Felipe Barreto

Digital Battlegrounds

Being the first into a market can present risks for an entrepreneur, but it can also be a huge opportunity that offers significant competitive advantages. Those risks can be managed, however, if you are bringing in a business that has proven successful across the U.S. and the world. The major challenge is speed: can you set up and open your business before anyone else beats you to the punch? That’s the challenge that Felipe Barreto faced when he turned to the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of Central Florida (FSBDC at UCF) for assistance.

Barreto’s vision was to be the first to bring an eSport videogaming arena and teaching academy to Orlando. Playing videogames and participating in eSports tournaments is a major entertainment option worldwide, but there are limits to how much fun can be had playing at home. Having a social presence along with interactivity brings another range of intensity, emotions and competitiveness to gamers.

Add to that an academy where participants – from novices to experts – can receive coaching and training to improve their game, and even become professionals. Teams and tournaments, supported by major sponsors, awarded over $45 million in prizes in 2018 alone to professional gamers. This is a big business and it’s growing.

And so Barreto invented his new business, Digital Battlegrounds. He’d done extensive industry research, engaged in detailed business planning and attracted investors and the necessary capital. Now it was time to open his center and he came to the FSBDC for help.

“I knew that I needed local expertise,” Barreto recalls, “about how to set up a business, how to lease a space, how to hire people. It was clear to me that if I did it on my own, I would waste time, money and wouldn’t do it as well as I would if I had help.”

At the FSBDC, he worked with consultant Lisa Reineck who assembled a team of colleagues with specialized expertise in HR, marketing and business set up, including Jessica Ali, Chuck Wheeler and Jairo Batista.  Together they assisted the client with finding a location; reviewing the lease; store design and layout; obtaining permits, licenses and inspections; establishing a hiring plan; and multiple marketing planning issues.

“Everything I asked for, there was someone there who knows about it, or they could refer me to someone who did,” says Barreto. “Working with the FSBDC was very easy, very fast, very effective, and the input I received was very hands on and practical. They were my ‘go to’; when I had a question or needed help, I’d go to them and they were always there for me. It has been great.”

Barreto achieved his goal: his is the first and only eSports arena and academy in Orlando. In less than three months, he had secured a lease, completed his buildout, installed equipment, and opened the doors for Digital Battlegrounds. And the company is living up to its motto: “Play. Learn. Win.” Gamers are gaming, receiving training at the academy and competing in tournaments, all with specially designed and supercharged gaming equipment, including 32 PC stations, 8 PlayStations and an MC booth for events.

For information about Digital Battlegrounds, please visit https://www.digitalbattlegrounds.gg/.

Andy St. Denis of Andy's Auto Service with Rafael Pratts of the Florida SBDC at UCF - Osceola

Andy’s Auto Service

For a small business owner, the first challenge is making sure you’re offering the best products or services in town. The second is delivering on that promise to your current customers. And the third is attracting new customers who can benefit from what your business has to offer.

Over the past 30 years Andy St. Denis, the owner and chief mechanic of Andy’s Auto Service, has established his full-service repair facility as the best there is in St. Cloud, FL and he has loyal customers to prove it. But it was that third challenge – attracting new customers in his rapidly growing and changing community – that prompted St. Denis to seek assistance from the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of Central Florida (FSBDC at UCF) and its Kissimmee/Osceola County satellite office.

“We repair and maintain automobiles really well,” St. Denis says. “We have the most up-to-date training, technology, and equipment available, so our customers’ vehicles get the best service possible, maintained and repaired to the latest factory specifications. We make our customers happy and that’s the way we like it.”

St. Denis is also very involved in and cares deeply about his community. “It’s what makes us different from the franchises and big box stores out on the highway,” he says. “I am proud that Andy’s Auto Service is located in St. Cloud’s historic downtown district and to personally be part of the St. Cloud Citizens Foundation, the American Legion and other local organizations.”

However, just as he has made sure to have all the latest diagnostics tools, computerized repair manuals and trained technicians, St. Denis also wanted to make sure he was using the latest marketing tools to draw the younger new residents moving into his community. “I know how to repair cars but, as far as marketing the business, I was unfamiliar with the most recent strategies and activities, like web marketing for instance” St. Denis states. “That’s where my FSBDC consultant, Rafael Pratts, came in.”

