As the director of the Center for Free Enterprise & Entrepreneurship at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Justin Heacock doesn’t just teach and guide young entrepreneurs.
He’s also an entrepreneur himself. His inventions and companies range from a proprietary software service for college students to a self-cleaning shower wall hair device, the ShowerBun.
Back in higher education, Heacock has created entrepreneurship programs at two colleges, Florida Polytechnic University and Florida Southern College, both in Lakeland. First came Florida Poly. Launching the program in 2016, Heacock operated all aspects of it, including teaching, strategy planning, program development, industry relations, event coordination and business incubation. In Fall 2019 the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers recognized the program for its results alongside more highly touted schools such as Harvard, Texas A&M, Penn State and Florida State.
In August 2021 Heacock left Florida Poly for Lakeland Southern, where he launched the Center for Free Enterprise & Entrepreneurship. The program has already established successful curricular and extra-curricular programming that’s led to 35 startups, $32,500 in prize money and two statewide entrepreneurial winners.
The goal, Heacock says, has been the same at both schools: to help students chase their entrepreneurial dreams. “I work with students to help them understand what entrepreneurship is,” he says, “and how they could change their lives through the power of entrepreneurship.”
And Heacock is just as jazzed about the process as he is the end result.
“You are helping students go from pure excitement, the pure naïve energy of ‘I have this really cool idea, what do I do with it,’ to the work to turn it into a product that can go to market,” he says. “There’s really no better experience professionally than that for me.”
It’s not much of a surprise Heacock’s mentor, his dad, Ford Heacock, was also an entrepreneur. Ford Heacock’s businesses included insurance, classic cars and magazine publishing. Justin Heacock says his dad always did things in business with integrity, doing what’s right for his family, employees and the community.
The younger Heacock recalls joining his dad several times on trips to personally deliver Christmas bonus checks — a lasting memory. “That was one of my dad’s proudest moments,” Justin Heacock says, “being able to help the employees that helped him build the business.”
City of residence: Lakeland
Birthplace: Lakeland Years in the area: 25 Marital status/children: Married, one daughter (Harper Heacock) Alma mater/degree: Florida State University, bachelors in Entrepreneurship; USF, masters in Entrepreneurship What community group or organization are you most involved with? Catapult in Lakeland, our main entrepreneurial support organization Are you working from the company office, home office or hybrid? Office What's the weirdest job you've ever had? Or the weirdest task you've ever been assigned? NSF I-Corp Entrepreneurial Lead. Our task was to interview more than 100 people for six weeks to determine if a business was possible. What's your top tip for being productive? Be action oriented. Sometimes it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission. If you have the perspective on where your organization is trying to go, their pain points, and you have a vision of how you can improve the situation, then just do it. If you wait around for everyone's input, you will enter the state of paralysis by analysis. Striking this balance is key to being an impactful and productive worker long term. If you could have a side hustle, what would it be? I would do what I'm doing now! A self-cleaning shower wall hair device, check out www.showerbun.com What's your favorite off-hours activity? Disc golf or pickleball What's the most significant item on your life bucket list — and what's keeping you from completing it? Helping other people create 1,000 startups in my life. I'm at 450 currently. What would keep me from completing this goal would be losing time and balance in my life. What's your favorite podcast? How I Built This by Guy Raz (NPR) At what percentage on your phone do you start to get Low Battery Anxiety? 5% What are the top three apps used on your smartphone? Youtube, Instagram and ESPN Fantasy Football What books are you reading now? Change by Design by Tim Brown What's your go-to music genre, band or act to be inspired? Alan Watts Who would play you in the movie of your life? Josh Hutcherson Where is your happy place? With my wife and daughter Describe yourself in three words: Service, creativity and empowerment Who is your mentor for your career and why? My dad, Ford Heacock. I chose him for my mentor because he is an entrepreneur but also because he was a man who lived life with integrity. He always did what was right for his family, employees, and community while pursuing his dreams. What are the biggest lessons you have learned from your mentor? It's important to have a clear vision for what you want to do in life, but it's really about surrounding yourself with the right people in pursuit of that vision. Whether you end up creating that business or that thing, you won't talk about the outcome nearly as much as the journey you went through to get there. So, it's important to go on that journey with people who you can work with, build a relationship with and, more importantly, help them as much as they help you. Each person has their own journey and goals in life. If you take care of the people who choose to support you on your journey, then you can go anywhere you want with your life.