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Startup Academy set to launch first cohort

Mark Parker



A recent Entrepreneurial Academy cohort celebrates graduation. The new Startup Academy will prepare participants for the more advanced course. Photos provided.

Burgeoning entrepreneurs needing assistance with idea exploration and business basics now have a new local resource.

The St. Pete Greenhouse, in partnership with the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, will welcome its first Startup Academy cohort Aug. 7. The application deadline is Friday, July 28.

Lauren Frawley, business marketing and events coordinator for the Chamber, explained the new program is for those who need to learn business fundamentals before the more advanced Entrepreneurial Academy. It will fill the gap between those in the “idea phase” and founders looking to establish and grow a company.

“Essentially, what we learned is there were a lot of people in that arena that weren’t quite ready for the Entrepreneurial Academy,” Frawley said. “It’s (the Startup Academy) for those people who want to explore entrepreneurship. Maybe they have an idea, but they’re not quite sure what to do next.”

The Startup Academy is a four-week course, with meetings occurring Mondays from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m., from Aug. 7 through Aug. 28. The cohort will gather at the Greenhouse at 440 2nd Ave. N. in downtown St. Petersburg.

The Greenhouse is a unique public-private partnership comprised of Chamber and City of St. Petersburg employees. Ronnel Montgomery, co-manager and vice president of economic inclusion and business growth, will oversee the latest academy.

The Greenhouse serves as an “entrepreneurial compass” that guides small business owners and startup founders, according to its 2023 Action Plan Statement. It also leverages extensive local partnerships to foster collaboration and bolster connections – a key aspect of the academy.

Organization officials told the city council in May that it expects to graduate over 100 aspiring business leaders from its programs this year. Frawley said they capped the Startup Academy cohort at 25 participants.

“We wanted it not to be too large so that people are able to get that one-on-one help,” she added.

The program is open to anyone representing any industry. Frawley said the primary qualification is that participants be at the “very start” of their business journey.

She explained that many people have promising ideas but lack the know-how to execute plans. Course topics include registering a business, concept exploration, identifying customer value, establishing an entrepreneurial mindset and other fundamentals.

“With the Entrepreneurial Academy, a lot of people were just way ahead of that,” Frawley said. “This is a much simpler, kind of laid-out starting point.”

Lauren Frawley, business marketing and events coordinator for the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce.

She noted that some people may realize they are not ready to launch a business. However, Frawley said it could create better employees with a basic understanding of what it takes to run a company.

She also touted the networking benefits and said some people join the Entrepreneurial Academy strictly to foster relationships and learn from like-minded participants. Frawley said classmates often remain in touch and continue learning from each other and working together long after the program ends.

“If you take four weeks and $200 to learn that ‘this is not for me,’ then that is invaluable,” she added. “Because you’re going to waste all that time and resources … getting farther into it (the business idea).”

The upcoming cohort is the only course planned for this year, and Frawley expects to continue the program in 2024. Greenhouse officials could eventually hold the classes bi-annually, like the Entrepreneurial Academy.

They designed the startup cohort to conclude just before the Entrepreneurial Academy begins Sept. 11. Frawley said that was intentional to accommodate those who gain the fundamentals necessary for the more advanced course.

Entrepreneurial Academy graduates also receive a year-long Chamber membership. Frawley believes the programs are much-needed resources for the local small business community, “which is what makes St. Pete, St. Pete.”

For more information on the Startup Academy, visit the website here.






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