Did you know that Clearwater Business SPARK has a robust network of partners to help provide education and guidance to emerging entrepreneurs? Read more to find out educational, training and development opportunities available through our business partners that can help your business thrive.

The city of Clearwater’s Economic Development and Housing Department provides the network knowledge about grant opportunities, office/retail and industrial site selection assistance, business licensing and permitting and regulatory assistance.

Clearwater Business SPARK is proud to announce the newest addition to its robust network of partners, Bootstrap Business School.

Bootstrap Business School (BBS) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in the Tampa Bay area. Its mission is to transform the lives of aspiring entrepreneurs and the communities they live in by teaching people how to start and grow their own businesses quickly and on a shoestring budget. They accomplish this by identifying neighborhoods in need and selecting entrepreneurs of all ages who have an idea for a business to participate in their “Start-Up Bootcamps.”

First, it’s important to figure out if your business idea is even feasible. Testing your business idea is the foundation for building your company. Florida Business Incubator, a Clearwater Business SPARK partner, has a program specifically for the idea stage. They work with businesses that are not yet validated or marketable and help the entrepreneur understand where to begin and how to get the necessary resources.


Don’t go from idea to a full-fledged business. If your idea requires producing a product, start by making a prototype. This gives potential customers something to hold or experience before you invest thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars in your idea. The Clearwater Public Library System has an array of maker studios. Equipment includes a 3D printer, Adobe Creative Cloud Apps, Video Production resources, Laser Engraver, and more. The Library System also provides entrepreneurial support if needed.


Once you have tested the feasibility of your idea and built your initial prototype, the next step would be to create a business plan. This should provide a frame for your business model and define how you move forward with your business. Pinellas County SCORE is a great place to look to for guidance on a variety of topics like writing a business plan. Business mentoring services are provided by both active and retired business executives and entrepreneurs who donate their time and expertise as mentors.

AMPLIFY Clearwater can help business owners by facilitating community involvement through mentorship, educational programs and seminars, collaborative opportunities and committee engagement. AMPLIFY Clearwater also supports the network with strategies and initiatives to encourage innovation among existing businesses, and to promote entrepreneurship and new business development both locally and throughout the region.

The Florida Business Incubator, Inc., is an educational 501c3, nonprofit focused on accelerating business ideas. They provide community support, education and guidance for entrepreneurs to start and grow a profitable business in north Pinellas County.

The Florida State Minority Supplier Development Council (The Council) is dedicated to the development of minority-owned businesses. Through their network entrepreneurs have the opportunity to receive technical assistance, national/international market access, access to educational programming and matchmaking events, and much more.

You might imagine retirement and picture yourself on a sandy beach with a good book, enjoying the peace and quiet…but what happens when you sit up asking, “Well, now what?”

Having too much time on your hands can be hard to adjust to, and even sometimes it can become a bad thing. When you’re used to working 9-5, bustling around, and talking to coworkers all day, the sudden shift of retirement can leave you feeling lost and twiddling your thumbs.

If you are considering entrepreneurship as the next chapter of your retirement journey, Clearwater Business SPARK’s network partners are here to advise and guide you as you embark on this new adventure.

Site Selection and Permitting Assistance

Clearwater Business SPARK offers office, retail and industrial site selection assistance for anyone seeking new entry into Clearwater and expansions. We also assist with business licensing, permitting and government regulation assistance.

Financing

Clearwater Business SPARK has an expansive network of professionals who can help you examine the various financing options to include: traditional and non-traditional loans, venture capital, start-up funds and help you determine which is best for your entrepreneurial goals and assist with your funding needs.

Business Coaching

We offer tailored business solutions to meet the needs of entrepreneurs and small businesses in every stage of development. Our coaches provide actionable feedback, personalized advice and growth plans for you to increase business growth.

Don’t forget to look local when searching for financing! In the Clearwater region there are a multitude of sources to secure your funding. Clearwater Business SPARK has multiple partners that can guide you through the available options for securing funding. These include Florida State Minority Supplier Development Council, Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corporation and Florida Small Business Development Center at Pinellas County Economic Development.

While this is not an all-inclusive list of funding methods available, these are some of the most common and meet many of the needs small businesses face when getting off the ground. No matter where you are in the process of finding your funds, contact us to help guide you on the right path.

If you’re thinking about starting a business, you’re in good company. According to The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), 99.7% of U.S. companies are categorized as small businesses - those with less than 500 employees. Clearwater Business SPARK and its partners are here to support entrepreneurs in every stage of development so you can easily identify and obtain the resources you need to start and grow your business.

Read below for our 8 basic steps to starting a small business:

Educational Programs Through our Partners

June 9, 2021

Top 3 Funding Challenges Small Businesses Face

May 16, 2022

Costumes


​​Clearwater Comic Con veterans know that the number one thing to do at the convention is to wear a costume. Whether you want to be a superhero or villain you can show off your creative side during the costume contest. It’s for anyone 13 years or older, and there is only one costume entry per person. Registration starts at 9 a.m., and contestants can participate in categories like best overall, audience pick, and most creative. However, if you don’t want to show off your costume on stage, you can still turn heads by just walking around the convention. Just keep in mind that there are a few guidelines you must follow once you go inside the event, for example, you are not allowed to bring real weapons and your costume should be no more than two feet in all directions. You can find a list of costume and prop guidelines by clicking here.

