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Startup Grind Tampa Bay Hosts Citizinvestor, StatWeather Founders For Fireside Chats

Local networking group Startup Grind Tampa Bay will host Citizinvestor founders Tony DeSisto and Jordan Raynor as featured speakers on Thursday, April 17, at a monthly meetup for area entrepreneurs.
 
Tampa-based startup company Citizinvestor is modeled on the principle of ‘crowdfunding for the people.’
 
“A lot of what they’ll talk about, I think, is quitting their full time jobs, jumping in with two feet to risk everything on it,” says Startup Grind Tampa chapter director Joy Randels. “They’ve completely bootstrapped their company from the beginning, have found office space with little more than ‘friends and family money’ and are growing with real revenue. I think that’s a pretty inspiring story.”
 
Citizinvestor has established itself in the crowdfunding arena as a distinctive player by partnering exclusively with government officials or partners. The startup has over 150 government accounts registered to date.
 
“I love the fact that they’re giving citizens the ability to make decisions about how they want to see money used,” says Randels. “Whether it’s a public event, or building a park in your neighborhood, it’s a way for the government and the citizens to work together to get projects and programs funded that citizens of that community feel are valuable.” 
 
Startup Grind aims to make events diverse to appeal to a wide range of attendees, offering smaller group meetings to interested entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs alike. Visit the Startup Grind Tampa Bay website or Youtube channel to learn more.
 
At the following month’s meeting on May 15, Scientist, Mathematician and Entrepreneur Ria Persad Carlo will speak at Startup Grind Tampa Bay as part of the Google for Entrepreneurs “#40forward” initiative. Every Startup Grind chapter around the world will feature a female entrepreneur in the month of May, says Randels.
 
Persad is the founder of StatWeather, a company that has created an enterprise software application which allows them to determine predictable weather streams. StatWeather then sells weather predictability to risk management companies.  
 
“She’s had an amazing, inspiring life,” Randels says of Persad, who studied mathematics and physics and was also a child piano prodigy.
 
The next meeting of Startup Grind Tampa Bay will take place at 6:30 p.m. on April 17, 2014 at the Oxford Exchange Commerce Club. Tickets are $20 at the door.
 
Source: Joy Randels, Startup Grind Tampa Bay

Find Your Next Startup Investment Through This New Website

Florida Funders, LLC, a conduit for connecting investors with startups seeking funding, launches in Tampa Bay.

The latest innovation out of Tampa Bay's growing tech scene was inspired by personal experience. Florida Funders co-founders David and Kathleen Chitester, who have started and sold two companies together, know the difficulty of getting funding for a startup firsthand.

After doing some research for their next venture, Tampa -- their own backyard -- caught the couple's eyes.

"We noticed that the Tampa Bay community was starting to embrace entrepreneurs with accelerators and incubators, but financing was not following along,'' David Chitester explains. "We saw a huge gap between 'family and friends financing' and venture capital.''

Florida Funders was created to fill that gap.

The company's main mission: to keep entrepreneurs from leaving the state to find capital.
 
"We are losing too many young, promising entrepreneurs to places like Silicon Valley and Austin,'' Chitester says. "If we can fund some of these firms, they can grow here, and the local community will benefit.''
 
The initial Florida Funders launch rolled out in late March with two established Tampa area startup companies open for financing: SavvyCard and Carvoyant. A third local venture, Alorum, is in "preview'' mode.

Carvoyant was previously accepted into the Gazelle Lab accelerator program at USFSP, while SavvyCard was among the first group of startups accepted into the FirstWaVE Accelerator Program in spring 2013 in Tampa.
 
So how does Florida Funders work?

The company curates early stage ventures and startups seeking investment and lists them online for SEC-accredited investors to review. This part is free. If there is a match, Florida Funders then creates a single purpose fund, or LLC, for the startup company, to be distributed for investment by a third party agent. This LLC is now the "investor'' in the company, and the individual investors/funders are members of the LLC. Investment increments begin at $1,000.

