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Winter Park Extends Pilot Program for Local Business Development

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The hyperlocal support services of the Winter Park Business Academy (WPBA) are now a permanent offering for aspiring and established business owners within the city limits. Since October 10, the 6-month pilot program between the city and the National Entrepreneur Center (NEC) has offered free coaching and educational events for storefront, office, and home-based businesses in Winter Park.

According to the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses have generated 12.9 million new jobs over the past 25 years, accounting for two out of every three jobs added to the economy. Kyle Dudgeon, assistant division director of Winter Park’s Economic Development Division, said WPBA is meant to foster the citywide growth that begins with entrepreneurial success. Resources are tailor-made for each client and are specific to Winter Park in content and location. Meetings, events, and coaching sessions are held at Winter Park facilities and through virtual access.

Founded in 2003 and headquartered in Orlando’s Fashion Square Mall, the NEC has earned national attention for its collaborative approach to small business development through a network of partnerships. Services are offered to all entrepreneurs, but WPBA is its first local presence within a specific area of service. “There’s a lot of collaboration and efficiencies that are built into offering services to our small business community,” said NEC President Belinda Ortiz Kirkegard during an address to Winter Park City Commission. “But we’re not in the community, so this was a remarkable opportunity.”

During its first six months of operation, WPBA has recorded the following statistics:

  • 237 participants from various busies backgrounds attend seminars, workshops, webinars, and mentoring sessions.
  • 31% of the participants were based in Winter Park with some from as far away as Port Orange, Satellite Beach, and San Jose, California.
  • The website received more than 1,000 views from 651 unique users seeking business assistance and economic development information.
  • Social media accounts received more than 8,000 impressions.

“Moving forward, we will continue to offer workshops and round tables,” said Kirkegard. The content schedule will be of interest to entrepreneurs, “but specifically Winter Park entrepreneurs because it’s based on surveys we did during the different activities we’ve had.” Efforts to schedule industry specific training from Winter Park-based businesses are also under way.

For more information and a schedule of upcoming events, log onto bizlinkorange.com/winter park.

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