Tag Archive: Orlando Florida

  1. Foxtail Coffee Co.: Stirring Up a Buzz

    Few things stir my soul more than my first cup of coffee in the morning. It’s a full-sensory experience– aromatic grounds and cool cream, the sound of grinding beans, the almost-too-hot first sip and artistic aesthetics of a cup that’s poured just right.

    I could go on, but I’m getting thirsty and my leg has begun twitching. My point is, coffee is a close friend and point of passion for not only myself but millions across the country and countless others around the world.

    Though Starbucks has long stood as the homogenized, ever-present coffee shop standard in much of America, there is a growing movement in neighborhoods to eschew the coffee-brewing behemoth for something more community-based. I’m proud to say that Central Florida is no slouch for those looking to get caffeine wasted, and Foxtail Coffee Co. now plays a big part in that.

    Sly as a Fox

    Something that immediately struck me about Foxtail Coffee is just how social media savvy they were and are. Months before the place was even furnished, I’d heard rumblings about the “new coffee place”. Following their Facebook page, I was treated to frequent updates on their storefront setup, as well as notices on their pop-up shops hosted at many of Orlando’s favorite bars, pubs and farmers’ markets.

    The legend of this place was already growing, but I was still holding judgment until after I actually drank the stuff. Pretty pictures and active social media, after all, do not make up for cruddy coffee, but I couldn’t help but be impressed by their effective use of social.

    SPOILER ALERT: On first visit, I drank a cold brew. The sun came out. Birds chirped. My soul returned to my body. Call me a fan.

    What Does the Fox Say?

    As I mentioned, Central Florida–and Winter Park, especially–has no shortage of craft coffee spots to enjoy on business or pleasure. Austin’s Coffee, Lineage Coffee Roasting, and Vespr Coffeebar are just a handful of the local fan favorites. How does Foxtail Coffee stand out from competent competition and make a case for its place in the craft coffee scene?

    I sat down with Michael Severn, general manager of Foxtail Coffee Co., to talk about the new shop over a cup of the good stuff.

    So, Mike, what exactly do you do at Foxtail Coffee?

    My primary role is store manager. I ensure that everything the founders, Alex and Iain, want done, gets done! I also hop on the coffee bar when I’m all caught up on objective #1.

    Where did your passion for coffee come from?

    My passion for coffee grew over time. At first, it was something I just casually drank. Then I began learning and practicing the craft aspects of coffee and eventually I grew fully into the realm where I could appreciate not only what coffee did for me physically, but how it brings people and communities together. It’s the kind of job I’ve always wanted.

    What’s the story behind Foxtail Coffee?

    The short version of it is something that I think people will really relate to. It all started with two longtime friends, Alex and Iain, who really wanted to build something cool together. Luckily for all of us that something was Foxtail!

    What’s your favorite item on the menu?

    That varies depending on my mood. My everyday pickup is the Foxtail Original cold brew, but if I’m feeling sweet, I find it hard to resist a cafe con leche. Picking a favorite is so hard to do; there’s a mood for every coffee for me.

    Why do you think Winter Park and Orlando have turned into such craft coffee towns?

    I think it was an inevitability. There’s been a cry for quality over quantity in Orlando growing for years, and it was peculiar to me that it took so long for coffee. It’s something that’s been peeking through at points in the city, but sometimes getting people to see coffee, and more specifically cafes, as more than just a spot for a quick cup was lost to us, not only as Floridians but as Americans as a whole. We just want to bring it back to being about people and not just a commodity.

    What do you think sets Foxtail Coffee apart from others?

    One of the biggest things that sets us apart is our desire to never be apart from the people we serve. We take great care in all aspects of our cafe and a cafe is more than just the coffee. A cafe is the building, the roaster, the espresso machine, the barista, the consumer, and so on and so on. None of them can be neglected, and I think a lot of people are tired of going to a space to just be neglected. We believe in taking the extra time not only to prepare an excellent beverage, but to also have excellent interactions with the people who come in to see us and join us in our space.

    What’s your favorite city to grab a cup of Joe?

    It sounds cliche of me to say Seattle as a coffee drinker, right? Well let me tell you about Seattle! Part of Olivia’s (my wife) family lives out in Seattle, so we go out there almost every year. We treat a couple of days as our tour de force of the city’s food and drink scene, and in Seattle, that means a whole lot of coffee. I was personally blown away at Stumptown a couple years ago. I literally walked into their roasting area and had a conversation with one of their roasters for a half hour about coffee and the details of his roast process. Not only was I impressed by his knowledge, but I was impressed with how so much of what they were doing at the time was geared towards the areas that Stumptown was in. For them, each space was it’s own, but they were all there to serve their communities (at the time they had a roaster in Seattle, Portland, and NYC).

    What’s your preferred brewing style? Why?

    When I’m at home, I default to pour over more often than not. It’s a great method for cupping a variety of coffees and dissecting more subtlety and complexity depending on the varietal of the coffee. I really enjoy slightly more manual methods of brewing, especially ones that can be better or worse based on human error.