In the beginning, St. Denis and Pratts met every few weeks, analyzing the company’s current marketing activities, trying different strategies, building a marketing plan. St. Denis also attended some of the FSBDC’s business seminars where he learned new approaches, heard how other business owners did things, and got new ideas.

“That’s what the FSBDC is great at: teaching old dogs new tricks,” recalls St. Denis. ”It showed me new things I could do that I wasn’t aware of. And they never aimed me in the wrong direction. I may not have always liked what I was hearing but sometimes you need to hear it. I know I did. And its all been a positive for my business. I see the results every day.”

“The FSBDC has helped me and Andy’s Auto Service greatly,’ continued St. Denis. “The seminars, the one-on-one consulting with Rafael, the market research have all made a difference. Since I started working with the FSBDC and began my marketing plan, I‘ve seen more incoming phone calls from potential new customers; I’ve seen an increase in returning customers; and I’ve seen my revenues improve by more than 25%. I would recommend the FSBDC highly, and I do to my friends and family.”

For information about Andy’s Auto Service, please visit https://andysautoservice.net/.

Ringer's More Than Mulch

Ringer’s More than Mulch Landscaping Supplies

Access to capital – whether it be securing a loan, finding an investor, or tapping into personal savings – is often named as the No. 1 challenge faced by entrepreneurs and small business owners. It is precisely the barrier that Brian Ringer and his mother Deb faced as they contemplated starting a landscaping supplies business in Leesburg, FL. and why they turned to the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of Central Florida (FSBDC at UCF) – Lake County Office.

Ringer's More Than Mulch

Ringer’s More Than Mulch

Brian Ringer has almost 20 years of experience in the landscaping supply business and saw an opportunity to provide products to landscapers and homeowners in fast-growing Lake County.  Together with his mother, he registered Ringer’s More Than Mulch Landscaping Supplies with the intention of offering a large assortment of mulches, both decorative and commercial rock, and various soils and sands for all landscaping and gardening needs. All with an emphasis on fast, convenient and friendly customer service. “Thank You Very Mulch!” was (and now is) their motto.

Before they could open their doors, however, they needed to obtain funding. “We’d come to the FSBDC before to start a business but found we weren’t ready,” recalls Deb Ringer. ”But now we were ready and came back to them for assistance. And they started helping us the minute we walked in the door.”

“They asked us all the right questions and we had all the right answers,” Deb Ringer continued. “They told us we had a good idea and that they could help us get off the ground. We left that meeting with the confidence that we could do this, that we could start our business.”

FSBDC consultant and Lake County Area Manager Eddie Hill and program assistant Cesar Gomez laid out a plan with the Ringers, starting with preparation of a business plan. “They gave us an outline and we did a draft,” says Mrs. Ringer. “They reviewed it and we tweaked it. There were more drafts, more reviews and more tweaks. Then it was done, and we were ready.”

Once the business plan was completed, the FSBDC helped the Ringers find a bank who wanted to work with them and offered Small Business Administration (SBA) guaranteed loans. “We met with our banker, brought in our business plan that Eddie Hill had helped us write and it was accepted. The bank was astounded. They said they’d never seen a business plan put together so well” states Brian Ringer. “Our loan application was later approved and we were on our way.”

Ringer’s More Than Mulch Landscaping Supplies had their grand opening in early August and they are indeed on their way. Customers have been pleased with the family atmosphere, friendly service, and competitive prices. “We’re off to a great start,” says Brian.

“Our experience with the FSBDC was phenomenal,” concluded Brian Ringer. “These guys were on top of everything. They were always there for any question that we had. Actually, many times they knew the questions before we even asked them. Working with the FSBDC is a wise choice. They will take you in the right direction and show you where you need to go. We are forever grateful.”

For information about Ringer’s More than Mulch Landscaping Supplies, please visit https://ringers-more-than-mulch-landscaping.business.site/.

Eagle 6 Technical Services

Eagle 6 Technical Services, LLC

John Burns is an accomplished leader. He is a retired United States Army Colonel with a distinguished military career, including as a commander in combat. He built a successful IT consulting business after the Army. It was then he saw a government contracting opportunity he thought he could win. And win it he did.

