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327 Entrepreneurship Articles | Page: | Show All

Tampa Entrepreneurs Create Innovative Solution To Noise Disturbance

Three entrepreneurs in Tampa have created the solution for noise disturbance for both commercial businesses and residents with a product that goes beyond absorbing noise to keep the noise from entering in the first place.

Founded in 2013, Residential Acoustics’ signature product is the AcoustiCurtain, a soundproof curtain designed to make life quieter for urban businesses and residents.

The inspiration for the product came from partner Walker Peek’s personal experience. Living near the Selmon Expressway, Peek experienced a lot of noise outside his residence from airplanes, construction, traffic and other things. Peek discussed his frustrations with business partners Dylan McCandless and Zach Levine, and the team constructed a curtain to help reduce the noise. The product worked so well, they decided to mass produce. A company in Odessa now manages the production process, and the team works from home on the marketing and sales, when not involved with their fulltime jobs.

The curtain is made out of a mass loaded vinyl material in between two pieces of cloth, giving it sound blocking characteristics. Supported by grommets at the top, it is also visually appealing and available in a variety of patterns and colors. The curtains are customized to exact dimensions to provide the best coverage for the space needed. They can be retracted to let in light, sound and air if desired. They are currently being sold in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago.

The company just started utilizing the mentoring services provided by the Tampa Bay Technology Incubator for assistance with marketing, sales and legal advice.

They plan to remain in the Tampa Bay region in the long term. "There is a big need for new companies where you can have employees that are local," says McCandless. "Lots of manufacturing happens here. We’re excited to bring more to the area."

The company plans to expand the product line and partner with large retail outlets in the near future.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Dylan McCandless, Residential Acoustics

New Partnership Makes Digital Signage More Accessible, User-Friendly

Wondersign and IAdea recently announced a partnership that will enhance the flexibility and user-friendliness of the digital signage world.

Wondersign is a cloud-based content delivery system for digital signage. Customers purchase the signage hardware for restaurants, stores or other areas and use Wondersign’s product to manage the content design and development. The drag and drop interface works with any web browser and doesn’t require advanced technical knowledge. Based out of Switzerland, Wondersign runs its North American operations from its Tampa office.

Taiwan-based IAdea provides media players and sign boards to power large-scale, commercial grade digital signage projects. The partnership offers customers a way to manage their devices out of the box, simplifying their deployment and operation.

"The fact that [IAdea] has identified a cloud-based software-as-a-service like Wondersign as a strategic partner for the future shows where the industry is going,” says Casper Fopp, director of marketing and public relations for Wondersign.

The partnership is particularly useful for small- to medium-sized businesses that may be new to the world of digital signage and overwhelmed with the prospect of managing multiple signage locations. The cloud-based nature of the software is attractive to businesses that have different locations and are not able to have a physical presence everywhere their signage is placed.

"The partnership helps a lot of people get into the digital signage world with easier access," says Alvin Kuo, senior sales manager for IAdea.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Sources: Casper Fopp, Wondersign; Alvin Luo, IAdea

University Of Tampa Receives National Recognition For Excellence In Entrepreneurship

The University of Tampa (UT) Entrepreneurship Center adds to its list of accolades the Outstanding Emerging Entrepreneurship Program Award from the U.S. Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

The award is given annually to recognize programs that have been in existence for three years or less or have undergone a major revision during the same time period. Programs are judged on: innovation, quality, potential viability, comprehensiveness, depth of support, sustainability and impact. The top four schools were invited to present before a set of judges at a national program in Texas in January.

UT’s program, which boasts 250 undergraduate and graduate students, has undergone a transformation recently from a focus on family businesses to a more comprehensive emphasis on the entrepreneurial mindset, appealing even to students who aren’t interested in starting their own business.

"We focus on building intellectual capital," says Rebeca White, director of the Entrepreneurship Center and professor of entrepreneurship at UT. "We certainly want to have businesses come out of the program, but the real focus is on building entrepreneurs."

