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Shark Tank-style contest coming to Punta Gorda, SW Florida

Southwest Florida investors are making plans for a Shark Tank-style event in Punta Gorda on March 30th, when up to five businesses will make their pitch for funding before an audience.
 
“Really the purpose of the event is to shine a spotlight on the entrepreneurial ecosystem, and raise the awareness in the community that you can start, fund and grow a business here in Southwest Florida,” says Timothy Cartwright, Chairman of Tamiami Angel Funds, a Naples-based group of high-net-worth individuals who invest in early-stage businesses. “You don’t have to go to Silicon Valley. If you really study it, there are great reasons to stay in Florida.”
 
Companies from Sarasota, Charlotte, DeSoto and Lee counties will be competing for some $50,000 in funding, Cartwright says. An additional $10,000 in grant money may be awarded, through the city, to a North Port business.
 
Interested businesses from the four counties can submit startup plans to Venture Pitch SWFL. Plans must be entered by Feb. 15. The businesses must be less than two years old and in the pre-revenue stage, or very early stages of producing revenue. Their plans must be scalable. Additionally, businesses should not have raised more than $1 million in capital.
 
The event is scheduled from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Isles Yacht Club in Punta Gorda. “It’s almost fundraising and friendraising and customer raising,” he explains. “That’s what special about putting together the ecosystem at these events.”
 
The events, usually held three times a year, began in 2015. Sponsors include Sun Newspapers, The Hatchery at Babcock Ranch, North Port Economic Development Corporation, Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce, SCORE, a nonprofit association of volunteer business counselors; Tamiami Angel Funds; and Adrenaline Venture Fund.
 
This is the first time the event is being held in Charlotte County.
 
While it’s early in the application process, Cartwright says the response has been good, with ticket sales, sponsorships and companies.
 
The event was organized after business leaders recognized there wasn’t such an event in Southwest Florida. People had begun expressing interest in attending what were then private funding events.
 
So, they decided to follow the adage: “if you build it, they will come.”

“They have [come] and they’ve gone on to do some pretty great things,” he says.
 
A panel from SCORE will judge the applicants. Unlike the business tycoons on the popular TV show Shark Tank, the SCORE volunteers will do the judging privately.
 
“We are really looking for businesses from Sarasota. Historically ... we’ve already seen very interesting deal flow from Sarasota city and county,” Cartwright adds. “I think it’s a very rich area for entrepreneurship because the creative class is thriving.”

Brandon pain remedy firm joins USF incubator

Over a century ago, a Trinidadian named Arabella Skinner, dubbed Mother Skinner by her family, prepared a home remedy that helped them recover quickly from sprains.
 
“Back in the islands, they didn’t have access to modern medicine [then],” explains her grandson, W. Caleb Williams. “She spent her life developing remedies for curing different ailments.”
 
Today Williams has reformulated the remedy as an over-the-counter treatment. He is marketing it as RelieveIt, a brand by his Brandon-based company, SprainGo.
 
The University of South Florida has accepted the company into its Tampa Bay Technology Incubator. “While this particular remedy has been used for over a century, it’s important that we have clinical and empirical data to support our claims,” Williams says. “We’re seeking to run a clinical study to provide evidence.”
 
SprainGo currently sells: SprainGo, a gel packaged with an adhesive bandage; RelieveIt, for soreness; and RelieveIt Patch, a gel patch. A more potent version, SprainGo Med, is being developed for urgent care centers, chiropractors, physical and massage therapists and others. It is expected to be available in March. Feet Sore No More Foot Spray is slated for release in April.
 
In addition to help with product testing, Williams is looking to USF to provide mentoring, a marketing intern, and contacts to raise capital as the company grows.
 
“One of the things that we do with our affiliate companies is to help them make connections at USF departments and with faculty that have common interests with them,” says Laurie Sullivan, Program Coordinator for USF Connect, which governs USF’s incubators.
 
Skinners’ original formula has been augmented with an extract of Arnica Montana, a medicinal plant recognized as an inflammatory for some 2,000 years, Williams says.
 
“Our formula is natural and was registered with the FDA as a natural homeopathic product,” he says.
 
