Friday, January 27, 2012

The CIED: Cultivating Entrepreneurial Growth in North Central Florida

From Flickr User LadyDragonflyCC
How is innovation cultivated in North Central Florida? Recently, I had the opportunity to tour Santa Fe College’s Center for Innovation and Economic Development (CIED). I met with Dug Jones, the Assistant Vice President of Economic Development, and Bill Dorman, the Entrepreneur in Residence at the center. The mission of the CIED is "to foster innovation and economic development by adding value and providing enrichment to individuals and organizations within our business community." Dug demonstrated how the CIED eliminates barriers to entrepreneurial success through its services such as meeting space, educational programs, technology resources, peer group meetings, mentoring, and more.

The CIED provides services to entrepreneurs at every level. The Entrepreneur Incubator caters to new businesses and provides opportunities to meet with seasoned Incubator Resource professionals for mentoring and guidance. As an alternative to the home office or coffee shop, the CIED provides space for business meetings and interaction with clients. As a business grows, “Incubator babies” are expected to thrive and graduate from the program. Success stories include the Citizen’s Co-op, Applied Food Technologies, and Corks & Colors Studio.

The Incubator and other services are included with membership to the CIED. There are two levels of membership, and fees are paid on a month-by-month basis. The Associate Level membership offers access to the CIED facilities, networking group meetings, and advising services, while a Resident Level membership provides these services as well as permanent office space at the center.

New members and guests will experience Dug and Bill’s passion for helping fledgling and established business owners succeed. Depending on your needs, I believe membership to the CIED would be an invaluable resource. For more information on the center or the incubator, visit the CIED, or watch this video. The CIED is located at the corner of 6th Street and University Avenue and offers plenty of parking.

For more information on business incubation, check out:
How to Choose an Incubator from the New York Times
Incubation Nation: Where Great Ideas Are Born: An overview of 20 incubators by Inc.
The Perks of Business Incubators from the North Central Florida Business Report

In the coming weeks, I'll report back on other business incubators in North Central Florida.

Have you utilized any incubator services? Would you consider it in the future?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Survey Says...

From Flickr user orangeacid
Thanks to all of the local indiepreneurs who filled out my informal survey!  I asked the following two questions from a variety of local business owners:

What do you feel is the biggest challenge in running your small business?

What would help you with this challenge?

The biggest challenges represented on the survey dealt with time management and marketing outreach. Others were concerned with raising consumer awareness or sourcing financial support. Finally, navigating the legal and regulatory landscape was a major issue for new business enterprises.
Some of the notable solutions offered for these problems included a desire for affordable human resource services and guidance in finding alternative support staff (interns, virtual assistants, etc.). Others mentioned a need for affordable bookkeeping and accounting and shortcuts to getting things done. Finally, outreach and networking were major concerns – so let’s start a meet-up (more info soon)!

Do these results sufficiently reflect of the needs of the local entrepreneur? What sort of support do you think is needed in our local community?
Over the next few weeks, I’ll look into resources and organizations to help local indiepreneurs with these needs. If you have a recommendation for a resource or service, please let me know!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Indiepreneur Spotlight: Ashley Glenn

Flickr User Jacob Rickard
Ashley Glenn owns Culinary Professionals, a small local business specializing in culinary education for people of all ages. Culinary Professionals provides personal chef services, nutrition classes for kids, demonstration cooking events, and private cooking classes. Ashey's passion is sharing her knowledge with the health-conscious food lover!

IS: What inspired you to create Culinary Professionals?
Ashley: After graduating from culinary school and spending the past four years working in catering and the past three summers teaching children to cook in South Florida, I moved to Gainesville and decided I was ready to share my love of good food and my passion for cooking with people in Alachua County.

IS: How did you begin the process of building your business?
Ashley: I am still in the early stages of building my business. I started the process by creating a very simple website and establishing the business on Facebook and Twitter. Having an online presence is critical in building a business today.

IS: What motivates you towards your indiepreneurial goals?
Ashley: The chance of improving the lives of others by showing people how to cook, teaching people the importance of good nutrition, and sharing my culinary creations is a constant motivator for me.

IS: What advice do you have for other indiepreneurs who want to create a business?
Ashley: If you have a solid basic concept for your business and a strong work ethic, chances are you will be successful. My best advice is to start small and always be thinking of ways to expand your business when you are able to.

