Written by Smoak PR

The Commerce Club will be Acquired by BNG Hospitality Group

Private Club to Remain Open Under New Ownership Group out of Dallas, TX

GREENVILLE, SC | March 18, 2021 – Effective Monday, March 22nd, the Commerce Club, a private club located in downtown Greenville, will be acquired by BNG Hospitality Group. With a combined 100+ years of private club and hospitality experience, BNG specializes in the ownership and management of private city, country and sports clubs throughout the US. Currently, BNG owns Harbour Club in Charleston, SC, Crescent Club in Memphis, TN, Plaza Club in San Antonio, TX and Tampa Club in Tampa, FL.

For over 37 years, the Commerce Club has played a major role in the Greenville business community, bringing people together and building life-long relationships amongst all members. Under this new ownership, BNG will focus on improving the current state of the club and repositioning it to thrive for years to come through a number of key focus areas. Concentration areas will include club board redevelopment, new and improved sales and marketing efforts for membership and private events, expanded programming calendar and enhanced communication channels to better connect and communicate with club members.

“We believe there is a great opportunity to build upon the established legacy of the Commerce Club and we are strongly committed to our club members and serving them at the highest level,” said Sean Laney, Founder and President of BNG Hospitality Group. “BNG has made a strong commitment to operate the club as an extension of members’ homes by providing a quality facility, personalized service, and a wonderful place that they can continue to enjoy, personally and professionally. We look forward to the exciting future of the Commerce Club and are eager to get started.”

Founded in 2017, BNG Hospitality specializes in club turnaround opportunities when a club needs to focus on reconceptualizing or repositioning to become more relevant to a modern-day demographic. The Commerce Club will undergo a brief reboot from March 22nd to April 1st to officially bring the venue under BNG’s wing, along with any employees who choose to stay on staff. Under this new ownership, The Commerce Club’s name will remain the same and BNG is working with One Liberty Square building owners to secure a long-term lease for the facility.


Both in ownership as well as management, BNG specializes in Club turnaround opportunities when a club needs to focus on reconceptualizing or repositioning to become more relevant to a modern-day demographic. This approach considers all areas of club operation including club leadership placement, development and implementation strategies in F&B, membership recruitment and retention, budgeting and business plans and personnel assessment.

Written by Smoak PR

How Can PR Help Your Brand?

Understanding the difference between Public Relations and Marketing can be very helpful when it comes to strategizing effective ways to build brand awareness, increase revenue, drive web traffic or simply create a buzz. As PR professionals, we also appreciate how both marketing initiatives and traditional public relations efforts can work in tandem with one another to drive results. The “marketing umbrella” contains powerful promotional tools, one of which is PR. At times, PR is difficult to define because it can be a challenge to associate a specific “return on investment”, whereas with a paid advertising campaign, dollars spent can be tracked back to direct sales or return. That said there is absolutely no denying that effective and strategic public relations initiatives can launch a brand to great success or continue building momentum. Here are three free things that fall within the world of PR that you can start executing today to enhance your brand, and aid you achieving your goals and objectives. 

Media Relations – Building relationships with local, regional, and national media personnel or ‘on-air talent’ can sometimes be a daunting task. That said, looking up the ‘contact us’ page on the local news outlet’s website to introduce yourself and your business to the folks most likely to cover your industry is the perfect place to start. Simply saying hello, providing feedback on a relatable article they have published, or weaving your way into a recent story they covered are all effective ways to begin building long-term, and hopefully beneficial relationships with those in your market ultimately responsible for spreading news and sharing your story.

Social Media Engagement and Influencer Relations –PR today is less about writing and sending press releases, and more about valuable engagement, especially on social media! Commenting, sharing, liking, and loving social media content on a personal level is a surefire way to contribute to the conversation in a very valuable way. By being persistent and consistent with your engagement on social media platforms, you are more likely to grow your organic reach and build brand awareness in an impactful way. Engaging with local social influencers via direct messages, comments or shares may seem like a time consuming task that will fall on deaf ears…or blind eyes; however, rest assured that patience is a virtue and valuable interaction digitally can – and will pay off! 