Companies like California-based AngelList and FundersClub have employed this business model, known as online venture capital, successfully.

Florida Funders is self-funded by Chitester and a few angel investors, including partners Randy Greene and Lance Raab. The company operates under a business model of carried interest, based on the success of the investments Florida Funders make in the startup companies it accepts.
 
Florida Funders plans to list 20 to 30 companies in its first year, funding 12-20 of them.

"That said,'' he notes, "we also have to make money ourselves. We have to not only find and fund companies, but they have to be successful for us to get paid.''

Chitester acknowledges that early stage ventures are "always a high risk for investors.''

Florida Funders is less risky, he says, because backers can put smaller investments toward multiple companies. Investors can take advantage of backing several startup companies for the same "$50,000 minimum some venture capital companies require,'' Chitester suggests, "which actually reduces their risk versus one $50,000 investment. If some of those companies are successful, they have a better chance of overall profit.''
 
David Chitester holds a degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh and an MBA from Northern Michigan University. A serial entrepreneur, he has created and subsequently sold several companies including Red Vector, Spanish language social network Questamente, and Pay Per Visit Email, an email service provider. His latest venture, Florida Funders, intends to provide seed money to Florida startups, enticing them to set up shop, create jobs, and pay taxes in state.

Kathleen Chitester attended Rutgers College in New Brunswick and Rutgers College of Arts and Sciences in Camden, NJ. She has more than 30 years of experience in marketing and over 15 years of experience starting companies, including cofounding Red Vector, Pay Per Visit Email, and Latin social network Questamente with her husband. She also cofounded Vetrack, an online continuing education portal for veterinarians, and previously managed Chitester Management Systems, a professional consultancy firm that David Chitester began in 1995 and the couple sold in 2008.

Write: Justine Benstead
Source: David Chitester, Florida Funders

Startup Aims To Improve Your Shopping Experience With One Simple App

Almost every product you purchase in day-to-day life has one thing in common: a paper receipt.

For flexReceipts, that's a problem. What's their solution? Going paperless.

Backed by an investment from TiE Tampa's Angel Network in late March 2014, the startup company is poised to enter the national market with a tech-savvy answer to traditional paper receipts.

Customizable digital receipts tie in modern tech trends such as recommendations from retailers, social media, tailored special offers and more. flexReceipts intends to simultaneously solve a pain point for consumers and provide an enhanced marketing platform for businesses.

"flexReceipts has great growth potential,'' says TiE Tampa Charter Member Ashok Kartham. "I think it can be a success story that the area needs, to showcase tech startups from the Florida region.''

Tomas Diaz, flexReceipts founder and CEO, was a sales executive at Whirlpool for more than a decade before developing the startup company in 2011. Diaz and other management team members "bring deep retail experience'' to the startup, says Kartham.

flexReceipts has received several previous rounds of funding, including an investment by The Florida Technology Seed Capital Fund, LLC (FTSCF), a subsidiary of the Institute for Commercialization of Public Research, in March 2014, and an investment from Winter Park venture fund and business accelerator venVelo in August 2012. The company is also active on AngelList.

Four investors from the TiE Tampa Angel Network -- Kartham, Prashanth Rajendran, Seema Jain and Dr. Rajan Naik -- invested in the Orlando-based startup. The company, which has already partnered with some major retailers, plans to bring new technology jobs to Florida over the next few years.

TiE Tampa's goal is to expand angel investors beyond charter members and commit $1 million in angel capital in 2014. To this end, Rajendran is assembling a structured, experienced team and due diligence processes as part of an Angel Forum initiative to help lower the risk associated with angel investment and enable more syndicated deals, Kartham says.

"TiE is uniquely positioned to make a difference to the growing startup ecosystem in the Tampa Bay area and Florida,'' Kartham says. "We hope to invest in innovative startups in Tampa in coming months.''

