I arrived in the Keys on November 2, 1997. My husband, Scott, and I moved from Chattanooga, Tennessee, with four cats and a bird. We had come down on a diving vacation with his family earlier that summer; we came back in September to find a place to live, and moved down two months later. We both wanted to live somewhere warm and tropical, and we had fallen in love with the Keys. Scott knew that he ultimately wanted to start playing music for a living, but he started his life in the Keys waiting tables in the “fine dining” at Lorelei. (The fine dining section was destroyed by Hurricane Wilma in 2005 and never rebuilt…I’ll never forget they had the absolute best clam chowder EVER!) He was fortunate to be playing music full time within a few months.
My job situation was a little different. For five years prior, I had been working as an account executive for a financial insurance company. My clients were banks, credit unions and finance companies; and my territory was the southeast USA...Seriously…Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, and North Carolina. I was on the road a lot; but I was young, and it was exciting and interesting. Scott and I had just started dating in August of 1992, so he soon became used to the rhythm of my travel. We ended up moving in together in ’94 and were married in ’95. Life was good, but we both had Caribbean Soul and tried to get to a beach every chance possible. We made several trips to Jamaica (we were married in Negril!) and frequent trips to the coast of Georgia, the Panhandle and other areas of the Florida coast. But, it was that trip to the Keys with the Youngberg’s in June of 1997 that we found the place where we were meant to live.
I remember telling my boss that I was moving to the Florida Keys and that I hoped they could use me in Florida. Looking back, it seems kind of fearless. I’m not sure what I would have done down here at the time if they had said no. But, it turned out they did need me in Florida, and I continued to do the same work, just travelling all over Florida and South Georgia. Florida is a big state, and I was still on the road a lot! I averaged 35,000 to 50,000 miles a year on my cars for almost 20 years. Over the years, the companies changed a couple of times, but the job remained basically the same. At the last one, I was Vice President. My experience and training made me one of the foremost knowledgeable people in my field in Florida, perhaps the southeast. I don’t mean to brag, it just happened because I was always learning, always reading and studying, and taking continuing education classes. I also created all of the marketing materials, and designed and maintained the website for years; and, I still design, write and publish a newsletter for them about risk management, insurance advice and compliance related topics.
After 25 years, the designing, writing and website part ended up being the only part of the job that I liked anymore; other than all the nice people I met over the years. I was just so tired of the traveling. Back in 2014, when Scott was going through cancer treatment and I was so afraid that I might lose him, I remember thinking about all the time we had spent apart over the years. I just didn’t want to waste more of my life sitting in hotel rooms waiting for time to pass. Believe me; the life of a traveling sales woman isn’t very glamorous. Most nights I was in my pj’s ordering room service and watching TV. Sometimes I would go out, but sitting in a bar alone in a strange town can have its own problems. Mostly, I was waiting for the time to pass until I could go home to my life.
This past year I made the decision to make a change. My father-in-law, Gary Youngberg, has his own promotional products company in Tennessee, Promoplans, and he offered to make me a franchise. I figured that after 25 years in sales and marketing, I certainly knew a lot about the subject! I’ve been creating sales and marketing materials, designing the company website, and handling all purchasing of marketing and promotional items for many years. And, after living down here for almost 20 years, I do know a lot of people. So, I decided to form Suzi’s Promoplans and focus on selling promotional products and providing other marketing and advertising services. Gary is so knowledgeable about promotional products; it’s kind of amazing how much he knows! I’m very lucky to have him as a mentor and partner. The business has been slow taking off, but he’s been patient and we’re starting to get more orders now.
We did the Bay Jam shirts this year! You may have noticed how the picture on the front is soft to the touch, not thick and plastic feeling. They were printed with water based, environmentally friendly ink; it’s not only soft, but it won’t crack and peel off with time. Of course, we can do the plastisol printing, or embroidery, or pretty much anything you want. Gary has connections with suppliers from his years in the business and can find the best prices without sacrificing quality, every time. You can browse our on-line catalog, but if you want something specific, just ask me and we’ll find you the best product and work with you to make sure you get exactly what you want.
