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.
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.
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.
April 12, 2021
July 19, 2021
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
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.
August 11, 2021
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
March 12, 2021
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.
May 12, 2021
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.
January 7, 2021
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.
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.
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.
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:
June 9, 2021
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
December 14, 2020
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.