New speaker series hosted at Solis Hall in Downtown Wellen Park

VENICE, Fla. (April 17, 2024) – Wellen Park is hosting several free summertime speakers series, including Sarasota County Connect Business Networking for budding entrepreneurs and Science Talks with Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium at Solis Hall in Downtown Wellen.

Offered in conjunction with 26 West, the State College of Florida’s Center for Advanced Technology and Innovation, the monthly Sarasota County Connect Business Networking & Panel Discussion series held April to July is for those interested in entrepreneurialism. The program taps into the country’s fast-growing small business climate, which according to Forbes magazine, accounts for 99.9% of all U.S. businesses. Of America’s 33.3 million small businesses, 27.1 million are operated by a solo proprietor.

“As a community of innovators and thinkers with big ideas, the series connects prospective business owners with experts in digital and brand marketing, artificial intelligence and problem solving,” said Rick Severance, president of Wellen Park. “It offers great networking opportunities with like-minded entrepreneurs and small business owners, as well as discussions with successful local entrepreneurs.”

The inaugural April 11 session was led by Tra Williams, president and CEO of Bradenton’s FleetForce Truck Driving School and featured a panel of local business owners, including Jamie Lovern, the North Port founder of Lolablue artisan bath and beauty products; John Horne, whose Anna Maria Oyster Bar has expanded to six locations; and Tyler Holt, president of Englewood-based AvSky Jets, one of the world’s top aircraft brokerage firms.

Upcoming sessions include:

  • May 9 workshop with Zeev Wexler, a digital industry leader, marketing automation disrupter and the CEO of a growing marketing firm, who will present on brand-boosting with AI.
  • June 13 session features “Problem-Solving for Entrepreneurs” by Stephen Diasio, a podcaster and professor of entrepreneurship and innovation at the University of South Florida.
  • July 11 “Business IDEA Lab,” community forum moderated by Chris Williams, managing director of a Sarasota digital marketing firm, offers an opportunity for participants to share business ideas and gain expert feedback.

Sarasota County Connect events run from 5:30 to 8 p.m. and are free with advanced registration required at

Science Talks with Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium explores the fascinating undersea world of coral reefs, ocean creatures with superpowers and the science of red tide. The free series kicks off June 12 with Evan Barniskis, associate vice president at Mote Marine, sharing a behind-the-scenes look at the design process, new exhibits, marine life and future grand opening of the world-class Mote Science Education Aquarium at Nathan Benderson Park.

June 26, Jason Robertshaw, Mote Marine’s program manager for virtual learning, dives into the science, wonderment, biodiversity, ecological importance and the challenging restoration of Florida’s iconic coral reefs with “Ocean Superheroes.”

The July 10 presentation by Mote Marine’s director of education, Elaina Wheaton, delves into the superpowers of sea creatures – from impenetrable body armor, bioluminescence and shapeshifting abilities.

July 24, Robertshaw returns for “Red Tide Science,” which looks at cutting-edge research, innovative technologies and reveals some of the mysteries behind the harmful algae blooms impacting the Gulf of Mexico.

One-hour Science Talks with Mote begin at 6 p.m. Pre-registration is required at Registered participants can also join Mote’s virtual Earth Day event, April 22, taking viewers on a live Zoom excursion of Sarasota Bay’s unique ecosystems and sea creatures.

For more information about planning an event or celebration at Solis Hall, visit or email [email protected].

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