river street sweets savannah's candy kitchen logo-01

River Street Sweets – Savannah’s Candy Kitchen

Starting a small business in a new state can be daunting, even if it that business is one of the fastest growing franchise opportunities in the country. Although you can expect support from the franchise company, the franchisor is not always the best choice when grappling with the many challenges associated with opening a new business in a new market – challenges like local permitting, employee recruitment and more. When Lucia and Keith Lubbock, owners of River Street Sweets – Savannah’s Candy Kitchen Orlando, were starting their business and facing all those questions, Lucia turned to the Florida Small Business Development Center at  the University of Central Florida’s (FSBDC at UCF) Kissimmee office for assistance.

River Street Sweets – Savannah’s Candy Kitchen is one of America’s finest and most renowned candy brands, a southern tradition from the heart of Savannah, Georgia. Featuring its World Famous Pralines®, saltwater taffy, hand stretched peanut brittle, homemade pecan pies and made-from scratch southern delicacies, the folks at River Street Sweets – Savannah’s Candy Kitchen proudly say they are “in the business of enriching the lives of our Guests by providing fresh, handmade Southern candies served with good, old-fashioned hospitality in a clean, fun environment.” It’s no wonder they were ranked the #2 Top Candy Franchise by Entrepreneur Magazine in 2021.

“What make us unique and special is that we make everything here, inhouse,” says Lucia Lubbock. “Every single treat that we can make and have here for sale is made with a lot of love and that makes a big difference.” Contributing to River Street Sweets – Savannah’s Candy Kitchen’s family atmosphere is the shop’s location: the Promenade at Sunset Walk inside the Margaritaville Resort Orlando, one of Central Florida’s newest and most exciting resort destinations.

“When we first moved to Florida, we wanted to start a business,” recalls Lubbock, “and I found the FSBDC. I went there for a seminar that I found very helpful. After the seminar, I found my FSBDC consultant Elly Membreno and since then they have been helping me with everything. It was about the time of the COVID shut down and she kept on helping me via ZOOM. She guided us with the local permits, with the Paycheck Protection Program or any other questions I had about my business and how to start it.”

“Doing business during COVID was challenging,” Lucia Lubbock says today. “With the help of the FSBDC and Elly Membreno, it was easier. Now the business is getting better. Our numbers are up; revenues are higher by about 35%. We have a strong team. It looks like good times for us ahead.”

“My experience with the FSBDC and with Elly Membreno, it has been great,” concluded Lubbock. “For any entrepreneur or small business owner, I would definitely suggest they go to the FSBDC because they are very helpful. Sometimes you don’t know where to start but they will guide you. Even for me as a franchisee, I know the franchisor can help us with a lot of things but, with local issues and other things, the FSBDC knows the way.”

For information about River Street Sweets – Savannah’s Candy Kitchen, please visit https://www.ilovepralines.com/.

Night Lite Pediatrics Logo

Night Lite Pediatrics

Managing a growing business effectively is a constantly challenging, uphill battle. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it and every business would be successful. We all know that isn’t the reality. In fact, the wisest business leaders recognize there are always opportunities for improving performance. The three owners of Night Lite Pediatrics Urgent Care – Dr. Vivek Desai, Dr. Ayodeji Otegbeye, and Dr. Oludapo Soremi – asked themselves how they could run their business more efficiently. To do so, they turned to the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of Central Florida (FSBDC at UCF) for answers. They soon found themselves tapping into the FSBDC’s no-cost, expert consulting services as well as participating in its Advisory Board Council program, leading to extremely positive results.

