Category Archives: Business Resources


Florida Companies to Watch Nominations Due by July 9th

Applications now open! The cutoff for applications is July 9th.

Florida Companies to Watch celebrates growing second-stage companies headquartered in Florida. Companies to Watch was developed by the Edward Lowe Foundation as a unique way to recognize and honor second-stage companies that demonstrate high performance in the marketplace with innovative strategies and processes, making them “worth watching.” Presented by GrowFL, in association with Edward Lowe Foundation, Florida Companies to Watch is an awards program like no other. We all have a compelling story to tell. We encourage you to tell yours!

Companies from across the state and all industries may participate. Selection is based on steady growth in employee counts and revenue as well as strength in leadership, corporate culture, community support and philanthropy, innovation in management or technology, or other factors that contribute to an outstanding organization.

For more info and to nominate someone from Polk County, CLICK HERE!

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Visit the 9th Annual Polk County Business Expo

LAKELAND, FL (June 26, 2018) – Every year, Vendor’s Day attracts large crowds from across Central Florida. It is an event where vendors come together to promote their products in a trade show, preceded by business seminars and breakfast. Now in its 9th year and renamed the Polk County Business Expo, it has continued to give vendors a place to showcase their product as well as giving attendees a chance to attend free business seminars.

The event begins with registration and breakfast at 7:30 AM. After that, participants may attend a business seminar of their choice. Lunch is provided after the seminars for all attendees. Most importantly, at the end there is a trade show event with tables set up by the registered vendors. The trade show allows participants to scout for services they may need and allows vendors to market to a large amount of business-minded people.

Cedric Joseph, Director of the Office of Supplier Diversity for Polk County, organizes this event every year with the hopes of bringing small businesses together. This year’s free seminars being offered are titled, “Anything is Possible, Raise the Standards,” “Navigating the Tax Minefield,” and “Five Secrets of doing Business with Polk County and the State of Florida”.

Attending the Expo is free, but registration is required to attend. If you would like to attend as a vendor, vendor registration is $100 for a table at the trade show. Register quickly, as registration for vendors is filling up quickly.

The event is being held at the Polk State College Lakeland Campus in Room 1100 on July 27th, 2018. To register, visit If you are a small business looking to make contacts with companies throughout Central Florida, there is no better place to do it than the 9th Annual Polk County Business Expo.

For additional information, please contact Cedric Joseph, Director, Supplier Diversity, Polk County Board of County Commissioners, at (863) 534-5959 or by email at



Free Seminar on Eminent Domain in Preparation for US Highway 92 Expansion and Improvement

LAKELAND, FLORIDA (April 30, 2018) — The Florida Department of Transportation project to expand and improve US 92 (New Tampa Highway) from County Line Road to Wabash has been funded for 2020 and 2021 for obtaining right of way.

Now is the time for any business or landowner to take action to protect their property rights and/or get fair compensation for their business or property. Learn more about how you can prepare for this FDOT project, and the actions needed to protect your property and business with Guest Speaker Deborah Ruster of Peterson & Myers. Before joining Peterson & Myers, Deborah Ruster was a senior condemnation attorney with the Department of Transportation for six years. Since then she has been in private practice representing property owners and governments in eminent domain cases.

This seminar is free to the public and will cover topics such as how this project will impact you, what forms of compensation may be available, and what tricks and traps to look out for.

Sponsorships available!

Name: Enlightened Byte: Eminent Domain Timeline

Date: May 24, 2018

Time: 7:30 AM – 9:00 AM EDT

Location:  Peggy Brown Building, 215 S Lake Ave, Lakeland, FL 33801

Contact Information:  Send an Email or call (863) 688-8551 ext. 229

Fees/Admission:  Free with required registration – limited space available.

Registration: or at


Pictured in photo left to right:  Alexander Thomas, Miracle Murff, Zyad Elmasri, Skyler Hollinger, Om Taropawala, Sachin Sivakumar, Grant Gable, Shelby Claville.


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LAKELAND, FLORIDA (April 10, 2018) — Students from the Young Entrepreneurs Academy of Polk County (YEA! Polk) were awarded start-up funding to launch their businesses after pitching to a panel of local investors.

The event featured eight students, from middle through high school ages, all from Polk County, who are members of the 2017-18 Young Entrepreneur Academy of Polk, or YEA! Polk. They pitched their business ideas and plans to four local investors who would decide whether their ventures were worth funding.

The panel included community business leaders – Dr. Lyle Bowlin, Jannetides College of Business & Entrepreneurial Leadership at Southeastern University; Craig Hosking, Maximize Digital Media; Kate Lake, My Office & More; and, Harold M. McLeod, III, SunTrust – and awarded $6,500 in funding.

Here’s how the teen business owners fared:

  • Alexander Thomas, 14-year-old high school freshman and CEO of Aerial Perspective, a drone photography and videography service, was awarded $1,300.
  • Zyad Elmasri, 8th grader at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy and CEO of Drink I.D., a dial label that can be put on cans or cups during parties that will help distinguish one can from another, was awarded $500.
  • Miracle Murff, graduating senior at Polk State Gateway to College High School and owner of HelpMate, a service that connects local small businesses with those in need, was awarded $200.
  • Om Taropawala, 7th grader at All Saints Academy and owner of InnovaTutors, a better way to tutor students using the students and teachers themselves as leaders, was awarded $500.
  • Grant Gable, 11th grader at Lake Wales IB and CEO of Just Ball, a basketball rebound netting, was awarded $925.
  • Sachin Sivakumar, 8th grader at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy and owner of ScoutVenture, an app for Boy Scout Troops that helps Scouts manage themselves and plan for the future, was awarded $1,600.
  • Shelby Claville, graduating senior at Mulberry High School and CEO of ToGoGo, a catering delivery service, was awarded $225.
  • Skyler Hollinger, 7th grader at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy and CEO of UniqueForm, a company providing a better manufactured uniform that “Grows with the student,” was awarded $1,250.

