Acai Express

Acai Express Osceola Parkway

Nurturing an idea into a profitable business is an entrepreneur’s dream. Turning that dream into a reality can be as challenging as it sounds, however, especially on your own. Sisters Peggy Dawas, Kattia Dawas and Katty Velez wanted to open their own business together but didn’t know how to begin. Fortunately, Peggy recalled her experience working with the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of Central Florida (FSBDC at UCF) and its office in Osceola County, FL, so they turned there for guidance. Today, they are glad they did, having become the proud owners of a very successfully launched Acai Express franchise at East Osceola Parkway in Kissimmee.

At Acai Express, the mission is to serve the best tasting, highest quality superfood bowls that go hand- in-hand with a lifestyle based around health and fun. “Our main ingredient is Acai,” describes Peggy Dawas, “a premium, Grade A, 100% organic fruit. It has a lot of flavor on its own, pure form at the same time it is healthy. Who can beat that? It’s what makes us different from all the rest.”

Acai Express’ menu is varied. “We have Acai Bowls of all types. Our top seller is the Valentine Bowl with Acai, granola, banana, strawberry, coconut oil, coconut flakes, and Nutella. It’s delicious and an explosion of flavors. It’s so good!” Peggy continued, with Katty adding “it’s everyone’s favorite” and Kattia chiming in “actually it’s my favorite too.” Other menu items include mango-based dragon fruit, artisan toast, coffee, Pikole premium popsicles, and lemonades.

“We sought assistance from the FSBDC because we had an idea and always wanted to own our own business. It was something we always talked about,” explains Katty Velez. “Peggy previously worked with FSBDC consultant Elly Membreno and said that ‘Elly can help us, can guide us, can give us all the information we need’ and that’s when we contacted her.”

“Our experience with the FSBDC was great,” Peggy shared. “They helped us with their consulting, with their training, with getting us all the tools we needed.” Jairo Batista, a second FSBDC consultant and its digital marketing expert, was brought in to assist with marketing. “We didn’t know where to start so he guided us on that aspect as well so we can promote our business,” Katty added.

Obtaining an SBA-guaranteed loan was critical to the sisters purchasing their Acai Express franchise, and the FSBDC assisted with that as well. “For us, what was a lot of help from the FSBDC was everything to do with the loan,” recalls Kattia Dawas. They helped us put together our loan package, from the business plan to the marketing plan, the financial information, everything, all the documents we needed. We had no clue at all how to do it and they helped us every single step to have the loan approved.”

Acai Express Osceola Parkway opened October 6. They reached break-even after three months, have hired eight employees, and sales continue to increase. “The feedback we have from our customers is amazing. Our plan for the future is to open a second store and also a third,” gushed Katty. ”Of course, we’re going to stick with the assistance from the FSBDC again,” she concluded, with Kattia and Peggy happily saying “yes” to that plan.

For information about Acai Express Osceola, please visit

Drummond Carpenter

Drummond Carpenter

Risk and uncertainty are hazards that every entrepreneur and prospective small business owner faces as they start their journey to realizing their vision and building the company that will achieve their goals. A bulwark against those challenges includes expert advisors and mentors who can guide, reassure, and build an entrepreneur’s or business owner’s confidence in their decisions. Chad Drummond, co-founder, president, and CEO of engineering firm Drummond Carpenter found exactly that kind of support and the assistance he needed to start and grow his company at the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of Central Florida’s (FSBDC at UCF) sub-center at Seminole State College (FSBDC at SSC).

Drummond Carpenter is a service-disabled veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB) specializing in civil and environmental engineering. The firm serves clients across the nation including NASA, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as well as various municipalities across the Midwest and in Central Florida, including the City of Orlando and Orange County. “What makes Drummond Carpenter special is truly its people,’ explains Drummond. “We have an incredible, very talented technical staff – many with advanced degrees – that are 100% focused on serving our clients and working as a team.”

“Our journey with the FSBDC started a year prior to us forming the company,” Drummond recalls. “I had my first meeting with Hunt Dawkins (FSBDC at SSC consultant and sub-center director) in 2015. We talked about a business plan, then developed one for what would be a successful engineering firm in Central Florida. I personally, with Don Carpenter, our co-founder, attended various webinars and in-person training to learn more about the business process. We spent a lot of time talking with Hunt about the financials, various accounting issues, how to handle payroll. Our interaction with the FSBDC was all really helpful to get the foundation for the firm set.”