Although it was originally used on sprains and strains to reduce swelling overnight, Williams has found the product also provides relief for minor burns, muscle aches, fatigue, soreness, arthritis and fibromyalgia.
 
He believes his treatment can halve the number of sick days required after an injury. “We think we have the product that can get those people back to work much faster,” he says.
 
The formula has a mild scent compared to other products containing camphor, menthol or caprisin, which distract pain suffers for a short while with a sensation of hot or cold. “There’s no sensation with our RelieveIt,” he says.

Tampa Innovation Summit to boost local startup ecosystem

Twentieth century entrepreneurs are working hard to make the Tampa Bay region a place that attracts -- and keeps -- 21st Century businesses. Among their goals is helping young business minds recognize what they did: the Tampa Bay area is business friendly, has great weather (especially in the winter) and is an all-around beautiful place to live.

“We want the Tampa Bay region to be one of the best places in the country to build a company,” says Marc Blumenthal, CEO of Florida Funders, which looks to invest in between 12 and 25 companies annually. “We want people to seek us out, to stay here to build their companies.”
 
A Jan. 24 Innovation Summit, organized by The Tampa Bay Business Journal and sponsored by Florida Funders, is bringing together people who can participate in building the region into a major entrepreneurial ecosystem similar in reputation to that experienced by Austin TX, Boulder CO, Raleigh-Durham NC or Atlanta GA.
 
“Jan. 24, 2017, really marks the point in time in which Tampa Bay celebrates the successes that it already has,” Blumenthal says.
 
The summit will be inspiring people about ways to become involved. “You need all the ingredients in the recipe to work. We want to activate people,” Blumenthal explains.
 
The Innovation Summit, scheduled from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Tampa Marriott Waterside, is a showcase event featuring Jeff Vinik, Chairman and Governor of Tampa Bay Lightning; and Chris Sullivan, Chairman of Omnivore and MenuPad.
 
“Chris Sullivan is one of the gems of the Tampa Bay area,” Blumenthal says. “He and his partners built Outback [Steakhouse] many many years ago. They chose Tampa as the base. They got the time and the energy and the capital and the support that they needed.”
 
The slate of speakers and panelists also includes Mindy Grossman, CEO and Director of HSN Inc.; innovator Ron Klein; Bill Edwards, CEO of The Edwards Group and Chairman, CEO and Governor of Tampa Bay Rowdies; and governmental representatives.
 
The summit is preceded by an 8:15 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Workshop Action Meeting at the same facility to discuss findings of a Tampa Bay Ecosystem Study conducted through the University of Tampa. The study, which Blumenthal describes as “a bit of a prescription,” recommends the community build an entrepreneurial mindset and address its vision and collaborative efforts.
 
An Investor Lunch from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. will bring together accredited investors and early stage companies. Those who wish to attend can e-mail Florida Funders.
 
The Summit will help attract attention to what the Tampa Bay area has to offer to business. “I think that the visibility of our region, nationally and internationally, has really gone up significantly,” Blumenthal says. “Now’s the time. Now’s always the time. You can’t do it tomorrow, you can’t do it yesterday.”
 
The Summit aims to draw 400-500 people. Tickets are $90 each, with reservations available by following this link

At least 64 entrepreneurial support organizations have been training, mentoring and investing in new businesses in the area. "There is no shortage [of support] ... no shortage of passion and willingness to help build companies" Blumenthal says.

Wifi Waiter makes debut in Downtown Tampa

It’s lunch break and you’re on a tight schedule. You don’t want to spend your time waiting in line to order. No problem. Wifi Waiter has you covered.

Without an app, you can take a seat and order.

“What we’ve done is basically brought in tableside ordering,” explains Anup Balagopal, Founder and CEO of Tampa-based Torchfi.
 
Using the restaurant’s Internet service, Wifi Waiter levels the playing field for brick-and-mortar businesses that, ordinarily, don’t have the ability to recognize repeat customers when they walk in the door. “They faced a significant challenge when competing with online services. The one thing we wanted to do was bring in technology for offline business, and help them do the same things that online does.”
 
