Tampapreneurs: Touting Tampa As America's Next Great City

Despite being a New Jersey native who grew up only minutes from the bright lights of Manhattan, Chase Anzalone found enchantment in the South upon visiting friends at the University of Tampa. He fell in love with the "energy and weather'' of the Tampa Bay region, and says that he ended up transferring to UT intending to major in entrepreneurship before his parents even knew of his decision.

"Tampa has the best of both worlds,'' Anzalone says, citing both the city elements and small town feel of neighborhoods. "A lot of my friends in the North hadn’t heard of Tampa. You don’t hear about it, but once you go, you never want to leave.''

It was Tampa’s special qualities as a city and the diverse opportunities afforded by the surrounding region that drew him in, and inspired him to create Tampapreneurs, a marketing support and volunteer networking organization dedicated to making Tampa a more hospitable place for small businesses.

Creating Local Business

Anzalone began his journey at the ground level at TalkFusion, a video conferencing and networking service, where he rose to become an executive associate before becoming one of the first Tampa-based distributors for cPrime. Working off his success with these two companies, Anzalone has pulled together other entrepreneurs in Tampa to form Tampapreneurs.

James Linus, a recent addition to the Creative Wealth Financial Group and graduate of the University of Tampa’s Entrepreneurship program, is a large part of Tampapreneurs, along with Clemmie C. Perry of Educational Training Consultants and Liam Curtin of Ecce Clothing. Consultants Sean Perelstein of Henry Designs and Shawna Culp of Miracle Skinny Drops guide and assist.

Their goal is to promote small businesses in Tampa through events and social media in order to maximize word-of-mouth marketing.

"A lot of small businesses can’t afford marketing with the economy the way it is,'' Anzalone says, which is why the services Tampapreneurs offers are currently free. For now, Tampapreneurs’ costs are being covered by Anzalone and his partners, whose dedication and motivation, they say, is not to profit from this service, but rather to achieve their mission.

"The idea for Tampapreneurs comes from our genuine passion to take Tampa to the next level and getting others to notice the business savvy side it has to offer,'' enthuses Linus, a Philadelphia native and University of Tampa graduate. "Tampa is quickly becoming a destination for young business-minded people.''

Tampapreneurs will be "very highly video-based,'' says Anzalone, in addition to being well-rounded with links to Tampa resources and promotional material. Currently, the project is in its beginning stages, with Twitter and YouTube accounts that will soon be full of information on the best small businesses in Tampa, as well as a series of webisodes about a small boy and his dog exploring the city.

"Swag ‘n Jack'' stars 3-year old Cam (Anzalone’s friend’s son) and Anzalone’s dog, who will soon explore the businesses that follow Tampapreneurs on Twitter as a form of advertisement.

Linus sees Tampapreneurs as a method of promoting businesses to stimulate the economy. With more recognition for the city and its major universities will come more business-minded people. "More people have been able to stay in Tampa after graduation and obtain the jobs they want, thus creating more opportunity for everyone.''

Building A Healthier Bay

Along with a commitment to showcasing the best developments in the Tampa Bay region, Tampapreneurs also seeks to promote healthy lifestyles, and will partner with Hardbody Tampa, a site under development by Chase Anzalone’s brother, Chad.

"The initial mission for Hardbody Tampa is to provide Tampa residents with free dieting advice and training tips,'' Chad Anzalone says. "A lot of people use money as an excuse, so I want to educate people on ways to accomplish their fitness goals at low costs, or even for free.''

"We believe that there is not a better place to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle than Tampa,'' elaborates Linus, calling Bayshore a prime example. "Every day, before 9 am and after 5 pm, Bayshore is flooded with people of all ages. It really is contagious and motivating to see how many people are active in this city!''

Chase Anzalone agrees. With Tampapreneurs’ promotional system, he plans to publicize bike trails and ways to get around actively in the city without using motorized transportation.

"Tampa is an easy city to get around without a car. One of our goals is to show how you can do that,'' Anzalone says. "Tampapreneurs plans on developing our own foundation geared towards keeping streets and trails clean for bike enthusiasts, as well as increasing more bike lines in the city of Tampa.''

Long-term, Anzalone intends to create a foundation similar to the Surfrider Foundation, which protects beaches and enjoyment of the oceans,  but is geared toward bikes. For now, he has partnered Tampapreneurs with Street Fit 360, a locally owned bike store dedicated to "taking fitness to the streets.''

Giving Back To The City

In addition to promoting healthy lifestyles and local businesses, Tampapreneurs has made a commitment to working with charities and helping them gain the support they need to function.

Anzalone cites Cam of Swag ‘n Jack and his mother Vicki Anzalone as a big inspiration for his dedication to service. "She gives back a lot,'' he says, telling of her development of the Family First Foundation in Tampa. The Tampapreneurs team worked with the Tampa Bay Youth Sports Expo, which teaches children valuable life skills for school, sports and beyond, as well as the Boys and Girls Club of Tampa. Anzalone was instrumental in donating 100 tickets to a Tampa Yankees game in August.

Tampapreneurs will attempt to fill the gaps where private donations have dropped in the struggling economy. Until larger methods of generating funds for charities can be implemented, Anzalone intends to dedicate a page on the Tampapreneurs site for followers to donate to Tampa charities, as well as planning fundraising events in the area.

Since Tampapreneurs has such promise, Anzalone is already looking toward future endeavors. His passion for entrepreneurship has prompted Anzalone to start working on Young Entrepreneurs, which will "strive to dedicate part of Tampapreneurs to fielding small business ideas from young college students and newly graduated students.''

Essentially, Young Entrepreneurs will allow aspiring business owners to allow entrepreneurs who are experienced in the Tampa market to get feedback on their ideas and help build business plans.

For now, Tampapreneurs is focused on events, such as the Festival of Speed that was held in October. Tampapreneurs were on hand to promote their services and their affiliated businesses. Recently, they have partnered with the Tampa Yankees and Selling Tampa Bay, a full-service real estate brokerage firm founded by University of Tampa alums Joshua Taylor and Paul Faucher.  Hollywood Wheels has also called in Tampapreneurs to promote their Palm Beach Car Auction  with social media and local marketing, as well as planning a show in 2012.

Though Anzalone is currently focused on the details of building partnerships and getting the message out, Tampapreneurs and its networked projects and services are all about showcasing  and improving what Tampa -- the city that Anzalone fell in love with -- has to offer.

"We have huge aspirations and dreams for Tampa,'' Anzalone notes, "but we’re starting small. We want to make Tampa the best it can be. We want to put Tampa on the map.''

Theresa Woods is a graduate of the University of South Florida, freelance writer and literature nerd living in Tampa. In her spare time, she writes, contemplates her place in the universe and enjoys being an all-purpose geek with her friends. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.