My “Crazy” Vision for Lakeland

“Authenticity doesn’t mean listening to people and parroting back what we hear. It means telling people what we believe and then waiting to see who is attracted by what we espouse and who isn’t. This is why we are drawn to an authentic brand over a non-authentic brand”

I watched this video, and as always was inspired by Simon Sinek…

The thing is, I am driven by something I believe in with my whole being.  It doesn’t exist.  It might be impossible to attain, but I can see it.

My vision for Lakeland’s Small Businesses – LBL:

A COMMUNITY, in which everyone can participate. Where leaders listen, and together, transparently look for solutions. Where being human is celebrated, not belittled. Where encouragement eliminates fear, and risk of failure does not stifle, but is understood as part of growth. Where everyone who believes in and is willing to work to support the community is welcome. Where no one begrudges the success of another, but rather celebrates it – and feels PART of it. Where a LEADER is defined by what a person is capable of, not only what they have already accomplished.

This is what I can see on the other side of this amazing community. It’s what I work for EVERY single day.

Simon Sinek Inspires me and compels me to believe in myself, because when you ask my why, when you take some time to really get to the heart of what drives me, it is because I truly believe in the people of our community and that we are all part of the solution for our economy.

It’s terrifying, and yet thrilling to stop and think about what my vision is for the community of LBL.  But… I believe in myself, and I believe in the people who read this and say, “YES. That is me. I want that too.” Because THOSE are the folks that will help us create the community we all want for ourselves and our future!!!

Thanks for the inspiration, Simon, but more importantly…

To whoever is reading this: THANK YOU for reading this and believing in me.



Go Local or Die: A Simple Lesson About Supply and Demand


love Publix’s Peppermint Stick ice cream. I look forward to the holidays every year because of this one item! When I was a little girl, this ice cream taught me a lesson about supply and demand that I have never forgotten. Society has changed a lot since the early 80’s, and I think we need to remember some of the basic facts of life, or rather, simple economics.

When I asked my father why Peppermint Stick Ice Cream wasn’t available every month of the year, he explained it to me like this:

When people don’t buy things, there’s no demand to make them because they will probably not sell month over month. Companies have to make a profit; otherwise they won’t be able to stay in business.

I told him that I would buy the ice cream year round! 

And he smiled at me and said, “I know you would, sweetie. But Publix needs more than just you to buy the ice cream in order to keep it on the shelves year-round.”

Today, this memory struck a chord in my heart as I drove down South Florida Avenue – a main thoroughfare in my city of Lakeland, FL, past the Polk Theatre. I hope you’ll indulge me as I tell you why this story of Peppermint Ice cream crossed my mind today.

Yesterday, I ran into a friend at a local coffee shop and he mentioned an article he had read several years ago by Derek Sivers about why Derek chose to focus on his global audience and not his local audience.

I went to search for the article after the conversation and read the entire article twice. I didn’t take away the same message as my friend – that’s a conversation for another day, but I did take this away:

There are becoming fewer and fewer of us who choose to turn IN, toward our local community.

Conveniences such as the Internet make the rest of the world so accessible, and for many emerging entrepreneurs, so much more appealing. They can “own the world” why would they build a business that catered only to their city or local market? Of course, some, larger cities might not feel this as much, but I know it’s something that is affecting us in Lakeland, and in other small cities around us. That’s on the “supply” side… it’s the same thing on the “demand” side too, young adults are biding their time to “get out of dodge” and go see the world.

This means that those of us who DO care about our local community have to work doubly or triply hard to ensure the success of our small, local businesses. Not just the new ones, but the traditional ones as well. Places in Lakeland that come to mind are the Polk Theatre and the Silvermoon Drive-in. These types of businesses are becoming less and less popular as the world we live in continues to grow globally.

Young people today want new, innovative, cutting edge and high energy. They aren’t seeing as much value in the history, the traditions, the “old school” ways of doing things. And, slowly, quietly, and gracefully, these businesses, rich in tradition, staples of our small towns, are dwindling.

Unless we choose to buy from our local mom and pops more frequently; unless we begin to appreciate what our local culture offers, the familiarity and the closeness, the tight-knit and the authenticity that represents Small Towns across America, we’re going to lose them – not just until the holidays come around again, but forever. If the community does not make a conscious effort to support the small, local businesses in town, they will no longer exist.

It’s a simple lesson in economics, with a simple solution.

Supply remains, when there is a demand. When demand wanes, there is no longer a reason to keep businesses open.

So, here’s the call to action for this post: Look around your town and find some businesses to support. Support them by putting your money where your mouth is. Shop there, eat there, donate to their Fund Drives to upgrade their equipment so they can keep their technology up to date.

