By: Channing Frampton
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Despite the challenges of the pandemic, small companies in the Big Bend are thriving thanks to new partnerships designed to help veteran-owned, minority-owned and women-owned businesses in our community.
“Building a business is really hard,” explained Michele Madison. She is founder and CEO of Farming the Future. Madison planted the seed for that company in 2016. They develop science programs for K through 12 schools.
“Instead of kids just reading out of a textbook,” Madison explained, “they get to do hands-on, fun agricultural learning.”
That idea was cut short by the pandemic. To keep growing, Madison took her business online. “We had to very quickly speed up our progress on that,” she added.
While technology presents its own set of challenges, Madison said when asking for help, “being a woman, I’m overlooked constantly. I’m not taken seriously.”
Enter Scott Balog with the Tallahassee Community College Center for Innovation.
“We’re developing novel partnerships that can attract and bring in more resources to support veteran-owned, minority-owned and women-owned businesses in our community,” Balog said.
Those partnerships include Thaddeus Hammond. He is an Economic Development Specialist with the Small Business Administration. “We’re just happy we can help, and we’re always here to assist when needed,” Hammond told ABC 27.
In addition, Synapse, a nonprofit serving Florida’s vast and talented innovation community, is working to connect Big Bend business with the rest of the state.
“Our objective is to make it much easier to connect across geography and empower innovators to find what they need and share what they have,” shared Lauren Prager, Vice President of Community Engagement with Synapse.
Together, TCC, SBA and Synapse are working to help people like Madison find help.
“The biggest hurdle we’ve seen since the pandemic began is access to capital,” Hammond added.
Despite the challenges, Prager said, “the pandemic has created opportunities for all of us to re-imagine and innovate.”
Madison said she’s grateful for the support. “Being able to have the support and the people around you to help you makes such a big difference.”
Using the new partnerships, she’s able to take this science and put it online so even more kids can learn and rebound for years to come.
The SBA has paycheck protection loans available for businesses through March 31st. Synapse just wrapped up a major online conference connecting businesses from Tallahassee and beyond.