Orange County / Orlando, FL

Ensuring equity for every entrepreneur is core to our work at Forward Cities. 
Which is why we partner with organizations like Black Orlando Tech who are on the ground and making a difference in the lives and communities in Orange County/Orlando.


Once the hub of Florida's citrus industry, Orange County and the City of Orlando evolved into attractive vacation destinations shifting their economies to tourism-centric sectors in the 20th century. In recent years, leaders have diversified Orange County/Orlando's economy to include high-tech, high-wage careers for residents in advanced industries. Still, the distribution of resources has not always been even.

Our partners at Black Orlando Tech (BOT) and others in the community work to ensure equitable access to resources, capital, and other supports needed by entrepreneurs of color. To date, Black Orlando Tech has assisted over 2,000 underrepresented entrepreneurs, startups, tech, and non-tech professionals to train and pursue pathways in Central Florida’s growing tech industry. BOT is on a mission to connect over 10,000 professionals and entrepreneurs to enter tech by 2025. 

With local consultants Rose Lejiste and Tiffany Spencer, assessed the current health of Orange County/Orlando's entrepreneurial ecosystem and amplified strategies for a more equitable entrepreneurial ecosystem that generates prosperity for the community at large. This work confronts the mechanisms and barriers that keep historical inequities alive.

The E3 Orange County/Orlando initiative was a partnership with the City of Orlando, Orange County Government, Black Orlando Tech, and Forward Cities in efforts to ensure that every person in Orlando is equally valued, equally protected and has equitable access to opportunities. We embarked on a 12-month exercise to align local stakeholders within the City of Orlando and Orange County to identify specific priorities the community could pursue to grow and sustain a more equitable entrepreneurial ecosystem. The result of this process was a detailed strategic plan to advance these strategies to further address racial injustices and economic inequities that exist for minority entrepreneurs. The E3 Orange County/Orlando initiative was a collaborative approach to building and sustaining a more equitable local entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Orange County/Orlando: By the Numbers

The Forward Cities Research and Evaluation Team strives to understand the existing entrepreneurial environment as well as the current opportunities and barriers that exist for underrepresented entrepreneurs in our communities. The interactive Data Pages on the E3 Dashboard include information that has been compiled from the U.S. Census Bureau and surveys, produced by Forward Cities, that have been deployed in Orange County/Orlando.

Photo of Rose LeJisteRose LeJiste

Executive Director for Black Orlando Tech &
Forward Cities Community Lead

Rose LeJiste was born and raised in South Florida and is the proud oldest daughter of Haitian immigrants. She received her BS in Industrial Engineering from UCF in 2005 and then worked at Kennedy Space Center for 15 years. She is an engineer/solutions developer turned tech entrepreneur and is an epic expert in data analytics, business intelligence and optimization, process improvement and streamlining, reliability/safety engineering, performance, and project management in both government and commercial environments. She is certified in business intelligence and data analytics and founded her own tech consulting company, RL Engineering, and Tech Solutions, in 2019. She currently serves as the Executive Director for Black Orlando Tech, a nonprofit committed to accelerating minority economic advancement through careers and entrepreneurship in tech. Rose coordinates the organization’s Tech Startup Series, an entrepreneurial development program focused on ensuring that black startup founders have a solid business foundation.

Rose uses her experience to speak at various tech conferences, mentor black, and brown youth, and provide guidance to young people of color who are just starting their professional careers.  She is a mentor and advisor with several nonprofit organizations and loves to volunteer within her community sharing her lessons learned from her life experiences and her STEM expertise. Rose is also a mother to a beautiful and amazing 18-year-old daughter who is on her way to pursue her BFA in acting.

Photo of Tiffany SpencerTiffany Spencer

Board Chair, Program Director
for Black Orlando Tech &
Forward Cities Community Lead

Tiffany Spencer, a native of Cincinnati Ohio, is a 7x certified Professional, and Salesforce MVP with over 12 years of experience leading digital transformations for small to large corporations utilizing the platform. She is currently the Board Chair and Program Director for Black Orlando Tech, a non-profit organization committed to accelerating minority economic advancement through workforce, small business, and socioeconomic development by increasing the awareness, activities, network, and resources for local minorities who pursue careers or entrepreneurship in technology. Tiffany is very active in the community and uses her expertise to mentor high school and college students.

To learn more about our work in Orange County/ Orlando, FL, contact our Director of Community Innovation, Hassan Bazzi.