The South Florida Professionals business community is coming to Key West Aug. 18-21 for a Professionals in Paradise gathering. FLORIDA KEYS NEWS BUREAU/Contributed

Every South Florida business owner understands the importance of their local chambers of commerce, business guilds, networking events and word-of-mouth recommendations. And the Key West organizations serve their members and their communities well.

Now, the networking group known as South Florida Professionals wants to enhance, amplify and expand the reach, impact and possibilities of Florida businesses and the professionals who run them.

Miami business owners Andy and Vanessa Rodriguez launched the networking group during the pandemic, “but really, it ended up working in our favor,” Andy said on July 27. “Most of the networking stuff we developed for COVID, including Zoom meetings, member pages, recommendations from other members and specialized discussions for certain types of businesses, especially during COVID.”

According to the group’s website, “South Florida Professional was developed to help business owners thrive during the pandemic. We have redefined traditional networking for South Florida business owners by offering a unique, interactive networking and learning platform. Members create complete profiles which include contact info, social media accounts, video introductions, images and much more. By leveraging technology to create business opportunities across all of South Florida, we provide a business networking platform that transcends distance and enables business owners to connect on a 24/7 basis, engage and build relationships with other professionals around South Florida.”

The group expanded southward last year once Key West restaurateur Bill Lay joined.

“We wanted to hear from all South Florida restaurants to see what they were doing and how they were faring and what we could do to help,” Rodriguez said. “Our goal is very, very simple: to connect people so they can do business on a larger scale. South Florida Professionals is different. We focus on people first. We build relationships and the business follows.”

The group now has more than 9,500 members on its Facebook page and is coming to Key West next month for its second annual Professionals in Paradise, a weekend of events, cocktail parties and personal introductions for professional improvement in the Southernmost City.

The event takes place Aug. 18-21 and includes a variety of attendance packages. For more information, visit and

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Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.