Orlando has always been an appealing destination for dreamers and risk-takers. It is no coincidence that Walt Disney chose this city to make The Mouse his home. But, dreaming about starting or expanding a business is one thing; turning that dream into a reality is quite another!
In fact, the statistics are a bit daunting. The U.S. Small Business Administration estimates that 56% of small businesses will go under before the four-year mark. Just like the old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” many businesses are finding out that it takes an “incubator program” to help them succeed. Thankfully, the UCF Business Incubation Program is here to offer that nurturing, helpful environment they might be looking for.
The University of Central Florida Business Incubation Program (UCF BIP) is a university and community partnership between the Florida High Tech Corridor Council and Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia counties, as well as the cities of Apopka, Kissimmee, Orlando and Winter Springs. UCF BIP is designed to help create and sustain jobs in the community while spurring economic growth throughout the region. The program’s main goal is to help new and struggling early-stage businesses grow to the point where they need to hire employees in order to continue operating and growing.
Since 1999, this award-winning program has helped more than 390 local startup companies reach their potential faster by offering support and an array of targeted business resources and services. This past fiscal year, the program helped to sustain more than 6,275 local jobs and has had a cumulative impact of more than $888 million on regional GDP (gross domestic product) and more than $1.59 billion on regional sales.
2018 was by far the program’s best year to date with record-breaking investments. Companies in the incubator program set records for both investments and grants, with outside investments in 50 of the program’s participant companies totaling more than $19 million in funding and 46 clients receiving grant awards of $4.6 million. This amounts to a 69 percent increase in investment and a 49 percent jump in grant activity.
“We are extremely proud of our incubator clients for these record-breaking achievements,” said Dr. Tom O’Neal, founder and executive director of the UCF BIP. “The increase in funding clearly demonstrates the success of the UCF BIP program and validates that our incubators are an irreplaceable gem in the community that helps produce scalable, investible companies in Central Florida.
“These companies are truly making a difference in our community in terms of diversifying our economy and creating jobs that pay higher-than-average wages, and the grant dollars are also an important measure of the quality of the clients in the program,” continued O’Neal. “The grants and investment capital are a great way to get these companies off the ground with funding mainly from outside the region. They are highly competitive, and 46 awards in one year speak highly of the companies and the region overall.”
If you are looking to start up, grow your existing business, or wish to expand your company to Central Florida, UCF BIP might be able to help you. There are three separate programs, each designed to help businesses at different stages:
- Pre-Incubation – helps create and launch scalable startups.
- Incubation – helps scale businesses already in operation.
- Soft Landing – helps companies headquartered elsewhere expand to Central Florida.
Companies seeking to enroll in one of these programs must fill out an online application and demonstrate their business growth potential. Only scalable businesses (ones designed that, as they grow, will need to hire employees in order to continue operating and growing) will be considered. A willingness to fully engage in the program and accept constructive feedback will also be taken into account. For more information, visit https://incubator.ucf.edu/.