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Florida TaxWatch Looks at GrowFL

O’Dang Hummus

Interventions Unlimited

PIRTEK Space Coast

Spring 2015

Inspiring Florida’s Entrepreneurs


DREAM Makers


Eunice Choi & FSBDC

Nurturing Tomorrow’s

Innovators UCF’s Dr. Cameron Ford

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Meet Your New Business Partner We are that familiar face when you first enter a crowded room. A firm handshake and a warm introduction. That connection between the status quo and the promise of extraordinary opportunity. Whether you are new to Central Florida or an established business professional in the community, Orlando, Inc., the Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce, is your strategic partner for success. With high-level networking opportunities, innovative events, exposure to dynamic, regional leaders and access to a wealth of tools and resources, we ensure that our members are equipped to achieve their individual goals. And as a prestigious Five-Star Accredited Chamber—the highest level of achievement awarded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce—you can rest assured that you have partnered with the best.

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FEATURES IV Entrepreneurial Dream Makers Eunice Choi & FSBDC at UCF

X Nurturing Tomorrow’s Innovators UCF’s Dr. Cameron Ford

XV Making an Impact

Florida TaxWatch Takes a Look at GrowFL

FSBDC PROFILES VIII Interventions Unlimited - Jing Zhou IX PIRTEK Space Coast - Morgan Arundel


April 2015 • VOLUME 2 • NUMBER 2



Meet the people of OUC – The Reliable One. We are your neighbors, friends and even family who live and work in your community. We are working hard every day to make OUC, The Reliable One.

The University of Central Florida Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (UCF CIE) was created to help propel Central Florida into becoming a premier region for revolutionary ideas, breakthrough research and innovative new business ventures. This innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem includes programs targeted to support all phases of development – from ideas to second-stage businesses – and everything in between. UCF’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (CEL) and the Florida Small Business Development Center at UCF (FSBDC at UCF) are two of the programs which fall under the UCF CIE. One is designed to inspire and educate young entrepreneurs and upstarts, while the other provides invaluable resources and support to more established small businesses. Both have made a significant impact across Central Florida:


Thomas O’Neal, Ph.D. Associate VP for Research & Commercialization, University of Central Florida

Since its inception in Fall 2013, the Blackstone Launchpad has: • Educated more than 800 students at workshops • Advised more than 1,300 unique student venture proposals • Helped launch more than 200 ventures

*FSBDC at UCF: Serves eight counties across Central Florida (Brevard, Flagler, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Sumter and Volusia): • Jobs created or retained = 7,507 • Sales generated = $1.04 billion • Capital acquired = $51.5 million • Contracts awarded = $87.7 million • Businesses started = 129 • $35 to $1 return on investment * 2013 statistics; 2014 statistics will be calculated and released later in the year.

If you have not explored the programs of the UCF CIE (, I encourage you to do so. Together, these initiatives are strengthening Central Florida’s position as a major player in the innovation-based economy now and in the future.

“It takes a lot of effort, time and patience to support students as they grow from entrepreneurship appreciation to being virtuosos, but we believe that our students and the ventures they create are well worth the investment.” — Dr. Cameron Ford, director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at UCF



Dream Makers Eunice Choi and the Florida Small Business Development Center

It is impossible to put a price tag on the satisfaction that comes from helping others, especially when that help could mean facilitating someone’s dream. As that dream matures, it’s the countless dreams of others, when the ripple effect of a successful enterprise expands out geometrically.


he Florida Small Business Development Center (FSBDC) hosted at UCF works to ensure the dream of business growth isn’t lost or stymied by providing strategic insight and coaching for all businesses, especially those that have the potential to scale. For Eunice Choi, that was the surprising discovery she made when she joined the FSBDC in 1998 as a part-time consultant. Choi came to the area with her husband Yoon Choi, an associate professor of finance at UCF’s College of Business. With her graduate degrees in French and accounting, she had hoped to teach, but then a UCF faculty member told her about an opportunity with the FSBDC. She started working and never left, though she said laughing, “I wasn’t planning to stay this long.” At that time, the Center had a staff of eight in Orlando and 14 regionally. Today, they boast a staff of 41, serving an eight-county area that includes Brevard, Flagler, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Sumter and Volusia counties. It also maintains three sub-center offices and six satellite offices, along with the main office in Orlando.

“I started to fall in love with my job, because I was helping people and able to witness their growth and success,” she said. “There were also times when I was able to lend my shoulder.”

