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Working Women of Tampa Bay excels at networking, making connections

While working as a TV news producer for Channel 10, Jessica Rivelli wanted a casual, after-hours women’s networking group in the Tampa Bay area. But she didn’t find any.

“When I couldn’t find it, I chose to start it,” she recalls.

As a result, Working Women of Tampa Bay -- which serves Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties -- was born. Since November 2008, it has grown to 600+ members.

The group caters to entrepreneurs, wannabe entrepreneurs and women working in corporations, offering “affordable educational opportunities that just don’t exist elsewhere in Tampa Bay,” she says.

Starting from the Dunedin restaurant Casa Tina’s, it grew to 300 members in one year. A core group of 20 just invited women they knew. In 2010, Rivelli left her broadcast career of some 10 years to lead the group full-time, which fueled more growth.

I call myself an accidental entrepreneur,” says Rivelli, whose business is her membership organization. “I had not planned to become an entrepreneur.”

Working Women of Tampa Bay has become a virtual tribe of women supporting women, with a calendar of 20 events a month providing educational and professional development. Usually they appeal to both entrepreneurs and corporate workers.

We do have things specifically for entrepreneurs,” she adds. “Women Entrepreneur Exchange is one of those.”

The Exchange typically meets from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month at Frazier & Deeter, 401 E Jackson St, Suite 2425, Tampa. Attendance is limited to 12 and the topic isn’t fixed; pre-registration is required.

The Entrepreneur Exchange a place where solo entrepreneurs, women who are often working alone out of their own homes or in co-working spaces, can connect with women of similar interests.

Everybody gets their own time [to speak] to be able to bring up their own challenges,” she says.

As a result of the relationships they form, they can put together a mini board of directors, solve business problems and gather much-needed feedback.

What sets Working Women apart is its ability to help women contemplating or starting businesses. “There are a lot of them who are transitioning from corporate America to owning their own business. They need everything from business cards to websites and networking,” she explains. “A lot of them are completely green when they come to Working Women.”

Its Young Women’s Leadership Exchange focuses on young women looking for help with professional development. The group operates similar to Entrepreneur Exchange, gathering women to talk about topics that interest them, like managing your manager and how to look for opportunities within your organization.

Meaningful Mentoring connects experienced business owners and employed women. The group pays for lunch to promote mentoring, allowing women to ask questions pertinent to them.

Working Women, which has an Orlando counterpart, charges a membership fee and offers membership discounts on its paid events, almost all of which are open to the general public. “We want people to come and try us out and see if we’re a good fit for them,” she explains.

The group also offers many resources – including handholding. “They need a support system for when things go good and things go bad,” she continues. “Every small business owner is going to have challenges.”

Ultimately, the group is a “safe space for women to really be themselves,” she says.

“We’ve formed a group of women that are really able to be honest and share what they’re going through with one another,” she says.

Working Women gives back to the community by giving seed money to business owners who need “a little bit of money” to put up a website, expand a shop, purchase marketing materials, or the like, she says. Membership isn’t required; applicants just need to be women in the Tampa Bay area.

“They have to tell us what they’re using it for,” she adds. “We want to make sure it’s something that is a game changer in their business.”


Author proposes pilot education project for adult learners

A Tampa author is gaining traction with an idea for a pilot education project to enable adults to attend college without encumbering a lot of debt. Vinny Tafuro, an economist and author of Unlocking the Labor Cage, appeared on the Tampa Bay Arts and Education Network last week and expounded upon his idea.

In a studio fireside chat with Debbi Stone, VP of Education for The Florida Aquarium, he continued to build on his proposal to fund adult learners through reserves corporations may have routed overseas to avoid taxes.

“Now it’s been broadcast on somebody else’s channel, not my own,” he quips.

What Tafuro is proposing is a pilot project that could mitigate the risk for adults who want to return to school in their 30s, 40s, or 50s. At that point, they’re likely giving up a salary they need to pay bills.

A college-educated, employed individual is more likely to make money for companies like Facebook, he says. Those students may even be inspired to become an entrepreneur -- and an advertiser. They also might be more likely to leave reviews, which is critical to Amazon’s sales model.

Instead of competing with a bunch of other cities offering similar amenities for Amazon’s new headquarters, Tafuro believes this pilot project is something unique Tampa Bay can bring to the table -- while skirting the competition from other cities. It could potentially fund 49,200 students nationwide.

It could appeal to Amazon, Facebook, Google or Microsoft, enabling them to boost their earning potential by increasing the education level of their users and bettering society.

“We’re the only community making the proposition,” he points out.

By convincing businesses to invest their reserves, or repatriate the money as Tafuro says, the pilot project might even help make things easier for former college students saddled with debt. “Right now there’s no incentive for the college loan industry to soften its edge,” he says.

Originally from Long Island, Tafuro has lived in the Tampa Bay area for nearly 26 years. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications from the University of Tampa.

His book, released on Amazon in July 2016, introduces the concept of using cash reserves to fund education. Read an excerpt here.


Startup Week 2018 recruits volunteers, planning kicks off now

Organizers of the fourth annual Tampa Bay Startup Week are recruiting volunteers for the 2018 event that will again span both sides of the bay, offering presentations and mentoring for budding entrepreneurs.

“We really try to have a wide range of industries and topics for anyone,” says Gracie Stemmer, President of Startup Tampa Bay and Co-Leader of the event.

