‘Biz Launch’ Readies Would-Be Entrepreneurs

by Lisa Rice

 

As the economic driver of the 21st century, entrepreneurs and small businesses are keys to the workforce development system.  In response to our changing local economic climate, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration presented Brevard Workforce with a unique opportunity to test drive a Small Business Partnerships Toolkit.

 

Utilizing this guidebook of tools to help facilitate successful partnerships, allowed our organization to uncover challenges faced by individuals striving to become entrepreneurs.  It also led to the creation of a new, out-of-the-box program for these budding entrepreneurs and their small business startups called Biz Launch.

 

What, Who, Where & When

Biz Launch is a networking, support and skill building group for those going into business or contemplating the possibility of becoming an entrepreneur.  The program is held weekly at two of the Brevard Workforce One-Stops in Brevard County.  The Wednesday Biz Launch group meets in Rockledge and averages 65-70 attendees, of which, approximately 80 percent are dislocated aerospace workers.  The Thursday sessions are held in Palm Bay and average 25-30 attendees.  With over 100 clients accessing this unique offering weekly, it is evident that Brevard County is ripe for entrepreneurial activity.

 

The numbers, the caliber and the tenaciousness of the participants has far surpassed original expectations.  This shared knowledge is critical to program success and is creating business startups across a broad range of ideas and scope.  As a direct result of this program, members have launched over 40 businesses in Brevard County.

 

Unpacking the Tool Box

Participating in Biz Launch has provided these new business owners with the right tools that can be immediately implemented into any new entrepreneurial endeavor.  Specific skills covered in the program include patent process, writing a business plan, financial lender options, marketing and market research, legal protection, advertising options, business models, corporation types, brainstorming business ideas, tax structures and more to round out the aspiring entrepreneur.

 

To help guide these future entrepreneurs, the program also offers individual assistance through an Entrepreneur Staffing Specialist who can meet one-on-one with group members and help them move through the processes involved in a startup.  The specialist can direct them to resources in Central Florida as well as serve as a sounding board for their endeavors and ideas.

 

Biz Launch has even attracted celebrity attention, including former professional football player, TV personality, and software executive Fran Tarkenton, as well as local entrepreneurial business leader Ed Scott, co-founder of BEA Systems, Inc., who have both taken notice of this innovative idea.

 

Ready for Resurgence

To continue to move into the future, we are seeing spinoffs form such as the Spacecoast Technical Network (STN).  The STN group acts as a Job Club, brokering information and connecting members to experts at Brevard Workforce.  The north-to-central section of Brevard County represents the areas most affected by Kennedy Space Center layoffs, and this is where STN is based.  It provides fast-paced learning opportunities for would-be businesses, supporting entrepreneurs where it counts – in the pre-planning, skills-capture and new-business launch cycles.  Add in the shared intelligence and you have a powerful force for growth and change.

 

The Space Coast is ready for resurgence.  At a time when traditional employment is lean, Brevard Workforce is determined to support the talent, energy and brilliance within our own community.  Biz Launch is the right idea at the right time, nurtured by strong workforce professionals.  As evidenced each week, difficult times can be the catalyst for new ideas and innovation.  Biz Launch is proving to be that mechanism within our workforce that will champion the advancement of talent and dreams.

 

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Lisa Rice is president of Brevard Workforce, a community partner of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast.