Three years in the making, The Well business center is finally springing up from the ground at 114 E. Parker St. in Lakeland’s Midtown neighborhood, The $1.3 million, 4,700-square-foot collaborative workspace is scheduled to open in early 2022.
The center is the vision of Dr. Sallie Brisbane-Stone, an events services business owner and educational consultant. More than a dozen entrepreneurs have signed up to use the center, and the office suites are sold out, she said.
“It has truly been an experience that is worth the wait. We are so thankful and grateful for all of the encouragement and for all of the support we have received from our family and friends and the community at large,” she said. “It really is kind of amazing to see things starting to move.”
Brisbane-Stone said the center will be multifunctional and a place where entrepreneurs and creatives can gather and innovate. It will be open to all, with an emphasis on businesses owned by people from marginalized groups.
The center will offer a coworking space, executive suites, venue rental, a media room, a podcast production studio, a music recording studio and community enrichment programs such as financial literacy training. It will also have a catering kitchen.
Lonyell Dover-Cade, also known as Chef Yoshi, is one of the entrepreneurs who plans to be a member of The Well. She looks forward to networking with other business owners and growing her catering clientele.
“I believe The Well will bring back what urban communities have been missing, a space to provide the tools for success … to thrive in the world,” Chef Yoshi said.
Business Coach Rodney Jones, president of Busines Plans Plus, said his Tampa-based business will have an executive suite at The Well. He helped Brisbane-Stone craft her business plan and believes The Well will help people in the underserved area of Midtown start and grow businesses or find employment.
“My vision for The Well is a community gathering place where the community interacts with the business community (and) where public and private organizations can gather and develop think tanks and joint study centers to brainstorm solutions that will lead to a better, stronger, Lakeland community,” Jones said.
He thinks it will also be a place where “city officials can quickly interact with business and religious leaders to quickly develop solutions to a host of issues in the community.”
Mayor Bill Mutz has great hopes for the project.
“We are so grateful for the vision of Dr. Sallie Brisbane-Stone in working diligently to provide The Well as a future fulcrum facility for transforming skills and enhancing lives. We anticipate great vocational fruit from this innovative center,” Mutz said.
A workspace during the day, Stone expects it to be a source of culturally diverse programming at night.
“When the sun goes down, it gets a little spicy. You may see everything from jazz sets with live music or black box theater or comedy nights or just simply networking events where someone is launching a new product,” Brisbane-Stone explained.
That’s one of the ways she said The Well will be different from Catapult, the well-established small-business incubator started by the Lakeland Economic Development Council.
“The Well is poised to be a resource center to help Lakeland as a whole. But we are poised with intentionality for the underserved and the underrepresented communities and of course that includes the African-American community along with many other communities that may not have had access,” Brisbane-Stone said.
In February 2018, Brisbane-Stone began working with the property owner, Lakeland Community Redevelopment Agency, on the project. Initial plans were to renovate the former building on the property, but after structural issues were revealed, the CRA decided it would be best to demolish that building and construct a new one.
Brsibane-Stone said she’s learned a lot from the experience. As a new entrepreneur, she called coming up with the capital to launch this business a “daunting task.”
“To be honest, we just didn’t give up. We got a couple of no’s but we got way more yes’s than we got no’s. The advice that I would give is if you have a strong business plan and you have a strong support system and you continue to press, you will be successful. You can’t focus on the negative because there is a lot of that out there. You have to stay focused on the mission at hand,“ she explained.
The Well will have a three-year lease, with the first year being rent free. Membership starts at $75 per month for access to a community desk, which is a part of the co-working space.