    What do you see for the future of Foxtail Coffee?

    The future of Foxtail Coffee is a bright one, and one that I can’t wait to see play out. Currently, we’re not sure what we want to do next. Well not completely, we have plenty of ideas brewing.  Some we’ll be announcing shortly, but I love surprises and I’d hate to spoil any early.

    What’s your favorite thing about setting up shop in Central Florida?

    How unexpected I think it was. I mean, December 1 hit and it was like we just lowered our shoulders and burst out! We knew that it would be busy–our founding team did a great job at cultivating a lot of anticipation for the brick and mortar opening–but even we weren’t completely ready for how well received it was. It meant a lot of long days for a lot of us, but that’s where passion took over and the team rallied.

    Most importantly, how do you take your coffee?

    My only personal mantra about coffee is this: Death before decaf.

    Flavor by the Fox-ful

    Let’s get down to brass tax here. Is it any good?

    Yes, very.

    End of blog post? No, of course there’s more to it.

    Places to Park It

    Though parking can be a bit scarce in the lot behind the Foxtail Coffee building during its busiest hours, there are plenty of street parking options available in the area.

    When it comes to seating, quarters can also get a little tight during rushes. Luckily, there’s ample room on the dog-friendly, bench-covered patio/courtyard area that Foxtail Coffee shares with its neighbors.

    Did we mention that Foxtail is dog-friendly?

    Location & Looks

    Sitting right on Orange Ave., Foxtail Coffee is conveniently close to many popular Central Florida ‘hoods, including Baldwin Park, Mills 50 and Downtown Orlando. As for the shop itself, it is a collection of dark woods and exposed metals, making it a rare balance between industrial and cozy. Covered in coffee contraptions and the aroma of the on-site roaster, it’s something of a mix between a mad scientist’s lab and cabin.

    The Menu

    The selection is what you might expect from a quality coffee shop, featuring the likes of cold brew (both bottled and on-tap), cappuccinos, lattes, and a selection of espresso drinks, as well as fresh-brewed coffee that can be French pressed, poured over or siphoned based on your preference.

    The Goods

    Want to take a little Foxtail home with you? Mugs, house-roasted coffee beans, and other accessories can be yours, all with the style that’s apparent in everything bearing the Foxtail Coffee Co. name.

    The Final Sip

    Beyond all else, I’d say the one word I walk away from Foxtail Coffee with is “quality”. It’s present in the ambiance of their café, the richness of their coffee and the attention they pay to their growing and loyal fanbase. Though their social media surely spread the word initially, it is friends, coworkers and family who are responsible for Foxtail’s growing success. I know that’s what got me to finally give Foxtail a visit–a friend who has to visit every time he’s in town and the coworker who gushed about her experience there.

    Now, I am the preacher. I posted a picture of my first cold brew on Instagram only to find that the Foxtail Coffee Instagram page picked it up to use on their own social media channels (giving credit to the photographer, of course). It was the perfect layer of foam to top the latte of love I’ve developed for the place.

    As far as recommendations for your next business meeting or remote work day, I’d definitely scope the café before or after morning and afternoon rushes to secure a table before cementing plans. Yes, my biggest gripe is that they’re too successful; not bad for a new business. 

    Mike impressed something on me during our interview that embodies Foxtail’s entire approach to business: coffee is community. Even as we sat on the benches just outside the shop on that overcast Monday morning, we were stopped by multiple regulars who simply wanted to say hello and catch up with him. It felt like I was interviewing a beloved mayor or the varsity quarterback. It became instantly apparent that he and the staff of Foxtail have become much more than coffee slingers to this little nook of Central Florida professionals, students and residents.

    Foxtail Coffee Co. stands as consecrated, common ground not just for quality coffee, but for a diverse community yearning for a new space to share thoughts, ideas and a genuine human connection. Coffee is community.

  2. Orlando United: Pulse Recovery Drive

    With the help of our Baldwin Park community, all of us at Findsome & Winmore are banding together to lend a helping hand to the first responders, volunteers and victims’ families of the Pulse tragedy.

    So, how can you help? Bring us the much-needed goods listed below and we will hand-deliver your donations to those who need them most. Let’s come together to show just how much good we can do as one Orlando family, united.

    Orlando

  3. Bohn Appetit: East End Market Mixes It Up In Audubon Park

    East End Market

    The secret’s out; Audubon Park Garden District is officially one of three neighborhoods named a 2016 Great American Main Street. Not too shabby for an area formerly more known for its sprawl of indistinct strip malls and a big ol’ four-lane roadway. Now, places like Park Ave CDs, Stardust Video and Coffee, Blue Bird Bake Shop, Sushi Lola’s and the Bohn-Appetit-featured Redlight Redlight Beer Parlour have made Audubon Park an essential hangout spot that can easily go from quick stop to full-day adventure. But wait, there’s more!

