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Pitch competition offers prize money, mentorship to local winners

Startup companies affiliated with several business incubators in the Tampa Bay area will have the opportunity to win $1,000 in prize money at an upcoming business pitch competition.

Building Entrepreneurship Around Tampa (B.E.A.T.) Pitch Competition, sponsored by South-Florida based investors New World Angels, is a collaborative pitch event open to companies currently working with Tampa's USF CONNECT or Tampa Bay WaVE, Pasco County's SMARTstart and St. Pete's TEC Garage.

The B.E.A.T. Pitch Competition will provide local entrepreneurs from six finalist companies with the opportunity to pitch their ventures to angel investors on November 17, 2015. The winner of the pitch competition will receive $1,000 in prize money. Perhaps equally as valuable, winners also earn 20 hours of coaching. 

First, second and third place winners will also receive the opportunity to pitch in front of 15 investors at a New World Angels monthly meeting.

The pitch competition comes at a time when local innovation efforts are expanding through the leadership of groups like the Tampa Innovation Alliance and Hillsborough County. USF CONNECT Program Coordinator Amy Yonai expects the B.E.A.T. Pitch Competition to attract “an expanded network of individuals, due to the growth of the economic ecosystem in Tampa.”
The B.E.A.T. Pitch Competition is tapping into that growth by hosting a “TEC Talk” during the event -- attendees can sip coffee and start a conversation with Tampa Innovation Alliance Director Mark Sharpe and Stephanie Ashley, Director of Incubation Programs and Economic Development at USF Research.

Along with the TEC Talk, the B.E.A.T. Pitch Competition will feature a keynote speaker and “Entrepreneurship Breakout Sessions” that cover a gamut of topics from potential legal concerns to adversity and leadership or startup funding.

“B.E.A.T. is an event that supports the entrepreneurial ecosystem though a showcase of innovative start-ups, educational programming and opportunities to pitch for capital,” says Yonai, who received a BA from the University of California, Irvine.

Local start-ups, business leaders, entrepreneurial support organizations, [and] anyone interested in becoming involved in the economic ecosystem in Tampa" should consider attending the event, says Yonai, who has worked as a program coordinator at Duke University and a fellowship coordinator at UNC Chapel Hill.

Yonai stepped into the role of program coordinator at USF Connect and the Tampa Bay Technology Incubator (TBTI) in May 2015.
USF CONNECT works to provide support for technology start-ups and connects new companies from counties across Florida to business opportunities with the school. USF CONNECT and the USF Research Foundation are located at the University of South Florida, 3802 Spectrum Blvd., Suite 100, in Tampa. To learn more about the B.E.A.T event, click here.

Veterans, active military invited to compete for funding in HCC business pitch competition

Veterans and active duty military seeking to open a business or embark on a new career path, mark your calendars.

Hillsborough Community College will host the 3rd Annual Veterans Entrepreneurship Training Symposium (VETS) on Saturday, November 14, 2015 at the school’s Plant City campus.

“This high impact day is designed to provide veterans with an opportunity to learn all about self employment and entrepreneurship,” explains event co-Organizer Beth Kerly, HCC Instructor of Entrepreneurship, Management and Marketing.

Veterans and active duty military members with an early stage business, or an idea for one, can apply to compete in a business pitch competition for up to $6,000 in prize money furnished by the HCC Foundation.

The symposium will feature workshops covering an array of topics related to starting up and running a small business. Keynote speakers for the event include Tampa Innovation Alliance President and former Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe, along with HCC alum Valerie Ellis, Founder of veteran-focused staffing service Veterans2Corporate, and Clint Day, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at State College of Florida.

Kerly hopes to see attendees take “a basic idea of what it takes to be self employed” from the symposium. 

“Empowered to take the ‘leap,’ into entrepreneurship” she says, or perhaps to create “a list of community contacts that can help them on their journey. And, maybe a pitch prize to get their idea validated, a prototype.”

Those with active-duty experience are 45 percent more likely than those without to be self-employed, Kerly says, noting, “We have a huge military population in the area."

"In 2007 -- the latest data available from the U.S. Census Bureau -- veterans owned 2.4 million businesses, or 9 percent of all businesses nationwide, generating $1.2 trillion in receipts and employing nearly 5.8 million people.” Kerly says. “Veterans jump into entrepreneurship much more readily than civilians.”

The 3rd Annual Veterans Entrepreneurship Training Symposium (VETS) will take place from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday, November 14. To register, click here. Those interested in applying for the business pitch aspect of the symposium can click here to learn more.

Veterans, active duty military,and spouses are invited to attend the free event; guests are welcome.

“This event provides an excellent opportunity for you to network with business professionals from the Tampa Bay area, learn about the various dimensions of entrepreneurship,” says Kerly.

Career fair for active, retired military Oct. 29 near Orlando

Veterans and active military service members -- and their spouses -- are invited to attend a free job fair on Thursday, October 29: the Military and Veterans Career Fair and Seminars in Lake Buena Vista.