White feels that strong support from the university is key to UT’s winning the award, noting that the university wants to be known for entrepreneurship. "We have a lot of great momentum," says White. "We were able to prove our ability to do what we say we’re going to do."

One example of this support is the creation of an entire floor of dedicated space for the center in a new building set to be completed by Spring 2015. The space will bring together students, educators and experienced executives to develop entrepreneurial concepts and launch new ideas. UT also plans to take the concept across campus and provide programming for students outside of the business college, including nursing, art or theater majors who want to be more engaged in an entrepreneurial mindset.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Rebecca White, The University of Tampa Entrepreneurship Center

Tampa Clothier Scores In Gasparilla Distance Classic

It's been one big year for Black & Denim Apparel Company.

In 11 short months, the boutique clothier has grown from Kickstarter-funded roots into the official sponsor of all branded merchandise and apparel for the 2014 Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic.

For the past three years, footwear and apparel giant Nike has been the official race sponsor, "so we have big shoes to fill,'' says Black & Denim founder Roberto Torres. "This gives us an audience of over 30,000 people. This project is huge!''

After a local runner and Black & Denim fan suggested the company approach the Gasparilla Distance Classic Association with designs, Torres explains, "It just took off from there.''

Black & Denim is set to provide long- and short-sleeve T-shirts for competitors in the annual race, held Feb. 22-23 in downtown Tampa. The company hopes to expand apparel and merchandise to include hats, thermals, "hoods'' (hooded sweatshirts), and more in 2015.

Fans will be able to pre-purchase branded merchandise on the Black & Denim website the week prior to the race as well as on race weekend. In the company's first year as a race sponsor, they will offer "six kick-ass designs that are edgy and fun -- family-friendly, as well,'' says Torres.

Since opening a boutique storefront in October 2013, the company has rapidly outgrown the space, moving to 1907 East 7th Ave. in Ybor City. Torres also has short-term plans to open a store in Channelside and a long-term goal to bring a store to Tampa International Airport by 2018. The company employs five people in Tampa and will hire two more for the Channelside location.

Every semester, notes Torres, "we have four interns from either the University of Tampa, University of South Florida, or the International Academy of Design and Technology.''

Black & Denim will showcase wares in a booth at the 8 On Your Side Health and Fitness Expo at the Tampa Convention Center during race weekend. The 2014 Expo will feature 99,000 square feet of vendors, says Torres.

"We are very excited about the opportunity, to say the least,'' says Torres. "This race attracts runners from all over the country.''

By: Justine Benstead
Source: Roberto Torres, Black & Denim

B-Sides Event In Tampa Focuses On Cybersecurity

In the midst of the Gasparilla celebrations, Tampa will be infiltrated by a different kind of pirate on February 15.

B-Sides Tampa is an event for cyber-hackers of every type -- professionals, students, tinkerers and people who just want to learn more about the world of information security. The free event at South University in Tampa includes workshops, demonstrations, competitions and lots of networking.

The event is based on the national DEF CON conference that takes place in Las Vegas each year. As the conference grew, smaller events were created that appealed to local communities who wanted more audience participation and group interaction. With the name depicting the “b side,” or flip side of a record, B-Sides events take place in cities across the world including San Francisco, Boston and London, and now for the first time in Tampa.

B-Sides Tampa organizers want to bring people together for networking, training and collaboration, and to see how many people in the area are interested in topic. The results have them pleasantly surprised, with 350 registered thus far.

Presentation topics include Introduction to Forensics, Understanding Your Data, and more technical subjects like SIEM and Anti-SIEM Techniques. A "Capture the Flag" section will feature a set of security challenges that allow people to hack machines and solve problems, with prizes for the winners. There will also be a careers portion with companies in the local area that are hiring.

