Chamber Series Helps Small Businesses


Small Business Forums

Jacki Liszak wears two hats: she is the president of the Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce as well as the proprietor with her husband Scott of The Sea Gypsy Inn Bed & Breakfast. As such, she has a first-hand perspective of being a small business owner on Fort Myers Beach.

“When I started The Sea Gypsy I had no clue,” she recalls. “Where do I get a business license, from who and what type – these are confusing things if you’ve never started a business. You have to deal with the town, county, state and federal governments. There are permits, payments, taxes and regulations; where do you go for all those things?”

To help this transition, the Chamber with Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) and the Small Business Development Council (SBDC) is hosting a series of programs to assist the small business owner. “As a Chamber, we have the obligation to provide this to our members and community,” continues Jacki. “We are excited to offer these to our members as a benefit. We will give this a whirl to judge its popularity, with plans to offer three more this upcoming fall.”


Tomorrow’s Great Idea

Duane Hoversten, an entrepreneur, educator and innovator, runs the series. He is the founder of several businesses including 5 computer stores, 3 fertilizer plants and software, spice and consulting companies. Duane taught Small Business Management for 20 years, conducted SBDC consulting for 22 years, and for the Fort Myers branch, the past three. Duane is a dynamic speaker and has great ideas that can be used in your business the next day! “The Fort Myers Beach Business Series will give local businesses good insights into hot topics that affect them now,” he says.

“We approached Duane because he is a Chamber member and familiar with business on our island,” Liszak said. “Program like these are a value of your membership because when you start a business, it is very confusing and you don’t always know what to do, so the Chamber and Duane become your mentors.”

The “Business After Hours Series, Tips & Tools for Business Owners” will present three programs on the 2nd Wednesday of each of the next three months from 5 to 7 p.m. February 8 is “SEO – Is Your Website Working?” Included in this is a free SEO (search engine optimization) report. March 8 features “A Discussion of Taxes a Business Must Pay and What is an Employee Versus a 1099 Worker,” and April 12 offers “Risk Management for Your Business – Risks Your Business Faces and How to Prepare.”

These repeat in the “Rise & Shine Business Series” on the second Thursday of each month from 8 to 10 a.m., with “SEO” on February 9, “A Discussion of Taxes” on March 9, and “Risk Management” on April 13.

“Get Down to Business – in a Flash” is a walk-in question & answer consulting session for new business owners that concentrates on issues you face in your first year on Thursdays, February 16, from 5 to 7 p.m.; March 16 from 8 to 10 a.m.; and April 20 from 5 to 7 p.m.


All Inn!

A special forum concentrates on small inns on Wednesday, February 15, at the GullWing Beach Resort conference room at 6620 Estero Boulevard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Though the roundtable program and lunch are free, the Chamber requires advance registration by Monday, February 13.

“Small inns are having a bit of a down season,” Jacki explained. “It is early February and we are close to the peak of season, so they should be close to full. This roundtable is to brainstorm about what does and does not work. We must share challenges because big hotels have corporate help, with large staffs and a brand name. The small innkeeper often has just yourself, with 15 rooms or less, so we need to support each other. The Sea Gypsy Inn does this – when we are full we pass leads on to the Myerside and Mango Street Inn and The Hideaway Village; the Silver Sands Resort sent us one the other day. We want more small inns to join that club.”

On a different topic, the Chamber offers the AARP Arrive Alive Program for Seniors on Friday, March 3, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. An AARP representative conducts this session and graduates can receive an insurance discount. There is a $15 charge for AARP members and $20 for all others.

All sessions except for the Small Inns Forum are at the Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce Office at 1661 Estero Boulevard, Suite #8, 33931. For more information on the Small Business Forums, see or call 239-745-3700; for the Chamber see or call 239-454-7500.

No business is a small business when it is your business – attend the Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce Small Business Forums.


Gary Mooney