The military career fair, hosted by the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), will take place from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., with seminars beginning at 8:30 a.m. The fair is open to all active duty, retired, former and National Guard or Reserve service members, of all ranks, along with their spouses and government employees.
Career seminars before and during the military career fair will focus on topics that help active or retired veterans transition into post-military careers, including:
  • Network Your Way to Employment: 8:30 a.m.
  • Getting the Most from Your MOAA Membership: 9:30 a.m.
  • Evaluating Employee Benefits: 11 a.m.
  • LinkedIn Best Practices: 2 p.m.
"75 percent of employer hires are facilitated through networking," MOAA wrote on the group Facebook page October 24. "Find out why at #‎MOAA’s Networking Your Way to Employment seminar."

Along with attending seminars, job seekers can make connections with company representatives from both regional and national businesses, such as Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Best Buy, Edward Jones, Harvard Kennedy School Executive Education, and other organizations, during the fair.

The MOAA Military and Veterans Career Fair will be at Buena Vista Palace & Spa, 1900 Buena Vista Drive, near Orlando. The fair is free to attend, but registration is required. To register, click here. For more information, call MOAA toll-free at (800) 234-MOAA ext. 6622, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.

MOAA, whose members number more that 380,000 and include the full spectrum of military services, has led military-to-civilian career transition for decades. MOAA will host an annual meeting of military officers at the 2015 Annual Meeting in conjunction with the military career fair in Lake Buena Vista. MOAA also runs the nonprofit Voices for America’s Troops.

MOAA will also host a virtual military career fair on Nov. 18, 2015, from noon to 4 p.m. Register for that online event here.

Kickstarter campaign launches for Florida conservation

Less than 10 days before the controversial hunt for Florida’s barely-off-the-endangered-species-list-black bear begins, the Florida Wildlife Corridor will launch its Kickstarter campaign Thursday, Oct. 15th, to promote its new film and forthcoming book, The Forgotten Coast: The Return to Wild Florida, based on months of expeditions inspired by the Florida black bear’s journeys through the interior of the state.  

“[The Florida Wildlife Corridor] is hiding in plain sight -- we are all situated on the coast looking outward, and maybe forget about Florida heartlands,” says Florida Wildlife Corridor Executive Director Mallory Dimmitt who is spearheading the project and the expeditions behind it. She notes that there is an urgency to conservation and awareness as Florida’s population is estimated to reach 35 million by 2060. “We can still maintain wild Florida and all the creatures that rely on it as Florida grows.” 

The Florida Wildlife Corridor is both the name of the environmental advocacy organization as well as the term used to describe the territory it is dedicated to conserving: nearly 16 million acres of “lands and waters essential for the survival of Florida’s diverse wildlife” – including the 9.5 million acres already protected – that span the length and width of the state. 

The Forgotten Coast documentary is gleaned from the thousands of hours of footage taken during two Florida Wildlife Corridor expeditions traversing Florida undertaken by Dimmitt, wildlife Photographer Carlton Ward, Biologist Joe Guthrie, and Filmmaker Elam Stoltzfus on foot, bike and paddle. The idea, says Dimmitt, was to “explore wild Florida the way a bear or a panther could still travel through our state.” She says she hopes the film “inspires people to protect our quality of life, for all of Florida.”

During the first expedition in 2012, the team trekked more than 1,000 miles in 100 days from south-to-north, starting in the Everglades and finishing in the south of Georgia. From January to March of this year, the east-to-west expedition took the team from the Everglades Headwaters to the Gulf Islands National Seashore in the Florida Panhandle. 

The Kickstarter campaign will run until Friday Nov 20th, the day after the broadcast premiere of the film. The urgency to raise funds is critical and ambitious for the organization as Kickstarter is all-or-nothing crowdfunding, dependent on reaching the target fundraising goal of $37,000.  

The film’s exclusive broadcast premiere will air November 19th on WUSF-TV with a premiere event the week prior at the Tampa Theatre.  The new funds will allow the organizers to raise awareness and promote the film to PBS channels and film festivals around the country. 

Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission wins award for best practices

Hillsborough County’s Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) was honored this month by Sustainable Florida, a statewide organization with a vision to “protect and preserve Florida’s environment while building markets for Florida’s businesses” through sustainable best practices. The group awarded its Best Practice Award for Community Engagement to EPC’s annual Clean Air Fair initiative.

“Our agency is really big on outreach,” says Jeff Sims, General Manager of EPC’s Air Division, which runs the fair. The fair, he says, “becomes a big interaction point for the public.” Sims says the award is new to Sustainable Florida this year and that the EPC was among stiff competition, about 20 businesses, competing for it from around the state. 

Margaret Rush, the EPC’s Sustainability Coordinator says beyond providing a forum for educating the public on what the exhibitor companies are doing – something that is not always easy to understand in the abstract – the Clean Air Fair also creates a unique networking opportunity for a cross-section of business, civic and governmental groups “to talk about minimizing pollution” and for businesses to gain peer-to-peer knowledge on sustainable best practices. 

