New UNF Assistance Program Targets Small Businesses Looking to Grow!

Jennifer Marko is the Program Director for ScaleUp North Florida, a new Small Business Administration (SBA) program based at the University of North Florida. Jacksonville was chosen as one of eight ScaleUp communities across the country. It is a year-long program that focuses on helping growth-oriented small business owners “scale up,” or grow, their businesses.

Q: Jennifer, tell us about ScaleUp. How is it different from other small business programs?
A: We are fortunate in Northeast Florida to have many resources for small business owners, especially for startups or stage 2 companies. ScaleUp focuses specifically on companies right in the middle of those: businesses that are primed for growth and are looking for guidance on how to grow in a smart way. Specifically, ScaleUp participants must have been in business for at least three years, have annual revenue from $150,000 – $500,000, have specific growth goals and be willing to commit to the program for a year. That there is no charge to participate. This program is all about economic impact through improving small businesses in Northeast Florida.

Jennifer Marko

Q: What do you mean by specific growth goals?
A: Growth means different things at different times when you own a small business. One entrepreneur may be a sole proprietor and want to grow her business by incorporating and hiring her first employee. Another may want to expand their business, and they need access to working capital. A different company may want to add a new product to their line or even take manufacturing or shipping in-house in order to add to their bottom line. Other examples are increasing sales, entering a new market or buying real estate. ScaleUp can support small business owners in achieving their unique growth goals, and that is unique.

Q: OK, describe the program. What would participants expect to be doing throughout the year?
A: ScaleUp starts with six four-hour classes, which are taught by professionals from the Northeast Florida community. We will have class every other week for 12 weeks on topics specific to the needs of growing businesses, including strategic planning, leadership, brand development, human resource management, financial management and marketing. Then, each business will get an assessment, and they will describe what their specific growth goals are, and we will make a plan to reach those goals. The instructors, most of whom are small business owners themselves, will continue to consult with the program participants throughout the year, and they will also have access to any of the SBDC resources that they need. We can do things like create a fast-pitch event for lenders if they need a loan, involve them in a CEO Exchange group for peer support and connect them with other people and resources to ensure that they are successful in achieving whatever goals they set for themselves. It’s a very comprehensive program, and it will be so valuable to them.

Q: How can people apply for the program, and what will the schedule be?
A: The application is available on the program website at We plan to select participants by late January and start classes in mid-February, so now is the time to submit the application. We are already seeing a lot of interest in this program, and we will take 50 businesses for the first year. I encourage anyone who meets the qualifications and can commit to the program to apply now. Questions or comments can be sent to me directly at  
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