President, Artisans’ World Marketplace
“WE’RE A CHRISTIAN-BASED, nonprofit fair trade store; everything we carry—jewelry, clothing, accessories, foods—has been handcrafted by an artisan somewhere in the world living below poverty level. We started 18 years ago in downtown Sarasota with a $25,000 inventory loan and $800 in the bank, and we’re still here. That’s partly because the First Methodist Church is our landlord and gives us free rent.
“When the economy tanked, gift stores didn’t fare very well. Our saving grace was what we do: The first Christmas after the economy tanked, people came in and said, ‘If we’re going to give a gift, we want to give one that counts.’ We count. The more we sell, the more we can give.”
Manager, Inn at the Beach
“WE’RE A 49-UNIT HOTEL across from Venice Beach that’s been here since the 1950s. We had a record year, with 72 percent average occupancy. In season we fill up every night, mostly with Northerners; in summer we see a lot of locals and also Europeans from all over the continent. Our main advertising is word of mouth through the Internet. Lonely Planet named us their top choice in Venice, and TripAdvisor named us the No. 1 hotel in the Venice area based on guests’ positive reviews and photos.”
Owner, American Shore
“WE HAVE TWO BUSINESSES on Main Street Lakewood Ranch: the Barbary Shoppe, a gentleman’s upscale barber shop, and our surf and skate-inspired apparel shop, American Shore. We opened American Shore in 2012 and moved it to a slightly bigger location on Main Street in November. Business is growing.
“We like to say we’re for teens, young adults and young at heart, but we are changing our merchandise focus toward a slightly older customer—the Jimmy Buffett crowd versus teens—with brands like Tommy Bahama, Sperry Topsider and Vans. Most of our business is from Lakewood Ranch residents. It’s a matter of having the right things for our customers who live here, things that support their Florida casual lifestyle—summerwear year-round.”