Travis Ray wanted to win.

He thought it was an honor to be nominated for the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Awards for his company Dapper Bowtique – which supplies bow ties, pocket squares and other apparel personalized and colorful to locals and people across the country – and for a while he believed in it.

After all, Sarasota’s character had been thinking and planning her small business for five years, but only incorporated it two years ago, right at the start of the pandemic. In many ways, he was just getting started. His business took off amid the pandemic as he made face masks across the country, but it was only recently that he had seen people wearing his designs around town.

But when he was at the awards luncheon, surrounded by his friends and peers at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota on June 17, all he could feel was excitement and a thirst to bring the award home.

“I was praying,” Ray said. “I thought, ‘Oh, please let me win. “”

When the time came, and Ray’s name was called as the winner, all he could feel was disbelief as he took to the stage.

Ray was far from the only one to accept an award from the Sarasota Chamber on Friday afternoon. He and eight other winners were the stars of the show at the awards ceremony.

Representatives of the Sarasota Chamber, business figures, members of the Sarasota government and friends and supporters of the candidates gathered for a luncheon that recognized the hard work that local businesses in the city do every day. .

After a half-hour meeting, attendees entered the Hyatt’s event space to be seated and hear from chamber President and CEO Heather Kasten.

“Today this whole room is here to do one thing: to thank you and to honor you,” Kasten said.

Applicants went through a lengthy process to be considered, which included written submissions and interviews with chamber members and past winners. Twenty-seven companies were highlighted during the lunch, but only nine of them were able to claim the top prize in their respective category. Each of these nominees was recognized during a lengthy video highlighting their service to the community. Nominees rose to accept their awards one after another as lunch continued.

Ray wants to say how he felt on stage, but it was really more of a blur.

“I barely remember going there and giving a speech,” Ray said. “After sitting down and getting my bearings, I realized that I had actually won. It was a major change for my type of business.”

It was also a good afternoon for the Children First association. The local organization that promotes school readiness and cognitive skills for three- to five-year-olds has been nominated for the nonprofit award in the past, but has never won the top prize.

It was then a delight and a surprise to Children First’s Vice President of Philanthropy, Jessica Rogers, that her non-profit organization was chosen for this year’s award. She, accompanied by President and CEO Phil Tavil and other staff, took the stage to accept the gift and thank the audience. It was the icing on the proverbial birthday cake that the band was celebrating Tavil’s birthday that day anyway.

“Being back at the table felt good to me,” Rogers said. “It was exhilarating to know that this is an award that comes from our community.”

List of winners

  • Large Enterprise Award: PGT Innovations
  • Medium Business Award: J2 Solutions Inc.
  • Small Business Award: Branded interiors
  • Community Impact Award: Voice at the speed of light
  • Minority Business Award: Around Transport Road
  • Sponsored Nonprofit Award: Children first
  • Rising Star Award: dapper bowtique
  • Woman-Owned Business Award: Communications from the vineyard
  • Workforce Development and Innovation Award: Goodwill Industries Manasota Inc.


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