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U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Recognizes Two Tampa Businesses

Two small public relations firms from Tampa are being recognized for their success both locally and for their plans to expand nationwide

Vistra Communications and Stonehill Innovation are finalists in two different categories in the Dream Big Awards, hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and MetLife.

Although they are two public relations firms, their focus, business models and future goals differ.

Vistra Communications is nominated for the “Minority-Owned Business Achievement Award.”

Brian Butler, CEO of Vistra, says their main focus is providing consulting, marketing and advertising services to a wide range of clients - from small mom and pops and non-profits, to corporations like Coca-Cola and the federal government.

“We are really trying hard to increase our presence in the Washington D.C. area, because of the presence of the federal government and many other headquarters of many other national brands are in the D.C. area,” said Butler. “And we want to continue to expand our presence around the state of Florida.”

Stonehill Innovation is nominated for the "Emerging Business Achievement Award.”

Stonehill’s attention is geared towards helping companies innovate and grow through a strategy known as "design thinking,” which focuses on customer experience, employees and the shareholders of a company.

Stonehill CEO Doug Pace says the company looks to break $1 million in revenue this year.

“As we break that mark we still look to increase our office in Tampa, adding employees - we just added actually two employees this week and end of next year we plan on opening our office on the west coast of the United States and then grow that for a few years, and then we will take the business international,” said Pace.

In order to enter the Dream Big Awards, businesses must meet requirements such as primarily operating in the United States, be involved in their communities and have a staff of 250 or less or a gross revenue of $20 million or less.

The biggest award will go to the winner of the Dream Big Business of the Year Award, which will take home $25,000, a one-year U.S. Chamber of Commerce membership, discounts and additional perks.

There are a total of six other categories for achievement awards:

  • Emerging Business
  • Green/Sustainable Business
  • Minority-Owned Business
  • Veteran-Owned Business
  • Woman-Owned Business
  • Young Entrepreneur Business

Achievement award winners also get a year membership, discounts and display web sticker for their websites.
Additionally, every finalist from the six categories is automatically entered for a chance to win the Community Excellence Award, which recognizes leadership and community engagement.

For Butler, working with the community is an important factor.

Credit Courtesy of Vistra Communications / WUSF Public Media
WUSF Public Media
Brian Butler reading to students at Mort Elementary School.

“Over the years, we have continued to grow our presence from helping out with laundry projects and going into inner cities to help those unfortunate complete a very basic need of washing their clothes,” said Butler.

He is also a business mentor to the principal of Mort Elementary School, and together they have created a three-year plan to help the school succeed.

He says his military background has also guided him towards a number of veterans initiatives within the community.

“We firmly believe that we have a role and responsibility to help make our community better,” said Butler.  

Stonehill is also active in the community. When the business was founded, a 1 percent program was created which gave 1 percent of Stonehill’s revenue back to the community. Tampa General Hospital and USF Health - among others - have benefitted.

Pro-bono hours have also been given to a mental health facility and a nature preserve.

“Giving back to the community is part of what we do,” said Pace.

In November, Stonehill will be collecting donations during a happy hour for the stroke fund at USF Health.

Both Vistra and Stonehill feel it validates the work they’ve done.

"I think that one thing that this is doing, is proving that Tampa does have a good start-up economy and it does have a good innovation economy. We're just one of many proofs of that," said Pace. 

Winners will be announced at the Dream Big Awards gala held in Washington D.C. on October 3rd.

Eillin Delapaz is a WUSF radio intern for the fall 2018 semester.
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