One Grant, Many Benefits: A Generous Gift from the Florida Business Development Corporation

A friendship forged at Crummer was the start of many successes to come.  

Bill Habermeyer ‛05MBA, President and CEO of Florida Business Development Corporation (FBDC), and Bob Zinkil ‛05MBA, Executive Vice President and COO of FBDC, met while they were Early Advantage MBA students at the Crummer Graduate School of Business in 2003 and immediately developed a strong bond. At Crummer, they had a chance to be in the same consulting project cohort, working with an Orlando group that presents an award for a top football athlete in the country. Reflecting on their time together as students, it’s not surprising that the pair of Crummer graduates ended up in the highest positions together at the most active small business lender on the East Coast. FBDC’s mission is to assist healthy, growing companies secure long-term, below-market, fixed-rate financing for the acquisition and development of fixed assets. They can also help refinance debt associated with fixed assets. 

florida business development corporationBob and Bill have been ardent supporters of Crummer and especially the Center for Advanced Entrepreneurship. In 2018, the Florida Business Development Corporation granted $25,000 to the center. “The better we do as a firm, the more the dollars go up that we are able to give back to the community,” Bill said. For 2024, they have generously supplied another grant, this time for over $62,000.  

Daniel Perez, Assistant Director of the Center for Advanced Entrepreneurship, plans to use the funds to support entrepreneurs at three different levels: high-school age, early-stage entrepreneurs, and second-stage entrepreneurs.  

One of the programs he developed has come with much excitement and community support, the Crummer Rising Entrepreneur Academy (CREA). CREA is a nine-week high-school program offering 20 students a business course, mentorship, and up to $1000 in funds to start their venture. The academy launched on March 20th, when the high-school students attended the Crummer Venture Plan Competition and witnessed examples of how to pitch a business. Students then started to participate in a mix of in-person and online classes covering  business topics such as mindset, ideation, business planning, marketing and branding, and sales and customer acquisition. At the culmination of the course, students will get a chance to pitch their businesses to a panel of expert judges who will then select the top three. First place wins an additional $5,000, second place receives $3,000, and third will get $2,000.  

Daniel is partnering with two organizations to bring attention to the CREA program for underserved populations, the Center for Micro-Entrepreneurship Training and Lift Orlando. The Center for Micro-Entrepreneurial Training is a nonprofit organization focused on empowering women, Black, and brown entrepreneurs to start and grow their own businesses. Their overriding goal is to prepare, connect, and support aspiring entrepreneurs for generational success.  

Joseph simmons
Joseph Simmons

Joseph Simmons is the founder of the center, and he began with just four people in his first cohort growing to over 100 last year in 2023. He is happy to participate in CREA and hopes to maintain the relationships he is forming with the students: “Keeping these relationships vibrant helps give them a network to help create a legacy of success.” He wishes to see the program continue through generations. “When this first group is in their early 30s, they will be the examples, the role models, and hopefully they will want to contribute to the program and create a cycle of success.”  

keeyon upkins
Keeyon Upkins

Keeyon Upkins is the Director of Economic Involvement for Lift Orlando. They uplift, unite, and empower the historically African American West Lakes neighborhoods around Camping World Stadium. The organization invests in people, places, and partnerships that help the community prosper. He too is looking forward to the impact this program will have on high schoolers. “Entrepreneurial ventures allow teens to explore what they enjoy and gives them experience in a variety of things early on. It gives teens more focus about the future and helps young people think beyond today and how decisions impact tomorrow in a meaningful, financial way.”  

He also emphasized that often young folks in certain populations don’t see beyond their own community, but CREA gives teens access to resources that exist at Crummer and widens their worldview. It also gives the teens something incredibly important, hope. “When you have hope, it allows you to persist in any circumstance. When we have hope for something better tomorrow, we look at today a little differently; today is just a step along the way.”  

The grant from FBDC will also be allocated toward early-stage entrepreneurs and second-stage entrepreneurs. For early-stage entrepreneurs, the center will be selecting 20 participants to be paired up with expert mentors in a nine-week partnership to help advance their businesses. Second-stage entrepreneurs will participate in a growth series of entrepreneurship training. The details for this are still being ironed out. 

As you can see, the grant from the Florida Business Development Corporation is going to very good use with the Crummer Rising Entrepreneur Academy and the plans for the early- and second-stage entrepreneurs. We’d like to express our deep gratitude to Bill and Bob and the folks at FBDC for their generous grant to the Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College. The grant will make a big difference for many entrepreneurs. 

Read more about Bill and Bob’s journeys as Crummer students in this article here.