As the name suggests, Night Lite Pediatrics Urgent Care is dedicated to caring for kids and young adults. With more than 150 employees and 13 offices throughout Florida, they offer a complete spectrum of health services for children, everything from  high acuity medical care to on-site laboratory services, radiology, testing &  COVID vaccinations, and IV Therapy. They understand that a child’s accidents and illnesses don’t always occur during normal business hours, so they are open after-hours every day of the week. Specializing in small child pediatric urgent care is what sets them apart, however. “Although we see everyone, our niche is the fact that we treat and care for children from newborn to 5 years of age,” says Dr. Soremi. “Our competitors are not comfortable seeing children that young and are very happy to send them to us.”

Night Lite Pediatrics has been successful, almost too successful. “As we were growing, we had a lot of challenges that we were struggling with,” recalls Dr. Desai. For guidance, they called upon the FSBDC at UCF. “I distinctly remember meeting with consultant Pauline Davis of the FSBDC for a financial evaluation and she pointed out a lot of areas where we needed work,” Dr. Desai continued. “It was really an eye opener. I thought we were doing really well, and I discovered we were not doing well at all.”

To assist Night Lite in addressing the issues that she had identified, Davis recommended the FSBDC’s Advisory Board Council (ABC) program which provides no-cost, customized boards of volunteer experts specially selected to address the specific needs of the FSBDC client by providing advice and counsel to help the business grow. For Night Lite Pediatrics, Jill Kaufman, ABC program manager, recruited advisory board members whose expertise would be beneficial to the organization and would help the clients streamline operations, enhance productivity, and improve customer satisfaction.

“The Advisory Board members had really diverse skills and areas of expertise,” Dr. Otegbeye remembers. “There were people who worked in S&P 500 companies as CFO, or in their marketing  or HR departments. They held us accountable. They would do the assessment, provide the solutions, and then guide us through to get results.”

The results achieved have been substantial. Since the company started working with the FSBDC, they have seen revenues grow at a rate of 64% and closed a successful sale of the business to a publicly traded company. “Having the FSBDC in our lives for the last two years had a lot of positive impact,” concluded Dr. Desai, “and we are truly grateful. Thank you, FSBDC.”

For information about Night Lite Pediatrics, please visit https://www.nightlitepediatrics.com/

Kelly's Homemade Ice Cream

Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream

For some small business owners, explosive growth – in revenues, employees, locations – can be an exciting yet daunting challenge. No one wants to miss an opportunity, but the fear of overextending and moving too fast can hold you back. Kelly and Scott Seidl, founders and owners of Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream, recognized that ‘they didn’t know what they didn’t know’ as they sought to manage their rapidly growing business. To gain the perspectives and guidance they wanted to confidently push forward and nurture this growth, the Seidl’s turned to the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of Central Florida (FSBDC at UCF) and its award-winning Advisory Board Council (ABC) program.

Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream is a Cinderella story. In 2014, the company started its journey as a simple ice cream truck. Today Kelly’s has five scoop shops and three counters inside a partner’s coffee shops with plans to expand to two new locations shortly. Their success is a testament to the appeal and popularity of their local and handcrafted product. “We make all our ice cream inhouse,” Kelly Seidl states proudly, “using the highest quality ingredients and dairy from Florida. What makes us exceptional is we have uniquely created flavors, with over 100 recipes of seasonal and featured flavors that are rotated throughout the year. We cherish being part of the community, stay involved with the local schools and strive to give back to show our gratitude for the support we have received.”

“We originally sought out assistance from the FSBDC because our business started to grow and we needed mentorship,” Scott Seidl recalls. “Kelly is a registered nurse by trade, and I am an accountant. We had never started or run a business, so we needed help. The Advisory Board Council was the service we used the most at the FSBDC and it’s been extremely helpful.”
The FSBDC at UCF’s Advisory Board Council provides no-cost, customized boards of volunteer experts specially selected to address the specific needs of the FSBDC client by providing advice and counsel to help the business grow. In the case of Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream, Jill Kaufman, ABC program manager, recruited advisory board members whose expertise
would be beneficial to the organization and would help the clients to explore and evaluate new opportunities as well as plan for the infrastructure that would be needed to support those developments.

