By Patrick McCallister
For Hometown News
Editor's note: This is part of an occasional series on new businesses at the University of Central Florida Business Incubator.
Ken and Anne-Marie Poulin turned disasters into their next business.
"We've been through it," Mr. Poulin said. "We had a flood. We lost our roof in a hurricane. We've been through a fire. We really empathize. We know what they're going through."
The mid-40s couple opened First Response Disaster Team about two years ago in Edgewater. The company recently joined the University of Central Florida's Business Incubator at the Daytona Beach International Airport, 601 Innovation Way.
"My wife does an incredible amount of research," Mr. Poulin said. "We looked into the incubator. We had to go to classes at UCF, did a presentation and got accepted into it."
The business incubator celebrated its first anniversary in July. In 2010 the Volusia County Council approved $1.4 million to renovate a 10,000-square-foot facility to house it. Additionally, the county gave the university $750,000 to run the incubator for three years.
"The business incubator is a place to start a company," Doris "Connie" Bernal, site manager said. "The entrants have a lot of resources to work with here. They have professionals who help them with a number of areas."
The Poulins were no strangers to entrepreneurialism. They'd had a financial-services business, and got into contracting.
"I was more or less building and flipping homes," Mr. Poulin said.
Until the housing crash. As it became increasingly clear that everything had changed, Mr. Poulin thought back to when the family had those household disasters.
"The first time I had someone come into the house, I said, 'Wow, I could do better,'" he said.
So Mr. Poulin headed out for another year of school to learn about repairing mold, water and smoke damage. Then started First Response.
"There's seven (employees) total," he said. "We're looking to expand, to put another team on this year. That would be three or four more."
Since homes get mold, water and fire damage everywhere the Poulins hope First Response becomes a national company. The incubator aims to foster businesses that add to the local employment picture. As the company expands, the Poulins plan to keep its offices in Volusia.
"Probably here in Volusia County I'd be looking in another five years out (to add) about 30 employees," Mr. Poulin said.
While First Response is brand new to the incubator, the Poulins believe it'll be a big help to growing the business.
"We see a huge benefit just in the networking that goes on," Mr. Poulin said. "We're looking to develop our marketing plan. I feel they can benefit us in that direction."
First Response does restoration jobs in Volusia, Flagler, Brevard and Seminole counties. Its website is thedisasterteam.com.