Here’s one for Lakelanders today! There is currently a Fund Drive in place for The Polk Theatre to raise $105,000. So far, they have raised, $4,000. If they do not raise the funds to upgrade their equipment, they will no longer be able to bring the movies they have historically brought to Lakeland since 1928.


I don’t know much about theatres or the film industry, but I do know that our community and those who support it would miss these films, and what they say about the character of our town, if they were no longer able to show movies at THE POLK. There’s no way to measure the value of the presence of a theatre, like The Polk – an historic landmark – keeping movies alive for 87 years. But I believe there’s a strong message sent to those who are considering investing in the community, or starting a new business.

It says, “This community cares about things that last.”

It suggests that this is a great place to start or expand a business.

Prospective investors will look at our community with confidence, because its values reflect an ideal that says, “We take care of our community.”

Peppermint Stick Ice Cream is my favorite, but I can’t buy enough to keep it in the store year round. Just like I can’t donate enough to provide the Theatre with the money it needs to buy the digital projection equipment it needs.

If you are looking for more information about the Polk Theatre’s Digital or Die Campaign, visit:

If we want to keep our local economy alive, there’s no way to do that by only looking beyond our community – we have to balance the global with the local. To me, the most important investments are the ones that impact my daily life. Seeing empty buildings and closed down shops affects my daily life. And I will do everything I can to raise awareness, and make people think Locally, whenever possible.

When there is a demand, businesses flourish.

Wendy Mercer – AHS Class of 93 is Here for You

Auburndale Class of 1993 classmate, Wendy Mercer has lost one daughter, and another is in critical condition after an automobile accident Sunday evening.  Please read the details of the accident, here.

Our Prayers are with you, Wendy.

This button will allow you to make a donation in any amount.  Please keep Wendy and her entire family and the family of the other little girl in your prayers. If the button is not working, please click this link to make your donation.

Have you Heard of the Connection Economy?

We are the Connection Economy.

Today, our connections give us the ability to play a critical role in the impact “average” people with exceptional passion, working together, can make in our community.

If you care about something, find others who care about the same things. Collaborate – Find a way to fit your ideas with those who are already working. If it’s passion driving each of you, there will be no question whether you’ll be welcomed. If it’s greed, or ego, or something self-serving, move on. If they (or you) are working for the “bottom line,” or “ROI,” or to be the “first,” they (or you) won’t be around very long. It’s people with a Cause that will last. If no one already working is open to collaboration, don’t be afraid to start something new… but don’t start something new until you’ve explored what others are doing.

Look inside the people with whom you connect.  Passion is not something you can always find on the surface.  Look deeper. Exceptional people often hide their greatness because challenging the status quo has traditionally been a sure way to be passed over. Greatness intimidates the status quo. It’s time to celebrate greatness again. People with ideas, starters, rebels – they have the ability to inspire. And we need inspiration in our communities!

It is the passion that we share that will make it possible to create meaningful change.

It’s time to consider a different success grid. It’s time we realized no one has to be pre-selected to become great. None of the heroes we believe in were chosen at an early age to become our heroes. They chose to do the work, believe in their passion and refused to listen to the cynics who told them it was impossible. Don’t you know, heroes aren’t born? It’s not a birth-right to do something great.  It’s a decision. Fueled by passion, drive and courage.

We can be courageous.

We can take the risks.

We can choose ourselves.

We can make a difference.

We can create positive change.

What is your passion?  What kind connections do you need to start making a difference?  We are all connected.  It just takes a few, dedicated people who are willing to do something no one else is willing to do.  Something that will create a solution, something bigger than just you and me.  Are you willing to make a difference?  Share your ideas, make a new connection and begin believing you are enough.

We Are Plan B: We Can Change the World

It’s Time Everyday People Began to Believe: We Can Change the World!


Maybe you know this about me, maybe you don’t. But all this stuff I talk about with the Lakeland Business Leaders and Winter Haven Business Leaders etc… is about the bigger picture. It’s really not about any one of us. If we can all see beyond ourselves (or, at least enough of us can) we can accomplish great things. In the first 2:00 minutes of this video, Sir Richard Branson says what I believe:

It’s obvious, Branson says, that “Plan A,” isn’t working, so we’ve developed “Plan B”…

What is Plan B?
“A number of us decided that we can’t leave every problem to the politicians and social workers to sort out the problems of the world…”

“If we could get EVERY SINGLE business in the world, every single entrepreneur to play their part we could get on top of most of the world’s problems…”

“A whole group of great people and the idea is that we’ll try to work together to get our own house in order…”

“So instead of just talking about the bottom line, also make sure all our companies worry about the planet, worry about our people and also try to help other companies do the same…”

“And if small companies can adopt LOCAL ISSUES, and bigger companies can adopt national issues and bigger companies still can adopt international issues, and help politicians and social workers to get on top of them, the world would be a much better place for all of us to live in…”

I believe WE are part of Plan B… Do you have any ideas or suggestions for how we, as LOCALS, can continue to change the world?  Please share!

