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Synergy Business Connections Team - Conejo Valley Chamber Mixpo Event - 2018

Synergy Business Connections | Passionate People with Personality

People are spiritual by nature; we search for reasons and purpose and meaning. There are mysteries we don’t understand and a whole universe we need to explore. Deep down, the drive to be better either compels or convicts us.

People are also creative by nature; the urge to make something new – to give birth – excites us. We secretly long to be inspired and to imagine what could be and long to give it voice.

But the spiritual search is easily overshadowed by the desire for daily comfort or security. And creativity can be lulled to sleep under the blanket of busyness and media noise. When either the spiritual or creative side is sublimated and ignored, we are diminished. The articulation of our feelings and communication of our beliefs often requires a different expression. Art.

But art is creative and needs time and space and risk. To be quiet and wait can be frightening; to face a blank piece of paper or canvas can be terrifying, but the possibility of a poem or painting or concerto or dance that represents meaning or injustice or peace is exquisite. Art can free the feelings and beliefs that are stuck inside. And the best news is that the process of creating art is the key. The product or end result might be spectacular and fetch a high price, or it might be mediocre and ignored by the world. It doesn’t matter because the act of doing and creating is what’s freeing! This is great news for everyone who thinks they’re not an artist.

Art also allows space to breathe and to focus on levels we don’t usually acknowledge. For me painting is what coaxes me to recognize my hesitation to grow, to formulate what are my passions and motivations, to celebrate my dependence and love of God, and to share these with the world. Art lets me create beauty and rejoice in who I am.

Art gives voice to spirituality and spirituality inspires art. It’s the process, the journey, that is magical. Where are you on this journey?

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  • 7 November 2018
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Have you ever said, “I’m not artistic; I can’t draw a stick figure”?  I have good news for you: stick figures are not the yard stick for art.  The world is full of opportunities to “do” art.  This month is National Wilderness Month (celebrating the 54th anniversary of the Wilderness Act), and there is such a thing as Earth Art or Land Art which allows all of us to be creative.  You can take a trowel and carve circles in the dirt and make art.

Earth Art began in the United States in the 1960s as a rejection of the traditional notion of confined galleries and museums where “true art” could be bought and sold and displayed.  It was an embrace of nature and a celebration of found objects as art and beauty.  The very transient nature of the designs were part of the art’s essence.

Because this creative expression couldn’t easily be displayed in galleries, it opened the experience to everyone.  Anywhere there were rocks or leaves a person could arrange art.  And this frees us all to be artists!  In my hallway by the front door, I have a large bowl with stones I’ve collected, and my grandchildren can’t resist stacking them into towers.  A farmer in Simi Valley can’t help but plow a happy face into his hillside next to the freeway.  I arrange smooth river rocks to flow between my flower beds.  On hikes through the hills, there are ledges of stacked stones inviting a peaceful thought.  All of these actions spring from our creative center.  This urge to assemble or organize or declare our presence is innate; it is the desire to proclaim who we are and that life matters and is good.


So, have fun with nature and rocks and dirt; leave your fingerprint on your surroundings and know that you are a creative and artistic soul (and forget about drawing a good stick figure).

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  • 16 September 2018
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It’s Back to School time and with budgets tightening, the arts sometime get squeezed out. But I think downplaying art in school is a critical factor contributing to less effective education.  We retain approximately 10 percent of what we see; 30 to 40 percent of what we see and hear; and 90 percent of what we see, hear, and do.  Incorporating art in school and throughout life is key to growth.  Plus, it’s just more fun.

As I have taught visual art to kids, I’ve recognized at least six ways children benefit from art.

