Future Leaders Friday Luncheon: Building Relationships In Tampa

Where do like-minded movers and shakers go to talk about the next great happenings, discuss policies and work together toward positive change? Future Leaders Friday Luncheon.

Created by four young professionals between the ages of 25-34, the luncheon program is designed to connect generations of Tampa Bay leadership and provide a forum for individuals with an interest in the region's long-term future. The Future Leaders Friday Luncheon allows individuals to get to know one another, share the causes they support and discuss ways to grow and improve the community.

The co-founders are: Caleb Lewis, commercial real estate professional with Bishop & Associates, Inc.; Aakash Patel, director of strategic relations at VTi-Media; Shilen Patel, vice president of business development for Visionary Healthware; and Scott Price, director of A-lign CPAs.

Aakash Patel had the idea for the group about a year ago and enlisted the others to help. "After putting Scott, Shilen, Caleb and myself in the room together for the first time, I knew it was going to be a great team," he says.

Monthly lunches including the co-founders and four guests soon followed at Timpano Chophouse or Aquaknox. On June 16, guests from the monthly meetings came together for the inaugural Future Leaders Friday Luncheon reception held at Timpano's.

"It's just a lot of cutting-edge technologies, industries and young people that are kind of getting together and talking about a new way of marketing products and marketing themselves, and I'm an eager participant," says Mark Sharpe, Hillsborough County commissioner for District 7. "I was very impressed by the people they brought together,'' says Sharpe. "It's a very diverse mix of individuals and they've done a good job."

The FLFL team has created a more intimate networking opportunity, recognizing that attendees may not be able to participate in traditional networking organizations. "It became much more about getting to know individuals so we've been able to invite some pretty dynamic people that you wouldn't necessarily catch at a larger networking meeting or you wouldn't attempt to connect with on Facebook or something like that," says Shilen Patel.

Guests share their interests and what they are doing in the community.

Shilen Patel says everyone has an opportunity to talk about the groups they're involved in and occasionally become advocates for one another's causes and/or interests, and the Future Leaders Friday Luncheons serves as the hub organization to help the individuals build relationships.

"We're looking at all of these guests and all of these encounters from a 20- to 30-year lens,'' says Shilen Patel. "We all expect to be in this community long-term so somebody I meet today I may not have an opportunity to collaborate with them until 15 years from now but I've met them today and I wouldn't have had that opportunity without these luncheons."

Writer: Nancy Vaughn
Source: Aakash Patel, Shilen Patel, FLFL; Mark Sharpe, Hillsborough County
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