Akiko Veil-Biz Lounge

Akiko Veil – BizLounge: A Florida SBDC at UWF Success Story

There is an old proverb that says “necessity is the mother of invention” and Akiko Veil is a working mother who had a need that she knew other nearby mothers had too, so she created BizLounge, a co-working facility with child care.  She describes it as a working space with on-site child care, but also a community for free lancers or working parents to be able to network and grow each other’s business.  “I used to be a freelancer with two little ones in the house,” she explains, “and it was a struggle to balance the family and work.  I’m a military spouse, so I get to speak with other military spouses who are in the same situation I was in, and having the same issues.  So I was thinking if I create a place like this, then other working parents can utilize this facility.”

Veil got the idea for the business almost three years ago, and opened the doors to the new facility just under a year ago, but says it really started at home.  “Three years ago, I started a group called Navarre Kids,” she recalls.  “Basically I had my patio enclosed, and made it a classroom, and invited a couple of skilled moms who were certified teachers, but had little ones so they couldn’t work regular hours, to come to my classroom to teach the Japanese class to kids.”  She says it’s grown from just a few students to over 50, and now they’re big enough to take field trips, and BBQ and even have athletic day.  “So I thought maybe it was time to take it to the next level,” she continues.  That meant moving the business out of the house, so she started looking for the perfect place to open BizLounge and looked at properties in Pensacola, Navarre and Ft. Walton Beach.  “It was hard,” she says.  “Last August or September I found this space available.”  When she was ready to sign a lease she contacted Adam McCloskey at the Small Business Development Center at UWF.  “Adam has been very helpful, especially in the areas that I’m not exactly good at,” Veil says.  “He advised me on everything from how to advertise my business and my employee handbook, to things like getting certified, and my tax receipts.”

While her original thinking was that working parents would utilize this facility, Veil says she’s also been surprised that students who are moms are taking advantage of it.  “That was a nice surprise that makes me very happy,” she adds.  BizLounge also recently hosted their first Women’s Expo, where 20 vendors set up booths to sell their products.  She says, “The women’s expo is something that I was not exactly planning on doing, and somehow Sheena Ruiz and I talked about how to attract working moms to Biz Lounge and somehow we came up with this women’s expo idea and it turned out pretty well.  I got to meet with a lot of wonderful ladies who want to make their business successful.  It’s very inspiring, and a nice surprise.”

And good news travels fast, as Pensacola’s ABC affiliate WEAR-TV recently did a nice story on BizLounge and their early success.  Veil commented in the interview, “Helping entrepreneurs or small businesses become even more successful is something that I would like to do, so whether it’s the Women’s Expo, or opening this workspace, I hope that I can help them.”  As for the future, she says continuing to build the stability in Ft. Walton Beach, but possibly open another location in the Pensacola area.  “I’ve got quite a few inquiries about a place like this in Pensacola,” she concludes.