AMPLIFY Clearwater tourism incubator welcomes new crop of entrepreneurs

During an early April reception at AMPLIFY Clearwater’s offices, Lori Lenhart, owner of Allori Blow Dry Bar in Belleair Bluffs, delivers a straightforward pep talk to the entrepreneurs that make up the business organization’s second tourism incubator cohort.

The next 10 weeks of hard work and homework will be rough but it’s worth it to help build your business and sustain it long-term. Lenhart speaks from experience. She won the $10,000 second-place prize at the inaugural cohort’s pitch night in December 2023. 

The second cohort's diverse mix of businesses shows tourism’s wide-ranging impact on the local economy. 

There are beach businesses like a pair of companies offering watersports rentals and boat tour charters - ClearWake Watersports on Clearwater Beach and Wakesurf Tampa, which has Clearwater Beach, Tampa and Lake Tarpon locations. 

I Love Clearwater is a website and blog that markets and promotes local businesses and destinations.

Way2GoRides is a transportation service offering rides to the airport, Clearwater Beach, a night out or the daily commute. It’s also has branched out into marketing through wrap ads on its fleet of vehicles and on-board videos. AMPLIFY Clearwater President and CEO Amanda Payne describes Way2Go owner Jasper Klein as a “serial entrepreneur.”

“He’s an impressive, homegrown entrepreneur that we hope will continue to be successful,” she says.

The tourism incubator also has its first business from the North Greenwood community, a planned wine bar called Wine Down Blue.

“Coming soon to North Greenwood, Wine Down Blue is a unique and modern take on traditional wine bars,” the owners say in a written description for AMPLIFY Clearwater. "While there are other wine bars in the area, none offer the combination of wine slushies, live music events, and a diverse selection of wines and charcuterie boards that we do. By providing high-quality and diverse options, we aim to stand out from our competitors and attract a loyal customer base.”

Baez Family Enterprise has multiple businesses along Clearwater’s Cleveland Street corridor, including Senor Bubbles, a laundry service for commercial and individual customers, and Senor Subs and Gyros.

Ryan Jesi, who owns Jet’s Pizza franchise locations in Clearwater, Largo and Dunedin, is part of the cohort, with a focus on the restaurant’s Gulf to Bay Boulevard location.
Downtown Tampa-based BayWest Digital is a digital marketing and solutions firm that’s launched SalonX, a service custom-designed for luxury salons. St. Petersburg’s Street Level One creates street-level digital marketing hubs, including interactive touchscreen ads for storefront windows. Largo’s Style City Music provides audio and video services and solutions for corporate events.

“There’s a lot of excitement around the second cohort,” Payne says. “ I was very pleased because we have a diverse group of businesses- diverse in location, diverse in type of business and diverse in their backgrounds as well,” Payne says. “I was really excited to see the areas of town we pulled from. We have the North Greenwood community represented in this cohort and the Tampa Bay area at large. It’s what we hoped to build and it’s exciting to see it coming to fruition.”

AMPLIFY Clearwater Chief of Staff Joe Lugo, who joined the organization during last year’s cohort and has decades of professional experience in small business consulting, runs the tourism incubator program.

“I think we’ve got the right person in the right seat to do the best job,” Payne says. “It will be exciting to see where it goes.”

Moving forward, Payne says AMPLIFY Clearwater wants the incubator program to attract some businesses from other areas of Florida and the country with the economic development goal of some moving or expanding to Clearwater.

For more information, go to AMPLIFY Clearwater Tourism Business Innovation  Incubator.

This story is produced through an underwriting agreement between AMPLIFY Clearwater and 83 Degrees Media to spotlight entrepreneurship, small business success stories and programs that help businesses thrive.
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Read more articles by Christopher Curry.

Chris Curry has been a writer for the 83 Degrees Media team since 2017. Chris also served as the development editor for a time before assuming the role of managing editor in May 2022. Chris lives in Clearwater. His professional career includes more than 15 years as a newspaper reporter, primarily in Ocala and Gainesville, before moving back home to the Tampa Bay Area. He enjoys the local music scene, the warm winters and Tampa Bay's abundance of outdoor festivals and events. When he's not working or spending time with family, he can frequently be found hoofing the trails at one of Pinellas County's nature parks.