“It’s a group of advisors that have a lot of different industry experience and they’ve been great mentors,” says Scott Seidl. “For example, our board had a member with a lot of food production experience which was knowledge we didn’t have. We can bounce our ideas off of them and get the feedback we need and know that they will challenge us. It has really helped us step back from the business and work on the business, not just in the business.”

“Since we started with the FSBDC and the Advisory Board Council, our revenues have grown over 100% and our staff has more than doubled. We had 3 locations, now we have 8,” Kelly Seidl concluded. “If I had to use one word to describe the FSBDC’s Advisory Board, it would be ‘Family’. I have trust in them and that they give us confident, knowledgeable answers that have helped us grow and manage that growth successfully.”

For information about Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream, please visit https://www.kellyshomemadeicecream.com/

Global Technology Integrators, GTI

Global Technology Integrators

Small- and medium-sized businesses rarely have enough resources, whether it’s a shortage of people, capital, or even time. Obtaining and nurturing growth typically requires continuous, substantial support, however, so finding these necessary resources is an ongoing challenge for business owners. Such was the case for Tonya Oxford, owner and CEO, and her husband Tony Oxford, President of Global Technology Integrators, LLC (GTI), as they contemplated their company’s future. It is also why they sought assistance from the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of Central Florida (FSBDC at UCF).

Global Technology Integrators is a Woman-Owned Small Business with over 3 decades of experience solving complex problems with simple cost-effective solutions. GTI designs and delivers instrumentation, atmospherics, targetry and special effects products, including environmentally and physically rugged equipment used by the military for training and ingenious and unexpected scents and smells used by the amusement and entertainment industries for special effects.  “This company is really based on the customer and what the customer’s needs are,” explains Tony Oxford. “We always say that knowing our products can save one war fighter’s life or create more smiles on an amusement ride makes it all worthwhile.”

“We originally looked for help from the FSBDC when our company was going through a transition,” recalls Tonya Oxford. “We had been using the FSBDC for a wide variety of services. I’ve taken training classes with them; they ‘ve done market analyses for us; we have relied on their consulting services, as well – all things that would have been cost prohibitive for us to do on our own but was offered at no cost by the FSBDC. It’s all been worth its weight in gold.”

GTI soon found that it needed additional – and different – assistance, however. Led by FSBDC consultant Sharon Smith, GTI enrolled in the FSBDC’s award winning Advisory Board Council program which provides no-cost, customized boards of volunteer experts specially selected to address the specific needs of the FSBDC client by providing advice and counsel to help the business grow.  Here were the additional resources GTI wanted. “We were lucky enough to start our Board just prior to COVID,” says Tonya Oxford, “and they helped us figure out how to make it in the new world.”

“The Advisory Board is so unique because of the different people that they put in place – for us, a marketing specialist, an attorney, a CFO, small business owners,” Tony Oxford remarks. “Taking and utilizing all of their expertise really helped us move forward. They allowed us to drill down into our marketing and sales, our finances, our HR. We now better understand the risks versus the rewards as we move through our business. It has been a tremendous help and allowed us to have growth in our business that is unheard of.”

“When we started with the FSBDC’s Advisory Board in 2020, we were doing just over $1 million in revenues,’ Tony Oxford states. “Now we have grown to over $4 million – a 282% increase! We have gone from being a small government sub-contractor to now winning our first prime contract. We have gained some patents and expanded into the entertainment industry, and won some big contracts there. That’s the direction we’re going and, with the FSBDC to help us, we know we can continue to grow at an even faster pace.”

For information about Global Technology Integrators, please visit https://www.gtintegrators.com/ .