    Enter: East End Market, a place that has become synonymous with the success of Audubon Park Garden District. Unlike our previous picks for Bohn Appetit, East End Market is a bit harder to categorize — which is part of what makes the place so unique. It’s not just a restaurant, coffee shop, beer bar, farmer’s market or place that allows you to eat the weight of a small child in artisanal cheese — it is all of these at once, wrapped up in a bow and ready for your perusal and plundering.

    Can East End Market measure up in the context of business lunches, dinner meetings, or off-the-clock hangout sessions with colleagues? Let’s see what Bohn has to say.

    Bohn’s Breakdown

    East End Market

    Bohn in his happy place.

    For me, East End Market is one of Orlando’s hidden gems that is significant to the spirit of the city. You could technically call it a startup incubator but there’s something a bit more organic (no pun intended) about the way they do things that I can’t quite find the words to describe.

    My first adventure to East End Market started with Lineage Coffee and the need to fulfill my goal of visiting every coffee shop in Orlando. There, you’ll find something a little different than just a menu of over-flavored lattes. Instead, they offer a unique selection of roasted coffee beans. If you’re a black coffee type of person, my suggestion is to grab a pot of Chemex-brewed coffee to share with a buddy at one of the nearby tables. If you’re not feeling the Florida heat and are looking to keep it cool, pick up a bottled cold brew to take to your next stop in the market.

    East End Market

    Konbini: Something like a Japanese 7-11, only better.

    While you’re standing in line at Lineage, you’re sure to notice the brightly lit Konbini, a Japanese convenience store that plays very well into something you’d see on a Japanese street corner. If you missed your chance to try out Kappo (the restaurant that formerly resided in this spot), be glad to know you’ll still be able to try out an assortment of freshly made rice bowls and onigiri. Konbini offers just about all of the main staples you’d expect to find in a Japanese convenience store: quick snacks, candy, drinks (such as their bottled matcha latte), ramen, and some accessories. They also step it up by offering some harder-to-find Japanese goods, such as tea accessories, matcha Kit-Kats (yes!) and sake.

    One little detail that I love about Konbini is the tray at the register. In Japan, you typically don’t hand them your card or money; transactions are made by placing them onto the tray to avoid any touching of hands. For me, this small detail really adds to the overall feel of the place, which works alongside touches like lighting and layout to make for a cool experience.

    East End Market

    Cheese plate via La Femme Du Fromage.

    One of my new favorite spots at East End is La Femme Du Fromage, where Adam (writer), our friend David, and I ordered their three-cheese cheese board with a side of prosciutto. Not knowing anything about cheese, we asked our friendly cheese expert to simply give us a diverse selection of their own choosing. To make things legit, we also opted for their sangria to pair with the cheeses — pinkies out, for sure. Once we got our board, we were blown away by the incredibly diverse flavors that hit us square in the taste buds. To put it simply, I almost walked out of there with an entire block of truffle-injected cheese. Besides cheese, they also offer a list of small plates and wine pairings, which I am confident to say are probably all just as amazing.

    La Femme Du Fromage is the work of Chef Tonda, who is not only a well-acclaimed chef, but also shares her love of cheese and wine through seminars and classes conducted across the country. Her recipes, combined with the private look and feel of the dining area, would make an optimal experience for clients visiting Orlando looking to talk business. You have the option to keep it light while still indulging in some of their delightful, delicious offerings.

    East End Market

    If cheese and wine aren’t your thing, what appears to be a bar at the front of the market is actually a storefront for a local farm-to-restaurant distribution company. Need to pick up some cage-free eggs and grab a flight of some local beer selections? You’ve found the spot! Local Roots distributes to over a dozen of our favorite Orlando restaurants, which makes them my favorite spot in East End Market. The seating is ample and, aside from their nice selection of local brews, their menu is serviced by the neighboring Houndstooth Sauce Company which makes Local Roots a great, healthier lunch spot. If the weather permits, I would also take the food outside to enjoy some of the great weather Orlando likes to bless us with from time to time.

    While each of the vendors at East End Market sport features that are sure to blow you away, I really don’t believe you should visit just one place here. All of the businesses have connected with one another, which really boosts the overall experience. It’s like they’ve formed a giant foodie Voltron that’s here to defend against Orlando’s tourist trap image and show how small ideas can turn into big wins for the city. In a place that tourists and students have chosen to make their temporary home, East End Market establishes a great sense of homegrown, local community. Community! That’s the word I was looking for.

    Pro Tips

    East End Market

    • If you’re coming with a larger party, arrive early. Sometimes seating can be limited during prime time lunch/early afternoon hours.
    • Don’t let the convenience store vibe fool you, the food at Konbini is quality and makes a great, fast, healthier lunch stop. They also have a microwave for their items that need to be heated up.
    • There is additional parking across the street on the road that runs alongside East End Market.
    • Even if the concept of the place doesn’t sound interesting to you, try it. What’s more to know about bread, right? WRONG! Ask the bread experts at Olde Hearth Bread Co. to suggest something for you and I’m positive you’ll be coming back for more.
    • Lineage’s cold brew bottles can be returned for a discount on your next purchase. Grab a 4 pack for the office or early meeting. It’ll feel (and look) like you’re drinking beers at work, which is always a fun social experiment.
    • Look out for small pop-up shops on the weekends. When we went, there was a barbeque spot up front that looked (and smelled) amazing. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to try it since they closed up around 3pm, so make sure you get it while they are there.
    • Treat your trip to East End Market more like you would a food truck event. Don’t plan on going to just one spot.