Sachin Sivakumar of ScoutVenture was selected to represent the local Polk County Chapter at the YEA! Saunders Scholars National Competition in Rochester, New York in May. He will compete against almost 300 other semi-finalists – the best of the best. Skyler Hollinger of UniqueForm was selected as runner-up. The Annual YEA! Saunders Scholars Semi-Finals competition will kick off May 4 in Rochester, New York.

The students all attend a weekly class on the campus of Southeastern University for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy to learn business practices and strategies. The classes began in October and will end in May with a graduation ceremony.

The direct mission of the Academy is to help students embrace their passion, energy, creativity and talents, and view entrepreneurship as synonymous with success and freedom. The magic is that the Academy teaches kids to believe in themselves, to think big, and to understand that they can achieve anything they set their minds to.  In the process, students learn as much about leadership and self-empowerment as they do about planning, budgeting, and production.  Students in the Academy discover in themselves confidence, optimism, and capabilities they never knew they had.

Applications for the 2018-19 academic year of the Academy are available now:

The Lakeland Chamber of Commerce manages the Young Entrepreneurs Academy locally. Students are introduced to all facets of the business world including, but not limited to, advertising, attorneys, graphic designers and web developers. Students work in close cooperation with local business leaders, community leaders and educators who use their personal experiences to demonstrate how to transform their ideas into tangible enterprises that create economic and social value for a better world.

YEA! is made possible by our Investor Sponsors:  Allen & Company of Florida, Inc., Jannetides College of Business & Entrepreneurial Leadership at Southeastern University, Lakeland Chamber Foundation, Publix Super Markets, Inc., and SunTrust; and our Scholarship Sponsors:   Citrus Center Kiwanis, Maximize Digital Media, Mulberry Community Service Center, Suncoast Credit Union, and Got Candy & More! The YEA! Sponsors and the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce are helping to build the next generation of business leaders in Polk County.

To learn more about YEA! visit, or for information on our local chapter, please visit

Lakeland Chamber of Commerce

The Lakeland Chamber of Commerce represents 1,400 member businesses in the Lakeland area and provides opportunities for networking, professional development and advocacy for companies of all sizes. Five-Star Accredited by the US Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber upholds the following vision and mission statements:

Vision Statement

The Lakeland Chamber of Commerce will be the premier catalyst for the advancement of Lakeland’s economic growth and enhancement of quality of life– creating Florida’s community of choice.

Mission Statement

The Lakeland Chamber of Commerce is the leading organization dedicated to creating a climate where business can prosper.

The Young Entrepreneurs Academy

The Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) is a 501(C) 3 offering groundbreaking year-long classes that teach middle and high school students how to start and run their own businesses. Throughout the class, students develop business ideas, write business plans, conduct market research, pitch their plans to a panel of investors for startup funds, and launch and run their own, fully formed companies and social movements. The project-based program empowers students to take charge of their futures.

Founded in 2004 at the University of Rochester with support from the Kauffman Foundation, YEA! today serves thousands of students nationwide. In 2011, the United States Chamber of Commerce Foundation became a national sponsor and partner of the Academy to help celebrate the spirit of enterprise among today’s youth and tomorrow’s future leaders.

YEA! bridges the business and educational communities to fulfill its mission of teaching more students how to make a job, not just take a job. YEA! is made possible by The Kauffman Foundation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the E. Philip Saunders Foundation. For more information, visit

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation is dedicated to strengthening America’s long-term competitiveness and educating the public on how the free enterprise system improves society and the economy.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.



Central Florida SCORE and Lakeland Chamber 2018 Workshops Set

Central Florida SCORE is your local chapter of a national organization of volunteers who are experienced in business and dedicated to mentoring startups and existing businesses.  SCORE started in 1964 as Service Corps of Retired Executives, and currently has more than 300 chapters nationally and over 10,000 volunteers spanning all fields of business and expertise.   Both face to face and on-line mentoring are offered at no cost. Our educational workshops are valuable and relative to the growth of small business.  We are a resource partner sponsor of the Small Business Administration.

Below you will find a recap of our upcoming workshops which we partner with the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce.  You do not have to be a member of the Chamber to attend.

Central Florida SCORE has announced their Winter/Spring 2018 workshop series in partnership with the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce.  The workshops will be held the 4th Thursday, as follows:  January 25, Weave Your Web, Optimize Your Website; February 22, Leads with Linkedin; March 22, Leveraging Your Business with “The Cloud”; April 26, Increase Your Sales With Relationship Building; May 24, Balancing the Books for Growth, Simple Bookkeeping Setups.

Workshops are held at the Chamber, 35 Lake Morton Dr, Lakeland.  Registration will begin at 7:45 am Danish/Coffee, Workshop 8:00 – 9:30 am. Cost is $10.  Registration for series is now available at Take A Workshop link.   SCORE is a non-profit association dedicated to entrepreneur education and no cost, confidential mentoring. SCORE is sponsored by the Small Business Administration.  

For more information, please contact Becky Bywater, 863 838-1079


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