One of the business community's most eagerly-awaited events is the Jefferson Township Chamber of Commerce's Annual Networking Event on Lake Hopatcong. The tenth annual event was held on Thursday June 29 at Bridge Marina in Lake Hopatcong. This year's event was open to a larger geographic audience and as such, the crowd of roughly 85 people came from several areas. In addition to Jefferson, businesspeople from Mount Olive, Ledgewood, Dover, Mountain lakes and other towns were in attendance.
Upon driving up to the Marina, visitors were greeted by friendly and efficient people who guided them to a parking spot, and next were welcomed at the registration desk by Ray and Becca Fernandez of the Marina who served as the evening's hosts. Once inside, there was a wide array of delicious hot appetizers as well as an extensive salad, fruit, and cheese tray which could be washed down with a selection from a well stocked beverage counter. Music provided by acoustic guitarist Jordan Pantaleo provided an upbeat backdrop for the event while never being so intrusive as to inhibit meeting new people and building professional and personal networks.
Following opening welcoming remarks from Chamber president Dr. Bret Hartman of Total Wellness of New Jersey, the guests were broken down into teams chosen at random by slips of paper they received at the registration desk, and escorted aboard boats to begin to learn more about each other. After selecting a team "captain" each member of the team was asked to introduce themselves, explain why they do what they do, and give a unique perspective of their own business versus their competition. As business and introduction cards were passed around, the teams were tasked with trying to come up with a new slogan for New Jersey tourism.
After the teams had done their best to come up with a new catch-phrase to entice people to visit New Jersey, the teams returned to the main tent where the captains introduced each of their members to the crowd and then proceeded to offer their respective slogans with the three best, chosen by applause from the audience, being given cash prizes from First Bank, the evening's co-sponsors.
After the awarding of door prizes compliments of Bridge Marina, there was time for more networking before what many consider the main event of the evening - the opportunity to go on a boat ride around Lake Hopatcong.
Back on dry land, everyone agreed the event was truly wonderful and didn't just live up to their expectations but exceeded them. Sherryl Pinney of MSPC said that she'd missed a few years because timing wouldn't allow her to attend but she remembered what a great event it always had been. This year not only did she make it a point to attend but she invited two first time attendees, Lorie Smith-Gray and Amy Longstreth of Elangeni Smart IT, who were both glad they came.
"I loved it!" said Smith-Grey when asked her reaction to the evening. "It was awesome. It was team-building. I had a great tine on the boat ride. I even got messy hair." Jasmine Francisco of Nisivoccia Consulting in Mount Arlington echoed her comments, raving about the team-building and networking opportunities as well as the fun of the boat ride and the overall excellence of the food, drinks, and location.
Kristin Pier of DC Express, a same day courier service in Dover, attended for the first time in 2016 and was happy to be here again looking for the chance to meet new people. Nancy Knight of Knight's Automotive Repair in Ledgewood was another second-timer who also thoroughly enjoyed her experience last year and this year calling it "a great event I look forward to every year. I'm already looking forward to next year."
Ashley Sarmiento, also of Nisivoccia, summed it up nicely "I thought it was a great event run by true professionals. I'm happy to be part of such a great event."
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