Wifi Waiter is live in two locations in downtown Tampa: The Attic and Moxies Cafe and Caterer. “We are always looking to improve the customer experience, and saw this as a unique opportunity for our customers to be able to 'skip the line' in our fast casual restaurant,” says Moxies’ co-owner Bob Carr. “It’s a great fit since we already deliver the food to the table, so the impact to operations is minimal to gain a near full-service experience.” 
 
Torchfi is targeting fast casual restaurants that, by definition, don’t have servers to take your order. Restaurants pay for a monthly subscription with little, upfront cost. “Once we have proven this product here in the Tampa Bay region, I believe we will be able to scale this across the country with the same chains,” Balagopal says.
 
Starting this week, Torchfi is expected to facilitate the ordering process for those who typically order the same, or similar, menu items. “We make it easier for the customer to actually place an order by recording their ordering history,” Balagopal says.
 
Torchfi’s engineering and backup operations are in India, but its headquarters moved to Tampa four months ago after being chosen to participate in Tampa Bay Wave, a non-profit to help entrepreneurs grow tech businesses. 
 
“They have been our angel in Tampa,” Balagopal says. “What Wave brings is an amazing network of mentors and industry experts who help identify what the market actually requires.”
 
Allen Clary, a Tampa Bay Wave Mentor and Entrepreneur in Residence, calls Torchfi “one of our shooting stars.” “It’s absolutely one of the most innovative company products we have in the Wave right now,” he says.
 
He notes Torchfi has made the cut for the Investor Pitch Day Jan. 27, meaning it has passed rigorous review and will be able to pitch to qualified investors in Tampa Bay.
 
Balagopal has his eyes fixed on even greater opportunities beyond the restaurant industry. He’s thinking about malls, stadiums and airports.

With a small Torchfi device connecting customers to an Internet router and  enabling free access, it doesn’t matter if you’re working on a laptop, or using a tablet or phone. “It’s simple and quick,” he says.

Online fitness company helps people get off the couch

Ed Buckley has found an innovative way to make money by encouraging people to exercise. Through Peerfit, a company he founded with Scott Peeples, he is working with insurers and employers to provide exercise credits at fitness centers across the nation.
 
“The idea is that we should give you an array of options, whatever is going to motivate you to get out of the couch,” says Buckley, Peerfit’s CEO. “You have the availability to do it, and you have no barriers to stop you.”
 
Buckley was studying group fitness at the University of Florida when he had an idea to start a fitness company. In 2010, when he met Peeples, another student, he pitched him the idea. By 2011, Peerfit was a reality.
 
“We’re pretty satisfied with the diversity of high-quality options we've put inside the [fitness] network, says Buckley, who holds a PhD from UF in Health Behavior, with a focus on Digital Health and Wellness.
 
A digital company based in Tampa, Peerfit works directly with insurance carriers and employers with wellness budgets. The companies buy credits that clients or employees can use at a variety of fitness studios such as CAMP, Soho Cycling and Epic Boxing in Tampa, or the national Lifetime Fitness.
 
The companies fund a certain number of credits every month. “It’s all about personalization and flexibility. That’s what we built the model for,” he explains.
 
The company was developed with capital from friends and family. In the summer of 2016, Peerfit raised $1.5 million, including some $400,000 through Florida Funders, a company developed in 2014 to help investors fund Florida businesses.
 
“Some of my friends like to call us the 20th century entrepreneurs,” quips Marc Blumenthal, Florida Funders’ CEO.
 
Florida Funders ferrets through 70 to 100 companies a month to find those one, two or three they will try to help financially. “We’re actually focused on tech-enabled companies,” he explains.
 
Florida Funders’ website serves as a platform to connect businesses with investors. In addition to making a profit through shares in the companies, its goal is to help make Florida a place where investors’ children and grandchildren can find good jobs.
 
“Peerfit is a very exciting company,” Blumenthal says. “We ... want to make sure they don’t leave to go somewhere else.”
 
Peerfit is already making its mark. During 2016, it helped 10,000 people.
 
After you find your footing, things move and they move fast,” Buckley says.

Restaurateur encourages patrons to skip the straw

Drinking straws are standard fare at most restaurants. Whenever we order a cold beverage, it usually comes with a straw, and we use it to slurp our water, teas or sodas in a matter of minutes. Afterwards, the straws end up littering our beaches and landfills.
 
