My 7-year old daughter came to my wife this past summer, wanting to open a lemonade stand at the end of our driveway. She was aiming to raise money for a charity she and her classmates learned about at Vacation Bible School. My wife was happy to oblige — probably less to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit and more to keep them entertained outside. She, her brother, and a neighbor friend ended up making $22 (here’s a shout out to the generosity and kindness of our neighbors.) Their business model was like Tom’s shoes, but instead of shoes they were serving (kind of disgusting) instant lemonade. I was so proud that she took a proactive approach to solving a problem and meeting a need. Even though we aren’t planning on scaling the lemonade business, I do want to stoke that fire of the entrepreneurial spirit in her. And if you want to talk about a “character builder”, start a business that you depend on for your livelihood and see what happens. Many people are doing just that, and they’re doing it with the help of business incubators, like Catapult in Central Florida.
Business incubators and shared work spaces
With the internet and the emerging “gig economy,” it seems people are getting a fresh new perspective of starting a business for themselves. However, even with all the resources the Internet and a connected world can offer, sometimes all of us still need a little help. That is why business incubators and shared work spaces are popping up in cities across the country. Once such place exists in our own Lakeland, Florida — and we’re already seeing the landscape of our community change for the better because of it. It’s called Catapult, and its mission is to provide work space, funding assistance, programming and education for startups in Central Florida. I spoke with Christina Graham, Catapult’s Executive Director, about their insights into the life of a new business within their footprint.
The biggest challenge facing entrepreneurs
Christina says that one of the greatest challenges facing a new business owner who is trying to get their work to the public is funding. Getting a product from concept to creation to production, having a space to produce their product, and getting the word out — all these activities require funds. And many new business owners have a brilliant idea and a vision but lack these funds. Catapult works to solve some of these issues by providing an affordable space with on-site resources. They also work to secure grants to buy much needed resources that can take a business to the next level.
For entrepreneurs and new businesses, community is key
One of the greatest resources that Catapult (and their space) provides is an interactive and personal community for business owners and entrepreneurs. There is something about working in the trenches with others who are going through the same challenges. Owning a business is tough work; it’s a lot easier when you have a friend that understands. Catapult encourages collaboration and helps foster community among their members, as they see the value of human interaction in these pivotal times.
Catapult’s plans for Central Florida
Catapult will be opening the next iteration of their model — Catapult 3.0 — in early 2020. I am excited to see the benefits in our community when new ideas come to market as a result. In fact, we have already seen the people of our city benefit from the efforts of Catapult and the business owners they support in our day to day lives here. We’ve been entertained in new event spaces, software companies are promoting our businesses, restaurants are satisfying our culinary desires, and workout facilities are springing up to help us take off what the restaurants put on. All of this is happening because people cared to promote new business ideas in our community.
Maybe one day, we’ll share a glass of artisanal lemonade for which the proceeds benefited a local non-profit. We’ll talk about how our community changed for the better — because a certain place provided an opportunity for a “driveway-born” idea to grow.
Catapult is neither endorsed by or affiliated with LPL Financial or Allen & Company.