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Over Coffee

Sitting in Starbucks, I Spotted a Trend
Nov 6, 2008 - 9:14:20 AM

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The Starbucks at Winthrop Town Center on Bloomingdale Avenue was heavy with the aroma of special blends as I sat across a small table from Stacy Filer. In my mind, I placed her words next to those of several other people I’ve interviewed in the last few months. Viewing them that way, I could see a trend.

With the economy changing, many people are reinventing themselves. They’re changing careers -or like Stacy- they’re using their accumulated knowledge and talents in a whole new way.

I’ve recently talked with a banker who became a teacher, a realtor who bought an estate sale company and several people starting their own businesses after leaving the corporate world. Now, here I was, interviewing someone who has recently gone into a field that teaches business people how to reinvent themselves.

The whole concept of what Stacy does in her new position as a “business development officer” at Legacy Venture Group is to match people with businesses; to help them spot things they really want to accomplish and eliminate the ideas for which they’ll never be able to develop a passion.

“Sometimes people don’t even want to get out of their cars and go to work anymore,” she said. “They can get that burned out. And yet that very business may be just the one someone else has always dreamed of having. I love what I’m doing now because so much of it is geared toward helping people get into something they love to do, while helping those who are unhappy with their businesses sell and find something else.”

Her new career is an extension of the public relations and marketing work she’s been known for in the past, combined with the counseling spirit she’s developed working with charities. 

I first wrote about Stacy when she was running for Honorary Mayor of Riverview. I ran into her again when she was working on the campaigns for Florida State Rep. Anthony “Trey” Traviesa and former State Rep. Sandra Murman. I also knew she worked on a project to help Camp Rotary in Brandon and had voluntarily changed her status from a paid employee to a volunteer position at Resurrection Catholic Church.

The 47-year-old has also been part of several local ministries for the hungry and homeless, including gathering donations for St. Anthony’s Food Pantry and fixing hot meals and bag lunches. She’s helped with the groundwork for the new Boys & Girls Club of Riverview that’s scheduled to be built next spring; raised funds for scholarships given by the Sunburst Chapter of the American Business Woman’s Association and assisted on drives to help the March of Dimes and the Children’s Leukemia Society.

She has been in many different fields of employment as well and doesn’t mind doing hands-on work. As she described it to me in Starbucks last week, “Learning to do a job right means getting your hands dirty so you can figure out how things really work.”

She and her husband John, a teacher at Progress Village Middle School for the Arts, have co-owned and operated several small businesses along with the task of raising their six children who now range in age from 6 to 17.

It was while working on this year’s Michelin Golf Tournament to benefit Joshua House (a residential facility for orphans and victims of abuse and neglect) that Stacy met Brian Stephens, a certified business intermediary, who runs the Legacy Venture Group.

I didn’t realize (with all the talk about a slow economy) that people from all over the world are buying businesses in the Tampa Bay area until Stacy told me.
Taking her enthusiasm to Legacy her position entails not only helping people buy and sell businesses, but coaching them through the concept and financing stages and keeping track of them after the sale.

“The main thing we want to do is make sure people are really pursuing their passion,” she said. “This is about way more than buying and selling businesses, it’s about helping people achieve their dreams. If someone wants to get out of their business, we help them find out if it’s salvageable first. When people get desperate, they often spend in the wrong direction. One of my passions is helping someone get through bad years while getting ready to sell. I like to help before they get to the point where they don’t even want to get out of their car and go in to work.”

Much of the advice she gives in the conceptual stage is free. Like asking, is this what you really want? Is it feasible for you to run? Can you sustain it through the first few years when it may not be profitable?

 “Banks are hungry to loan money for businesses now that the housing market is so slow. They have to stay in business- make something somewhere- so they are really looking to loan on businesses,” she added.

She’s also part of a team that gives 45-minute free seminars- which include a free lunch- to people who think they may want to consult the company about buying or selling a business along the Gulf Coast between Tampa Bay and Naples.    
“You have to be very creative nowadays. If you want to survive, you have to take that extra step. I love being part of something that teaches people how to do that. Plus I feel I’m finally in the field I went to school for,” she said, referring to her business training and degree.

Stacy’s long list of achievements recently made her a nominee for the prestigious Pioneer Woman of the Year at the annual Business Women’s Symposium sponsored by the American Business Woman’s Association.

“I didn’t win, but I was honored to have been a nominee,” she said, explaining that she hadn’t won Honorary Mayor of Riverview either. “My purpose isn’t to win, but to give back to the charities we represent,” she said.

As we left Starbucks, I thought about all the others I have interviewed who are changing careers or extending their talents into new areas like Stacy is doing at Legacy. Things are changing and it’s good to know South County has so many people who make their living helping others find their way.  

*Perhaps you have something you’d like to share. Or maybe you’d rather tell the community about your favorite charity or cause: or sound off about something you think needs change. That’s what “Over Coffee” is about. It really doesn’t matter whether we actually drink any coffee or not (although I probably will). It’s what you have to say that’s important. E-mail me any time and suggest a meeting place. No matter what’s going on, I’m usually available to share just one more cup.

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