Launched in 2001, the EPC’s Clean Air Fair is an annual event meant to celebrate the month of May as Clean Air Month, as designated by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The Clean Air Fair is open and free to the public and exhibitors alike, with the aim of raising awareness and promoting environmental and sustainable practices.  

This year’s event attracted more than 1,000 attendees, with more than 50 exhibitors from a wide range of businesses – from solar management and conservation organizations to major companies like TECO and Publix. The bustling, open-air event purposely takes place at a location that is “great for pedestrians” at the Poe Plaza in downtown Tampa. In addition to live music, complimentary food items and other give-aways, for the past several years they have showcased alternative vehicles – such as the fully electric Tesla, which claims to get 270 miles to a single charge. The innovation on display, Sims says, “draws in people to the more cutting-edge stuff.” 

Rush says she is noticing a greater interest in sustainability ”especially if you can make an economic case for it as well as social. More and more [sustainable initiatives] are coming in line as the cost of ‘business as usual.’ It just makes sense,” she notes. “That’s why it is important to learn about them.” 

Local horror theme park hiring hundreds of seasonal Halloween employees

An expansive wooded park located in the quiet suburban neighborhoods north of Tampa will be transformed into a horror park for fall 2015. Think haunted hayrides, a house of horror and a monster-themed midway, all with a hint of zombie or other pandemic-inducing mayhem.

The horror park, “Scream-A-Geddon,” is located in Dade City on the grounds of aerial adventure park Treehoppers, which opens to the public at noon on September 15.

Treehoppers CEO Benjamin Nagengast says that the 60-acre, independently owned park “offers the most immersive scream park experience in Central Florida.”

To staff the new Halloween attraction, Nagengast is seeking around 400 seasonal employees for both full- and part-time positions. Job opportunities include actors, shift supervisors, greeters, parking attendants, cashiers, make-up artists and more.

Training will be provided; no experience necessary. To apply for a seasonal role with Scream-A-Geddon, please visit the attraction’s website.

“Scream-A-Geddon” will open on September 25, and remain open for select dates through November 1, 2015. Find a list of frequently asked questions here.
The Scream-A-Geddon theme is “fear to the extreme,” Nagengast says, and the park’s forested location helps increase the spook factor. Several of the park’s six attractions take advantage of the natural surroundings – the half-mile 'Cursed Hayride' through the woods; the 'Dead Woods', a forest trail attraction complete with a creepy back story.

Other attractions of the horror park include an interactive haunted house with Hollywood-quality special effects and the midway, where visitors can enjoy carnival games, food and beverages, and beer.

Scream-A-Geddon “is Florida’s scariest haunted horror park,” Nagengast says. “Once victims enter Scream-A-Geddon they will all be subjected to the horrors within.”

Due to the nature of the event, Scream-A-Geddon is recommended for adults and teenagers aged 13 years old and older.

"Being an independent Halloween horror park allows us to stretch the boundaries of what customers have come to expect at the more 'corporate' Halloween attractions in the Tampa Bay and Orlando areas," Mark Bremer, creative director at Scream-A-Geddon, said in a press release. "Victims who want a more interactive, intimate and terrifying haunted experience will be thrilled when our facility opens this fall."

Florida Farm Bureau offers grants to local schools for agriculture, gardening projects

Florida's teachers have an opportunity to grow their classroom budgets this school year by snagging one of dozens of mini-grants from the Florida Farm Bureau Federation (FFBF) -- but they'd better hurry to beat the Sept 15 application deadline.

The organization is awarding $9,500 in grant money for creative school projects that teach students from Pre-K through high school about the importance of one of the state's top industries.

Core academic subjects like math, English and science are essential to agriculture, and the grants are meant to encourage teachers to incorporate it into their curriculum, says Michael Rogalsky, Field Services Director for the Federation.

"The idea is to familiarize children with where their food comes from," says Debra Jones, Rogalsky's assistant.

Teachers are asked to think outside the box, and the Farm Bureau will kick in up to $250 to help fund each project chosen.

Last year, 57 Florida teachers received grant funding for agricultural projects ranging from schoolyard gardens, to projects involving honeybees, fish and quail eggs, says Jones.

Pizza gardens, where students grow the ingredients needed to make pizzas they prepare for the class, are especially popular, she adds.

Last year, many of the schools in the FFBF's District 5 -- which includes Hillsborough, Pasco, Polk, Pinellas and other Central Florida counties -- opted to grow hydroponic gardens.

Among them: a class at Young Middle Magnet School in Tampa, 4th and 5th graders in the gifted program at Valleyview Elementary in Lakeland and Plant City High.  

Jones says she was surprised to discover that only five schools in District 5 have applied for a grant for the 2015-2016 school  year, and she encourages teachers to make the most of the opportunity.

The mini-grant program is part of the Florida Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee’s push to support agricultural education in the state's classrooms, and recipients will be selected by the committee.

But the funding doesn't stop there, says Jones.

"A lot of our county farm bureaus will pick up the ones we don't fund, just to get gardening back in the classroom."