Mickey Finn's Irish Pub

Mickey Finn’s Irish Pub

Imagine the excitement. You’re a small business owner and restauranteur who has returned to your roots, having bought a bar/restaurant after taking extended R&R in the Florida Keys. Your new place in Clermont, FL – Mickey Finn’s Irish Pub – has been open exactly one week, the customers are coming in, life is good. And then “Wham!” The Pandemic explodes and your business is shut down completely, for weeks. The excitement goes out the door and survival becomes the number one priority. Those were the cards dealt to Micky Finn’s new owners, Ron Greeley and his wife Pat. Fortunately for them, they turned to the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of Central Florida’s (FSBDC at UCF) in Lake County and FSBDC consultant John Doramus, and that made all the difference.

Mickey Finn’s Irish Pub is the genuine article, right down to the bar itself. All of the furnishings and interior and exterior finishes, including the bar, cabinets, furniture, and décor are authentically Irish, imported from Derry, Ireland itself. The imported beers on tap and the old country menu further showcase the authenticity of the experience. “People come in here and have a real feeling of a pub rather than just a bar,” says Pat Greeley. “We serve the local community as well as international customers, including from the UK and Canada,” continued Ron Greeley. “Our slogan is ‘An Irish Pub with a Key West Attitude.’”

A great concept with a loyal following isn’t enough in the face of a pandemic. “We had first opened the pub in March 2020 and a week later we were shut down because of the COVID virus,” relates Ron Greeley. “They shut us down for six weeks and we lost just about all of our supplies and beer and food. We had to put an extraordinary amount of our own money into the pub just to stay afloat. Our funds were quickly depleted, and we turned to the FSBDC for advice. That’s when we met John Doramus. He is above all the reason we’re still in business.”

After meeting with the Greeley’s and assessing the challenging situation, the FSBDC’s Doramus got to work on finding and connecting them with resources and assistance. After limping through 2020 earning barely 25% of pre-Covid revenues, they started to see slight growth in 2021. Meanwhile, Doramus helped the Greeley’s receive funds from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program and its Restaurant Revitalization Fund. Then he went a step further, showing them the way to receiving Employee Retention Credit funds as well as how to implement a new financial management system.

“If it weren’t for John Doramus and his cohorts at the FSBDC, we would not be where we are today. I cannot thank them enough,” shares Ron Greeley. “John provided us expert advice as to what to do, how to proceed, how to get through the myriad of alphabet agencies that were providing economic disaster funding. John was the one glowing light in this whole dark episode of the Pandemic.” Concluded Pat Greeley: “I wouldn’t hesitate to tell anyone to go ahead and work with the FSBDC. We are successful now because we did.”

For information about Mickey Finn’s Irish Pub, please visit www.mickeyfinnsirishpub.com.

The Flooring Spot

The Flooring Spot

Growing and expanding a small business can be challenging in any economy, only more so during a pandemic. A crucial key to success for many entrepreneurs and business owners striving to reach the next level is and always has been accessing assistance and resources, preferably at no cost. Elizabeth and Juan Lugo, founders and owners of The Flooring Spot, sought the support they needed to grow their business at the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of Central Florida (FSBDC at UCF) and they are grateful they did.

The Flooring Spot, with stores in Ocoee and now Winter Garden, call themselves ‘your local flooring experts since 2005’. Specializing in the sale and installation of all types of flooring material for residential and commercial customers, they are family-owned and locally operated. The Flooring Spot prides itself in offering superior customer service and highest quality installation from a team with over 50 years of combined experience, and all at competitive prices. Top that off with a total satisfaction guarantee.

“What makes us different,” says Elizabeth Lugo, “is that Juan started as a subcontractor. From his years of experience, and his hands-on background and knowledge, we are able, and are dedicated to, providing each and every customer with the very best in service, quality, value and workmanship.”

“In the beginning, I went to look for training and information about how to expand our business and make it better,” recalls Ms. Lugo. “I found what I needed at and have utilized a lot of different services from the FSBDC. Our consultant, Jairo Batista, helped us in a lot of ways. I think we became almost like friends.”

