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EntreCon Paves the Way for Pensacola Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs

by Shannon Nickinson, Studer Community Institute

Since it began in 2015, EntreCon has been the place for business leaders, entrepreneurs, and leaders to find their people. The latest 2021 event that took place late last year was no exception.


EntreCon is the Studer Community Institute’s two-day business and leadership development conference that wrapped up Nov. 17-18, 2021 in downtown Pensacola. EntreCon is in its seventh year, and as SCI president Rachael Gillette notes, the sense of connection and community that the conference has had at its core from day one is even more important this year. That’s part of the reasoning behind this year’s conference theme, “The Big Reset.”

Business Leaders from the Greater Pensacola Community Enjoy "eir Day at EntreCon
Business Leaders from the Greater Pensacola Community Enjoy "eir Day at EntreCon

Gillette says the conference’s goal has always been to offer mentorship and training to help people be more successful entrepreneurs, business owners, and leaders. “Over the years we have challenged people to think differently and now more than ever we need to do that.


The pandemic has taken its toll on us physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally,” Gillette says. “My sense in talking to businesspeople is that we haven’t really addressed these elects, because we have been so busy trying to keep our businesses alive. Now we need to take a moment to re-think why and how we do work, reset, re-skill, reimagine and re-engage.”


This year, more than 480 people came together to learn from each other and from expert speakers including SCI founder Quint Studer, author Chester Elton, positive psychology expert and educator Stella Grizont, retired WNBA superstar Michelle Snow and diversity, equity and inclusion experts and authors Vincent Brown and Fred Keeton.


Since it began in 2015, EntreCon is the Studer Community Institute’s two-day business and leadership development conference and over 480 people came together in downtown Pensacola on Nov. 17 and 18 to benefit from two days of world-class training. These are people who know that employee and leader skills training has moved beyond a “nice-to-have.” It has now become a “must-have.”


As we emerge from a global pandemic, there’s an increasing need for companies to invest in meaningful training for their people — a level of training that moves beyond technical skills and provides the kind of ongoing learning that makes them experts and even leaders.


That’s part of SCI’s mission, which is to provide training and mentorship to narrows skills gaps, develop successful leaders, grow organizations, create jobs and drive economic development.

Make sure to join our area’s business leaders in late 2022 at the next EntreCon!
Make sure to join our area’s business leaders in late 2022 at the next EntreCon!

“I am so filled with thanks and gratitude for an incredible two days of EntreCon, plus a wonderful EntreCon awards event. "e whole event made a difference in the lives of many, and the impact continues to ripple through the community.” Gillette said. “Many of our world class speakers commented on the quality of the event. Attendees are taking to social media by the hundreds to share their takeaways and how much they needed the training.”


By the numbers

  • 488 ATTENDEES

  • 34 SPEAKERS

  • 6 KEYNOTE SESSIONS

  • 16 BREAKOUT SESSIONS

  • 3 LUNCH AND LEARN SESSIONS

  • 3 NETWORKING EVENTS

  • 8 VENUES

  • 19 SPONSORS & 28 IN-KIND DONORS

  • 55 VOLUNTEERS

  • 59 ENTRECON AWARD WINNERS & RUNNERS UP

Just some of what people said:

“After 18 months of uncertainty, The Big Reset was the perfect theme for this year’s EntreCon®. This year’s offerings helped our small businesses reset their focus on their mission, their employees, and their future.” —Todd Thomson, Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce


“Entrecon®’s 2-day conference is a time to dream again. To hit the reset button and envision a better you and an improved organization. This local (but quality) conference is much needed in our time as we are provided the tools to reimagine and put that twinkle back in our eyes about our businesses!” — Ashley Rowzee, Edward Jones


“EntreCon® continues to elevate our businesses and community. !e wisdom gained from industry experts is critical for businesses growth. Better businesses equal better jobs, and better jobs equal a better community.”—Hong Potomski, Florida Blue


“EntreCon® helps businesses (including ours) refocus, reset and understand how to succeed now and in the future. It’s an outstanding conference!” —Lewis Garvin, Pensacola International Airport


This year, EntreCon included speaker tracks for Business and Leadership; Women in Leadership; Entrepreneurship; and a Community Track, which featured speakers who focused on the power of elective, grassroots community building to bring about change.


A huge part of the event is the Cox Business EntreCon Awards, given to recognize the impact and importance of business leaders on the community. The Awards are a highlight of the conference, honoring people whose work every day improves the community, Gillette says. The honorees were recognized virtually.


“Every person there was so thankful for the recognition and enjoyed the honor and encouragement of the award,” Gillette says. “Almost all runners up and winners attended and in many cases their friends, team, spouses and supporters were there, too. We had more than 90 people at one point making lovely comments in the chat congratulating one another.


The winners are:

  • EMERGING BUSINESS OF THE YEAR: Winner: Rising Minds Learning. Runners-up: Grayson Bay Oyster Co., Glow Paddle. This award is open to businesses begun in the last two years that have had success introducing their product or service.

