Pasco Smart Start is hosting its second annual entrepreneurship challenge. A cash prize and free office space are up for grabs.
Brian Anderson is living his dream by helping combat veterans with unique therapies through the Veterans Alternative, the non-profit he helped launch. But the spacious property where the operation is now run started in a tiny office at the Pasco Smart Start Business Incubator.
"What was great about it, is it allowed us to actually build our business while preparing to compete in this competition," Anderson said.
That contest was the first ever smart start entrepreneurship challenge, which the Veterans Alternative went on to win. The competition is now back for its second year and hoping to inspire more people with great ideas to launch small businesses.
"We not only try to make it as easy to do business in Pasco County as possible but we need to make sure we support our early stage entrepreneurs as well. By having these different types of programs, that helps support those companies, which ultimately create the jobs," said Krista Covey, Pasco County Smart Start Business Incubator director.
The winner of the challenge gets up to $10,000 and a free six-month membership in the Pasco Smart Start Incubator, including office space with utilities paid.
There's actually proof helping a business launch this way works. Without help, only one in five small business start-ups make it five years. With support through programs like Smart Start, 87 percent succeed.
"That's a huge statistic. So we know that our work has been proven. What we're doing makes a difference. So we're just trying to grow that program," Covey said.
The Veterans Alternative says without question, Smart Start gave it a good foundation. The organization continues to grow, and now hopes people in the community wanting to start a business will take the plunge and enter this year's challenge by the January 15 deadline.
"You still have a chance at that American dream," said Anderson.
Finalists in the challenge will go head-to-head in the business plan competition at St. Leo University next month.