  1. Creativity – Trying new mediums and techniques, imagining different ways to portray a picture, mixing colors and exploring the results, connecting or juxtaposing unrelated objects, all lead students into discovery.
  2. Focus/attention – Thomas Merton said, “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” Listening, thinking, and concentration are heightened in an art project.
  3. Cooperation – Working with other students on a project fosters contribution, acceptance and respect for another’s input.
  4. Problem solving and Decision making – Factoring and filtering different options and problem solving are almost always part of creating something new.
  5. Accomplishment/completion – The satisfaction of closure or finishing a project contributes to positive self-esteem.
  6. Self-confidence – An “individual’s trust in his or her own abilities, capacities, and judgments, or belief that he or she can successfully face day to day challenges and demands (Psychology Dictionary Online)” is integral in accepting feedback and criticism as a positive step to improvement.

Schools are beginning to realize the value of art integration in all subjects, and many are seeing stellar results from it.  Wiley H Bates Middle School in Annapolis, Maryland, “started implementing arts integration school wide in 2009… (and) has seen a 23 percent drop in the average number of referrals and suspensions per student. The school’s percentage of students proficient or advanced in math has grown four times more than the state’s over the same period, and five times more in reading.” (  When schools commit to integrating art, the statistics have proven the positive results.  But can they also help when a person has finished school?  Yes!

The benefit of art in adult life is staggering too.

  1.  Learning styles: We learn in different ways – by sight, hearing, or doing – and creating art is basic in all the learning styles.
  2. Cross cultural connection: Art is a universal language and communicates cross culturally, strengthening our similarities and sharing our values.
  3. Verbal and non-verbal articulation: It allows us to express emotions, relieve stress, problem solve, use imagination and experience fun.

The excuse that there isn’t enough time to be creative solidifies the decision to stop learning and growing.  Art continues to be a foundation in learning for both adults and children.  It’s the end of summer and with school starting, there is opportunity to recognize art’s value in life for all of us.

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  • 1 August 2018
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“Join or Die” was Benjamin Franklin’s call to arms during the American Revolution. His cartoon, first published May 9, 1754, in the Pennsylvania Gazette, was a rallying challenge for the colonies. The visual impact of a severed snake jolted the colonists to action against the British iron rule and led to years of uprising, fighting but eventful freedom. Image and words were the catalysts.

A revolution starts because change is needed – the American Revolution and Civil War were political revolts, but civil problems of poverty and discrimination have also started revolutions. Words and symbols grab peoples’ attention and can be vehicles to ignite passion and action. Art uses color and images that spark a visceral response, whether emotional or physical, for action against injustice. It can give people concrete forms and pictures to rally around, highlighting larger principles. Art can also be an external representation of internal feelings, spurring action in a “so what”, apathetic culture. It can spark imagination just as effectively as it can inspire hope for a better future. Art is a powerful force to engage people with truth.

As you remember our freedom this month, consider the power art can be in society and in your own life.

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  • 2 July 2018
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Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”  The door to possibilities is imagination.  It’s the “what could be” dream.  And art is the creative language that encourages and expands imagination.  Painting, drawing, sculpting and other art forms help people process feelings and emotions by focusing attention and concentration; adults can reduce stress and anxiety or express joy and passion through art; children can communicate internal feelings when they can’t find words.  And the simple act of creating something personal can bring a sense of self confidence and pride. But the primary killer of creativity for both children and adults is fear of failure and ridicule.  Creativity is a vulnerable choice so foster it with care and give it importance.

This summer, plan fun and exciting art activities for the kids.  I’ve listed several ideas that might help stimulate your artistic imagination.  Have fun!

