Jason at ECC

County's Hub of Entrepreneurship Fulfilling Mission - Supporting Community Prosperity

Entrepreneur Collaborative Center has transformed delivery of services to entrepreneurs and small businesses

After almost five years, Hillsborough County’s unique Entrepreneur Collaborative Center is thriving.

Since its launch in December, 2014, the center in Ybor City has hosted more than 3,500 programs with nearly 50,000 attendees.  In addition, 4,500-plus start-up and existing business owners have received no-cost, one-on-one consulting from ECC partners.

The center’s mission is twofold: help entrepreneurs and start-ups address challenges and become established; and nourish new and innovative pursuits that bolster the local economy.

The ECC’s path to success has evolved tremendously since its launch.  Initially, the center focused primarily on providing one-on-one consulting. But after the County secured a local chapter of 1 Million Cups, the vision shifted.  1 Million Cups, a national program created by the Kauffman Foundation, has more than 175 chapters throughout the United States, and meets weekly to support and educate entrepreneurs. 

Rob and Tracy Povolny pitched their business concept — a line of refrigerated meals made with fresh ingredients — at the second 1 Million Cups session held at the ECC. “We didn’t know such a place existed,” Rob says. “It’s fantastic. Everyone genuinely wants to help. They’re all there in one place.”

1 Million Cups showed the need for a gathering place for entrepreneurs to network, a business destination focused on connecting entrepreneurs to the community and available resources.

Recognizing the needs of the community, Economic Development leaders brought on additional national and local partners, and encouraged them to host events and programs. A large collaborative area was created, supplemented with additional technology and a mural wall containing quotes from well-known entrepreneurs.

The center now is a satellite home for more than 85 nonprofit groups, government agencies, and academic institutions.  It averages 100-plus monthly events.

In May, the National Association of Counties recognized Hillsborough as one of the most innovative counties in the United States for its Entrepreneur Collaborative Center. The County received a prestigious 2019 Achievement Award in the category of Community and Economic Development for its “Hub of Entrepreneurship.” Hillsborough was among more than 3,000 counties across the country competing for awards.   

The center targets entrepreneurs and small business owners with wide-ranging visions. Not everyone is creating an app or new software. The center serves all types of businesses — shops, restaurants, inventors — as well as people seeking to improve their job prospects.

Enthusiasm generated by the center’s partners and their programs has brought the mission full circle. With so many entrepreneurs and business professionals gathered in one place, there is more demand for the type of free individual mentorships, resources, and specialty training envisioned by Hillsborough County’s Board of County Commissioners when it launched the center in 2014.

Photo: Jason Hendricks, left, founder of a gift purchase-and-delivery service, speaks at a recent session of 1 Million Cups at the Entrepreneur Collaborative Center.


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