Ripening the Entrepreneurial Playing Field
The Women’s Business Center (WBC) at Florida Tech is a community organization that supports new and established businesses by providing business owners with the support and training needed to generate profitable growth and sustainability to elevate their standing as a powerful influence within the community. Some of the benefits our clients receive are increased revenue generation, targeted market penetration, expanded business relationships, access to critical resources and increased financial expertise.
In order to assist these businesses, we provide four avenues of developmental services: business assessments, a comprehensive mentoring process, in-depth training programs and seminars and valuable networking opportunities. In addition to our proven programs, the WBC has built a highly respected and diverse network of community partners made up of donors, board members and super volunteers, along with key strategic community partners like FIT, the EDC, the Small Business Development Center, Brevard Workforce and many others.
The Second Stage of Growth
One key term that has been used in support of growing small businesses is “economic gardening.” It has been associated in recent years with communities that provide a “grow from within” strategy. In contrast to traditional business assistance, economic gardening focuses on existing small businesses and helping them to gain access to competitive market intelligence, develop new markets and revenue streams, and focus on strategic growth challenges. Entrepreneurs who are emerging from a start-up phase and ready to move into their second stage of growth are the focus of these programs, and for good reason.
In 2010, second-stage companies represented around 5 percent (3,147) of total Space Coast resident establishments (63,859), but generated more than 29 percent of jobs and 34 percent of sales, according to YourEconomy.org. Although many people believe that second-stage companies are defined by the number of employees (for example, 10-99), for the purposes of this article, second-stage companies are defined as having been in business for at least two years, generate yearly revenues of at least $250,000 and higher, and have a high-growth potential with the ability to scale.
A Starting Point to Valuable Business Tools
In support of economic gardening, I believe mentoring is the key to growth for small businesses in the start-up phase, and particularly the second-stage growth phase. At the WBC, we have developed a proprietary mentoring program that takes the business leader through a six-month process that instills clarity of focus and a strategic mindset toward his or her business. This cumulative program closes the gap from current performance to desired objectives by setting monthly goals that are supported by an implementation plan. The program is committed to delivering specific, measurable business outcomes, elevating owners into influential community leaders, promoting a strong, network community of entrepreneurs, raising visibility of product and/or service offerings, and creating sustainable community prosperity for business owners and the clients they serve. Accountability has been built into the process, and participants focus on specific aspects of their business in which they are seeking to improve.
Some of the measured results of the mentoring process for our clients have included faster growth, goal clarification, sustainability and visibility for their businesses.
It is clear the benefits of economic gardening ripen the playing field for new entrepreneurs but the greatest success stories arise when these participants combine the services of the WBC. Although our staff can assist from the very beginning, whether it’s through analyzing a new business idea or helping to develop a business or marketing plan, our strategic focus on these second-stage entrepreneurs is where we are able to differentiate our services.
There are quite a few resources available for start-ups, but once these same businesses grow, the number of services lessens. The WBC is a premier local entrepreneurial service organization that remains throughout this formative phase and continues to mentor these business owners to create sustainable businesses in the community, which in turn creates new jobs and revenue.
The WBC has a full schedule of monthly community events and marquee signature events where business experts are brought in to share best practices with budding entrepreneurs. If you are just starting out, or need help along your journey as a business owner, these community events are often the best place to start. Whether through knowledge gained at these seminars or a new introduction, we invite you to make this your starting point to uncover valuable business tools. Through our vast network of partners, the WBC can connect the dots to the resources you need to thrive as a business owner on the Space Coast.
Beth Gitlin is director of the Women’s Business Center at Florida Tech, an investor of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s