By NewsLine Staff
St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce is participating in National Small Business Week, May 5 — May 11. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) will highlight the impact of outstanding entrepreneurs, small business owners, and community members nationwide. According to Chamber sources, in St. Johns County small businesses include more than 6,000 locally owned and operated companies.
According to Isabelle Renault, Chamber president and CEO, “This is a great opportunity to recognize our area’s small businesses that contribute significantly to our local communities, develop creative products and talent, and make advances with innovative technologies. We encourage everyone to shop local and support small businesses that comprise a significant portion of our economy.”
The Chamber’s numerous programs and services along with specialized councils and events help small business owners to start, build and grow their organizations and staff, and receive assistance for recovery from disasters.
Tom Dolan, owner of Meehan’s Irish Pub & Seafood House at 20 Avenida Menendez in historic downtown St. Augustine, has nine years in business at the location and 49 employees. He is grateful for local talent in the service industry and from college students who depend on making an income at his 172-seat dining and bar establishment. Loyal support comes from area customers and visitors.
“The majority of our staff live nearby as do our customers who frequent Meehan’s. Visitors are approximately 40 percent of our business except during major events and festivals when we welcome more destination tourists,” he said.
Steve Hudson, MSIM, is a digital marketing expert and co-founder and president of local small business Law Firm Marketing, LLC and Digital Mark Company, LLC in northwest St. Johns County. He is a longtime Chamber member and Ambassador, and chairman of the North Business Council and graduated from the Chamber’s Leadership St. Johns program in 2018.
As a retired U.S. Navy military war veteran, former school teacher in St. Augustine, and successful entrepreneur, Hudson leveraged his experience as a specialist in data-driven marketing and SEO focus to increase his clients’ bottom line.
“Launching my small businesses and staying active in the Chamber while participating in Council and professional networking activities has propelled my organizations to grow quickly and responsibly,” he said. “The Chamber has helped me forecast important growth and business trends in the region. Chamber experts and speakers know our area and provide tips for staying ahead in our burgeoning county, and beyond.”
Joe Finnegan is the owner and innkeeper of St. Francis Inn, located at 279 St. George Street in the oldest settlement section of historic downtown St. Augustine. In June 1985, when Joe and Nancy Finnegan became the owners of the Inn, they quickly set out to learn the importance of guest and customer service along with budgeting, marketing, management, administration, and other business functions.
Finnegan depends on the Chamber to learn about the economic impact of growth and development, infrastructure, politics, tourism and hospitality in St. Johns County along with current laws and regulations about taxation.
“I place importance on attending the Chamber’s Tourism and Hospitality Council and Historic St. Augustine Area Council meetings and speaker events to learn about county wide initiatives and innovations to stay active and current,” he said.
The Chamber’s Ponte Vedra Beach Division serves many small businesses and one is co-owned by two women. Trasca & Co Eatery was opened by Sara Frasca in 2015. It is noted for its “Panino” sandwich which was invented by Frasca’s grandmother. Earlier this year, Trasca & Co merged with Karina Coryell, of KC’s Kitchen fame. The merger of two community minded small businesses has been met with enthusiasm.
The SBA was created in 1953 and is a Cabinet-level agency of the federal government to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise, and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy in the United States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam. Visit www.sba.gov for more information.
The St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce is a not-for-profit business membership organization. The Chamber is one of the largest business networking organizations in northeast Florida. Visit www.sjcchamber.com or call (904) 829-5681 for more information.