If you have an idea for a business and need to explore its feasibility, or need help getting it off the ground, we can help! We can help you develop a business plan, build a prototype, collaborate with others and provide the guidance of experienced, like-minded mentors. If you need financing to get your business started, our network can help you explore the most appropriate financing options available as well as help prepare you for the process with classes, one-on-one counseling and practice pitch sessions. If you are in need of an office space for your new business, we can also provide assistance with business licensing, grant/incentive opportunities, permitting and government regulations.

If you already own a business but need help expanding or growing your business, we can also help with that! If you are looking to expand your workforce, we have partners with resources in the community to solve recruitment and training issues. If you are seeking to expand your business into international markets, Florida Small Business Development Center and Prospera have the expertise to guide you through the process of doing international business. In addition, we also host meetups, mixers, roundtables, workshops, seminars and business training programs that offer a variety of opportunities for you to network and learn how to be a better businessperson. 

All of the aforementioned events are free of charge and will be conducted in Spanish. The road to success as a Hispanic entrepreneur provides unique challenges not found in any other career path. Prospera is here to help you navigate your journey in entrepreneurship. To register for any of Prospera’s free seminars visit: https://prosperausa.webex.com/webappng/sites/prosperausa/meeting/home

A major benefit that Florida has that many other states do not, is massive tourism. In 2021, Florida attracted over 122 million tourists and in 2019, before the pandemic, Florida attracted over 131 million tourists. That is an incredible amount of business to account for on top of Florida being the third most populated state in the country with over 21 million people as of 2022.


Scouring the Internet for business ideas or looking for business grants can be exhausting. Luckily, Clearwater SPARK is a resource haven for entrepreneurs. Whether you’re searching for funding for a small business startup or looking for education programs to help build your confidence as a business owner, we have the resources to help you every step of the way. We have partnered with businesses and organizations in Clearwater and the surrounding areas that are dedicated to assisting entrepreneurs in their various business ventures. Click here to learn more about Clearwater Business SPARK and check out our list of current partners: https://www.clearwaterbusinessspark.com/our-partners.html

How Clearwater Business SPARK Can Help Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners

October 18, 2021

Turn Your Startup Idea into a Reality

February 9, 2021

Clearwater Business SPARK is excited to announced that The Florida Small Business Development Center, a Clearwater Business SPARK partner, will be teaming up with Minority Enterprise Development Corporation (MEDC) to host a virtual conference titled “Converting Challenges into Opportunities” geared towards empowering minority business owners. 

Featured Guests

 This year two worlds will come together all because of one comic book artist during Clearwater Comic Con. Professional comic book artist Karl Moline will be at the convention. He has worked on major comics such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Avengers Arena, and Avengers Academy. Marvel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans can meet the artist and ask him the burning questions they always wanted to know. They can also question him about a super-secret project that he’s working on with Scout Comics.

Meanwhile, Clearwater Comic Con will bring the fans of the classics and new comics together with Scott Reed. He’s a pioneer in webcomics publishing and worked with Dark Horse Comics to provide inks for miniseries like Godzilla: King of Monsters and the rebooted G.I Joe series. During the convention in Clearwater, you might want to ask him about what it was like to be a part of Marvel’s hit miniseries Realm of Kings, and his latest project, which is writing and illustrating Hark, a six-issue science fiction miniseries.

Comics, Comics, and More Comics

At Clearwater Comic Con you can see all your favorite comic book companies in one place! You will be able to meet with members of various companies like The Lab Comics and Scout Comics. You can also buy, sell, or trade comics at Dave’s Comic Box throughout the day. Additionally, you can drop by and say hi to a store called Feed Your Imagination.  The business traveled from St. Petersburg to swap and sell a wide range of comics about characters like Spider-Man and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

This year’s Clearwater Comic Con will be a convention to remember. If you want to learn more about the vendors and the comic book companies that will be at the event, click here. The Clearwater Public Library System, a Clearwater Business SPARK partner, worked countlessly to make sure attendees have a memorable experience while planning other educational programs throughout the year. Click here to learn more about Clearwater Business SPARK and their partners.

As 2020 is ending and the new year is approaching, it’s a perfect time to take the plunge and start exploring the business idea you’ve always wanted to pursue. Or if you are already a small business owner and are looking for ways to expand and improve your business in the new year, Clearwater Business SPARK has solutions for you!

Clearwater Business SPARK​: Where Success Begins

December 14, 2020

Whether you simply have a business idea that you are looking to get off the ground or you are a well-established business owner, Clearwater Business SPARK has a myriad of services and resources to help you flourish through every stage of business development. Read our blog to find out how Clearwater Business SPARK can help your business succeed. 

Location

Make sure you identify the best location for your business. Your business must be seen by your target customer or at least near them. Clearwater Business SPARK offers office, retail and industrial site selection assistance for new entry into Clearwater as well as business licensing, permitting and government regulation assistance.

