL BEFORE YOU’RE THIRSTY

    This is one of my favorite sayings from one of my favorite podcasters, Jordan Harbinger. Don’t wait until you need something from someone before you reach out to them. It’s just gross – for you and them. 

    Friends tends to be far more helpful than strangers, so put in the work now to cultivate those relationships. When the time comes for you to ask a favor, you’ll feel less icky because you’re asking a friend. 


    ABOUT LORRIE

    Lorrie is a Florida native who moved to Lakeland in 1999. She came to Allen & Company in 2019 after spending more than two decades as a journalist and public relations professional, including nearly 12 years as the owner of a public relations firm. She served in the U.S. Army, and holds a bachelor’s degree in business and professional leadership from Southeastern University. 



    Investment advisory services offered through Allen & Company of Florida, LLC (Allen & Co) and its affiliate, LPL Financial LLC (LPL), registered investment advisers.  Securities offered through LPL, Member FINRA/SIPC.


  • 05/19/2021 8:39 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Meet Danielle Harris, Emerge Membership Committee Chair


    Name:  Danielle Harris    

    Years with EMERGE: 4 years

    Current role in EMERGE: EMERGE Membership Committee Chair; Steering Committee Member

    1.      How and why did you get involved with EMERGE Lakeland?

    Networking and connecting with other young professionals are the main drivers of why I joined EMERGE.

    2.      Are you originally from this area? If so, why have you stayed in Lakeland? If not, what brought you to Lakeland?

    I am originally from Mount Dora, Florida. After college, a job opened at One More Child, aka Florida Baptist Children’s Homes, which brought me to Lakeland from Orlando.   

    3.      What is your current occupation? Employer?

    VP/Marketing Manager at Bank of Central Florida.  

    4.      Do you have any hobbies or interests?

    Racquetball, singing on the worship team at church, and working out.  

    5.      If someone sees you at an EMERGE event, what are some topics they should ask you about to get the conversation going?

    • Why I believe in EMERGE
    • Top places to hang out in Lakeland
    • Leadership Development opportunities  

    6.     What’s the best professional advice you have ever been given? 

    We grow through the places we go, the people we meet, and the books we read.  

    7.      If you could trade places with any other person for a week, famous or not, living or dead, real or fictional, with whom would it be? 

    Wonder Woman because she’s a warrior at heart, beautiful but behind the scenes, and her mission serves people.

    8.      What would be your superpower and why

    Wisdom to determine the best decisions with clarity.

    9.      If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title would be?

    Joyful in the Journey

    10.      What did you want to be when you grew up?

    A singer. 

    11.      How would you explain what you do to a five-year-old?

    Communication is very important and is a work of art. 

  • 05/03/2021 8:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    How Much Should I Save for Retirement? 
    By: Sterling Searcy

    This month, we are sharing a vlog article by our Event Committee Chair, Sterling Searcy. Sterling is a Financial Advisor at one of our sponsors, CPS Investment Advisors. A link to the full article can be found here 


    About the Author: 

    Originally from Vero Beach Florida, and spending most summers in the Florida Keys, Sterling is a true Florida native. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Accounting from Florida Atlantic University in 2011. Sterling received his Masters in Accountancy (MAcc) from Florida Southern College located in Lakeland, FL. He is a Certified Public Accountant licensed in Florida and holds his Series 65 as an Investment Advisor Representative. Got some retirement or financial questions for Sterling? Send him an email.


  • 04/21/2021 8:49 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Meet jane clay wright, Emerge Volunteer Committee Chair


    Name:  Jane Clay Wright    

    Years with EMERGE: 1+

    Current role in EMERGE: EMERGE Volunteer Committee Chair; Steering Committee Member

    1.      How and why did you get involved with EMERGE Lakeland?

    I got involved with EMERGE at the recommendation of my campus president, Melody Rider. 

