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A Step Experience: EntreCon 2023

   The energy and positivity were evident from the get go at the 9th annual EntreCon, Studer Community Institute’s two-day business, leadership, and entrepreneurship conference held November 1-2 in downtown Pensacola. The event delivered so many learning and networking opportunities for the over 400 people in attendance.


   Difference making insights started with the first keynote speaker, longtime executive and leadership expert Dan Collard, who shared a takeaway filled presentation on overcoming challenges entitled “Bounce Into The Next”. Pensacola’s Chief of Police, Eric Randall, a first time EntreCon attendee, was especially impacted by Collard’s advice to start every meeting with everybody going around the room to say one thing they’re grateful for. “For the longest I started meetings kind of backwards, I guess, I would start about business and then we’d get into the to the fun stuff and personal stuff. But I think taking a new approach will kind of soften things up a little bit from a leadership standpoint,” said Randall.

EntreCon keynote speaker April Hansen delivered dynamic presentation on hyper-growth

   EntreCon’s six keynote speakers produced many golden nugget takeaways. April Hansen, a highly acclaimed presenter from Wisconsin, wowed attendees with her dynamic presentation on hyper-growth. Turns out Hansen was left blown away as well. “The idea of this conference being so accessible for the business leaders in this community, entrepreneurs and students coming together for this level of education, it truthfully is a step experience”, said Hansen, “I mean, this is something that I don’t often see in other communities. And so being part of this here today, game changing experience, I love it.”

   While all the keynotes inspired and informed in various ways, no one produced laughs to go with it like Julie Burch.  The leadership expert from Texas, with stand-up level comedy skills, delivered a presentation on dealing with stress chock full of many ha’s and ah-ha’s. ” I love the thing she teaches about stress and making it more be more valuable, and not just giving it away to everyone. I can definitely use that”, said first-time EntreCon attendee, Niki Wiltshire, Owner of Nanny2U.

Julie Burch produced many laughs and insights in her EntreCon keynote presentation

   In addition to keynotes, were three breakout tracks featuring an array of speakers and topics with focuses on leadership, entrepreneurship, and community. For a group of high school students from Walton County, the no doubt highlight was Abraham Sculley. A rising star in the community, he shared an electrifying and enlightening discussion on mental health. “He was really fun and cool and he just had a really good message that he brought,” said Ava Bowers, Seacoast Collegiate High School 10th grader, “Everybody basically deals with stress and everybody’s mental health doesn’t have to be perfect all the time and it’s okay to talk to people and to get help, even if, you know, you might not think there’s anybody that wants to listen.”

   It was a surreal moment for Abraham, CEO of Speaks 2 Inspire, going from previous attendee to speaker, just like Chad Henderson. The founder and CEO of Catalyst Healthcare Real Estate has turned a local Pensacola company into a major national player, and shared his entrepreneurial journey through uncertainty in an enlightening keynote. “You sit here year after year and go to this event and listen to all these wonderful folks tell their stories and their lessons,” said Henderson, “And so for me to have a chance to go up there and be honored on the stage, a super special honor”.

Catalyst HRE founder Chad Henderson shared his entrepreneurial lessons from EntreCon stage

   There were so many opportunities to learn, and it didn’t stop at lunchtime. Lunch and Learn sessions included a memorable talk from Bert Thornton on making the most of first impressions. The legendary Waffle House vice chairman emeritus and mentorship guru produced a lasting impact. “We’re fans in my household of Waffle House. So my husband is going to geek out when I tell him that we got to meet him,” beamed EntreCon attendee Claire Duren, a Senior Tax Manager at Warren Averett, “He’s a good writer and an influential person, and especially with this topic, he has that experience and really knows how to teach people to connect.”

   Add in Candid Conversations roundtable discussions and next level networking throughout the two days and EntreCon delivered so many wins in so many ways. “I love coming here because it brings all different kinds of leaders from our community together,” said Jen Grove, VP of External Relations for Baptist Health Care who has attended all nine Entrecon conferences, “Folks who are new in their career, folks who are along in their career, folks who are in small business, large business, all different industry sectors and people from out of town. They come in and join us all sharing knowledge, all growing and learning together. I love it. ” Added Duren, ” I love that it’s local, that we’ve got so much talent here that we can draw upon and just take everything back to where we’re working and living and teach those lessons to our group. It’s a blessing to be here. I love it.” Chandler Lyles, experiencing EntreCon for the first time as a leadership breakout track speaker was extremely impressed. “What you guys have done here is amazing,” said the High Beam Marketing co-founder from Nashville, “You’ve created an environment where business owners and leaders can get away from their businesses, get around other people and network and build relationships, and work on the business. And I can see why you guys are the 18th ranked place in America to do to do business right now.”

   Mirroring and enhancing Pensacola’s booming entrepreneur and small business ecosystem, the momentum and enthusiasm is brimming for a milestone 10th EntreCon in 2024. Learn more at EntreConPensacola.com

   Watch a video of EntreCon 2023 highlights here

Photos courtesy of Phocus & Company

Steve Nissim is Chief Storyteller for Studer Community Institute, a non-profit 501c(3) organization in the Pensacola, Florida area whose mission is improving the quality of life for all people in the diverse communities we serve. Learn more at www.studeri.org