The Osprey Observer started publishing as a newsletter in 2001. The main focus was to cover community news and activities specifically in FishHawk Ranch. After the first month, residents started requesting more news from the surrounding community and we started to expand. We added the subdivision of FishHawk Trails, River Hills and Bloomingdale within the first four months and were printing more than 10,000 copies per month after only six months.
Quickly we realized there could be unlimited growth to the paper and we had to strive to maintain a focus. What did we want to become? What continued to set us apart from the rest? The response is content. We are different because our stories cover the communities we are in. We wanted to maintain our reputation as a strong community newspaper despite our desire to grow. Our first goal was to identify 15,000 homes to include in the Bloomingdale/FishHawk edition and then to expand after 18 months into a completely new edition, Riverview. The Riverview edition started with eight pages and 10,000 homes and is now 36 pages delivered to 16,500 homes in Riverview and Apollo Beach.
In 2005, we added our third publication, Osprey Observer Valrico and were delivered to an additional 12,000 homes. The Valrico paper has also increased from 8 to 28 pages monthly.
In May 2006, we launched our fourth edition, the Osprey Observer Brandon. The Osprey Observer Brandon was well received in the community and was our largest launch ever, with a 20 page edition from conception.
With the fast growth of the paper, now publishing four editions totaling more than 80,000 copies monthly, we have added staff on a continuous basis, moved into a larger office to accommodate the growth, worked with students and local schools and strived to better the community in any way possible through event coverage, sponsorship or by providing volunteers.
We currently have a staff of almost 20 people who work to get the newspapers out each month, including graphic designers, news reporters and editorial support, administrative support, interns and photographers.
In January 2009, in response to community requests, the Osprey Observer acquired the 12-year-old Christian Voice monthly newspaper from Matt Seifter. The 8-page paper was distributed to local churches and businesses. In six months, the paper had doubled in size to 16 pages full color and was distributed to more than 10,000 local Christians covering the same positive community news that has become the reputation of the Osprey Observer.
It was the who’s who of Brandon’s Business Community gathering in anticipation of announcing The Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce (BCOM) winners of the 2007 Small Business of the Year award.
This event has been going on for 27 years and President and CEO of BCOM Tammy Bracewell says, “Each year I am amazed at the quality of businesses that continue to come forward and be recognized in our community.” Bracewell explains, “These annual awards identify small area businesses that demonstrate leadership, positive growth, development, creativity, integrity, as well as a commitment to community service.”
The nominees go through a very detailed application process Bracewell says, including outsourced judges reviewing applications, interviewing the candidates and visiting the finalist’s place of business. And now for the winners…In the category of businesses with 6-15 employees, Osprey Observer Newspapers walked away with the honor and Publisher Marie Gilmore had tears in her eyes as she, Associate Editor Kate Quesada and Office Manager Michelle Colesanti accepted the award.
Gilmore says, “This recognition is not only for the newspaper, but for all our dedicated readers and advertisers because they are the ones that support us each and every day.”
Gilmore started the newspaper as a one-page newsletter in FishHawk 6 years ago and it has grown to four editions with a circulation of more than 80,000 copies, along with a Website and the recent launch of MyOspreyTV. Quesada says, “I couldn’t be prouder of our staff that has always gone the extra mile to make this newspaper a success.” Colesanti has been with Gilmore since the beginning and says “Marie has an energy to make things happen; to put forth an idea and we have a great team to put it into action.” Colesanti also says “The Osprey Observer doesn’t just print community events, we as a team get involved in them, whether it is cleaning the highways or participating in fundraisers.”
In the category of Home-Based Business, Dream Limousine drove it away with owner Jake Piascik saying “We were in shock to be able to win this award in our first year of being eligible, it is an honor.” Piascik’s wife and partner says, “It is a team effort, from the chauffeurs to the fleet manager, and they are all an extension of our company.” I.T. Computer Solutions won the 1-5 employees category with a very humble owner Jeff Sheffer saying “I feel really blessed and honored for our company to be thought of in such high regard.” Sheffer adds he was very surprised when his company name was called and says laughing, “I don’t remember much after that, even walking up to accept the award.” Kid’s Community College took the honors in the Minority or Woman Owned Business and CEO Tim Kilpatrick says “It feels good and is quite an honor to win the award, especially in our first year of eligibility, to not only be nominated but to be the recipient speaks volumes.”
For a business with over 16 employees it was Creative Recycling Systems (CRS) that had it in the bag. Although COO Lisa Yob was not available for comment, as she was participating in the Breast Cancer 3-day walk benefiting the Susan G. Komen foundation, for the third year in a row. CRS Director of Marketing Wendy Plant says, “We consider this award a great honor and was proud to be in such good company with the other finalists.” Plant especially wants to thank the BCOM saying “It is such a good resource for the community and supporter of local business; I can’t thank them enough for all they have done throughout our company’s growth.”
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