By: GARRY CAPTON
Central Florida has all the ingredients for a vibrant technology hub: a welcoming culture, a growing technology corridor, a thriving commercial real estate market and a robust talent pool springing from institutions such as the University of Central Florida, Full Sail, Valencia, and Seminole State.
To further support and invest in our region’s technology ecosystem, FAIRWINDS Credit Union has partnered with StarterStudio, committing three years of financial support to the nonprofit at its highest level of sponsorship, as well as education for its member companies.
StarterStudio provides resources and education that help technology entrepreneurs and innovators begin and grow their businesses in Florida. Under the guidance of its leadership, including Executive Director Donna Mackenzie, the organization and its affiliates have helped more than 500 businesses connect with mentors and resources that would have otherwise been beyond reach. It currently supports more than 125 companies at three co-working spaces and through its lauded business accelerator programs.
As a financial institution, FAIRWINDS is committed to the growth of burgeoning sectors, and in partnership with StarterStudio we can help innovators cultivate viable businesses and keep them in Central Florida.
Too often, tech innovators and startups take an unbalanced approach to finances, making decisions that hinder future growth and render them “unbankable,” unable to secure the financing and means to maintain their business. That is why organizations such as StarterStudio are so important to our community, providing everything from a space to work to accelerator programs that guide companies on creating business plans, securing customers and becoming investor-ready.
This summer, FAIRWINDS hosted its first in a series of lunch-and-learn sessions at StarterStudio, educating companies on the various types of business solutions and financing, as well as common small business mistakes. Advising companies through their earliest and most vulnerable stages speaks to the core of our vision and mission at FAIRWINDS – financial literacy and security that leads to economic success and well-being.
Carlos Carbonell, CEO of Echo Interaction Group — an Orlando-based app development and technology consulting firm — sat on the founding board of Canvs and Firespring Fund, which would later become StarterStudio and StarterStudio Fund. A longtime FAIRWINDS member and entrepreneur himself, Carbonell brought us and StarterStudio together because he understands better than anyone what young businesses need from a banking institution: a partner that can listen, react and be as nimble and dynamic as the companies it serves, and ready to respond to ever-changing industry landscapes.
At the core of this partnership, we want to do more than teach the ins and outs of business finance — we want to help prepare the startups that will one day become the companies that define Orlando. With this goal in mind, we now have a FAIRWINDS representative with weekly office hours at StarterStudio’s downtown Orlando location, providing financial advice that will empower these businesses and their leaders to grow. From questions about becoming “bankable” to simple quandaries about payroll or even tax forms, FAIRWINDS is there to help.
Over time, we also plan to host networking mixers, bringing these small businesses together to potentially forge their own partnerships and learn from their unique experiences.
At FAIRWINDS Credit Union, we understand that relationships are about supporting the whole individual, not just the company. Whether it means helping small business owners navigate the process of becoming eligible for a commercial loan or working with them to develop a savings plan for their first home, our team strives to be a source of financial guidance and counsel for the incredible minds at StarterStudio. Together, we will continue to drive the development of Central Florida’s high-tech economy.
Garry Capton is the vice president of community relations and government affairs at FAIRWINDS Credit Union.