Hello SLP Blog! 

As participants started trickling in through the front door of Catapult it was so nice to finally start putting names to faces. They kicked their morning off with some freshly brewed (and local) coffee from Patriot Coffee Roasters and Concord Coffee. Breakfast was catered by Catapult graduate Honeycomb Bakery and featured some mouthwatering pastries, including the only chocolate croissant I’ve ever enjoyed.  

After a brief orientation from Sarah, we heard from Christin Strawbridge, the President of Catapult. She told the group about how the idea for a space that could support entrepreneurs was spawned from one of the LEDC’s city visits. It became apparent that there was a huge demand for what Catapult was offering and that “if you build it, they will come.” Well come they did. They quickly outgrew the basement and started working towards a new space. Flash forwards a few years and Catapult has grown into what you see today, complete with a makerspace, industrial kitchen, coworking space, and individual offices. 

After Christin’s warm welcome, the group split up and toured the working spaces to get a firsthand look at the facility. Catapult is an inspiring testament to the spirit of our city, and the passion for each entrepreneur’s company was apparent. 

Once we returned from the tour, Randall from Team Training Unlimited took our group through a series of not-so-traditional team-building exercises. To end the session, each group was challenged to build a bottle rocket out of their assigned materials. This exercise emphasized the importance of innovation and creativity – important principles in both rocket building and the workplace 

When we got back from launching rockets in the parking lots (read: team building through teamwork, competition, and creativity) we broke for lunch catered by Catapult’s own Our Noire Kitchen. 

After a brief lunch, we immediately dove into our docket of speakers for the afternoon, starting with a fireside-style chat with Representative Jennifer Canady. We heard about Canady’s experience as an educator, and about how she spearheaded the RISE program at Lakeland Christian School. RISE stands for Research, Innovation, Stem learning, and Education, and it’s Canady’s way of taking a strength-based approach to education. For Canady, her career has been all about getting people to do hard things. How does she do that? She gives her kids the work that matters. It was a great reminder that no matter what your job is, believing in it, and really caring about it, is the key to working through the tough times.  

To close out her chat, she spoke about “demystifying success,” and gave everybody two factors to any success. First, you must understand that anything worth doing will be hard. Working through those times is what leads to success. Second, once you have succeeded, you must have a community to celebrate your success with.  

The idea of “community” is a key aspect of SLP’s message, and Canady’s emphasis on it led nicely into Pastor Tim Rice’s presentation on “growing where you are planted.” He challenged the group to imagine really settling into a place. Where would you end up? What would that look like for you? For Tim, that looks like giving a presentation right after Representative Canady, a member of his first ever youth group decades ago. 

He highlighted America’s focus on mobility and begged the question “at what cost?” Well, for one, there’s less community. As someone who feels like they’re in a particularly transient season of life right now, Rice’s talk reminded me that it’s okay to stay in one place, and that there might even be benefits to it. In a room full of 18-30 year olds, I can only imagine the other internal conversations that went on during the talk.  

Next, we heard from Chris Hammond, the Senior Vice President of Portfolio Management at Allen and Company. I was looking forward to hearing from Chris yesterday. His presentation from the first session was straightforward, down-to-Earth, and practical. It was nothing like the other, vaguer, “financial literacy” presentations I had sat through before. His talk yesterday was no different, he laid out 4 steps to being a good financial leader: avoid and eliminate debt, save systematically, invest wisely, and give back regularly. At the end of the day, we might not be a “big bullet point” sponsor, but giving back to causes we care about is a key aspect of financial health.  

Our last speaker of the evening was Mayor Bill Mutz. His talk highlighted 10 habits that have made him successful as both a businessman and as the mayor of “one of the best run cities in Florida.” Each point had a corresponding relationship that highlighted and emphasized his keys to success. Mutz’s talk was a reminder that our successes directly stem from our relationships.  

The first day of SLP ended with our first social. We headed over to The Joinery for an opportunity for the participants to get to know each other a little better and unwind after a long and fulfilling day.  

See y’all next week


SLP Intern