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EmbroidMe Adds 20 New Locations, 200+ Jobs in Tampa

EmbroidMe, a world leader in custom embroidery, screen printing and promotional products, has selected Tampa Bay for its next wave of expansion, adding 20 new locations that are expected to bring more than 200 professional jobs to the area.

It all began with Signarama, a custom brand signage franchise which has grown to more than 900 locations in 50 countries. In 2000, the EmbroidMe brand was added to create custom branded promotional solutions for businesses. With six different  brands under the United Franchise Group, businesses can grow their companies with brand solutions from outdoor advertising to convention planning to business brokerage and energy efficiency.

"We specialize in helping business from advertising to being more green. A lot of times our franchisees work together on providing solutions to businesses," says Erin Crawford, VP of Development.

The EmbroidMe brand has grown to more than 300 locations, with 200 in Florida and 15 abroad.

As the economy experienced a climate shift in recent past years, the company decided to focus its growth plan on strengthening its existing locations for long-term sustainability.

Now, the brand is opening up expansion and new franchise opportunities, centering its focus on the promotional products industry, which is one of the strongest forms of marketing for many businesses.

"We are not just an embroidery company; we are a full-service promotional marketing solutions partner. We’re growing and expanding throughout the United States, specifically in markets where we see things picking back up," says Crawford.

Over the next five years, EmbroidMe plans to add at least seven new locations in Tampa, four in St. Petersburg, and one in Clearwater. The new additions will call for up to five new employees per store which can grow to have up to 15 employees focused on production and sales.

"We have a strong presence in this area and in this market, so we have a heavy growth plan for the bigger markets in Florida -- like Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville and south Florida," says Crawford.

For more information on franchising and career opportunities, visit EmbroidMe’s website.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Erin Crawford, EmbroidMe & United Franchise Group

USF Entrepreneurship Students Use Paper Clip For Charity

Teams of students in the New Venture Formation class at the University of South Florida (USF)’s Masters of Science in Entrepreneurship in Applied Technologies program were given a challenge: Start a business and see how far you can get using one paperclip. They had one week to do it.

The challenge, presented by Sean Lux, PhD, was based on One Red Paper Clip, a 2005 project by Kyle MacDonald in which he traded a red paper clip with random people, item by item, until he eventually received a house.

Given the timing of the challenge, the night after the government shut down, one team had an interest in doing something that would benefit people. The thinking was that people who may have donated to local charities in the past may not be able to do so because of lost wages and furloughs. They put up a web site using Go Fund Me to see how much money they could raise for Feeding America Tampa Bay.

The team used the paper clip as a symbol of tying people together, adding a double meaning with the title “clipping hunger.” They reached out to family, friends and used social media to spread the word. In just four days, they raised over $2,000, with donation amounts ranging from $1 to $1,000.

"We were absolutely overwhelmed by everyone’s generosity," says Summer Decker, PhD, a member of the student team, which also included Victor Florez, Kelly Heckinger and Ronald Solis. Decker is an assistant professor in USF’s Department of Radiology who enrolled in the program to become more entrepreneurial in the lab environment.

"As entrepreneurship students, we learned that having a really good, sound idea and a good story would help people feel excited and passionate about your project and your group," says Decker. The group also learned the value of networks, as the largest donor was someone Decker connected with during a previous class assignment which asked students to get in touch with someone they had not seen in a long time.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Summer Decker, USF

1 Million Cups Of Coffee Support Entrepreneurship In Cities

A new opportunity is brewing for entrepreneurs in Tampa Bay. 1 Million Cups St. Petersburg officially kicks off October 9 at St. Petersburg Greenhouse and invites business owners, mentors and the entire community to come together to support local businesses and start-ups.

The concept was launched through the Kauffman Foundation, with the idea of seeing how much business and support entrepreneurs could receive around one million cups of coffee. The idea is simple: every Wednesday at 9:00 am, communities across the country bring together entrepreneurs, mentors, advisers and business minds to learn about and support new businesses. Each event features two businesses that present for six minutes each and then allow 20 minutes of questions, with the event ending at exactly one hour.

The concept began in Kansas City in April of 2012, and has rolled out in 20 communities nationwide. Kauffman provides back end administration, support and promotion, as well as opportunities for participating communities to gather together for benchmarking.  

The organizing team for 1 Million Cups St. Petersburg consists of: Sean Kennedy of St. Petersburg Greenhouse, John Morrow with USF St. Petersburg’s Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Innovation Alliance, Reuben Pressman, serial entrepreneur, Danielle Weitlauf of Tampa Bay Innovation Center and Richard Wood with Eagle Datagistics.

“We want more energy, more people coming together to talk about entrepreneurship in a very casual format,” says Danielle Weitlauf, Manager for Tampa Bay Innovation Center and one of the organizers for 1 Million Cups St. Petersburg.

In keeping with the 1 Million Cups theme, Kahwa Coffee is donating coffee each week.

Presenters for the kick-off event are Eye Crawler and Causetofund.

A common question that comes up at other 1 Million Cups events is: “What can the community do to support you?” Speakers will walk away with just that -- advice, connections and support from the community.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Danielle Weitlauf, Tampa Bay Innovation Center

Tampa Startups Compete For National Attention At Tech Cocktail Event

Have you heard of Taskvilla, a Tampa company that offers business-hiring software? How about Tie the Knot, a custom website and iPhone app builder for the modern bride and groom?

