Published: Apr 12, 2011 6:50 AM EDT
Updated: Apr 12, 2011 12:08 AM EDT

IMMOKALEE, Fla. - School is in session in at the Immokalee Business Development Center. And each graduating class promises to bring new local businesses to the city.

Eugene Jones dreams of creating a yeast-free organic food store. "I would like to do online marketing and move into a commercial kitchen," Jones explained.

Joseph Francois hopes to open grocery store by next year. "A lot of people are leaving to go to Miami to shop because they need things either we don't have or they are too expensive out here," Francois said. "So we plan to bring the product they are looking for at a better price."

Jones and Francois are learning how to make it happen at IMMBIZ, Immokalee Business Development Center's entrepreneurial school. The program launched last month. Over 6 weeks, students are taught marketing skills, how to formulate business plans, and ways to avoid major mistakes, all free of charge.

"This whole thing is about helping people to determine whether or not starting and operating a business of their own makes sense," IMMBIZ Instructor and Executive Director of Southwest Florida Enterprise Center Tom Scott said.

Once the 6 weeks are up, graduates will jump headfirst into the Immokalee business community, while a dozen more future entrepreneurs head into the classroom. And there's already a waiting list.

"There's a great need for businesses in Immokalee because Immokalee is a fresh town, so there's a lot of potential for peoplel to start new businesses," IMMBIZ Director Marie Capita said.

Graduates committed to setting up shop in Immokalee will get plenty of support from IMMBIZ, from reasonably priced rental space to technical assistance.

"I'ts a great jumpstart," Jones said.

To learn more about IMMBIZ or register for upcoming sessions go to or call 239-252-2313.