Innovation Collective (IC) is a national company focused on community and economic development in Hernando County through a partnership with Let’s Grow Hernando. Let’s Grow Hernando is founded by local business owners Wayne and Cyndi Johnson, formerly of Accuform. The Innovation Collective has hired a full time local resident, Sam Eshelman, who is the community lead. Through roughly 70 events per year, IC provides a culture of connection, learning, and clear paths to starting and growing companies. The IC will also be offering shared workspaces, private offices, scheduled conference room access, a private business lounge, and community spaces inside the Jennings Building in Downtown Brooksville. Their goal is that within 9-12 months, the renovations of the historic Jennings Building will be complete and ready for participants at the physical location.
The current programs that the IC offers include an “incubator-type” program for guidance and financial support for ideas that they approve and a physical meeting called “Coffee and Concepts” currently at Mountaineer Coffee every 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month at 7:30am. They are also offering virtual meetings through their program called “IC Studio,” which is a 6-week course curriculum. This program is where they offer weekly sessions in virtual meetings, ideally with a maximum of 25 people per session. They record these meetings for future views for the current participants as well as sharing for future participants. Throughout the summer, on every 2nd Wednesday of the month they will be hosting a picnic at Hernando Park at 6:30 PM in place of their Fireside Chats, which will start back up after the summer season.
IC recently moved into Brooksville with the intention to focus on projects that will especially help the 55+ community which they have titled “Innovation for Longevity.” While this is their main focus; local startups, and all innovators are welcome. The IC is open to any idea that can help shape and make the world a better place.
“It’s really about economic development,” Wayne Johnson said, in describing the goals of IC. “We may not start the next Facebook or Apple, but we may create a company who [sic] grows hundreds of employees.” Johnson recalled that Accuform began with 25 employees, and grew to over 300 at the time he retired.
After searching and assessing what a local area needs, IC tailors their offerings and programs for each of their locations. After prior success between the founder, Nick Smoot and board members, they realized that much of venture capital goes to big cities in states such as New York and California. With this in mind, the goal of the IC is that they want to “bring it back to the small towns.''
So, what is an incubator? The term is used primarily in the technology industry; however, it is a firm or a group of people that have experience and connections to make all business ideas a reality by using their resources, whether that is financial or business connections. In return, there is usually a small stake in the company that they help. “Ultimately what most startup businesses find themselves needing is capital,” Johnson explained. While not a startup lender, IC has access to capital to assist qualifying startups.