Check out Culinary Professionals on Twitter for more information on cooking demos, nutrition education, and personal chef services!

The Information Slinger's suggested book pairing...
Integrative Nutrition by Joshua Rosenthal
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Should You Use Groupon?

Flickr User Jo Jakeman
I’m a self-proclaimed cheapskate, and as a customer, I love using Groupons. But a friend and I were discussing the recent horror stories we’ve heard from local business owners’ Groupon experiences.

As a small business owner, should you use Groupon or other deal-of-the-day websites to promote your business?

After reading these articles, I’d say the consensus would be: Perhaps, but use extreme caution! Check out this ‘net roundup for yourself.
The Social Media Examiner makes these important points: Groupon is not for everyone, and carefully weigh the pros and cons against your business objectives. They ask some poignant questions regarding your expectations and offer tips for success if you decide that Groupon is a solid move.
PC World focuses on the cons of using Groupon for your business. This article demonstrates how Groupon may not help you achieve promotional goals and may cost you money, branding, and client perception.

Inc. offers solid tips for using Groupon appropriately for your business’s price points, limitations, staffing levels, and marketing buzz.
So before you buy into the Groupon buzz, make sure you do your homework!
Have you used Groupon as a customer? What worked, and what didn’t? Have you thought about using deal sites for your local business?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Guide to Starting a Food-Based Business

In 2011, the Florida Legislature passed a state law allowing individuals to make and sell certain food items from their home. According to the Division of Food Safety, these “cottage food operations” do not require a license from the state of Florida and include items such as breads, cakes, jams, jellies, and fruit pies. Individuals cannot make more than $15,000 in sales per year and must sell directly to the consumer. 

What if you produce foods outside of the parameters of the Cottage Food Law? Check out a certified commercial kitchen. Blue Oven Kitchens is a local non-profit kitchen incubator that “provides access to inspected, commercial kitchen space while also providing business support services.” They are currently fundraising to build a rental space and host a handy Facilities & Referral Service. Their resources page lists information for food entrepreneurs including workshops, training, general information, and includes links to the IFAS Food Safety and Quality Program.

The Florida State Library provides access to the Business Plans Handbook through the Gale Virtual Reference database. Search within the Business Plans Handbook for “food” to see many sample plans for ideas.

The Information Slinger's recommended business reads:
Sell Your Specialty Food: Market, Distribute, and Profit from Your Kitchen Creation by Stephen F.Hall

Fun reads:
Chew by John Layman: A graphic novel series in which a detective gets psychic impressions from everything he eats.

Questions or comments? Email me at

Friday, January 13, 2012

Indiepreneur Spotlight: Stefanie Samara Hamblen

From Flickr user NatalieMaynor
Stefanie Samara Hamblen edits Hogtown HomeGrown, a free monthly newsletter focused on local food in North Central Florida, with seasonal recipes, menus and more. She also operates The Illegal Jam Company, selling batches of jams, jellies, and preserves using local ingredients.

IS: What inspired you to create Hogtown HomeGrown?
Stefanie: Watching people pick up items at the farmers’ markets and then put them back down because they either did not know what it was or how to cook it – Hogtown HomeGrown tells you what’s in season, spotlights one fruit or veggie, and has recipes, menus, and tips.
IS: How did you begin the process of building your business? 
Stefanie: I distributed the first printing of 500 copies around Northwest Gainesville - for the first few months it was word of mouth.  Then Haile Village Farmers’ Market and Union Street Farmers’ Market decided to advertise, so I set up a table at each once a month and distributed newsletters to everyone who would take one.  It took 18 months for the advertising to pay for the printing costs, and I have made a little money, but not a living.  Then came Facebook - I can make one post and it is seen by many people at once.

IS: What motivates you towards your indiepreneurial goals?
Stefanie: I am trying to replace all my nannying income with food income, so between limited ad revenue, jam sales and cooking demos and lessons, I am slowly working toward that goal.

IS: What advice do you have for other indiepreneurs who want to create a business? 
Stefanie: Well, I am not the kind of person that created a business plan, nor am I living off the money Hogtown HomeGrown is raking in - so I would suggest they have sufficient income to survive for three years while they build their business.