The Lugos and their company took advantage of the FSBDC’s expert, no-cost consulting; business training and workshops; and access to extensive market research databases. The FSBDC presented them with multiple opportunities for funding to survive the pandemic, with the company eventually receiving financial support in the form of a State of Florida Bridge Loan, and from the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program loan and later forgiveness, and an Economic Injury Disaster Loan. Says Elizabeth Lugo: “The assistance they provided with capital resources and the many other things they were telling us really helped us keep our doors open and continue our business before everything started to pick up again.”

Beyond enabling The Floor Spot’s access to capital, the FSBDC has offered guidance and counsel focused on growing the company. “When we started seeking support from the FSBDC, our business was very small. We hadn’t even opened our first showroom location,” remarks Ms. Lugo. “Since then, we have come across so many different opportunities that they shared with us. From that point on and with the FSBDC’s help, our business has grown a lot. We have been able to open our new location, hire new employees, and expand our warehouse. We were able to continue to grow and get over the hump of the COVID times.”

“We have grown and continue to grow; our second store is doing great,” Ms. Lugo concludes. “All the support we have received from the FSBDC really helped us get there. It was excellent for our small business; it really gave us the push we needed.”

For information about The Flooring Spot, please visit www.theflooringspot.com.

A&G Marketing Group Powered by PROforma

A & G Marketing Group Powered by PROforma

Top line revenue growth is typically the highest priority for growing a small business but increasing productivity or reducing expenses can be crucial second and third choices as well. For wife and husband team Jennifer Herrera and Pablo Prahl, owners and directors of A & G Marketing Group Powered by PROforma in Lake Mary, Florida, the goal was to grow their sales and their business by improving their processes, increasing the efficiency of their operations, and enhancing the effectiveness of their internal and external communications. For guidance, they turned to the Florida Small Business Development Center at Seminole State College (FSBDC at SSC), its Advisory Board Council program, and its local consultant Monica Williams.

A & G Marketing is a full-service marketing agency providing innovative and cutting-edge promotional products and solutions to individual consumers as well as a broad range of commercial customers. Offering branding & graphic design; direct mail and digital services; printing and tradeshow displays; and branded merchandise and apparel, A & G Marketing takes clients from concept to delivery, all with a noticeable emphasis on customer service.

“Our name is A & G Marketing Group Powered by PROforma,” says Prahl. “What that means is we are a family-owned business that has the support of PROforma, a marketing and promotion company with more than 700 offices in the U.S. and Canada. It helps us be very competitive with our products and our services without losing the personal touch when consulting with our clients.”

“We sought assistance from the FSBDC because we wanted to know how to improve our internal processes and work together better to take the next step to growing our business,” continues Herrera. “Working with the FSBDC has been an amazing experience. It’s been incredible. As a small business owner, we can get too involved in our daily tasks and we do not take the time to work on our business. With the support of the FSBDC, you’re going to find the time and you’re going to see positive results.”

In the case of A & G, it was taking advantage of the FSBDC at SSC’s no-cost consulting services and its Center for Business Development’s Advisory Board Council program. In addition to general business consulting to help improve processes and procedures, consultant Williams introduced the DISC methodology, a personal assessment tool used by more than one million people every year to help improve teamwork, communication, and productivity in the workplace. The FSBDC’s Advisory Board Council provided a no-cost, customized board of volunteer experts selected to address A & G Marketing’s specific needs by providing advice and counsel to help the business grow.

“The improvement we have seen in our business since we started working with the FSBDC has been great,” Prahl concludes. “Our first year with them was 2020 and we did the same numbers that year despite COVID as we did in 2019, which was amazing. And in 2021 we had an increase of 30% which was a huge number compared to other PROforma offices. We even added a team member from Seminole State College who is working and growing with us. Working with the FSBDC and the advisory board has been just plain great for us.”

For information about A & G Marketing Group Powered by PROForma, please visit https://marketingbyproforma.com/.

