One Tampa start-up finds success with a sport they love, stand-up paddle-boards

Small Business Development Center provides support

TAMPA - You might be surprised to find out that even in a fragile economy, starting your own business could indeed be your path to success and happiness.

But discovering the right path of what makes you happy while earning you money is a dream for many.

Yanina Rosario, Assistant Director of the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of South Florida, believes that regardless of which path of business people choose, there's one key ingredient: A business plan.

"We like to help our entrepreneurs take calculated risks where they do the research on the industry in which they're going to be delivering their services or their products; or developing their business.  Where they take their skills, and also take note of the weaknesses they may have.  What information or skills they may be lacking, and work on improving those.  And then take all of that information and put it into writing because the business plan is very important," explained Rosario.

Simply trying to take your skills from a previous job and thinking you'll start a business is a mistake many people make.

"They do need to prepare.  They need to be better equipped to start their business," Rosario said.

Accepting that there are risks involved and understanding that failure is a possibility is a harsh reality that many new business owners don't always expect.

"We all want to succeed. But there's always that chance of failure.  But if you feel confidant that you can go over that hurdle and make something of that dream, your business is in a much better position,"
said Rosario.

Mike and Aimee Conlee had a love of standup paddle-boarding.  Even though they knew the popularity of standup paddle-boarding was growing, Amiee and Mike Conlee remember that starting a business in a tough economy was a little scary.

"Yes, but I knew if you didn't take the risk, you'd never know what the reward was.  So it was something that we had to do," said Mike.

On a recent sunny day, Mike was in the process of giving a SUP lesson to three woman, all over 60 years old.  It's been two years since he and Aimee launched Urban Kai.

They have a building adjacent to Rick's on the River.  The popular restaurant and bar provides a lot of opportunity for people to see the business, as well as the boat traffic that comes by.

It's great.  Unfortunately, Tampa having so much water around us has very limited access to it.  Which is interesting problem in itself.  So to find a location that we could just drop in and do board rentals and be right here was very exciting," recalled Aimee.

She has the business background and Mike is an accomplished using stand-up paddle-boards.  Urban Kai provides lessons, equipment rental, eco-tours, socials and retail sales.  They've spruced up a quaint little showroom that includes new boards, accessories and some apparel.

Rosario has seen the success stories and is encouraged by the approach that people take.

"When the entrepreneur takes into consideration their background, when they take into consideration what they like to do. And they pair that with the passion to own their own business and prepare to take that step, that's when you start seeing small businesses that take a risk.  And they work with it and they grow it.  Now, we are seeing some successful small businesses around the bay area," said Rosario.

The Florida Small Business Development Center at USF can help answer many of your questions if you're thinking of starting a small business.  The phone number to the Florida SBDC at USF is (813) 905-5800.

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