MAIN STREET WORKSHOPS OFFER ADVICE AND
MENTORING TO SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS
Main Street Fort Pierce held six Better Business Program classes for downtown merchants that covered subjects
such as introduction to internet marketing and social media.
If providing expert advice and coaching
for entrepreneurs can help new businesses
avoid potholes on the road to success using
the Business Accelerator Program, perhaps
the same approach could be of use to
business owners in Main Street programs.
That was the idea behind a pilot Better
Business Program first suggested by the
state Main Street organization to the Florida
Small Business Development Center
state headquarters. In the wake of the COVID
19 pandemic, Main Street Florida was
anxious for downtown merchants to have
access to business advice and expertise.
The state Florida SBDC office agreed
and contacted Tom Kindred at the Florida
SBDC at Indian River State College. Kindred
had formerly been Main Street Fort
Pierce manager prior to 1991. He created
the pilot program for five Main Street
organizations on the Treasure Coast:
Fort Pierce, Lincoln Park, Vero Beach,
Okeechobee and Stuart.
The Main Street Partnering for Better
Business program consists of at least five
training workshops, mentoring from experienced
business consultants provided by
the Florida SBDC and other services.
Main Street Fort Pierce and Vero Beach
completed their programs this summer.
Okeechobee and Stuart have programs
scheduled and Lincoln Park has ongoing
“A partnership between historic business
districts and the Florida SBDC is a
natural fit because they are textbook
owner-operators dealing with the challenges
of a small business often without
any other help, and we provide assistance
for that sector,” Kindred said.
“Logistically, they’re all in one geographic
place, so it’s easier for us at SBDC to
provide service and advice to individual
merchants if needed. It’s a natural partnership
that just makes sense.”
Lincoln Park is an economically disadvantaged
area of northwest Fort Pierce that
has long been plagued by crime, poverty
and a low rate of new business formation.
Pamela Carithers, Lincoln Park Main
Street’s manager, said that Clifton Vaughn,
a Florida SBDC business consultant, scheduled
five free workshops for September
The long-term intent behind the
program, Carithers said, is to establish
one-on-one mentoring relationships
with experienced business development
professionals in the region. It is hoped that
this will enhance business and entrepreneurial
skills, create jobs and assist in the
expansion and growth of the Lincoln Park
The free workshops ran from Sept.
7 through Oct. 5 and were held at the
Blackburn Center on Avenue D. The sessions
concentrated on polishing marketing
skills, particularly in the digital and
social media arenas. Other workshops on
time management and examining the
importance of maintaining better financial
literacy gaining access to capital, recordkeeping,
etc. were also covered.
In addition to the no-cost one-on-one
consulting, the course also included three
hours of website analysis and participating
businesses received exposure via the
SBDC’s Small Business Florida radio show.
As an added incentive, participating
businesses were eligible for up to a $500
grant if they completed four of the five
sessions. The money must be used for
business enhancement services.
that new business
activity had enjoyed
pre-COVID, but there
was a sense of complacency
parts of the community.
she said, “people
have had to reinvent
shutdown caused people to rethink where
they are, and more people are launching
new businesses. I hope that continues.”
Here are other Treasure Coast Main
Street programs that have successfully
completed the series of workshops.
FORT PIERCE MAIN STREET
One such group is the downtown Fort
Pierce Main Street organization. Longtime
manager Doris Tillman, who celebrated beginning
her 31st year in the position in August,
noted that “when COVID happened, it
was a big shock to everybody. Downtown
Fort Pierce was forced to shut down. We did
all we could to support local businesses.
“After the state Main Street organization
disseminated information about grant
BY ANTHONY WESTBURY