This is the second angel investment out of TiE Tampa. The first was awarded to mobile conference app Feathr, which "has made significant progress and grown revenues since receiving TiE angel funding more than a year ago,'' Kartham says.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Ashok Kartham, TiE Tampa

'Shark Tank' Entrepreneur To Headline Book Launch At CoCreativ in South Tampa

You many know him from "As Seen On TV'' or ABC's "Shark Tank.'' On April 8, Kevin Harrington will be just one of the Florida entrepreneurs to launch a new book at CoCreativ in South Tampa.

CoCreativ CEO Joseph Warren invites "entrepreneurs, small business owners, freelancers, and business professionals who could benefit from hearing the stories, struggles and triumphs of local business authors'' to attend the free evening event.

Hosted at the startup's co-working space on Henderson Boulevard in South Tampa, the book launch is expected to draw prominent local entrepreneurs.

Clearwater resident Harrington and co-author Anthony Amos will promote their new book, "How to Catch A Shark.'' Along with Harrington and Tampa-based entrepreneur Amos, local authors who will launch books at the event include:

·      Pierce Brunson, entrepreneur and owner of Firefly Event Photography: "Learning Curve"
·      Artist and Answered Prayers Cross founder Elizabeth Bunbury: "On the Road"
·      James Chittenden, founder of Triumph Business Communications: "The Public Triumph: Public Relations for the Strong, and Those Who Want to Be"
·      Degrees of Success President Gen Dobson: "Failing Successfully: Life After Debt"
·      Meredith Rodgers, president and owner of Mere's One More Time, Inc.: "What You Don't Know... Just Might Hurt You"
·      CoCreativ CEO Joseph Warren: "What’s In It For Me?"

The book launch and cocktail party will take place from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, April 8, at CoCreativ, 3902 Henderson Blvd, Ste 208. Meet and greet the authors, get your favorite book signed, and enjoy complimentary wine and music from Tampa resident and saxophonist Marlon Boone.

Each of the six books that will launch on April 8 was published by Tampa-based Richter Publishing.

"In the past 90 days, Tara Richter has published Kevin Harrington's latest book and helped seven local business owners to become published authors!'' Warren shares. "She made it possible for each of them to share their story with a wider audience, as well as acquire national attention for their brands.''

CoCreativ, a flexible workspace for small businesses, recently moved across the Bay from downtown St. Petersburg to a second-story suite in the Bay Cities Bank Building in South Tampa.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Joseph Warren, CoCreativ CEO

Aqua Mizer Launches New Water-Saving Technology

A Sarasota-based company is launching a product that will significantly decrease residential water use.

Aqua Mizer's flagship product, the Adjustable Flush System, is a retrofit toilet tank flush system that replaces components inside a residential toilet tank to reduce leaking. A major feature is a flapper that allows the toilet to be flushed with more velocity and less water, saving a quarter to a gallon of water with each flush. The system was first patented and brought to market in 2010, when the current owners took over an invention originally created in 2008.

The company estimates that if a toilet is leaking, installing the system will save 75,000 to 200,000 gallons of water per year. The average return on investment is three to six months.

"If just leaky toilets in Florida were replaced, it would reduce consumption by 275 billion gallons of water per year," says Michael Sisti, VP of Sales and Marketing for Aqua Mizer.

Aqua Mizer is currently rolling out a new product that does everything the current flush system does, with an added feature. In the event of a catastrophic leak where water starts running full force, it shuts off the toilet within 30 seconds.
The company recently launched a campaign on Indiegogo to help fund the product’s launch. The campaign will allow the public to acquire the product, which is not normally available in retail establishments.

The company plans to sell The Protector through wholesale distribution channels, primarily to property managers and plumbing contractors.

The Rivo at Ringling, a high-rise condo in downtown Sarasota, recently installed the Aqua Mizer system in all toilets in the 106 building unit (235 in all). The first month’s water bill following installation showed a reduction of close to 110,000 gallons of water compare with the same month the previous year.