Bumping It Up a Notch Becoming regional director in 2006, Choi has vastly expanded the scope and reach of the FSBDC at UCF. In the process, she has garnered recognition including the prestigious Excalibur Award for business leadership, the CBA Impact Award for her exceptional contributions to the economic development of the region and the State Star Performer Award, which is the highest recognition in her field. In 2011, Eunice was also recognized as one of the female faculty at UCF who raised the highest Contract & Grant funds and has made the UCF’s Millionaires Club for the seventh year in a row since 2008. The UCF Millionaires Club was established in 2000 and recognizes researchers who have received externally sponsored funding of $1 million or more in the last fiscal year. April2015[V

To Choi, the most important recognition is from her clients, but the economic development numbers cannot be overlooked. According to a 2013 report, the annual impact of the SBDC on our region is: 7,507 jobs created, retained or saved; the generation of $1.04 billion in sales; $87 million in government contracts that were acquired; $51.5 million in capital investment; and 129 new businesses launched. Statewide, for every $1 that is invested in the SBDC program, $35 is returned to the state in tax revenue. “When I started, I was shown to my office and basically we waited for the phone to ring,” Choi recalled. “As the Small Business Administration better defined their goals and expectations, along with new leadership at the state level, we became a more performanceoriented organization.” VI]April2015

“It is a very different world today,” L. Harrison “Hal” Thayer, the FSBDC’s assistant director, added. “We actively seek clients and that is due in large part to Eunice’s leadership. We go out and demonstrate to potential clients our unique value proposition.” The FSBDC at UCF is the result of a collaboration between the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the state of Florida, the FSBDC Network and other public partners, particularly host universities that provide resources to facilitate their mission. “It is a good arrangement; by being hosted, they take care of our back office, including contract management support,” Thayer explained. “In turn, we are a very effective community relations arm for the University, helping to create jobs and raise capital which provides opportunities for their talent pool to fill.” “We benefit from matching funds from local partners and host institutions and so, in addition to the SBA and the State of Florida, local cities and counties support us to assist in the economic development of their community,” Choi said. Eastern Florida State College, Seminole State College and Daytona State College also serve as sub-center locations under Choi’s leadership. Elaborating further, Thayer said, “All of the stakeholders have a voice at the table in setting the direction for the SBDC, yet Eunice is able to maintain a certain autonomy while satisfying their expectations.” “Fundamentally I am the one responsible for reaching and exceeding our performance goals,” Choi added.

Why the FSBDC Is Unique “We are different than chambers, for instance, because one of their primary roles is to connect people and they are very good at providing venues and opportunities for networking. We, on the other hand, provide certified business professionals who give in-depth analysis and consulting services to help businesses grow and succeed. This is one-on-one consulting, provided at no cost by 23 certified business professionals with a very diverse background,” Choi explained. Essentially, just as a company might hire consultants to provide the most up-to-date strategic planning, financial analysis or marketing knowhow, many small business can’t afford to pay for this type of expertise. “One company that kept me in this arena was Pegasus Transportation – they consider me their ‘guardian angel,’” Choi said, beaming. Brazilian immigrant Fernando Pereira and his wife Claudia formed the company with minimal assets in a simple 100-sq.ft. office, with a 15-passenger van and just one driver. “The FSBDC has helped us to overcome situations like September 11 and hurricanes, and also helped us to obtain capital for the construction of our new facility,” said Claudia. Fernando added, “The FSBDC has been on our side since 2001 and we couldn’t be more thankful for it.” The list of companies they have helped nurture into multi-million dollar corporations is quite impressive including Elizabeth Burch’s Dignitas Technologies, LLC and Andre Uribe, Michael Wright and Glenn Durie’s Power Grid Engineering. “Their pay scale isn’t up to the market value our consultants could earn elsewhere,” says Choi, “but they are passionate about helping people, so their job satisfaction is high.” “Our primary target customer profile is one with five or more employees and over three years in



“We provide certified business professionals who give in-depth analysis and consulting services to help businesses grow and succeed.”

business. Our ratio is about 40 percent startups and 60 percent small- to medium-size existing businesses with growth potential,” Choi said. “We take companies with potential for growth to the next level.” “The process begins with a needs and situation analysis,” Thayer explained. “We meet a lot of clients who are in their business primarily because they want a job. And, while we certainly assist those clients, our emphasis is on companies that have growth as their objective. Once we understand their needs, situation and goals, then we go to work.” “We have special programs for companies that are in the second stage of development, like our Advisory Board Council program,” Choi said. “These companies can’t afford to have a qualified board of directors with compensation. So we form an advisory board with FSBDC consultants and local professionals who volunteer.” Thayer added, “We get the most amazing people to volunteer for these Advisory Board Councils. We match the type of company a client is building with seasoned professionals with years of experience in that sector. We do tight needs assessments of that client and then recruit professionals to serve on their councils.” It’s no wonder their small business success rate is so high. u