Grant applications are due Sept. 15. Winners will be notified by Nov. 15 via email. Teachers can apply for the grant by visiting the Florida Farm Bureau Federation website.

Hillsborough County budgets $1M for manufacturing jobs training

Hillsborough County is betting big on the manufacturing industry. Through a partnership with the Board of County Commissioners, Hillsborough Community College (HCC) will provide two years of workforce training and resources for manufacturing careers in Tampa. 

The BOCC and community partners like HCC are working together “to develop a shared strategy to strengthen the manufacturing talent pipeline,” says Lindsey Kimball, Hillsborough County Economic Development Director. 

The goal: increase the quantity -- and quality -- of manufacturing talent in the region. In total, the BOCC has reserved $1 million in funds for the Hillsborough County Manufacturing Academy.

The funds “represent a very strong commitment to ensuring that our community has the workforce talent to continue to make our manufacturing base successful," Kimball explains.

With $322,000 in funds from the County, HCC will offer two years of manufacturing training courses and other resources that will allow participants to prepare for careers in the manufacturing industry. Students will be able to learn about aspects of the manufacturing industry from engineering technology to welding techniques. Programs include summer camps, on-site manufacturing training and tours of local operations, paid internship opportunities for students, industry certifications, and more.

$80,000 is allocated to purchasing new or upgraded training equipment.

Overall goals for the program include raising community awareness of production-type jobs (with an emphasis on the engagement of women, minorities and veterans); developing on-the-job training opportunities with local manufacturers; and addressing the manufacturing skills gap through training and certification.

Community partners of Hillsborough County’s Manufacturing Academy initiative also include the University of South FloridaCareerSource Tampa BayUpper Tampa Bay Manufacturers AssociationBay Area Manufacturers AssociationFlorida Medical Manufacturers Consortium and the National Tool and Machining Association.

Also under the umbrella of the $1 million in manufacturing skills funding, in early 2015 the BOCC approved a $325,000 agreement with Hillsborough County Schools to increase manufacturing skills training in area schools. Funds have also been allocated to help develop and improve specialized manufacturing skills training programs at Armwood, Hillsborough, Jefferson, Middleton and Tampa Bay Tech high schools, and Brewster Technical College.

“The programs are coordinated and designed to offer students a continuum of learning,” Kimball says.

For example, Kimball explains, students in Manufacturing Academy programs at the high school level can move on to take similar courses at HCC.

"We are hopeful that this commitment to ensuring the success of manufacturing will help us grow our existing industry base and attract new businesses," Kimball says. "Hillsborough County is a very competitive location for manufacturers who can leverage our skilled workforce, excellent infrastructure, low tax-burden environment and business-friendly government."

Tampa hotels plan to conserve millions of gallons of water by 2016

Local hotels and motels could begin to conserve 5 million gallons of water by 2016 – all without impacting the guest experience.

The Hillsborough County Hotel Motel Association (HCHMA) has joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) WaterSense H2Otel Challenge Initiative. Through a voluntary effort, HCHMA aims to reduce water consumption in the Tampa Bay area lodging industry.

“We have a unique opportunity to have our larger hotels lead the way in this effort,” HCHMA Executive Director Bob Morrison said in a news release.

Clearwater-based Terlyn Industries, which specializes in industrial water treatment, will help HCHMA “modify existing building cooling systems in such a way that those properties will see significant improvements in water consumption efficiencies,” Morrison explains.

Large hotels use cooling towers to treat the condensation water that gathers in central air conditioning units. The towers can account for 25 percent of a hotel’s total water use, so updating them to operate more efficiently can decrease energy and water consumption.

Terlyn Industries is offering Tampa Bay hoteliers a complimentary cooling tower water conservation study. For more information, visit the conservation study website.

HCHMA, which represents county hotels, motels and resorts, was initially organized in 1937. Prior to setting the goal of conserving five million gallons of water by 2016 for the EPA’s WaterSense H2O Challenge, HCHMA members made voluntary water conservation efforts through the Water Conservation Hotel and Motel Program. The “Water CHAMP” effort was developed through a partnership between Hillsborough County, Southwest Florida Water Management District, and the City of Tampa; it focused on efforts to conserve water through retrofitting toilets and faucets in local hotels, as well as designating towel and linen reuse programs.

WaterSense H2Otel Challenge Initiative program participants must register to “ACT” with the EPA: assess water usage, change products or processes when necessary, and track results. 

New culinary center in Plant City aims to create 100 jobs

Culinary professionals can start sprucing up their resumes as Fitlife Foods prepares to open a new culinary center in Plant City.

The company, founded in 2011, makes meals from scratch and sells them throughout its seven Tampa Bay area retail locations.

“The culinary center in Plant City is currently under construction, but we expect it to be completed mid-August,” says David Osterweil, Founder of Fitlife Foods. “We plan on hiring approximately 100 people by the end of 2016 at the culinary facility.”

The company, which currently employs 110 employees, will be seeking mostly culinary professionals at its new state-of-the-art culinary center; however, Osterweil says he will also be looking to fill logistics and transportation positions.