“On a personal level, one of the things I really liked about the FSBDC is that you have access to business professionals, experts who are also regular people, that just want to see you succeed and help you grow,” Drummond continued. “You can sit down with these people, have a very comfortable, confidential conversation, and lay everything out on the table so you can get the best advice from their decades of experience.”

“One significant benefit that came from working with the FSBDC was it gave us the confidence, and also the tools, to grow,” Drummond comments. “Starting in 2016, we were just two co-founders working out of their houses. Today we have three offices across the country. We recently won a contract with the Veterans Administration worth over $5 million. Our staff has grown to almost 30 employees. And over the past couple of years our growth has reached levels of 40% and then 80%.”

“If I had to pick one word to describe my relationship with the FSBDC, it would be ‘navigator’,” concludes Drummond. “They’ve really helped me from before starting the company through to where we are now. They helped me navigate the process of being a small business trying to grow into a larger business. It’s been almost like our North Star, and has really benefited me, my company, and my employees.”

For information about Drummond Carpenter, please visit

Loretta Josephine

Loretta Josephine

Grit, determination, and resilience are some of the important attributes needed to be a successful entrepreneur. They are also the qualities required when grappling with a life-threatening disease. Brain cancer survivor and small business founder Danielle McCarthy has all three of these traits in abundance, as well as a contagious optimism. Not only did she beat the disease, but she used those same virtues to launch Loretta Josephine Boutique with partner and owner Joey Perfito. And with a small touch of similarity to how she relied on her medical team to help her through her treatment and recovery, she turned to the team at the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of Central Florida (FSBDC at UCF) to help start her business. While the FSBDC certainly was not lifesaving, it may have been business saving by providing the expertise and tools McCarthy and Perfito needed to build their new business.

Loretta Josephine Boutique is an online and pop-up store for women specializing in stylish and unique clothing, candles, and accessories. “What makes Lorretta Josephine Boutique special and standout,” explains McCarthy, “is we hand pick our products from women-owned businesses that offer sustainably produced products and are made in the USA. And with every sale, we give back a portion of our earnings to neuroscience research and pet rescue”. “We also noticed that a lot of online boutiques don’t focus on customer service,” added Perfito. “Both Danielle and I have a background in that, so we make sure we offer great support and service to all of our customers.”

The Loretta Josephine name has a meaningful story behind it. Instead of calling her brain tumor “the tumor” or “Cancer”, Danielle and a friend named it “Loretta”. Later, and coincidently, she found and adopted a rescue dog named “Loretta” at birth, and that sealed it. The “Josephine” came from Joey’s given name Joseph, as a tribute to Joey for always being Danielle’s rock and strength through her treatment, the business start and on to today. And so, the ‘Loretta Josephine Boutique’ name was born.

Before she opened the Loretta Josephine Boutique, McCarthy talked to friends about where to find guidance and assistance. “I reached out to a business owner friend in Las Vegas,” she recalls, “and she pointed out that the SBDC in her area was the biggest help to her. So, thanks to her – Thank you, Mandy! – we found the biggest blessing that’s helped us in our journey: the Florida SBDC! Starting a small business, or starting anything, is hard but the FSBDC offers so much to help us grow our small business: no cost, one-on-one coaching; webinars; analytics; market research,” continued McCarthy. “It’s exactly what we needed.

“And working with the FSBDC has been great” affirms McCarthy. With FSBDC consultant Sharon Smith at hers and Perfito’s sides, “it was like we met a lifelong friend,” shares McCarthy. “She has given us tools and her guidance has been top-notch phenomenal. We have been able to grow our business and our customer base, and people are really responding to us. I can’t say anything but great things about the SBDC. They have been with us throughout our journey, and Sharon is amazing.”

Best of all, with thanks to McCarthy’s grit, determination, and resilience; Perfito’s support of and belief in Danielle; and the FSBDC’s assistance, Lorretta Josephine Boutique has thrived. “We’ve seen big changes since we first started working with the SBDC,” remarked Perfito. “Number one is our boutique pop-up events went from 1-2 a month to 5-6. We’re seeing repeat customers. And we’ve been given the tools by the SBDC to improve our website traffic and sales.”