Capital

It’s imperative to know how much capital you need to start your business. You should consider all the possible spending you need to make to start and operate, such as assets to purchase, renovation, lease payments and operating expenses. Clearwater Business SPARK has an expansive network of professionals who can help you examine the various financing options to include: traditional and non-traditional loans, venture capital, start-up funds and help you determine which is best for your which is best for your goals and funding needs.

Personnel

Identifying your personnel needs early is imperative to starting a successful business. When hiring, you will need to consider the salary and other government regulations you need to comply with as well as figuring out how you plan to recruit your employees. Clearwater Business SPARK offers assistance with workforce recruitment and training needs.

Blog

On Wednesday, July 21, Prospera will be partnering with Clearwater SPARK and Truist Bank to host a Value Proposition and Branding Seminar. During the event, entrepreneurs will learn the importance of determining one’s value proposition and brand gain insight on how to leverage these for business success.  The event will be conducted in Spanish and is intended for small business owners who may be struggling to find their business identity.

In August, Prospera will be joining forces with Fifth Third Band and TECO to host a series of seminars titled, “How to Start Business the Right Way.” The series will focus on the essentials of starting a business and will include topics such as: licensing, state requisites, financing options, and how Prospera can help start or grow your business. The seminars will occur on Monday, August 9 from 6:00pm to 7:30pm and Thursday, August 26 from 6:00pm to 7:30pm.

On Monday, August 30, Prospera will offer a seminar titled, “All You Need to Know About Government Certifications” presented by Florida Blue. The lecture will focus on the process of government contracting and the advantages of obtaining a certification as a Hispanic-owned business.

Upcoming Events for Hispanic Entrepreneurs this Summer

July 19, 2021

Depending on the nature of your business, you may need startup capital. Funding can come from a variety of places – personal savings, investors, government grants, etc. Clearwater Business SPARK has multiple partners that can guide you through the available options for securing funding. These include Florida State Minority Supplier Development Council, Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corporation, and Florida Small Business Development Center at Pinellas County Economic Development.

Clearwater Business SPARK has all of the resources you need to turn your business idea into a reality. Whether you are just beginning this process or have been working on it for a while, let us connect you with the resources you need to take your business to the next level. See the full list of our partners here. Or contact us at (772) 443-0217 to get started.

Limited or Inconsistent Cash Flow

According to an article from Oracle Netsuite, an American cloud computing company, entrepreneurs often make the mistake of failing to secure consistent cash flow before starting a new business venture or sustaining an already existing organization. Oracle Netsuite suggests that maintaining a routinely monitored accounts payable and accounts receivable book will maximize a company’s cash to cash conversion cycle and ensure reliable access to capital.

No Collateral


Most new startups are service-based businesses, meaning they operate on a cash flow business model. According to an article from the United States Chamber of Commerce website, it is difficult for these startups to get a traditional bank loan because banks leverage a company’s assets as collateral. Without significant collateral, service-based businesses fail to meet the underwriting criteria set by most big banks thereby making it difficult to secure necessary funding.  

Why Start a Business in 2022

January 13, 2022

Starting a business is a daunting and time-consuming endeavor, but that doesn’t mean you have to embark on that journey alone. Oftentimes, entrepreneurs are overwhelmed with all the red tape and minutiae of starting a business that they over complicate the process. Here are some helpful reminders for when you feel yourself getting overwhelmed by the stress of a new business venture.

The Florida Small Business Development Center Supports One Day Conference for Minority Business Owners

August 11, 2021

Collaboration

Clearwater Business SPARK has a vast network of public and private partners, operating out of separate facilities, who work together to facilitate entrepreneurial, creative and small business development. We can help your business flourish by pairing you with quality networking opportunities with like-minded businesses and community leaders.

Clearwater Business SPARK has all the resources you need to help you succeed. Whether you are just beginning this process or have been working on it for a while, let us connect you with the resources you need to take your business to the next level. See the full list of our partners here. Or contact us at (772) 443-0217 to get started.

Starting a small business is no small decision. While shaking the shackles of the typical 9-5 job can sound incredibly freeing, it can also be stressful, challenging and may not be as simple as it seems. To help ease your transition, here are a few things to consider before making the leap into small business ownership.

Bootstrap Business School: Bootstrap Business School runs intensive business start-up bootcamps that take aspiring entrepreneurs from idea to launch in just 15 days. The program is ideal for someone who either has a business idea but doesn’t know what the first steps are or has just started a business but needs guidance to move forward.  https://www.bootstrapbschool.org​


Florida Business Incubator, Inc.: The Florida Business Incubator, Inc. provides community support, education, and guidance for entrepreneurs to start and grow a profitable business in north Pinellas County. Businesses range from pre-venture to start-up to established, but growing businesses. Programs offered are relevant for businesses in the idea stage, start-ups, and those that have passed validation. Florida Business Incubator offers weekly SPARK Tanks. SPARK Tanks provide a collaborative environment to make professional connections with like-minded entrepreneurs and share new ideas. www.flbizincubator.org​

Florida State Minority Supplier Development Council: The Florida State Minority Supplier Development Council (The Council) was founded in 1975 by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Miami Progress Foundation for the purpose of fostering the development of minority-owned businesses throughout South Florida. The Mission of the Florida State Minority Supplier Development Council is to link corporations and government agencies with Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs) to foster business development and expansion. www.fsmsdc.org​

