Suncoast hosts serve as “walking yellow pages” in Venice: owner

VENICE, FL – Celeste Tobey and Rebecca McConnell both know the difficulties of moving to a new state with few connections and they want to make that transition easier for other new residents of Venice.

In recent years, Suncoast Hosts friends and co-owners have both – separately – moved from the Chicago area to Sarasota County.

“You have to recreate a lifetime here up to a plumber, a seamstress, whatever,” McConnell said. “Where’s the best pizzeria?” “

Tired of the cold in the north and looking for a change, the two women found their way to Venice with their families.

McConnell moved to Florida in 2018, while Tobey moved in June 2020 after she and her husband lost their father in a short time.

“It was kind of a wake-up call, Tobey said. “It was a now or never thing. And I was working in a cancer center there. I saw people lose their lives every day and fight for their life on a daily basis. We just wanted to live our lives to the fullest. . It was so important to us. We both quit our full-time jobs to be here, and we had no jobs in sight. “

She was excited about the good weather, the year round outdoor activities and the family adventure.

To meet the locals and learn more about their new city, Tobey joined Facebook groups for residents of Venice. Hoping to make new friends, one day in January, she posted an invite for other women who might want to play pickleball. McConnell responded to his message.

“Sure enough, she came out and we hit it off as soon as we started talking,” Tobey said. “In an hour or two, she and her husband were hanging out with us. We had a lot in common.”

McConnell added: “When we moved here too, we didn’t know anyone. We’re not related to anybody here. When you move like that as an adult, it’s so hard to put you there to make yourself feel good. new friends. “

They bonded by their transplant status from Chicago to southwest Florida. Soon after, they decided they wanted to go into business together and started “spitting out ideas,” McConnell said.

Their conversation kept returning to their own experiences as newcomers to Venice.

“We kept talking about this idea of ​​how we can help people network and acclimatize,” she said.

A military brat, she moved around a lot in her youth, she added. “When you are transferred to a new base, there is always a small reception procedure. The mothers, the women of the community, they help you acclimatize to the new way of life. Here, there is nothing of it all. You have to find out for yourself. “

Their business, Suncoast Hosts, evolved from those conversations. Their business connects newcomers to the area with local businesses, services, and other important information. They welcome them home with a beach bag full of business cards, flyers and coupons.

“Venice tends to be known as a slightly older community. It’s not always ideal for them to go to Google for a good pizza place,” Tobey said. “Rebecca and I are going a little old fashioned. We’re like the walking Yellow Pages. I can’t imagine my grandparents going to Google right now. I just can’t.”

McConnell added, “It’s kind of old school meets new school. We don’t know everyone and everything. We have to google things ourselves. So we look at businesses, organize this network to. people and then bag it and say hello to people for being that welcoming face… We’re trying to do that work for them to make the transition a little easier. “

They also share additional information about businesses and events in Venice through their social media pages on Facebook and Instagram. Later, they hope to organize their own in-person events for networking and socializing.

For now, they are focused on developing their business relationships. And newcomers to the community provide many opportunities for small businesses.

More than 80 percent of new owners will use the first company that comes in contact with them, according to the Suncoast Hosts website. And clients who move across the country spend more in their first six months than the average client spends in three years as they recreate their networks and build their lives in a new city.

“We’re not just trying to help residents. We’re also helping local businesses,” McConnell said. “We are trying to promote the people who are here and who live in our community.”

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Calvin W. Soper