By Dr. Tom O’Neal
Founder, GrowFL

Unleashing a spirit of entrepreneurship can happen anywhere, but it does not typically happen by accident. It requires a specific environment where innovation, collaboration, cooperation, and regionally based support systems are aligned to create the cooperation that makes an economic impact. That is where GrowFL comes in. GrowFL supplies an environment for CEOs to connect and learn from each other while supporting the continued growth of their companies. Focused on scalable companies in Florida, GrowFL looks to accelerate the growth of these companies to support a stronger economy.

Second-stage companies, those that have reached at least a million dollars in revenue and have intent and desire to grow beyond second-stage, can make the greatest impact on the economy and GrowFL understands that. Those who have received help through GrowFL’s programs and services have grown at a three-times greater rate than their peers who navigate the journey alone. These successful companies are rooted in the area, remain in the area, and continue to contribute to the region’s job growth and economic prosperity.

To create an entrepreneur-focused economy, the region’s leaders must understand the concept of entrepreneurship, and how entrepreneurs fit into and affect the ecosystem. Once this is understood, a region can begin to develop an economic blueprint that nurtures an environment of entrepreneurial success, which in turn supplies wealth, opportunity, and growth to the region. A region can call on various support organizations, like GrowFL, who know these entrepreneurs best.

While creating an environment where entrepreneurs can survive and thrive is essential, the challenge is that if you have met one entrepreneur, you have met one entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes and have many reasons for starting the journey. Building companies that last takes a community, but it always starts with the entrepreneur. The person or persons that have made something out of nothing.

Zero-G Horizons Technologies founder and CEO, Dr. Sathya Gangadharan, invested in new ways to improve his business that will have a lasting impact. As a member of the GrowFL and a graduate of the UCF (University of Central Florida) Incubator in Daytona, Gangadharan is taking advantage of the support and resources available for him. As a GrowFL member Gangadharan is part of an exclusive group of Florida business leaders who all look to catalyze their company’s growth. GrowFL members have access to programs, which improve personal and professional leadership skills, trusted business experts in GrowFL’s network, and the opportunity to build long-lasting relationships with CEOs in their region and across the state.

Dougherty Manufacturing is another example of a company prospering in the community. They were selected as a GrowFL Florida Companies to Watch Honoree in 2017, based on leadership, innovation, corporate community engagement, and their past and future growth opportunities. The company houses extensive engineering, research, and development team who have streamlined processes and saved millions of dollars for their customers.

As Jim Collins wrote in his book, Built to Last, the entrepreneurs who build visionary companies tend to be clock builders, not time tellers. He says, “The primary output of their efforts is not the tangible implementation of a great idea, the expression of a charismatic personality, the gratification of their ego, or the accumulation of personal wealth. Their greatest creation is the company itself and what it stands for.”

A community that invests in these entrepreneurs, wins. They foster an environment where entrepreneurs can work together to create economic growth and collaborate. As a result, these homegrown companies are job creators. Data from, shows that just 8-percent of companies in Florida are second-stage, yet they generate more than 30-percent of all the jobs in the state.

With support from organizations like GrowFL and the entrepreneurs they serve, Florida will be a stronger and more resilient state. In fact, a recent report by Florida Tax Watch noted that continued investment in GrowFL programs to help scalable growth companies would produce an added 43,000 private sector, non-farm jobs statewide, with an average salary of over $97,000. Also, these efforts would help to produce more than $4.6 billion in added personal income for Floridians. Entrepreneurial support and advancement are indeed good for all of Florida.

As a sailor, I often think of this as Velocity Made Good (VMG). VMG is a measure of how fast you are closing in on your destination, not a measure of how fast the boat is going. Going fast in a direction that does not get you to the finish line before your competition is not the best choice. Choosing the right course for the conditions is what produces the win. With entrepreneurship, you cannot change the direction of the wind or the challenges you will face, but GrowFL can help you adjust the sails.