"We want to help put Tampa on the map with regards to technology in general," says Mick Weiss, operations engineer at Carvoyant and one of the organizers of B-Sides Tampa. "There’s so much technology in Tampa and in Florida in general, but nobody knows about it."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Mick Weiss, Carvoyant and B-Sides Tampa

Burger 21 Expands, Adds 50+ Jobs in Tampa

Award-winning fast-casual dining chain Burger 21 is expanding to include on-going franchise development, which will create up to 50 new jobs per restaurant. The company is also adding operations as well as research and development positions to support the company’s continued growth.

There's no doubt that Americans love burgers -- especially a better, livelier experience that serves a fresh burger with style. With fast-casual dining and the better burger concept rolling in $75 billion per year within the overall burger industry, fast-casual dining represents less than 3 percent of that number.

Burger 21 serves a variety of high-quality, fresh made-to-order gourmet burgers, fries, salads and shakes to people of all ages in a modern environment.

"It's a very small sliver of the burger business, but it’s growing at a rate of double digits. Clearly, there's enormous potential there. We are capitalizing on the need and desire for consumers to have higher quality burger options. At Burger 21, we focus on variety," says Dan Stone, VP of franchise development.

Founded by the owners of The Melting Pot Restaurants, Inc., Burger 21 opened its first location in Westchase in November 2010 and sold its first franchise in early 2012. The company has since sold more than 20 franchises across nine states and plans to sell 20 new franchises this year.

The Burger 21 brand experienced significant growth in 2013, opening five new franchise restaurants and generating $12.4 million in systemwide revenue. The company’s strategic growth goal also includes the addition of 10 new franchise units this year, which is expected to generate more than $24.5 million in total systemwide revenue.

"The more we sell, it has a trickling effect of us being able to provide increased support to our restaurants. The more we open, the more support we will need at our home office. Much of what will happen this year is a result of activity and sales that happened last year," says Stone.

Since 2010, Burger 21 has added more than 150 new jobs to the Tampa Bay region. The company is targeting expansion in Pinellas County by 2015.

"We definitely have a strong interest in bringing the brand to Pinellas. We are franchising all other areas," says Stone.

The company is hosting a February 13 webinar on franchise development. To register for the live webinar, visit the company’s franchise website. For career development opportunities, visit the company online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Dan Stone, Burger 21

Traveling Tampa To Austin: StartupBus Southeast 2014 Seeks Applicants

Some startups are born in a basement, others in an office. Just a few are inspired by a weeklong bus trip with a group of "hackers, hustlers, and hipsters'' -- an experience known by many in the tech community as the StartupBus. This year, StartupBus Southeast leaves Tampa for Austin on March 2nd, 2014.

As the bus from the Southeast region travels toward SXSW in Texas, a group of 20-30 selected "buspreneurs'' will develop and execute an original startup idea to present at the end of the trip.

2014 StartupBus Southeast organizer Ashley Mooney of Tampa explains, "This is more than a hackathon, more than a road trip, and much more than a pitch competition. It's a journey of passionate entrepreneurs aboard 7 different buses from around the country. Each team must conceive, build, and launch a startup in around three days.''

Interested? Applications are due by mid-February.

"Those who should apply are startup-minded Web and mobile developers, designers and business developers who can generate buzz in a short period of time and know how to pitch their face off,'' says Mooney. "Our advice to applicants is: If you have technical skills, show 'em off -- give us links to your work. Show us why you're an outstanding choice and get creative!''

For almost five years, StartupBus has played a role in fostering the Tampa startup community. StartupBus Southeast invites applicants from the entire region, so "buspreneurs'' from Tampa's startup community will have the opportunity to mingle and make connections with entrepreneurs from surrounding areas.

The ultimate takeaway, says Mooney, is the opportunity that waits at the destination. "You pitch your startup to big name venture capitalists, high profile members of the tech startup community, and in front of hundreds of other entrepreneurs. The best outcome would be that you get funded -- it's happened -- and even if you don't, you are launching your business in front lucrative eyes that can really get the word out about your new startup,'' she explains. "Attendees are pitching to major investors along the way, like Dave McClure from 500 Startups and Robert Scoble from Rackspace.''

