Business advocacy and support organization AMPLIFY Clearwater has added more expertise and experience to its team with the hiring of Joe Lugo as chief of staff.
The addition of Lugo comes as the chamber of commerce group recently expanded its role in Clearwater’s entrepreneurial landscape with the launch of its first business incubator program, which is also the first tourism-focused incubator program in Florida. In his role, Lugo helps lead economic development strategies for the organization and that tourism incubator, which welcomes its second cohort of companies in the spring.
Lugo, founder of diversity training and solutions organization J^3 Creations, has decades of experience as a small business expert and is a champion for inclusion. He helped establish and lead the first Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Pinellas County and has leadership or consulting roles at several area organizations, including the Hispanic Leadership Council, the Diversity Council, and Mi Gente Mi Pueblo.
An advocate for inclusion
Lugo has been working for years to help build more opportunities for his fellow Pinellas County entrepreneurs, especially those who have not always had a seat at the table.
“I believe in servant leadership and have a sincere passion to see others succeed,” says Lugo, who served three years as the vice president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Pinellas County. “As an entrepreneur of a startup and founder of a non-profit, I have learned many of the things not to do as a small business and startup, as well as a non-profit.”
It was his experience as a successful entrepreneur and his desire to help others that inspired him to launch J^3 Creations, which gave him a platform to coach business leaders and others while drawing on his formal training in diversity, equity and inclusion.
“This, coupled with other things, made my company the ideal consulting firm for organizations who wanted to put their best foot forward and become the best version of themselves,” he says.
Ultimately, his mission has been to improve access and opportunity for all.
“I have always been an advocate of the marginalized and underserved, especially businesses,” Lugo says.
And that’s what led him to his role at AMPLIFY Clearwater.
“When the opportunity with AMPLIFY Clearwater came up, it just was a natural fit to continue following my values, passions, and purpose,” he says.
Fostering positive change
Long before his role as the organization’s chief of staff, Lugo was already well familiar with the work AMPLIFY Clearwater was doing to uplift local entrepreneurs. He said AMPLIFY Clearwater has helped him and others in the community he had partnered with establish the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Pinellas County.
“They were great mentors and advisors,” Lugo says.
In his new role as chief of staff for AMPLIFY Clearwater, Lugo will be a key driver in the group’s organizational strategies. He’ll help optimize operations, support the organization in achieving its objectives and help lead and develop its incubator along with other initiatives.
“I think we would all agree that by enhancing the business environment and promoting a healthy economic climate, we can impact all aspects of our community," he says. "When I see an organization that ignites creativity, can recognize and celebrate diversity, spurs innovation, creates and releases leaders into our community, helps others experience the richness of our city, and helps create and nurture an environment that is stronger, more dynamic and more prosperous, I see what I desire to do with my professional life and the partner I want to do it with.”
He hopes his efforts create more inroads with the local entrepreneurial community while broadening the base of those who count themselves as business owners.
“I would like local business leaders to know they have a partner and resource in AMPLIFY Clearwater,” Lugo says. “They are not alone, and we want them to be successful.”
Making a vision for tomorrow the reality today
Lugo has a vision for how he wants to use his platform at AMPLIFY Clearwater to enhance the local business environment and help small businesses.
“I would like to be the go-to place for businesses, the community, and the city,” he says. “I look forward to developing programs to help businesses grow.”
He believes the tourism incubator is one of the key resources for catalyzing those objectives.
“I really can see it expanding and paving the way for many other things, such as other incubators, accelerator programs, startup studios, mastermind sessions, community and workforce development, and [other initiatives] like that,” he says.
Lugo also wants more businesses to become aware of the multitudes of resources AMPLIFY Clearwater offers. He says money” is often the first thing entrepreneurs think of when looking for business resources. But he implores budding business owners to realize they need more than just money to build a successful company. Lugo lists “training” as chief among the other main ingredients. In addition to training opportunities, Lugo wants to provide networking for entrepreneurs, which can help them find various resource options – including funding and professional partnerships.
“I would like AMPLIFY Clearwater to be known as that connector,” he says.
“I believe the best way to build anything is on something solid,” he adds. “For me, that is building solid relationships, trust, and value. In addition, it also means strategic partnerships that create win-win-win situations.”
For more information, go to AMPLIFY Clearwater