Do-it-all membership director Nancy-jo Manney has the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce thriving
By Jane Bartnett
“I’m a people person.”
That’s how Nancy-jo Manney, membership director of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, describes herself.
Ann Frescura, her boss, agrees — and then some.
“Nancy-jo is a tremendous asset to our chamber team,” said Frescura, the executive director. “Her personality, professionalism and experience are a winning combination. We greatly appreciate all she does for our chamber and our members.”
On business days, Manney can be found working side-by-side with Frescura, Visitor Center and volunteer manager Mia Leone, and promotion and event manager Mandi Green. Their small but bustling office in Davidson Plaza in the heart of the Village is home base for the chamber’s 400-plus members.
When Manney arrived in her new job at the chamber in February of 2019, she had just wrapped up a 20-year career as executive director of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce in Springfield, Virginia — a large suburban community outside of Washington, D.C.
“It’s refreshing to be here,” she said. “Siesta Key is an entirely different world.”
As head of the Springfield chamber, her focus was on business issues that impacted government contractors, non-profit organizations and small businesses that supported the large community. By contrast, most Siesta Key members work in hospitality and tourism.
“In suburban Washington, D.C., the emphasis was on the legislative and political arena. Here on Siesta Key, it’s the beach,” she said with a laugh.
During the years that she directed the Springfield chamber, Manney watched the region go through a period of rapid growth. Much like Siesta Key, transportation and development issues were a constant factor. She sees similarities in the growth issues currently facing our local region.
In late 2018, when Manney and her husband decided to make the move to Sarasota, she took a leap of faith.
“I moved here without a job, but thanks to social media I discovered that the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce was looking for a membership director. I applied and I was so happy to get the job,” she said.
And a perfect match was made.
Much like Siesta Key, Manney’s Springfield chamber also had an active board and strong membership.
“There’s a nice mix of people here and it’s also nice that we have the Siesta Key Visitor Center in our office,” she noted. “Half of our members are in businesses that are tourist related. Of our 400 members, 100 are in the accommodation field — the others are involved in beach retail, restaurants, and things to do. This mix of businesses makes us different than traditional chambers. I find it very interesting.”
When she signed on to become the membership director, Manney launched several new efforts to build the membership ranks. The Ambassador Program, an outreach effort that involves volunteer chamber members who help to educate fellow members about what the chamber can do to support their business, is one of which she is most proud.
Manney was also charged with upgrading the chamber’s website. In early 2020, when COVID-19 impacted the business community, Manney used this time to focus on building the website’s content, featuring a redesign and the development of a marketing strategy.
“The quiet time gave us the opportunity to get the site up and running and to make new additions to create a better user experience for our members. We also added more community events that members can promote. The website encourages cross-marketing with social media and that is vital for a tourist- and hospitality-driven chamber like ours,” she said.
The chamber’s website does double duty for members and visitors alike.
“We’ve seen a healthy number of tourists visiting the site and our social media. The new mapping feature has also been good for our members,” she said. “Visitors can find out exactly where that store, restaurant, condo or service is that they’re looking for.”
Keeping the Siesta Key Visitor’s Guide fresh and appealing was another project.
“Visitors still like to pick up a brochure, a business card, and printed materials. The Siesta Key Visitor’s Guide is one of our most popular promotional pieces,” Manney said.
Manney explained that the chamber’s website and promotional materials play another large role in working closely with neighboring chambers of commerce and sharing materials with Sarasota, Anna Maria, Venice, Long Boat Key, and the regional Visit Sarasota tourism arm. It’s all part of the Siesta Key chamber’s overall marketing plan.
Now in her third year at the chamber, Manney finds that she is tapping into lessons learned during the first 10 years of her career in the hospitality industry.
“Property management is a critical business here and having started my professional life in the hospitality field gives me a good perspective on the needs of these business owners,” she said. “I love meeting with members in their business locations and getting to know them. My goal is to encourage more members to attend our events.
“I tell everyone that the more we know about you, the more we can help you to promote your business.”