Florida Small Business Development Center at Pinellas County Economic Development: The Florida Small Business Development Center at Pinellas County Economic Development (FSBDC @ PCED) works to connect local entrepreneurs to business resources and strategic solutions for expansion and growth. Through professional workshops and business counseling sessions as well as local, regional and statewide partnerships, FSBDC @ PCED fosters a pro-business climate in Pinellas County, Florida with the aid of their dedicated, certified consultants. www.pced.org/entrepreneurs

Clearwater Public Library System- Main Library: The Clearwater Public Library System is an active partner of Clearwater Business SPARK, providing valuable, no-cost access to information, resources, and educational opportunities to support business endeavors. They are the first library in Pinellas County to offer a comprehensive array of maker studios, where people can meet, socialize and share innovative ideas, explore technologies, and learn new skills. http://www.myclearwaterlibrary.com

Prospera: Prospera is the leading Hispanic economic development, nonprofit organization that specializes in providing bilingual assistance to Hispanic entrepreneurs trying to establish or expand their businesses. For 30 years Prospera has provided business seminars, individual consulting sessions, access to business grants and loan facilitation process — to help support Hispanic entrepreneurs at no cost. As a partner of Clearwater Business Spark, our team of business development consultants is dedicated to guide and support the Hispanic entrepreneurs in building, developing and growing their business. www.Prosperausa.org​

Pinellas County SCORE: SCORE is a 501(c)(3) nationwide nonprofit association dedicated to educating entrepreneurs and helping small businesses start, grow, and succeed. Pinellas County SCORE offers free personal and confidential mentoring, educational workshops, and business tools. www.pinellascounty.score.org

St. Petersburg College:  St. Petersburg College’s Workforce Institute offers training, continuing education, industry certifications, licensures and career pathways that are affordable and accessible to goal-oriented individuals and businesses committed to accelerated professional growth. Industry experts teach the skills that entrepreneurs are looking for so you can get it done and get ahead. www.spcollege.edu/workforceinstitute

Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corporation: The Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corporation (Tampa BBIC) is a U.S. Treasury-certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) created in 1987 to meet the need for capital and capacity-building services among African American entrepreneurs who were then entering the business community in growing numbers. Today, Tampa BBIC serves entrepreneurs of all races, with a continued focus on borrowers who are not yet ready to access bank loans. www.tampabaybbic.com

We hope you all enjoy your Thanksgiving. We look forward to watching Clearwater Business SPARK prosper and grow in the future with you.

3. The Chance to Pursue Your Passion

 Sometimes we get stuck in the rut of having the same mundane schedule and end up being content. This can lead to time passing by in the blink of an eye, and before you know it, too much time can pass, and you may realize you’ve been unhappy. If you look back now and realize you neglected to follow your dreams and pursue what you love to do, it doesn’t mean that it is too late. Now is the time to try the business venture you talked yourself out of in your thirties or were too scared to try.

4. It Keeps the Mind Sharp

A brain that is consistently working and learning new things stays younger than a mind that sits and gathers dust. If you’ve never operated a business before, it can bring on a lot of new procedures and processes that you may be unfamiliar with, that are sure to increase neuroplasticity along the way.

5. You Have the Flexibility You’ve Always Dreamed of

 Maybe you’ve always wanted to work untraditional hours, but that was never an option in your career. Or you’ve always envied people whose jobs allowed them to travel often - or better yet - their job is to travel. The beauty of owning your own business is you are your own boss, so you make the rules. Work from, when, and how you want to – it’s your show now.

Have we convinced you to consider starting a business? Wondering if your business idea is feasible? Clearwater Business SPARK is a network of resources provided by our partners to support businesses and entrepreneurs in every stage of development so that you may easily identify and obtain the resources you need to grow in the greater Clearwater area. We will pair you with one of our partners to get you on the road to a successful and exciting retirement. 

We are in the age of entrepreneurs

Millions of Americans finally did what they dreamed about doing for years…handing in their resignation and figuring out what makes them happy. It’s a scary experience, but a good time to research and learn how to make a profitable business that will change your life forever. The Great Resignation is also pushing people into an unusual point in their lives that is allowing them to turn their skills into profit. Luckily, Clearwater Business SPARK has meeting spaces where you can brainstorm business ideas and use an assortment of resources that can help you get your business off the ground whether you just have an idea or own an existing business.

If you need more guidance in this department, we suggest that you visit our website to locate a list of our partners who can help you find the right connections and resources to get your business off the ground. For instance, if you are searching for business grants or funding for a small business startup, you can contact Clearwater Business SPARK which can connect you with the right partners to suit your business’ needs. For more information on our partners and services, click here.

Pay for tools that will help you succeed

Funding for your small business startup plays a major role when it comes to paying for the proper tools that will help your business flourish. For instance, if you are looking to start a social media content creation side hustle, you will benefit from spending the extra money on programs such as Canva Pro that can help you improve your product as well as cut down on the time you spend trying to find fonts, video footage, or other features for free. This is an important concept to wrap your head around now because if and when you contact a Clearwater Business SPARK partner for business or startup advice, they may encourage you to spend money on products and services you were not mentally prepared to spend money on.