“We see those [straws] out on the beach everywhere, those and cracker wrappers,” says Ed Chiles, owner of Chiles Restaurant Group.
 
So Chiles decided to do something about it. He has quit serving “old-style,” non-biodegradable plastic beverage straws.
 
“If they want a straw they’re going to get a straw. We’ve got a good [biodegradable] backup,” says Chiles, who owns Ana Maria’s Sandbar, Bradenton Beach’s Beach House and Longboat Key’s Mar Vista Dockside restaurants.
 
Chiles is partnering with the Washington, D.C.-based Ocean Conservancy to educate the public about the single-use plastic straws and protect our oceans. According to the Conservancy, straws are one of the top 10 items collected during cleanups.
 
Chiles’ campaign includes green messages encouraging customers to “Skip the Straw.”  So far, it has been working.
 
“I think it has gone very well overall. I think people understand. At first, there’s that little pause. They think about it and they get it,” Chiles says.
 
His servers are on board. “Our people have embraced it. If your servers aren’t behind it, you’ve got a problem,” he explains.
 
Chiles calls removing the plastic beverage straw “one small step.” He’s already ditched plastic cups and individually wrapped crackers, opting for glasses and sleeves of crackers. Plans include a complete line of eco-friendly “to go” containers and reusable packing crates.
 
He has gardens to grow their own herbs and spices. “The kitchen guys go out and work it,” says Chiles, an honorary faculty member of the University of South Florida’s Patel College of Global Sustainability. “We are all about local sustainable.”
 
Although his menus feature seafood, you also may find wild boar, considered an invasive species. “We take lemons and make limoncello,” he quips. “People think they [wild boars] are not any good, but they’re wrong. It’s fabulous. It’s one of my favorite meats.”
 
Even his parking lots are environmentally friendly. For the last decade, he has been a leader in pervious or porous parking lots, setting an example about how to deal with stormwater on commercial properties.
 
Chiles isn’t stopping with the beverage straw. Now he’s looking for a bio-degradable cocktail straw.

Study shows USF has $400M impact through innovation efforts

University of South Florida’s efforts to encourage innovation and economic development are paying off. A Washington Economics Group study shows USF’s innovation and economic development efforts have a statewide economic impact of more than $400 million annually.
 
The bulk of the money, $395 million, stays in the Tampa Bay region, where some 1,550 people are directly employed, the study reveals. An additional 1,467 people work for partner organizations and businesses that serve USF innovation operations, resulting in a combined household income of $149 million.
 
The study was commissioned by USF and the Florida High Tech Corridor, a partnership of more than 25 local and regional Economic Development Organizations and 14 state and community colleges. It focused on the impact of USF Research Park, Tampa Bay Technology Incubator, which hatches new businesses; and Technology Transfer Office, which handles patents, copyrights and other intellectual property rights issues.
 
“This helps us understand ourselves and how we can contribute to the rest of the community and business in the area,” says Paul Sanberg, USF’s Senior VP for Research, Innovation and Economic Development. “I thought it was important to do. ... We work so hard on the invention part and the education part that we don’t really see the bigger picture.”
 
About 80 percent of the jobs are in Knowledge-Based Services, including life sciences, information technology, financial services, professional and administrative services. This sector also effects tourism, real estate, transportation and other key areas of the economy, the report says.
 
The report asserts USF support efforts are “critical” to the economy in Florida and the Tampa region. “USF’s Innovation Enterprise’s commercialization activities add significantly to the high-wage job creation in targeted State industries such as life sciences,” it says.
 
The USF System has a $4.4 billion annual economic impact on the Tampa Bay Region, with 15,243 employees in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee, says Vickie Chachere, Director of Strategic Communications for USF Research and Innovation.
 
Universities have fostered innovation as corporate-funded research has declined. “At USF, leading edge research and entrepreneurship are ingrained in its culture. USF’s TBTI is currently home to over 60 resident and affiliate companies, with 58 percent of these companies directly coming from the USF’s TTO as spinouts,” the study notes. “The mentorship and resources from the TTO and the TBTI are key to the success of many of these startups.”
 
