By Patrick McCallister
For Hometown News
Mike Bowen was visiting a friend when his next business idea struck him.
"A friend's roof was leaking, and it collapsed - right on my head," he said.
However bad Mr. Bowen's headache was, his friend's was worse. He had to find three roofers to give him repair estimates.
"An insurance company will tell you they need three bids," he said.
Mr. Bowen figured there had to be a website that made it easier to get those three bids, one at which folks and property managers needing work done could post jobs for contractors and service providers to bid on. He couldn't find one. In July last year, he started working to be the first.
B3B, best3bids.com, is one of 11 businesses enrolled at the University of Central Florida Business Incubator, 601 Innovation Way, at the Daytona Beach International Airport. Mr. Bowen was accepted into the program last December. He was no stranger to making businesses work. In addition to being in the construction business for about three decades he owns a bait and tackle store. Like other entrepreneurs seeking the incubator's help, he had to make several presentations to show he had the right stuff to make a go of the new business.
"I was called a serial entrepreneur at my last meeting, which I thought was funny," he said.
The 47-year-old "serial entrepreneur" said he sought the incubator's help despite frequent business successes because he was trying something very different and potentially much bigger than before.
"You can't do something out of the house and go nationwide in four years," he said. "I realized best3bids.com is bigger than me . . . that's why I came to the incubator."
The UCF Business Incubator opened in July last year, and was the ninth the university started since 1999. Another has opened since then.
"The business incubator is a place to start a company," Doris "Connie" Bernal, site manager, said in a previous interview. "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 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. They have to show 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 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.
Mr. Bowen said that was the toughest part for him, but he's been learning the value of humility.
"I'm not the type of person who likes listening to what others have to say," he said.
B3B is opening an office at 100 E. Granada Blvd., in Ormond Beach, and hiring four employees. He believes that'll grow to more than 25 employees in coming months. While the site is free to customers registering to post jobs, contractors and service providers pay $50 a month to register to make bids. Mr. Bowen said about 200 have joined the site. They offer everything from cleaning and hanging blinds to building home additions.
Mr. Bowen is married. His wife, Dagmar, and he have three sons, two minors and one adult. The adult son was B3B's first employee.
To find out more about B3B, visit www.best3bids.com, or call (386) 310-8734.