Growing Startups

Local entrepreneurs have put Tallahassee on the national map



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Alicia Osborne

Gabe and Saralyn Grass, owners of Grasslands Brewery, brewed up a business that pours business into Tallahassee. 

 

When Gabe Grass was conjuring up tasty beers in his backyard, the idea of becoming one of Tallahassee’s prime brewmasters was still a fantasy. But in February 2015, he opened the Grasslands Brewing Company taproom on Gaines Street, and the business has been evolving ever since. 

Grass will tell you that transforming malted barley, hops, yeast and water into a quality craft beer isn’t easy, but it may be less challenging than crafting a great beer into a business.

“It’s easier to make beer,” he said. “It’s been said that running a brewery is 5 percent making beer and the rest cleaning and paperwork. But I’m doing something I’m passionate about. And I care about the community and adding to it.”

Grass said he is grateful for the opportunity to turn a dream into a reality, a common theme in Tallahassee’s growing entrepreneur community.

Tallahassee was named a Top 50 City for Entrepreneurs by Entrepreneur Magazine in the publication’s August issue. The ranking was part of a partnership between Entrepreneur Magazine and Livability.com. Tallahassee ranked 46th on the list and was one of only three Florida cities. (Orlando was No. 15 and Miami No. 33.)

There’s more. The “In Real Terms” column for Five Thirty-Eight, the statistical analysis company from numbers wizard Nate Silver, reported in September that Tallahassee was No. 9 on a list of 20 cities with the fastest-growing rate of startups from 2009 to 2014, based on U.S. Census data. While a 1.1 percent increase doesn’t seem dramatically different, it represents a sign of hope, said those in Tallahassee’s entrepreneurship universe.

What’s more encouraging is that there has been a lot of progress since that time, with numerous factors fueling the entrepreneurial spirit in Tallahassee.

“Overall, the community has embraced the culture of entrepreneurship,” said Keith Bowers, regional director for the Florida Small Business Development Center at Florida A&M University. “Everything started to sink in after the Great Recession. When the economy started to hit rock bottom, every industry suffered across the board.”