When not working full-time as a teacher, Teresa Baxter sells her specialty jams and candied jalapenos. She has been teaching for the past 14 years and recently started her side gig with We Jammin.

“I took a class at Catapult, and it changed my life,” she said. “It changed the course of my side business where this could become a bigger thing.”

Thanks to the skills and information she received from her class and membership, she expanded her business by selling her merchandise at local stores and boutiques. Now she can comfortably make a living through her full-time job as a teacher and her side gig.

“Catapult is amazing,” she said. “The people here is amazing. The networking alone is amazing. The business leaders that you meet here in the community are just fantastic, so I recommend catapult to anyone.”

We Jammin was one of many local start-ups that were given a boost through the services provided by Catapult Lakeland. On Monday, the non-profit showcased its 40,000 square-foot entrepreneurial center to the public through an open house.

The open house allowed attendees to tour all three floors of the facility, browse its many workshops and resources, and see much merchandise created by participating businesses and start-ups. They could even sample food cooked in the test kitchen, from rice balls to empanadas and vegan plant-based dishes.

Catapult Lakeland started as a vision by local entrepreneurs, who assembled in an empty basement seven years ago. After touring the country and learning from many other businesses and cooperatives, they decided to start their non-profit cooperative to assist entrepreneurs in their community.

“In 2013, leaders in Lakeland had a vision of what our community could become if they came together to support entrepreneurs,” their website stated. “From traveling to learn from other cities to donating resources, they chased after this dream until it became a reality. They have taught us about uncommon innovation, vision casting, and creating community. For this, we will always be grateful!”

Their facility, located along the scenic shores of Lake Mirror in Downtown Lakeland, offers classes, resources, and rental spaces to allow their members the opportunity to expand their businesses and start-ups. As such, they have helped “catapult” more than 200 aspiring entrepreneurs and 27 businesses into the community and beyond.

“We like to think of creative ways to help people represent their business without it being to overt, something that is still fashionable,” said business owner, Taylor Ard.

Ard started East of These after her friend bought a lot of fabric for sewing. After realizing she couldn’t sew, her friend sought a way to utilize all of the material she purchased. Ard decided to use it to start her own business.

Ard utilizes many of the resources provided at the Catapult Lakeland facility. She has her own office space upstairs and uses the downstairs workshop to develop and design her products.

“Catapult has so many great resources,” she said. “They provide a lot of new entrepreneur opportunities and resources that everyone here is in the same boat trying to grow their own business. It is a great community to be a part of…I would rate it very high. It has been very wonderful. It is very supportive, very honest, and just very creative environment where everyone else is on your team.”

For the past seven years, Catapult Lakeland has been allowing such local entrepreneurs to “catapult” themselves into the community, and they expect to keep those numbers growing, explained Laura, a Catapult representative.

“Our expectations is to grow and attract more companies. We have kitchens,” she said. “We want to attract so many different people with different visions to launch out into our community here and add something new to Lakeland.”

Catapult Lakeland is located at 502 E. Main St., Lakeland, FL 33801. For more information, call 863-940-9660, or visit their website at: https://catapultlakeland.com/