The event, organized by the nonprofit Startup Tampa Bay, is scheduled Feb. 12-16, 2018.  A kickoff, scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 17, at The Franklin Manor, 912 N. Franklin St., Tampa, gives interested individuals a chance to learn more about the event and how they can become involved. Those who can't make it can get in touch with organizers through Facebook or the Startup website.

Stemmer says they are trying to tap into the community’s top talent to speak and run workshops, in addition to reaching out to experts regionally and nationally.

Co-Leader JR Griggs, President of Tampa’s Red Wall Marketing, says volunteers are needed to run industry or topic tracks. These track captains will line up speakers and help locate sponsors. There’s also a need for help with sponsorships, marketing, public relations, the street team, check-in, customer service, and cleanup.

“We’re just eager to work with anyone and everyone that wants to be a part of this,” Stemmer says.

Startup Week is designed to help people vet a business idea, get one-on-one mentoring to launch or grow their business, showcase their businesses, develop their professional networks, or expand their knowledge base. Businesses can be tech related, or traditional brick and mortar.

This year’s Startup Week, which might be starting in St. Petersburg and finishing in Tampa, is expected to feature some tried-and-true topics like design, veteran-owned, PR and marketing, hospitality, women-owned, robotics, cybersecurity and possibly a social entrepreneur track.

Mentors will be on hand throughout the week – and individuals can book a time slot with someone with expertise in their industry, Griggs says.

The current plan is to hold the event at the same venues as last year, Station House in St. Pete and Realto Theatre in Tampa.

“Our biggest goal right now is to get as many volunteers as possible,” Griggs says. “The goal is to make this bigger and better.”


Tech Bytes: BarCamp planned at USF, other events in Tampa Bay Area

Artificial intelligence. Wearable technology. Robots and drones. These topics -- and a whole lot more -- will likely be topics of discussion at the 10th BarCamp in Tampa Bay Saturday, October 21. Dubbed the unconference, BarCamp is about anything tech. Those who attend sign up to give classes in their areas of expertise.

“The best presentations are not prepared,” says Ken Evans, a board member for organizer Technova Florida Inc.  “PowerPoint loses its passion.”

One of the more “famous” presentations was about how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, from a techie/engineer point of view, he says.

“We love narrow topics because that’s where you get the real in-depth discussion around solving problems,” he explains.

BarCamp will be at the University of South Florida’s Muma College of Business, 4202 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa. Guests may park nearby at the SunDome.

The fun officially begins at 8 a.m. with breakfast. Speaker signups are open until 8:45 a.m., with sessions running from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. Lunch is at noon.

General admission to the event, expected to attract some 700 to 800 people, is free. “You can just show up. We really appreciate it if people register,” he adds.

Technova is building the tech community through events that help people learn, share, connect, and collaborate with peers.

Check out more Tampa Bay Area tech news below.

  • Applications are open for the Tampa Bay WaVE accelerator program. You’ve got until November 1 to apply to build, launch or grow your company and tap into the WaVE’s bank of 100+ mentors.
  • “Accounting for Success” is the topic of October’s Tech Talk by Tampa Bay Innovation Center. Paul Hays, Ginny Veit and Gretchen Whalen of CliftonLarsonAllen will hold an interactive roundtable discussion for the tech and startup communities. The program is slated at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, October 10, at Microsoft Headquarters offices, 5426 Bay Center Dr., Suite 700, Tampa. The event is free, but registration is advised because of limited seating.
  • Learn how digital media can help you grow your business from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday, October 16, at USF Connect, Oak View Room, 3802 Spectrum Blvd., Tampa. The program looks at the shift from Search Engine Optimization to Paid Advertising -- and how to position yourself for success. Featured are USF alumni: Eric Ortiz,
  • Executive Director of Sales and Acquisition, and Alex Andrews, Director of Content and Creative Strategy, both from McKay Advertising + Activation in Tampa.
  • • October 21 is Computer and Electronics Shred Day. If you have old hard drives, cell phones, tablets and other electronic devices, and you’d like to be sure the data on them is obliterated, bring them to Tampa’s Jan Kaminis Platt Regional Library at 3910 S Manhattan Ave. between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. It’s free – and you can even get a Certificate of Destruction. Just ask. The event is part of national Cyber Awareness Month.
  • The Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization is holding its 2017 Global Conference and Pitch Competition, “Stop Dreaming, Start Doing,” October 26 through 28 at Hilton Tampa Downtown. The event, which kicks off at 11 a.m., gives collegiates an opportunity to network with entrepreneurially-minded students and hear presentations from seasoned entrepreneurs. and other experts.
  • Potential Unleashed is holding Innovation Gathering 2017 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, October 26, at USF Connect Galleria, 3720 Spectrum Blvd. Attendees will find out what’s happening in the Innovation District. Tickets are $50 for adults and $15 for students.
  • Tour the Florida-Israel Business Accelerator with the local area networking group, HomeBrew Hillsborough.  Mark your calendars for 8 a.m. Friday, October 27 at 522 N. Howard Ave., Tampa. FIBA helps develop successful Israeli tech companies in Tampa Bay.
  • Knack, a South Tampa tutoring service using an app to match students with tutors who have aced the class they need help with, was the winning startup at Challenge Cup Tampa Bay.  The event, hosted by Tampa Bay WaVE in Sepember, featured 20 firms who competed in a two-minute pitch for a cash prize and a chance to proceed to nationals.