  1. Raised salt painting: heavy paper (card stock), white glue, table salt, water colors/brush.  Squeeze a design on the paper with the glue; pour salt on the glue; with a brush and water colors touch the salt and watch the color spread.
  2. Water color resist: heavy white paper, white crayon or oil pastel, water color/brush. Draw a picture or design in white on paper.  Paint over design/picture with water colors and see the design appear.
  3. Shaving cream marbling: pie plate, shaving cream, acrylic paint colors, heavy paper. Fill pie plate with shaving cream, drip drops of paint into cream and swirl with a chop stick or small spoon; lay paper on cream and press down to contact with cream.  Lift off paper and scrape off excess cream.  Let dry and then draw picture with a sharpie on paper.
  4. Rock painting: river rocks, acrylic paint, brush. Paint rocks like animals (ladybugs, cat faces etc) or make designs with different color dots. Dry
  5. Clay sculpture: self-hardening clay, paint. Make coil baskets, snakes, beads for necklaces, etc. let dry and then paint.
  6. Tissue paper collage: heavy paper, different colors tissue, starch or diluted white glue, brush. With a pencil, lightly draw an animal or design, tear tissue into smaller pieces and apply to drawing. Dry
  7. Batik oil pastel painting: brown wrapping paper (grocery bag), oil pastels or crayons, watered down black acrylic paint. Draw your picture on the brown paper, color it in with oil pastels or crayons (press firmly and cover design).  Crumple the paper, unfold it and with watered down black acrylic, paint entire paper (the black will go into the creases and make it look like batik).
  8. Paint anything with acrylic paints…kids and adults love to play with color or copy a favorite simple picture.

This summer, have fun with the kids…try something new and let your imagination fly!

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  • 1 June 2018
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My mother was a Southern lady from Virginia who taught me how a lady should act and the value of who I am.  She modeled integrity, faithfulness and love, and I learned so much from her.

10 Things I learned from my mother

  1. Always be on time or a little early – arriving late shows disrespect for others’ time
  2. Sing when you’re sad – it’s hard to be focused on your problems when you’re singing
  3. Make up your bed every morning – it sets a good habit of putting everything where it belongs before your whole world is out of order
  4. Give money when the offering plate is passed and share with anyone in need – generosity is the antidote to greed
  5. Wake up early for quiet time – once the day starts, it’s hard to carve out the most important part of the day
  6. It’s nicer to smell a rose than a garbage pile – fill you mind and thoughts with good rather than bad
  7. Don’t “sit on your manners” – always say please and thank you and let others go through the door first
  8. Wear lipstick when you go to the grocery store – it’s not hard to look your best…always
  9. Know the story of Great Grandma’s hutch – your family and past generations are who you are and connect you to history
  10. Love God with all your heart and show that love to everyone else

These are great standards to live by, and I see my mother clearly when I read them. But they also inspire me to think what I want to pass along to my children.  So here goes…

10 Things I hope my children learn from me

  1. Laugh at yourself – you are not perfect and that’s OK (everyone else already knows that about you)
  2. Eat breakfast together – family time is sweet and more precious than we realize
  3. Treat others with respect and kindness – this includes your spouse
  4. Always share with others less fortunate – even when we feel poor, we are 99% richer than the rest of the world
  5. Happiness is a choice – let go of hate and anger because they are more poisonous to you than to their target
  6. Put things away after you use them – it’s easier to keep chaos away before it overwhelms you
  7. Wake up early to be quiet and give space to hear God speaking – it is worth silencing our “mind chatter”
  8. Control is an illusion – we are not as in control of life as we think so trust God with each day and the future
  9. Look for the good in people – we are all made in the image of God and it is special to get a glimpse of his face in others
  10. Love God with all your heart and show that love to everyone else

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom

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  • 5 May 2018
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When I got my first computer in 1987, I was told it could simplify and speed up the mundane activities of my life – I would have more time to dream and paint and commune with nature.  Today, the reality is that I don’t have more free time – my schedule is usually consumed by that technology.   With emails, work deadlines, Facebook, Instagram et al. I am tempted to react and respond to the world without getting outside and moving.

This Sunday, April 22nd, is Earth Day, a day set apart in 1970 to honor the earth and the concept of peace.  I’ve been thinking about my personal peace and the consequences of sitting with the computer against the benefits of being in nature and interacting with art. At first, the relationship between nature and art appears nice but not necessarily close; in reality, they are very similar.  Studies show that spending time outside in nature can change people from being depressed, angry, fearful, stressed or anxious to a more calm and balanced feeling, lowering blood pressure, heart rate and stress hormones.  When we concentrate on a flower, a bee or a breath-taking sunset, we can’t focus as much on pain allowing instead for increased creativity and connections with other people.