Mooney, a digital content manager for Organic Salon Systems and early Google Glass Explorer, will ride the bus as both a participant and organizer in 2014. This year's Bus Conductors, who have participated in previous years, are each members of the Tampa startup and tech scene. Mooney is joined by co-conductors Will Mitchell, of StartupBros, Taylor Wallace, of WeVue, and Lindsey Nickel-de la O, of Nickel Communications.

"Tampa residents who go on the bus have an incredible opportunity ahead of them,'' Mooney says.

The participation fee for "buspreneurs'' is $299. Ticket cost does not include accommodations, food, drink or return trip. To learn more, visit StartupBus Southeast on Facebook or Twitter.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Ashley Mooney, StartupBus Southeast

CollegeBom Offers Online Marketplace For Students

College students will soon have access to an online marketplace where they can buy, sell and trade items with other students at their university without having to pay transaction fees or shipping.

CollegeBom allows students to sell items of interest to other students -- whether it be a microwave, laptop, textbook or even furniture.

The site is unique in that it automatically pairs buyers and sellers. Users create a profile and then enter a description of what they want to buy or sell. The site automatically sends a notification when items are available, and then the users take it from there.  

For security purposes, users must have an official university email address, which is confirmed. Paypal integration is also being added so users don’t have to exchange cash.

The site is the brainchild of Steve Solomon, a freshman at the University of South Florida who plans to graduate in 2017 with a double major in International Business and Finance.  

"I wanted to create a centralized marketplace for college students. …a great resource that will genuinely help them." says Solomon, CollegeBom’s founder.

The site also provides adverstising opportunities to small businesses situated in neighborhoods near the university, allowing them to grow student traffic.

Launch is scheduled within the next two months for USF students. Eventually it will expand to other college campuses.

CollegeBom is a charter member of the USF Student Innovation Incubator, and is taking advantage of the office space and mentorship opportunities. "They try to do as much as possible to help you, says Solomon. "I can almost guarantee I wouldn’t be this far without the incubator."

Solomon also attended Startup Weekend Tampa Bay recently, where he gained knowledge and connections to help with the launch.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Steve Solomon, CollegeBom

Two Maids & A Mop Expands To Tampa, 15 New Jobs

Residential cleaning company Two Maids & A Mop is expanding to Tampa Bay, launching its first franchise development and creating up to 15 new jobs in management, sales and personnel over the next year.

Featured in Inc. 500 as one of the nation’s fastest-growing residential cleaning companies in the consumer products and service industry, the company grew from a small staff of 4 to 140 employees by 2013.

"We are a Southeastern-based company. We identified a couple different markets that we absolutely wanted to be in, and Tampa was one of them," says Ron Holt, CEO and founder of Two Maids & A Mop.

With 12 company-owned locations in five states, Two Maids & A Mop took a large part of 2013 to explore and research the potential for strong franchise development after receiving several inquiries for franchising opportunities from across the country and as far away as the United Kingdom.

The company’s expansion into Tampa Bay was a unique collaboration of a targeted strategy, key business relationships and the right timing.

Holt had developed a friendship with Nick Friedman and Omar Soliman, owners of College Hunks Hauling Junk and College Hunks Moving. Friedman and Soliman’s business growth plan included expansion into the cleaning service industry.

And so it was.

A joint-venture business relationship developed, merging Friedman’s and Soliman’s new cleaning concept under the Two Maids & A Mop mantra, and emerging as the company’s first franchise location.

Moving forward, Tampa will serve as regional headquarters for franchise development as the company further develops new franchise locations throughout the United States, creating up to 40 more jobs in Tampa in the process.

"The first step is to create a huge success in Tampa, to build a large business, to employ a lot of people, and to create more job growth in the Tampa area. The second step is to begin marketing the franchise concept all over the country," says Holt.