The Protector was recently submitted to an innovation contest through the Cade Museum for Innovation in Gainesville, FL and was selected in the final 16 semi-finalists for a potential $50,000 prize.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Michael Sisti, Aqua Mizer

Startup Surge Aims To Deliver 'Action-Oriented Event' For Entrepreneurs

Tampa Bay area startup founders will have the opportunity to hear from and pitch to local entrepreneurial experts on Friday, March 28, during Startup Surge, an event aimed at helping individuals launch and grow their businesses.

Tampa Bay WaVE, a sizable presence in Tampa's active tech scene, is inviting entrepreneurs to attend Startup Surge events, which include open office hours, workshops, featured speakers, networking and a startup showcase competition for more than $1,000 in cash and prizes.

Startup Surge is an action-oriented event, says Gracie Stemmer, marketing manager at Tampa Bay WaVE.

"The goal is for attendees to get answers to tough questions, create a strategy, move forward and become one of Tampa's success stories,'' Stemmer says.

Who should consider attending?

Stemmer recommends the events to supporters of Tampa's entrepreneurial community, prospective entrepreneurs with an idea or current entrepreneurs who have questions about their companies.
 
In the evening, the Startup Surge Showcase will be held at the Firestick Grill at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Startups, including several developed as the result of past Startup Weekend or Startup Bus events, will compete for more than $1,000 in cash and other prizes. Drawer, LilyPad, MamaBear App, SavvyCard, Shootrac, WeVue and others have signed on to present.

"The showcase is the icing on the cake,'' Stemmer says. "It shows attendees how the community has fostered the current successes who are presenting at the event.''

Featured speakers include Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Dr. Peter Mansoor, a retired U.S. Army Colonel and former executive officer to General David Petraeus.

Bright House Networks Business Solutions is the title sponsor for Startup Surge Day, while the Tampa Bay Lightning is the title sponsor for the Surge Showcase.

Tampa Bay WaVE is a nonprofit organization and home to a venture center and coworking space in the Sykes building in downtown Tampa. WaVE's programs are supported in part by Hillsborough County Economic Development's Innovation Initiative called EDI2.

"We are looking to put Tampa Bay on the map as a home to successful tech companies and a vibrant tech startup community,'' Stemmer says.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Gracie Stemmer, Tampa Bay WaVE

First Fit Provides Community Approach To Health, Fitness

A new model for getting fit has arrived in the Tampa Bay region that combines a small group feel with high-intensity exercises for maximum impact.

Founded in 2013, Tampa-based First Fit Health and Fitness Studio was created by Co-Owners Jim White and Joey Graham.

A lifetime fitness buff, White worked at several big box fitness studios before realizing he wanted to provide something different. At most larger studios, customers are given an initial orientation and then left on their own. Some may hire a private trainer, but for others affordability and the intimidation factor make this out of reach. White wanted to provide a community feeling, taking the quality of functional training and coupling it with equipment that’s easy to operate. A mutual friend introduced White to Tampa native and NBA professional Graham, and the two took the concept to market.

First Fit delivers high intensity interval training, or HIIT. Customers perform a specific exercise at a high intensity for 30 seconds. They then take a short 15 – 25 second break and then start another exercise. This process drives up metabolic rates and keeps them higher for approximately 12 hours after completing the workout, allowing for more calorie burning. Customers work out in groups of 14 people, providing a community effect.

"When people are in a group setting, they’re much more supportive, much more secure and have a whole lot more fun," says White.

Graham has a particular interest in using the gyms for summer camps for youth. Having done several camps in the Tampa Bay area, Graham always found it difficult to find gym space. He also has an interest in the nutrition side, which goes hand in hand with fitness.  

"We want to promote health and wellness for all the young kids in the Hillsborough area, and everywhere." says Graham.

Another unique aspect of the studio is its location. The first branch of First Fit opened February15 inside Westfield Citrus Park in Tampa. The mall location provides convenience as well as ample parking.

