Resources and perspectives for Florida small businesses
Joe Catrambone, president/CEO of the Stuart/Martin County Chamber of Commerce.
[Photo: Matt Dean]
"I think we've turned the corner."
— Joe Catrambone, president/CEO,
• The Florida Small Business Development Center network offers growth acceleration services, a grant-funded program started in 2011 that provides no-cost services to help companies understand their markets, identify opportunities, assess capital needs, improve profitability, identify what's needed for sustainable growth and help implement strategic business plans.
• Counties in the southeast and throughout Florida have tapped into the free Florida Virtual Entrepreneur Center web portal as a resource for small businesses.
• Indian River State College offers itself as a one-stop shop for small businesses. In addition to customary services, it held a soft opening in January for its innovation incubator, a co-work area where entrepreneurs can gain access to seminars, classes, office equipment, high-speed wireless and meeting rooms.
— Mike Vogel
[Photo: Mark Wemple]
"Political, municipal, linguistic, industrial, educational, demographic and psychographic diversity in the Tampa Bay area creates one of the most opportunity-rich areas in the entire world. That being said, we've managed to create so many silos within the area that individual entrepreneurs, businesses and organizations, programs and services, cities and counties, and even regions refuse to work with each other for any number of reasons. If we can find a way to tear down the walls, really spectacular opportunities could have a chance to develop here."
— Daniel James Scott, associate director,
• The Gazelle Lab business incubator in St. Petersburg (another is opening in Orlando) aims to kindle Tampa Bay's "entrepreneurial ecosystem" by helping business owners and staging networking events. Companies that get accepted into the program get up to $18,000 in seed funding.
• USF-Polytechnic has opened Blue Sky business incubators in Lakeland, Winter Haven, Wauchula and Sebring. The centers match USF-Polytechnic faculty and students with first-time entrepreneurs.
• The Kansas City-based Kauffman Foundation, one of the nation's biggest foundations devoted to supporting entrepreneurship, has plans to open a coaching center in Sarasota later this year. The facility will be Kauffman's first in Florida.
— Art Levy
"Starting or running a small business is always difficult without a good plan, without a real understanding of what your niche is and who your customers are and how to market to them. But it's particularly hard now because we've seen a real pullback on consumer spending, and most of the people who come to us for advice want to start consumer-oriented businesses."
— Greg Hoffman, chapter chairman, Manasota SCORE