    2.      Are you originally from this area? If so, why have you stayed in Lakeland? If not, what brought you to Lakeland?

    I am not originally from this area. I am from Long Island, New York and I moved to Lakeland two and a half years ago from Tampa, when I got married. My husband already owned a home here, so it just made sense to move since I was only renting an apartment.   

    3.      What is your current occupation? Employer?

    I am an English professor at Keiser University’s Lakeland campus.  

    4.      Do you have any hobbies or interests?

    As you might expect from an English professor, I love to read! I am also really into fitness. I am part of a CrossFit community here in Lakeland, and I also enjoy running, hiking, kayaking, and cycling. I used to travel quite a bit as well, but that has been hindered as of late with all the new restrictions. 

    5.      If someone sees you at an EMERGE event, what are some topics they should ask you about to get the conversation going?

    Books, movies, my puppy, travel, Jesus. 

    6.      If you could trade places with any other person for a week, famous or not, living or dead, real or fictional, with whom would it be?

    This is going to sound totally nerdy, but I’d trade places with Amy Pond so I could travel with The Doctor for a week and have amazing adventures.

    7.      What did you want to be when you grew up? 

    When I was a kid, I wanted to be a doctor, and while I do have a doctorate, it is a Ph.D., in English, not an MD! 

    8.      If you woke up and had 2,000 unread emails and could only answer 300 of them, how would you choose which ones to answer? 

    If I woke up to that many emails, I would be totally overwhelmed and probably delete all of them!


  • 04/05/2021 8:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Buzz on Brand 
    By Nicole Bradham 

    There are many cost-effective strategies to take actionable steps towards increasing your business's social media presence and position in Google search listings. It doesn't have to cost you tons of money, but will require your time and some intentional planning.     

    The first step to take is to create a blog on your current website. Write at least one to four blogs a month. One misconception is that blog posts need to be long, but that isn't the case. Blogs can be one to two paragraphs with images. Obviously, if you can write more, then your SEO will increase. But if all you can do with your time is get one or two paragraphs of relevant information, then do it! Here are some ideas to get you started: 

    • Educational information, such as tips. Write about what you know. For example, if you’re an interior designer, write something like, Top Five Tips to Organize Your Home this Season.  

    • Behind the scenes of your business. Post a picture of your staff at work (crew, team members, family, etc.) with a matching summary of copy like, "Check out the crew doing their best to provide you with our amazing services. Lots of fun activities planned for you as we start the season." 

    • The reason your company is the best. Write about what makes your business stand out from the competition. This is a good opportunity to list core values, company mission, and best practices. 

    • Seasonal promotions. Talk about any deals your company is offering during this season or month. 

    Get social! 

    One of the best ways to reach new people in your community is to partner with local influencers.  Influencers build their following by becoming a resource and build trust with their audience. By utilizing this partnership, you gain the trust of the audience, too.  

    Also, the influencer provides a diverse mix of content to your online presence that is trending. People want to see real consumers in ads and online. When a company uses all stock images for all their social media, it can turn people away. 

    Another cost-effective marketing strategy is to encourage your customers to check-in or tag your business on social media. You can host online giveaways and contests to incentivize them, too. This increases brand awareness by allowing their friends to see your business on their Facebook newsfeed, which increases your reach to a new audience. 

    There are many ways to market your business on a shoe-string budget. You just have to be willing to put in the time and energy to make it happen! 

    About the author 

    Nicole Bradham, an EMERGE Lakeland member, owns Mindset Marketing & Consulting, a full-service marketing agency partnering with businesses across a variety of industries. She also recently launched an influencer management agency called HotMod Agency 

    Nicole is passionate about working with small businesses and promoting Lakeland. On a normal day, you will find her working at her desk at Catapult Lakeland, meeting with clients and filming videos for social media. As a board member for the Junior League of Greater Lakeland, she takes serving the community to heart. To keep up with all things social media, follow Nicole on Instagram @mindsetmarketinglakeland and @hotmodagency. 


