Last night, over 450 people gathered at Nora Mayo Hall in their 20's attire to celebrate all that has happened in Winter Haven over the year, as well as the Chamber's 100th anniversary! Taking a look into the past, while dreaming about the future wasn't the only thing we did. We honored the 98th Banker's Cup Citizen of the Year Award, Small & Large Business of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year, Presidential Ambassadors and this year we called out our Longevity Members who have been with us for 50+ years. We were also excited to release a brand new video all about the Chamber's legacy!
Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce Legacy
The first order of business for the evening was to unveil our brand new video all about the Chamber's legacy! It wouldn't be a 100 year celebration without sharing all of the amazing things we have accomplished over the years, as well as all of the bright things on the horizon for us. Thank you to the team at Black Oak Creative for helping us create an amazing video!
Banker's Cup Citizens of the Year Award
The 2023 Banker's Cup Woman of the Year was Katie Worthing Decker and our 2023 Man of the Year was Brad Beatty. Both individuals have made significant contributions to make Winter Haven better than they found it. Take a look at their videos to hear all of the reasons that they were selected for this prestigious award!
Small & Large Business of the Year Award
Destroyer Media & Marketing
Destroyer Media & Marketing was honored with the 2023 Small Business of the Year Award!
Chris and Amy Sexson’s business, Destroyer Media & Marketing, was nominated for this award for their continued investment in making Winter Haven the coolest place to live and work. You can’t visit Winter Haven without finding their fingerprints around town! Every Saturday, you can find them downtown hosting the Winter Haven Farmers Market. This isn’t your average farmer’s market. Many vendors got their start at the farmers market and from there, took their businesses to brick and mortar. Small businesses and local favorites like Haven Coffee Roasters and Honeycomb Bread Bakers had their start at the Winter Haven Farmers Market.
You can also experience Chris and Amy’s innovation through other events like the Slow Roll & Ski Show, Bandit Market and their monthly Shuffle event. All of these events were created through community collaboration and a genuine love for our community.
We can’t forget LKLD and Haven Magazine. Haven Magazine has been a wonderful addition to local publications, putting a strong, future-focused voice behind our community. Haven Magazine has amplified why Winter Haven is the perfect place to put down roots. They’ve also used this platform to help other businesses and non-profits market their businesses.
They love downtown so much that they moved their office in 2022 to the very heart of it, spending their time supporting as many local businesses as they can. They’ve also embraced a boots-on-the ground mentality by getting involved with organizations like the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Winter Haven.
Without small businesses like Destroyer Media & Marketing, we wouldn’t have that special “cool” factor that so many people are looking for in a downtown. A community is only as good as the people who live and work there!
Veterinary Healthcare Associates
Veterinary Healthcare Associates was honored with the 2023 Large Business of the Year Award.
The VHA started over 30 years ago right here in Winter Haven and has grown rapidly ever since. Just this year, they unveiled their Specialty Referral and Emergency Center. This 20,000 square foot facility houses advanced technology and an incredible staff that will save and serve a community special to many of us in the room: our pets.
Through their expansion, the VHA has access to even more ways to take care of our furry friends. There are 15 examination rooms, critical care and intermediate care wards, 4 specialty surgery suites, a dedicated radiology suite, a cancer center for their oncology team and more.
The economic impact of the expansion of Veterinary Healthcare Associates deserves recognition in and of itself. However, the fact that this expansion not only provides Winter Haven's furry friends with the best care and cutting-edge technology but also provides a dedicated space for the health and well-being of the employees of the VHA. In the new facility, the VHA team has access to a Dog Dayz Café, a fitness center and openseed meditation pods.
Their commitment to their work, their team and our Winter Haven community truly make them deserving of this honor.
We certainly couldn't celebrate our 100 years without honoring some of our Chamber members who have been with us for many, many years. Check out this incredible list of our longevity members!
If you have ever attended a Chamber event - whether it’s a ribbon cutting, grand opening, or networking event - you will know that our Chamber Ambassadors are a dedicated team who work tirelessly to help our members feel welcome and valued. The 15 individuals that currently make up our Ambassador Committee are the Chamber’s biggest cheerleaders and have given a great deal of their personal time for the good of the Chamber.
Together, they have dedicated over 200 hours to attending networking events, ribbon cutting and groundbreaking ceremonies, and volunteering at a variety of special events and have connected with over 350 current members. Additionally, 6 of our Ambassadors are pulling double-duty by serving as board members for the Chamber and Chamber Foundation, including Amy Underwood, who is serving as Chair for the Chamber Foundation, and Brian Reeves, who is the Chamber’s incoming Board Chair. In 2009, the Committee created the Presidential Ambassador Program to recognize Ambassadors with exceptional dedication and commitment to the role. The Ambassadors that we recognized have met challenging benchmarks over the last 12 months, with several of these outstanding individuals earning this distinction for several years running.
Two Ambassadors were awarded with their first Presidential designation:
We also celebrated ambassadors with numerous years as Presidential Ambassadors. Earning Presidential Status for a 2nd year:
Earning Presidential Status for a 4th year:
Earning Presidential Status for an 11th year is:
Thank you to our wonderful ambassadors! We couldn't do what we do each day without your support and help.
Entrepreneur of the Year Award
We were so excited to award our 2nd ever Entrepreneur of the Year Award to Joe Simonds with Salt Strong! Salt Strong started in 2015 after Joe Simmons left his six figure salary to pursue his dream. What started as a simple Youtube page, grew into an online training tool, which then moved into a warehouse with one employee and has now turned into a thriving business with 23 employees, a brand new facility on Lake Shipp and is now the #1 fishing club for salt water anglers.
Salt Strong is an angler-centric company offering a trusted saltwater fishing community and products to help anglers both catch more fish and create more memories with their loved ones out on the water. Through their Salt Strong Insider Club, members can access fishing tips and tricks through their smart fishing spots app, daily "on the water" reports, online mastery courses, and more!
Joe is also using his platform to help the community around him. Recently, he stared “Cast for Kids,” Which provides fishing opportunities for handicapped children and their families. They hosted 25 kids on their first outing!
Assets that help enhance our Chain of Lakes experience is wildly important to the future of our community. Through their innovation, people can continue to explore the Chain of Lakes, make amazing sun-soaked memories and make deeper connections in our fishing/water recreation community.
Cue the Confetti
We finished the night with the traditional passing of the gavel where Dr. Falconetti passed the gavel to 23-24 Board Chairman, Brian Reeves! It was a truly fantastic evening. Celebrating our 100 years would be impossible without the support of our sponsors, members, volunteers and supportive board of directors. It's because of our community that we will dive head first into the next 100 years! It's a bright future ahead.