Content Creation – Building content that you own is critical! Imagine a world where Instagram or Facebook no longer exists and the digital audience you have built is no longer present to engage with, or see your brand daily. Generating content that is your own to share among your audience will help you continue to build your brand – even if the outlets for distributing that content change or evolve over time. Specifically speaking, you should focus on your website, building a strong email database and most importantly – cultivating your relationships! We encourage clients to spend their valuable time writing informational white pages, building a mobile and user friendly website, and to always go the extra mile when publishing content that is theirs – ultimately positioning them as the expert within a given landscape. 

There is no denying that PR can incorporate a lot of different things these days; however, focusing on effective media relations, spending time on personal engagement, and building valuable content will never go out of style!  

Written by Smoak PR

SBDC, SCORE, WBC Partner to Bring eCommerce Startup Series to the Upstate

GREENVILLE, SC | March 9, 2021 – Three small business and entrepreneur support organizations are partnering to present a three-part series on starting an eCommerce business.  The Greenville Area Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Piedmont Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) and the CommunityWorks Women’s Business Center (WBC) coordinated the training to reach a wider audience across the Upstate and highlight each organization.

The leaders of the three organizations are looking forward to coming together to present this series.  As related SBA programs, sharing resources and ideas magnifies all of their efforts to support entrepreneurs looking for in-depth eCommerce assistance.  The SBDC’s Earl Gregorich, Ana Parra, the new program director of the WBC and Jerry Smith, a volunteer with Piedmont SCORE who leads their training programs, quickly agreed on a concept, its importance and how they would divide the work.  They planned the curriculum together over a few meetings and are promoting the whole series to each of their entrepreneurs and business owner clients.  The UEE and Ten at the Top are adding additional promotional support for this important series for Upstate entrepreneurs.

“Ana, Earl and I are excited to bring this eCommerce workshop series to the local small business community.  The collaboration of the WBC, SCORE, and SBDC will provide a diverse approach and ensure this important topic is fully explored,” said Jerry Smith, SCORE Mentor.

The workshops are all virtual and hosted by a different organization. They launch on March 15th at noon beginning with “eCommerce: Is it Right for Your Business?” provided by the WBC.  On April 15th at noon, Piedmont SCORE will present “eCommerce: Planning for Success”.  On May13th at noon, SBDC will wrap up with “eCommerce: Finding the Right Technology”.  This series will provide attendees with the information they need to determine if selling online is right for their business, the steps to set it up properly and how to evaluate and utilize the many technologies available and necessary. 

“All of our organizations emphasize the need for small businesses to form strategic partnerships.  This training provides a great example of how partnering can be beneficial to all those involved,” said Earl Gregorich, Greenville Area Manager, SBDC.

The Upstate Entrepreneur Ecosystem (UEE), an initiative of Ten at the Top, serves the role of increasing the capacity and ability of the ecosystem to help entrepreneurs be more successful faster.  Erin Ouzts, in her role as facilitator for the UEE for Ten at the Top, saw that each organization was offering important parts of eCommerce startup and management training, but it had been a while since there was an overview of the steps to launch.

“The pandemic has created an unprecedented demand for online access to products and services”, said Erin Ouzts, Director of the Upstate Entrepreneur Ecosystem. “Any education we can provide for our entrepreneurs and business owners about how to evaluate and successfully launch a website to sell online, is another step toward helping our local businesses survive.”

The SBDC, SCORE and WBC are supported in different ways by the US Small Business Administration (SBA), and while they work together with common clients and cross-over programs, having all three collaborate on a single 3-part event is rare.  All regularly provide workshops, training, mentoring and support for entrepreneurs and small business owners. Entrepreneurs tend to stay with the original organization throughout the time they need support. This series will help entrepreneurs understand that each group is equally important and helpful to their potential success. 

“Collaboration is always a good idea and right now when there is such a critical need, a partnership among resource partners helps us reach more business owners and provide additional tools to keep businesses sustainable,” said Ana Parra, WBC Program Director.

ABOUT SCORE | SCORE, the nation’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors, is dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals. Since 1964, we have provided education and mentorship to more than 11 million entrepreneurs. SCORE is a nonprofit organization and a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Thanks to this generous support from the SBA and because of the selfless contributions of our more than 10,000 dedicated volunteers, we are able to deliver most of our offerings at no cost.

