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Bensalem Business Directory rebrands with new name

Founder Pondeli Hajioannou believes the Business Friendly Organization better reflects what the group is all about

A clear message: Pondeli Hajioannou recently rebranded the Bensalem Business Directory to Business Friendly Organization to better reflect its mission. Source: Kyle Ober

When Pondeli Hajioannou launched the Bensalem Business Directory in 2015, he had one mission in mind – to form a group of businesses, nonprofits and government institutions that work to support one another, all without a board of directors or titles.

However, Hajioannou found that he kept having to explain this mission. Given its name, many wrongly assumed the group to be a physical directory, and regularly asked where they could pick up a copy.

In an effort to have the group’s name better reflect what it’s all about, Hajioannou recently announced a rebrand to the Business Friendly Organization. Not only does the new title aim to clarify the organization’s purpose, it also makes it more welcoming to potential members from outside of the Bensalem area. Since its inception, over 180 members have joined, spanning Bucks County, Philadelphia and New Jersey.

“People think it’s a physical directory. It’s not. It’s a bunch of friendly people getting together. The Lions, the Rotary, the Lower Bucks Chamber, they’re all members of my group. All the schools are members, churches. I welcome everybody to join and try to work with as many people as I can,” said Hajioannou. “But it’s not about how many members you have. It’s about the quality of people. It’s a family, even if you’re a dysfunctional family. As long as they get along, have each other’s backs, that’s great.”

All are welcome: Businesses, nonprofits and government institutions are invited to join the Business Friendly Organization. Source: Pondeli Hajioannou

Typically, the now-Business Friendly Organization would gather on a monthly basis for meetings, presentations and other events. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, Hajioannou had to think of new ways for everyone to stay connected, especially small business owners whose livelihoods were devastated due to statewide closures.

The mission of the group – to help each other – was in full force during this time. Zoom meetings were hosted every Friday morning, with special guests offering to speak about the COVID-19 situation.

This included Bensalem Township Mayor Joe DiGirolamo, who Hajioannou said learned how to navigate the video conference platform for the occasion, and Bucks County Sheriff Fred Harran, who was the township’s Director of Public Safety at the time. Other guests were Dr. Minh Bui, of People’s Choice Urgent Care, who shared vital information regarding masking and other safety measures; and Quaint Oak Bank’s Joe Tryon, a small business lender who was able to help out several members.

“I had business owners from other communities coming on to hear what was going on,” said Hajioannou. “People in the group would help others in the group. It just became such a nice way to get by. During COVID, we did so much. We kept on pushing forward and trying to help each other. The problem I was still having, people didn’t understand who we are or what we do.”

The official rebrand was announced on The Mayor’s Show, hosted by DiGirolamo, who Hajioannou said has become a fatherly mentor figure over the years. In fact, he said it was DiGirolamo who urged him to unite businesses in the first place.

As the pandemic settles down once again, the Business Friendly Organization is starting to ramp up its monthly meetings.

The most recent took place on May 5, at Bensalem’s state-of-the-art public safety training center. Bill McVey, who succeeds Harran as Director of Public Safety, was the guest speaker and host. Officers Bob Schwarting and Sean Hayden showed off the police department’s K-9 unit, featuring Bowie, who competed with Schwarting on the A&E series America’s Top Dog in 2020.

Upcoming guest speakers include Bensalem Rescue Squad executive director Tom Topley on July 14, at 6:30 p.m. at Bensalem Rescue Squad; Commissioner Gene DiGirolamo on Aug. 11, at 6:30 p.m. at Bensalem Country Club; District Attorney Matt Weintraub on Sept. 8, at 6:30 p.m. at the country club; Sheriff Harran on Oct. 13, at 6:30 p.m. at the country club; and Ron Davis on Nov. 11, at 8 a.m. at Parx East. There’s also an annual picnic on June 11, from noon to 3 p.m. at Neshaminy State Park ($10 per person, children 12 and under are free); and the annual holiday dinner on Dec. 9 at the country club.

In action: The Business Friendly Organization’s recent meeting included a demonstration by the Bensalem Township Police Department’s K-9 unit. Source: Kyle Ober

Those interested in becoming a member can visit bensalembusinessdirectory.com, which is in the process of being revamped.

“No one should feel they are alone and cannot make it. It is wrong to feel that you are judged or you will not be allowed to try because you are not worthy. My group charges nothing to join and no one is told they cannot join because of skin or gender or anything else,” said Hajioannou. “All you have to be is a good person who wants to treat people the way you are treated, and that’s it.”

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com

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