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Growing Your Skillset with FLEX

Young professionals are in many different places in their careers—you may have just graduated college and started your first job, recently switched jobs and feel like you’re starting new, or maybe you are the head of your company or own your own business. No matter where you are in your career path—there is always something to learn.

If you’re looking for ways to build connections and gain experience, FLEX involvement is an excellent way to do that. We asked some young professionals to share how they have grown their skillset by participating in FLEX:

“Joining FLEX early in my career was a game changer for me,” said Rachel Stiller, past FLEX president. “I was able to build my resume with skills, which helped me move forward with my career goals. It gave me a safe place to practice public speaking and access to mentors who taught me leadership skills. Personally, it gave me a central place to meet other enthusiastic professionals and make new friends.”

“I’ve learned how to maintain a greater balance between my professional and personal lives by effectively delegating tasks to committee members,” said Lyndsey King, Events & Fundraising Committee Chair. “In doing so, I’ve also learned how crucial clear communication and achievable expectations can be for the overall success of a team.”

“I’m naturally introverted, so FLEX helped me get better at networking, meeting new people, and getting out of my shell,” said Aaron Ritsig.

“It has also given us opportunities to volunteer, get out into the community, and interact with nice people that we might otherwise not have met,” Andrew Ritsig added.

“I have been given the opportunity to attend socials, speak at FLEX Presents, and meet others, like me, who are new to the area,” said Hailee Amos. “Surrounding myself with others who are building their dreams, aspirations, and skill sets has impacted my career drastically. I’m a better communicator, speaker, writer, educator and overall, a better professional.”

Jarred Heuer, who was also newer to the area upon joining FLEX, added: “Breaking into a new place can seem intimidating. Regardless of profession or trade, the ability to connect with people is one of the most important skillsets one can have. FLEX makes it fun to sharpen that skillset and does so in a meaningful, communityminded way.”

So, what’s stopping you? If you’re looking to build connections, learn a new skill, and/or get out of your comfort zone, we invite you to get involved. It doesn’t matter where you work, what your job title is, or how much experience you have.

Reach out to us or attend an upcoming committee or monthly meeting.

This article was published in the Future Leaders & Entrepreneurs Exchange’s (FLEX) November 2021 edition of the FLEX Your Ideas (FYI) Newsletter.

FLEX President Joins Chamber Team

We love witnessing young professionals gaining skills and growing in their careers, and we’re especially excited for Kat Thompson, FLEX President, as she begins a new journey.

Kat recently joined the team at the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce, the parent organization of FLEX, as Membership and Education Manager.

In her new role, Kat will focus on attracting and retaining chamber members, while also working to connect the business and education communities. Although she will focus on membership and education, Kat will assist with other Chamber programs, too, like FLEX and Be Here.

Not only has she helped FLEX grow as an officer over the years, she is now employed at the Chamber and will continue to help strengthen our group.

“One of my biggest values is building community, and I’m excited to be part of an organization that has a purpose of building the business community and helping make our region better,” Kat told us. “From being involved with FLEX, I already knew the team here, and I’m excited to work with a great group of people, including the Chamber staff, board, and members.”

Kat credits FLEX to a lot of the skills and connections she has gained over the years. She has become familiar with the community, while strengthening her skills in communication, public speaking, networking, leading meetings, and more. She also is a 2020 graduate of Leadership Venango, the Chamber’s leadership program, which helped her grow and learn more about the community, too.

When asked what advice she has for other young professionals looking for a job transition or to try something new, Kat said: “We need people to show up and contribute their skills, try new things and grow, and to familiarize themselves with what we have here.”

“This is a really unique place with a lot happening,” she added. “I encourage you to focus on the good, figure out how you can join, and jump in.”

Please join us in congratulating Kat on her new position! Reach out to her at her new email at

This article was published in the Future Leaders & Entrepreneurs Exchange’s (FLEX) October 2021 edition of the FLEX Your Ideas (FYI) Newsletter.

Watch FLEX Presents Livestream May 21

FLEX will award a new young professional with the title of Young Professional of the Year on Friday, May 21, at the 10th annual FLEX Presents.

The event will take place at 6:30 p.m. and will be live-streamed on Facebook. Learn more about the event and the amazing nominees in this month’s edition of the FYI (pages 17 – 20).

This article was published in the Venango Chamber’s May 2021 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.

FLEX Member Highlight: Valerie Perry

Just a few months after winning the Get on the Trail grant contest, Valerie Perry has launched her new business—A Bite of History Food Tours.

Based in Franklin, these tours take groups around downtown for “exceptional, immersive experiences.” As they walk, Valerie shares history of the Oil Region, with stops at 5 to 8 tasting locations. Food can change, but some items enjoyed by tour-goers include smoked cheeses, bubble tea, and rosemary shrimp.

“I absolutely love to get people excited about traveling and exploring. All participants so far have been local, but have still learned something new,” Valerie said. “We all can get set in our ways, especially when it comes to places we visit each day, and it takes getting outside of that to see the remarkable.”

The tours start Fridays and Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. for about three hours, and each group has 8 people (although it may increase as COVID restrictions lift). Normally, tours will occur May-October, but Valerie was eager to get it up and running, so she started them in March this year.

Not only does attending a food tour help Valerie’s new business, but it also supports the many participating small businesses who benefit from the ticket purchases.

Launching a business has been a learning experience for Valerie and she is continuing to learn new things. She appreciates the support from the City of Franklin, Franklin Retail Association, Oil Region Alliance, and Small Business Development Center.

To learn more and schedule a tour, visit

This article was published in the Future Leaders & Entrepreneurs Exchange’s (FLEX) April 2021 edition of the FLEX Your Ideas (FYI) Newsletter.

FLEX – Ugly Sweater Winners

Congratulations to the winners of our Ugly Holiday Sweater Contest and thank you to everyone who entered and voted! We were able to collect many donations for our food drive and have fun while doing it.

See below for contest winners & entries:

Zack Sheffer – Most Hideous
Kat Thompson – Most Festive
Ashley Sheffer – Most Likely to Belong to Your Grandma
Alicia Bidish – Most Beautifully Tacky

Left to right: Elizabeth Yale-Ivell, Adam Brozeski, Megan Weber, Shane O’Neil, Rachel Stiller, Sydney Herdle, Hannah Stiller

This article was published in the Future Leaders & Entrepreneurs Exchange’s (FLEX) January 2021 edition of the FLEX Your Ideas (FYI) Newsletter.