Giving Your Business Room to Grow: How One Man’s Passion for a Business Incubator is Changing the City

Kevin Grant enjoys helping people and he has ample opportunity to do so as interim director of Beaver Street Enterprise Center.

As home to about two dozen small businesses, the 25,000-square-foot core-city business incubator is a hub of entrepreneurial activity and a nexus for community outreach.

Grant is bolstering the resources available to BSEC’s tenant companies by forging relationships with area schools and like-minded nonprofit organizations. He and his team provide entrepreneurs access to experts in vital areas like marketing and finance.Kevin Grant Headshot 1(1)

We want to be that one stop shop for entrepreneurs. Helping companies develop, grow and expand is vital for our economy and we want to impact the city’s growth as much as possible.

-Kevin Grant

Grant was a finance manager for the city of Jacksonville prior to being appointed as director of BSEC and Chief Financial Officer for FreshMinistries, Inc., the locally based humanitarian non-profit organization that sponsors the incubator. He has also worked for the city as a project manager and investment analyst, and has held positions in corporate trust divisions of large banks.

“He is a brilliant, talented individual with a keen mind for business and a huge heart for outreach,” FreshMinistries Founder and CEO Rev. Dr. Robert V. Lee III stated, in announcing Grant’s appointment in January 2015. “I am very excited about what he will bring to all our endeavors.”

As a finance specialist with more than 20 years of experience in banking and corporate and municipal asset and debt management, Grant knows that economic development provides leaders with more resources to invest into the city. “Having money coming back into the city helps improve what we have in terms of our lifestyles,” he said.

Supporting entrepreneurs with the services they need to grow is vital to BSEC’s success. “We’re making sure that when conversations come up with possible places for programs that the name ‘Beaver Street Enterprise Center’ always resonates in peoples’ minds,” Grant said.

Grant has drawn upon his experience as an entrepreneur, which includes owning a restaurant and an amateur adult football team, in formulating new services for BSEC tenants. The incubator recently improved tenants’ access to legal services and Grant wants to further assist companies with marketing as well. “I know some of the things I needed as a business owner and things I wish I had coming up,” he said.

Grant has also been developing BSEC’s advisory board, prioritizing the recruitment of entrepreneurs and industry leaders. “They can come share their knowledge and experience with our entrepreneurs and potential tenants,” he said.

WHAT NEXT PIC 2A soon-to-be-completed expansion of the center will provide similar opportunities. BSEC is adding a second building across from its existing facility to host more mature companies, which may have outgrown their space at the original incubator. “You will have the benefits of learning from people who have gone through the growth at Beaver Street,” Grant said.

Grant wants to expand the center’s influence well beyond its neighborhood, branching out to different areas of the city and presenting programs off-site. That is why he’s been so busy building mutually beneficial relationships with other community-minded organizations, such as the Davis College of Business at Jacksonville University.

“I’ve always wanted to be more involved in community-service related industries,” Grant said.

Now that he has a chance, he’s using the opportunity to help businesses grow and to make the community better—just as he likes to do.

By Jim Molis


A Heart for Small Businesses Makes Business Sense

perry-headshotJackie Perry planned to start her own business 11 years ago, but got sidetracked.

Instead, she spent the last decade helping others launch their own businesses, as director of the Beaver Street Enterprise Center, Jacksonville’s only core-city business incubator.

“I love helping small businesses,” she said. “That really is a passion of mine.”

After helping launch a number of successful companies for others, including million-dollar enterprises, Perry is setting out to realize her own dream now, taking the experience she’s gained to create her own full-service management consulting firm.

Perry started as a volunteer at Beaver Street, and quickly moved into leadership, establishing policies and procedures to help the organization thrive. She believes that anyone can succeed in business.

“It begins with the entrepreneur, the attitude, the drive, the determination to learn,” Perry said. “If you have the willingness to succeed and you’re willing to make it happen, you can do it, and we’re here to help.”

One of Perry’s first clients will be the Beaver Street Enterprise Center, which will enlist her help to advise new clients. Established by FreshMinistries, Inc. in 2004, the center, located at 1225 W. Beaver St., has incubated more than 100 companies, which together have generated more than 2,000 jobs and $250 million in revenue.

The center offers start-up, small and mid-growth stage business clients assistance through micro-loans, professional office space at reduced rent, support staffing, mentoring, individual strategic planning sessions, and help with financial plans, implementation and marketing.

Perry is delighted to start her own company. “I’ve had the opportunity and the great privilege to work with FreshMinistries at the Beaver Street Center,” she said.

“I’m ready to put to use the experience I’ve gained in my own company. I’m very fortunate.

“The time is right. If you don’t take the opportunity to push forward on a dream or a vision that you have, it goes to the grave with you.”


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