  • 03/24/2021 9:04 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Meet Sara Robillard, Emerge Marketing Committee Chair





    Name:  Sara Robillard       

    Years with EMERGE: 3+

    Current role in EMERGE: EMERGE Marketing Committee Chair; Steering Committee Member

    1.      How and why did you get involved with EMERGE Lakeland?

    I had first heard about EMERGE several years ago after writing an article for Polk Voice (no longer in print) about a past member. Unfortunately, my job at the time didn’t lend me much freedom to be involved. So, fast forward to a few of years ago when I had a new job in a corporate marketing department and was looking for opportunities to network and grow professionallyespecially as it relates to honing my graphic design skillsthat’s when I attended my first marketing committee meeting.   

    2.      Are you originally from this area? If so, why have you stayed in Lakeland? If not, what brought you to Lakeland?

    I am originally from New England (GO PATS!). I grew up in Rhode Island and lived briefly in Connecticut before moving here about 14 years ago. It’s not something I wanted to do, per se, but I didn’t have much of a choice, so I decided to bloom where I was planted. Lakeland is a cool little city that’s centrally located, which is great! 

    3.      What is your current occupation? Employer?

    Currently, I’m employed full time at Summit, a workers’ compensation company based here in Lakeland. I work in their marketing department as a senior graphic designer. I also do freelance graphic design work under my business name, Your Visual Storyteller 

    4.      Do you have any hobbies or interests?

    I like to dabble in arts and crafts, from painting to digital embroidery to linocutting...my interests tend to change by the day, lol. I draw inspiration from nature, mostly trees and mountains. As a graphic designer, I’m always intrigued by color relationships and shapes, and I like to test out concepts in each of the mediums I work in.  

    5.      If someone sees you at an EMERGE event, what are some topics they should ask you about to get the conversation going?

    Show me pictures of your pets. Graphic design and art. Nature. I’m not much of a small talker, so feel free to jump into whatever it is you want to talk about. 

    6.      What’s the best professional advice you have ever been given?

    I struggle with assigning value to my work and thought that just being given an opportunity was payment enough. At one point, I was editing, contributing content to and designing an entire magazine every month for a friend for absolutely nothing. That’s when a professor of mine told me something that stuck with me: Your work has value, and people need to know to recognize and appreciate the effort you put into it. If you don’t charge something—even if it’s just a meal or a cup of coffee—you are training others to see your work as worthless. 

    7.      Do you have any favorite podcasts or periodicals that you go to for professional development?

    I’m not huge into podcasts, so when I’m looking to develop or learn something—especially with my craft—I turn to videos. LinkedIn Learning is a huge resource for me, as well as Adobe. Dribbble and The Futur are also places I go for inspiration and advice. 

    8.      What would be your superpower and why? 

    Control the elements of nature (earth, water, fire, etc.). It’s a little too flat and hot down here. 

    9.     What was the last meal you ate? 

    When answering these questions, it was Pop Tarts (frosted cinnamon and brown sugar). I have the diet of a nine-year-old. 

    10.      How would you explain what you do to a five-year-old? 

    I tell people things using pictures and words. 


  • 03/01/2021 8:31 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Christina Ingrassia  

    Hi, my name is Christina, and I’m an EMERGE Lakeland stan.  A member from 2008-2015 who rejoining last year (serving on various committees along with the Steering Committee for part of that time), I regularly promote EMERGE to recent college graduates and anyone I run into at a coffee shop who makes the mistake of telling me that they’ve recently moved here.   

    I stepped back from EMERGE when the combined forces of having a baby and commuting to Tampa dulled my motivation for wearing real pants after 5:00 p.m.; but five years later, my professional contributions are once again more centralized in Lakeland and my small person can now put on his own pants without my help. I’ve jumped back in to contribute to EMERGE for one final year before I age out and cheer you all onward. 