ABOUT WBC | The CommunityWorks Women’s Business Center (WBC) serves women throughout South Carolina by empowering entrepreneurs through advocacy, outreach, education and support. The center focuses on serving women of color and those who may be economically disadvantaged – working to offer comprehensive training and counseling to foster business skills. The WBC builds upon CommunityWorks’ mission to provide opportunities for all through equitable lending, investing and financial education.

ABOUT SBDC | For more than forty years, entrepreneurs have turned to South Carolina Small Business Development Centers (SC SBDC) for help expanding an existing business or starting a new enterprise. Through free consulting, low-cost seminars and links to resources, the SC SBDC helps jump start startups and makes existing businesses thrive. SC SBDC consultants work with companies in all stages of development – from a person with an innovative product but no idea how to move forward to the owner of a company looking to capture new markets. A statewide organization, the SC SBDC has 20 area centers in communities across South Carolina, serving both urban and rural business needs. The SC SBDC helps more than 6,000 clients each year.

Written by Smoak PR

How to Make Instagram Work For You and Not Against You

Social media is everchanging and it is critical to stay up to speed with new features, algorithms and more. Most recently, Instagram has proven to take over the social media market from both a personal and business standpoint. How can you ensure that your brand is working with the flow of the feed, and not against it? Due to the fast-paced nature of social media and its effectiveness of sharing information, it is imperative to have a few strategies up your sleeve to attract and engage with quality followers that help elevate your brand.

1. Captivating Imagery

You have probably heard this many times, but imagery is everything with social media, especially Instagram. It is key to post unique photographs that attract people to your account and establish an online presence to keep followers, both new and old, loyal to you. The average user spends about three seconds viewing your post, therefore, post graphics that make them stop and engage!  If you don’t have easy access to a professional photographer or high-quality photographs, try using a consistent filter on all of your photos to establish visual continuity throughout your page. Some very simple ways to maximize your visual assets are as easy as the following:

  • Turn a video into gifs or stills
  • Make a series of photos into a slideshow video or carousel
  • Use multiple images from the same photoshoot for different purposes
  • A #ThrowbackThursday never hurt anyone
  • Redesign images and feature them as Stories

2. Creative Stories & Reels

Recent studies have shown that people are more likely to watch Instagram stories than they are to take the time to scroll through their Instagram feed. Creating an Instagram story takes very little time and is a fun way to give followers a peek inside your typical workday. Not only are Instagram stories an easy way to engage, but they also increase your brand transparency and show who you really are behind the camera. Whether you make a video with the team, share sneak peeks on what you’re planning to do next, or simply take a photo during your break, consistent stories are guaranteed to pay off in the long run.

Similar to TikTok, Instagram Reels offer you the ability to create fun and engaging video clips through the Instagram platform. With a 30-second time limit, these videos have been proven to increase engagement and followers for various reasons. Different from a typical Instagram post, the main benefit of a reel is their prime location on Instagram’s Explore page. The Explore page allows Instagram users who may not be following you to see your content and then visit your account directly—this is a major way to get in front of a new audience!

3. Calculated Hashtags

Many of our clients ask, “What do hashtags even do for my account, it seems like an added task with no benefit?” Our easiest answer to this question is that hashtags make your posts and account discoverable on a broader scale. When you use hashtags that are relevant and trending, your account will then have a higher chance of appearing when users search content by hashtags. Getting in front of people within the same industry as you, that may not be existing followers, is an easy way to increase engagement and potential following. There are two different types of hashtags that we recommend implementing into your Instagram, industry specific hashtags and branded hashtags.  Using a combination of these is guaranteed to elevate your account and get you in front of the right audience

4. Consistent Engagement

Engage, engage, engage. Whether it is a simple thumbs up emoji or a “like,” engagement will transform your Instagram account. Actively liking and commenting on your followers’ posts, shows loyalty and garners engagement back to your page. Other ways to ensure you are engaging effectively is to exchange DMs, bookmark posts you love, tag other accounts in your posts, and reshare relatable content from accounts. This is an easy to task to forget, so we recommend setting a reminder every day on your phone to actively engage on social platforms. You will be surprised at how much a few minutes of engagement can pay off in the long run!