This fall, eight food entrepreneurs joined forces as a part of the inaugural West Lakes Food Business Accelerator. The food businesses that participated in the cohort included The Union, Food Trucks in the City, Nikki's Place Inc., Oley's Yummy Kitchen, Orlando Coffee Roasters, Orlando City Deli, and Hebni Nutrition Consultants. With a focus on growth, community, and overall excellence, these business owners committed to weekly gatherings designed to improve their services.
LIFT Orlando, West Lakes Business Partnership, and Rally supported the group by inviting top food entrepreneurs such as John Rivers, Founder of 4Rivers, John De Armas, and John Rife, creator of East End Market to share wealth of wisdom and practical experience with the group.
During the experience, each business showcased their new ideas at the West Lakes Business Accelerator Pitch Night where they could receive feedback about plans to expand and grow. Karl Brown, Owner of Oley’s Yummy Kitchen said, “No matter how long you’ve done something, you’re always learning.” These food entrepreneurs helped each other by sharing best practices and giving support and advice at Pitch Night. “As a small business owner, we are often on an island by ourselves.” Brown continues. “The Business Accelerator is a bridge.”
The experience culminated with the West Lakes Reception and Business Conversation at Hebni Nutrition Consultants. Mel Martinez, former Senator and current Chairman for the JP Morgan Chase’s Southeast and Latin American operations, was part of the conversation that day. He said, “We believe in this neighborhood,” and he goes on to discuss the importance of a group that comes together to network and share marketing ideas in order to help each other grow business.
In addition, Mel Martinez announced that JP Morgan Chase & Company will be investing an additional $200K supporting long term economic viability initiatives in West Lakes.
During the roundtable discussion that day, many of the business leaders agreed that this is just the beginning, a kickstart to a bigger idea to start the West Lakes Business District. Mayor Dyer agreed with those businesses sharing that small businesses are the backbone of the economy. Also a part of the conversation that day was Commissioner Regina Hill who stated, “The way a community is prosperous is through economic development and it all starts with our small businesses.”