by James Coulter
In a small business incubator in Tampa, a young entrepreneur arrived with only a backpack, a laptop, and a dream. He initially sold commemorative plastic wall plates. He put his nose to the grind, followed their guidance, and met every benchmark.
“We connected him to an ecosystem that will let him thrive,” explained Derrick Blue, BizLINC Co-Founder and COO.
The young man started working at a desk. Then he received a small office space. Within three years, his business grew large enough that he requested space of 5,000 square feet.
By 2020, he had contacts in China who informed him of a new virus spreading. Taking the lessons he learned about pivoting his business, he decided to invest in masks—specifically masks made in America. That decision, in hindsight, made him exceptionally profitable.
“Long story short, all he had was an idea and a dream and a whole lot of passion and he made things happen,” Blue said.
This inspiring anecdote about an aspiring entrepreneur who went from small to big business owner was shared during a luncheon to promote an upcoming business incubator in Lake Wales.
On Saturday, several dozen local aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners were treated to a complimentary luncheon at the B Street Community Center served by Whadda Wings. Attendees learned about BizLINC, a new initiative sponsored by the City of Lake Wales to help promote and create new local businesses.
Located at 225 Lincoln Ave Lake Wales, BizLINC will provide consultation, training, and office space to entrepreneurs seeking to launch their new business ventures. As their website states: it will serve as “a one-stop location for the coordinated delivery of business incubation and development services.”
“BizLINC connects entrepreneurs with much-needed resources to achieve success and sustainability. This is accomplished by providing affordable office space, training, and ongoing technical assistance,” their website states.
Sponsored by the City of Lake Wales, BizLINC and its services, including programming, training, and technical assistance, will be free of charge to participants. Office space will be provided at a discounted price.
Each potential applicant will be placed through a careful selection process to ensure that they and their business prospect have the coachability, sustainability, and profitability necessary to complete the program with great results, their website states.
“We ensure businesses are positioned to thrive,” their website states. “No one business is alike, so each entrepreneur is placed on a track that best suits their specific needs, goals, and capabilities.”
Blue knows what it takes to make it big in business. Having been raised from humble beginnings in Wauchula, he was inspired by his grandfather, a labor contractor and entrepreneur who worked with the seasons. Growing in that farm life, he was able to absorb his grandfather’s work ethic and life lessons without having to be directly taught them.
“There are some things that are taught and some things that are caught,” Blue said. “I was a deficit of all the things I have caught. If you want it, you got to go and get it. Of all the things he said to me in my life, that stuck with me. And we are excited to be able to take our experiences and put it to work.”
Blue expects to enroll 50 businesses into his initiative by October. Over the next few weeks, they will be taking and considering applicants through a rigorous interview process. Many of the business startups will be virtual, while the others will be in person.
When Blue and his business partners stood along Lincoln Avenue, they saw great potential for economic growth in the community. He hopes that BizLINC will help spur that growth along.
“Lincoln Avenue, the entire northwest community, can expect growth both with real estate development, affordable housing, as well as new business growth, so you can expect new businesses pop up with storefronts and see this community explode,” he said. “They can expect to receive much-needed resources to start, to expand, to sustain their company. So we will be connecting them to partners in the community.”
Danny Krueger, Lake Wales City Commissioner, likewise has high expectations of the city sponsoring the initiative. By providing a business incubator in their community, They hope to attract many potential business owners and, with them, businesses.
“The idea behind the incubator is to get people started, give them a hand up rather than a handout,” he said. “It is a way to provide self-sufficiency. Another good reason why small business is important. It is a source of jobs. It is a source of new jobs. That is where jobs come from.”