“If you’re an entrepreneur, I would highly recommend starting out at your local SBDC and to have them help and guide you,” concludes McCarthy. “It has been the biggest blessing for us. We have been able to surpass things we never thought we could do. That we are sitting here now and enjoying success is a testament to what the SBDC can do for you.”

For information about Loretta Josephine Boutique, please visit

Avant Dental Group

Avant Dental Group

Helping entrepreneurs turn their dream of small business ownership into a reality is an imperative for the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of Central Florida (FSBDC at UCF). When dentist Margarita Romero decided that the time had come for her to realize her vision of owning her own dental office, she knew she would be starting from scratch. Her first steps would be to determine the best location for her new practice, decide whether to build, buy, or lease an office space, and to evaluate the kinds of properties that were available. Certainly, a tall order. After describing her ideas and plans to her banker, he referred Dr. Romero to the FSBDC at UCF to assist her in her quest.

With more than 10 years of experience as a dentist in her native Peru, and more recently 6 years practicing in the United States, Dr. Romero certainly had the knowledge and expertise needed to build a successful dental practice wherever she might wish. Working with the FSBDC, she arrived at several requisites to be met to realize her goal of launching a dental clinic serving the Hispanic community and offering high-quality dental services for the entire family. From cleanings and whitening to orthodontic and endodontic treatments, she envisioned a team of highly trained professionals to help you, as she likes to say, “achieve the smile you’ve always wanted.” “For us, it is very important to treat the patient like family,” Dr. Romero shares, “and not as just a simple patient.”

In addition to being an experienced and caring dentist, Dr. Romero is a savvy businesswoman. She decided early on that there were three requirements the location of her new business must possess: one, that it be in close proximity to her home and community; two, that it be in an area that was experiencing population growth; and three, that it not already have a heavy density of existing dental offices. With those criteria established, the FSBDC set to work conducting market research to identify potential locations and opportunities for the soon-to-be dental clinic. Using expansive market data resources, the FSBDC investigated possible options by zip codes, local demographics, available dental practices in Central Florida, and more.

“After I started with the FSBDC, they did all the studies of the area and identified where the best area was for me,” recalls Dr. Romero. “After that, we started looking for the dental office itself and continued with the loan process with the bank. The first step was the bank recommending the FSBDC, then they did the research and gave me all the information, and then we found the right office, obtained our loan, and opened our clinic,” she explained.

“My personal experience with the FSBDC was wonderful,” Dr. Romero affirms. “I’m very, very happy because they gave me all the help I needed.” Avant Dental Group has now been open for a year in Kissimmee, FL and the practice is growing. Most recently, consultant Rafael E. M. Pratts, the area manager for the FSBDC at UCF’s Osceola County office, has been helping Dr. Romero with planning and implementing her marketing and business development plans, as well as introducing her to local organizations and business networks. Dr. Romero is seeing her dream of owning her own dental practice come true, and the FSBDC is proud it was able to complement her vision and passion and to help make business ownership happen for her through consulting, market research, and assistance securing needed funds.

For information about Avant Dental Clinic, please visit

Red Rooster Cookie Jar

Red Rooster Cookie Jar

Making the move from even a successful home-based business into a brick-and-mortar, commercial space can present a major challenge for any entrepreneur or small business owner. There is a business plan to revise, a location to find, a landlord to negotiate with, permits to be acquired, and much more. And so it was for Yvonne Conti-O’Brien, the founder and culinary genius behind Red Rooster Cookie Jar, a unique and now prized bakery in Lady Lake, Fl, when she decided to take the risk and make the leap. Fortunately for her, early in the process she turned to the Sumter County office of the Florida Small Business Development Center at UCF (FSBDC at UCF). It made all the difference.

