WeVenture Ignites Initiative with Federal Funding

A recent grant to weVENTURE, the Women’s Business Center at Florida Tech’s Bisk College of Business, will fund more than $400,000 to expand services assisting small businesses in Brevard, Indian River and St. Lucie counties in direct response the impacts of Covid-19.

The money was made available through the congressionally funded CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act and will specifically allow weVENTURE to provide individual companies who qualify with 1:1 business coaching and will pair them with support from peer groups and subject matter experts. Additionally, 31 of these businesses will be selected to participate in the center’s IGNITE 360 Mentoring Program at no charge, said Executive Director Kathryn Rudloff.

Ignite 360 helps business owners identify specific ways they can modify their business plan or current operations to ensure they emerge from this crisis successfully. The program has been a pillar of the center’s offering since 2012 and is designed to help businesses in a position of change, whether that be a position of growth, or rebranding or managing adaptability to a pandemic, like Covid-19, she said.

The grant will allow the organization to hire two additional business coaches, as well as engage professors at Florida Tech, local business professionals and consultants, who will assist with mentoring, sharing expertise, facilitating and managing peer group sessions and more.

Once a client has been approved for the program, their business coach will create an Individualized Entrepreneur Plan, or I.E.P., to outline which programs will best help address their business needs. Experts will facilitate virtual sessions and webinars that will guide participants through sessions on various related topics.

Kathryn Rudloff

Program Participant Becomes Program Mentor

Kyle Graham, who owns Millefiori Medical Skin Rejuvenation in downtown Melbourne with his wife Iris Graham, participated in the mentoring program in 2015, and now is coming onboard as a business trainer. “The things I learned through the program have saved me so much time and aggravation,” he said. For example, when he started the program, he and his wife were spending up to 30 hours each month on accounting processes.

“We learned how to change our approach and went from 30 hours per month to two, allowing us to redirect our attention to things that matter more for the business such as customer service and HR (human resources) functions,” he said.

Kyle is looking forward to the opportunity. As both a small business owner and MBA graduate from Florida Tech, his role as Business Coach currently has him connecting with business owners in the northern end of the county, trying to assess needs and provide the bridge to services that can help.

It seems there is much to do.

“Everyone seems to need something different,” said Kyle, “but it all circles back to how can we help them get what they need, be it accounting expertise, or HR documentation, or pointers on marketing.

The great thing about this program is that it’s completely customizable to the particular business in need and the center has an absolute treasure chest of supporters, partners, contacts and resources that are committed to helping,” he said.

weVENTURE secured additional funding from Bisk Ventures ($25,000) and Wells Fargo Foundation ($16,500) in support of their mission to support female entrepreneurs. “During normal times, weVENTURE programs help female entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses. However, thanks to this one-year grant from the SBA, weVENTURE is adding capacity to help any local business sustain through this crisis,” said Rudloff. •

More information is available online at weVENTURE.fit.edu or by calling 321-674-7007

WeVenture COVID-19

Shawna Lucas
Publisher at Space Coast Magazines | shawna@spacecoastmagazines.com

Shawna Lucas (formerly Kelsch) has lived and worked in Brevard county for the past 20 years, serving in a variety of jobs and community service roles. She’s a former food and news reporter for Florida today, and was owner/operator of a marketing company that assisted clients and partners such as the Florida Healthcare Coalition, Blue Cross & Blue Shield Foundation for Florida, The Brevard Health Alliance, and Florida Tech to identify and solve pressing community health issues. She has she has dual bachelors degrees in Journalism and Sociology from the University of Miami, and was an inaugural fellow at the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN.