Nurturing the growth of South Florida’s entrepreneurial community has never been a higher priority than it is now for local colleges and nonprofit organizations.
In 2015, the number of startup businesses nationwide rose for the first time in five years, experiencing the largest year-over-year increase in the past two decades, according to The Kauffman Index, which tracks new business creation.
“Because South Florida is ranked second in the number of entrepreneurs – only behind Austin, Texas – it’s clear that we have the volume,” says Kimberly Gramm, associate vice president of Florida Atlantic University’s (FAU) Tech Runway. “It’s also clear that we don’t have enough resources to support them all… but we are getting closer.”
Being an entrepreneur doesn’t always mean starting a business from the ground up, says Thomas M. Tworoger, professor and chair of entrepreneurship at Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business & Entrepreneurship. “There are 100,000 businesses with 20 or more employees in Miami-Dade County and another 100,000 in Broward and Palm Beach counties,” he says. “Because acquisitions are much easier than startups, we encourage students to take a good look at these companies and see if they would be able to take them to the next level. These businesses already have employees, customers and equipment. In many cases, our students know how to grow them when they graduate because we equip them with the knowledge they need to do it.”
While investment interest and job creation tend to be greater for technology startups, there is plenty of support for innovators in other industries. Tworoger encourages would-be entrepreneurs to look beyond the lure of technology companies, because they’re not necessarily right for everyone. “Tech is tough and very competitive,” he says. “Lots of people are attracted to it and don’t make it in the field. I tell people to “go ugly” – to look for those businesses that are meeting needs but may seem less sophisticated. After all, consider your goal, which is likely to own a sustainable company with growth potential that is a good place to work and supports the community. This is very possible in many industries in South Florida.”
For help in achieving that goal, consider the following resources.
The Center for Technology Enterprise & Development
The nonprofit TED Center, which has locations in Delray Beach and West Palm Beach, offers entrepreneurs, small companies and startups various business resources and services, including website development, marketing and financial management. Staff members help entrepreneurs identify opportunities and partnerships, stay abreast of industry trends and receive training and technical support. (tedcenter.org)
Enterprise Development Corporation of South Florida
With offices in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, the nonprofit EDC offers advisory and support services to help position entrepreneurs, investors and partners for success. It connects entrepreneurs with investors, organizes events, provides mentorship and offers strategic advisory services in an effort to grow South Florida’s startup ecosystem. (enterbusiness.org)
The Entrepreneurial Institute at Barry University’s Andreas School of Business
The Entrepreneurial Institute at Barry University offers educational training and economic development in tandem with the Miami-Dade County Office of Community Economic Development. It focuses on the economic disparity that exists in many Miami-Dade communities and provides on-site assistance as well as services on campus by appointment. Among its goals is increasing minority-owned business activities. (barry.edu/biced/entrepreneurial-institute)
Florida Atlantic University’s Adams Center for Entrepreneurship and Tech Runway
The Adams Center’s Entrepreneur Boot Camp empowers innovators and business owners with the tools they need to develop business plans; it also operates the annual FAU Business Plan Competition (BPC), which was covered in the June 2015 issue of SFBW. The BPC provides students and entrepreneurs the opportunity to meet and network with senior business leaders and the investment community while competing for a share of cash and in-kind prizes to support the growth of their ventures. (business.fau.edu/centers/adams-center/index.aspx)
FAU’s Tech Runway opened in 2014 to house, educate, mentor and fund companies from the ground up. Entrepreneurs accepted into the program, which was covered in the November 2014 issue of SFBW, are expected to have revenue and manage expenses, acquire real customers, produce real products, manage human capital needs and fine-tune their pitches for funding. Tech Runway uses the Lean LaunchPad curriculum and the MIT Venture Mentoring Service; it is currently working to accept its third round of companies. (techrunway.fau.edu)
Florida International University’s MakerBot Innovation Center
The MakerBot Innovation Center, FIU’s new 3,000-square-foot digital innovation space at its Miami Beach Urban Studios, has a network of 3-D printers and 3-D scanners, allowing community members to work together on professional initiatives and to research and develop new products and tools. Recent graduates of the center will also be able to participate in specially targeted startup programs. Rokk3r Labs is collaborating with FIU in Miami Beach by offering participants Rokk3r’s innovation platform and experience working with entrepreneurs. Rokk3r Labs will be running workshops, seminars and research initiatives alongside the university. (mbus.fiu.edu)
Innovation Hub at
Created to host and support businesses in all industries, the Innovation Hub at Broward College helps startup companies as rent-paying tenants through various stages of their growth via networking opportunities, coaching and mentoring. Another key aspect is collaborating with others in the co-working space, which is designed to create an ecosystem to foster efficiency and innovation. In a collaboration with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers professional soccer team, part of the Innovation Hub is dedicated to sports-related startups, where participants receive mentorship from Strikers staff and have the opportunity to pilot their ideas on the Strikers” stadium, fans and athletes.
Miami Dade College’s 10,000 Small Businesses Program
Miami Dade College is now accepting applications for the next round of its 10,000 Small Businesses program, which is scheduled to begin on Jan. 28 at the MDC Wolfson Campus. Goldman Sachs” 10,000 Small Businesses is a national classroom-based practical business curriculum that gives entrepreneurs skills for growing their businesses, the opportunity to access financial capital and powerful networking opportunities at no cost to participants. The curriculum includes one-on-one advice, clinics and workshops. In its first year, the program featured MDC alumni, area business professionals and advisors; it graduated 73 small business owners. (mdc.edu/10ksb)
The MEC Incubator supports the development and growth of promising seed and early-stage business ventures by providing access to seed funding, mentorship, office space, tech expertise and legal services. Applicants for services can include new growth businesses, pre-startups, businesses being re-established and those moving away from being home-based. The MEC looks for businesses that have high employment potential, fulfill unmet needs in a community, deliver products or services in a new way and replace imported products or services. (mec261.com/incubator)
Nova Southeastern University’s H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business & Entrepreneurship
NSU’s Huizenga College of Business & Entrepreneurship offers numerous degrees and certificates in the field of business, including an MBA in entrepreneurship, an undergraduate business minor in the field and a certificate in entrepreneurship. All of the professors in the entrepreneurial department have managed successful business ventures and often continue as mentors as their students navigate real-world situations. The programs also provide necessary skills for “intrapreneurs” – employees of large corporations who use the same skill sets as entrepreneurs to create new products, services and systems. NSU students acquire the expertise to create feasibility studies and business plans, to build real-life portfolios of work and to learn how to start a business, acquire a business or run a division of a large corporation. (business.nova.edu/masters/mba-in-entrepreneurship.cfm)
Startup Quest is a 10-week entrepreneurial training program that pairs mentors with unemployed or underemployed people to transform a technology from one of Florida’s state universities or NASA into a product for the commercial market. The program, which is funded by a $12 million U.S. Department of Labor grant and delivered at no cost to participants, has gained national attention for its innovative approach to entrepreneurship and community collaboration. It has launched in nine regions across Florida, including Broward County, and officials say it has put nearly 1,000 people back to work – 185 of whom are self-employed as a result of the program. (startupquest.org) ?