Red Rooster Cookie Jar is no ordinary bakery and Yvonne Conti-O’Brien is no ordinary baker. Specializing in a wide variety of delicious cookies and other treats, this small, hometown bakery makes everything from scratch, hand stirred and, according to Yvonne, packed with “a whole lot of love”. With an owner who is a resident of The Villages and active in the local community, Red Rooster is locally owned and sources its ingredients fresh from local businesses and farmers. There are no bakeries within a 40-minute radius that provide anything like what Red Rooster has to share with its community. With over 100 cookie recipes, and a special and different “cookie of the week”, Red Rooster’s business recipe of fresh ingredients, friendly service, and love allows the company to crow that it offers the “best treats you will ever put in your mouth. We guarantee it.”

After a career as a middle school Spanish teacher, Conti-O’Brien founded Red Rooster in 2018, baking from her home. Business was good selling at farmers’ markets and fairs, but space limitations began to infringe on the company’s growth. When she began searching for a commercial property, her real estate agent raved about the assistance she could get from the FSBDC. “I am just so grateful to him that he suggested it,” Conti-O’Brien recalls, “because I didn’t know where I was going to get the help I knew I needed.”

Working with her consultant Jamie Mead, the Sumter County area manager for the FSBDC, Conti-O’Brien received assistance with understanding her lease, obtaining necessary permits, completing Florida Department of Agriculture filings, reviewing financial projections, and going over her revised business plan. “Everything from A to Z, you name it business wise, Jamie helped me through the whole process,” she shares today. “It just made things so much easier for me, so much easier to understand because I knew I could trust her, that she was going to help me and get me through, that she had my back. I would not be sitting here right now or even be in my shop if it wasn’t for the FSBDC’s and Jamie’s help.”

Red Rooster Cookie Jar celebrated its grand opening in November. Customers were three deep at the counter and the line was out the door, and business has stayed strong. “We are selling out all the time,” Conti-O’Brien says proudly. “We have a constant flow of customers coming through the doors. It’s just been wonderful.”

“The SBDC helped me so much,” Conti-O’Brien concluded. “When I was working out of my house, I was very limited, especially in the space I had for production. Being able to get a commercial space has helped me not only grow our customer base but also our product line. If I didn’t have this space and the SBDC’s help, I would never have been able to realize all of this awesome stuff that’s happening to us. Thank you, Jamie and thank you, FSBDC.”

For information about Red Rooster Cookie Jar, please visit



Going it alone as a small business owner can be a prescription for hard times. There are daily challenges, fires to put out, employees to manage, customers to satisfy, and opportunities to leverage or miss out on. The rewards and satisfaction from owning your own business are also bountiful, but are much easier to come by when you have assistance. Cassandra Daniel, the owner alongside her husband Mike Ballard of Mt. Dora, FL-based metal fabricator MBD FAB LLC, recognized that help from outside their company could be beneficial and turned to the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of Central Florida (FSBDC at UCF) in Lake County for its expert, no-cost business consulting, training, and access to market research. They are glad they did.

MBD Fabricators is a full-scale fabrication and manufacturing company offering complete services from concept to installation. Using Mike Daniel’s extraordinary creativity and expertise in tandem with state-of-the-art equipment to meet customer specifications, the firm’s attention to detail ensures that a project meets its customers’ needs and exceeds their expectations. “What sets us apart,” describes Cassandra Daniel, “is we’re smaller and able to deal one-on-one with our customers. Say you have an idea, and you bring it to us. We can take it from idea to completion because we have in-house CAD drawers, and my husband is a phenomenal fabricator.”

“I originally sought assistance from the FSBDC because my husband and I had a vision for the growth of our company but weren’t quite sure how to basically tie all the knots and lay all the lines for that growth to come to pass,” recalls Cassandra. “As a new entrepreneur, I needed somebody to help me understand what I already knew, to be basically a confidence boost, and the FSBDC has definitely been that for us.”

“To be completely transparent, I was a little nervous when meeting my FSBDC consultant for the first time,” admits Cassandra. “I knew we needed the help but didn’t know what to expect. But I took the leap of faith and met with SBDC consultant John Doramus. He is super personable and just sat down with us to learn about us, about our company, and about where we want to take it. We talked about our dreams, our vision, our goals and he helped us put a game plan in place to get there. It was amazing.”

Working with FSBDC consultant Doramus, the Daniels were able to get a better grip on their company and chart a course forward. “John helped us fully understand where we sit in our business and what the next steps should be,” explains Cassandra. “He has taken us to the point where we’ve gotten all of our paperwork together to apply for and be approved for a bank loan to buy new equipment that we need to double our revenues within the next 12 months and we’re super excited about it. He also helped us look at the different products we manufacture and determine which were high profit and which were holes in the boat letting all the water in. As a result, we’ve made changes in our product lines that is really going to be key for us going forward.”