Ignore People with Negative Mindsets

Self-doubt is a very common barrier to success for individuals looking to start a business. What ultimately kills a person’s desire to embark on an entrepreneurial journey is the negative talk from the people they surround themselves with. Those dismissive words only feed into an entrepreneur’s own insecurities so do yourself a favor and surround yourself with positive thinkers.

If you are still not feeling confident in your ability to start your own business and think you could benefit from additional education, Clearwater Business SPARK also connects entrepreneurs with organizations that offer educational programs and opportunities. Click here to learn more.

Clearwater Business SPARK is a network offering endless resources for entrepreneurs to take advantage of. To learn more about how we help new business owners succeed, visit our FAQs page. 

Clearwater Business SPARK offers a network of resources to help Clearwater entrepreneurs and small businesses start and grow their small business. It does not matter what stage of business development you are in; we can help you succeed. We are committed to attracting, developing and growing a diverse business and entrepreneurial community. Below is a list of just a few of the many ways that Clearwater Business SPARK can help your business succeed. 

Whether you are just beginning the entrepreneurial process or have been working on it for a while, let us connect you with the resources you need to take your business to the next level. To get started, contact us at (772) 443-0217 or fill out the contact us form on our website: https://www.clearwaterbusinessspark.com/contact.html.

Not Sticking to a Budget

Many individuals are averse to making a budget and sticking to spending limits in relation to their personal finances, but entrepreneurs also fall victim to budget aversion when it comes to running their companies. According to Fundbox, a financial services platform based out of San Francisco, in order to stick to a budget, you must create one that is realistic to your business’ goals. By regularly building and reviewing your budget, you will create accountability and you will also make smarter financial decisions throughout the fiscal year.

Don’t let this list dissuade you from following your dreams of becoming a business owner. At Clearwater Business SPARK we have various resources and business partners to help you navigate these exact obstacles. With Clearwater Business SPARK small business funding, educational programs, and startup counseling are just a click away. Visit our website to learn more about our offerings: https://www.clearwaterbusinessspark.com/home.html

You Don’t Have to Do it Alone

Many new business owners make the mistake of refusing to hire employees or contract outside vendors such as a bookkeeper or marketing agency in the hopes that they can take on those jobs themselves in order to reduce expenses and maximize their profits. The issue with this mindset is that as a business owner, time is money. And if instead of networking and attracting new customers, you are spending time posting ads to Facebook or learning how use QuickBooks, you are not maximizing the full value of your time and ultimately delaying the growth of your business.


Clearwater Business SPARK is where success begins. Through the collaboration and coordination of numerous organizations and agencies, Clearwater entrepreneurs and small businesses can find the resources they need to start and grow their small business through Clearwater Business SPARK.

Launched in 2016, Clearwater Business SPARK is a professional business network providing a comprehensive mix of programs and services to support the growth and development of small businesses and entrepreneurs. The network offers customized solutions to support its clients in every stage of development including pre-venture, startup or existing small businesses.

If you would like to explore the feasibility of a business idea, Clearwater Business SPARK partners Pinellas County SCORE, Prospera, and Florida Small Business Development Center (FSBDC) provide confidential one-on-one counseling sessions that can help you define and focus your business concepts. They can provide expert guidance through workshops, seminars, and other business development resources, many available in both English and Spanish. The Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corporation offers an intensive 16-week course called CATCH for entrepreneurship training and small business owners. Currently, all of Clearwater Business SPARK’s partners are conducting all workshops and counseling sessions virtually.

Clearwater Business SPARK: We're Thankful for our Partners

November 19, 2021

8 Steps to Starting a Small Business

January 7, 2021

5 Reasons to Start a Business in Retirement

December 3, 2021

City of Clearwater Economic Development & Housing Department: The City of Clearwater’s Economic Development and Housing Department provides the network access to incentive and grant opportunities, office/retail and industrial site selection assistance, business licensing and permitting, and regulatory assistance. http://www.myclearwater.com/economicdevelopment

AMPLIFY Clearwater: AMPLIFY Clearwater is a founding partner of Clearwater Business SPARK and supports the network with strategies and initiatives to encourage innovation among existing businesses, and to promote entrepreneurship and new business development both locally and throughout the region. Some of AMPLIFY Clearwater’s priorities for the network include advocating for policies that support a healthy environment for businesses to grow in, working with educators to support curriculum for job training, and elevating the profile of Clearwater regionally and beyond. In addition, AMPLIFY Clearwater facilitates community involvement through mentorship, educational programs and seminars, collaborative opportunities, and committee engagement. www.amplifyclearwater.com

Before seeking funding from an external institution, one should evaluate if they are able to self-fund their venture. A major advantage of self-funding is that you retain complete control over your business. There are several ways to accomplish this, whether it be asking your family and friends for capital, using your savings account, or even your 401k. The disadvantage of this route is that there is a much higher level of risk should your business fail.