Cybserec Investments Logo

Cybersec Investements

Recognition can be hard to come by for a small business. Given that reality, imagine the pride you would feel if the White House chose you and your business for the President’s Volunteer Service Award. Fernando Machado, Chief Information Security Officer and owner of Cybersec Investments, experienced exactly that honor when he and his company were recognized for their service in developing standards for the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC). Machado will tell you that this achievement would not have been possible without guidance from the Florida Procurement Technical Assistance Center at the University of Central Florida (Florida PTAC at UCF), the government contracting affiliate of the Florida SBDC at UCF.

Department of Defense (DoD) contractors have long been responsible for implementing critical cybersecurity requirements, but the CMMC changed this paradigm by requiring third-party assessments of DoD contractors’ compliance with certain mandatory practices, procedures, and capabilities that can adapt to new and evolving cyber threats from adversaries.

Enter Machado and Cybersec Investments, at the urging of the Florida PTAC at UCF. As the new certifications were evolving, both Machado and PTAC recognized opportunities. For Cybersec, it was to contribute to the development of the CMMC standards and to leverage Machado’s over 10 years of DoD cybersecurity experience. For the Florida PTAC, it was the prospect of launching a resource that could help its DoD government contracting clients achieve CMMC compliance. These were clear Win-Win opportunities all around.

“Before working with PTAC, I was not aware of the CMMC initiative. PTAC brought it to my attention, and it was an avenue where our business goals aligned,” Machado recalls. Today, Cybersec Investments is in the business of managed security, risk assessment and compliance services, specifically CMMC assessment, planning and remediation. Thanks to Machado being a CMMC Provisional Assessor and the company being a candidate CMMC Third-Party Assessment organization, he states “We bring value to clients by giving them ‘the answers to the test’ by providing consulting services through the eyes of a CMMC assessor and knowing what they would be looking for.”

Machado and Cybersec benefited from multiple services from the Florida PTAC beyond identifying the CMMC opportunity. They assisted him with obtaining his Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) certification, developing his capabilities statement, and registering for the federal government’s System for Award Management (SAM) as well as with the State of Florida. In addition, PTAC has helped by connecting Machado with valuable networking events and presentations.

“Working with PTAC has been great,” Machado concludes. “When we first started, we were operating at a loss. Since starting with PTAC, we’ve become profitable and have multiple clients seeking us out. My experience with them has been fantastic. Kara Vernon (PTAC Specialist) and Steve South (PTAC Manager) have been amazing. They both are very knowledgeable with years of combined experience. If you are thinking about possibly working with PTAC and feel hesitant, I would say ‘Lose that hesitancy at the door’. I highly recommend them as a resource.”

For information about Cybersec Investments, please visit https://cybersecinvestments.com/.

CCI Group

CCI Group

The beauty of entrepreneurship is often in the creation it involves. The creation of building a company, of meeting customer needs in a new way, of creating new jobs, of contributing to the community. Indira (Indy) Vega, CEO of the CCI Group, an interpretation and translation company, has made all of that happen and credits the Small Business Development Center at the University of Central Florda (FSBDC at UCF) with helping her.

The CCI Group provides interpretation and translation services with a difference. Offering in-person and remote service in over 200 languages, the company has used the quality of its team and today’s technology to transform itself and the immediacy of the results its clients can achieve. CCI Groups clients span the private and public sector, serving law firms, medical providers, and school districts across Florida. Recently, they have gone nationwide with new clients in Georgia and Texas.

“We do more than replacing words,” Vega says. “We enable true communications across languages and cultures. We can do so much. For example, we offer over-the-phone interpretations that allows clients access to an interpreter in as little as 48 seconds,” Vega is proud to state. “And with our remote simultaneous interpretation, you can make an event or webinar truly inclusive with a multi-language presentation, in English, in Spanish, in Creole, in Portuguese, all at the same time.”

