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Kim Vogel: Moving to EIC was ‘a natural fit’

David Krakow

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Kim Vogel. File photo.

Several years ago, while serving as co-manager of St. Petersburg’s Greenhouse (for the Chamber of Commerce), Kim Vogel saw a couple of presentations about the Clearwater-based technology and research firm Economic Impact Catalyst (EIC).

Vogel was impressed enough with Founder and CEO David Ponraj that she stayed in touch. Vogel thought Ponraj had found a flaw in services available in the field of economic development for entrepreneurs. After a brief stop as Vice President of People and Community Development for St. Pete’s CodeBoxx, Vogel now gets to see the work of Ponraj and his firm close up, as EIC hired her In November to be its new Chief Strategy Officer.  

“It is a very exciting and humbling experience” to have the job at EIC, Vogel said. “He saw what was missing in the market in entrepreneurial support. It’s tying it all together, allowing communities to connect the dots.”

In a prepared statement, Ponraj said “We are delighted to have Kim join our executive team as we embark on an exciting journey of growth and expansion. Kim’s mentorship and guidance will be invaluable to our team as we strive to create exceptional value for our clients.”

EIC’s mission is to make the entrepreneurial journey more accessible and streamlined in the approximately 100 communities it serves. Each community has its own website, its own needs and, therefore, a model that looks different from any other.

Some are in major metropolitan areas, some rural. “The sites represent the communities,” Vogel explained. EIC stresses that it is there to serve underrepresented communities which, Vogel said, could mean a community with a heavy concentration of minority-owned businesses to those suffering a digital divide. In Detroit, there is also a retail incubator.

“We allow these communities to tell their stories in a positive way and help small businesses succeed,” she added.

The point, she said, is to help entrepreneurs that want to interact more deeply with their community counterparts. EIC will help set up events, provide resources and set up their online profile. They are there to help a small business that wants to expand, help them with access to grants or loans. “There’s stuff you don’t know that you don’t know until you do,” she said, echoing Steve Jobs’ old adage that Apple revealed to its customers what they needed before they knew they needed it.

EIC’s services are powered by a SaaS platform but also include consultative services and market research. Vogel compared the experience for businesses in the communities they serve to the shift a college student sees once they’re enrolled and suddenly have access to online resources previously unavailable.

In Pinellas, Vogel noted that there are “a lot of great organizations” working to strategize, integrate their work and message. Listing the University of South Florida, the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, the Greenhouse and the Chamber of Commerce among them, Vogel stressed that the strands exist and that it’s just a matter of “pulling those strings, connecting those dots.” While admitting that “Covid slowed momentum and people went into survival mode,” she feels “now is the time to really start spreading the word, do the storytelling.”

Vogel will be attending a strategy session with senior leaders next week to discuss plans for 2024-26. Among new initiatives are nascent hubs for Hillsborough and Pasco counties.

The CSO position is new, reflecting EIC’s growth. “David (Ponraj) is ready to take that next step and it will be exciting to see what that trajectory is,” Vogel said.

Vogel’s own trajectory took her from places far away and very different from St. Peterburg. Originally from South Dakota, she was raised in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, moving to St. Pete seven years ago.

She said it was 22 degrees in South Dakota for Thanksgiving, something she does not miss. All three of her children moved to the St. Pete area around the same time.

Geographically and otherwise, Vogel said she’s in a good place.

“I’m a startup junkie and I’ve always been interested in what he (Ponraj) has been doing,” she said. “It (coming to EIC) just seemed like a natural fit.”

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