Today, thanks to seeking guidance and to accessing the FSBDC’s support, MBD FAB LLC has new equipment, a new facility, and new opportunities. “The FSBDC helped us open doors we didn’t know we needed or wanted opened, and see things in a different light,” Cassandra Daniel concluded. “It was definitely worth it to work with FSBDC.”

For information about MBD FAB, please visit


ClariVita Language Services

Contact: Hal Thayer, Communications Director, FSBDC at UCF, 407.420.4850 or

                 Jose Molfino, Area Manager, FSBDC at UCF – Lake County, 352.404.7338 or

Orlando, FL – When that entrepreneurial bug bites and a professional decides to strike out on their own, it can be daunting to know where to begin or how to address the challenges that can arise when operating a new venture. Often the founder of a new business is an expert in her field but lacks experience running a company. Mara Abraham, co-founder and CEO of ClariVita Language Services, found herself in exactly that position and turned to the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of Central Florida (FSBDC at UCF) in Lake County for assistance.

ClariVita Language Services is in the business of helping companies and organizations become diversified, multicultural, and multilingual. The firm offers a variety of services including interpretation and translation; transcription and audio dubbing; and consultation and implementation of language access plans to organizations who are looking to increase patient and customer satisfaction, reduce liabilities, and provide equal access to the services they offer to people who are limited English proficient (LEP), deaf, and/or hard of hearing.

“Besides providing top-notch professional services, we also offer a great customer experience,” Abraham states proudly. “And that’s what sets us apart. We have an amazing team of both staff and professional linguists who deliver our services at a fair price, and make sure our clients have the best experience possible when they do. We’re very proud of the fact that we have grown mostly organically so far and are really thrilled to see clients coming back to us year after year.”

“The reason I sought out assistance from the FSBDC is I needed help on the business side,” Abraham recalls. “I had been self-employed as an interpreter for more than 20 years. I knew a lot about the industry – a whole lot – but I knew less about business. I felt I lacked the business knowledge and business acumen, and I was looking for somebody to guide me through my next learning curve.”

“My experience working with the FSBDC has been outstanding,” Abraham says. Leveraging the FSBDC’s no-cost, expert consulting; business training and workshops; and access to market research and data bases gave her the assurance and knowledge she was looking for. “I have received the education and training that I felt I needed to fill the in the gaps I mentioned.” Together with Jose Molfino, consultant and area manager for the FSBDC’s Lake County office, she set up her accounting system to track transactions and profitability and established an annual budget to measure her performance. “Jose has been with me every step of the way. I went through a very hard personal time in the last year and a half, and he held my hand while still keeping me accountable and allowing me to go at my own pace.”

“The results of this whole year of consulting have been amazing,” concludes Abraham. “We have doubled our staff and doubled our revenue. We’re now ready to scale our business with confidence knowing that we have the tools and the support we need to make that happen.” For entrepreneurs and business owners thinking about working with the FSBDC, Abraham says: “There’s nothing to think about. Pull the trigger right now. It’s only going to help you grow your business. It’s all the expert advice you want and need, and don’t even know you need, right there at your fingertips for free.”

For information about ClariVita Language Services, please visit

Tributatries and Clarus

Tributaries and Clarus Audio and Video Cables

With more than 70% of the world’s purchasing power located outside of the U.S., exporting is an increasingly attractive opportunity for small and medium-sized companies. Joe Perfito, founder and owner of Gordon J. Gow Technologies – the company responsible for the design and manufacture of Tributaries and Clarus audio and video cables – had gained some international distribution but was convinced that there was significant untapped potential abroad. To increase the company’s penetration of foreign markets, Perfito turned to the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of Central Florida’s (FSBDC at UCF) International Trade Services team.