The company hopes to open more mall-based locations in the near future. They intend to hire Fitness Instructors and Assistant Management positions within the next 60 days.

A grand opening will be held March 29 from 11 am to 3 pm.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Jim White, Joey Graham, First Fit Health and Fitness Studio

Social Mobile Conference Embraces Branding In New Economy

As consumers move beyond traditional ways of finding information, purchase decisions are made based on sharing, comparing and rating experiences using social media. Real-time information through a mobile device is becoming an expectation. In light of this, brands are continuously looking for new and meaningful ways to connect with customers.

The Social Mobile Engagement Conference & Code Challenge, September 4-5, 2014 at the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel and Marina, is designed to be an outlet for this kind of information while highlighting local talent and organizations to senior tech leaders from across the nation.  

The event is an expansion of the Social Mobile Payments Conference, which took place twice since 2011 and focused on social media and mobile commerce. After the last event in 2013, organizer Bruce Burke started looking at the thought process leading up to the transaction of buying a good or service. By focusing on just the payment aspect he felt he was missing part of the story. By widening the scope and audience, Burks hopes to appeal to an even broader audience that is interested in learning more about the customer journey, including the user and social experience. "Engagement starts when the product is first discovered by the consumer," says Burke.

Burke’s company, Gulf Bay Consulting, is organizing the event but his motivation behind it is a sense of purpose and wanting to see the Tampa Bay community help create the next big thing.

The first day will consist of workshops on topics such as user experience, social communities, mobile engagement, big data and gamification. The second day will be a code challenge, sponsored in part by the Hillsborough County Economic Development Innovative Initiative (EDI2). Coders will hack, explore and create. The afternoon will be open to the public, where people can vote for and cheer on their favorite teams and coders.

Abstracts are being accepted until March 28 for individuals and companies interested in presenting at the event.  

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Bruce Burke, Gulf Bay Consulting

USF Student Entrepreneurs Gain Real-World Experience By Helping NonProfit

The student chapter of Enactus at the University of South Florida recently partnered with a Tampa-based nonprofit to advance their motto: "Entrepreneurs in Action for the Greater Good."

Enactus is a global organization of student, academic and business leaders with 1,600 student chapters at universities across the world. The group’s goal is to use entrepreneurial skills to create sustainable communities by helping those in need develop their skills.

The student chapter at the University of South Florida (USF) is meeting this goal by identifying problems in the Tampa Bay community and working toward solving them in a way that empowers people. Knowing that homelessness is a major issue locally, the students selected New Beginnings of Tampa as their most recent project.

New Beginnings is a nonprofit organization in Tampa that provides transitional housing, counseling and job training services to rehabilitate the homeless.  

The team of 10 students targeted four areas where they could make the most impact based on their skills sets. First, they organized a charity golf tournament to help engage former clients and others who want to help the organization in a meaningful way. The event not only brought in $6,000 but will also serve as a template for the organization to continue on a yearly basis.

Second, they partnered with Hillsborough County Public Utilities to install low-flow shower heads and sink aerators, saving $12,000 in the first year alone.  

Next, they updated the organization’s website and social media plan and trained their employees so they could continue these initiatives.

Finally, they outfitted New Beginnings’ clients with professional suits to wear for job interviews using surplus suits from Enactus’ Suit-a-Bull program, which rents suits to USF students for career fairs and job interviews.

The student team not only helped the community, but gained valuable skills from the experience as well, particularly in the areas of motivation, problem solving and teamwork.

"We worked as a unit to get it done," says Sarah Schmidt, Management Information Systems major at USF and project leader. "I think everyone has come out of this project a lot more professional and realistic when it comes to expectations in the business world."

The team plans to enter the project in a national Enactus competition in April.

"It’s been a really awesome experience," says Schmidt. "You get out of it what you put into it."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Sarah Schmidt, Enactus

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
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