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Calling All Prospective Entrepreneurs

By Deanna Dammer Kimbrough Posted on March 3, 2021

Thinking of starting your own business?  What’s stopping you?  Probably not knowing where to begin, how to get funding, wondering if there is a need for your idea, and fear of failure.  None of these roadblocks are unusual. The smart thing is knowing where to go for guidance in overcoming all of the above.

The Pasco Economic Development Council (PEDC) has been helping and encouraging business development for several years with its Entrepreneur Centers and Incubator Network facilities.  (A business incubator is a method for helping new or startup companies with management training and/or office space.)

The newest opportunity in Pasco County is SMARTstart, a program developed to “engage entrepreneurs, grow business, and create job opportunities in Pasco County.”  As incoming PEDC Board President Jeffrey Lampasso says, the launching of a new business is “often hindered by knowledge, money, and space.”

On February 17th of this year, PEDC held a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tour for its third incubator location: SMARTstart @ The Grove, located at 6013 Wesley Grove Boulevard, Suite 202 in Wesley Chapel. The program offers mixed-use facilities that provide entrepreneurs with access to mentoring, coaching, affordable office space, and co-working space.

Pasco County Economic Development opens SMARTstart @ The Grove

There are several considerations used in choosing locations for SMARTstart facilities: diversity in the population and the business community; state of the economy; is their innovation.  According to PEDC President and CEO Bill Cronin, the social and business aspect of an area is important, and knowing whether the overall approach is “business-to-business vs. business-to-consumer.” 

Why Wesley Chapel?

Wesley Chapel definitely has a special vibe.  It is a fast-growing part of Pasco and shares a border with Hillsborough County, which often makes it considered as part of the Tampa Bay metro area.

It’s a commuter-friendly community close to I-75, with several schools, including a Pasco Hernando State College campus, and a variety of medical facilities.  Retail shops and restaurants abound, and the “big box” mall at The Grove is a bonus for the new SMARTstart location.

You can be a SMARTstart-er

SMARTstart @ The Grove offers a variety of 24/7 workspace options and programs for members, ranging from $45 to $650/month.  Along with dedicated desks and private offices, this location includes WiFi, a co-working lounge, mailboxes, lockboxes, conference rooms, restrooms, and free coffee, along with the use of printing, scanning, copying, and audio-video equipment.  There’s access to a KRATE container unit and even a digital media studio. 

SMARTstart Program Director Dan Mitchell points out that this new facility is very flexible for its members.  The $100/month workstations, or “Hot Desks” as he calls them, are perfect for ”work and go” use; while the Dedicated Desks at $150-200/month allow members to keep items safely there in a lockbox.  An added benefit for the Dedicated Desk member is that the location can be used as a business address.

Gather Around Pasco County Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneur Roundtables are held monthly at all three Centers.  Existing small business owners and those in the early stages of their ventures discuss issues unique to startups and early-stage businesses, along with other challenges, and the rewards that make their efforts worthwhile.

Additional assistance is available through CO.STARTERS, a 9-week course with trained facilitators who will help you discover insights, relationships, and tools needed to turn ideas into action. 

Finding Common Grounds

Not sure how to present your business to other business owners?  The COMMON GROUNDS program will help you achieve confidence by having you personally present your ideas to current entrepreneurs in Pasco County.  Question-and-answer sessions will further your experience in how to represent yourself and your business.

Don’t Let a Lack of Funds Stop You

Need financial help to start your own business?  The Microloan Program allows entrepreneurs with “solid ideas, good management skills, and a valid business plan” to apply for assistance.  If those requirements aren’t in place yet, the PEDC has a team ready to help.  It includes individual counseling with a member of SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives). 

With the exception of purchasing real estate, a MicroLoan can be used for some very essential things:

  • Working Capital
  • Inventory
  • Supplies
  • Furniture/fixtures
  • Machinery/equipment

Additional Membership Benefits

The SMARTstart brochure describes their Education Series as “Bridging the gap between theory and practice.”  The virtual evening sessions are presented by industry professionals and are free to members.  The 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. classes include:

  • Co.Starters Get Started
  • Search Engine Marketing
  • Build Your Social Brand
  • Food is the Biggest Business
  • How to Network–Secrets of Body Language
  • Overcoming the Summer Slump
  • Money Talks

It is a series meant to help take your business to the next level!

About the Pasco Economic Development Council

The PEDC mission is to stimulate balanced and diversified business growth. The values instilled in that mission are Integrity, Innovation, Accountability, Leadership and Collaboration. 

The Council has set the bar very high, and fortunately, it is guided by a 12-member staff, a Policy Council, and a Board of Directors that represent a vast diversity of Pasco County businesses and institutions.  The PEDC is also supported by 15 Pasco Enterprise Network Partners. 

For more information on SMARTstart, all of the programs offered, additional Entrepreneur Centers, and those who make it all possible for the Pasco Economic Development Council, go to www.pascoedc.com

Photo courtesy of Pasco Economic Development Council. People L-R: Mary Katherine Sauter, Jeff Lampasso, Heidi Tuttle-Beisner, Dan Mitchell, Andy Taylor, Bill Cronin, and BOCC Chairman, Ron Oakley.

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