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Pivoting through adversity: Entrepreneurial Academy goes virtual

Megan Holmes

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The St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce presents: Coronavirus Impact Insights

On this episode of Chamber Coronavirus Impact Insights, “Mr. EA” Barry Foster joins Chris Steinocher, CEO of the St. Petersburg Chamber and Joe Hamilton, publisher of the St. Pete Catalyst to talk about how the St. Pete Chamber and the St. Pete Greenhouse have moved their entrepreneurial training program online in the midst of Covid-19.

Foster, a veteran and entrepreneur for nearly 40 years, has been a professional development coach and small business strategist since 1996. As he will freely admit, his journey has not been without struggle.

His book, Overcoming Your Funk: Practical Advice and Strategies for Reigniting Your Spirit and Taking Charge of Your Life, details two years of Foster’s own personal and professional low point, following his move to St. Petersburg and the subsequent Great Recession – a funk that nearly wiped out his business, and is not so different from the likely recession many business owners are facing today.

That perspective positions him perfectly to advise the newest class of St. Pete entrepreneurs in the latest Entrepreneurial Academy (EA) program. The 10-week EA program covers everything from business plans to marketing, law, finance and community resources for businesses.

The program is in constant iteration, with new speakers, topics, and industry evolutions each cohort. The program has graduated well over 300 students over the years, many of whom are now running successful St. Pete businesses. This year, the program has gone virtual.

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Foster and the Greenhouse were working to soldier on through the chaos. “To the Chamber’s credit, it was never in my mind, nor do I think it was in the Chamber’s mind, to cancel the class,” Foster says. Instead, the focus was getting students and facilitators on board to make the program work remotely.

“You can either be in a fear mode, a learning mode, or a growth mode,” Foster says. The necessity of being able to change and get engaged and involved despite adversity is entrepreneurial in itself, he explains.

Foster says that the ability to pivot is particularly important in circumstances like this pandemic, when it’s easy to fall into “below the line” thinking, believing you are the victim of the times. Instead, Foster says it’s important think “above the line,” to normalize reality and to create and execute the solution.

Reminders for current business owners and employees:

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