New Brandon Chamber chief made career of helping
How Darren Denington finds time to be chairman of the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce is almost perplexing.
Running a small business these days – or, any day – is job enough for most. But Denington has spent the past 13 years in Brandon not only running multiple businesses, but working to help others get optimum results for their own efforts.
Denington, 42, took that effort a step further this year, taking the helm at the chamber after working more or less in the background for more than a decade.
Hard work, however, is not new to this Canadian-born hockey lover. He started his first business while he was still in college, then got into catering.
Denington moved to Largo 20 years ago and started Service With Style, a secret shopper network that helps business people in the hospitality industry, in retail and even at theme parks find out how effective their methods are, how good their food is, how honest and efficient their staff is.
He moved the business headquarters to Brandon and now helps businesses across the country assess their strengths and weaknesses, both by sending in secret shoppers and by offering seminars at trade shows on issues many businesses face.
Denington has 10 employees at Service With Style.
Most people in the community probably know him as the owner of the popular Copper Bell Café in Riverview. He sold its twin in Brandon last year, but kept the restaurant in Riverview, known for its freshly made specials and its charity benefits, called Cooking For a Cause.
In addition to his own businesses, Denington said he enjoys helping small business owners in every way he can. “I want to promote and educate them and find way to recognize them.”
He started out with the chamber going to a lot of networking events and getting to know other small-business people.
“The real game changer was Leadership Brandon. It completely opened my eyes to the community, as a whole,” Denington said.
Leadership Brandon is a 9-month program that helps identify community leaders of diverse backgrounds, develop their potential for leadership and get them talking about challenges in the community.
A chamber chairman is selected by a nomination and vote of the board of directors, said Chamber Vice President Laura Simpson. The board had an easy choice when it came to Denington, she said.
“Darren, in the time he has been a chamber member, he’s been working and active and involved and making a difference from his first day,” Simpson said.
“When he got nominated, that was a way for the board to acknowledge his work,” Simpson said. “He took it seriously from that day forward and started planning for it right away.”
“The chamber, to me, is the heart of the community,” Denington said. “It ties together business, charity and economic development.”
And it helps businesses connect with each other, he said.
The Brandon chamber already has an awesome volunteer base, Denington said, so he will focus this year, as head coach, on tweaking the various programs already in place and making sure that the chamber is doing all it can to help its membership thrive in the business world.
“The chamber is not isolated from this economy,” he said. “We have 1,400 members we encourage to be as active as possible. You get out of it what you put into it.”
“My biggest goal is focusing on the value of chamber membership.”