If you are unable to self-fund but still want to retain control over your business, you may be interested in applying for a small business loan. However, bank loans are often the most difficult type of financing to secure, so you will have to ensure that you are properly prepared when you apply.  To increase your chances of securing a loan, you should have a business plan, expense sheet and financial projections for the next five years.

Another method that entrepreneurs are increasingly turning towards is crowdfunding. Platforms such as Kickstarter allow small businesses to pay to join their platform and raise capital from investors. These investors do not receive a share of ownership in the business or get a financial return, so it is an incredibly appealing method for those looking to maintain control over their company. 

Have you been in business for a few years and would like to enhance your marketing strategies to drive new customers and increase revenue? Do you need help determining appropriate financing options? Or maybe are you looking for advice on doing business in international markets? Clearwater Business SPARK has partners that can assist in all these areas.

The Clearwater Library System’s Main Library has a unique maker space called Studios@Main. There you can find a variety of hands-on tools such as 3-D printers, production software, audio and video equipment and more. Shoot a YouTube commercial for your business in this space or create a prototype, the possibilities are endless in this maker space. There are also classes, drop-in sessions and one-on-one training for many different interests. Studio@Countryside also has a maker studio that can be reserved for public use.

Whatever business challenges you might be facing as an entrepreneur or business owner, Clearwater Business SPARK is committed to connecting its clients with the resources they need to take their business to the next level. To get started, contact us at (772) 443-0217 or fill out the contact us form on our website: https://www.clearwaterbusinessspark.com/contact.html.

We all heard the saying “New Year, new me,” and 2022 is the year to turn that phrase into reality.  The pandemic has spurred “The Great Resignation” pushing people to take the leap, quit their jobs and start working for themselves. With the help of Clearwater Business SPARK’s partners, you’ll have access to a variety of tools that could give your new small business the boost it needs to be successful. If you are considering creating a business this year, Clearwater Business SPARK has a variety of services that will help you jumpstart your new adventure. Here are the top 3 reasons you should start a business in 2022:

Bootstrap Business School - Clearwater Business SPARK's Newest Partner

September 21, 2021

Clearwater Business SPARK is a proud partner of Prospera, the foremost Hispanic economic development nonprofit organization in the region. Prospera’s team has provided unwavering support to Hispanic entrepreneurs seeking to build, develop and grow their business for the past 30 years. The organization specializes in providing bilingual assistance to Hispanic entrepreneurs trying to establish or expand their business at no cost. Prospera is excited to announce that they will be hosting a series of free seminars this summer to aid local Hispanic entrepreneurs and small businesses.

‘Tis the season of giving and togetherness! When everyone is taking inventory of all they are grateful for in their personal lives, Clearwater Business SPARK is right there along with you, expressing ours for our network of public and private partners.

Through our various partners, we are able to offer customized solutions for businesses in every stage of development. Whether your business needs help reaching new audiences, coming up with a product prototype, or searching for office space or networking opportunities, Clearwater Business SPARK will connect you with the appropriate mentor and/or partner.

Our partners are at the core of leading Florida’s business development further each day. Our organization operates around the very idea of helping and supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses year-round. As we continue to help increasing numbers of individuals and small businesses, we have also grown in our partnerships.


We’d like to formally express our thanks to our partners for making Clearwater the hub it is growing into today. It wouldn’t be possible without our valuable partners: 

3. Plan Your Finances


Once you determine how much money you need to start your business in your business plan, it’s time to secure funding. To get funding, you’ll need to either raise or borrow the capital. Let Clearwater Business SPARK and our partners help you secure funding. Tampa Bay Black Investment Corporation provides accessible, flexible capital, combined with development services that help entrepreneurs expand their credit capacity, offering loan sizes not offered through banks at interest rates that can be less costly than bank products.

4. Determine Business Name & Location

Choosing a business location is one of the most important decisions you need to make. These choices can affect your taxes, legal requirements and revenue. Do your research as permits and licenses can be much more costly in some municipalities than others. There might also be state and local governments offering tax incentives and credits for new businesses.

5. Register with the Government and IRS

Once you have a business location, you will need to acquire a variety of businesses licenses to legally operate your business. You need to register with the federal, state and local governments. In addition to getting your business licenses, you’ll also have to register with the IRS to fulfill your federal and state income tax obligations.

6. Purchase Business Insurance

Getting business insurance is a step that might easily slip your mind, but is an important step that should happen before you officially launch your business. Insurance will protect your financial and intellectual investment from unforeseen circumstances such as theft, customer lawsuit or property damage.

7. Build Your Team


The people you hire can make or break your business. If you aren’t going to be the only employee, you need to recruit and hire a great team to get your company off the ground.

8. Brand Yourself, Advertise and Grow Your Business


Create a brand for your company. This includes a logo, website, social media platforms just to name a few aspects. You must create an online presence for your new business and start promoting it on all channels.

Are you ready to take the leap into entrepreneurship? Partners of the Clearwater Business SPARK network provide a comprehensive mix of programs to support the growth and development of entrepreneurs ranging from pre-venture to startup to existing businesses. No matter where you are in this process, contact us for help obtaining resources.

