Leaders of the Florida Small Business Development Center (FSBDC) at FIU Business and U.S. Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar (FL-27) on Dec. 18 launched the Business Growth and Acceleration Program (BizGap) for small businesses located in Florida’s 27th congressional district.
Funded by a $650,000 Community Project grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration to the FSBDC at FIU Business, BizGap will assist over 1,000 small businesses in FL-27 over the next year, explained Brian Van Hook, regional director, FSBDC. District 27 includes areas of downtown Miami, Little Havana, Coral Gables, plus Westchester, Palmetto Bay and Cutler Bay.
“BizGap is focused on meeting small business owners where they are in the community and providing them with the guidance, resources and partnerships needed to start and grow their businesses,” Van Hook said. “It’s another tool in our toolkit to assist local businesses.“
The program includes training, workshops and webinars on topics such as marketing, access to capital, business strategy and startup assistance. FSBDC consultants will also conduct door-to-door canvassing to reach business owners in key commercial corridors as well as surveys business challenges and resources they need in order to grow or launch new ventures.
“As a proud member of the Small Business Committee, I know that entrepreneurs and mom-and-pop shops are the backbone of Miami,” said Salazar, adding that with BizGap more people can feel confident when starting and expanding their business in Miami.
At BizGap’s launch, FIU President Kenneth A. Jessell highlighted the importance of small businesses.
"They contribute almost 50% of the economic activity in this country,” he said. “They create jobs and ignite innovation every step of the way and here [in] congressional district 27, we have almost 65,000 small businesses and they have revenues of over $16 billion."
During the launch event, several small business owners discussed their experiences in starting and growing a business, challenges they’ve faced and how the FSBDC and community programs helped improve their enterprise opportunities.
Claudia Romero, owner of Greek restaurant Pega Grill, recalled that when she purchased the business in May 2019, downtown Miami was a “ghost town.” While she knew about the restaurant, Romero knew little about accounting or developing a marketing plan, so she turned to the FSBDC and other community groups.
“They put their faith in my business,” she said. Through their programs, Romero explained, she learned to use Quickbooks to manage the restaurant’s accounting, how to apply for grants and received one-on-one coaching to participate in her first pitch competition.