“The culinary center in Plant City is a big, small batch kitchen,” he says. “We are making everything from scratch in our kitchen everyday, and we need a bigger space to do it in, that’s the bottom line. These chefs need a lot more room to get their job done.”

Fitlife Foods offers customers healthy prepared meals for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Customers can pick up one meal, or plan their meals for the next few days.

"You’re not locked in, you can come in and pick up one meal, but a majority of our customers come in on Sunday and load up on meals for several days,” Osterweil says.

A marathon runner and father of two, Osterweil aims to provide customers with healthy options that are quick and easy to fix.

“Our main goal is to make each meal delicious,” he says. “We all have the same amount of time in our day, if you are eating the right foods in that day, that quality of that time is going to be so much better. “

For a list of store locations, visit the Fitlife Foods website

Aerial adventure park to open in Dade City, Pasco County

A new aerial adventure park, complete with zip lines and rope bridges, is set to open in Dade City in Pasco County this summer.

TreeHoppers will boast a wide variety of zip lines that cater to various skill levels, multiple rope bridges and dozens of aerial climbing elements on a 60-acre wooded park about 40 miles northwest of Tampa.

Indiana-based White River Zip Lines purchased the land in spring 2015 and will develop the TreeHoppers adventure park on the property, which also features a five-acre lake and a canopy of live oak trees.

Jon Pianki, TreeHoppers director of marketing, says that Tampa Bay’s good weather and tourist-friendly attitude are the primary reasons the area was selected for the new Treehoppers location.

“We are hoping this combination will help us build an attraction that is both an asset to the surrounding community as well as a draw to outside guests and customers,” Pianki explains. “Tampa Bay is a vibrant, growing community that wants more options to get outdoors and enjoy the beauty nature has to offer.”

With eight different courses that cater to various skill levels and over 100 total features, there’s something for everyone, Pianki says. “Small children, experienced athletes, and everyone in-between will find a right course for their comfort level.”

Visitors will receive safety instruction from trained climbing monitors and be provided with safety climbing technology before embarking on any of the courses.

TreeHoppers will begin hiring for fulltime and part-time positions by mid-June, with jobs ranging from shop staff and customer service to guides and monitors. Visit TreeHoppers website to learn more or apply.

The park is expected to open in August, but Pianki is already looking ahead to the Fall, when the park is planning a Halloween attraction “like no other in the area.”

Located at 27839 Saint Joe Road in Dade City, TreeHoppers will be open year-round, seven days a week.

“We are thrilled to offer this new experience to the Tampa Bay area,” TreeHoppers CEO Benjamin Nagengast says in a press release. “Our team carefully and thoughtfully selected Tampa Bay for our newest attraction and we can’t wait to introduce TreeHoppers to the community. There is nothing like it anywhere in Florida.”

The aerial zip line and adventure park joins several high-rise outdoor adventure courses in the Tampa Bay area:

TreeUmph, 21805 S.R. 70 E., Bradenton

TreeUmph, located in Bradenton near Lakewood Ranch, opened in December 2012 and features a zip line that starts at 60 feet in elevation and rockets over a 600-foot-long course across the park.

TreeUmph is expanding to a second location in Hernando County in fall 2016. The new park will offer around 80 obstacles on a 50-acre area.

Sky Trail Zip Line, MOSI, 4801 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa

In the university area’s Innovation District, Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI Tampa) boasts its own spin on the aerial adventure: the Sky Trail Zip Line at MOSI, a 65-foot high course that is more than 700 feet long (longer than two football fields put together!).

Along with the zip line, MOSI offers a multilevel ropes course that is safe for kids and adults of all ages to explore.

Natures Boot Camp, 11914 N. Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa

Natures Boot Camp invites extreme athletes and adventure course enthusiasts to train at their outdoor obstacle course, centrally located in Tampa’s Carrollwood neighborhood.

Try out a sprint style obstacle course with over 14 obstacles,  a Mud Run that culminates in a 15-foot jump, and more extreme activities.

New Tampa Nature Park, 17599 Dona Michelle Drive, Tampa

New Tampa Nature Park, which connects with Hillsborough County’s Flatwoods Park, is a low-key place to enjoy nature from above. Find zip-lining courses for kids, a climbing area, shaded trails, and more.

The 122-acre park also offers an elevated boardwalk and marsh walk that allows visitors to experience a wetland habitat from above.

Spring/Summer startup events guide: Tampa Bay

Technology and innovation enthusiasts in the Tampa Bay area can look forward to an array of upcoming events for meeting like-minded peers and mingling with successful serial entrepreneurs in the coming spring and summer months. From recurring meetups such as Startup Grind and Homebrew Hillsborough to annual adventures like the Startup Bus Florida (launching from Tampa on June 4), 83 Degrees has the details on upcoming spring and summer 2015 technology, networking and startup-centric events.
StartUp Xchange
April 23, 5 pm
Green Bench Brewing Co.
1133 Baum Ave. N. St. Petersburg

Hosted by the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, StartUp Xchange is a monthly gathering that brings TBIC mentors together with local entrepreneurs and innovators. Small business owners have the opportunity to network with other local leaders or aspiring entrepreneurs, and to discuss business-related questions or concerns with mentors.

