NICEVILLE – The Doolittle Institute is pleased to announce the first recipient of the Small Business & Entrepreneurial Awards.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Gulf Power Entrepreneurial Initiative, the Doolittle Institute presented Mr. Thomas Lupero, owner of TJ’s Chillin’ Treats, with a $5,000 check on Tuesday. Established in 2020, TJ’s Chillin’ Treats is a homemade ice cream shop operating out of Mary Esther, Florida.

Mr. Lupero’s primary use of these funds will be to invest them back into the business: he will add additional freezer equipment and install permanent cabinets in the scooping and serving areas. Mr. Lupero will use the remaining funds to purchase more specialty ingredients so the business can provide ice cream options for customers on sugar-restricted diets and those who need dairy-free options.

“After we get the cabinets and equipment, which I estimate about $3,000, our workflow will improve, I think the next step with the remaining funds will be expanding our menu options,” TJ said. “The grant will also help us focus on our future plans of opening another location in Navarre. Many of our regulars drive from there weekly to enjoy our ice cream.”

The Doolittle Institute offers these grants in support of Northwest Florida’s entrepreneurial efforts. Small businesses employing less than 200 full-time workers qualify if they were established less than 5 years ago, are in one of thirteen Northwest Florida counties, and present at One Million Cups Okaloosa. TJ’s Chilling Treats qualified for their grant as they are registered in the Manufacturing industry, which we verified using their NAICS code and SunBiz registration. The other industries which qualify for this grant are Aerospace & Defense, Financial Services, Water Transportation, and Cybersecurity.

“Gulf Power is committed to working with the Northwest Florida communities we serve to make them even better places to live, work and raise a family. This donation is an example of that,” said Sandy Sims, director of external relations at Gulf Power. “Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and we are thrilled for the entrepreneurship grant recipient, TJ’s Chillin’ Treats, and wish them continued success.”

To apply for a grant, please find our application on Submittable.

The Doolittle Institute, an AFRL Innovation Institute, supports the Air Force Research Labs Munitions Directorate by working to license and commercialize AFRL/RW technologies in the private sector, enable rapid technology delivery to the warfighter, identify and foster new R&D partnerships and develop AFRL’s current and future workforce. The Doolittle Institute is a member of the Defensewerx Family.

For more information about these grants, please contact us at