The Clearwater Public Library System is an active partner of Clearwater Business SPARK, providing valuable, no-cost access to information, resources, Maker Studios and educational opportunities to support business endeavors. . The Clearwater Public Library System's Maker Studios are comprised of hands-on learning and experimentation spaces where community members can design, prototype, and create works using library equipment, software and shared resources. The studios are free and open to the public. The library system also provides entrepreneurial support, expert reference services, business training and seminars, computer and Wi-Fi access, study rooms and meeting spaces.

Prospera is the leading Hispanic economic development, nonprofit organization that specializes in providing bilingual assistance to Hispanic entrepreneurs trying to establish or expand their businesses. Prospera provides business seminars, individual consulting sessions, access to business grants and loan facilitation process.

Pinellas County SCORE offers free personal and confidential mentoring, educational workshops and business tools. Business mentoring services are provided by both active and retired business executives and entrepreneurs who donate their time and expertise as mentors.

St. Peterburg’s College Workforce Institute offers training, continuing education, industry certifications, licensures and career pathways that are affordable and accessible to goal-oriented individuals and businesses committed to accelerated professional growth.

The Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corporation serves to educate entrepreneurs of all races, with a continued focus on borrowers who are not yet ready to access bank loans. Tampa Bay BBIC products and services are tailored to the needs of credit-ready firms that have already accessed business capital; new borrowers who need help developing a viable plan and loan application; and emerging and struggling entrepreneurs who – with intensive support – can build capacity to access capital.

The Florida Small Business Development Center at Pinellas County Economic hosts professional workshops and business counseling sessions to help guide and support the exploration of innovative ideas for emerging entrepreneurs and small businesses, helping to accelerate business growth. Clearwater Business SPARK is committed to providing educational resources to help entrepreneurs take their business to the next level.


To get started, contact us at (772) 443-0217 or fill out the contact us form on our website: https://www.clearwaterbusinessspark.com/contact.html.

Have you ever had a great business idea but thought it would never come to fruition because of all the money it would cost to get your idea off the ground? Unfortunately, this is a common complaint among budding entrepreneurs and one we work to remedy quite often at Clearwater Business SPARK. Oftentimes, the best way to avoid defeat is to educate yourself on the challenges that lie in your way. Here are a few of the main obstacles entrepreneurs face when looking to fund a new business venture:

The Beginner's Guide to Clearwater Comic Con 2022

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Pursue your passion

A new year is a great time to pursue your passion, which has been on the backburner for years. We are in the age where potential entrepreneurs can start a business anywhere because of technology. You also have an abundance of resources from Clearwater Business SPARK where experienced mentors can help you develop a business plan and get you on your way to fulfillment and happiness this year.

Are you unsure if your business idea is feasible? We have partners that can provide you with the resources to help you succeed. Turn your passion into a business so you can spend more time doing what you love.


Learn new skills

Let’s be honest, creating a business is no walk in the park. However, the experience you will learn from becoming your own boss will allow you to acquire skills that you can only get from stepping out on your own and creating a business. The multiple hats you will have to wear while creating your start-up will give you the leadership and accounting skills that you could never get from a typical 9-to-5 job. Clearwater Business SPARK will be there along the way to help you throughout every stage of the development process. We will also help you get the skills you need to become a successful entrepreneur right now, so you don’t have to wait to learn from a huge mistake later.

Are you ready to jumpstart your business?  Clearwater Business SPARK is a network that offers dozens of programs that will help you transform from a worker to an entrepreneur. We help business owners in every stage of development in the Clearwater area realize their dreams and identify ways to fund their start-up.

Reasons You Should Start a Business in Retirement:

1. It Keeps You Active

From picking up supplies to having lunch with potential clients, or dropping off orders at the post office, a small and budding business will require you to fill several roles and wear multiple hats. It will also keep you off the couch! Starting a business will keep you busy and moving around. Your body will thank you!

2. It Can Supplement Your Savings

 A business can be an excellent way to bring income into the family’s savings. While expecting to rely on a Social Security check each month, the cut in income you are used to receiving from your standard paycheck can be shocking - especially if you’re enjoying the same quality of life you have grown accustomed to. A business can provide an additional stream of income to put toward your personal life, your family’s lives, or even back into your business.

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Contact Us At  (727) 443-0217

Every business starts as a great idea. Taking that idea and turning it into a startup business is a huge hurdle that many entrepreneurs don’t know where to begin to tackle. Fortunately, Clearwater Business SPARK has a network for businesses in Pinellas County that work to support entrepreneurs in every stage of development.


The Florida Small Business Development Center at Pinellas County Economic Development (FSBDC @ PCED) works to connect local entrepreneurs to business resources and strategic solutions for expansion and growth. Through professional workshops and business counseling sessions as well as local, regional and statewide partnerships, FSBDC @ PCED fosters a pro-business climate in Pinellas County, Florida. As a partner of the Clearwater Business SPARK network, their team provides dedicated, certified consultants with the expertise to guide and support the exploration of innovative ideas for emerging entrepreneurs and small businesses, helping to accelerate business growth.


Registration is now open! To purchase tickets for the Minority Enterprise Development Virtual Conference click here. 