April 2015 Startup XChange mentors include Chris Paradies, an Intellectual Property Attorney at Paradies Law PA; Kellye Dash, a social media and virtual assistant expert who founded her own company The Busy Buddy; and JJ Roberts, Client Service Manager for TBIC.

The event will take place at Green Bench Brewing, a local business named for the iconic colored benches that once resided on DTSP's Central Ave. To register for April's Startup XChange, visit the event’s Meetup page or the TBIC website for more information.
Homebrew Hillsborough
April 24, 8:30 am
Krazy Kup
101 East J. Arden Mays Blvd. Plant City

Join your local area network of small business owners at monthly Homebrew Hillsborough coffee shop meetups. As part of Hillsborough County’s economic development initiatives, Homebrew Hillsborough brings local leaders in the county’s Economic Development Department together with small business owners from Seminole Heights to Plant City. Each month, the meetup is hosted in a different neighborhood of Hillsborough County.

Along with the April 24 meetup at Krazy Kup in Plant City, upcoming Homebrew Hillsborough events will take place on May 29 at Kahwa Café in Westchase; June 26 at Tu Sabor Café in Town n Country; and July 31 at the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa.

April 30, 5:30 pm
The Patio
421 South MacDill Ave. Tampa

During the free networking event on April 30, entrepreneurs and techies are invited to come out to the The Patio’s large indoor/outdoor courtyard and mingle with Cigar City Brewing VP Justin Clark and Angry Chair Brewing co-founder Ryan Dowdle. Enjoy a cold local brew as Cigar City & Angry Chair “takeover” the taps for the night.

Along with the tap takeovers and networking, the event will host raffles to benefit the Tampa Police Department's Honor Guard. Raffle items include spa gift certificates, a custom skateboard, and Cigar City or Angry Chair baskets.

To register, visit the event Meetup page.

Plum Alley's Jan Mercer Dahms at Startup Grind
May 6, 6:30 pm
CoWork Ybor/The Blind Tiger Café
1901 E. 7th Ave. Ybor City

Each month, Joy Randels and the Tampa Bay chapter of Startup Grind host fireside chats and intimate gatherings, where entrepreneurs share the secrets of their successes – and failures – with attendees, who range from small business owners to students to serial entrepreneurs. Startup Grind Tampa Bay will host Jan Mercer Dahms, managing director of Plum Alley, at Ybor City's mixed use cafe and coworking space, The Blind Tiger Cafe/CoWork Ybor, on May 6. Entry fee is $10.

Plum Alley is “the premier crowdfunding platform for women in the world,” Randels say. During May’s Startup Grind, guests from across the state will discuss their products and how Plum Alley can help them. To learn more about Plum Alley and the campaigns it supports, visit the company website. 

Startup Weekend Youth Tampa Bay
May 15-17, 5:00 pm
Trinity School For Children
2402 W Osbourne Ave, Tampa

Students, do you dream of starting the next Facebook or Snapchat? Startup Weekend is back with a special youth edition, open to aspiring designers, developers, business leaders or entrepreneurs! The 54-hour event has been a staple in Tampa Bay for several years, and in 2015, the event will include coaches and mentors from across the Tampa Bay area, including Todd Broyles, David Harris, Gregg Hilferding and founder and host Angela Ardolino.

Step into the shoes of an entrepreneur during Startup Weekend Youth Tampa Bay at Trinity School for Children. The three-day startup crash course includes pitching your ideas, forming teams, building a tangible product (including coding and creating a business model), and launching (I.e., presenting your case to the event judges, local entrepreneurial leaders).
#Collabtb (Q2 Tech & Entrepreneur Peer Networking Event)
June 4, 5 pm
1930 Grande Room
1930 East 7th Ave. Ybor City

Collaborative Technologies of Tampa Bay hosts quarterly networking events for tech-savvy designers, developers, programmers and other entrepreneurs who want to interact with peers without hearing sales pitches from recruiters. Students, job seekers, entrepreneurs and tech professionals are encouraged to attend the June event at Ybor City's event space and unique venue, the 1930 Grande Room.

#Collabtb events are free, but registration is required. Entrance into the event includes a free T-shirt for the first 100 attendees, a free drink ticket for the first 200 and light appetizers. Click here to register for the #Collabtb Q2 networking event.
StartupBus Florida
June 4-8, Tampa-Nashville

For the sixth straight year, StartupBus participants across North America will join together on buses and work to pitch and develop a startup idea. The 72-hour competition ends in Nashville in June 2015, with buses originating from six different regions competing. The Southeast region bus will leave from Tampa on June 4. One catch: you’re on your own for the return trip.