But what about art?  By “viewing” art our physical bodies can be improved in lower cortisol stress levels just as they are with nature.  But “doing” art is even more beneficial as it also increases brain activity.  Studies show that in older adults, participation in art builds connections in the brain which help prevent memory loss.  Concentrating on anything artistic can clear your mind of negative thoughts, helping you to focus on the moment, relaxing the body and brain.  Many times, a painter will say to me that they can’t believe how relaxing painting is and their concentration and focus shuts out other concerns.  But if your art doesn’t compare to Van Gogh, the good news is that Harvard Medical School found it doesn’t matter what your artwork looks like, it’s the process not the product that matters!

Earth Day is a terrific reminder of the need to get away from the computer and take a hike, paint a picture, stroll along the beach or go to a museum.  My vote is to invite some friends over and have a painting party…Blank Canvas knows just how to inject some creativity into your event.


  1. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Volume 2014 (2014), Article ID 834360, 7 pages,
  2. The benefits of nature experience: Improved affect and cognition, Gregory N.Bratman, Gretchen C.Daily, Benjamin J.Levy, James J.Gross,
  3. Creativity in the Wild: Improving Creative Reasoning through Immersion in Natural Settings, Ruth Ann Atchley, David L. Strayer, and Paul Atchley , Jan de Fockert, Editor, PLoS One. 2012; 7(12): e51474.
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  • 18 April 2018
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Art is a risky hobby.  There it is. It’s true.

As soon as you start to paint or draw or sculpt or sing, someone is going to make a comment on what they think of it.  If it’s a positive compliment, you feel justified as a person; if it’s negative, they have just put a dagger through your soul.  It’s hard to be creative and be objective and secure because if you do art with openness and feeling, it is a mirror to who you are.

For me, art can be just a painting that I think is pretty.  But if I really am honest with my feelings and paint something that reflects my inner conviction or growth, that painting can be like exposing my innermost thoughts, feelings or motivations to the world.  It feels dangerous and risky; I am vulnerable.   So what should I do?  Not paint? Not try art? Ignore any creativity?

No!  Not trying anything creative is like shutting the door on a universe of excitement and discovery. We all have feelings and emotions we’re not even aware of and occasionally, art can be that window that opens your real self to you.

Art can be a great time of fun.  But sometimes it can surprise you with YOU.

Art is a risky thing.  Go for it!

Go to and dare to meet yourself in art.

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  • 21 March 2018
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I love color.

I love putting colors next to each other to see whether I get a feeling of peace and harmony or a rush of excitement.  (I know that sounds silly but there it is.)  Turquoise with blue or turquoise with rusty orange – each pairing will play with your head in a different way.

Every year Pantone Color Institute chooses a color of the year.  Ultra Violet 18-3838 is the darling of 2018.  Purple and violet are made by mixing the stability of blue and the energy of red, and whereas purple is closer to red, violet is closer to blue.  Neither are very common in nature but when they are they can be used as a focal point or a calming background.  Purple and violet are most often associated with royalty, wisdom, mystery and spirituality.  According to surveys, 75% of pre-adolescent children prefer purple over other colors; adults either love it or hate it.  The bluer tones in violet have a calming, peaceful affect, putting me in a thoughtful frame of mind.   It’s the color of California mountains at sunset, warm and dusty grapes, hydrangeas and lavender, sapphires and amethysts.  When I give purple paint to people who have never painted before, many of them will paint the backgrounds and mention how calming painting is…I agree but I think the color has something to do with the feelings.

This year be a little daring and experiment with violet, whether at paint night or wearing a new shirt.  See if you feel royal and wise or thoughtful and mysterious.  Introduce this year’s color to your friends by booking a mobile paint party with Blank Canvas.  The painting I’ve attached is one I did last year to bring a little calm into my schedule.  I call it Peace (notice the violets and blues).

Happy coloring!

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  • 5 March 2018
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Welcome to February…Heart month. Valentines, red roses, sentimental cards. But face it, in real everyday life, we still deal with deadlines, traffic, incessant noise and expectations that we’re “not enough”. Stress. And stress literally hurts your heart. Harvard Women’s Health Watch (2013) said that there’s a “real connection between stress and heart disease” which can trigger inflammation, a known cause of heart disease.

