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Central Florida nonprofit gives business resources, helps woman’s production company thrive

ORLANDO, Fla. — A Central Florida nonprofit is working to keep small businesses open despite a high rate of small businesses that fail within their first three years

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Local business owner Stacey Cook said the National Entrepreneur Center’s free resources are important.

Cook started owning her production company S Cook Productions in 2003 but realized she needed help with some business basics.

“How do I get an employee identification number?” she said. “How do I incorporate and start a real company?”

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Cook was directed to the NEC, where they answered her questions and connected her with the center’s many partners.

“This is who you need to talk to or let me introduce… and sometimes it’s just personal relationships,” she said. “I would probably be years behind where I’m at now.”

Along with that support, Cook had access to the center’s free one-on-one coaching, networking opportunities, and low-cost seminars.

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“80% of our economy is driven by small business,” said Belinda Ortiz Kirkegard, president of the National Entrepreneur Center. “It’s important for our local governments to make sure we’ve got small businesses that are thriving.”

With 20 years under its belt, Kirkegard is taking things up a notch and providing entrepreneurs a 360-diagnostic of their business.

“Onsite one-on-one coaching, that coaching can be specialized on a hurdle that they need to try to overcome,” she said. “And then the takeaway is, not only, an action plan to get them to the next level but the resources we have here at the NEC for free.”

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Cook said resources like that are invaluable. She said the company has reached 96 employees, and it would not have reached this point if it wasn’t for a bit of assistance.

“It’s just kind of like an old friend that you can always call, and they don’t expect anything from you,” Cook said. “And then they don’t try to sell you anything. It’s just a way to get that little bit of extra help so that you can have a successful business.”

People looking to receive a 360-diagnostic for their business can do so at the NEC’s 20th-anniversary event next Wednesday.

Channel 9 anchor Kirstin Delgado will be emceeing the event.

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