The all- women management team representing the Venice Area Chamber of Commerce is from the left Erin Lilly, Andrea Arnold, Mary Charland, Kathy Lehner, Debra Mattar, Charleen Myers and Barbara Hines and Victoria Stultz not pictured.

Blazing the Trail into the future with a pioneering spirit is the Venice Area Chamber of Commerce, possibly the first all women managed and operated chamber in the area. 2019 is a significant year for the 94-year-old organization which demonstrates the increasing growth of leadership by women.

In the top post is Victoria Stultz, Chairman of the Board. Kathy Lehner, President & CEO leads her team with Patty Sharpe, member accounts director; Debra Matter, business development director, Charleen Myers, member events director; Erin Lilly marketing & public relations director; Andrea Arnold, membership & sales director; Linda DiDonato volunteer services director & office administrator and Barbara Hines leadership Venice director.

The Chamber’s mission continues since inception in 1925 to be promoting business growth and success. Lehner emphasized they made no changes; all they are doing is enhancing what they already had with other programs. Board Chairman Stultz introduced the 5 ‘E’s.

1. Empower is the Women empowering Women program.

2. Engage is the Powerbite providing powerful information to businesses and giving them more activities to do with videos on social media.

3. Execute, you can dream about it, but let’s execute it and get it done.

4. Enhancing to the look and appearance of the chamber offices, painting and flooring was all it took to make the change and members were willingly did it.

5. Energize is doing it as it should be done, why and how are we doing it, let’s do it different and add a little spin on it.

Then the team created the program, Women empowering Women, an opportunity to tell other women how they became successful and you can do it too. Another new program the CEO Roundtable has 28 men and women, CEO’s with 2,200 employees. Professionals tell participants during 8 monthly sessions how they can empower their own businesses.

“Our team buys into our purpose to come to work, creating a dynamic environment for a thriving, vibrant and prosperous business community,” said Lehner. “When I joined the Chamber, Dave Pierce had been running the business, and wanted to retire. Some team members were enthusiastic to continue and others wanted to return or bring in new ideas.

Leadership Venice is an 8-month program bringing together 27 leaders who get to know what community business is all about. Even the young professionals came forward with a new program, “Focus Forward Forum.”

Benefiting members some monthly networking meetings took on new titles, “Wake-Up” became “Breakfast Brew”, “Power Bites” is the “Network Lunch” and all thriving and growing.

All those changes are part of growing the membership network of 1,000 men and women members which equals more than 35,000 employees. Each year 15,000 people visit the office and this is expected to increase dramatically now it encompasses Visit Sarasota County. The VACC Board of Directors consists of 10 men and 8 women.


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