But now what? Transforming from being a one-person consultancy to building a company with multiple employees that could service a multi-faceted government contract is a tall order. That’s when Burns turned to both the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of Central Florida (FSBDC at UCF) and its government services partner organization, the Florida Procurement Technical Assistance Center at UCF (Florida PTAC at UCF).

“It was time to make a major pivot,” recalls Burns. “I needed help. I needed expertise on how I could scale up a company and identify the processes and systems necessary to do so. That’s when I sought out the FSBDC and PTAC. My consultant Steve South was superb. We laid out a game plan to get all the pieces I needed to have in place – employee hiring, insurance, worker’s comp, payroll, benefits – to jump start my business. Then I did it.”

Today, Burns’ company Eagle 6 Technical Services, LLC is a multi-million dollar Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) specializing in cybersecurity, command & control and logistics & maintenance systems. It is currently expanding into managed security services for the commercial health care sector as well as for government clients, and has broadened itself into being a full-fledged security integrator, providing physical security, information security and personal security solutions.

From the start, Burns has taken advantage of all that the FSBDC and PTAC have to offer, including the high value, no cost, expert business consulting he receives from South; business training seminars and workshops; and access to expansive market research resources. He went on to participate in two of the FSBDC’s Services for Leaders programs, the Advisory Board Council (ABC) and the Small Business Institute® (SBI®).

FSBDC at UCF’s Advisory Board Council is a no-cost board of experts providing advice and counsel to help businesses grow.  The FSBDC acts as a matchmaker, creating a customized board of volunteers selected to address the specific needs of the FSBDC client. The Small Business Institute® connects small businesses to the resources and management expertise of UCF’s College of Business Administration through consulting projects overseen by the FSBDC and performed by UCF MBA and other qualified business students.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the help I received from the FSBDC over the past four years,“ concluded Burns. “They helped me put processes and systems in place where, as a small business, I could manage the cash flow that was critical to growing the company.”

“The results speak for themselves: we’ve increased revenues about 200% in the last three years; we’ve hired new employees and raised headcount; and we’ve expanded and won additional government and commercial work. Working with the FSBDC and PTAC has been an awesome experience for Eagle 6.”

For information about Eagle Six Technical Services, please visit https://eagle6usa.com/.

Clean Eats Kitchen with the Florida SBDC at UCF

Clean Eats Kitchen

Eating Healthy; everybody wants to do it but nobody does it enough. And preparing those healthy meals every day isn’t easy, not for families or for singles. Jodee Soltes faced both challenges. Her son had special dietary needs which she had to address. And managing a family while building a second career as a Palm Coast high school teacher made time of the essence. Jodee Soltes found an answer. And then she decided to share it.

Clean Eats KitchenTogether with her son Joe, a soon-to-be culinary arts graduate, she developed a business idea: a full service prep kitchen, sourcing local, fresh, whole foods, built on a passion for a healthy lifestyle and dedicated to using food as not only enjoyment, but as a type of medicine. Offering three different meal plans – Light, Traditional and Athlete – with a wide ranging menu appealing to all tastes, as well as a Grab ‘N Go option, Soltes believed she had a winning business proposition that would serve the Flagler County community she loves: Clean Eats Kitchen.

But a great business idea is one thing; how to start a business is a second. That’s when Jodee Soltes turned to the Florida Small Business Development Center at UCF (FSBDC at UCF). “I needed help,” she recalls. “I felt like I had no clue about what to do. But I did know there was help out there, at the FSBDC.”

Soltes turned to the local FSBDC in Flagler County and consultant Mike Oppenheim for its no-cost, expert consulting services and access to broad, in-depth market research resources. They started with the basics and then they used the FSBDC’s access to market information to research the opportunity.

“We needed to develop a financial plan to prove the concept,” says Oppenheim. “We needed to make sure her vision worked. We did the necessary market research. In my four years at the Florida SBDC, no client has done more or better preparation and market research before diving into the pool. It all laid the groundwork for a winning Clean Eats Kitchen business plan.”

Since starting their work with the FSBDC and consultant Oppenheim, the mother-son team of Jodee and Joe Soltes and Clean Eats Kitchen has had a whirlwind of success. With the help of the FSBDC, they found an excellent Palm Coast location; got the city permits and approvals they needed; obtained a loan from a local bank (never an easy thing for any start-up business); set up the store front and kitchen; and opened their doors in March 2019.

