Naturing Growth: Inside Osceola mall's Latin biz incubator

- 19/6/2014

Matthew Richardson,

Reporter - Orlando Business Journal  


Osceola Square Mall’s revamped space has a new culturally focused look that now caters to Latin entrepreneurs.

The 402,000-square-foot renamed Plaza Del Sol serves as a Latin business incubator that gives small business owners the space they need to sell their services and goods. The ribbon cutting for the plaza was Wednesday, but the mall will officially be open to the public June 21.

The transformation into a Latin village was a smart move for Toronto-based real estate investment firm Bayshore CapitalInc. because Plaza Del Sol is right in the middle of a growing Hispanic population in Kissimmee.

Bayshore bought Osceola Square Mall last summer for $16.5 million and then later spent $10 million to revamp and build out the space.

Diana Bolivar, president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando, agrees that turning Osceola Square Mall into Plaza Del Sol makes a lot of sense.

"For this kind downturn in economy that we are still getting out of, this is an economic opportunity for a small business or any entrepreneur," Bolivar said. "It makes a lot of business sense."

The first phase of the plaza has nearly 75 rooms occupied with small business owners who either are using one space or take up whatever number of sections they need to store their product. A second phase is in the works that is expected to start as early as fall.

Suzanna Fernandaz, the mall’s director, said the response from local small businesses has been overwhelming, and 40 businesses fill the plaza in addition to a waiting list for when the second phase opens.

“Overall, it’s really exciting. It’s exciting to see these dreamers have their own business and see their visions come to life,” Fernandaz said. "It’s almost like an incubator effect where we provide small spaces with low overhead for those entrepreneurs that want to start their own thing."

Ben Gaxiola, founder and CEO of Builder Exchange — the company that designed the plaza — said the idea for the look of the plaza was to resemble a community marketplace similar to Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Colombia.

“What I tried to do was mix and match those cultures into one design. It was all fun to see it come together under one roof,” Gaxiola said.

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