“Hackers, hustlers, and hipsters” are encouraged to apply for a seat on the bus. To pre-apply for the 2015 Startup Bus Florida, visit the Startup Bus website
Startup Surge
June 5, 10 am
Tampa Bay WaVE
400 N. Ashley Dr., St. 200. Tampa

Hosted by Tampa Bay WaVE at the Sykes building in the heart of downtown Tampa, Startup Surge is a one-day opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs and students to meet and hear from more than 50 mentors from around the region. Attendees will be matched up with mentors, all of whom are successful entrepreneurs, before participating in coaching sessions and workshops. Learn about building a successful startup (from identifying a target market to crowdfunding and early stage marketing); the launch process (development, updates, and analytics); and growing your company (fundraising, bring on a Board of Directors, and more).

Click here to register for Startup Surge; to learn more about event mentors, visit the Tampa Bay WaVE website.
Startup Weekend Design Edition, Tampa Bay
June 5-7, 6:30 pm

For the first time in Tampa, creative entrepreneurs and artists will have the chance to come together for a Startup Weekend event! Startup Weekend Design Edition will follow the traditional 54-hour format and aims to bring together Tampa Bay designers, developers, entrepreneurs and experts from all domains. Fashion entrepreneurs, interior designers, architects, graphic artists and other creatives are invited to take part in the collaborative event.

Meet peers, network with creative industry leaders, and design or develop ideas to help solve real-world problems faced by those in creative industries. Pitch your ideas and form a team (or join another -- popular vote wins out), develop a product and business model, and then present the final version to local entrepreneurial leaders in creative or design industries.

To register, visit the Startup Weekend Design Edition, Tampa Bay website. Use code "83D'' for $25 off. 

TEDx Tampa Riverwalk
August 29, 1 pm
John F. Germany Library Auditorium
900 N. Ashley Dr. Tampa

TEDx events are independently organized meetups of thinkers and innovators based on the popular TED talks that focus on the slogan of “ideas worth spreading.” The theme for the 2015 TEDx Tampa Riverwalk session is “Going Places!” TEDx presenters should consider the theme and how it applies scientifically, socially, economically, geographically, artistically and philosophically.

Nominations for speakers and presenters will be accepted through June 2015. Click here to apply or to nominate a speaker for the August event at downtown Tampa's John F Germany public library. Learn more at the TEDx Tampa Riverwalk website.

Maker convention brings inventors together in the DIY spirit

Gulf Coast MakerCon just keeps growing.

This year’s Tampa Bay area community do-it-yourself celebration will be held at the Florida Living Center at the Florida State Fairgrounds on Saturday, April 18. Lead organizer Terri Willingham anticipates about 800-1,000 guests at the one-day event. 

Gulf Coast MakerCon 2015 is open to the public and covers a wide array of technical, creative and professional workshops and sessions across more than 80 anticipated indoor and outdoor exhibits, from modern tech like 3D printers to “heritage tech” that focuses on woodworking and fiber arts.

Entertainment and educational opportunities at Gulf Coast MakerCon 2015 range from the Mid-Pinellas Comic Con exhibit and Gamers on the Edge tabletop gaming area to the Tampa Amateur Radio Club and the Tampa Bay Inventors Council “Inventors Showcase” to the USF Robotics Interest Group “Fight Robots” competition and a Young Makers section.

More than 30,000 square feet of available exhibit space triples the size of last year’s MakerCon, and the “makers” who have applied more than double last year’s numbers, as well; about 60, with applications still coming in. 

“We're excited about the diversity of exhibitors and programs we have on tap,” Willingham says.

The annual springtime festival is produced by Eureka! Factory, the nonprofit that Willingham runs with her husband Steve, and is supported by a grant from Hillsborough County’s Economic Development Innovation Initiative (EDI2). 

“We believe Gulf Coast MakerCon showcases the best of our community and inspires others to try their hands, hearts and minds at making and learning new things,” Willingham says. 

The community DIY festival “fits in perfectly with our mission to help move people from passive consumption to active creation --making!” Willingham explains. “A society of capable, creative, self-reliant people is a healthy, empowered and productive society."

Making things -- "products, solutions, services, inventions, games, gadgets, industrial and commercial tools like robots, mechanical devices and assistive technologies, and resources for sustainability," she says, is good for economic development, academic enrichment and personal fulfillment.

Back in 2012, the Willinghams introduced Tampa's first and only maker festival, the Tampa Bay Mini Maker Faire. In 2014, the event expanded into Gulf Coast MakerCon. This year, big name community sponsors like USF Connect and the Florida High Tech Corridor have signed on.

“We've got some amazing collaborative partners this year,” Willingham says. “MityMo Creative in St. Petersburg has been doing all our promotional materials and graphic design; TBIC has been actively curating and providing promotional and other event support; Scrap on Spot is sponsoring the Deconstruction Zone; and the Innovation Lab at Seminole Community Library at St. Petersburg College has been organizing our ComicCon and Gaming Festival.”  

Gulf Coast MakerCon 2015 is a designated USA Science & Engineering Festival satellite event, as well as a National Robotics Week event.

