You’ve likely seen Joe Hobbs’ glassblowing work in downtown Pensacola establishments like Perfect Plain Brewing Co. and Global Grill, the result of decades of perfecting his art.

While the self-taught entrepreneurialism has brought much success, Hobbs admits the business management side is where he could use some help.

“Going to art school, the biggest downfall is they don’t teach you any business whatsoever. … You learn to make the work, but then you go into the real world,” he said.

Hobbs’ is one of seven Pensacola businesses that will be paired with established mentors in fields like law, banking, insurance or marketing under the latest round of The Spring’s VMS mentoring program.

Artist Joe Hobbs explains how he creates his glass Love Birds at the First City Arts Center in Pensacola on Friday.  Hobbs will be paired with a business mentor in the upcoming class of the Studer Community Institute's The Spring Entrepreneur Hub program.

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The Spring has been operating the program – based off a successful model at MIT – since 2020, and it has since grown to 28 participating businesses and 90 jobs created.

There are some business owners who have been in operation for years and are wanting to expand their skillset. Hobbs, for example, hopes the program can help him expand his company and source more commission work.

Others, like MI SU Street Food or Tastebuds Ice Cream, have specific goals to expand their locations and offer elements like a brick-and-mortar store eventually.

In addition to the food-based businesses, this year’s mentee class also has an insurance business, a garbage management company, a dog event planning service and a running program aiming to help men in addiction recovery.

Artist Joe Hobbs, left, and his assistant Cody Atkinson create a glass bud vase at the First City Arts Center in Pensacola on Friday.  Hobbs will be paired with a business mentor in the upcoming class of the Studer Community Institute's The Spring Entrepreneur Hub program.

Studer Community Institute President Rachael Gillette, who oversees The Spring as part of SCI, said now in its third year, the VMS program saw about 60 applicants who the staff had to whittle down to only seven businesses.

“Some of them are very early stage and some are further along, but they all got into it because they love it – they’re an artist or a chef or whatever it may be,” she said. “They have technical skills but not the business skills so with the depth and breadth we have in the mentor pool, from bankers to lawyers, entrepreneurs to marketing and HR, we have all these mentors to ask them questions and advise them.”

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