Eleven entrepreneurs getting guidance on starting their own businesses
By Patrick McCallister
For Hometown News
DAYTONA BEACH - The Volusia County Pumpkin Festival will draw hundreds of thousands of fall aficionados from throughout Central Florida every year for a weekend of everything autumn: the pumpkins, the carving, the cooling temperatures, Halloween, Thanksgiving.
That is if Scott Chesley convinces someone with the wherewithal to host the proposed annual festival to go for the gusto. When he does, Mr. Chesley is confident that good promotion will draw more than 100,000 people to the event. That's 100,000 people with dollars. Dollars they will spend.
Mr. Chesley owns Festival Design, one of 11 businesses now enrolled at the University of Central Florida Business Incubator, 601 Innovation Way, at the Daytona Beach International Airport. The entrepreneur is thrilled to be part of the program that he said will have a much bigger economic benefit to the area than most realize.
"I think what this is bringing to the community will shock the community," he said. "I'm talking into the hundreds of millions of dollars."
The UCF Business Incubator opened in July last year, and was the ninth the university started since 1999. Another opened since then.
"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."
Businesses pay anywhere from $270 to $1,000 a month to have office space at the incubator's facility. Most are paying $270 to $350. While that's pretty inexpensive rent, it's not why the businesses are there. The entrepreneurs did a lot of work to hang their shingles there. To get in the program, prospects go through a rigorous application process that includes making repeated presentations. They have to show that they have business ideas that'll work, that they have the dedication to make them work, and the resources they'll need to see them through until the ideas start generating sufficient income.
Importantly, too, the applicants have to show that they're dedicated to their ideas, but not hung up on how to turn them into reality.
"If an entrepreneur is not coachable, we cannot help them," Ms. Bernal said.
If entrepreneurs are tentatively accepted into the program, they start by taking an eight-week class at the university, Excellence in Entrepreneurship. The course cost $400.
"The class is part of the application process," the site director said.
Michael Panebianco, owner of Bounce Forward, said the class turned out to be more important than he thought it'd be.
"It introduced us to legal things and marketing professionals," he said. "(Entrepreneurs) need a bigger Rolodex, and (the business incubator) gives us that."
Larry Curran, co-owner of Choose Rain, said he, too, was glad for the class, and other help. He said that while he's run and grown existing businesses, that didn't prepare him as much as he thought it did to open Choose Rain.
"I'm 65," he said. "I've been in business all my life. I thought I knew what it takes to open a business. The incubator fills in the holes. It fills me out - it fills my holes."
Ms. Bernal said nine companies are at the business incubator, and two are off site. Additionally, two companies have graduated from the first stage of the incubator's program and moved out. Another two candidate entrepreneurs are taking the class. Ms. Bernal said she's regularly working with another three to help them prepare for applying.
"I never leave any client behind, because they don't know how to present," she said. "Sometimes the entrepreneurs are good with their ideas, but not with their presentations."
The Volusia County Council approved about $1.4 million to renovate the business incubator's 10,000- square-foot facility, and another $750,000 to run it for three years. It was the second attempt at having a UCF business incubator in the county. There was one from 2003 to 2007 at Daytona State College's Advanced Technology College. The need for more classroom space pushed out the incubator.
County Chairman Frank Bruno said that at its first year, he's pleased with the business incubator.
"This is a success story," he said. "First year and 11 businesses are coming out."