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2013 FSBDC Economic Impact




Helping Those Needing Help The Most


n 1990, Jing Zhou came to the United States to pursue a master’s degree in behavior analysis and therapy at Southern Illinois University. Driven by a passion to help children with autism or other special needs, she was determined to make a difference in their lives and quickly recognized how challenging it is to work with children who exhibit severe problem behaviors such as aggression and self-injury. Also, she wanted to address the heartbreak of families’ whose quality of life is so impaired due to the problem behaviors of their loved ones. Pursing this passion, in 2000 Interventions Unlimited was established to provide an exceptional education for children with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities. Motivated by the philosophy that all children can learn with the right instructional approach, Interventions Unlimited teaches special needs children cognitive, social, academic, adaptive, communication and motor skills. Today they are recognized as a leading ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) service provider in the Central Florida area, with more than 70 behavior analysts, ABA therapists, special educators and administrative professionals on their staff. Starting as a part-time, home-based business, Zhou grew the company and in 2007 established Alpine Academy to provide an educational alternative to children with special needs. Along the way, she recognized the need for expert consultants to guide the business’ growth. In 2012, Zhou sought out the assistance of the Florida Small Business Development Center’s (FSBDC) Growth Acceleration Services to aid her in planning for strategic expansion and was introduced to Jill McLaughlin who did an in-depth analysis of the business and identified key performance indicators to monitor operations and company finances. “I’m very appreciative for the consulting I received from the Growth Acceleration services at the FSBDC at UCF,” Zhou said. “The recommendations have given me the tools to plan more strategically and we have improved our operations and business management. We are now in a much better position for growth.” Zhou’s vision and persistence have certainly paid off as she was recognized by the Small Business Administration as the 2014 Woman-Owned Small Business Person of the Year for the State of Florida. VIII]April2015

PIRTEK Space Coast Making Connections In Challenging Times


organ Arundel saw the potential for a franchise business that specialized in on-site repair of hydraulic hoses and pipes, a service that saved customers countless hours of equipment downtime, therefore keeping projects on schedule and within budgets. Since most of PIRTEK Space Coast’s clients were related to the construction industry, the 2008 economic downturn decimated their base. Some of their best customers went out of business, while others had fleets of equipment sitting idle, with no work in sight. If Arundel didn’t find a solution, his company would face a similar fate. Searching for a viable answer, they came upon the idea of diversifying their market to government agencies, which seemed to be more recession resistant. For PIRTEK Space Coast, with two of the largest government agencies in the county, Kennedy Space Center and Port Canaveral, a solution seemed within reach. However, the company had no idea how to approach government business opportunities or who to contact, and you can’t just go to a government installation uninvited to make a sales pitch. The company learned about the Florida Small Business Development Center (FSBDC) at UCF’s Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), and PIRTEK’s director of franchise support, Jamie Vokes, identified the local PTAC representative. PIRTEK took advantage of the Government Contracting Series workshops as well as the annual Government Business Opportunities and Matchmaking event at the FSBDC at UCF offices in Orlando. “This program really opened our eyes to the way that government agencies and prime contractors work, what a contracting officer does and how to use the web as a tool to find resources and contacts,” Vokes said. The success of PIRTEK Space Coast caused word to spread through the PIRTEK franchise network and the company was soon bombarded with calls asking how to start pursuing government business. The FSBDC’s PTAC representative was able to help PIRTEK USA, making presentations to 40 franchise owners nationwide. Recently, PIRTEK Space Coast won a contract with a prime contractor for $725,000 over a threeyear period. Initiative, creativity and diversification have paid off for the company and as the economy rebounds, they are well positioned for ongoing growth. April2015[IX


Cameron Ford, director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at UCF

Nurturing Tomorrow’s


UCF’s Dr. Cameron Ford and the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership

There are two mantras that echo across the campus of UCF. One is that UCF is “The Partnership University.” Far from being an academic island or ivory tower, UCF has endeavored to link itself with the challenges and the aspirations of the region. Like a multimodal intellectual and talent pipeline, it is making Central Florida a standard for innovation and quality of life through collaboration and cooperation.


t is not just a partnership with industry, regional governments and other academic institutions; within the university, various disciplines are encouraged to build alliances across departmental lines to identify and bring solutions to the pressing problems facing our region. The other mantra is that “UCF Stands for Opportunity.” It is the opportunity every individual longs for: that his or her life and contribution will make a difference. This desire is not just burning in individuals, but organizations, businesses and regions aim for this same goal. Seeing and seizing opportunities is at the heart of the entrepreneurial spirit and it is something Cameron Ford, director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at UCF, has been working to instill in the culture of the university since he arrived. Ford believes that research universities play a critical role in society. “We are an institution devoted to creating new knowledge. That knowledge can move from our campus and into the society in a number of ways. Entrepreneurship is one way to disseminate knowledge for the benefit of society,” he said. “It is much like

research being published, in that respect. However, in the case of entrepreneurship, we develop business models around research projects — whether it is solutions for clean water or better medical products — in hopes that they can be commercialized and reach the users who then benefit from UCF innovations.”

