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Business With a Personal Touch in Suwanee

The Suwanee Business Alliance networking group is popular for many reasons, and has influence outside the city.

You won't find any three-piece suits and briefcases. But you might come away with some actual business and a smile at a Suwanee Business Alliance gathering.

The city's leading business networking organization now has over 200 members and prides itself on its friendly yet determined atmosphere.

"The atmosphere is what we are trying to promote," said Barry Calano, one of the group's leaders. "It's unique. A lot of folks actually do business with each other. It's not an all talk, no action type of group."

-- Have you attended a Suwanee Business Alliance event? Tell us in the comments below.

Ed Szczesniak, the current president, sets the tone at each meeting and with postings on the group's Facebook site. He's constantly touting the group's activities, such as its recent golf tournament for charity, and its monthly networking gatherings.

The golf event, at Hamilton Mill in Dacula, raised at least $7,500 for charity, with proceeds still being counted.

At the networking events, which are held at member businesses, he will speak to the group in an informal tone and allow some guests to introduce themselves. Guests must join after two visits to stay involved.

Szczesniak, who owns Georgian Landscape, estimates that he has gotten 30 jobs for his company in five years from the SBA. Also, Calano is his financial advisor.

And the group is also wired with Suwanee's business-friendly City Council, whose members often attend gatherings. Szczesniak introduced Mayor Jimmy Burnette at the mayor's State of the City address in January. And the SBA's Christmas event in 2011 was held at City Hall.

Longtime member Richard Trice, a former Suwanee mayor, notes that the SBA was the first city-oriented business group in Gwinnett, and that other cities have used the SBA as a model for their own groups. "You can get the word out to many people," he said.

Members include car wash owners, financial planners, attorneys and bankers, as well as an official of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce.

Longtime member Karen Krotz, a massage therapist, notes that she had fellow member Julie Perdue, a photographer, take family pictures after they met at the SBA.

John Ferroni, who operates IPS insurance agency, joined last fall and notes that he has gotten business from the group.

Ditto Christine Alestra, owner of the Moondance Restaurant & Lounge. She explained that she has seen SBA members come to the dining/entertainment business, which has had notable musicians such as Randall Bramblett perform. Moondance hosted an SBA event in March.

Membership is $60 annually, and the networking events include food and drink. Member contact information also is included on the website.

And Szczesniak noted that SBA's popularity has grown so much that it has been asked to have a joint event with a Johns Creek group in June.

Disclosure: Suwanee Patch is a paid member of the SBA.

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Ed Szczesniak May 16, 2012 at 10:39 AM
Steve - you've captured the essence of the SBA to a tee! Thanks for letting others know about us - we welcome visitors - and most of them become members. It's a great group. - ed
Steve Burns (Editor) May 16, 2012 at 10:43 AM
You are welcome, Ed.
Sandy Richardson May 16, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Very Nice Steve!!! Sandy Richardson
Steve Burns (Editor) May 16, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Thanks, Sandy.
Natasha Fullard July 12, 2012 at 05:30 PM
I joined the SBA and attended my first meeting last night. The group was warm and friendly, and I felt right at home! I look forward to attending upcoming meetings.
Steve Burns (Editor) July 12, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Thanks, Natasha. The informal nature is one of the SBA's strong points.

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