    The Verdict

    East End Market

    East End Market is a brilliant concept and one that collects together local entrepreneurs who continually bring new ideas, flavors and inspiration to the table.


    East End Market

    I think much of the magic at East End is due to the passion these owner-operated small businesses bring to their customers each day.  The same can be said of the whole Audubon Park Garden District.  Local needs are diverse and when businesses listen to their customers and serve these unique taste and yearning of their neighborhood customer base you end up with a main street and market full of authentically Orlando offerings.” – John Rife, Owner of East End Market

    With scenic outdoor seating among the garden of herbs, fruits and vegetables, exotic and local flavors that will make your Tupperware-protected lunch weep and craft coffee to keep your meetings from being a snooze, East End Market could be the end-all and be-all for your next business lunch meetup. Though the early closing time (on weekdays in particular) can be a detriment to those trying to grab dinner or drinks after work, mornings, afternoons and weekends are all fair game for this collective of awesome.

     

  4. Why Orlando is Greater Than the Sum of Its Parks

    Orlando’s name is something of legend — a story best told under an autumnal night sky with the crackle of a glowing firepit. Facts about Central Florida before and soon after its inclusion as the 27th of these United States of America can seem obscured by Father Time himself. With this thick haze, hovering like the occasional morning fog over this land’s many lakes and ponds, one thing becomes evident rather quickly — Orlando has been a place that has suffered from an identity crisis since its incorporation as a city in 1885.

    Orlando, 1885

    Photo Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida

    Even its name, “Orlando,” is ambiguous in origin. The story comes together something like a Quentin Tarantino script: three separate, equally plausible tales, two of which are made of 100% bologna. Was the city named for a fallen soldier of the Second Seminole War, Orlando Reeves? What about Orlando Rees — a sugar farm owner whose trail marker (left when trying to recover lost slaves and cattle) was found and mistaken for a grave marker? Or was it coined by traveling gentleman, James Speer, who simply had a love for Shakespeare’s As You Like It, naming the land after the play’s protagonist?

    Honestly, the truth doesn’t really matter much in the end (how’s that for anticlimactic, huh?). The point I’m getting at here is that Orlando has a long-running tradition of being an amorphous, undefinable, and, frankly, bipolar heart of Florida. As a native Central Floridian, it’s always a little hard to tell how a person will react when I share (or confess, depending on the person’s preconceptions) that I am, in fact, from Orlando — well, sort of. As I mentioned in my previous article on the success of Orlando City Soccer Club, it’s vital to note that Orlando doesn’t strictly refer to the area within the city limits. The branching suburbs of this town, including Oviedo (my true hometown), Winter Park, Sanford, Lake Buena Vista and more are all vaguely lumped under the umbrella that is “Orlando”.

    Greetings from Orlando

    Photo Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida

    The unfortunate reality is that, for so long, the sprawl that is Orlando was simply seen as a space-between-spaces — the wardrobe to “hipper” cities’ Narnia. Maybe we deserved this perception; our greatest industries include tourism and hospitality, both of which earn their lifeblood from a disposable, transient, single-serve anti-culture. Many haven’t been Orlandoans long enough to identify themselves as such. Parents, tired of life in big cities like New York or Boston, come down to raise their kids in the safety of suburbia. These kids turn into young adults and run screaming for greener pastures with more culture, more opportunity and more of a definable identity, which Orlando so desperately needs.

    This is about the part of the article that you might expect me to write Orlando’s eulogy, hit Command-S, and book a flight to Anywhere-but-heres-ville, but something very in line with the Orlando story has begun happening — something unexpected. Orlando has found its voice and, boy, can she sing.

    Orlando, How Art Thou?

    Art is key to any civilization — something that separates man from beast, mindlessness from introspection. Art is often the cornerstone of culture, and something any society worth its muster encourages and embraces. For these reasons, it should come as no surprise that Orlando’s eclectic art scene is a major component in changing us from a city primarily known for hawking overpriced souvenirs to one that can form an identity completely separate from the theme parks.

    You can break up our “art” scene into three, equally important parts:

    • Will's Pub

      Transcendental Telecom at Will’s Pub

      Music: Orlando’s music scene is one of independent, creative, home-grown artists. It’s a small circle, but that makes it intimate, more “real” in a way, than bands in other cities that find themselves too splintered to form a community. Though Orlando is a city spread across multiple neighborhoods and districts, live music is largely focused on a few well-known staples to the local music scene. Dimly lit spaces like Will’s Pub, Tanqueray’s and Spacebar all ooze with character, hitting you with a vibe before performers even take the stage — something even the most high-tech, acoustically sound venues can’t achieve without the certain je ne sais quoi that these spots deliver in spades.