The report is “a pretty significant recruitment tool,” says Chachere. “This is everybody’s success story.”

Want to make a partial payment on a loan? New app developed by Tampa brothers may help

A flexible payment plan app invented by two brothers may soon bring new jobs to the Tampa Bay Area. 

Partial.ly is an innovative software program that allows businesses of any size to offer flexible payment plans to its customers. Partial.ly, ranked as one of the 10 best Quickbooks apps by Intuit, integrates with third-party retail software such as ShopifyWooCommerce, FreshBooks, Harvest and Quickbooks Online

Andrew Schmid, who founded the company with his brother Ben in fall 2015, says Partial.ly has grown exponentially over the past year. 

“We started developing the app in in September 2015 and had the official launch in November 2015,” recalls Andrew. “We’ve processed $1.3 million in payments.” 

Companies from all over the English-speaking world are using the payment processing system, including those in Great Britain, Canada and Australia. 

Partial.ly offers several user-friendly features, including the ability for the business to control the payment plan fee, down payment, terms and payment frequency, and it also makes it easy for companies to choose automated or manual payments, and for customers to adjust down payment amount and tweak the terms. 

What’s the big benefit for businesses? “It helps businesses improve payment processing.” It can also help boost sales figures and overall revenue, since customers are more likely to buy a product they can pay for over the course of time. 

Partial.ly generates legally binding contracts, facilitates transactions through eCommerce retail tool Stripe and can charge customers in a variety of currencies, including U.S. dollars, British pounds, and European euros. Businesses are charged a 5 percent fee per transaction plus 30 cents. Payments are SSL protected.  

The Schmids’ software program has gained plenty of steam in the one year since its launch. Its first moments in the spotlight were in the heart of Silicon Valley at the QuickBooks Connect 2016 Conference in San Jose, California, where the brothers were invited to spend three days pitching their product to competition judges and convention goers. 

The Schmids, who knew the way to San Jose is paved with hard work and dedication, have to this point managed to build their startup brand with only their own funds. 

“We bootstrapped it all ourselves,” says Andrew. “Maybe it was a gamble, but we think the product can prove itself better if we show the faith we have in it.” 

A lot of folks have faith in Partial.ly. So much so the company is expanding by leaps and bounds with every passing day. 

Right now, Andrew, a 2004 Tulane University computer science graduate, handles the technical development side. His brother, Ben, is a University of Tampa MBA graduate who spends much of his time reaching out to potential customers and handling the business end of the operation. The self-reliant brothers know there will soon come a time when they can no longer manage the growing Partial.ly brand all on their own. 

“We want to hire people in customer support,” he says. “We are also going to want a software developer.” 

Hiring hasn’t begun quite yet at Partial.ly, but those who do become new employees for the growing brand may be on the ground floor of the next big thing in eCommerce. Meanwhile, those who want to learn more about the software or download it for their businesses can find it on apps portals such as Shopify.

Looking to make a fresh start in the new year? Upcoming job fairs may provide your chance

Looking for a new job for the new year? With 2017 just around the corner, if a new job is part of your new year's resolution better start looking now. Job fairs are a great way for job seekers to get their foot in the door with a potential future employer.

If you are in the market for a new job pull up your calendars, and get ready to mark down these upcoming job fairs for Winter 2016:

Wednesday, November 16: Sarasota Memorial Health Care RN Career Fair
Sarasota Memorial Health Care
1700 South Tamiami Trail, Sarasota

This growing health care system is in need of registered nurses (RN) for a variety of departments. On-site interviews will be given for experienced registered nurses, so make sure to have several updated resumes on hand. The company is hiring in the following areas:
  • Cardiac Progressive
  • Case Management
  • Cath and EP Lab
  • Critical Care
  • Float Team
  • Internships - GN, OR, ICU
  • MedSurg
  • Neuro
  • Operating Room
  • Ortho Surgical
  • Outpatient Oncology
  • Psych
  • Rehab
  • Risk Management
  • Trauma
Saturday, December 1: Florida Joblink Career Expo
10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Holiday Inn Tampa Westshore
700 North Westshore Boulevard, Tampa

DiversiFair™ the producer of the Florida Joblink Career Expo has been hosting career fairs for over 20 years. With its strong focus on diversity, the event encourages career candidates of all races, creeds, spiritual beliefs and lifestyles.

