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Pinellas County Libraries as Small Business Incubators

Photo of adults in library classroom
Small business workshop at Safety Harbor Public Library

 

Public libraries have long supported small business growth by offering:

  • Start-up information
  • Job placement support
  • Workforce development opportunities

Libraries in the Pinellas Public Library Cooperative (PPLC) embrace their role as community hubs where people can plan and grow their own small businesses.

Entrepreneurs use library meeting rooms, resources and equipment to help brainstorm and refine ideas.

Workshops and one-on-one sessions with experts offer more opportunities to receive specialized knowledge and valuable feedback.

Library Resources

PPLC’s libraries provide entrepreneurs with many helpful resources, including:

  • Shared work spaces
  • Meeting rooms
  • Free high-speed Internet connections
  • Free databases
  • Access to low- or no-cost equipment to test and initiate new business ideas
  • 3-D printers in idea labs and maker spaces
  • Business training
  • Computer training

Online Resources

Entrepreneurs can access vital information through the library from anywhere, any time.

An especially good example is Clearwater Public Library System’s Small Business Guide, which links to a wealth of material on topics like:

  • Business plans
  • Marketing
  • Codes, laws and public records
  • Trademark searches
  • Local business contacts

Partnerships

Partnerships with other organizations make it easy for PPLC’s libraries to offer small business workshops and counseling to entrepreneurs.

Several Pinellas County libraries partner with SCORE, while Clearwater Public Library System partners with Clearwater Business SPARK.

Workshops cover a wide range of subjects, from general to specific. Previous workshops include:

  • Bootcamp 4 Entrepreneurs
  • Elements of the Marketing Plan
  • Franchising 101
  • ETSY Craft Entrepreneurship
  • Establishing a Home-Based Business
  • Pricing for Profit
  • Web Presence for Your Business

Entrepreneurs interested in SCORE counseling can choose a mentor with particular skills or industry experience.

This video by Safety Harbor Public Library gives a useful overview on how SCORE’s small business counseling works and the impact it’s had on participants. 

Photo of bakers and business owners Kathy and Mary Kay

According to Gene Coppola, director of the Palm Harbor Library and former chairman of the Palm Harbor Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, “Collaborations between public libraries and the business sector go hand in hand.” 

imls180.for.panel.jpgMany of these resources and programs are funded under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Florida's LSTA program is administered by the Department of State's Division of Library and Information Services.