Clean East Kitchen: “The Easy Way to Eat Clean“ goes their slogan. And since opening, business has been good as the health conscious of Flagler County have found and started using this great, new source of eating well and eating smart.

“It was fantastic working with the FSBDC,” concluded Jodee Soltes. “I absolutely couldn’t have done it without them and without the support of Mike Oppenheim, Ray Peter and their administrative powerhouse Leanna Bourke. They are an invaluable resource to entrepreneurs and small business owners.”

For information about Clean Eats Kitchen, please visit www.cleaneatsflagler.com.

Buffy Werle - B Organized Today

B Organized Today

Owning and running a business can be a high wire act, fraught with risk and worries about the next step. But it can also be a measured and satisfying walk on dry land if you take the time to get the help you need, educate yourself and act with strategically. Buffy Werle chose the latter course and, with the assistance of the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of Central Florida (FSBDC at UCF), has been able to build a successful, five-year-old business based in Casselberry, Florida.

Mrs. Werle is the founder of B Organized Today, a professional home organizing and downsizing service for homes and businesses. B Organized Today helps clients take on the massive challenge of separating themselves from years of possessions and working through the emotions of being overwhelmed and even sadness when doing so, until they find themselves in a more organized, manageable and better place. “Declutter, Downsize, Organize,” is the B Organized Today mantra.

“We do really extraordinary work helping our clients,” Werle says. “But when it came to running the books and paperwork of a business, I didn’t have that background. I desperately needed to be educated. That’s why I turned to the FSBDC. The close to 15 training seminars I have attended enabled me to develop business skills. Their no-cost consulting helped me prepare a business plan to grow my company to a larger scale. And the digital marketing expertise of my consultant Jairo Batista has made my marketing more effective and successful.”

“The FSBDC has been a really great resource. My experience has been nothing but positive,” Werle continued. “I’ve learned a lot. I’ve made connections through it, even found a few clients. Most important, I’ve gained confidence in myself as a businessperson and know I am moving forward properly.”

B Organized Today has been growing steadily since the FSBDC started assisting Werle. Revenues have been built slowly and carefully to ensure that there was always capacity available to meet or exceed client expectations. Attention has been paid to improving operations, making sure the systems and processes were in place to manage the business effectively, such as implementing an accounting system and adding credit card services.

“I’ve managed our growth to make sure we didn’t get in over our heads,” Werle states. “My focus has been on a really solid foundation and then built from there. Our revenues last month were the best ever. My partner Arianne Archer and I are now talking about expanding the business, adding organizers and serving a larger market area. Our future is bright.”

“I love working with the FSBDC,” concluded Werle. “I have support from smart, experienced business consultants who can see my vision and guide me toward achieving it. I know I can lean on them for knowledge and inspiration. It’s beautiful to know that all along the way I have the help of the FSBDC.”

For information about B Organized Today, please visit https://www.borganizedtoday.com/.

Maryland Electric

Maryland Electric

For small and medium sized businesses, there is nothing better than getting in front of one or more of their “dream” clients – the ones who can award a contract or buy a service that takes their business up to new heights of success. It was exactly that goal – the desire to take her business to the next level – that prompted Rita Dancey to come to the Florida Procurement Technical Assistance Center at the University of Central Florida (Florida PTAC at UCF) for assistance with government contracting.

Dancey is the CEO of Maryland Electric Company, Inc., a commercial and industrial electrical contractor serving a wide range of customers on a variety of projects including commercial and retail construction, industrial facilities, data centers, universities, hospitals, military bases, airports and more. Headquartered in Clarksville, Tennessee, the company is licensed to do business across the Southeast and is focused on growing in Florida.

“I came to PTAC to get us from where we are – our business has sort of plateaued – to the next level,” recalls Dancey. “While we already do government contracting work, they have helped us fill in a lot of the gaps we had related to topics we hadn’t been exposed to. And they helped me brush up on some of the things we are already doing. With help from our PTAC Specialist Kara Vernon, we learned how to facilitate our proposals a little bit better, how to make sure we dotted all our i’s and crossed our t’s and really delivered a professional product.”