Vega came to the FSBDC at UCF to take her company to the next level of growth. Offering no-cost consulting, business training and workshops, and access to expansive market research resources, she took advantage of them all. “I have used so many services from the FSBDC” Vega continued. “One of the programs was the Business Recovery Team (a CARES Act-funded consulting service) which was fantastic. They were with us six months. I think we had almost weekly meetings. They helped us with budgeting, with planning, with marketing. You name it. Every aspect of my company was touched by the FSBDC at some point. They were a game changer for us.”

“I can’t even describe the impact the FSBDC has had on the growth of our business,” Vega states. “I was a solo practitioner with one part-time employee when I started with the FSBDC. Now we are up to 10. Not just here in Central Florida but overseas. Its something I never thought I was going to be able to do. Recently, the company went on a company retreat to show our appreciation. It all wouldn’t have been possible without help from the FSBDC.”

“Th SBDC also opened my eyes to community involvement,” Vega went on. “I always thought that was only for the big boys.” But today CCI Group is involved with THE CENTER, a non-profit assisting the LGBTQ community, as well as the Orlando Center for Justice which helps immigrants here in Central Florida. “I think this is thanks to my involvement with the FSBDC.”

“My experience working with the FSBDC has been amazing,” Vega concluded. “If you ask me in 10 years, I will say the same thing: the FSBDC was part of CCI Group and we wouldn’t be here without them, that’s for sure.”

For more information about The CCI Group, please visit https://myccigroup.com/.



The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Alicia Sangster, CEO, founder, and product co- creator at Puretopiah, the maker of a unique, multicultural hair care system for children. Sangster encountered a problem, invented a solution, put the pieces together and then turned to the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of Central Florida (FSBDC at UCF) for assistance with starting up and launching her new business.

Alicia Sangster, a Jamaican immigrant, often found it difficult caring for her daughter’s thick, curly, multi-textured hair, made even more challenging by her child’s ultra-sensitive skin. With the help of her brother, a chemist for over 12 years, she began her quest for a natural, gentle, safe product that made it easier for children’s hair to look great longer, without frizz and with silky-smooth curls, all from a product made from nourishing, vegan ingredients. The result is a 4-step hair care system comprised of shampoo, conditioner, detangler and curling cream that is an easy to use, wash-and-go answer for intense hydration and longer lasting curls.

“Puretopiah is the first plant powered multicultural brand to give your kids up to four days of moisture and curl definition without the use of damaging chemicals or having to convince your kids to wear satin bonnets,” says Sangster proudly. “It makes it so much easier for us parents to care for our kid’s hair and make it look great longer. It’s why we like to say ‘Puretopiah. Your Beauty. Your Way. Naturally.’”

Sangster the entrepreneur had found the solution, but now wanted to share it and make a business out of it. That’s when she turned to the FSBDC at UCF. “I had seen articles where people shared their success stories from working with the FSBDC,” she recalls. “I decided to reach out for assistance because I didn’t want to navigate alone this landscape of starting a new business in a whole new industry that I wasn’t familiar with.”

“In working with the FSBDC, I have really experienced a lot of support,” continued Sangster. “As entrepreneurs, of course we rely on family and friends, but it helps to take it to another level where you’re getting support from someone who has been there and done that.” In fact, the FSBDC helped Sangster in multiple ways: setting up the business; developing packaging/labels/sales/website development. “What I really appreciated was that I could be myself in my interactions with my consultant Chuck Wheeler,” says Sangster. “Even if that day was a horrible day and I didn’t know if I was going to move forward, I was able to feel uplifted at the end of those sessions and keep going.”

“What I have achieved since working with the FSBDC is going from a mere idea to fully launching my business, which I did last week,” Sangster concluded. “There are so many things that you just don’t realize that you have to do as a business in order to launch and I definitely could not have done it without the help of the FSBDC, so I say: ‘Thank You.’”

For more information about Puretopiah, please visit: https://puretopiah.com/.