A force for healing through the arts in Tampa

Those who have found creative passions know how uplifting and soul-nourishing the arts can be, even in rough times. For military veterans, simply returning to civilian life can be difficult and painful on many levels.
 
Enter: Creative Forces.

In a joint project between Florida’s Division of Cultural Affairs, the NEA, and Americans for the Arts, Creative Forces Summit will be honing in on Tampa for panel discussions revolving around military healing arts and community collaboration at the Straz Center on Oct. 23 & 24.
 
Panel discussions range from types of creative art therapies to building a more collaborative union between the arts and military communities, with performances and open mic sessions interspersed throughout the two-day event.
 
Art therapists who work closely with veterans see the progress of their work, albeit anecdotally. One of the highlights of this event will be talks by Andrea Assaf, artistic director of Art2Action -- which has been working closely with veterans since 2011. She will discuss her role in leading the program design for creating a clinical study to measure tangible success with military healing arts.
 
“We spent a year doing this study, which was designed by a collaborative process. In order to measure impact, we had to come up with a mixed-methods approach where the USF Psychology Department leads a quantitative process while the VA works on qualitative process,” Assaf says.
 
She has been running volunteer workshops at a branch of the VA, the Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Recovery Center, for over 4 years. While Assaf’s strengths rest in theatre, poetry and creative writing, she brings in guest artists to open up veterans to other artistic mediums.

The James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital is already a Creative Forces clinical site, with Tampa working on a Telehealth Pilot Program for veterans in rural areas. Being nearby, the MacDill Air Force Base doesn't hurt either. Their approach to art therapy is simple: Treat it as a need, just like any other treatment.

“I see the arts change and move people. Artistic expression is an important component in the healing and recovering process. What the government wants to see in terms of funding is data. The intention of this study is to document what we know intuitively into usable data to inspire further study and investment both from private and public funds in supporting this kind of work,” Assaf says.

For more information about arts programs and events in Hillsborough County and the Tampa Bay region, visit The Arts Council website.

To suggest additional story ideas, email 83 Degrees.

To subscribe to our free weekly e-magazine, follow this link.

Hiring event targets paid interns; St. Pete career fair showcases services

Tampa Bay Intern is holding its twice-a-year hiring event in Tampa on Wednesday, Oct. 11, for students and recent graduates.

And, across Tampa Bay, organizers are preparing for the 2017 Community Redevelopment Area Career Fair and Showcase of Services scheduled Monday, Oct. 16, in St. Petersburg.

“Often we find that the internship turns into a regular, part-time opportunity, and they get extended or they turn into a fulltime opportunity,” says Jason Druding, Special Projects Coordinator for CareerSource Tampa Bay and CareerSource Pinellas, which runs the intern-hiring event.

Paid internships typically last from 13 weeks to six months -- and It is possible to arrange for school credit.

About 60 percent of the opportunities are internships, with the remaining 40 percent being entry level jobs. “There’s a big focus and draw for heathcare, IT and programming as well as marketing and sales. In addition, we do have some unique opportunities which we haven’t had before which focus on the construction, engineering type opportunities,” he adds.

Resume review and assistance will be available at the event, which is free and open to the public. More than 30 employers have signed up.

Pre-register to avoid the line and access the employer lineup in advance. Or just show up. Employer lists are available through CareerSource staffers and on social media channels.

The event is scheduled from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the CareerSource Tampa Bay Career Center at 9215 N. Florida Ave., Tampa.

Tampa Bay Intern connects employers with students looking for internships. It is run by CareerSource Tampa Bay and CareerSource Pinellas.

Meanwhile, St. Petersburg is partnering with Pinellas Technical College and the Pinellas Ex-Offender Re-Entry Coalition on its Career Fair and Showcase of Services. Nikki Capehart, St. Pete’s Urban Affairs Director, says this is the career fair’s second year and Showcase of Services’ 21st year.

“We wanted to join forces with them [PERC],” Capehart says. “They have an amazing built-in event.”

The event, which is free and open to the general public, features a wide variety of employment readiness help, potentially even a clothes closet for those who lack professional attire. More than 60 social service agencies are anticipated, offering resume help, educational assistance, employment assistance, information on expunging a criminal record, and more.

The event runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Pinellas Technical College Campus, 901 34th St. S. Pre-registration is encouraged, but walk-ins are welcome.

Crowds are expected to exceed 500, with varying degrees of education. Attendees should come prepared and ready to interview.

“We are still looking for employers,” Capehart adds.

Among the employers to be represented is the city of Petersburg, which currently lists a number of vacancies in a variety of career fields. Included are a Complaint Writer and an Information Specialist 1 with the Police Department, Pension Supervisor with Human Resources, Senior Plans Examiner for the Fire Department, Senior Professional Engineer for the Engineering Department, and Water Resources Director for the Water Resources Department


Co-ops to help homeowners save money on rooftop solar panels

Tampa Bay Area property owners have yet another incentive to go solar: the solar co-op. By banding together to buy rooftop solar systems, landowners can save up to 20 percent.

“We’re hoping that we get more than 100 signed up that would be interested in pursuing rooftop solar,” says Dr. Rick Garrity, a Volunteer Coordinator with Hillsborough League of Women Voters, a partner in the co-op project.

The nonprofit Florida Solar United Neighborhoods is collaborating with the League of Women Voters, Hillsborough County, the Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County and others to spread the word about co-ops. It held a meeting at the University of South Florida in Tampa September 25 to explain more about the opportunity to purchase discounted solar photovoltaic (PV) systems.

