The Tampa Bay chapter of a global, peer-to-peer network dedicated to fostering learning and helping entrepreneurs succeed was recently selected to host the organization’s keynote regional conference.
Founded in 1987, the nonprofit Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) now boasts 15,000 members throughout 198 chapters in 62 countries. According to its website, EO helps entrepreneurs learn and grow by providing a forum where like-minded individuals connect, share experiences and support one another.
In 2009, the organization’s east region – stretching from Boston to Ft. Lauderdale – began hosting an annual conference called EO Nerve. Matt Weiss, chair of the Tampa event, was a founding member of Nerve, which grew from 20 to 50 people to bring several hundred entrepreneurs and executives from across the eastern U.S. to a host city for several days. A selection committee recently awarded Tampa the 2023 Nerve conference over the City of Atlanta.
“I think economically, it’s a huge windfall,” said Weiss. “Because you’re going to have 700 CEOs and presidents of their companies coming to see Tampa – seeing what a beautiful city it is, spending money and potentially expanding their businesses to this part of the country.
“In fact, there’s a member on our committee who already started a business in Tampa, even though she’s based in Buffalo.”
Chris Krimitsos, a co-chair for the Nerve committee, along with Weiss and Laura Webb, said the group has worked to bring the conference to Tampa Bay for the last three years. During that time, the region lost its bid to cities like Washington D.C. and Charlotte.
Krimitsos said Nerve is one of the most economically impactful events any area can host, as it brings nearly 1,000 majority shareholders and business owners together for education, activities and camaraderie.
“It’s literally showcasing our region in a way that few events can,” he said.
On Monday, EO members from around the country and local officials met at the JW Marriott Tampa Water Street for a planning session. The conference, which runs from Oct. 18-20, 2023, will feature a myriad of educational speakers and experts to help members grow their companies. Nerve will also offer three nights of social events with a decidedly Tampa Bay twist to showcase the city.
Atlanta, which the Tampa committee thought would win the right to host the 2023 conference, lost its bid to a bunch of pirates.
The Tampa Bay Nerve committee chose a pirate theme for the event and created a 20-page PowerPoint presentation written in “pirate-speak.” They also enlisted the help of Tiger Lee’s Pirate Fashions, and Krimitsos noted the Tampa retailer is the country’s only full-time pirate store.
“Our goal is to dress up all of our attendees as pirates for one night, and then we’re renting a pirate ship for them to go around the city,” said Krimitsos. “So, we’re going to give them a taste of Gasparilla.”
The Nerve committee also plans to take attendees on a tour of the J.C. Newman Cigar Company, Ybor City and the Columbia Restaurant. Weiss said an excursion to swim with manatees is also in the works.
Organizers used Monday’s meeting to coordinate marketing communications, plan a launch video and ascertain logistics at the Marriott.
“This is local entrepreneurs from a local level from every EO chapter, coming together to host their own event,” said Krimitsos. “Every single person we’re hosting is the decision-maker for their company, and … they generate billions of dollars.”
He added that the average EO member generates about $8 million, and the committee expects at least 700 to attend.
Krimitsos, a former president of the Tampa Bay EO chapter, said the organization experienced significant growth through the pandemic. He said the local chapter has tripled in size over the last four years, increasing its membership from 18 entrepreneurs to 45.
“Our goal is to grow the chapter to 100 people by Nerve next year,” added Krimitsos. “That’s part of Nerve, to grow the local chapter as the event happens because of all attention.”
Some chapters, said Krimitsos, boasts hundreds of members and a significant education budget, allowing presidents to secure high-profile guest speakers. To qualify for membership, he said entrepreneurs must reach $1 million or more in revenue and pay annual dues to support the nonprofit organization.
He also noted the multinational aspect of the local chapter – and the entire organization.
“The coolest part about EO, since all the chapters are linked between these global events like Nerve, you could go to certain events year-round and meet entrepreneurs from all over the world,” said Krimitsos.
Combined with international online groups based on members’ shared interests, he called it a “borderless country of entrepreneurs.”
EO, said Krimitsos, also opens the doors to some of its educational events to the community. While some events are members-only, he said the organization enjoys sharing knowledge and camaraderie with other groups across Tampa Bay.
Krimitsos said the committee would utilize his “patented influencer meet and greet method” where people sit at round tables and get to know each other to kick off the event. Organizers will also label tables by industry during lunch breaks, so like-minded members can meet people from various cities and compare notes.
“We’re making sure that collisions and collaborations are intentionally created from the beginning to the end,” he said. “To give these people ties back to the Tampa Bay folks as host committee.”
To learn more about the Tampa Bay EO chapter, visit the website here.