    • Sufjan Stevens at Dr. Phillips Center

      Sufjan Stevens at the Dr. Phillips Center

      Theater: If Orlando’s lack of Broadway-quality theaters was the flood, the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center is our Noah’s Ark. This behemoth houses the Walt Disney Theater, a gorgeous, state-of-the-art venue that seats more than 2,700 and hosts everything from Sufjan Stevens to Shakespeare. Plus, it’s nice to see something with the Disney name that isn’t created strictly for tourist season.

    • Street: Orlando doesn’t have the luxury of towering skyscrapers, historical architecture or iconic bridges that other cities enjoy. Instead, our city has taken it upon itself to transform these mostly low-lying, cinderblock-built buildings into something beautiful. These “strip-mall” style buildings that were once eyesores now act as canvases for Orlando’s burgeoning street art scene. Best of all, most of the street art you’ll find is actually commissioned by the city. Orlando has begun to define its aesthetic by empowering its residents to capture the city’s spirit on walls, utility boxes (the Doctor Who Tardis on Corrine Dr. and Winter Park Rd. is a personal favorite) and alleyways.

    Mills 50 Lightboxes

    Besides the opportunities for big-name touring shows that the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center (as well as the massive Amway Arena and recently renovated Camping World Stadium *cough–Orlando Citrus Bowl–cough*) provide us, the common factor in Orlando’s art scene is a true sense of homegrown community. Walk into most coffee shops, cafes or lounges and you’re bound to find the work of local artists proudly displayed and sold. The aforementioned murals adorn the venues, in which local bands share their very own art, painted with worn-in drum kits and groaning guitars. It’s an ecosystem of creativity — the backbone and soul that can easily be missed by those that focus on the theme parks for their entertainment and artistry.

    Mills 50 Mural

    Eat, Drink and Be Varied

    After taking on the task of writing a food blog (Bohn Appetit shameless plug), my image of what Orlando can provide in a bun, a tortilla and a cocktail glass has forever been altered. My friends, if you have not yet found unique, quality eats in Orlando then you may be stuck in a The Matrix-like, alternate, parallel, bland world of chain restaurants (something our city can happily facilitate as well). For those that choose the “red pill” and reject that false reality, a world of ethnic flavors, unique fusions, quality craft beer and cocktail concoctions await your taste buds.

    Eats

    The thing that many people (yes, even locals) do not understand about Orlando’s food scene is that it’s highly multicultural, deeply ingrained in tradition and still willing to try new, exciting things. From fundamentals like the roast beef sandwiches served at the unassuming Beefy King, to late-night, Frankenstein-like Asian/Hispanic fusion at Tako Cheena, there is an entire world to uncover if you just take a moment to look past the familiar, “safe” choices of mostly decent-to-middling fare at the many chain restaurants found around town.

    Beefy King

    Cask & Larder, sister restaurant to beloved gastropub, Ravenous Pig, brings southern classics to the table with an ever-changing menu of seasonal dishes; plus, they brew their own beer, so, bonus points. Looking for dessert to top off your savory southern dinner? P is for Pie, Bluebird Bakery, Valhalla Bakery and others provide a list of sweet, sweet bliss in the form of cupcakes, cookies and more. Feeling more like Asian fare? An entire strip of traditional and fusion mom-and-pop restaurants and shops line a portion of State Road 50 that’s known as Little Vietnam. Go hungry — leave waddling. Yes, it is hard to live here and stick to a diet. No, I am not in any way mad at that fact.

    Tako Cheena

    Honestly, it’s hard not to sit here and preach the gospel of Orlando’s foodie scene until the cows come home (after which we’d probably barbecue them). There is just so much to explore — so many varieties — that I could never include even all of my favorite eateries, cafes and hole-in-the-wall spots. Surely, we have exquisite fine dining options as well, but we excel at more accessible, creative, and quality eats that avoid pretension by delivering something you’d never expect in places you may walk right past every day.

    Drinks

    In recent years, Orlando’s nightlife has seen something like a renaissance. Yes, the University of Central Florida (UCF) still has its seedy college bars, Downtown has a fair share of dirty dancefloors and cheap drink specials, but a lot has changed, even in the relatively short time that I’ve been of age to imbibe.

    The watering holes have grown up. Those looking for a sophisticated cocktail with a hot date can visit the likes of The Guesthouse, serving classic and wholly original cocktails.Trying to impress a craft beer connoisseur? Redlight Redlight Beer Parlour (featured on our very own Bohn Appetit) was recently named one of RateBeer’s best brew pubs in the nation. For those looking for something a bit more discreet, Hanson’s Shoe Repair and The Treehouse are two speakeasies worthy of doing a little sleuthing to find.