For more information on career opportunities, visit the Tampa company website. To inquire about franchise development opportunities, visit the company’s franchise website.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Ron Holt, Two Maids & A Mop

FindMyClass App Navigates Campus For College Students

The beginning of the semester can be stressful for college students -- learning new faces, making new decisions and finding new classrooms. A mobile app launched at the University of South Florida takes away the guesswork involved in finding classrooms on campus.

FindMyClass was developed by Tampa natives and brothers Michael and Ryan Schmidt. Michael is a graduate and Ryan is a current student in the University of South Florida College of Engineering. The idea came about while the two participated on campus in a Windows Phone Competition sponsored by Microsoft. They attended a series of workshops in which they learned how to code apps and then won a development contest with FindMyClass.

"I always had trouble navigating around campus," says Michael Schmidt. He and his brother felt the need all long but never really thought about building an app to meet that need until the competition.

After downloading the app, users select a campus and then a college. From there they can search for a building. The app puts a line between their current location and the building, and rotates with them as they walk or drive to find it. Users can also view a list of food locations and parking garages.

The app is available on 10 college campuses in Florida, including all campuses of Hillsborough Community College, University of South Florida in Tampa and St. Petersburg and The University of Tampa. Eventually the team plans to expand to as many campuses as possible.  

The app is free to download, and the first three building searches are free.

FindMyClass is a charter member of the USF Student Innovation Incubator and is using resources such as pro bono legal advice for their trademark application. "USF is definitely helping us out a lot," says Schmidt.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Michael Schmidt, FindMyClass

St. Pete Celebrates Women Of Vision, Inspiration

Do you know a woman in Pinellas County who provides vision, leadership and inspiration to others? Perhaps someone who shows a passion for the region and puts her heart and soul into her business and the community?

The St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce is looking to recognize these women at the Iconic Women of St. Petersburg luncheon on May 14 at Hilton St. Petersburg, Carillon Park.

"There are so many amazing people in Pinellas County," says Jo-An Thomas, Chair of the luncheon and multimedia consultant for Business Observer. "We often don’t know who these people are who are doing wonderful things in our communities every day."

Now in its 15th year, the event celebrates women who live or work in Pinellas County and are nominated by their peers in one of seven different categories: large business, small business, entrepreneur, nonprofit, community service, Woman to Watch (under the age of 40) and INSPIRE! Women of the Year.

Past honorees include Ashley Rhodes-Courter, 2012 International Woman of the Year. Rhodes-Courter spent a majority of her childhood in 14 different foster homes and is now an international speaker and advocate for education, community, youth and families. Lorraine Yaslowitz, 2013 INSPIRE! Woman of the Year, founded The Partners for Life Foundation in honor of her late husband Jeff, a fallen police officer. The Foundation offers support for families who have lost loved ones due to acts of violence. Deputy Mayor Dr. Kanika Jelks-Tomalin, 2012 Woman to Watch, is a fifth generation St. Petersburg resident and healthcare industry leader on the local and national levels. Her rich history of community involvement also includes Pinellas County Urban League and the Green Light Pinellas transportation initiative.

The event’s presenting sponsor is Ceridian. Nominations are sought through January 31.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Jo-An Thomas

Forward Thinking Initiatives Launches First Youth Entrepreneurship Academy In St. Petersburg

Forward Thinking Initiatives, a nonprofit organization that helps Tampa Bay teens learn the value and principles of entrepreneurship and innovation, is partnering with the St. Petersburg Greenhouse to launch its first youth entrepreneurship academy.

The first class of the academy, ART-repreneurship for Teens, launches in February 2014 and is designed to teach students the importance of incorporating passion of the arts with business savvy in order to promote their expertise while bringing themselves to market.

"It’s a lot more than teaching a business plan. These skills are critical whether you’re an intrapreneur or an entrepreneur," says the organization’s founder and President Debra Campbell.

