When Andrew Cole graduated from Maryville College in Tennessee, his first job after relocating was not in his chosen field of sports management, but as a groundskeeper at the Fair Havens Center nursing home in Miami.
“I was just out of college, spending my days sitting on a lawnmower, and happy as a clam doing that,” Cole recalled. One day, the center’s administrator came to him with a question. “He knew I had a management and business background, and they had an issue with the purchasing department. He wanted my thoughts on some solutions.”
Cole went home that night to think, and he came back the next day with 10 different ideas. Three months later, he was appointed purchasing agent at the center, where he worked for 10 years.
His resumé after that would grow to include bass guitar player, TGI Fridays manager — the first to be hired without previous restaurant experience — and director of events for the East Orlando Chamber of Commerce, where he now serves as president and CEO. Each of his roles shares a connection to his passions: music, food and people.
“I have always wanted to contribute. I’ve always been good with people and wanted to work with them, and I love to see people succeed,” Cole said. “I think I have the spirit of an entrepreneur, and I just never found the perfect niche of my own.”
That same entrepreneurial spirit and love of helping others kicked off a series of community volunteer projects that would connect him with the chamber. He began as its director of events in 2013, before being promoted in 2017. In nearly two years at the helm, Cole has been instrumental in projects and events that keep the chamber connected, such as networking coffee clubs, a business expo and Feast in the East. The chamber has also fostered a partnership with the University of Central Florida (UCF).
“The UCF business students actually get extra credit for attending our events,” Cole said. “They get the opportunity to be introduced to the business community before they even graduate.”
Cole said he wishes he had known about chambers when he was starting out. “I kind of live vicariously when I see these businesses,” he said. “It makes me proud when I see them succeed or make connections at chamber events, or when I hear stories from them. It makes me feel like I helped contribute to somebody’s success somewhere, and that’s one of the things that makes me excited go to work every day.”