Lakeland, a bubbling hub for local businesses and ambitious startups, recently highlighted the impact of two organizations: Tampa Bay Black Business Corp. (BBIC) and Prospera, both striving to empower entrepreneurs in the region. One such notable mention in LKLD NOW’s coverage was Nurse Ed 101, a venture founded by Marcus Barnes and his wife Angel Barnes in 2019.

Expert Advice from BBIC

James Randolph, an adept trainer with the BBIC, emphasizes the essence of informed decisions for budding entrepreneurs. His vast knowledge on foundational business choices, like the decision between an LLC and an S-Corporation or understanding the importance of liability insurance, is invaluable. Randolph’s statement, “All clients aren’t good clients,” illustrates the quality over quantity approach in business, suggesting that some client relationships might be more draining than beneficial.

A recent event saw participation from various Lakeland entrepreneurs, including Venny Smith of Granny Mac Beverages and Brian White of Fastest Labs of Lakeland. Natalia Calderon, who ventured into web design after moving from Puerto Rico, and Dr. Sheritta Denson of Chocolate Covered also joined the enlightening sessions. These entrepreneurs reflect the diversity and spirit of Lakeland’s business landscape.

BBIC’s Pivotal Role

A significant portion of businesses, as Randolph mentions, face challenges with traditional banking avenues due to strict credit score criteria. This is where BBIC steps in. With its range of loan offerings, it aids businesses in becoming “bankable”. Partnering with financial stalwarts like Raymond James, BBIC has been instrumental in fostering business growth in the region.

However, it’s not just about monetary assistance. The personalized touch, as recounted by Dr. Sheritta Denson, makes BBIC stand out. Despite facing a loan denial, Denson lauded the organization’s transparency and their commitment to uplift minority entrepreneurs.

Serving the Hispanic Community: Prospera

Prospera, with its focus on Hispanic entrepreneurs, has made significant strides since its inception in 1991. From understanding U.S. business laws to offering bilingual workshops, Prospera fills a unique niche. Fabian Yepez, the regional vice president, underlined the essence of Prospera’s services given the increasing Hispanic population in the area.

Acknowledgment from City Officials

The city’s backing of such initiatives is commendable. Mayor Bill Mutz shed light on the importance of trust within the Black and Hispanic communities. His insight into the cultural nuances emphasizes the city’s commitment to inclusivity and the unanimous approval of the funding measure echoes this sentiment.


With organizations like BBIC and Prospera at the helm, and with ventures such as Nurse Ed 101 making strides, Lakeland’s entrepreneurial future looks promising. The city’s support and the collective drive of these entrepreneurs ensure that Lakeland remains a beacon for startups and established businesses alike.

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