“There’s never been a better time to go solar. Prices came down 65 percent in the last five years,” explains Garrity, who retired two years ago as Director of the county’s Environmental Protection Commission. “You get a 30 percent tax credit from the federal government, right off the income tax bill.”

Here’s how the program works. When about 40 sign up, Florida Sun puts out the specifications to vendors, who submit bids. “Florida Sun will then evaluate the bids, rank them and provide that ranking to the homeowners,” he explains.

Homeowners form a committee that decides which installer to use.

Members of the co-op don’t need to live in the same neighborhood, but they need to live in the designated city or county. The co-op remains open for about three months to sign up any additional members.

Folks who are interested in going solar can sign up at the Florida Sun website, without obligating themselves to buy a system. They also can RSVP for area information meetings at the website.

Three informational meetings are scheduled in Hillsborough County, the first one from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday, October 9, at South Shore Regional Library, Community Rooms 1 and 2, 15816 Beth Shields Way, Ruskin. Additional meetings are planned from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, November 8, at Jimmie B. Keel Regional Library, Community Rooms C and D, 2902 West Bearss Ave., Tampa; and from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Tuesday, December 5, at Seminole Heights Branch Library, Community Rooms A and B, 4711 Central Ave., Tampa.

Pinellas County residents living north of State Road 60 can also sign up for a co-op. Informational meetings are scheduled from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, October 10, at the Clearwater Library, 100 North Osceola Ave.; from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, November 9, at the Tarpon City Government Office, 324 East Pine St.; and from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Monday, December 4, at the Safety Harbor Library, 101 2nd St. N.

A home solar system can cut your monthly power bill to $5 a month, but reducing the carbon footprint is important too, Garrity says.

“You’re doing your own little bit to decrease the amount of fossil fuels that are being burned,” he says.


Transit companies using new technologies to lower emissions, improve efficiency

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority has been awarded $1 million in federal funding earmarked for an all-electric bus and/or charging equipment. The allotment from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration comes from $55 million disbursed through its Low or No Emission (Low-No) Vehicle program.

The grant money was awarded to 51 projects in 39 states in September. PSTA was one of five transit authorities in Florida to receive an award.

“It’s a competitive grant.” says Henry Lukasik, PSTA Director of Maintenance. “We’re very thankful that we did receive it.”

We’re looking at all ways [of spending it] to really make sure that every dollar is maximized,” he adds.

Joe Cheney, PSTA’s Deputy Director of Fleet Operations, says PSTA has been moving toward all-electric buses for nearly 10 years. It already has some 70 hybrid electric buses, which make up about 36 percent of its fleet.

One of the big advantages we’re anticipating, obviously, are zero tailpipe emissions," Cheney says. “The overall life cycle costs would be lower over the course of 12 years.”

Two electric buses priced at $800,000 each are on order, and likely will be delivered in May or June 2018. PSTA will be installing overnight, plug-in chargers as well as a charging plate to partially recharge the battery while buses are on their newly designed route in downtown St. Petersburg.

Buses will pull over and recharge for about three to five minutes. “While it won’t recharge the entire bus,” Lukasik says, “it will keep it maintained at a level of charge where it can continue out there all day long.”

Ashlie Handy, PSTA’s Media Liaison/Public Information Officer, says PSTA also has secured nearly $600,000 through the British Petroleum settlement fund to reimburse victims of the massive Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. “We are actively seeklng partners and grant opportunities,” she says.

“We’re finding ways to bring money from other places. We’re not tapping into our reserves,” she explains. “These are monies we are bringing to Pinellas County.”

Riders will find the buses similar in layout to its other buses, but much quieter. “Because there’s not an engine, it will be very quiet on the bus, probably to the point where people can carry on a conversation,” Lukasik says.

Across Tampa Bay, the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority is awaiting the delivery of 15 compressed natural gas buses by the end of the year. It acquired 35 CNG buses in 2015-16, and 10 of its 25 additional buses earlier this year.

These new buses will be put into service in fall/winter 2017-2018, giving HART one of the youngest fleets in the state,” says HART’s Public Information Officer Sandra Morrison.

“Since 2015 we’ve saved approximately $720,000 using our natural gas compared to the cost of diesel fuel,” she says.

HART plans to transition the entire fleet of some 187 buses by 2025 as part of its move to cleaner, alternative fuel. The CNG buses cost approximately $300,000 less per vehicle than electric and have the ability to operate when the power is out, Morrison says.

Since 2014, the HART fleet has used the equivalent of 1 million gallons of diesel fuel.


Free computer class can launch your coding career

Have you ever wished you could write code for an app? This may be your chance! A national nonprofit organization, LaunchCode, is offering a free, 23-week computer training course in Tampa Bay.

“This is the first time we’re giving the class in Tampa,” says Matt Mawhinney, LaunchCode’s Florida Program Director.

The opportunity is made possible by the Florida Legislature, which earmarked some $400,000 in funds through the efforts of state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, and state Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa.

The goal is to create a career path for people interested in tech-related jobs. “We don’t just say ‘take this class and good luck, get a job,’ ” he explains. “We form hiring relationships with employers.”

So for up to 120 who get into the class, there’s the chance of landing a $15-an-hour apprenticeship for up to six months -- and eventually a full-time job that might pay an average of $51,000 annually.

