Skip to Main Content
UNF Foundation, Inc.

UNF at the heart of innovation

“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw o the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, dream, discover.”  —Mark Twain  

Having a great idea is one thing. Turning that idea into a viable business is another. 

barnett building renderingIn addition to a grand vision or an innovative product, budding entrepreneurs require capital, data knowledge and business skills to be successful. In Jacksonville, innovators will soon not only have a place to dream, but a place to vet their ideas and access critical resources and support.

The University of North Florida’s new Center for Entrepreneurship opens in downtown Jacksonville in January 2019. An initiative of UNF’s Coggin College of Business, the Center aims to be a hub for innovation and creativity in the heart of the city.

 Akin to the format of the “Shark Tank” TV show, entrepreneurs will pitch their ideas to a panel of experts in hopes of being one of 10-15 selected to receive space and support in the Center. At no cost, those selected will be provided office space to work through their plans, assess market feasibility and develop their businesses.

“The ultimate objective is to grow business for Jacksonville and build a strong and sustainable entrepreneurial climate — for the success of the community and our students,” said Mark Dawkins, dean of the Coggin College of Business. Dawkins added, as Jacksonville’s entrepreneurial environment has grown, it became clear that the University needed to be involved.

Plans for the Center resulted from a task force formed in 2015 to study local entrepreneurism and successful models in other cities. The group looked at the top50 entrepreneur centers in the country, said Dawkins, identifying best practices and components that were appropriate for Jacksonville. A lead gift from Luther and Blanche Coggin put the plans in motion.

The Center will be a learning lab, providing students with opportunities to assist entrepreneurs with market analyses, financial statement creation, planningand more. The Northeast Florida Small Business Development Center will have a presence as well to connect aspiring business owners with additional resources and advice.  

The Center for Entrepreneurship will occupy two floors of the Barnett National Bank Building, a signature downtown building near the Laura Street Trio — a group of historic structures undergoing major renovations and a key part of downtown revitalization.

The Coggin College of Business will hold graduate classes in the space for its popular Master of Science in Management and MBA programs, which together have grown 207 percent since 2015.