There are several ways to lower stress: exercise, a positive attitude, and engagement in creative activities. The American Journal of Public Health (2010, Feb. p. 254-263) found overwhelming evidence that visual arts greatly reduced stress and improved mood in patients with chronic diseases. For a long time, art as therapy has been used to enable a person’s thoughts and feelings to be expressed in a safe way when words aren’t enough. Art uses the right brain where emotions live; it provides a distraction from usual thoughts helping a person to concentrate on details and making it possible to feel a sense of mediation. Doing art can help decrease anxiety, stress and depression while increasing self-awareness and self-esteem. Thomas Merton said, “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”

So enjoy a healthy February Heart Month with a little art. Contact Blank Canvas to schedule a painting party with your friends so you can experience the freedom and fun creativity can provide. Happy February!

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  • 1 February 2018
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«December 2018»

12/11/2018 - Thousand Oaks State of the City Address & Luncheon

Join the City of Thousand Oaks and the Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce for the Thousand Oaks State of the City Address and Luncheon, featuring keynote speaker Andy Fox as the business community comes together to reflect on the past year with a focus on supporting the community through the recent tragedies. All are welcome.

Mayor Fox will address the current state of the City of Thousand Oaks, discuss projects completed during 2018 and offer insight of what is on the horizon for 2019.

State of the City Thousand Oaks Address and Luncheon
Tuesday, Dec. 11th from 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.
California Lutheran University - Gilbert Arena

Registration: 11:30-11:45 a.m.
Luncheon & Mayor's Address: 11:45 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
$50 per person; pre-registration required by Dec. 7, 2018.
Italian Chop Salad
garbanzo beans / mozzarella / tomato / pepperoncini / roasted peppers / sweet onion / herb vinaigrette
Zinfandel Braised Short Ribs
served with mashed Yukon gold potatoes, asparagus spears and carrot soufflé
Strawberry Shortcake
Vegetarian Plate (upon request)  - Striped Butternut Squash Ravioli

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John Jell's Synergy Presentation on "Presentation Skills"

At our recent Synergy meeting, we had a great presentation on "Presentation Skills" from John Jell. John Jell is President of JELL Training & Consulting based in Agoura Hills and a Conejo Chamber member. JELL focuses on helping for-profit and non-profit organizations in the areas of people planning, leadership development, sales training, and public speaking training. Before starting his company, John spent 29 years in the corporate world, 25 of them with Fortune 500 companies Nestle and The Coca-Cola Company where he helped build North American leading divisions for both.  Here is a copy of his presentation as well as the audio of his presentation from the Synergy meeting as a resource to you!

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01/09/2019 - Emerging Leaders Happy Hour

Join fellow young professionals for an evening of networking and giveaways while enjoying complimentary appetizers and Happy Hour drink prices. Attendance is free and open to all young professionals between the ages of 21 and 39. Appetizers are complimentary but please come prepared to purchase your own beverages.

Emerging Leaders is sponsored by:

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12/20/2018 9:45 AM

Synergy Business Connections Networking Group Meeting - Third Thursday

Join us for the second meeting of the month.  Please try to arrive by 9:45am for a prompt start at 10:00am.

The Conference Room at the Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce, 600 Hampshire Road, Suite #200, Westlake Village, CA 91361

Location: Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce

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1/3/2019 9:45 AM

Synergy Business Connections Networking Group Meeting - First Thursday

Join us for the first meeting of the month. Please try to arrive by 9:45am for a prompt start at 10:00am.

The Conference Room at the Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce, 600 Hampshire Road, Suite #200, Westlake Village, CA 91361

Join Us / Register

Location: Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce

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Upcoming events

Business Categories

Synergy Business Connections helps businesses grow through relationship marketing and we follow the exclusive category format with one member per Conejo Chamber of Commerce business sub-category. Your business sub-category appears on your Conejo Chamber profile page, right under your business name, to see if your category is eligible. We welcome you to join us at a meeting as our guest to experience the Synergy network for yourself.