Preparing For the New Environment Commenting on the changing workforce landscape, Ford observed, “We are also challenged to prepare our students for prosperous lives. When I first graduated, I went to work for IBM, which was still offering the expectation of lifetime employment at that time.” Students who enter the workforce today will likely change jobs over a dozen times between the ages of 22 and 38. In addition, many top job opportunities today didn’t exist 10 years ago. Now companies have “Social Media Managers,” yet before Facebook launched just a decade ago, there was no “Social Media.” “Now it is more difficult to determine what job you are preparing people for,” he explained. “Therefore, I believe all students would benefit


“The entrepreneurial process is much more transparent today. The show ‘Shark Tank’ exposes a broad audience to entrepreneurial methods and students watch it, not just business students, but across the entire spectrum.”

from entrepreneurial thinking skills, which means understanding how to see problems that exist and thinking about opportunities those problems create. Then, and this is the tricky part, to look at the resources around you and figure out how to reconfigure them for more productive purposes – to deliver solutions to those problems.” Like teaching someone how to think versus what to think, these skills ensure the individual is productively employed and enjoying a high rate of job satisfaction, regardless of changes or disruptions in the market. “We want our students to be the type of people who are out there looking for problems and trying to figure out how to make things better,” Ford commented. “We believe there are teachable skills that empower people to do that well.” Another issue is that many of the students entering our colleges and XII]April2015

universities have grown up in and watched their parents go through one of the worst economic periods in modern history. It is a small wonder they are open to a different approach or perspective on what a career track should look like. Ford observed, “The entrepreneurial process is much more transparent today. The show ‘Shark Tank,’ for instance, exposes a broad audience to entrepreneurial methods and students watch it, not just business students, but across the entire spectrum. Popular culture is also bringing the entrepreneurial process to the forefront with movies like, ‘The Social Network’ and ‘Jobs.’ Plus, if students are made aware of it, they will gravitate toward creating small- to medium-size enterprises. Large corporations bleed almost one million jobs per year to smaller, more nimble companies. Even large companies that speak to my class tend to emphasize entrepreneurial opportunities where you take initiative and create your own pathways to success.”

Developing an Entrepreneurial Culture Ford is the founder of most of UCF’s academic entrepreneurship initiatives. UCF’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (CEL) seeks to educate and inspire students to become entrepreneurial leaders. The Center is offered by the College of Business Administration to foster a community of innovation and enterprising students from all academic disciplines. Since almost half of Central Florida’s workforce is employed by entrepreneurial firms with fewer than 10 employees, this

is an obvious direction for filling the talent pipeline for the future. Large companies also value entrepreneurial leaders who are capable of recognizing opportunities and launching new initiatives. Thus, all careers benefit from entrepreneurial capabilities and the Center works to inspire it in every discipline. Reflecting on the Center’s goals and his interaction with students, Ford reflected, “It is a privilege to sit with a young person and hear them talk about their ideas and their dreams. I get to watch the very genesis of the entrepreneurial process. After me, they may go to the incubator and years after that, they may be ready for GrowFL. Faculty and advisers like me are often where a student’s journey begins. We are able to watch students grow in confidence, reach out and benefit from the amazing people we have here at UCF and who support us in the community. “Seeing them grow and become empowered is incredibly rewarding. I have watched lambs turn into lions and even if their ventures don’t succeed, I am convinced they will live much more rewarding and impactful lives as a result of what they’ve learned from engaging these processes.” Another program offered by the CEL that nurtures the UCF’s entrepreneurial spirit is the Blackstone LaunchPad, led by Ford’s associate director, Pam Hoelzle. Located in the student union at the school’s epicenter, its goal is “to acquaint students with the notion that entrepreneurship is a viable career path worth considering and to support student efforts to develop their ideas into viable new venture proposals.” They provide one-on-one coaching, just-in-time resources and daily Startup Seminars Monday throught Friday (many young people prefer the term “starter” to “entrepreneur”). Students who develop their proposals to the point where they are

ready to launch and scale their ventures can apply to the soon-to-open Upstarts Student Venture Accelerator. This new initiative will provide office space, startup resources, and customized mentorship programs to help students take their solutions to market and prepare to grow their ventures with the help of investors. Ford described the process this way: “I read a paper recently that said entrepreneurial education is much like training musicians. You start with music appreciation, which is this wide open funnel at the outset, where you help people understand and get acquainted with it. Then you offer progressively more engaging and in-depth experiences for them, until in the end you are training virtuosos. It takes a lot of effort, time and patience to support students as they grow from entrepreneurship appreciation to being virtuosos, but we believe that our students and the ventures they create are well worth the investment.” u

