FORUM Entrepreneurship Recap

On December 17, 2020, to kick off FORUM’s first Entrepreneurship FORUM, a program that brings together leading entrepreneurs from Miami’s community FORUM Program Director Ibis Valdes moderated a discussion with Mayor Francis Suarez, former Congressman Patrick Erin Murphy, and local entrepreneur and former NFL Linebacker Jonathan Vilma. The panel discussed their entrepreneurship journeys, their desire to support other entrepreneurs, and why Miami is ripe for future business growth.

Mayor of Miami Francis Suarez 

Mayor Francis Suarez spoke of the fact that his family instilled in him the importance of service and helping others when he was young. His father was the first Cuban-born Mayor of Miami and Mayor Suarez is the first Miami-born Mayor of the City. Mayor Suarez sees himself as a collaborator and the chief facilitator in helping businesses thrive in Miami. One of the pillars of his work ethic is treating everyone with respect and dignity because he mentioned that you never know if one day your employee will be your employer. For the future of Miami, he talked about the City being able to take advantage of the migration of high-tech companies looking to relocate from other states. He stressed that these companies must have a desire to get involved with the community. According to Mayor Suarez, “cities are competing, and my job is to make Miami the most competitive city and hope to be a model for other cities in the nation.”

Serial Entrepreneur & Former NFL Linebacker Jonathan Vilma 

Jonathan Vilma shared part of his vision and strategy as an investor in the Miami market. At a young age, he saw that access to capital was not the same for everyone. Vilma has a desire not only to make money but to do good for others. He understands what having resources means for entrepreneurs with varying access to resources. He strongly expressed wishing to see more funding and personalized support for budding entrepreneurs in the school system. Vilma said, “We’ve been very very intentional in looking at how are the younger generations now starting to work, live? How are they able to frankly afford Miami? And it goes back to having access and being able to be around some of the resources. That’s what I’m interested in.” Vilma also spoke of his investment in Pincho Factory and his vision of supporting local and diversifying investments in industries to create balance in the local economy. 

Former Congressional Rep. & Entrepreneur Patrick Erin Murphy

For Patrick Murphy, Florida is a magnet for business. Miami-Dade is part of a tri-county area poised for at least a decade of significant growth and actively trying to lure top companies and entrepreneurs to the area. Murphy spoke of what he sees for the future in terms of the technology industry intersecting with the construction industry. Concerning technology at Coastal Construction, Murphy said, “We’ve been working with some great tech folks, leading engineers, and to help us build an AI platform that reduces one segment of the workload down from weeks to mere seconds. This is a platform that has implications not only for general contractors but sub-contractors globally.” For him, he’s interested in the expanding tech scene in Miami and how that can intermingle with the city’s infrastructure to build a solid foundation for the future. 

In addition to sharing stories about their professional journeys, the panel offered advice to young entrepreneurs based on lessons they learned along the way. During the final minutes of the program, the panel answered questions from the audience. Many were asking about how CARES Act funds were being distributed to help businesses and how the tech industry is set to transform Miami. 

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Entrepreneurship FORUM

A filmed and live-streamed panel discussion sharing the stories of local entrepreneurs moderated by FORUM Program Director Ibis Valdes. 

Stay tuned for our next entrepreneurship panel and our FORUM 40 Webinar series, highlighting South Florida’s top businesses and entrepreneurs. Learn about their personal journeys to entrepreneurship, how they continue to support other entrepreneurs, and why our community is an excellent choice for fostering business.