Tuesday, December 6: Job News Job Fairs
10 a..m. to 2 p.m.
Holiday Inn-Clearwater
2580 Gulf to Bay Bloulevard, Clearwater

Since 2006, Job News Job Fairs have been connecting job seekers and employers. Past employer attendees include Target, GC Services, HSS Security and Express Scripts. A list of employers attending the event will be posted on the Job News website on December 2nd.

Tuesday, January 17: Tampa Bay Job & Career Fair
10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Coliseum
535 4th Avenue South, St. Petersburg

One of the biggest annual hiring events in the area with over 50 employers in attendance, the Tampa Bay Job & Career Fair is held shortly after the new year. The free event features some of the largest area companies, as well as representatives from colleges and universities for those looking to further their education. Presented by the Tampa Bay Times, a special feature of the newspaper will come out the Sunday before the event listing all of the employers who will be in attendance. No advance registration required.

Wednesday, February 1: USF Career Fair
10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Marshall Student Center Ballroom, USF campus
4103 USF Cedar Cir, Tampa

While this annual job fair is on the college campus, it is open not only to students, but alumni as well. Students and alumni must have a valid USF ID in order to attend. This event brings in local and national recruiters looking for fresh talent for their respective companies. If you plan on attending, make sure to bring plenty of resumes, and be prepared to interview on the spot.

USF celebrates record year for cultivating startups, new products

USF’s success with transferring ideas and patents into products results in a record year.
 
With nine startups and 113 license and option agreements executed this fiscal year, the university is celebrating a 12-percent increase over fiscal year 2015. This success brings USF in the top 10 nationally among public universities for generating new inventions, according to the annual ranking by the Intellectual Property Owners/National Academy of Inventors.
 
“We are one of the nation’s largest public research universities and we play a leading role in growing and elevating the Tampa Bay Region’s economy through our discoveries,” USF System President Judy Genshaft states in a news release. “Through innovation and invention, our talented faculty and students are at the forefront of projects that are producing new technologies, developing new cures, and making life better for others.”
 
There is a common thread of making life better for others that is woven among all of the startups coming out of USF this year. Moterum is one of those new companies. With its clinical grade MTip Crutch Tip, the startup hopes to improve walking assistance, gait and control of post-stroke patients. Another startup, Depression Army, is working to remove the stigma revolved around depression through its sale of T-shirts and other merchandise. Meanwhile, Culture Biosystems is an innovative concept that reduces the cost of harvesting algae with the use of technology to enable large-scale production for biofuels, aviation fuels, proteins and nutraceuticals.
 
“At the end of the day, we are passionate about helping create products and businesses that will help people,” says Valerie McDevitt, Associate VP for Technology Transfer and Business Principles at USF.
 
Many of the startups created at USF get help from the university’s Seed Capital Accelerator Program, which was founded in 2013. The program helps startups launch their businesses from the university to the marketplace. Earlier this year, USF created another program to help innovators and inventors earlier on in the start up phase. The Bull Ring Accelerator Grant Program (BRAG) provides $25,000 of grant funding to early stage companies, providing infrastructure, training and resources to entrepreneurial teams helping them translate their ideas into viable products and companies.
 
“We have had great success this year due to our focus and prioritization on cultivating startups,” McDevitt says. “With the increased amount of license and option agreements we had this year over last, I know if we continue that focus we will have an even better year ahead.”

Wimauma: Enterprising Latinas launches project to equip women with financial prowess

To read this story in Spanish, please follow this link.

“When we women do well, communities do well,” says Elizabeth Gutierrez, founder and CEO of Enterprising Latinas Inc., as she announces the launch of You Grow Girl, a series of workshops to teach Wimauma’s women how to better administer their budgets and see their businesses grow.
 
The first workshop will take place at the Women’s Opportunity Center in Wimauma, 18240 U.S. Highway 301 South -- right next to the Beth-El Mission -- on Wednesday, Oct. 19, from 4-5:30 p.m.

