With many lifestyle events and happenings already taking place in the 941 area, Manatee County millennials found that other people their age were not aware of the social events because there was no easy way to learn about them.
That’s how 941Now was born.
“We want to engage people so that they fully realize how amazing this place is to live, so that they are not taking their talent elsewhere and we are attracting talent here,” said Stewart Moon, one of the millennials behind 941Now. “That is the end goal of 941Now. We already have the careers. There are already amazing companies. Everybody already knows that, so now we are working on the lifestyle piece with 941Now to fill in that other gap.”
Launched in June, the 941Now social media campaign works to address this awareness and marketing issue. While not creating events, 941Now aggregates events happening in the 941 area code on social media including Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat to help attract and retain millennials in the 941 area.
“We are just a central spot for people to find those things,” Moon, 28, said.
941Now is just one of the millennial-run initiatives that have recently launched in Manatee County. #Livin941, which is run by 29-year-old Logan Wells, highlights the area on social media and has a website to help local businesses. A downtown Bradenton storefront at 417 12th St. W. Suite 106, is also in the works to sell #Livin941 merchandise.
“We formed #Livin941 as a way to help other businesses and help put other businesses on the map,” Wells said.
941Now fills gap of lifestyle events
Fueled by the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp.’s Thought Leaders committee, 941Now is volunteer run, Moon said.
“We want to create this as a self-sustaining entity where users are submitting and we are just picking the cream of the crop and sharing it back out,” he said.
As a way to help launch 941Now, Moon, along with others, have invested both their own time and money for marketing materials such as T-shirts because they needed to prove to others that it’s working.
“Before we could ask for funding and ask for support from entities, we needed to show that it was working, and we needed to show that the Thought Leaders were invested in this,” said Moon, who is vice president of Air & Energy, a Manatee-based air/plumbing/electrical company.
And Moon says it is. At a recent Manatee Young Professionals meeting, attendees were asked how they find out what is going on in the area —and without answering himself, Moon said everyone answered 941Now.
“The following and the energy we are seeing behind it is extremely amazing, and the rate of growth and the rate of adoption is insane,” Moon said. “We have not pushed anything out via Facebook ads or Instagram sponsorship, so it’s all organic growth.”
“It’s amazing to see that we’ve created something from literally nothing and that people in the community are talking about it and using it and saying how great it is and promoting it for us,” Moon said.
When the EDC launched its multi-year strategic plan in August, one component was to find what the community needs to help attract and retain millennials, said Sharon Hillstrom, president and CEO of the EDC.
“I think what happened with this, it has been a very grassroots kind of approach,” she said of 941Now. “It is very organic.”
941Now is engaging people that fall into their demographic, Hillstrom said.
“We think it has the potential to be a great tool of retention of employees, but also it is a tool for us as a community with keeping our talent here that is graduating from higher ed,” she said. “We are just really excited about the direction that it is moving, and we encourage local employers to plug their employees into this social media platform because we think it will be very helpful to retain current employees.”
For 28-year-old Eleni Sokos, who is the sales and marketing coordinator for Darwin Brewing Company, a concept like 941Now was something that was always on her personal goals list.
“There is a tremendous need and huge economic value,” she said. “At Darwin’s, we are constantly hosting fun events. Having a vehicle to promote everything going on in the Darwin’s universe is a great asset to us.”
With live music events coming to the brewery at 803 17th Ave. W., 941Now will help bring people out to the shows, Sokos said.
“We have a new stage and, beginning in November, every Friday and Saturday we will have live music,” she said.
While targeting millennials, the lifestyle, events and culture that millennials are looking for is the same as what baby boomers want, Moon said.
“We are showcasing events and lifestyle and culture and things that the baby boomers want to be a part of as well, so it’s a full circle improving the lifestyle of the area,” he said.
#Livin941 to expand
While #Livin941 has a website and social media presence, there are already plans for expansion.
A 941 directory for businesses is under construction on the livin941.com site and companies will be able to upload coupons and deals, Wells said. Wells comes from a prominent Manatee County family: his mother is Leslie Wells of Leslie Wells Realty, his father is former Manatee County sheriff Charlie Wells, and his brother is Sheriff-elect Rick Wells.
“It’s kind of a way for us to give back and help out other companies in the area,” he said.
By December, #Livin941 will have a storefront location, which is being leased in downtown Bradenton to sell merchandise. Over the last year, they’ve given away up to 100 T-shirts and as many as 2,000 koozies, Wells said.
“While we were giving them out, we had a good response of how can we purchase these,” he said. “We wanted to have a storefront come before going online.”
Wells also runs 941 Updates, which launched this season as a way to provide local high school football score via text message. In the future, Wells said he wants to expand it to other sports as well. Bradenton Herald also has a high school sports app called Varsity 24/7, which sends alerts of local high school games scores.
“Every Friday we send out updates of local high school game scores throughout the game,” he said. “If a parent or grandparent can’t make it to the game, they can at least see how little Johnny is doing.”
#Livin941 has been very family involved, Wells said.
“It is a way to give back for all of us,” he said. “We have a lot of overwhelming support.”