Pasco Economic Development Council / SMARTstart
Lutz, Floridasmall business owners supported workshops grants providedHow Pasco Economic Development Council's SMARTstart used the CO.STARTERS Refocus business recovery workshop to reach unsupported entrepreneurs in their community and connect them to vital support.
Daniel Mitchell, Program Director of SMARTstart, finally got the cash to provide $5,000 grants to local small businesses, but he wanted to take a more involved approach to supporting the ones who got the money. Cash is great, but Daniel wanted to use the opportunity to build relationships with businesses in the area—especially during a time of chaos and confusion for so many small business owners. Plus, grants work best when there is some kind of accountability built into the offering.
Daniel steers the ship at SMARTstart, Pasco County EDC’s initiative for economic development through entrepreneurship. To Daniel, good economic development starts with solid relationships of trust—trust that business owners have with both other businesses and the local economic development organizations.
Daniel found his solution with Refocus, a CO.STARTERS workshop for business owners who are stuck specifically due to the impacts of the pandemic. He realized that by making participation in a Refocus workshop a stipulation for receiving a grant, he could create opportunities for accountability as well as initiate relationships vital to their long-term success.
Because of that decision, over 500 business owners have now participated in Pasco County’s Refocus workshop alone—and around 1,000 more are expected to go through the two-hour intervention.
Delivered virtually, a Refocus facilitator walks business owners through exercises that return to their primary customer and frame their customers' new problems in light of the pandemic. This helps participants think through ways their business can adapt temporarily to meet their customers' new needs, as well as give them the next step to move forward. Bringing business owners from multiple industries together also gets the creative juices flowing, since outside perspectives can shed light on novel solutions.
"Not all of these businesses are in a Chamber of Commerce or go to networking events. Most of these people own pet-grooming salons or restaurants who never go to events. It’s so important to know that they're not alone."
“I am very proud we could work with Pasco County to bring a relief like the Pasco Business Grant to our business community in a time of great need,” said Bill Cronin, President/CEO of Pasco EDC. “We wanted to make sure we also provided these businesses with a new tool moving forward in an uncertain economy and the REFOCUS program could not have been better received. After every session we receive emails from companies commending the program and our staff for their assistance to provide a fresh outlook on business moving forward.”
“It’s going great,” Daniel shared. “I’ve received around 150 emails with testimonials.”
One feedback email he received reads, “In as much as I don't like to sit around the computer, this was like candy, I couldn't get enough. The breakout sessions were informative and enlightening, but not long enough. It was probably the only time I have had a meeting and wanted it to go on indefinitely.”
Individual impact is important to Daniel, but just as critical are the ways that Refocus is connecting the entrepreneurs with each other and the supporting community.
“I want people to be aware of the fact that there is a community willing to help each other,” he said. “It let people know that they weren’t alone. Not all of these businesses are in a Chamber of Commerce or go to networking events. Most of these people own pet-grooming salons or restaurants who never go to events. It’s so important to know that they're not alone.”
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