EUSTIS – Business owners in Lake County have a new resource after UCF’s Business Incubation Program opened its latest facility, this one located in Eustis.
The site, located in a small office in the MEGA Workspace on North Bay Street, will support entrepreneurs within the community with business services including coaching, mentoring and other services.
Area leaders said the facility’s debut could serve as a catalyst for growth in the community.
“We have not had the resources here to answer the question of, ‘How do I start my business?’” said Wendy Taylor, an online marketing expert who has helped lead a semi-resurgence of Lake County’s tech community. “This is a huge opportunity for local entrepreneurs, even those who just have an idea on a napkin. It’s an encouragement for business owners.”
The location becomes the incubation program’s ninth in Central Florida, and first in Lake County. The opening comes amid a concerted effort and commitment to revitalize Eustis.
That’s one reason Lake County officials bought in almost immediately, said Rob Panepinto, an adviser to incubator clients.
“If we can look back in 20 years and say, ‘We were the anchor that helped build economic diversity, what a great feeling that would be,” said Panepinto, the school’s director of innovation districts strategy and partnerships.
The UCF Business Incubation Program has graduated more than 400 businesses during the past 20 years.
The opening was done in partnership with the Florida Small Business Development Center at UCF.
“We like to leverage our brand and be the catalyst to growth,” Panepinto said. “We know we can’t do it by ourselves.”
Mellisa McHaffie hopes the new location will help her build her candle-making business and accelerate her growth.
She said watching the region’s economic engine grow has been a source of pride for her.
“There are good things happening here,” she said. “It takes Eustis to a new level. I always say, don’t sleep on Eustis. There is value here.”
Officials expect the facility to trigger a growth in the business community, which can often happen when an incubator and business resources arrive.
It’s a natural result of seeing an energized business sector, said Carol Ann Dykes Logue, the incubator program’s director.
“When a community realizes that the future of their economy lies in nurturing businesses starting and growing there, it has an interesting effect,” she said. “It unifies a community and creates a different level of relationship. It could trigger a vision for the future that folks haven’t thought about before.”
UCF Business Incubator Lake County
Address 343 N. Bay St.
Eustis, FL 32726