Lakeland Speakers and Seminar Series Encourage You to Claim Your Life

It’s Time to Claim your Life!

No matter who you are, or where you’ve been, you can have the very best life. The life you’ve always imagined is well within your reach. There is no magic potion, or special invitation required. All you need to do is CLAIM it!

Please join Grant Nieddu from State of the Spark, Sarah Bingham from Fast Food Healing, Chrissanne Long from Reinventing Awesome and Paul Singer from 3 Yeses Seminars!

The seminar is designed to get you excited about the possibilities in your life, the attitudes necessary for success and the strategies, tools and resources you can use to begin immediately to CLAIM YOUR LIFE.

Have you ever wondered if there was something more out there for you? Or, have you thought, You have everything you’ve ever wanted, but you’d like to have a little more pep in your step, more energy to invest in your family, your career, or your community? There are so many exciting things the Claim Your Life Seminar can do. But the biggest goal, the purpose for the event, is to bring the audience a slice of 4 very different perspectives – with the same, consistent message. Being the best person you can be doesn’t require you start over from scratch. Everything you need is right there, waiting for you to claim it and make it perfectly, uniquely and completely YOURS.


A Rich Sense of Community | What Makes People Stay?

What Makes People Stay?

Today, I attended the Downtown Lakeland Partnership’s General Meeting at Trinity Presbyterian Church.  Tim Rice,  the Pastor, spoke on the topic of building a rich sense of community.  He suggested that one of the challenges we face in society today is “rootlessness.” There is no strong sense of belonging, or establishment of roots/connection to a particular place.  He challenged us, as members of the business community to focus on this idea when considering how to strengthen the city, how to attract (and keep) young professionals, skilled professionals, passionate artists, and other talented people to live (and stay) in Lakeland.   As a result of his discussion and the questions he asked throughout his presentation, I walked away wondering, “What makes people stay?”

Tim talked about his personal decision to stay in Lakeland – to make the community and his church stronger.  This community, he said, is his ministry. He has made a promise to remain in Lakeland for the rest of his life, his words were, “I am here until I die.”  I thought of the impact of those words.  The strength behind them.  To make a decision that, no matter what happens; no matter what offers come from Birmingham, or anywhere else, this is where he wants to be.

Lakeland might be his calling.  But what about the rest of us? And what about those who aren’t sure where they want to be?  What will make people want to stay in Lakeland? But my questions didn’t stop there.

What makes people want to “hang out” and commiserate?

I wondered, after he finished speaking, what makes people stay anywhere?  Not just to remain in a community, but what makes them attend and then stay at events, or gatherings?  I believe this smaller question might lead us to the answer to the bigger question.  If we can understand what makes people want to be a part of different clubs or organizations, why they attend certain events, or want to reach out to help others, or simply continue talking about important issues, even if it seems like it might not make a difference, I think we might be able to better understand why people feel compelled to “establish roots” in a particular place.

I believe, in the inner core of my being, that people want to feel connected. They want to know that they matter, that they will be missed when they are gone.  Seth Godin calls this the Linchpin.  A Linchpin, by definition, is a fastener used to prevent a wheel or other part from sliding off the axle upon which it is riding. When I meet new people, I make every effort to receive them warmly, to focus on what they are saying, to ask them questions and give them an opportunity to talk about the things that matter the most to them.  Sometimes, this sparks fascinating conversations.  When the person’s face begins to light up and their gestures become animated, I know that they are passionate about the topic they are discussing.  When we find something on which we connect, and we are both engaged, and animated, that is where true connection begins.

I know when people are interested in what I have to say.  I can tell by the questions they ask, by the way that they listen, by the focus of their eyes.  When there is true connection, people want to stay. It’s my observation that it happens all the time, but many of us dismiss it because we might not have time, or we might not now what to do when we find that true connection on a topic.  Should we e-mail them?  Call them?  Request to connect on LinkedIn? Ask to schedule a meeting to continue the conversation?  Or, do we let it go, allow it to disappear as a fleeting moment, an undocumented connection, because we didn’t know how to build on that opportunity.

I am curious.  What makes you stay?

What experiences have you had that you didn’t want to end.  Have there been times that you wanted to carry on the connections you made and looked forward to the next opportunity to connect again?  What is the impact of building a community of people who stick around? I think we have to start looking at the basics, before we can climb the mountain.  Are we a connected, warm, inviting community?  Or, do you think there are places that are, and places that are not connected, warm and inviting?  I would love to hear your thoughts about this.