This week’s Orlando Profiles in Tech features Kelly Trace, the founder of Headquarters Coworking and co-chair of the Orlando Tech Council’s Marketing Committee, who shares how her hometown community pulled her back to the region after college and why she reminds people, “before we had characters, we had cowboys.”
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This week’s Orlando Profiles in Tech features Kelly Trace, the founder of Headquarters Coworking. Learn more about how her hometown community pulled her back to the region after college and why she reminds people, “before we had characters, we had cowboys.”
Have you experienced an “only in Orlando” moment? If so, what was it?
The first thing that comes to mind is that my parents worked at theme parks growing up, and each has 30 years of service. If I wanted to go to Disney, Universal or Sea World as a child, Orlando was my oyster. That is FOR SURE something that would only happen in Orlando. However – zooming out a bit… I really love that the region offers a lifestyle for every kind of person. You want to live in a high rise where you can play your morning pump up jams in your AirPods, ride a scooter to work at the nation’s fastest growing fintech company and pick your kids up by 5 p.m. to avoid after care fees? You got it. You want to live in the middle of nowhere in a million-dollar mansion, be a citrus farmer and contribute to the world’s booming agri-tech industry next to one of the largest calf-cow operations in the United States? We’ve got you covered, too. There are very few places that are separated by only a few miles where you can really have it all. I love that about Orlando.
What brought you to the Orlando region? What’s kept you here?
Whenever someone asks this in a group setting, my friends always laugh. I literally will never leave. And I love that.
I am fourth generation Osceola County-ian, the best county in the Orlando region if I can say that without losing friends. After college I knew I wanted to return to Kissimmee and give back to my hometown. Fast forward to today, I own Headquarters Coworking – my hometown’s first coworking space for tech and startups, in a 109-year-old building – one that my great grandfather likely laid the bricks on in 1912. How can you leave that? The history of the town and the region pulls me in every time. I love to just walk the old streets of Downtown Kissimmee and think “Wow, I wonder if my great grandfather who was here 100 years ago, building this town, was thinking about me… I wonder if he would be proud of what we’ve become… I wonder if he was doing all of this for the generations after him…” and now it’s our turn to do the same for those coming 100 years after us. That’s why I’m here. Because someone did it for me.
What makes Orlando the right place for your business? How does being in Orlando contribute to your business success or personal growth?
Honestly, doing business in this region is one of the easiest things I’ve ever done. I have opened two companies here, joined an incubator, hired 15+ employees and renovated a super historic building all in an arm’s length of City Hall. In my experience, our government partners welcome your crazy ideas and help you get through the red tape instead of putting more up.
I also think the people of the region really take care of each other. We’re not constantly in crazy in competition with each other, instead we’re cheering each other on in the same circle. I’ve watched various hospital brands work together to save lives, tourism companies be one big team for the greater good, and schools and universities seamlessly grow our region for the good of the community. We all see one vision to really make Orlando the place champions come to build businesses and raise families.
What makes the Orlando tech ecosystem unique?
I feel like the tech CEOs here have real stories to tell. They are real humans, not just headlines or names in the press. They started their companies in an area that isn’t known for tech like some other communities, and they’ve stayed. Think about how powerful that is. It’s the best testimonial. They are the kind that won’t ever forget what Orlando gave to them (and continues to give them), and it’s why they are still here.
What’s one thing you wish Orlando had? What will it take to make that a reality?
I literally would debate anyone, anytime, that Orlando is the best place to be for so many reasons. If I ever felt like I was losing, I’d just close it out with “Ok, well do you have Cinderella’s Castle though?” Mic. Drop.
If you had to describe to an out-of-town friend what it’s like to live, work, learn and play in Orlando, what would you say?
For me, living in the southern, more rural part of the region, I like to remind people “before we had characters, we had cowboys.” We’re a region that never forgets where we’ve come from, but we’re actively and whole-heartedly building the best place in the U.S. to raise all of our families. Don’t miss out on that.
The Orlando Tech Council is composed of private industry, resource organizations and public partners that work to develop new programs with the core objectives: strengthen the Orlando region’s innovation resources, create new opportunities for companies to scale, and to amplify the region’s success stories, raising the global profile of Orlando as a leading community for entrepreneurship and innovation.