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Tampa Bay Innovation Center launches program to help small businesses impacted by COVID-19

Margie Manning



Photo credit: CO.STARTERS

A new program from Tampa Bay Innovation Center is aimed at helping the local economy recover from COVID-19.

The program — CO.STARTERS Rebuild — offers 10 weeks of live-facilitated virtual programming to help small businesses navigate the COVID-19 crisis.

There aren’t other programs of this kind that go into the workings of a company and help decide how they can retool and pivot to respond to the times we are in, said Chris Paradies, Tampa Bay Innovation Center chairman. Paradies has been certified as a facilitator, and he will facilitate the Innovation Center program.

Participants will develop and fine-tune their business ideas and also receive constructive feedback from peers, advisors and potential customers.

“They will be looking at all the assumptions in their company. They will look at where they are now and we’ll be challenging them to figure out what’s happening now, what’s happening with their customers and what their customers need. They’ll come up with a one-page retooled business plan, without tremendous detail but with a lot of thought going into it, so they can respond to what their customers are facing. Hopefully that will help them also survive these challenging times for small businesses,” Paradies said.

The Innovation Center, a business incubator, accelerator and coworking center in downtown St. Petersburg, has worked for several years with CO.STARTERS, an entrepreneur support network, offering a program for artists. CO.STARTERS created the new Rebuild program to respond to small business demand.

Small businesses are a major economic driver, contributing nearly half of the overall growth of the economy, but also have been hit hardest by the pandemic.

Paradies expects a wide range of businesses to sign up, from mom-and-pop stores to small manufacturers. He isn’t sure how many companies will sign up, but said he will facilitate as many classes as needed.

Rebuild will run virtually from July 15 through Sept. 16. Applications are due by July 6. For more information and to apply, click here.

The Innovation Center is offering the program for $275, a reduced rate from the $550 program value. The Innovation Center also has received funding from Creative Pinellas so that artists, arts organizations and arts-related organizations in Pinellas County can take part at no cost.

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