In 2004 with the support from the Tampa Bay Partnership, Florida High Tech Corridor and Verizon, Campbell created Forward Thinking Initiatives as an economic development initiative aimed at providing teens and educators with entrepreneurship education focused on innovation, leadership and critical thinking necessary to our evolving workforce.

The initiative grew out of an effort to create a vital link between education and economic development.

"We found that entrepreneurship skills were so critical to what is now called common core. It crosses all kinds of educational, real-world curriculum," says Campbell, who has a background in economic development.

FTI recently partnered with the St. Petersburg Greenhouse, an extension of the City of St. Petersburg which evolved from the city’s Business Assistance Center into an epicenter connecting businesses and entrepreneurs with a wealth of resources designed to support and promote successful and continued business growth.

Campbell’s central goal is to encourage and cultivate entrepreneurial mindsets and behaviors that transform youth into empowered thinkers, essentially promoting personal growth while motivating the region’s economic growth.

"They are learning entrepreneurship through specific subject matter like arts entrepreneurship or technology entrepreneurship. This is a unique experience that provides valuable employees and workforce associates to our companies," says Greenhouse Manager and Economic Development Coordinator Sean Kennedy.

FTI’s February class will cover:
- How to market yourself, your portfolio and your product for school or career
- Identifying real business opportunities
- Career opportunities in the arts
- Launching your own business in the arts
- Meeting and learning from professional artists and entrepreneurs

FTI is currently registering students for the program which runs from February 17 to March 27. The fee is $260 for the full program.

For more information on Forward Thinking Initiatives' mission and ART-repreneurship program registration, visit them online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Sources: Debra Campbell, Forward Thinking Initiatives; Sean Kennedy, St. Petersburg Greenhouse

Community Crowdfunding Grows Tampa Hackerspace

Crowd-sourced funding can be a modern, effective way to get innovative ideas off the ground. In Tampa, a hackerspace that opened in fall 2013 has proven this point, exceeding their Kickstarter pledge goal of $10,000 by around 50 percent.
 
Money raised through the Kickstarter project, which will be funded at 9 p.m. Tuesday, January 14, will allow Tampa Hackerspace to grow and evolve as a community innovation hub.

Pledge goals include equipment upgrades and community outreach through workshops, local partnerships, and hosting educational events (specifically: helping people who "don't know they are makers yet,'' and teaching kids).

"Our top priorities are to purchase a CNC Mill, Laser Cutter and electronic kits made specifically to get kids inspired and confident about making,'' says Tampa Hackerspace Cofounder Ryan Holmes notes.

Workshops like the quarterly Restart Tampa event will "inspire/help the local community to repair their own appliances by providing them with tools and the confidence to do so,'' says Holmes. "Besides Restart, we are focusing on making programs specifically focused on kids on Sunday afternoons.''

The first "Kid's Open Make'' was held on January 5, 2014; click here for a calendar of upcoming Hackerspace events.

When the group reached 20 percent of their initial $10,000 Kickstarter goal in just a few hours, Holmes was "flabbergasted.'' So far, over 130 backers have pledged donations ranging from $3 to $2,500.

"I definitely knew that there was support out there, but I didn't know it was that digitally connected enough to push out $2,000 in two hours. Just goes to show how much people really want it,'' says Holmes.

Tampa Hackerspace, a state-level nonprofit, is housed on the ground floor of the CoWork Tampa building in West Tampa at 3104 N. Armenia Ave.

The Hackerspace Kickstarter page notes that CoWork Tampa "will significantly discount their $57 coworking membership to $20 per month for six months to every backer of our Kickstarter, plus every member of Tampa Hackerspace, when we reach our $15,000 stretch goal.''

To pledge a donation, visit the Tampa Hackerspace Kickstarter page before 9 p.m. (EST) on Tuesday, January 14.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Ryan Holmes, Tampa Hackerspace

St. Petersburg Celebrates All Things Local at LocalTopia

Williams Park in St. Petersburg will turn into a mecca for community, arts and locals on February 1.