Tributaries is a leading provider of high-performance and high-quality digital & analog audio interconnects, speaker cables, AC power products, and HDMI cables for discriminating audiophiles and cinephiles. Clarus serves the even more selective high-end audiophile market, offering ultimate-performance audio cables, power cables, power conditioners, and digital-to-analog converters (DACS) for the most discerning listening audiences. Combining patented technologies and painstakingly meticulous hand-craftsmanship, Tributaries and Clarus products are designed by music lovers for music lovers and are universally recognized for their quality.

“We design all of the internal parts of our cables and the cosmetics – the jacket, all the conductors and the shielding,” Perfito proudly states. “We have those cables made for us and bring them into Orlando where we do all our own soldering and assembly, packaging and testing. This makes us quite a bit different from our competitors, most of whom have cable from China or the Far East brought into the U.S. where they take it out of one box, put it into another and ship it out. There’s no value added. We do all the assembly, so we know how it’s made. We do all our own quality control as well. As a result, we have cables that outperform any of our competitors.”

“Our company has been selling domestically since 1991,” recalls Perfito, “and we started working with international distributors in the early 2000’s. But we didn’t have as many as I would like, even though I knew we had the products that would sell in countries around the world. When I learned about the FSBDC, I said ‘Wow, they have a lot to offer small businesses, including in the area of exporting and international distribution, and we began working with them to help us develop some of the foreign markets.”

Together with FSBDC International Trade Services program manager Jill McLaughlin and consultant Rafael Pratts, Perfito set about to further expand globally. First, Pratts prepared a customized Export Marketing Plan, available in partnership with the U.S. Commercial Service and funded by a grant offered by Enterprise Florida, now SelectFlorida, to assist qualified Florida manufacturers and service providers with identifying overseas growth strategies. Such Export Marketing Plans provide comprehensive industry and market analyses and identify promising new foreign markets and provide a go-to-market strategy for each. Next, McLaughlin assisted the company with obtaining State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) Grants to reimburse certain travel expenses, thereby supporting their attendance at international trade shows throughout Europe.

“Because of our partnership with FSBDC and working with them, we were able to improve our international marketing,” Perfito affirms. In fact, because of the Export Marketing Plan and the STEP Grant-funded travel, the company has now secured a new distributor in France and has another in the United Kingdom, with high expectations for one in Germany as well. “I would strongly encourage other small business owners like myself to contact the FSBDC and to take advantage of the services and programs they have to offer. It would be a huge benefit for them, as it was for us.”

For information about Gordon J. Gow Technologies and its Tributaries and Clarus lines, please visit  or

Center for Aggression Management

Center for Aggression Management

Orlando, FL – In the business world, there is sometimes talk of a mystical and magical entity called the ‘unicorn’ startup, which is a company that can be expected to reach $1 billion in revenues without being listed on the stock market. It is the dream of every entrepreneur, investor, and venture capitalist. When Dr. John D. Byrnes, Founder and CEO of the Center for Aggression Management, spoke to investors who wondered out loud if his company could be worth a herd of unicorns, his new challenge became how to best scale up to achieve that level of success. He turned to the Florida APEX Accelerator at the University of Central Florida (Florida APEX at UCF), an affiliate of the Florida Small Business Development Center at UCF (FSBDC at UCF), for guidance.

The Center for Aggression Management, Inc. in Orlando, FL, trains organizations and individuals to use aggression management techniques to identify the pre-incident precursors to hostile and malicious behavior and thus prevent it from occurring. Leveraging work done by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Secret Service on how to identify someone on the path to violence, Dr. Byrnes deploys a model built around the sequential progression of precursors to assaultive and violent behavior. Understanding these pre-incident precursors enables organizations to get out in front of instances of sexual harassment, abuse, bullying, discrimination and, more recently, insider cyber attackers, all of which is hugely beneficial for workplace security and human resources. “Research has shown that our system’s capability to make people feel safe and more trusting of others enhances teamwork, leadership, loyalty, productivity, performance, and profitability,” explains Dr. Byrnes.

Entitled the Critical Aggression Prevention System (CAPS), the system has been scientifically validated as reliable. Furthermore, the system’s ability to NOT use culture, gender, education, age, sexual orientation, or religion – or mental health assessments – means it does not violate HIPPA regulations at hospitals and health care institutions, FERPA regulations at schools, colleges and universities, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applicable to all organizations.