Enterprising Latinas is an organization dedicated to women’s comprehensive development, with hopes to widen their long-term impact in the Tampa Bay Area. During the workshops, women will develop action plans to stay financially fit, which will in turn help women maximize their money “one dollar at a time.”
 
You Grow Girl will encompass a total of four consecutive workshops, each 90 minutes long, every Wednesday from 4-5:30 p.m.
The workshop to be held on Oct. 19 is called “Let’s Get Personal” and will not only teach women how to develop a personal budget, but also help each participant develop one that works for their unique circumstance. Clear goals will be set, among other actions. 

On Oct. 26, at “Give Credit Where Credit is Due” women will learn how to interpret credit reports and understand the point system. They will also be taught how to manage debt.

On Nov. 2, “Minding my Business” will teach women how personal finances are interrelated to business finances.

To conclude the workshops on Nov. 9, “Supersizing My Success” participants will establish a plan of action after learning about problems in financial administration, in both the personal and business sectors. 

After completing the series of workshops, participants will have a business plan aimed at ensuring their own success. 

Gutierrez also is planning various initiatives and projects designed to “separate women from poverty and help them attain skills that will lead them to success,” she says.

For more information call 813-251-8437.

Tampa-based sound reduction company scores in Fenway Park

Innovative Tampa-based manufacturing company makes major league after closing deal with Fenway Park.

Acoustiblok is the inventor and manufacturer of noise attenuation products for the past 20 years. With its headquarters in Tampa, the company offers a full range of services to solve noise and vibration issues including infield problem identification, acoustical testing, design, engineering and installation support.

The company just celebrated a big win with the installation of its All Weather Sound Panels at Fenway Park. The panels were put in place to reduce noise coming from a chiller and other mechanical equipment. 

“Our patented panels are continuing to gain approval as an effective weapon against many types of industrial noise,” says Anne Knight of Acoustiblok, Inc. “All Weather Sound Panels were originally designed to withstand the harsh environments of offshore drilling rigs and considered to be the strongest sound panels anywhere.”

After the installation was completed at Fenway, sound meter results showed 81 decibals (dB) inside the enclosure and 64.4dB outside of the enclosure, a reduction of over 16dB.

“We’re not just a sound abatement products company; we are a noise solution company,” Founder and President of Acoustiblok, Lahnie Johnson stated in a press release. “We are very pleased with the success of the Fenway Park project.”

Johnson originally came to Tampa to work for Honeywell before starting Acoustiblok, which is a NASA spinoff company.

In addition to the installation of its sound panels at the famous ballpark, the local company has been involved in other major projects around the world. Other major projects include Cinema City in Beirut, Lebanon, MARTA in Atlanta, Georgia and ARTIS System in Brazil. For more information on the Fenway Park project, as well as the others, click here

Tampa SuperStars release new album, #thankyoumusic

Tampa artist Ronnie Dee and his group of SuperStars are launching their first album, entitled “#ThankYouMusic,” this month at the Cuban Club in Ybor City.  

With more than 200,000 combined views of their pre-released music videos – “Depending on Love” and “Warming Up” - Dee is hopeful that the release concert will be just the beginning of solid sales as they move toward the next phase on their marketing strategy making the music available through digital streaming on iTunes and other media. 

Dee, a Seminole Heights resident, describes himself as a “bright side guy” and the upbeat music on #ThankYouMusic reflects this, despite that much of it was inspired by personal losses he has experienced over the past several years. 

“This record is the culmination of my life’s journey and very autobiographical,” says Dee. He describes the music as “multi-stylistic: It’s soul and funk and rock and pop.” 

In many respects, it is also a family affair.  

Dee grew up in the music business. His dad Joey Dee was a rock star in the 1960s, perhaps best known for the number one hit song “Peppermint Twist,” with his band, the Starliters. Ronnie Dee and his sister, Jamie Lee, played in their dad’s band and toured with him. Dad, sis and Ronnie Dee’s four sons ages 9 to 21 all have some role on the new #ThankYouMusic album, though son AJ (guitar) and sister Jamie Lee (vocals) are regular members of the band, the Superstars, an eclectic group of 14 musicians, with saxophone often prominently featured. 

