One of the most creative women on the Treasure Coast is Stacy Weller Ranieri, the founder, president and chief illuminator at The Firefly Group, the largest public relations and marketing firm of its kind in the area. Fifteen years after opening as a one-woman show, The Firefly Group has grown to a staff of seven shining lights.
Why come to the Treasure Coast from the fast-paced life of the Big Apple?
It was really a leap of love. I was born and raised in Queens, went to New York University in the Village in the 1980s, and met my husband, Rob, through a mutual friend. I had a great job with MetLife working with corporate contributions, but somewhere in the middle of Manhattan, I’d experienced an environmental awakening. In 1994, Rob asked me to move with him to a tiny town in Florida for a business opportunity. My love for both Rob and nature helped make the decision for me. We settled in Tequesta at first, which looked a whole lot different in 1994 than it does now, and I didn’t know a soul besides Rob here.
That had to be quite a culture shock. What happened next?
I wanted to get a master’s degree in something environmental, so I took classes at FIT in Melbourne, which was quite a commuting challenge. I worked part time at a solar pool heating company and did an internship with Solid Waste in Martin County. Once I had my degree, Martin County hired me in its Solid and Hazardous Waste Division, where I helped launch the Hazmobile. From there I took a position with Keep Martin Beautiful and became the first executive director. I stayed there until I had my first child, and though I loved being a stay-at-home mom, I was going stir crazy after only a few months, so I took on some part-time consulting work with community revitalization, sustainability and consensus-building. In 2003, Rob suggested I start my own consulting firm, which is how Firefly came to be.
Firefly seems to have created a niche through its clientele and focus. Is that by design?
I think it has a lot to do with our passion. It’s definitely not about making money. We have to have some enthusiasm for the product or mission before we accept a new client. We started with just three clients: Martin County Parks and Recreation, Treasure Coast Wildlife Center and Waste Management’s local Hobe Sound Division. Over time, those three clients morphed into a number of non-profit clients and government projects, and some very serious larger and smaller businesses and landowners. It’s very symbiotic, and we always do our best to match a non-profit and for-profit when there is an authentic fit. It’s been a good roster of clients.
After 15 years of growing the business, what advice would you give to entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
I believe that if you choose a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. I come to do good work and make a difference in our little neck of the woods. Work bleeds over to the missions of the non-profits and the projects we work on, and I am comfortable with them because I know enough about them to know they are to benefit the community. I also serve as the president of the Library Foundation of Martin County, work with SafeSpace, the United Way, and other organizations in the community that ignite my passion. Volunteering is a great way to become a part of the community, but I would also suggest finding a creative outlet that is purely non-work. For me, that is painting.
I go to the Alizarin Crimson Art Studio every week where the owner, artist Georgia Abood, is my mentor and tutor, and I paint and create. That’s my total escape—it’s better than meditation or yoga because my brain completely focuses on the art and it relaxes me. When I leave the studio, I feel totally relaxed.