  • MICRO BUSINESS OF THE YEAR: Winners: East Hill Pizza and Elite Endodontics. Runners-up: Ride More Bicycles and Sisters of Hope Corp. This award is open to businesses with fewer than 10 employees that operate efficiently with a small team while positively impacting the local economy.

  • SMALL BUSINESS OF THE YEAR: Winner: Bear General Contractors. Runners-up: Arco Marine and Schmidt’s Music. This award is open to businesses with fewer than 50 employees that focus on employee inclusion, community involvement, and innovation in their business practices.

  • MEDIUM/LARGE BUSINESS OF THE YEAR: Winner: Children’s Home Society. Runners-up: Baptist Health Care and ESA South Inc. This award is open to businesses with more than 50 employees that have been able adaptable to change over the past year, have displayed economic growth, and provide opportunities for their employees to improve their skills in an ever-changing environment.

  • EMPLOYER OF THE YEAR: Winners: Baptist Health Care and Levin Rinke Realty. Runners-up: Children’s Home Society and Gulf Coast Kid’s House. This award is for businesses with an outstanding and supportive work environment with a focus on great training programs, an understanding of work-life balance, and career progression.

  • ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR: Winner: Larry Kuhn. Runners-up: Brian Arnold and Ke’Andre Beasley. This award recognizes an entrepreneur who has a creative product or service that solves a problem in the marketplace.

  • NONPROFIT OF THE YEAR: Winner: Pensacola Humane Society. Runners-up: Epps Christian Center, Pensacola Little Theatre, and Escambia County Healthy Start Coalition. This award recognizes a nonprofit organization that shows dedication for improving the quality of life in the community through volunteering, partnerships, or fundraising.

  • MINORITY OWNED BUSINESS OF THE YEAR: Winner: Something Old Salvage. Runners-up: Nail Company Wholesale Supply, Signature Event Lounge, Wade Cakes and Weddings. This award recognizes a minority-owned small business that has attained outstanding business achievement while showing social responsibility, creativity, and leadership; all to improve and grow the community.

  • WOMEN-OWNED BUSINESS OF THE YEAR: Winner: East Hill Pizza. Runners-up: Vivid Bridge Studios and Global Business Solutions Inc. This award recognizes a women-owned small business that has attained outstanding business achievement while showing social responsibility, creativity, and leadership; all to improve and grow the community.

  • VETERAN-OWNED BUSINESS OF THE YEAR: Winner: Hixardt Technologies Inc. Runners-up: Running Wild and ESA South, Inc. This award recognizes a veteran-owned small business that has attained outstanding business achievement while showing social responsibility, creativity, and leadership; all to improve and grow the community.

  • YOUNG ENTREPRENUER OF THE YEAR: Winners: Felicia Rabb and Kyle McGee. Runner-up: Mariah Morrison. This award recognizes a small business owner who has successfully launched and grown their business before the age of 30. This person demonstrates an entrepreneurial spirit by applying business knowledge, growth potential and success in the operation of their business.

  • SMART BUSINESS OF THE YEAR: Winner: Global Business Solutions Inc. Runners-up: Bear General Contractors and Snap Soccer. This award recognizes a business that has used advanced or cutting-edge technology to advance their business or make a difference in their industry in response to challenges due to COVID-19.

  • EXCELLENCE IN MENTORISHIP: Winner: Julie Sheppard. This award recognizes a person who has dedicated themselves to helping others through mentoring. Their level of experience affords them the ability to have a significant impact on the professional development and career advancement of those they mentor.

  • JOHN MYSLAK AWARD FOR SERVANT LEADERSHIP: Winner: Lisa Long Lyter. This award is given to a leader who enriches the lives of others, builds better organizations, and ultimately helps create a more just and caring world. That is what our friend and colleague John Myslak did in our community, and we honor his memory by recognizing others who live their lives as fully as he did.

  • COMMUNITY VIBRANCY AWARD: This award honors organizations, small businesses, nonprofits, and individuals are doing amazing things to build vibrant communities in Pensacola and across the country.

  • Winners:

  1. Levin Papantonio Rafferty

  2. AUPHA, Washington, DC

  3. James J. Reeves (AMR at Pensacola, Inc.)

  4. One Acadiana, Lafayette, LA

  5. Gulf Coast Diplomacy

  6. Girl Scout Troop 10441, Conover, NC

  7. Junior League of Pensacola

  8. Sandra Donaldson (Community Health Northwest Florida)

  9. For the Child, Inc.

  10. Cy-Fair Fire Department, Cypress, TX

  11. Willie Kirkland, Jr. (For the Child, Inc.)

  12. Monte Anderson (Options Real Estate Investments, Inc.),

  13. Duncanville, TX

  14. Notions Restaurant, Hickory, NC

  15. Palatka, FL.

  16. Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln, Springfield, IL

  17. City of Stillwater, OK

  18. Freedom Investment Group,

  19. Knoxville, TN

  20. Education Foundation of Putnam County, Inc.

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