“I believe all students would benefit from learning entrepreneurial thinking skills, which means understanding how to see problems that exist and thinking about opportunities those problems create. Then, and this is the tricky part, to look at the resources around you and figure out how to reconfigure those resources for more productive purposes – to deliver solutions to those problems.”



Hummus The “Ben & Jerry’s” of Hummus


ntrepreneurs are usually born out of a spark of inspiration and motivation that sets someone on a no-return adventure of turning a clever idea into a profitable company. For Jesse Wolfe, a 27-year-old student at UCF and founder and CEO of O’Dang Hummus, that “entrepreneurial seizure” came when he was searching for something he could enjoy eating after his wisdom teeth were pulled. As he told UCF Starters, a group of UCF students who utilize platforms like Blackstone Launchpad, Starter Lab and Venture Accelerator to realize their entrepreneurial dreams, “I never really knew what hummus was until three years ago. I had my wisdom teeth pulled out and my cheeks XIV]April2015

were all swollen and I got tired of drinking milkshakes and eating soup, so I started eating Sabra…and that’s when it hit me that there’s only four or five flavors of this stuff. So I started going into the kitchen and whipping up my own hummus… just to get through the week.” He was challenged by Pam Hoelzle, the associate director of Blackstone LaunchPad, to enter a startup contest called “The Joust,” a $75,000 business plan tournament, which is a showcase for student venture proposals. Students from across the spectrum of academic disciplines compete for cash awards and essential business services needed to launch a venture. O’Dang came in third in the competition and took home $4,000 in prize money. Wolfe started introducing his hummus at local farmers markets in Oviedo, Winter Garden and Lake Eola (which Wolfe considers the Super Bowl of farmers markets). In October, the startup won $15,000 at Blackstone’s first LaunchPad Demo Day in New York City, where he placed second out of 20 competitors. Now he has set his sights on getting his Bomb-A-Licious Buffalo Hummus, Dillionaire Fresh Dill Hummus and Sweet & Spicy Black Bean Hummus along with the some 40 other flavors he is developing to be offered in chain grocery stores, where he hopes to be the “Ben & Jerry’s” of the hummus market.

Making an Impact Florida TaxWatch Takes a Look at GrowFL Recently, the independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit, public policy research institute, Florida TaxWatch, released a report that shows that GrowFL’s impact statewide over the next 10 years would help produce 25,000 jobs, diversify the state economy and provide a positive return on Florida’s investments. The GrowFL program works to develop small, but growing, companies with high job creation potential and an average salary of more than $77,000, according to the report. TaxWatch estimates that expanding the program would generate $16.54 million per year over the next 10 years. “Florida has successfully invested in promoting the state’s innovation economy by targeting entrepreneurial secondstage companies with great growth potential through GrowFL,” said Dominic M. Calabro, president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch. “Expanding the GrowFL program is a great way to grow the state economy by investing in second-stage companies, which are now responsible for more than 30 percent of all Florida jobs.” Companies selected to participate in GrowFL must be a for-profit company with revenues between $1 million and $50 million employing between 10 and 99 people. They also must be able to sell their products outside of Florida.

More than 650 Florida businesses have participated in the program from July 2011 to June 2013, resulting in more than 1,867 net new jobs. GrowFL helps to grow existing Florida companies, without direct subsidies, such as tax breaks or cash incentives. Instead, GrowFL utilizes economic gardening, where they work to obtain expensive market research to help companies make strategic growth decisions, facilitate peer groups for feedback from other similarly growing companies, and foster statewide recognition for the participating businesses. “Since its inception, GrowFL has been singularly committed to providing the strategies, resources and support that second-stage companies require to grow and prosper,” said Tom O’Neal, associate vice president of research and commercialization at UCF and executive director of both the UCF Business Incubation Program and GrowFL. “Based on the well-proven economic gardening philosophy, GrowFL continues to serve as a powerful catalyst in Florida’s economic development strategy by helping these companies succeed and create jobs within the state. Research from organizations such as Florida TaxWatch reinforces what our data has continually shown, that GrowFL and economic gardening works.”


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