Dancey also took advantage of PTAC’s Government Contracting Reverse Trade Show, an annual networking event with a twist. The PTAC at UCF turns the tables and gives small businesses the opportunity to market their services and products directly to government agencies and prime contractors! At a reverse trade show, suppliers come to meet with buyers as opposed to the other way around.

“The Reverse Trade Show is probably the best event that I’ve attended yet with PTAC,” says Dancey. “Out of 28 different agencies and primes, I was able to interview with 11 of them, delivering my elevator speech and Capabilities Statement. I targeted the clients and it was a true success. Of the 11 companies or agencies I saw, 7 have contacted us to talk about doing business together.”

“The people you get to network with at PTAC’s Reverse Trade Show are amazing,” continued Dancey. If ever there was a room of people you wanted to walk into to do business, theirs was the one. I was exposed to some of my dream clients – NASA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin — thanks to PTAC at UCF.”

“‘Endless opportunity’ is what PTAC has provided Maryland Electrical Company,” concluded Dancey. “They will assist you with all the resources that you could possibly use to enhance your business and make it more successful. Since starting with them, we have seen a plethora of new quote requests come in. I’d encourage anyone to work with PTAC. The depth of resources is wonderful.”

For information about Maryland Electric Company, please visit http://www.maryland-electric.com/.

Alenka - Your Learning Kids Academy

Alenka Your Learning Kids Academy

“Mayak” is a Russian word which translates to “House of Light” in English. It is the one word that Alenka Zviarovich and husband Roman Katrychenko say they would use to describe the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of Central Florida (Florida SBDC at UCF) and the assistance it provided them with starting and growing their business.

Zviarovich and Katrychenko are the founders and owners of Alenka Your Learning Kids Academy. It is the first Russian-speaking daycare center in Orlando. The Academy uses the Russian language exclusively at the school and offers a setting where infants and children up to age 5 are exposed to the Russian food, curriculum and culture their parents grew up with.

“When we had our first child,” recalls Roman Katrychenko, “we searched for a daycare built around our language and traditions. When we couldn’t find one, we started our own, home-based daycare center. Word got around among the Russian émigré community in Central Florida that there was a Russian-speaking daycare center. We started getting calls right away but didn’t have the space and were turning people away.”

It was then that Zviarovich and Katrychenko turned to the Florida SBDC at UCF and its consultant Elly Membreno. They started attending classes to learn how to start a business. They took advantage of the FSBDC’s no-cost consulting from Membreno who guided them through preparing a business plan, doing their financial planning and budgeting and who answered their many questions.

“My English is not so good,” says Alenka Zviarovich. “I have trouble understanding sometimes. But I could understand everything my consultant Elly said to me. She explained everything, word for word. I would come home with lists after every meeting. Roman and I would then do every step that Elly told us. We filed every form, passed every test, passed every inspection. And we opened our doors, thanks to Elly.”

Since starting their work with the Florida SBDC, Zviarovich and Katrychenko have had a lot of successes. They have moved to a new location and into their own building; they completely renovated that building to house their daycare center; they have grown from caring for three children to more than 20 today, and are expecting as many as 35 in the fall; they have increased in size to 5 employees; and financially they have reached break-even and see profitability on the horizon. All in the 6 short months since Alenka Your Leaning Kids Academy opened in January 2019.

“Working with the FSBDC opened our eyes wide,” says Roman Katrychenko “It’s a very big difference from where I was born. You help regular people at no-cost open their business.”

“When I found Elly and the FSBDC, I was so excited,” continued Alenka Zviarovich, “because I learned so much and saw so much opportunity. Elly is like sunshine. She showed me the light and the way to go. The FSBDC is a “Mayak” for us. It shone light on our path, told us what we needed to do and how best to do it. Thank you, Elly and the FSBDC.”

For information about Alenka Your Leaning Kids Academy, please visit https://alenkakidsacademy.com/home/.

Family First Firm

Family First Firm

“Transformative.” When an entrepreneur uses that word to describe the assistance he has received from your organization, and then goes on to say participation in one of your programs was “truly a life and business changing experience,” you take note. Especially when that entrepreneur is a practicing lawyer leading a highly successful law firm.