For more information on Clearwater Business SPARK and their extensive network of partners be sure to visit https://www.clearwaterbusinessspark.com/our-partners.html or call us at us at (772) 443-0217. 


1. Do Your Research

Once you have an idea for your business, it’s important to understand the market for your product or service. The SBA recommends gathering demographic information and conducting a competitive analysis to better understand opportunities and limitations within your market. Market research can include methods like surveys, focus groups, and interviews.

Florida Business Incubator, Inc. has a program catered to businesses in the idea stage. They can help you understand how marketable your business idea is and where to get the needed resources.

2. Create Your Business Plan

Your business plan is the foundation of your business. A good business plan guides you through each stage of starting and managing your business. Your business plan should include an executive summary, company description, market analysis, company structure, services offered, marketing and sales plan and financial projections.

If you are looking to secure funding, you will also add a section outlining your funding requirements. You want to clearly explain how much funding you need and what you’ll use it for.



The virtual conference will provide industry-education to minority business owners as well as highlight the achievements of minority business entrepreneurs in the Tampa Bay region and beyond. The seminar will feature topics such as financing-opportunities and resources, cybersecurity, Covid-19 business considerations and resiliency. The event will be headlined by keynote speaker, Jamal Sowell, who serves as Florida’s Secretary of Commerce as well as President and CEO of Enterprise Florida. Sowell will be addressing the topic, “Converting Challenges into Opportunities.”

The conference is a must-attend for local entrepreneurs seeking opportunities to connect with government and corporate supplier leaders in the region. The conference will take place on Thursday, August 26 from 8am-1pm virtually and costs $75 if you register before August 19th or $95 if you register after August 19th.

Perhaps the most daunting task of starting any business is finding the proper financing to turn your vision into a reality. Securing funding is one of the first financial choices most business owners make and arguably the most important. While this may seem incredibly overwhelming, Clearwater Business SPARK and its partners are here to support upcoming entrepreneurs in pursuit of funding for their business.

These bootcamps are intensive two-week programs focused on teaching entrepreneurs how to grow their businesses without any money or prior business experience or training. This means they don’t have to borrow large amounts of money or risk going into debt in order to get their business off the ground. During the bootcamp, participants learn everything they need to know to launch a successful business, from building a website, marketing, and mastering social media, to customer service, networking, and money management. Each student leaves the program with a detailed personalized action plan that walks them through every step needed to launch their own business.

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The program is conducted virtually and features a mixture of live and pre-recorded sessions taught by experienced local entrepreneurs and subject-matter experts. Students have access to free tech and writing coaches and are provided weekly live office hours with the instructors. Bootstrap Business School also offers ongoing support after graduation to give the new entrepreneurs the best chance at success. Graduates are invited into an online community forum where they can connect with other business owners and access a comprehensive business resource library. They also receive a one-year membership to the BBS Sunday Night Mastermind.

The BBS program is unique in that it creates a sense of community among its participants and empowers them to succeed on their own after graduation. All students selected for the program receive a full educational scholarship worth $2,700, funded by United Way Suncoast and the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council.

The next virtual bootcamp runs from January 8 through January 22, 2022, and applications are now being accepted. If you are interested in participating in the next Start-Up Bootcamp or would like additional information about Bootstrap Business School be sure to visit their website: https://www.bootstrapbschool.org

Marketing

You could have the best business in the world, but if nobody knows about your business, it’s futile. You should consider how you will get the word out about your new business and what marketing tactics and strategies are best suited for your needs. Our network of partners are experienced in helping entrepreneurs and small businesses in every stage of development create solid marketing plans.  

Clearwater Business SPARK has all the resources you need to help get your business off the ground. While starting a business is never easy, it’s easier with the help of Clearwater Business SPARK. See the full list of our partners here. Or contact us at (772) 443-0217 to get started.

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The booths are set, the video games are turned on, and the food trucks are fired up for the return of Clearwater Comic Con! The Clearwater Public Library System, a Clearwater Business SPARK partner, is excited to see participants suiting up and going to the convention’s new location, the Ross Norton Recreation Center. The event is making a comeback after a two-year hiatus because of Covid-19. We understand that this event can be a bit overwhelming to beginners who are new to the Comic Con experience. Here are some things to expect during the annual event on Saturday, March 5th from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Over the last several years, Florida has ranked in the top five on the list of best states to start a business. Most recently in 2021, The Motley Fool, a private financial and investing advice company, rated Florida as the third best state to start a business citing no personal income tax as a major contributing factor.

Florida has seen a steady growth in the number of new entrepreneurs over the past five years, and this is due in part to its reasonable corporate tax rate. In 2022, Florida’s corporate tax rate is 4.46% which is remarkably low compared to Iowa’s 12% tax rate. When entrepreneurs pay less in taxes, they are able to allocate their resources to expenditures that better serve the growth of their business such as hiring necessary personnel or expanding capital investments or researching other small business opportunities. 

You are probably reading this because you are in the incredibly fortunate position of taking the first steps toward starting your own business. And if you choose to open your business in the State of Florida, you have definitely lucked out! Entrepreneurs in Florida experience less financial burden than business owners in other states due to the absence of personal income tax and a number of other financial incentives. 

COVID-19 Information and City Updates