    Best Beer Bars

    Another major change that’s been turning heads is our emerging craft beer scene. No, we are not quite up to the standards set by our friends in Oregon, California or Colorado, but there is no question that we’ve caught the beer bug and its yielding awesome results for local beer lovers. Crooked Can Brewing Company, Orlando Brewing, The Hourglass Brewery, Red Cypress Brewery, Ten 10 Brewing and the aforementioned Cask & Larder and Redlight Redlight Beer Parlour are all local contributors to an ever-growing beer belly that Orlando can be seen proudly sporting.

    Crooked Can Brewery

    Between the options provided by restaurants and watering holes, there’s no denying one thing: Orlando has a level of variety that is lost on those that don’t bother to explore a little, take a chance on a local business, and break the chains of chain restaurant reliance.

    Orlando Grown

    Rollins GradsOrlando had a problem. UCF continued to grow, Rollins College remained a shining star of a private school, and Full Sail University still stood as a bastion of the creative arts, yet Orlando faced the same issue it’s had since becoming a tourist destination — people came but they rarely stayed. These students would earn their degrees, become teachers, nurses, engineers, filmmakers, game developers and website designers, only to immediately take off to bigger cities in hopes of greener pastures and greater job opportunities.

    Fortunately for Orlando’s future, the above paragraph is largely regulated to the past tense. As our schools grow and refine their programs to accommodate some of America’s best and brightest, opportunities in the form of exciting new jobs have been springing up in both established and emerging industries across the city.

    • Medical City: Home to UCF’s shiny, new medical school, you couldn’t ask for more of an opportunity as a student or professional than Lake Nona’s 650-acre “Medical City”. Cutting-edge research, education and treatments are carried out here every day, positioning it as a top destination for innovative healthcare and bioscience studies.
    • Florida High Tech Corridor: With the sole purpose of bringing lucrative, high-tech jobs to The Sunshine State, The Corridor has laid fertile soil for tech-centered industries, from aerospace to agritechnology. This economic development initiative is not only promoted by UCF, but also by the University of South Florida and the University of Florida. With three of Florida’s educational giants going all-in on this project, the importance of its mission to keep recent grads in Orlando, even attracting techie out-of-towners, should not be underestimated.  
    Downtown Orlando

    Photo Courtesy of BradyP

    • Interactive Technology: Since Walt Disney World opened to the public on October 1, 1971, Orlando became a worldwide destination, not just for those that want to enjoy the attractions, but also the artists, tech people, and designers that bring amusement park magic to the realm of reality. But it’s not just the big-name theme parks that support these creative industries. A perfect example of this is Falcon’s Creative Group, a client of ours that hires professionals from multiple creative and tech-facing industries to create cutting-edge attractions and design fantastical worlds for visitors to enjoy in amusement parks all around the globe. The amount of diversity seen under one roof is what makes shops like Falcon’s so valuable to Orlando’s workers. Besides amusement attractions, there has been a recent boom in local, independent video game culture making its way into the mainstream. With UCF having the number-one graduate game development program in the world (according to Princeton Review), it makes sense that local game developers would be inspired to create a homegrown scene made up of those that come from this prestigious program, as well as the world-renowned Full Sail University. EA Sports can also be found locally. They make a little game called, Madden. You may have heard of it.

    These three major growth areas are just a handful of the ways that Orlando has given its recent grads, as well as out-of-towners, a reason to start, explore and establish their careers in The City Beautiful. You’ll be hard-pressed to find this level of diversity anywhere, and our grass just keeps getting greener as the number of quality career opportunities continue to grow.

    Tom O'Neal“Orlando and the Central Florida region’s evolution as a substantial, attractive, and relevant city is a tribute to what can happen when people and the organizations they represent come together to create a shared vision for a better future. The combined efforts of many hard working individuals, agreeing that it was ok to step on each other’s toes occasionally as long as it was moving the needle forward for a diversified economy with high wage, higher value jobs is what made this happen.

    It was accomplished in partnership by leveraging our existing assets, focusing on key areas where we had a critical mass of talent and resources to build on, and investing in our future.”  – Dr. Tom O’Neal, Associate Vice President, University of Central Florida, Office of Research and Commercialization

    The Heart of the State

    We have come a long way as a town, yet still have a lot farther to go. It’s sometimes lost on Orlando’s harshest critics that this city wasn’t truly put on the map until Disney propped up shop less than 50 years ago. We didn’t have the benefit of a massive revenue boom that the already popular beach city of Miami saw in the 1980s (the origins of which a certain Al-Pacino-led movie examined), but we have been on a steady path of growth that surpasses economics and enters the realm of culture. The tourism and hospitality industries are still vital to our state’s revenue and popularity around the world. I am in no way discounting the blessings that were Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld. The parks may have built this city, but it’s always been our job to make it worth calling home. Through an open-armed embrace of the arts, culinary diversity and a job market that is on a steady and exciting uptick, something tells me Orlando is going to be just fine.