Geoff Hoatson, attorney, founder and owner of the Family First Firm, a leading elder law firm, used exactly those words to describe the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of Central Florida (Florida SBDC at UCF) and its award-winning Advisory Board Council (ABC) program.

The Family First Firm is unique in many ways. First, it prides itself in being “Your Elder Law Expert,” specializing in all aspects of legal services for seniors including guardianship, probate, estate planning, Medicaid and more. It also charges flat fees for its work. None of that hourly billing that is the legal community’s industry standard. “I don’t like giving anyone a blank check,” says Hoatson. “Why would I ask that of our clients? We’re here to help them.”

Hoatson came to the FSBDC after working with a business coach specializing in law firms. “I felt like I’d outgrown what they could do for me,” he recalls. “The issues I was running into were more corporate and not typical of a small law firm. I had always wanted to focus on the firm as a business, but I just didn’t have the tools necessary to do it. So, I applied to the FSBDC’s Advisory Board Council program by contacting its program manager Jill Kaufman.”

An Advisory Board Council is a customized, no-cost board of experts providing advice and counsel to help businesses grow.  The FSBDC acts as a matchmaker between established local businesses like the Family First Firm and area professionals who volunteer their expertise as members of an advisory board, with the volunteers selected to address the specific needs of the FSBDC client.

“My Advisory Board really helped me identify what I needed to be doing in order to take the next step in my business,” says Hoatson. “It was made up of experts from my industry, with experience in operations, marketing and communications, and finance. With their guidance, and help from my FSBDC consultant Pauline Davis, for the first time in the 10 years I’ve been in business, I’ve been able to look ahead and strategize about our growth and know how we want to get where we want to go.”

“My Advisory Board Council really changed the way I looked at my business. It allowed me to transform what we’ve been doing into what we’re becoming,” Hoatson continued. “And our business results tell the tale. Over the 18 months we worked with our ABC board, our revenues increased almost 190%; we more than doubled in size in terms of employees; and we have expanded beyond our original location to a second building and are now looking at a third.”

“I can’t think of a reason not to participate in the Advisory Board Council program,’ Hoatson concluded. “It’s all upside, no downside.”

For information about FAMILY FIRST FIRM, please visit www.familyfirstfirm.com.

Jasmarie Rosa and Brenda Rosa

El Coquí Bakery

Comprar una pequeña empresa siempre es un desafío. Llegar a un acuerdo con un precio justo con el vendedor, negociar los términos, acceder al financiamiento y luego abrir sus puertas con el signo “Bajo Nueva Administración” son solo algunos de los obstáculos que superar. Y, cuando uno se está trasladando de Puerto Rico, fluyente en el idioma español, pero no en el inglés, el nivel de dificultad se magnifica.

El Coqui BakeryLas hermanas Jasmarie Rosa y Brenda Rosa, ambas recién emigradas a Florida después de la destrucción y la devastación en Puerto Rico, causada por el huracán Maria, categoría 5, no se dejaron intimidar por la elevada complicación que tenían frente de ellas, de adquirir un negocio. Panaderos expertos con historial familiar de exitosas panaderías en Puerto Rico, tanto en los Estados Unidos como en la Isla, vieron una oportunidad cuando encontraron una panadería y una tienda de sándwiches que estaba en venta en Deltona, Florida. Con determinación y pasión, las hermanas aprovecharon la oportunidad.

Su primer paso fue localizar alguna asistencia, que encontraron en el Florida SBDC en Daytona State College (FSBDC en DSC), un sub-centro del FSBDC en la Universidad de Florida Central (FSBDC en UCF), gracias a un referido por la Cámara de Comercio de Volusia. El programa FSBDC respondió rápidamente a su solicitud de consulta,  reuniéndose  Jim Deering,  Director del Sub-Centro con Rosa y Hernández, al día siguiente. Rápidamente evaluó sus necesidades y las conectó con  la consultora de FSBDC en DSC Margaret “Maggie” Incandela y la asistente de programa Tracy Martin.

“A pesar de la barrera del idioma y de que no entendemos muy bien el inglés”, recuerda Jasmarie Rosa, “Maggie y Tracy nos ayudaron a ir paso a paso y nos hicieron parte del proceso. Utilizamos la consultoría, talleres e investigación de mercado sin costo por parte del programa FSBDC. Nos ayudaron con todo: nuestro plan de negocios, previsiones financieras, licencias, permisos y más”.