Dee makes his living as a fulltime musician, touring nationally and internationally doing mostly covers on the “corporate circuit,” writing jingles for large companies and teaching voice, piano and saxophone at Mary Jo’s Performing Arts Academy in Tampa. Though he says he has been recording albums in the area since the 1990s, this is the first one as the Superstars and the first one that has attracted managers to handle the marketing and distribution strategy.

The SuperStars featuring Ronnie Dee #ThankYouMusic release concert takes place Oct. 20, 2016 at the Cuban Club. Doors open at 6 p.m. and tickets are available through their website.

Tampa startup to market fitness wearable to professional athletes

A wearable fitness technology company in Tampa appears to be moving along the right track for success.

LiftSync, the brainchild of University of Tampa (UT) student and co-Founder Matt Phillips, has not even hit the market yet, however, its potential has shown to be quite mighty. After winning Startup Weekend Tampa Bay in the fall of 2015, the company was voted the global winner of the Disruptors and Big Ideas Track of the Global Startup Battle.

Phillips, created the product along with fellow UT students Patrick Schroeder and Mariner Cheney. Since winning their pre-market accolades the team engaged with UT's Entrepreneurship Center.

“The Entrepreneurship Center helped us get our offices, as well as connect us with key people to get us moving forward,” Phillips says.

He also credits the center for getting him connected with Ark Applications, a private equity and consultation firm, which has invested in the startup.

With so many wearable fitness devices on the market, what sets LiftSync apart is its purpose and consumer. Unlike other wearables that may track steps, miles or overall activity, this product is specifically designed for weight training programs and professional athletes.

“To put it simply, an athlete will put on two bands, one on each wrist, and it will connect to sensors on the weight, and then information and analytics can be tracked through our application,” Phillips says.

He goes on to say that while the device can track everything from volume to velocity to increase performance, it can also reduce the risk of injury. The idea of not overexerting oneself to the point of injury is especially important to Phillips, as the idea for the company came to him after losing a basketball scholarship himself due to injury from weight lifting.

The consumer will not be the mass market, but strictly targeted athletes within major athletic organizations such as the NCAA. While there are other products like LiftSync on the market, according to Justin Smith, Managing Director of Ark Applications, the competition does not measure up.

“Data analytics is very important, and we can bring that into the weight room,” Smith says. “There is no one out there that uses the Bluetooth technology with the weights. The others may be able to let you know about how much an athlete is lifting, and how many reps they are doing, but no one has as many features as what we do. We call it performance enhancement through data.”

Courier tech company moves into Tampa market

An innovative courier service is dropping into the Tampa market.

Dropoff, a company that has turned the on-demand same-day delivery service industry on its head, is now offering its services in the Tampa Bay region. The company, which got its start three years ago, has experienced steady growth, with operations located in major cities throughout the U.S.

“Dropoff is headquartered in Austin, Texas, and currently operates in major Texas cities such as Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Houston,” says Sean Spector, CEO of Dropoff. “The company launched it's East Coast operations in August with service in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, and its West Coast operations in Los Angeles in July. Dropoff’s expansion to Florida brings its service to all three of the most populous states in the US, which are California, Texas and Florida.”

The company’s proprietary technology platform, which offers real-time tracking and confirmations, as well as web and mobile ordering capabilities are just a few of the keys to its success. Its dispatch automation system, known as ‘Intelligent Dispatch’ is a game changer in its industry.

“Dropoff is disrupting the courier market by leveraging its proprietary logistics technology and highly rated service to create a nationwide same-day delivery solution for businesses. Intelligent Dispatch automates an otherwise very manual courier process and provides Dropoff near infinite scale to customize and manage huge volumes of delivery requests as it expands across the country.”

Spector came up with the idea for the company in late 2013 after having a lackluster experience with a local courier. After having to call to confirm that his time-sensitive and confidential package was delivered, he found that very few couriers at the time provided delivery confirmations, and no one offered real-time package tracking. He knew there had to be a better way, so he gathered his former colleague and set out to create their new company.

Dropoff works with many well-known brands including Whole Foods, Neiman Marcus and JW Marriott. In the Tampa market, the company expects to be working with companies in several industries including healthcare, retail, food and grocery markets. 
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