    IMG_2490_1

     

    The fact that we’re a historically transient town just makes our bond as locals stronger. Within Orlando, neighborhoods like the Audubon Park Garden District, Milk District and Mills 50 have their own unique charms and a sense of pride that I don’t think many people that stick to International Drive truly notice or appreciate. A real community, rich in culture and diversity, has led to Orlando finally finding its heart behind its tourism facade. I mentioned above that the origins of Orlando’s name didn’t really matter, and I meant it — we’re too busy making a name for ourselves to be concerned with our past.     

  5. Marketing Tips with Kick: Learning from the Success of Orlando City Soccer Club

    The City

    Orlando is a city that craves a definable identity. Much like the sprawling landscape of Los Angeles, “Orlando” is often more of a broad term used for a large swath of Central Florida, arms reaching from Downtown to Winter Park, Oviedo to Sanford. Unlike L.A., however, we lack a definable “it” thing; call it a vibe, feel or scene. In a way, Orlando has become a slave to its world-renowned attractions, too young and too divided to earn its own identity in the way that New York City, Miami, or Nashville has gained over the years. If you don’t agree, give me two words to describe Orlando that don’t involve an anthropomorphic mouse.

    Adam_Luis_Rodriguez___obesius__•_Instagram_photos_and_videos

    That being said, this town is often unfairly assumed to be an artificial-lawn-laden, cheap-souvenir-peddling tourist trap of uncultured, fast food casual restaurants and strip malls. We tend to get the short end of the stick because of our world-famous tourism appeal. Speaking as a Central Florida native of 27 years, I feel like we do have much to bring to the cultural table, but are just missing one “it” thing to unify our ever-expanding community of snowbirds, longtime natives, college students, and Orlando newbies, whether from Tampa or Timbuktu. But then Phil Rawlins brought Orlando City Soccer to town and, along with a booming tech corridor, a growing foodie culture and increased economic diversity, helped change the face of The City Beautiful. By following this organization’s example, you’ll find tactics that may just help you score a goal for your own brand.

    The Sport

    Professional soccer: it’s a divisive sport in the United States, and one that has historically gone underappreciated. Sure, you may have been aware of names like Pelé and David Beckham (the guy that married that Spice Girl, right?), but by and large, American football, baseball and basketball ruled the day for the average American sports fan. Orlando, however, is far from average. Through tourism and international immigration, Central Florida is a veritable collage of South and Central Americans, Europeans and others who are born watching and respecting “fútbol.”

    Pair this soccer-hungry, built-in fanbase with the thousands of kids who have grown up playing the sport recreationally, those who continue to play in dozens of local leagues across the state and would-be fans who simply need to see the sport for themselves, and it makes perfect sense why Phil Rawlins, founder and president of Orlando City Soccer Club, and company decided to move on from their venture with the Austin AzTex to create the Orlando-based soccer club that, in 2015, boasted the second highest attendance in all of Major League Soccer (MLS).

    OCS Field

    The Success

    OCS Banner & FieldIf you’re anything like me, Orlando’s soccer fever came out of left field. I never actively disliked soccer but, like so many, I simply never had exposure to it beyond an occasional game of FIFA on the Xbox. But while I remained unawares, Orlando City Soccer Club was planting its roots in the community. The club came to our fair city back in 2010 as a USL PRO team and set its eyes directly on the prize of joining MLS. In three short years, they became the 21st franchise to join this prestigious league and, soon thereafter, updated their branding, acquired the beloved and brilliant Brazilian attacking midfielder, Kaká, and secured a contract renewal with veteran coach, Adrian Heath.

    To say things were looking up is an understatement. The team enjoyed its inaugural season in a freshly renovated Citrus Bowl with plans well-underway to have a soccer-specific stadium built within Downtown Orlando by 2017. Attendance was high, sales were good and fans were excited by that new-franchise smell. But why? What made the Orlando City Lions such a roaring success? We can take away a few strokes of genius that helped nourish the growing groundswell of excitement and sense of community that this city was sorely missing before the team came to town.  

    Masters of the Market

    If nothing else, Orlando City Soccer Club could not have done much better than picking Orlando as the home for an MLS franchise. Orlando City has become a glue, a common ground, that our other home teams haven’t been able to provide. How did they decide on Orlando? Did Mr. Rawlins don a blindfold and chuck darts at a map of the contiguous United States? No; despite the sheer entertainment provided by that mental image, this was a strategic choice and one that continues to pay off in ticket sales, merchandising and unquantifiable goodwill.

    Any brand can take Orlando City Soccer’s lead by, before all else, researching and identifying its audience and market. As a copywriter, before I put pen to paper (OK, finger to keyboard), I have to allow myself time to deeply consider the reader for which I’m writing in the first place. The importance of knowing your audience extends to every level of an organization. Even a top-ranking CEO must be knowledgeable of the health of their industry and market — factors intrinsically linked to knowing their audience or client base. Orlando City Soccer Club’s investors identified the strong Latin American and European presence in Central Florida, with much of this built-in fan base already invested and well-versed in the sport of soccer.

