Win-Win: Big Ideas + Giving Back Distinguish Sarasota's atLarge Inc.

Big talent, bigger ideas and ambition, and an enormous desire to change the community for the better. These are the factors around which atLarge Inc., one of Sarasota's most creative online advertising companies, operates.

Founded by Anand Pallegar in 2004 and employing only 15 people, atLarge may seem like a small company, but its mindset, its goals, and its contributions to the greater Tampa Bay region are anything but small.

Let's start with atLarge's client list.

Since its inception, atLarge has garnered an impressive collection of big-name clients: Ford Motor Company, Chevrolet, IMG Academies, Ringling College of Art and Design and J.D. Power & Associates, to name a few.

As a result, atLarge has won enough awards and accolades to give Pallegar plenty of reason to boast: The Award of Excellence from the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County, a Stevie in The 2009 American Business Awards, two International Davey Awards and several American Advertising Federation "ADDY's."

At least he would have good reason to boast, that is, if he and the folks at atLarge were inclined to flaunt their accomplishments. As it turns out, though, the people running atLarge convey a sense of humility great enough to rival their immense knowledge of HTML programming.

Awards and impressive clientele aside, what really makes atLarge noteworthy, Pallegar demurs, is the company's dedication to serving the community.

atLarge Account Executive Amanda Eyer says that 20 percent of all of atLarge work is reinvested into the community through projects designed to help promote nonprofits.

For instance, atLarge helped Creative Tampa Bay, an organization that promotes the region's creative industries, with its recent rebranding in an effort to help revive interest in its efforts.

Prior to that, atLarge Inc. won an International Davey Award for designing a new website, which includes an interactive "Girls Only" portal, for Girls Inc. of Sarasota.

"atLarge created an environment that is user-friendly to our donors, families, and girls. The Girls Only portal is a really neat feature in which girls can share photos and information," says Kay Mathers, director of community relations at Girls Inc. "We never would have been able to afford something so sophisticated. atLarge has given us the opportunity to showcase our programs in a gorgeous way. It's really beautiful."

atLarge has also helped with the development of new brand positioning to promote the Glazer Children's Museum in Tampa and has aided in creating website analytics that provide direction for marketing the new museum.

Giving Back Builds Winning Culture

The atLarge staff embraces a "best idea wins culture" philosophy, Pallegar says. He explains that when choosing which nonprofits to help, his employees gravitate toward organizations that they feel can have the biggest impact in the community.

"Our mentality is this: How can we make a difference in the community? We choose the projects that we are the most excited about," Pallegar says. "Our excitement is what keeps us motivated."

atLarge Web Designer Ayelen Carrasco, who was instrumental in the creation of the "Girls Only" portal, says the opportunity to exercise her creativity for a good cause is part of what makes the finished product so rewarding.

"Most people brought on board have their own projects; they bring a sense of who they are into the mix,'' says Pallegar. "A drive to be involved in the community is integral to atLarge."

atLarge staff members are also allowed to take paid time off to volunteer for nonprofit organizations. Carrasco, for instance, helps to raise money to buy school uniforms for under-privileged girls in the Dominican Republic.

And, in his role as chair of the Tampa Bay Technology Forum (TBTF), Pallegar volunteers with a program aimed at encouraging at-risk youth to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math by offering scholarships and youth events. TBTF and its Foundation have dedicated more than $1 million in services and scholarships to the Tampa Bay community.

Hatching Ideas In A Dorm Room

While perusing the websites constructed by atLarge, it's hard for a viewer to imagine that prior to moving to Ann Arbor, MI during the dot-com boom of the 1990s, Pallegar, a native of England, had never even used a computer.

But quick to recognize the immense potential that the Internet had to offer, the biochemistry major created and ran a web hosting company from his dorm room at the University of Michigan in order to financially sustain himself throughout college.

The success of that venture led to international tech companies recruiting Pallegar for a variety of positions. He soon went to work as a technical director, leading U.S. operations for EYE4U, a European leader in interactive technology. Pallegar eventually left EYE4U to start his own dot-com company and continued to meet success until a twist of fate in the form of a near-fatal car accident in 2003.  

The accident prompted Pallegar to relocate yet again -- this time to the Tampa Bay region in order to recuperate.

He has since married Renee Wilson, another Detroit transplant who once operated a European clothing store in Sarasota and now helps with the bookkeeping at atLarge.

The couple, who traveled to India for their wedding, chooses to remain in Sarasota, where atLarge enjoys considerable success operating from its Towles Court offices nestled in the core of downtown Sarasota.

"There are a lot of companies that exist in our back yard today that I would have never imagined six years ago," Pallegar says. "At the end of the day, it's just about people who want to stay here and make a difference."

Jessi Smith is a Sarasota-based freelance writer working from the dark corner tables in various local coffee houses and bars. Working, that is, during the occasional lapses in time when she isn't strolling through art galleries with a finely honed look of feigned intellectualism or digging her toes deep into the perfectly powdered sand on Siesta Key. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.

Read more articles by Jessi Smith.

 Jessi Smith is a feature writer for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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