When I was first starting to go out and let local businesses know about Suzi’s Promoplans, I stopped by the local radio station to talk about t-shirts and stuff. While I was there talking to Dewey, he told me they needed a sales person to sell advertising for the stations. So, I started working for Florida Keys Media. The products are just a natural fit. I’m talking to local businesses about branding and marketing anyway, so radio advertising is just another facet of the full service marketing. I can offer you anything from ink pens with your name on them to a full radio commercial campaign! It’s all about what the client needs to make them more successful.
I love working at the radio station! Florida Keys Media has eight radio stations in the Keys, with coverage from Homestead to Key West. But here in the upper Keys, it’s primarily SUN FM and Thunder Country. I work with Joey Naples and Dougie Hitchcock, Dewey Engstrom, and Kim Chesher… most of them I have known and been friends with for years, so it’s been a very nice experience for me. They have all been so welcoming and helpful. I even get on the air every once in a while when we’re out at live remote broadcasts. That’s fun! I really enjoy being on the radio! And I enjoy writing scripts for the clients’ commercials. It allows me my creative outlet.
Mostly, I’m enjoying being able to stay here in the Keys; working with local businesses and meeting local business owners. I’m able to join groups like the Upper Keys BPW, and attend Chamber events and local functions. When I was traveling all the time, I rarely got to do things like that.
Last year, Rhonda Hixson asked me to become her partner in Humans of the Keys. That has been so fun and rewarding! I have met some amazing people, and it is an honor to tell their stories. Again, it’s nice to be able to write and be creative and know that it’s reaching people. It is mostly just a labor of love. We just like telling the stories behind people in the Keys. We do offer “Business of the Keys” advertising, for a small fee. We offer a more “Human” side of advertising than a traditional commercial or article. We’ll tell the story of your business from the human side…like we’re doing with my business now! I’m proud to be part of Humans of the Keys, and love promoting the people and businesses in our community. Just let me know if you would like to tell your story!
I also try to volunteer and get involved with benefits and other charitable functions. When Scott was in cancer treatment, we got help from this wonderful community. They held a benefit for him and it was so humbling. That is one of the things I love most about living down here; we take care of our own. When someone is in need, there is a benefit. When we lose someone, there is a celebration of life. It’s just what we do, but it was a very different experience being on the receiving end. We are forever thankful because our town helped keep us going when Scott was out of work for 8 months.
We also received help from the American Cancer Society in the form of six months FREE lodging in Boston at one of their Hope Lodges when Scott had to have his treatment up there. The Hope Lodge was a miracle for us and I don’t know what we would have done without it. In an effort to repay a little bit, we are the Co-Event Leads for the Upper Keys Relay for Life. It’s a lot of work, but also fun and rewarding. This year, we exceeded our goal and raised over $30,000! Our team, Team Suzi’s Promoplans, raised over $6,000! We look forward to beating that next year!
In my “spare time,” I maintain a personal website and blog, Suzi’s World. It gives me a place to share my poetry, songs and stories; share my music, movie and TV preferences; promote local events and just have fun. I do write songs and song lyrics. Scott has arranged most of them, but I’ve also collaborated with my brother Mark on a song. Scott and I even have a few songs we sing together! That is really fun for me! These days, I'm all about enjoying life, being happy and trying to spread a little love and joy around when I can!
When we moved here, I never dreamed what a small town it was, or how much I would come to love this community. We live in a magical place. Not only is it paradise, but the people in this community care about and take care of each other, unlike any other place I know. It is special. I’m proud to be a part of such a great place, and look forward to working here and helping to make local businesses more successful. I’m also looking forward to joining and getting involved in more community groups and events, and giving more of my time to help make our little islands even better.
If you are looking for a creative approach to advertising and marketing, and if you want your brand to stand out from the crowd, call me. If you want to get your message out to people in the Florida Keys and south Miami Dade, call me. With promotional products, radio advertising, and mixed media, Suzi’s Promoplans can help you Get Seen, Get Heard and Get Found!