    Lafferman Family at OCS Game

    These investors also understood that many families were priced out of other local professional sports options, leaving a night out with the kids as a prime opportunity to pick them up where sports with higher salary burdens left them. Identifying Orlando as a city that wanted soccer, whether it realized it at the time or not, was a vital step on Orlando City Soccer’s path to the success they now enjoy. Your brand would be wise to evaluate (or re-evaluate) its target audience and market in order to ensure that it’s kicking goals in the correct net.

    Fans are Fundamental

    IMG_1168

    Orlando City Soccer was a gamble. As ambassadors of the entire sport to thousands that may have never seen a soccer match, the hefty weight of responsibility on their backs must have felt something similar to Atlas’. They never faltered, however, confidently doubling down on a key principle that so many brands push to the back burner: treat fans like you actually give a damn. It’s a simple as that. Treating fans with care, speaking to them on a human level, taking time to give back to the community and maybe even sharing a pint at the local pub have all worked wonders to make Orlando City “our” team.

    Phil Rawlins“When we arrived in Orlando the City was craving an identity, something to latch onto. I think we have provided that. One overwhelming comment we always get is that our fans feel like we “get them” and we “care about them”, something we always endeavor to do. I think that’s what helps make it a symbiotic relationship between club and fan.”

    – Phil Rawlins, Founder and President of Orlando City Soccer Club

     

    Through efforts like the Orlando City Foundation, which promotes health and wellness in children, frequent public appearances, meet and greets, and general handshaking and baby kissing around the town, everyone from upper management to the stars of the team are genuinely grateful to the fans and the Orlando community as a whole. This face-to-face, human connection is something that many brands can benefit from by taking small steps, such as donating time to local nonprofit groups or staying connected and coherent in your messaging to customers via social media, all of which can add a much-needed authenticity to people’s perception of your company. Though audiences and brand “vibes” vary, staying connected to your fan base and showing that you are both listening to and valuing your community’s opinions (yes, even the negative ones) are deeply important traits.

    Phil Rawlins Signature

    In simple terms, Orlando City Soccer Club became part of the Orlando community by becoming part of the community. This is a clear-cut case of “you get in what you put out” in action — something many brands can learn from when it comes to building a loyal fan base.

    Simply Outside the Box

    Orlando City Soccer Club flat-out owns the color purple in Central Florida. In an almost Pavlovian sense, the moment anyone even remotely familiar with the team sees the royal hues of an Orlando City Lions scarf or banner hoisted overhead, they think Orlando City Soccer Club even before seeing the crest or reading the name. With a bold color choice, this team truly stands out in their market, a feat so many brands struggle to achieve. Though we’re more than too familiar with the “think outside the box” cliché, it’s powerful to see it in action. Before the club’s rebrand, the club’s logo and coloring were less cohesive, with more colors and a busier, three-headed lion design. The current crest sports a single lion’s head, mane emulating a shining sun, and only the colors white, gold and that unmistakable purple — a perfect example of simple, effective design.

    Now let’s talk magnets. Holy cow, whoever thought up the guerrilla marketing idea of covering any and every magnetic surface in Central Florida deserves a handshake and a cupcake immediately. With something as simple as a magnet of the team’s crest, Orlando City was suddenly visible across the entire sprawling expanse that is Orlando. Through this effort, Orlando City effectively overcame the issue of this city’s 30-minute-drive-to-get-anywhere nature. Stuck on I-4? Orlando City’s there too. Grabbing a craft beer in the Milk District? Boom, Orlando City is right there with you. Perusing a swanky boutique on Park Avenue? Yep, that’s an Orlando City magnet on that Mercedes.

    OCS Magnet

    The magnets became a phenomenon, and one that people didn’t resist. Because Orlando City Soccer Club did their due diligence, proving themselves as a team and brand that Orlando could be proud of, these magnets ceased being an advertising tool and became a badge of pride. By showing that you believe in Orlando City, you became part of the Orlando community; we finally found our “it” thing, and it is a soccer team. It’s often the simplest ideas, or the boldest, that end up paying off the most in the end. Though magnets may not be the answer for your brand, the concept of taking a chance on new marketing efforts (backed by research and strategy) is a lesson from which we can all learn.

    The Goal

    Lafferman Family with KakaOrlando City Soccer Club exceeded expectation by maximizing the effectiveness of their marketing and brand as a whole. Through a thorough analysis and understanding of its audience, real connections fostered with their fans and bold-but-simple branding choices, Orlando City Soccer Club has done what nothing else could: united our city under one (purple) banner.

    Marketing Takeaways

    • Find a market that is hungry for your product.
    • Always ensure that your product is accessible to your customer base.
    • Find a theme and identifiable calling card for your brand.
    • Network and truly live and breathe within the community in which you operate.

    As we now sit on the precipice of the club’s second season as an MLS team, the future’s looking brighter than the golden mane that adorns the team’s crest. With new talent, continued momentum and the support of thousands of local soccer fans, Orlando City will be roaring on for years to come. With the marketing lessons that we can glean from their success, our brands can score a few goals too.