Helping downtown businesses grow

Downtown Miami has traditionally been Miami’s entrepreneurial hub, dating back to the days of Henry Flagler’s Royal Palm Hotel in 1897. In recent years, this area has experienced significant population growth that is spurring newfound business activity.

The Florida Small Business Development Center at FIU, a center within the FIU College of Business, is helping to spur growth by collaborating with the Miami Downtown Development Authority (DDA) to guide businesses in the Central Business District.

According to the Miami DDA’s recently released 2018 Downtown Miami Demographics Report, the 92,000 residents in downtown Miami represent a population increase of 38 percent since 2010. Downtown Miami also welcomes more than 250,000 people every day as workers, tourists, students and visitors activate downtown. All this activity creates opportunities for small businesses to find new customers.

Miami DDA-SBDC at FIU canvassing team.

As part of the project with Miami DDA, teams of DDA and SBDC at FIU staff canvassed downtown door-to-door to meet with business owners. The canvassing focused on finding ways to assist businesses impacted by local construction, as well as helping businesses in the area grow revenues.

Staff members from the DDA and the SBDC at FIU met directly with 175 businesses during their canvassing efforts between April and May of 2018. Based on the success of the joint effort, the DDA plans to expand the outreach to local businesses across the downtown district.

“Downtown Miami’s small business owners are a vital part of our local community and our local economy,” said Christina Crespi, deputy director for the Miami DDA. “Our partnership with the Florida SBDC at FIU serves to amplify our regular business outreach efforts, allowing us to connect even more businesses with prospective customers and downtown residents.”

Crespi also noted that the SBDC at FIU will maintain ongoing one-on-one assistance to businesses with marketing, access to capital and business strategy.

“Our canvassing teams have met with businesses ranging from those at the same location for 40 years to those that just started up a few years ago,” said Brian Van Hook, associate director of the Florida SBDC at FIU. “In working with Miami DDA on this project, SBDC at FIU was able to more directly engage with these downtown businesses. It has been exciting to hear business owners’ experiences firsthand and to work hand-in-hand with them on ways to grow the business.”

Among the downtown business owners benefitting from the SBDC at FIU’s services are Austin and Isaac Burneo. In 2016, the aspiring entrepreneurs possessed the energy and passion to create a successful business in Downtown Miami, but needed some guidance to make their dreams a reality.

They approached SBDC at FIU for help in purchasing a previously struggling location of Giardino’s Gourmet Salads, a fast casual franchise offering salads with quality ingredients, across from the Olympia Theater on Flagler Street. As part of SBDC at FIU’s assistance, the brothers received help creating a business plan and assistance navigating the franchising process. After the business opened in late 2016, they also received ongoing consulting on staffing up and improving customer service. The business is on its way to success.

“I would like to thank our consultant and the SBDC at FIU for all of the help along the way,” said Isaac Burneo, co-owner of Giardino’s.

Isaac Burneo
Isaac Burneo