“We remove as many of the barriers as we can to acquiring the skills,” he continues. “We try to get you across the goal line into a good-paying career.”

The LC 101 Tampa Bay class focuses on computer science fundamentals and web development, which prepares students for careers in web and mobile software development. It attracts people with high school or GED diplomas or even advanced college degrees. Candidates must be at least 18.

It is being held at CareerSource’s Career Center on 9215 N. Florida Ave., Suite 101. Interested parties can apply here.  While no previous coding experience is required, applicants will need to complete the online application, aptitude test and beginning coding assignment. Applicants should allot 45 minutes for the process.

In the selection process, they look at test scores, the answers to questions, and prior interest in technology. They also consider race and sex in attempt to ensure classes are diversified.

Classes meet from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays from October 17 through March 22. Information sessions on the class are scheduled at 6 p.m. on Thursday, September 28, and Tuesday, October 3, at the center.  Interested parties are asked to reserve a place.

CareerSource Tampa Bay is working with LaunchCode as part of its effort to beef up tech talent in the community, designated as a TechHire community in December. TechHire communities throughout the nation are intended to build a pipeline of tech talent. 

It’s unclear when another class might be offered in Tampa. “We have long-term plans, but we want to be smart about how we do this,” he says.


October job fairs target unemployed, underemployed

Whether you’re unemployed or underemployed, an upcoming job fair might help you get back on track. There are several scheduled soon in the Tampa Bay Area.

“Underemployment is a big issue, and the people are looking,” says Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman of District 1.

Murman has organized a job fair Friday, October 13, in conjunction with CareerSource Tampa Bay and Hillsborough Community College.

“There are people that are still not employed, that need employment, and we’re here to help,” she says.

The event is free to both employers and jobseekers. “The employers need to call us as soon as possible if they are interested in being at the job fair, and making their jobs available, because we do have limited space,” she says.

She’s expecting about 55 employers and possibly 800 to 900 job seekers. A wide range of positions will be available including fulltime, part-time and contract.

The job fair, slated from 8:30 a.m. to noon at HCC’s Dale Mabry Campus at 4001 W. Tampa Bay Blvd., Tampa, is Murman’s third in that Tampa location. She’s already held six in southern Hillsborough, which was hard hit in the 2008 recession as construction ebbed.

To find out the employers that will be in attendance, check out Murman’s website or call her office at 813-272-5470. Those who need help preparing can contact her office to be connected with those that can help.

Jobseekers, who may be hired on the spot, do not need to register.

Following the event, the fair will be virtual from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. and can be accessed on personal computers or at the public libraries. Visit her website and look for the link, which will be live when it’s available.

Florida Joblink Career also has a couple of events scheduled in the Tampa Bay region, the first one from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, October 5, at Courtyard By Marriott University Parkway, 850 University Pkwy, Sarasota. The event focuses on Lakewood Ranch, Sarasota and Bradenton. It is free to jobseekers.

The second event is planned for the Tampa, Brandon, Lakeland and surrounding areas Wednesday, October 11. The company, which places an emphasis on diversity, is holding the event from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Clarion Inn and Suites Conference Center, 9331 E. Adamo Drive, Tampa. Admission is free for jobseekers.


Some of the careers included in both events are sales, management, customer service, insurance, education, government, IT, human resources, engineering, blue collar and clerical.

Learn more about these events here.

Here are some other job fairs scheduled in Tampa:

  • Tampa Career Fair is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, October 17, at Doubletree by Hilton Tampa Westshore Airport, 4500 W. Cypress St., Tampa. Learn more about the event by National Career Fairs here.
  • The Job News Job Fair is slated October 24 at George M. Steinbrenner Field, One Steinbrenner Drive, Tampa. The event is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Learn more at JobNewsUSA.
  • A Tampa Career Fair is planned from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. October 25 at Holiday Inn Tampa Westshore Airport Tampa. The event by Best Hire Career Fairs is free. It caters to lots of different industries including accounting, banking, consulting, education, technology, public administration, tourism, video game and web services.

Tampa Bay jobs: New healthcare, restaurant positions on tap

Cognizant Technology Solutions has opened its fourth Tampa facility, with plans to hire an additional 75 employees. And Dave & Busters is planning to hire more than 230 for its new restaurant/ entertainment complex in the vicinity of Brandon Mall.  

The latest Cognizant expansion follows a 2014 commitment to invest $5.7 million in Tampa area facilities and hire 412 employees here. “We’re now increasing that commitment, investing approximately $500,000 more in capital expenditures and creating 75 additional jobs over the next 4 years,” says Eric Westphal, Cognizant’s Senior Director in Global Corporate Affairs.

Westphal indicates Tampa’s business climate was a draw.

“Tampa is home to many of the Fortune 500 and 1000 clients we serve, particularly in the healthcare and financial services industries,” he says. “Among the area’s outstanding features is the strong local talent pool of skilled business process, IT and consulting professionals.”

He notes a “thriving array” of support organizations in the area.

“Cognizant also has a growing partnership with CareerSource Tampa Bay and Hillsborough Community College to develop technology training courses for students,” he adds. “Driving these types of programs is central to our business philosophy as one of the nation’s largest employers of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) professionals.”

Cognizant is hiring full-time high-skilled technology and business professionals, with wages typically meeting or exceed local averages. Among the sought-after skills are IT application development, IT application testing, business process services, and application value management.

More information is available on the career page on the Cognizant website.