Check out Hogtown HomeGrown and The Illegal Jam Company on Facebook to discover Stefanie’s latest newsletter, cooking demo, or sweet spread!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Guides to Starting Your Indie Business

Flickr user alancleaver_2000
Starting a small business can be overwhelming.  Check out these resources for assistance:

The U.S. Small Business Administration guides you through setting up and running a small business, while the Florida Small Business Development Center’s “Thinking of Starting a Business?” resource is user-friendly and well-organized.

The Department of State’s SunBiz site offers an additional guide to getting a business started in Florida and focuses on registration and the legal processes required by the state. Or, check out Gainesville’s Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) organization for mentor assistance, workshops, and templates.

When you’re ready to begin researching your small business needs, check out the public library's Small Business Resource Center for samples of real business plans and assorted small business topics. Likewise, as you define your target market, Demographics Now offers statistical information based on geographic locations.

Do you prefer a book? Then check out:
The small business start-up kit by Peri Pakroo
Legal guide for starting & running a small business by Fred S. Steingold
Making money from home : how to run a successful home-based business by Donna Partow

There are also many eBooks available on new business enterprises.
The entrepreneur equation by Carol Roth
Four ways you can start your own business by Bruce Barringer
Freesourcing: how to start a business with no money by Jonathan Yates

Eventually, I'd love to write a simple guide to starting an indie business. Want to get involved? Shoot me an email at

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Looking for Indiepreneur Sherpas

From Flickr User El Frito
Whenever I’ve approached a new endeavor (library school, a management course, entrepreneurship), I’ve always found it helpful to find a mentor. Some of these have been informal, such as the awesome Journalism Librarian at UF or a friend who runs her own magazine in North Central Florida. I find these personal Sherpas crucial for guidance, confidence, and let’s face it, imitation. I enjoy finding inspiration from other successful entrepreneurs such as Tim Ferriss, Seth Godin, and Bethenny Frankel.

I’m hoping to connect local business newbies to seasoned business Sherpas. Are you interested in connecting with a mentor? Are you a local indiepreneur with a few years of success under your belt? Please email me at
What do you look for in a mentoring relationship? Know that your first attempt may not always be the best fit. Check out Inc. Magazine's tips for finding a great mentor.
More on this to come!

Monday, January 9, 2012

What Do You Need?

As a small independent business owner, what are your needs? How can a local librarian help? Please consider this very short survey to help address the challenges of indiepreneurs in North Central Florida:

I'll use your responses to customize resources and programs for local businesses.

Questions? Email me at


Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Network for Local Indiepreneurs

Looking for a network for independent entrepreneurs in North Central Florida? Wish you had support from other young business professionals?

Stay tuned for information on a new group in North Central Florida for the non-traditional business owner. These events will feature speakers, refreshments, and raffle prizes. You'll leave with connections and the support of other indiepreneurs in our area.
What kinds of topics would you like to see presented during our first few meetings?
Hit me up at

Friday, January 6, 2012

How Do You Manage It All?

From Flickr User orcmid
As I delve into the challenges of self-employment, the first obstacle I faced was time management. I quickly found that laundry, dishes, and dusting became high-priority tasks. I also spent a lot of time planning and over-analyzing when I should have been executing tasks to accomplish goals and meet deadlines.

How does the beginner indiepreneur efficiently manage time?

I love these tips from the productivity masters at Mashable. Sarah Kessler has divided tips by workspace including home office, co-working spaces, coffee shops, and on the road. My favorites involve eliminating obsessive email-checking, curbing distractions, and realizing your most productive time of day (Mine is certainly 8am to lunch. After that I’m worthless!)

I was encouraged to document my time and create a schedule in order to start good habits. As tedious as it sounds, a project management system may be a sound strategy for accountability and efficiency. 

What free resources exist for time-management?

I’ve had a lot of success by simply using a Google Doc spreadsheet to track my hours and keep me focused. It’s great for document sharing and calendaring as well. But I’m ready to move onto something more advanced. The folks at Do offer a free app for team and workflow management, and it comes highly recommended for simple project management. I’ve also heard good things about Asana and am planning on using it for a social media project at work. I’ll trial both applications and offer my reviews here.

I’m also thinking about picking up a copy of Getting Things Done, David Allen’s seminal productivity manual. I’ll let you know how it works out.

What are your tips for time management? How do you stay focused at your office, home or in the coffee shop?

Have a productive week!