From left to right: Karissa Souza, Gianna Kramer and Deborah Harding

Image: Peter Le

Marketing on Main is a recurring networking event that has grown in size and scope over the past few years. What explains its success? The fun.

I dropped in on last week's Marketing on Main, held at the Sarasota Hyatt and MCed by Lauren Nelson. The event has a cocktail party vibe, but more than 70 local businesses were also at the hotel, and many of the attendees were there to do some serious networking.

I watched young Ringling College of Art and Design students paint and display their art, listened to live music and made friends while practicing my communication skills at a speed networking session. With almost 600 guests attending the event, there was no shortage of new connections to make. The business showcases were mostly interactive or sensory, hooking in party-goers with food samples or giveaways.

If you want, you can show up to Marketing on Main dressed to the nines, or you can be more creative and relaxed with your style—whatever makes you comfortable. "You never know what to expect," says Justin Johnson, explaining why he's a Marketing on Main regular. "It’s always a good turnout, and it has interesting people.”

Roughly three quarters of Marketing on Main attendees are female, and the average age is 32. Founder and host Gianna Kramer says she's grown the group by listening to the suggestions of attendees. “Everything that you see in Marketing on Main is based on a recommendation,” she says. Participants vote on the location and theme of each event on the group's Facebook page.

Kramer created the event in 2015, because, as a businesswoman herself (she runs LG Kramer Flooring with her husband), she wanted to bring together entrepreneurial-minded people. She runs the event with the help of two friends, Karissa Souza and Deborah Harding. In the ebb and flow of one's career, businesspeople need a support system, explains Kramer. “Marketing on Main is meant to get people together, and their sole responsibility is to know one another," says Kramer. "They're not there just to sell something. They're there to connect and build a relationship.”

Unless you are a student (in which case, you can attend for free), entry to Marketing on Main costs a donation amount of your choosing. To partake in interactive activities such as speed networking, you donate a certain amount based on the agenda of that month, and showcasing businesses pay a small fee to set up a hands-on vendor experience. Twenty percent of all ticket sales go to a different nonprofit or cause each month. Marketing on Main occurs on the last Wednesday of each month, and the location changes for each event. To visit the Facebook event page that houses all upcoming events, click here.

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