Mainstreet businesses often need just as much help to grow successfully as do technology startups.
That’s the thinking behind Ignite, a business accelerator for service companies such as real estate brokers and agents, CPAs, attorneys, financial advisors, HVAC firms and other service providers.
“We focus on folks in their industry for at least 10 years. Maybe they’ve only been operating their own company for a few years, but we help them clearly define what they are doing and who their business is for. We help them become recognized as an authority or industry leader, whatever their industry would be,” said Andre Hampton, the founder of Ignite, and founder and managing director of StreamS Capital. “We help them put the effort into work that attracts businesses to them, so they’re not always out trying to find the next sale.”
Both StreamS Capital, a financial advisory firm that works with single family offices and ultra-high-net worth clients, and Ignite are located at Factory 114, the downtown Tampa co-working space that Hampton also founded.
“As an entrepreneur, when I was looking for help for my own businesses, everything I found was technology-based. If you search ‘startup,’ it almost is synonymous with technology companies. I needed something for myself and I was looking to create something for families who have Mainstreet businesses and professional services. They need help too,” he said.
Professional service providers and technology businesses have a synergistic relationship, Hampton said.
“I think they are interwoven. A lot of service-based companies are relying on technology to make their business better. Tampa-St. Pete is pushing hard to become a tech innovation center, and I think we’re doing a good job on that. I just don’t want us to forget about or leave out the other businesses that are around,” he said.
Technology companies that grow their business and have a successful exit are few and far between, maybe one in 20, Hampton said.
“Service-based companies aren’t going to have the multiples, they’re not going to have millions of dollars, but you can affect hundreds of thousands of people, help families generate a good income and build a good business,” he said. “My personal view is we could help thousands more people attain success in one fashion or another, versus one or two companies that go big.”
Since launching in February, Ignite has served 18 companies in three cohorts, each cohort lasting for six weeks. The next cohort starts Jan. 1. The cost is $4,000.
Companies eligible for the program must be operating, service-based businesses generating a minimum of $35,000 a year in revenue and capable of scaling to $150,000 a year within 12 to 24 months. Companies that currently are at or near $150,00 in annual revenue are asked to target $400,000 to $600,000 in revenue within the next year or two. More information about the accelerator is here.
Deon Bradley, a former advisor at 1871, the Chicago technology and entrepreneurship center, was recently hired as Ignite’s program director.
Hampton works with accelerator companies and also brings in coaches and mentors. Rebecca Uribe, formerly with Set Up My Solar, and Marcus Watts of Upryz Digital, have served as mentors.
Factory 114, at 114 S. 12th St. in Tampa’s Channel District, also is evolving, Hampton said.
“Factory 114 started as a co-working space that is evolving into a consortium of opportunities. It’s there to help entrepreneurs build their businesses. Ideally, what we want is almost an assembly line — to have folks come in and have resources such as marketing, publishing, accounting, tax, legal — to have it be a workshop for their business.”