Mon, May 20, 2024

Networking and sharing lessons to “Inspire”

The Ballroom at the top of the Hyatt House Hotel in Augusta was filled with people Tuesday morning, from vendors providing information about their companies to guests attending to hear lessons learned by the business owners.

The event was Augusta Business Daily’s Inspire 2024 Conference, an annual event to open dialogues and build relationships among CSRA businesses.

One of the guest speakers was Stephanie Stuckey, granddaughter of the man who started the iconic chain of convenience stores catering to travelers at a time when few others existed. The company had been sold in the 1980’s, but in 2019, Stuckey reacquired the Stuckey Corporation, determined to restore it to its previous notoriety.

ABD Publisher, Neil Gordon interviewed Stephanie about her journey to rebuild Stuckey’s.

She is starting small, first targeting getting the beloved pecan log rolls back into retail stores. The journey began with the purchase of a plant in Wrens to resume production of the pecan log roll, along with several new products.

Stuckey told ABD she wants her journey to show people what challenges they may think are impossible, that they can’t succeed, can be surmounted.

“It’s never too late to change your narrative. We all have the power to write our own story,” she said. “When I had the unexpected opportunity four years ago to buy my grandfather’s company that frankly had gone into decline for decades, I thought this is my chance to show that you can lose your family’s business and get it back again, which is such a rare gift. So, I’m hopefully showing others that you can do that to either your family’s business or just growing your own business.”

Stuckey is making a colorful mark with the Wrens plant. She recently announced a partnership with the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce to have two murals painted on the building.

“There are plenty of studies showing that the arts are a strong economic driver, and we were really fortunate to partner with our local Chamber of Commerce in Jefferson County to get the financing for two murals,” she said. “We got over 50 bids from our RFP (Request for Proposals) for little Wrens, Georgia, and the competition was fierce. We had talent from all over the country. We chose two Georgia-based artists. One is a group out of UGA. Then the other is a young artist from Atlanta.”

Stuckey said part of her work to rebuild her family business is to get out, meet people, travel to trade shows, and participate in events like Inspire 2024.

“I think we’re all in this together as far as not only building our businesses, but building community, and we grow together. So, I’m excited, selfishly. I just had the opportunity to network. I’ve already gotten a business contact for part of what we do at Stuckey’s. So, I’m all about networking and seeing how we can grow together.”

Nestled among the dozens of vendor tables were stalwarts from earlier events, including Azalea Outdoor Advertising, one of the CSRA’s largest providers of both static and digital billboards. Joining them was a team from the Hull College of Business at Augusta University.

A notable newcomer was one of Richmond County’s most recent corporate citizens, Aurubis Richmond, LLC.

“We’re promoting our Women4Metals initiative in our industry,” said Sherrie Bishop, Human Resource Training Manager at Aurubis. “This gets our face back out into the public and lets them realize what a great opportunity it is to work for us. And the good update for you is that the last four engineers we’ve hired have been women. So, I’m super, super excited about that.”

Tashara Johnson, HR Generalist, at Aurubis, said the conference also provided them the opportunity to become more acquainted with other businesses.

“We do see a lot of different vendors out here, and we’re able to get their contact information for our employees, and to be able to share,” she observed. “And it’s not just one type of vendor. You have from the medical field to staffing agencies and life insurance.”

Bishop agreed, adding the networking can provide resources they can share with current and incoming employees.

“It helps us to gather this information and know what’s in the communities. Because, ironically, when people work every day, they’re not always aware that certain opportunities even exist in their close-knit communities. This enables us to help them and help them have a more work-life balance,” she explained.

With Inspire 2024 tucked into the history book, ABD is looking ahead to another event to be held this Fall. Details will be posted as soon as the program, date, and location are finalized.

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