Quizás el servicio de mayor valor para las hermanas fue la asistencia que el programa FSBDC brindó para obtener un préstamo bancario. El programa FSBDC presentó a Rosa y Hernández a prestamistas prospectos; les mostró cómo crear su paquete para préstamo; las guió a trabajar con su banco, incluso reuniéndose con analistas de préstamos para explicar la valoración de negocios requerida por el banco.

La asistencia del programa FSBDC hizo una diferencia. Las hermanas comenzaron el proceso de compra del negocio en Enero de 2019, cerraron exitosamente su préstamo en Abril, y abrieron El Coquí Bakery una semana antes de la Pascua, con una línea de clientes esperando en la puerta y a lo largo de la calle. Sus fantásticos y auténticos panes y productos puertorriqueños, incluyendo Pan de Agua, Pan Sobado, Pan Mallorca y fabulosos sándwiches, han ayudado a que El Coquí Bakery tenga un “muy buen comienzo”, según Brenda Hernández. Con planes para ampliar sus días de operación y agregar productos al menú, como el famoso sándwich puertorriqueño “Tripleta”, su futuro es brillante.

“El programa FSBDC hizo todo esto posible para nosotros”, concluyó Rosa. “Trabajamos duro. Trabajaron duro. Frente a todo el estrés, ellos fueron un apoyo y se aseguraron de que todo lo hiciéramos bien”. Al final, el programa FSBDC nos ayudó a tener éxito e hizo realidad nuestro sueño de abrir un negocio”.

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Buying a small business is always a challenge. Agreeing on a fair price with the seller, negotiating terms, accessing financing and then opening your doors with an “Under New Management” sign are just a few of the obstacles that must be overcome. And, when you are also relocating from Puerto Rico, fluent in Spanish but not English, the level of difficulty is magnified.

El Coqui BakerySisters Jasmarie Rosa and Brenda Rosa, both recent emigres to Florida following the destruction and devastation to Puerto Rico caused by Category 5 Hurricane Maria, were undeterred by the steep climb to business ownership in front of them. Expert bakers with a family history of owning successful Puerto Rican bakeries in both the US and on the Island, they saw an opportunity when they found a bakery and sandwich shop for sale in Deltona, FL. With determination and passion, the sisters jumped at the chance.

Their first step was to locate some assistance, which they found at the Florida Small Business Development Center at Daytona State College (FSBDC at DSC), a sub-center of the FSBDC at the University of Central Florida (FSBDC at UCF), thanks to a referral by the Volusia Chamber of Commerce. The FSBDC was quick to respond to their request for consulting, with Sub-Center Director Jim Deering meeting with Rosa and Hernandez the next day. He quickly assessed their needs and connected them with FSBDC at DSC consultant Margaret “Maggie” Incandela and Program Assistant Tracy Martin.

“Despite the language barrier and our not understanding English very well,” recalls Jasmarie Rosa, “Maggie and Tracy helped us go step-by-step and made us a part of the process. We used the FSBDC’s no-cost consulting, training and market research. They helped us with everything: our business plan, financial forecasts, licenses and permits and more.”

Perhaps the service of greatest value to the sisters was the assistance that the FSBDC provided in obtaining a bank loan. The FSBDC introduced the Rosa sisters to prospective lenders; showed them how to put together their loan package; guided them in working with their bank, even meeting with loan underwriters to explain the business valuation required by the bank.

The FSBDC’s assistance made a difference. The sisters started the process of buying the business in January 2019, successfully closed their loan in April and opened El Coqui Bakery the week before Easter, with a line of customers out the door and down the street. Their fantastic and authentic Puerto Rican breads and baked goods, including Pan de Agua, Pan Sobao, Pan de Queso, and fabulous sandwiches have helped El Coqui Bakery get off to a “very good start,” according to Brenda Rosa. With plans to expand their days of operation and add menu items, like the famous Puerto Rican “Tripleta” sandwich, their future is bright.

“The FSBDC made all of this possible for us,” concluded Rosa. “We worked hard. They worked hard. In the face of all the stress, they were reassuring and made sure we got it right. In the end, the FSBDC helped us be successful and made our dream of opening a business come true.”