SAN DESTIN, Fla. (WMBB) – The next big thing is happening in San Destin. The two-day conference focuses on small businesses in Walton County and how they can better the local economy. 

The annual conference at the Hilton San Destin Resort brought more than 200 attendees to learn about business strategies and leadership development. 

The Walton Area Chamber of Commerce hosted the event to save small businesses thousands of dollars on training trips to bigger cities. 

“My goal for this event and for our team is to create an opportunity for small businesses that maybe don’t have huge budgets to be able to get a world-class training opportunity for their team to get professional development at a low cost,” said Megan Harrison, Chamber President.

Community leaders at the conference said they were surprised by how much knowledge they gained by listening to other stories of success. 

“As a leader, you think you have your finger on the pulse of all things leadership. But I’ve had the opportunity to take copious notes while here so I think it’s the nuggets. I think it’s just the added information around leadership, how to do that in a more effective manner,” said Neko Stubblefield, conference attendee and sponsor.

The Next Big Thing grew from a women-only event 5 years ago to a two-day leadership conference. The chamber hosted this event knowing that if small businesses can grow and be impacted, the local economy will benefit.

“It’s just help our businesses grow better as our community that strengthens our workforce. It’s just a great opportunity to be more than what you are today. Leave here a better person and hopefully, that impacts our business community and our community as a whole,” said Harrison. 

The conference hosts breakout sessions such as Women in Business and how to use Canva for simple graphic design instead of paying a firm or extra employees.  

Harrison said the underlying theme of this year’s conference was teaching leaders how to be intentional and also to care for themselves out of the workplace. 

Keynote speaker Col. Allison Black, Commander of the 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field presented Thursday morning about her time as a military leader. 

The chamber said next year they will aim to make the conference a three-day event. 

Learn more about the Conference and the Chamber online.