One of the largest providers of services to healthcare organizations in the United States, Cognizant’s new Tampa facility will focus primarily on healthcare support and services. The company, which also has operations in East and West Tampa, opened its new office earlier this month in approximately 30,000 square feet at 4631 Woodland Corporate Blvd. in West Tampa.

The Dallas-based Dave & Buster’s, which operates some 100 restaurant/entertainment complexes in North America, is scheduled to open its Brandon restaurant October 30, with hiring commencing September 27.

General Manager Tim Johnson is looking to hire for a wide variety of positions, including cooks, dishwashers, food runners, bussers, hostesses, servers, bartenders, plus technicians that work on the games and interact with the folks in the midway arcade area. He also is seeking guest ambassadors, front desk personnel, and customer service help in the winner’s circle, where people redeem their game tickets.

Salary is based on experience.

Experience is always a plus, but it’s not required,” Johnson says. “I usually hire everybody in as a part-time employee. I hope they’ll be full time.”

Interested persons can apply online.

The new 40,000-square-foot facility, which is under construction, will feature a dining room, sports lounge with a big TV and billiards, a main bar and midway gaming area. It will offer hundreds of the latest arcade games plus some old favorites like Pacman.

We’re entertainment across the board. It’s not just food and games,” says Johnson, who is relocating from Panama City Beach. “We’re just excited to be coming down to the Brandon/Tampa area. ... I bought a home there and I’m planning on making it home.”

Here are some more job opportunities.
 

  • Full-time temporary jobs are available to people eligible for Disaster Unemployment Assistance because their jobs were impacted by Hurricane Irma. CareerSource Tampa Bay and CareerSource Pinellas are developing temporary jobs for eligible individuals who want to assist with recovery efforts. Learn more at www.careersourcetampabay.com or www.careersourcepinellas.com. Disaster assistance is available for employers and individuals; there is an Oct. 16 deadline to apply.
  • As the nation recovers from hurricanes Irma and Harvey, the Small Business Administration is seeking temporary help with disaster relief in areas affected by the storms. Bilingual language skills are helpful. SBA is seeking damage verifiers, customer service representatives/public information officers, information technology specialists, construction analysts nationwide. Learn more.
  • The engineering company UC Synergetic has expanded it regional operations in ComPark 75 in Wesley Chapel and is expecting to create 25 new jobs. The Fort Mill, S.C.-based company, with 41 offices and 1,600 employees in 40 states, currently employs 80 in its 19,000-square-foot Wesley Chapel office. A a subsidiary of Pike Corporation, one of the largest providers of outsourced construction, repair and engineering services to U.S. utilities, UC Synergetic specializes in engineering and project management services.
  • Check out the latest career opportunities in the arts at the Art Council's TampaArts website. There currently are job openings for a museum operations assistant at Tampa Museum, a community programs coordinator at Straz Center in Tampa, and a part-time art coordinator at the SouthShore Library in Ruskin.
  • Ecological Consulting Solutions, Inc. is seeking a full-time biologist for its Tampa office. Duties for the Environmental Scientist I include working on surveys of threatened and endangered species, analysis of environmental constraints, wetland delineation, and permitting for wetland and listed species.
  • A data scientist position is available with SysMind LLC in Tampa. Two years of professional experience with Python is required. Duties include acquiring and organizing data so it can be used in advanced natural language generation apps.
  • Feather Sound Country Club in Clearwater is looking for someone to maintain its tennis courts for some 30 to 39 hours a week. Applicants should be knowledgeable about all phases of court maintenance, be able to inventory and repair equipment, and have basic computer skills such as MS Word and Excel.

Dreamit’s UrbanTech program launches in Tampa

The New York City-based Dreamit, a top-10 ranked global accelerator and venture capital firm, has chosen eight companies for its first UrbanTech accelerator program, which it is holding in Tampa. One of the companies, Raxar Technology Corp., is Tampa-based.

“We’re really hoping to be able to contribute to the progress that is happening in Tampa Bay,” says Kurt Akman, who heads the company’s growth and marketing division.

Raxar, founded by Akman’s brother Peter, helps companies go mobile with its platform of tools that facilitate data collection and background analytics. The tools are especially helpful in any industry where people manage complex physical assets.

Dreamit received more than 300 completed applications for its first accelerator program focusing on technological solutions for real estate, city infrastructure and urban living. The selection process looked at the company’s idea, its potential in the market, the competitive landscape and the company founders.

It became interested in Tampa through a Dreamit alumni, Gainesville resident Bharani Rajakumar, an advocate of keeping Florida talent in the state. Rajakumar connected Dreamit with Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, who is partnering in a massive $3 billion, 53-acre project downtown called Water Street Tampa.

The accelerator program had been scheduled to officially kick off September 11 in Tampa, but the Tampa component is being rescheduled because of Hurricane Irma.

“We didn’t allow it to put a hindrance on what we were doing. We did things virtually rather than in person in Tampa,” says Seth Berk, Dreamit’s Chief Marketing Officer. “We’re going to be spending a few weeks in Tampa for sure as part of the cycle.”

The accelerator is placing the startups at CoWorkTampa offices within close proximity to the Water Street Tampa project, facilitating collaboration and instruction.

The UrbanTech program includes two, two-week road shows, one focusing on potential customers and the other one on investors. “Our hope is always that these customer meetings result in business relationships, a pilot program or full-fledge contracts,” Berk says.