    What EMERGE taught me about networking  

    One of the things I love about EMERGE is that you really benefit from it in direct proportion to what you contribute. In 2008, I moved back to Lakeland after living elsewhere since high school. I was 27, and accustomed to working in a very autonomous environment in a small organization. A reluctant extrovert, I find conversation easy, but felt that networking carried a seedy reputation. I wore it like a plaid polyester suit--it kept me from appearing naked in civilized society, but man, did it itch. The people I met through EMERGE taught me how to network in a way that felt authentic, life-affirming, and productive. I now count so many of them as not only close friends, but also colleagues from whom I will accept a phone call in real time and drop my afternoon plans to help. 

    The importance of building a network…according to Lakeland leaders 

    Now I understand that networking is simply building relationships, and it’s a skill that we can all hone to become progressively better in our careers, as well as our personal lives. In that vein, I decided to test whether my EMERGE alumni cohorts would answer my phone call and reached out to them for their best advice on building a killer network. You’ll no doubt recognize the names below as stalwart leaders in our Lakeland community, people who are known for investing in our community. They’ve built networks that extend around the globe and advanced their careers, businesses, and investments. Here’s what they had to say: 

    Tips on networking events 

    • Bring business cards – keep yours in one pocket and the people you meet in the other and make sure the following day you follow up with those people you got cards from who you would like to make a more formal connection with. 

    • When going to an event, avoid standing where people come into the event. Rather, stand near where people are exiting, getting a drink or, even better, at a high-top table. I’ve found that when people (myself included) first come into an event, the last thing they want to do is get immediately pounced on. I tend to want to get a drink and settle into the environment. Once I have the drink in hand, I’m ready to mingle. Doesn’t work the same with a buffet table as I usually have a plate full of food and no hands to shake or hand out cards.  

    • The food line is a great place to make connections. You are forced to be with one another, but it’s not awkward; and if you don’t see the conversation going very far, you can simply focus on getting the food and finding your seat rather than continuing the conversation. 

    • When following up, don’t just say generically you want to “touch base” or “see how you can help one another” – develop a specific reason why a connection with you would be beneficial to that person. You will be remembered. 

    Be deliberate in your intentions when networking. Always make things “silly simple” when trying to gain business!  

    Stephanie Colon, Vice President/Business Development Officer, Prime Meridian Bank; Steering Committee Chair, 2015 

    Tips opersonal branding 

    (Contributed by James Sidou, Senior Director, Legal ServicesSaddle Creek, Steering Committee Chair, 2016 ) 

    • Ask how you can helpWhen you help someone else, you are no longer making it about yourself, but about the other person.   

    • When you say you are going to do something, do it. If you half-ass a project or do not give proper time to something you committed to, then you will have to work so much harder to regain what you have lost.  

    • Keep LinkedIn professional and up to date. It is not Facebook or Instagram and not for hooking up or making unprofessional comments. It is your billboard to the professional world and if you would not want something on that billboard then you should not have it on LinkedIn (or any social media for that matter). 

    Align yourself with like-minded individuals that understand the greater good. Anyone serving to serve themselves isn’t going to help you meet the right people or introduce you to people that fit your criteria.  

    Derek Oxford , Financial Planner, CFP, AEPCPS Investment Advisors; Steering Committee Chair, 2017 

    Keep it simple 

    As you can see, whether it’s by simplifying someone’s life, building up their business profile within your network, or connecting them to a helpful resource, networking is as easy as adding value to the people around you. Pick one of the tips above and practice it with three people at your next networking event for a better networking experience. 



  • 02/17/2021 9:54 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Meet Kassia Alamm, Emerge Professional development Committee Chair

    Name:  Kassia Alamm        

    Years with EMERGE: 3+

    Current role in EMERGE: EMERGE Professional Development Committee Chair


    1.      How and why did you get involved with EMERGE Lakeland?

    I originally became involved with EMERGE Lakeland seeking professional development opportunities and with the hope of making new connections as I navigated the post-graduation job search. 