The Center for Aggression Management and CAPS had a lot going for it, but challenges remained. “I was a training company for 20 plus years, trying to figure out what to do next,” recalls Dr. Byrnes. Now he had CAPS and knew he had to scale the company up. “I knew that I needed to have an app, and a dashboard, and a learning management system of online courses but I had no clue as to how to do it.” It was then that he turned to Steve South, the manager of the Florida APEX Accelerator at UCF.

“Steve South. I can’t say enough about this gentleman,” shares Dr. Byrnes. “He was open armed. He was able to begin to direct me based upon the uniqueness of what I had to offer. I had been a trainer all these years and now needed to become a technology company. I needed to act like a startup, and he helped direct me.” South assisted Dr. Byrnes with developing a variety of government contracting tools and certifications that enabled the company to present itself to the military, federal government, and to large organizations. South also directed Dr. Byrnes to the Veterans Entrepreneurship Initiative (VEI), which provided invaluable training as he evolved into a fledging technology company.

“Steve has been a help all the way along,” continued Dr. Byrnes. “Coming out of COVID, we acquired our very first big client that will be using our entire system: the CAPS mobile app, the CAPS Dashboard, and the CAPS learning management system. We are very slowly beginning to roll it out into a hospital system with over 80,000 employees, 23 hospitals, and 830 ambulatory facilities. The annual revenues, when fully implemented, will be well over $1 million. Of course, we have others coming on as well: a food distribution company with 4,500 employees generating over $100,000 in annual revenues to the Center.”

“To know that there is a team of people that care about us, that care where we are and about how to help us, and how they can help us achieve the best that we can be is huge”, concludes Dr. Byrnes. “The ability to have this APEX team has been a remarkable advantage to building what one day may be a colossus.”

For information about The Center for Aggression Management, please visit

The Viera Studio

The Viera Studio

The COVID epidemic threw a lot of curve balls at nearly every small business, and those involved in the arts and cultural activities were no exception. Reinvention and sometimes even a fight for survival were the order of the day. Monica Toro Lisciandro, founder of The Viera Studio for the Performing Arts and director of the Black Box Theatre Programme, recognized immediately that the pandemic was taking a toll on her organization and turned to the Florida Small Business Development Center at Eastern Florida State College (FSBDC at EFSC), a subcenter of the Florida SBDC at the University of Central Florida (FSBDC at UCF).

At the Viera Studio for the Performing Arts, they pride themselves on building confidence, creativity, and fun! Professional entertainers hold events and workshops year-round for all ages, including cabarets, showcases, and special one-night engagements. They like to say, “When you’re here, the fun never ends.” Through their programs, students can explore various aspects of theater including acting, singing, dancing, stage design, and production. Experienced and highly trained instructors guide them through every step of the process, from auditions to rehearsals to final performances.

“The Viera Studio is a special place to be because of the magic that our families and our students bring,” Monica Lisciandro states proudly. “All of our students and our families are uplifted. When our kids come in, they feel like they are supported and they’re seen, they’re heard, and they’re valued. Because of that, they’re able to excel and feel like they can be confident and truly be themselves.”

“I sought out guidance from the FSBDC because, after COVID, we really needed to pivot for our business,” recalls Lisciandro. “We needed the guidance and the support of the FSBDC and their knowledge in order to be able to move forward and continue our business and continue to be successful in the times we were facing.”

Working with FSBDC at EFSC sub-center director and consultant Robin Braswell and others, Lisciandro took advantage of the full spectrum of the FSBDC’s services: no-cost, expert consulting; business training workshops, seminars and webinars; and access to deep and broad market research databases and resources. “My journey with the FSBDC has been excellent,” Lisciandro affirms. “I’ve been able to consult with Robin about my business. I’ve received data about our marketing, about our website. I’ve been able to access a plethora of trainings that have helped me be able to develop and take my business onward and upward.”

“The FSBDC has really helped our business grow,” concludes Lisciandro. “Our clientele –students from children to adults – has increased. We have reached out to schools in the community, and they are very interested in partnering with us to bring our programs into their school. We have a bigger reach and are able to offer the arts programs to not only the kids who come to our studio but also to the community. My personal experience working with the FSBDC has been excellent. For anyone that’s considering working with them, I would highly recommend it.”

For information about The Viera Studio for the Performing Arts, please visit