Localtopia is a celebration of locally owned and independent businesses in St. Petersburg. The event will include a full entertainment lineup, a craft beer garden with local brews on tap, local food trucks, a children’s area and other offerings from independent businesses.

Local artists will provide live painting, and Creative Clay will make valentines.

Williams Park, the city’s first park, used to be a vibrant area for community gatherings. The group is hoping to use this event to bring that community feeling back to the park.

"We want to be a catalyst for other activities in the park throughout the year," says Olga Bof, founder and president of Keep St. Petersburg Local. "It will be a really visually rich event."

The event is the 2nd anniversary celebration for Keep St. Petersburg Local, an all-volunteer, non-profit organization affiliated with the American Independent Business Alliance. The group supports locally-owned, independent businesses through promotional campaigns, events and advocacy.

With over 400 members, the group’s accomplishments in its first two years of operations have included educational sessions to help local businesses grow, a city proclamation for independent week, and the first Guide to Independent Businesses publication. Members were recently highlighted in Kevin Bacon’s campaign to support buying local over the holidays.

"We want to spread the message even wider so that it becomes a way of life rather than a special occasion where you buy local,'' says Bof. "It's really about having our community think local first because it means that they’re supporting their family, their friends, their neighbors."

Funds from Localtopia benefit Keep St. Petersburg Local, as well as St. Petersburg Free Clinic and Suncoast Center.

The event’s presenting sponsor is Mazzaro’s Italian Market. Other supporters include Brown Distributing, Paper Street Market, The Hideaway Café and the City of St. Petersburg.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Olga Bof, Keep St. Petersburg Local

Project Transition USA Helps Veterans Find Civilian Careers

For many military veterans, making the transition from military to civilian life can prove challenging -- especially landing a good job.

Project Transition USA is on a mission to ease that process by using the power of LinkedIn to help military veterans find and position themselves for unique post-military career opportunities.

The nonprofit organization teaches LinkedIn workshops to transitioning military, veterans, and dependents, showing them effective LinkedIn and professional strategies that will help ease their transition into the civilian workforce.

"We teach them how to brand themselves and be attractive in the market," says Nancy Laine, president and workshop facilitator.

Laine, the daughter of an Army Chaplain and also known as "The Linked Concierge," discovered the potential of LinkedIn after making a valuable new client connection via the online professional network.

Laine and the Project Transition USA workshop team share personal experiences and success stories with veterans about the benefits of using LinkedIn as a networking resource that can lead to rewarding civilian career opportunities.

For several, personal networking or using a platform such as LinkedIn can be a bit uncomfortable after having been removed from the normalcy of every-day career advancement opportunities.

"We start out by addressing their number one fear -- privacy," says Laine.

The Project Transition USA team then starts veterans out with LinkedIn 101, easing them through the learning curve of LinkedIn’s platform while teaching them how to best share their skills that many employers and recruiters look for in candidates, sharing information on:

- Creating a noticeable profile to showcase your skills
- Strategies to build a network to promote hiring
- Effective job-searching techniques on LinkedIn's website
- How to connect with influential people with common interests
- Guidance from professional recruiters and influential community leaders

Although 93 percent of recruiters are currently using LinkedIn as a resource to find qualified candidates, a substantial 69 percent of military veterans report finding a job as the most significant hurdle in their transition.

In November 2012, Project Transition USA collaborated with MacDill Air Force Base to bring the LinkedIn Job Search Workshop to MacDill’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP) -- the first held on a military base anywhere in the world.

The organization’s progressive goal is to additionally teach civilian career transition strategies to active duty service members prior to being discharged, integrating the approach in collaboration with each United States military base to capitalize upon the long-term benefits of career preparation to prospective employers after military service.

"They want a meaningful career, and we point them in the direction of whatever makes them come alive," says Laine.

For information on workshops or how to get involved, visit Project Transition USA on LinkedIn or online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Nancy Laine, Project Transition USA
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