Tickets, which are $10 per person ages 13-up and $8 for children ages 6-12, can be purchased online at the event website

Wristband developed in Tampa is designed to relieve nausea

For Jacqueline Darna, necessity truly was the mother of invention. While in the hospital for the birth of her second child, Darna felt so miserable from nausea that she couldn't even enjoy her newborn baby girl.

The only relief came when an anesthetist pressed a pair of peppermint leaves into Darna’s hands.

In the days that followed, she taped a small piece of medical gauze to the inside of her wrists, at the P6 pressure point. That, combined with smelling the peppermint leaves when a wave of nausea struck, was the best Darna could do while in the hospital.

Upon returning home, she searched for an anti-nausea product that combined these two well-documented strategies: acupressure and aromatherapy.

“None of the traditional drugs were working for me,” Darna explains. “The rest is history and the No Mo Nausea Band was born.”

The No Mo Nausea Band is the first natural oil infused acupressure and aromatherapy wristband designed to reduce nausea and vomiting from common causes like morning sickness, motion sickness, seasickness, and headaches.

“The quickest way to the brain is through the nose, so that is why I utilize aromatherapy of natural peppermint oil,” Darna explains. “Menthol is the active ingredient within peppermint oil that helps alleviate nausea and vomiting instantly. Medically, peppermint is a calcium channel blocker of the gastrointestinal tract, meaning that it relaxes an upset stomach.”

Darna was well equipped to develop the idea; she is an anesthesiologist assistant who graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in biomedical sciences, religious studies and biomedical physics before earning dual masters degrees in health sciences & anesthesia from NOVA Southeastern.

No Mo Nausea is among the five startup businesses in the Tampa area who were selected by the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce as its 2015 class of Startup Scholars. The three-year-old Startup Scholars program engages participants in an eight-month mentorship program that focuses on providing growth and assistance in the areas of seed capital, best management practices, and sales growth.

Darna hopes to take away strategy, business knowledge and “lasting interpersonal relations with the business men and women I will meet” during the program.

She plans to use Startup Scholars seed capital for marketing to target areas: pregnant mothers, parents of children with carsickness, chemotherapy patients, and headache and migraine sufferers, to name a few.

Future goals include “becoming recognized as a leader in the Tampa business community, while associating my product, the No Mo Nausea Band, as a local household name,” Darna says.

Darna also plans to secure an office space and fulfillment center within Tampa to handle large distribution orders, which could lead to job creation down the line.

The No Mo Nausea band is endorsed by U.S. physicians and is considered the anti-nausea product of choice by NAUI licensed scuba divers, Darna says.

The band itself is slim, lightweight, waterproof and latex- and drug-free. A set of two costs $11.99 on the company’s website.

The 2015 Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce Startup Scholars class includes: No Mo Nausea, along with Arcturus Creative, a creative marketing team that builds custom visual brand strategies; Hannah’s Shoebox, a startup that specializes in custom shoes for all occasions for “tween” and preteen girls with larger shoe sizes; LilyPad, an activity management platform for professional workforces; and PikMyKid, a simple but streamlined mobile app that allows public schools in the U.S. to organize and manage the after-school dismissal process.

Connections, coffee brew at new meetups in Tampa, Hillsborough County

Homebrew Hillsborough, a coffee shop meetup where community members can make connections and share ideas with local government, is the latest in a series of efforts to support small business by Hillsborough County’s economic development department.

For those familiar, Homebrew Hillsborough will be essentially the same as Mark Sharpe's Friday meetups at Buddy Brew, during his run as county commissioner before stepping into his current role.

“We wanted to carry on the tradition that he started,” says the Economic Development Director Lindsey Kimball. “We welcome everyone to join us and be part of the community of creatives.”

One marked difference in Homebrew Hillsborough from previous events is that the coffee shop meetups will take place at a different location each month.

Upcoming Homebrew Hillsborough talks will take place on Feb 27 at Jet City Espresso in Seminole Heights; on March 27 at Zeal Coffee Roasters & RareHues in Carrollwood; and on April 24 at Krazy Kup in Plant City.

Homebrew Hillsborough’s kickoff coffee shop meetup is at 8:30 a.m. on Fri., Jan. 30, at Buddy Brew, 2020 W. Kennedy Blvd. in Tampa.

Jennifer Whelihan, Hillsborough County’s Economic Development Manager, will represent the economic development department during these monthly meetups.

“Come collaborate and support your local area coffee shop to help our community expand with people, ideas and connections. I look forward to meeting up monthly to see how we can help make our community a ‘Homegrown Hillsborough’,” says Whelihan. “We look forward to welcoming everyone.”

Attendees “can expect a chance to network with others from the technology and innovation ecosystem,” says Kimball. “Our partners never have a strict agenda -- we are there to let ideas flow and make new connections.”

Homebrew Hillsborough supporting partners include Laicos, National Day of Civic Hacking and Eureka! Factory.

“Our goal is to take the show on the road and bring the energy around the county,” Kimball says. “We want to reach as many people as possible. We want to hear everyone's voices.”
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