Catapult is a co-working space in downtown Lakeland dedicated to helping local entrepreneurs. Through a program called Launch, Catapult also provides micro-grants of up to $10,000 to entrepreneurs.
Here's a glance at three companies that started at Catapult.
Born & Bread Bakehouse
Jennifer Smurr, with $9,000, was the first entrepreneur to receive a grant from Launch.
She used the money to purchase a new oven for her company, Born & Bread Bakehouse, which will help her create more of her signature item - the Cruffin. It's half croissant, half muffin and word is spreading quickly about these yummy creations. She sells out every Saturday by 10 a.m. at her Downtown Lakeland Farmers Market booth. “You haven't lived until you've had one,” Smurr says.
Smurr, 28, sought something she could be passionate about after working in the fashion industry. Her adoration for bread specifically began in 2014, during her honeymoon in Paris, and she landed an apprenticeship with Zak the Baker in Miami last fall. “It's important to continue to learn,” she says. “I study bread and travel a lot. On every vacation, I want to meet a baker.”
Smurr, who even with her passion says, “baking is laborious, not always glamorous,” currently works out of a 1,700-square- foot space in Lakeland's historic Dixieland area after starting in Catapult in March. Later this summer she hopes to test selling her products outside of the farmers market and sell bread at her current location on a weeknight.
“Bread is complicated,” she explains. “I don't just want to be the best in Lakeland, but I have a desire to be great for the world.”
A Cow Named MOO
“My wife thought I was crazy,” says Patrick Mulcahy of his idea to build a business — in Florida — that sells ice cream sandwiches. But it's working.
The company, A Cow Named MOO, has operated for a little more than a year and sales have doubled. That's more than 7,000 ice cream sandwiches.
“There seems to be a trend in this area toward craft beers and specialty foods,” Mulcahy says. “We felt we could do something different. There is enough of a foodie crowd (in Lakeland).”
These aren't the typical summer childhood treat. The couple's 31 flavors include French toast, Mexican strawberry, a gluten-free vegan flavor and Coco Coffee. The Mulcahys sell their treats Wednesday nights at Concord Coffee in Lakeland and at Dixieland's Last Friday of the Month Flea Market. The couple also sells ice cream sandwiches at corporate gatherings,
weddings and employee appreciation days at local businesses.
The Mulcahys create about 200 sandwiches per week, and are having trouble keeping up with the demand. They hope a $10,000 grant from Catapult's Launch program will help. They plan to purchase equipment that will increase their rate of production and also buy a machine that will allow the company to obtain a wholesale license for dairy. “We want to get it into stores,” Mulcahys says.
The Poor Porker
A coffee and beignet shop, The Poor Porker moved from Catapult's kitchen to a brick-and-mortar location in downtown Lakeland in November.
It now has nine employees. They work out of a Bohemian, rustic shop, with live music and karaoke, and they sell everything from tank tops and aprons to mugs, in addition to craft beers, chicory coffee and beignets.
“Catapult provided us with a space to make our product,” says Robyn Wilson, co-owner of The Poor Porker. “We did a lot of networking and it was super valuable, but we had to graduate.”
Wilson and co-owner Jarrid Masse met in Los Angeles. They moved to Lakeland, where Masse grew up, and launched the Poor Porker with $300.
“We sold everything and built a business from nothing,” Wilson says. “We hit roadblocks, but we learned from them.”