The program includes a December 5 summit at downtown’s Marriott Waterside, which is expected to draw some 200 to 250 for a program including guest speakers and workshops.

Here are the other seven companies chosen for the cohort.

• Bignay Inc. is the developer of Gi Fly, a foldable, electric bike commanded by a mobile app. The bile can ride 40 miles on a single charge and is intended to facilitate urban commutes.

Cityzenith helps builders aggregate and analyze data sources involved with construction. Its InstaBIM tool offers easy drag-and-drop assistance with designing, building, and operating complex projects.

Ecomedes simplifies the buying process with a digital data management program. It helps users find the best products for their projects and simplifies the analysis of economic and environmental impacts.

• The wind turbine manufacturer Flower Turbines, which creates small and quiet turbines to be used near buildings and people, offers turbines ideal for urban settings.

Knowify, which offers a software platform for commercial subcontractors, assists users with bidding, tracking, and invoicing jobs. The platform increases efficiency, decreases mistakes and sets the stage for growth.

Lotik uses wireless sensors in its water monitoring service. The sensors clamp onto pipes to recognize water flow, find leaks and send the data in for analysis.

Twist Homes offers a turnkey lighting control system that includes wireless speakers, wifi repeaters and a platform for sensor modules.  It adapts easily to changes in building codes.


Tech Bytes: Small business symposium offers tech help

Owners of small businesses have an opportunity to learn how technology can benefit their businesses September 30 at a free symposium offering assistance with digital marketing, websites, social media and productivity.

“In 2017, you’re only limited by your imagination,” says Carrol Josephs-Marshall, President of Central Florida Community Planning & Development, the event’s organizer.

The symposium offers free help to startups, businesses in the growth mode and successful companies ready to ramp up. We offer technological assistance that is designed to help companies compete in a world that is becoming more and more digital,” she explains.

“We also take the digital discussion a step further by covering Business Intelligence and how it can make a small company an immediate competitor of a much larger corporation,” she says.

The event is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, at the Ybor City campus of Hillsborough Community College; 1320 E. Palm Ave., Tampa.

The program features industry experts who want to share practices they use in their own businesses. “Each attendee will have an opportunity to interact with presenters and get contact information so they may be able to get a one-on-one meeting at a later time,” she adds.

This year’s itinerary includes Janette Blanco, a business consultant with Florida Small Business Development Center; Andrew Gold, Ph.D., with Hillsborough Community College, and Co-Founder of e2Venture and Operation Startup; Rita Sauri, with Hillsborough County Economic Development; Gregory Hart, Managing Director of Minority and Small Business for the City of Tampa; and Charles Young Jr., a CPA and Managing Partner with Young and Son, Inc.

Also on the program are Sean Josephs, of The Josephs Group, Inc.; Leighton Kyler, of Peak Performance Paradigm LLC; Dr. Veronica Walters, Founder, The Walters Academy for Entrepreneurship; Brandy Hastings, Regional Partnership Manager, Visit Florida; Fabian Yepez, VP,  Prosperausa West Coast; and Robert West Jr., Store Manager/AVP, TD Bank.

Check out more tech-related opportunities in Tampa Bay below.

• Tampa Bay is participating in the 1776 Challenge Cup September 19, joining more than 70 cities worldwide that are holding a pitch competition to single out their top startup. Winners will fly to New York City for the Challenge Cup Global Finals in November. If you’d like to come out and hear the pitches, the event is planned from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Tampa Theatre, 711 N. Franklin St. You can learn more about the event by the nonprofit business accelerator Tampa Bay WaVE here.

• Are you up for a challenge? You can help Hillsborough County control mosquitoes -- and prepare for a Zika threat. The Hack Zika 2017 event is scheduled for multiple dates, including a group hack September 22 to 24, independent teamwork from September 25 to 29 and presentations and awards September 30. The event is scheduled at Tampa Bay WaVE, 500 E. Kennedy Blvd., Suite 300, Tampa. Designers, programmers, developers, game engine experts, UX/UI experts, graphic designers and others are being asked to write software to help Hillsborough County Public Works Mosquito Control District combat mosquitoes through education, data collection and analysis. Zika is a disease spread by the Zika virus.

• Need funding for an innovative startup? The University of South Florida Chapter of National Academy of Inventors is holding a workshop to help you with that. Workshop: Avenues to Fuel Your Startup is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. September 25 at 3720 Spectrum Blvd., Oakview Room - USF IDRB Building, Tampa. A panel will talk about SBIR/STTR, VC funding and other seed resources. The event is free, but interested persons are advised to RSVP by September 18 by email or phoning 813-974-6414.

• Learn how artificial intelligence can affect our future at the Artificial Intelligence Summit from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. September 26 at Ramada Westshore Hotel, 1200 N. Westshore Blvd., Tampa. The effect of driverless Teslas, new search engine optimization rules on Google, and how wearable tech can help you save time are part of the program priced at $199. Members of Tampa Bay Business Owners pay $99 with a code. Learn more here.

• Learn how to get connected on the professional networking website, Linkedin, at Linkedin for Business Building, a program offered by Operation Startup. Operation Startup offers a wide range of business startup services to veterans. The program is scheduled from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. September 29 at Hillsborough County's Entrepreneur Collaborative Center in Ybor City, 2101 E. Palm Ave., Tampa. Walk-ins are welcome.

