EnterCircle celebrates entrepreneurship, inspires students

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Entrepreneurs, business leaders, successful professionals in a variety of fields and people who wanted to learn gathered Nov. 16-18 at the link for the EnterCircle Summit 2022.

In its second year, the event brought together a range of inspirational and thought-provoking speakers and presented special events for the benefit of attendees. It was a celebration of entrepreneurship, but it was also a place where anyone considering a future in business could gain wisdom from those who had already succeeded.

More than 300 people attended the summit over its three days.

Day one was a youth symposium for participants ages 17-25. Attendees had an opportunity to gain knowledge from successful business people and take part in discussions that would help them gain insights into the many professional possibilities in today’s world.

Day two was start-ups/small business day featuring a number of speakers and activities, including a structured business pitch event and a business expo, the latter an opportunity for entrepreneurs to interact with other professionals and the public that featured 12 exhibits.

Six teams from local high schools with two independent pitch competitors presented in front of six judges during the pitch event. Keynote speakers included Jay Owen, Business Builders Agency CEO, and Kelly Youngs, founder of She is Fierce!

Day three was Women’s Entrepreneurship Day in celebration of Global Women's Entrepreneurship Day, a special event where women could learn, create, generate ideas, network and celebrate resiliency. Of the many presenters was keynote speaker author, TV host and business coach Snowden McFall. State Rep. Cyndi Stevenson and recently re-elected school board member Beverly Slough also spoke.

The day’s range of topics included politics, architecture, construction, engineering, sports and small business.

Inspiring the next generation

One of the primary educational components on day two was the inclusion of International Business and Marketing Academy students from Ponte Vedra High School and VyStar Academy of Business students from Pedro Menendez High School. Raghu Misra, CEO of the link and Sapna Foundation, believes all conferences should have time allocated for youth to express themselves and learn.

“This is a big day for us to really celebrate a huge growth in entrepreneurship education that we’re really trying to put into the different programs here in St. Johns County,” Katie Maltby, career and technical education program specialist for the St. Johns County School District, told those in attendance.

The students took part in the pitch competition and heard from keynote speakers Miss Florida Outstanding Teen 2022 Aashna Shah and business-and-life strategist Rob Swymer.

The day began with brief, inspirational presentations by successful professionals.

Steven Hertzberg, founder of Outcome Trading, spoke about cryptocurrency, which he called “the future of finance.”

Danish Sayed, who founded the financial technology startup BlackHedge, told the students that it’s OK to fail.

“It’s needed sometimes,” he said. “You learn from your mistakes, and it makes you a better founder, a better person.”

Andrew DiFeo, managing partner of Hyundai and Volkswagen of St. Augustine, said his message to the students was to be authentic and to realize that there is a wealth of free knowledge on the internet. He pointed out that they can start their own companies even while they are still in school.

Scott Maynard, vice president of economic development for the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce, said the Chamber was excited to be a sponsor of the EnterCircle Summit. He was pleased to see the students in attendance.

“It is so important for them to see firsthand at an early age the opportunities that exist for them, and to see models and mentors, people who have been successful,” he said.

The summit was a project of the nonprofit Sapna Foundation. Organizers announced that next year’s theme would be “Thrive With Purpose.”

The link is a state-of-the-art space where entrepreneurs and business professionals collaborate. It’s a business incubator that hosts activities, events and conferences for families and businesses. It is located at 425 Town Plaza Ave., Ponte Vedra.

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