The three panelists on the first in a series of Zoom meetings for Hillsborough County small businesses consisted of business owners related to wellness, including Bayshore Fitness, Bulk Food Superstore and Amy’s Day Spa. They shared their journeys of owning their businesses, challenges, successes and how they continue to overcome COVID-19.

After a successful trial run at the end of 2020, Hillsborough County’s Entrepreneur Collaborative Center (ECC) is turning its free, virtual, small business panel discussions into a monthly staple.

The Local Stories Live series lets participants connect with local successful small business owners for lively discussions on what it takes to survive and thrive as a small business.

Following the inaugural session on January 15, Hillsborough County will host the monthly live, virtual panel discussions, each focusing on a different small business sector, on the second Friday of each month at 9 a.m.

The 30-minute discussions will each feature three different local business leaders and will be followed by a brief question-and-answer period. Established business owners, entrepreneurs and anyone interested in the local business community are invited to participate in the sessions and learn why supporting local businesses makes all the difference in Hillsborough County.

The January 15 session showcased business owners representing the self-care industry, including fitness, healthy food choices and beauty. Registration is available online (see the address below). Upon registration, participants can choose to interact with the panelists via Zoom.

“On February 12 at 9 a.m., we will showcase African American business owners in recognition of Black History Month,” said Lynn Kroesen, CEcD, manager of the Economic Development Department’s Entrepreneur Collaborative Center (ECC). “It will also have a tie to Valentine’s Day. We have a local delivery service, gift boutique and a local bakery.”

The county is hosting the panel discussions to showcase Hillsborough County’s small business community as well as share the best practices with existing and start-up small businesses. Small businesses are the lifeblood of Hillsborough County’s economy. More than 90 percent of employers in Hillsborough County are small businesses, which employ more than 200,000 workers.

“The first session was incredibly successful,” said Kroesen. “The audience included fellow entrepreneurs as well as entrepreneur support organizations and others who are interested in learning, and supporting, our local business community.”

The ECC was established by Hillsborough County Economic Development in 2014 to provide entrepreneurs easy access to business service providers, resources, mentorship and specialty training. Services are provided for each business’ unique stage of development and business category: pre-venture, start-up, micro-enterprise, small-to-midsize enterprise, community-based, targeted industry, technology and innovation and more.

Learn more about available small business services and resources at HCFLGov.net/ECC.