• In an attempt to make football safer, the National Football League and Football Research, Inc. are partnering with Duke University’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute on HeadHealthTECH Challenges. The series of challenges are focused on head protection, materials science, head kinematics and more. If you’ve got an idea, you can submit it by September 29. There will be multiple awards totaling up to $1 million a year, including in-kind support.


Diary of an Entrepreneur: Tony DiBenedetto, Tribridge

Editor's note: Due to the threat of Hurricane Irma to the Tampa Bay Area, this event has been postponed until November 14th, 2017, same time, same place as described below.

Tampa Bay Innovation Center, an innovation and entrepreneurship center for technology businesses, will hold its quarterly “Diary of an Entrepreneur” program, part of the TECH Talk series, on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017, at 8:30 a.m. at Microsoft Headquarter offices, 5426 Bay Center Dr., Suite 700, Tampa.
 
The September Diary of an Entrepreneur program, “From startup to public company: the strategic investments that fueled the growth of Tribridge,” will be presented by Tony DiBenedetto, Tribridge chairman and CEO. 

DiBenedetto will discuss leading Tampa-based Tribridge from a startup in 1998 to a $180 million software, services and cloud business before recently being acquired by DXC, the world’s leading independent, end-to-end IT services company. He will share his journey on growing Tribridge through outside capital as well as strategic investments in developing culture, talent and innovation, according to a news release.

83 Degrees asked DiBenedetto a few questions to give our readers a sneak peak at the discussion. Here’s the result:

83 Degrees: What advice do you have for a young, tech startup today?

Tony DiBenedetto: Here are a few things I’ve learned from being an entrepreneur:
  • Passion. You have to really love the product or service you are selling. Starting a business is a 24/7 job and can put a lot of stress on your relationships. Also be prepared to get turned down -- rejection is part of it. Passion for what you do will help you overcome the personal obstacles.
  • Good People. Whether you need 1 or 300 employees, you’ve got to be able to attract talent. What will make someone take the risk in joining a start-up? Some people are attracted to the business idea itself, for some it’s leadership and for other it’s compensation. I would start with people who share your values and then evaluate their skills. 
  • Cash is King. Having a great idea for a new business isn’t enough. You need a well capitalized plan with plenty of cash. Take the time to think through the business model and what the costs truly are. Go into it with low expectations of revenue while you ramp up.  
  • Differentiate. Find an underserved market, and distinguish yourself from the competition. Even if it’s a large market, you can still identify a need or a gap that needs to be filled. You have to want to make the product or service better than what is already out there in order to truly differentiate your business.
83D: Please discuss the importance of innovation and how it has contributed to Tribridge’s success story.

TD: Technology is a highly competitive market so we have to be innovative and take risks. Entrepreneurial spirit has been one of our core values since Tribridge was started. Many of our software and cloud solutions came from ideas from our team members. We also use the fast fail model to help drive innovation. It’s a cultural movement that empowers people to implement new ideas. But if the idea doesn’t work, you pull the plug and quickly move on rather than trying to salvage something to the detriment of your customers, team members and the business. You have to build a culture of open communication and collaboration where team members feel comfortable generating a lot of ideas. Then you take action – launch the new service or pilot program – establish the goals for success early and measure them often. 

There is no fee to attend the Tampa Bay Innovation Center TECH Talk series, but space is limited. Advance registration is suggested.

Tampa service enables customers to text business phone lines

John Dalrymple called his veterinarian with a simple request. He wanted medication for his chocolate Labrador, George. But what he hoped would be a brief phone call turned into a 15-minute or more exchange, with him on hold the bulk of the time.

Dalrymple realized telephone calls weren’t always the most efficient way to do things -- and Text Our Company was born.

“We’re text enabling your traditional business landline and giving you the capacity to send and receive messages on that number,” says Dalrymple, CEO, President and Founder of Mobex, the Tampa company offering the texting service. “No one else is doing this to my knowledge.”

Text Our Company’s innovative service isn’t looking to replace the phone, he says.

“There are some kinds of transactions that just make it [texting] more efficient for the company,” he explains.

He points out most business lines don’t have texting capability and emails can become buried. “Texts get seen and responded to right away, but they are not so immediate you have to drop everything,” he says.

Companies access Text Our Company using a computer, tablet or phone connected to the Internet. Individuals log into the company account, where they can utilize a chatroom to communicate with clients.

Converting to the service is seamless. Customers can retain their existing business number, without changing providers, and/or add a new line.

Text Our Company is available as a monthly subscription, with no contract, for $29.95 and up. It has the ability to go beyond automated texts with their yes and no answers; customers can ask questions and receive answers to their questions.

“We’re really focusing on businesses that have a traditional business line,” he says.

Founded in 2013, Mobex is a telecommunications provider of VoIP, text messaging, and phone systems management services. It began developing the Text Our Company service last year with Haneke Design, a Tampa-based custom software developer, which transformed the idea into a usable product.

Dalrymple’s son Johnny, who earned an MBA from UT, has been working with him.

Text Our Company has been participating in the University of Tampa’s Community Incubator. It took first place in technology at 2017 New Venture Expo in April at the university.

Now UT’s Entrepreneur Center is among the firm’s customers, along with the Pinellas County Democratic Party, some doctor’s offices and an accounting firm. Mobex is rolling out Text Our Company to customers nationwide.

Because its business customers probably won’t be expecting to be able to communicate by text, the package includes an initial mass mailing to notify clients of the texting option.

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