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How to Start a Business in Orlando

Author: Katie Truesdell Date: June 13, 2014

One of the best cities for small business, Orlando, Florida, offers so much more than big tourist traps.

Orlando may bring to mind images of theme parks filled with tourists, but its business climate is booming for more than just the tourism industry. Recognition includes:

Top 10, Fastest Growing Cities (CNN Money, March 2014)

Top 25, Best Cities for Small Business (Biz2Credit, May 2014)

“While best known for its tourist and convention business, Orlando has a strong technology and medical business base,” says NFIB member Kevin McCarthy, founder of On-Purpose Partners, a business-advisory company in Winter Park, Florida (just outside Orlando). “We’re still a big service economy here, but with the University of Central Florida, Valencia College, Rollins College and Full Sail University, we’re much more than just tourism and entertainment.”

Here are three tips for launching a business in a diverse city.

1.  Use local organizations for help and resources

To learn more about Orlando’s business landscape and preparing your business for launch, be sure to check out:

·      National Entrepreneur Center, which provides business coaching, entrepreneurship seminars, a business toolbox and more through 11 business development organizations in one location

·      Orlando Economic Development Commission, for information about taxes, permits and licenses, available properties, funding opportunities and incentive programs

·      University of Central Florida Business Incubation Program, which aims to connect new and prospective businesses with the tools, training and infrastructure for success

2.  Be aware of the city’s vibe

Because of the warm climate, Orlando is an informal city, McCarthy says, and business casual is the typical attire for the vast majority of the business community.

The casual look can be off-putting to some people, especially those coming from more traditional business centers in colder climates, such as Chicago or New York. Yet the lack of three-piece suits doesn’t lessen the seriousness of Orlando business owners. Entrepreneurs should embrace cultural norms, McCarthy says, because doing so helps connect them with the local community when hiring employees, marketing your business, serving customers and creating and nurturing your company culture.

3.  Embrace Economic Opportunity Beyond Mickey Mouse

“We’re about to start a branding campaign that’s called ‘Orlando: You Don’t Know the Half of It,’” says Jerry Ross, executive director of the National Entrepreneur Center, based in the city. “[A bevy of tourist attractions] is mostly what people think Orlando is, but they don’t realize all the business that is going on here too.”

But beyond the likes of a Disney World or Universal Studios, Ross says Orlando’s top two growing industries with opportunities for small business owners are technology and medicine. The city sits in the middle of Florida’s High Tech Corridor, which is a technology-rich region connected by three research universities—University of Florida, University of Central Florida and University of South Florida—as well as a variety of economic development organizations, industry groups and tech companies, all of which seek to develop the state’s technology industry.

Orlando is also home to Lake Nona Medical City, a 650-acre health and life sciences park devoted to medical care, research and education. Through Medical City and the institutions housed there—University of Central Florida Health Sciences campus, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, VA Medical Center, Nemours Children’s Hospital and University of Florida Academic and Research Center—Orlando is becoming a medical destination for care and treatment, research and education.

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