Member News

Top Articles of 2018: End of Year Review

Top Articles of 2018: End of Year Review
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Successfully Negotiating the Commercial Real Estate Lease

This is my second article where I give insight into the world of a California commercial real estate broker. A commercial real estate broker leases/buys/sells commercial real estate (“CRE”) for you, the client (tenant/buyer/seller) of CRE space generally defined as office, retail and industrial.

As reminder from last time, there are four main things a good CRE broker does. They: find suitable locations, negotiate the offer, negotiate the lease itself (the many clauses), and are there when the client needs help thereafter with matters like construction, moving, future landlord disputes, terminating a lease early, etc.  The first article I wrote was about finding locations and this one will discuss negotiating the deal.

What makes a broker a good negotiator?  Knowledge and experience are the primary factors.  Most brokers simply don’t have successful negotiating experience and don’t know how to get the information they need to make the deal better for their clients.  They may have negotiated hundreds of deals, but if they didn’t do it correctly then they never learned the art of successful negotiation.  Too many brokers simply want to make a quick commission and move on to the next deal. This is especially true of those that have a quota to meet because they work for a large brokerage. An example of a negotiation I have done will explain this best.

On one large lease deal of about 50,000 sf I was hired to co-represent a tenant along with another broker they had already hired.  They did this primarily because they didn’t have full confidence in the other broker.  After I was hired, I saved over one million dollars and made about 80 lease changes in my client’s favor that were accepted by the landlord.  Why was I able to do this when the other broker wasn’t (even though this broker has been in business a long time)?  Because I had negotiated against this landlord before and knew where his bottom line was for the economics and lease clauses.  I had also worked hard at gathering information from other sources about the landlord. I gathered information about other deals he had made for both the economics and lease clause changes he had given to other tenants.  Finally, I postured that my client might relocate to another project if the landlord wasn’t fair. I went so far as to actually show my client other buildings to lease and/or even buy. This really worked to put some fear into the landlord and cause him to make my client a very good deal.

The size of the deal doesn’t matter and it works for both large and small deals.  Picking the right broker is the key to getting your best deal. You can never do as good, or even come close, if you try and negotiate the deal without a good broker.

Next time we will discuss successfully negotiating the clauses of the lease and what goes into that.  Most brokers and even attorneys don’t usually do this right; find out why.

If you have questions about any of the above topics or have any CRE needs please contact David Massie at or 805-217-0791.

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Search Engine Optimization is never a one-and-done task. In fact, regularly tending to your website is the third important support of your SEO foundation. We have been discussing why all of your SEO ...

Omnichannel Marketing is the Future

Omnichannel Marketing is the Future
If you’re a marketer or a business owner, you obviously have an idea of the approach you are taking to market your business or products. Recently, we’ve been hearing more and more about multichannel ...

Omnichannel Marketing is the Future

Omnichannel Marketing is the Future
If you’re a marketer or a business owner, you obviously have an idea of the approach you are taking to market your business or products. Recently, we’ve been hearing more and more about multichannel ...

How to Create / Update your Team Member Profile

Are you a member of Synergy Business Connections but don't have your company information on the website? Are you not a member yet, but are thinking of joining and want to know how you and your business will be featured? Learn how easy it is to get your profile on the site...

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  • 15 September 2016
  • Number of views: 1490

Synergy Business Connections

Please read more about the rules and guidelines for our group.  

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  • 7 April 2015
  • Number of views: 2419

Some messages from our group...

What makes the Conejo Valley special, unique or interesting?

I like to call Thousand Oaks "the biggest little town in the country." Even though its size is well over 100,000 residents, it still has a small town feel. You are liable to see someone you know every time you go out. I also like the fact that it has protected itself from the blight that has ruined so many other communities in Southern California by restricting things such as billboards, building structure and height, paid parking lots, and corner strip malls. 

— Cary Ginell - VC On Stage