    2.      Are you originally from this area? If so, why have you stayed in Lakeland? If not, what brought you to Lakeland?

    am originally from Polk Countyswore would not live here after college, but my perspective has changed greatly over the past few years. 

    3.      What is your current occupation? Employer?

    Marketing and Business Development Coordinator at Straughn Trout Architects in Lakeland. 

    4.      Are you part of any other organizations in the community?

    In the past, I’ve been a volunteer with VISTE and served as a Team Captain + on the Event Leadership Team for Relay for Life.  I also support the Peace River Center. 

    5.      Do you have any hobbies or interests?

    like to spend my time reading, playing with my dogs, trying new restaurants, and hanging out with my husband. I also enjoy running and working out. I recently ran my first half marathon, so we’ll see where that goes. 

    6.      If someone sees you at an EMERGE event, what are some topics they should ask you about to get the conversation going?

    The benefits of EMERGE membership and how to get the most out of your time with the organization! 

    7.      What’s the best professional advice you have ever been given?

    If you don’t have a seat at the table, bring your own chair. 

    8.      Do you have any favorite podcasts or periodicals that you go to for professional development?

    “I’m Busy Being Awesome”, “Ted Business”, and industry-related podcasts that keep me informed about trends in architecture or marketing strategies.  

    9.      What did you want to be when you grew up?

    A multimedia journalist. I have a deep appreciation for storytelling through different mediums, especially photography. 

    10.      If you could only choose one song to play every time you walked into a room for the rest of your life, what would it be? 

    “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds 

    11.      What is your most unusual talent?

    I can name all of the United States in alphabetical order in less than twenty seconds! 


  • 02/01/2021 8:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This month, we have a guest post written by Blake Denz, a member of EMERGE Lakeland’s Steering and Marketing Committees. In anticipation of our Membership Drive in Aprilhe has taken the time to share his experience as an EMERGE member, which has helped him grow both personally and professionally. 

    By: Blake Denz

    I joined EMERGE in 2017 after accepting a position with my current company, TWO MEN AND A TRUCK®. I was looking for a group of people who shared my same values and desires of improving oneself professionally. The things I wanted most out of EMERGE were networking with people, improving myself professionally and staying involved within the Lakeland community. 

    Being nervous to start something new, I finally decided to attend a few events to get a feel for EMERGE. My first event was the New Member Luncheon at Grillsmith. I was not familiar with networking and had little to no experience with my current position at my new job. However, I was surprised to see how welcoming everyone was and how people made it a point to introduce themselves to me. I began feeling more and more comfortable with talking to people I had never met, which really helped me transition into my new position.

    After attending a few events, I wanted more out of EMERGE, so I decided to enroll in EMERGE ServesThat opened my eyes to all the opportunities Lakeland had to offer that I did not know before. After graduating from EMERGE Serves in 2018, I joined the Marketing Committee and began managing the EMERGE Facebook page. Taking advantage of those opportunities helped improve the work I was doing in my current career role. It made me more aware of what people were looking for, and how I could effectively engage with our potential clients. 

    EMERGE not only helped me improve myself, but also made me aware of ways I could help others within Lakeland. Every year EMERGE looks for volunteer opportunities for its members to give back. In previous years, I was involved with Stuff the Bus and an event called Paint Your Heart Out. These two events were so fun to be a part of, and the best part was being able to help those less fortunate. For Stuff the Bus, we helped collect and distribute school supplies for families going through financial hardships. Paint Your Heart Out also helped spruce up homes for families who could not normally afford to have done it themselves.  

    EMERGE has opened me up to so many opportunities and introduced me to people I would not have ever encountered in my everyday life. It has made me feel comfortable being out of my comfort zone and has given me the confidence in my professional background. Just like they told me when I first joined EMERGE, “you get out what you put in,” and that did not resonate with me until I put my fears aside and decided to jump right in! 

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