Sight Unseen Saw it Coming When no One Else Did
Like many entrepreneurs, Robert Talley had a business vision and a goal. Unlike most entrepreneurs, Talley’s vision didn’t include sight. Being blind from early childhood allowed him to develop an unwavering commitment to be independent and give back to the community. When he decided to start a first of its kind recreational rental company off the shore of Lake Verona, in Avon Park, he knew the idea was far more than a blind man’s muse. The culmination of his long and challenging journey resulted in a $6,000 grant and strong partnerships with state and local government agencies.
Talley made his first visit to see the Florida Small Business Development Center’s consultant David Noel at the South Florida State College in July 2010 to discuss various business ideas. After hammering out a solid business avenue, Noel began coaching Talley on feasibility studies and business plans.
“Collaborating with numerous agencies to help Robert’s vision come to life has been a neat experience,” said Noel. “We joined forces with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Florida Department of Education and the Senior Activities Center to secure funding and permitting from the city and Community Redevelopment Agency.”
Soon Noel and Talley started completing market research as required for state funding. Talley conducted surveys around the lake and on Main Street while Noel gathered secondary research of national trends for recreational equipment rentals. The next long months involved numerous meetings with the city, Community Redevelopment Agency and advisory board.
“I am grateful for Mr. Noel’s guidance in navigating the different agencies needed to make my business possible,” Talley said. He has been very important to my business and a good friend.”
Talley knew quitting wasn’t an option despite being confronted with suggestions that he was taking on more than he could handle. His perseverance led him to join the Highlands County Economic Development Commission’s Business Accelerator Program and obtain approval from the City of Avon Park to rent from the Senior Activity Center. He also received funds from the Vocational Rehabilitation to purchase equipment and aid with training from the Division of Blind Services.
Sight Unseen held its grand opening in September 2012 and continues receiving referrals from the Avon Park Chamber of Commerce for birthday parties and other gatherings.