Tonight at Fox Jazz Cafe on West Kennedy Boulevard, these local startups, along with LilyPad, Seat by Seat, and Valet Boss, will each compete for the title "Hottest Showcasing Startup'' and the chance to continue on to a two-day national conference in Las Vegas.

Since 2006, Tech Cocktail has hosted "Socials'' in cities worldwide, including tech hubs like San Francisco and Austin. For the first time, Tech Cocktail is coming to Tampa.

"Tech Cocktail was created to stimulate local tech communities,'' explains Gracie Stemmer, marketing director for Tampa Bay WaVE and head of the Tech Cocktail Committee in Tampa. "The event will showcase some of the area's most exciting tech companies and most supportive organizations.''

Entrepreneurs, supporters of the tech community or members of the public who are interested in what is taking place in Tampa Bay's tech world are welcome to attend, Stemmer says.

Criteria for selection of the five startups that will demo tonight included being established less than three years ago, raising less than $1 million in total funding, and having a working product in at least beta stage.

Each startup will have two minutes to pitch their products, while attendees will have the opportunity to network with members of the local entrepreneurial community and area tech enthusiasts.

Community-building events are an asset to Tampa's entrepreneurs, Stemmer says. "When our local community comes together and rallies around our startups, we are re-enforcing and strengthening what Tampa Bay has to offer.''

Tech Cocktail Celebrate, to be held in Las Vegas on Oct. 22-23, will offer 30 worldwide finalists the opportunity to showcase their companies to big names in the tech world.

"Becoming a recognizable tech community in the national entrepreneurial arena will not only keep our talent here in Tampa Bay, but also allows us to move talent in to our thriving area,'' says Stemmer.

Tech Cocktail's Social is Tuesday‚ Oct. 8th‚ 6-8:30 p.m., at Fox Jazz Cafe at 5401 W. Kennedy Boulevard.

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

ROBOCON Tampa Bay Celebrates Technology, Learning

Elementary, middle and high school students from the Tampa Bay region and across the Southeast are coming together for the ultimate in community-based STEM collaboration.

ROBOCON Tampa Bay, a two-day event October 25 and 26 at the University of Tampa, features demonstrations, workshops, a college and career fair and robotics competitions. FIRST Robotics teams will participate in Ultimate Ascent, a high speed game of ultimate robot Frisbee. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a national organization that inspires youth to discover science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through robotics competitions.

Workshops will be taught by Tampa Bay business leaders on topics such as programming and technical skills as well as how to run a business, providing students with real-life application to accompany the educational aspect.

One unique attribute of the FIRST programs in Tampa Bay is that teams are formed across schools and even from homeschool environments, giving students a chance to interact and collaborate with people from a variety of backgrounds.

The event is produced by Learning is for Everyone, a Tampa-based nonprofit that provides creative learning opportunities for all ages. Funding was received by a matching grant from the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation as well as from Hillsborough County's new program, EDI2. Tampa Bay Sports Commission is also an event partner.

An important goal of the event is to grow economic opportunities in Tampa Bay, particularly in technology fields, to help retain local talent.

"We want to show the connection between childhood technical hobbies and jobs in a strong economy," says Jamie Klingman, board member for Learning is for Everyone.

The event is free and open to the public, and local businesses are encouraged to attend to meet students for possible internship and apprentice programs.

"We need to highlight and celebrate our students and their achievements, especially in technology," says Klingman. "They will be the next big leaders in the technology world, and the drivers going forward."

The organizers also hope to use this event to attract the national FIRST competition to the Tampa Bay area.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Jamie Klingman, Learning is for Everyone

Tampa Bay Inventors Celebrate 30 Years Of Innovation

"Inventors Helping Inventors" is the motto of an organization of inventors in Tampa Bay who have been gathering together to advise and support each other for the past 30 years.

The nonprofit, all volunteer Tampa Bay Inventors Council (TBIC) is open to both professionals and novice inventors who want to network, collaborate and learn how to protect themselves and their inventions. The group meets twice per month for advice and information on topics such as patents, prototyping and marketing opportunities such as crowd funding.  

Members’ inventions include the in10did, a touch typing keyboard with only 10 keys, the Halo Nightlight, which lights up the floor of a room while keeping the rest of the room dark, and the PamiPocket a lightweight cell phone purse.

Their 30th Anniversary celebration will take place October 1 at the EpiCenter at St. Petersburg College. Inventors from across the state will have their innovations on display, ranging from a cat pool to a new bed design. The group’s founder, patent attorney Ron Smith, will be speaking, as well as Kevin Harrington from Shark Tank and "As Seen on TV."

"America has always embraced the inventor or entrepreneur…people who are willing to start a company or build upon an idea," says Wayne Rasanen, president of TBIC. "Tampa is kind of a small town for businesses, so generating more start-ups and entrepreneurial spirit in Tampa Bay is vital to establishing new companies, to building new industries."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source, Wayne Rasanen, TBIC

MOSI Tampa Hosts STEAM Summit On Innovation

What do science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) have in common? They’re all part of Tampa Bay’s growing reputation as a region that nurtures innovation, and they will all be discussed at an upcoming professional leaders forum.

Hosted by the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI), the forum on October 10 is a first for Tampa Bay and brings together professionals from all industries and across the region.

"The goal is to have a conversation with business leaders in the community about the importance of STEAM education, the opportunities that brings to Tampa, and our challenges as a region as we strive to be an innovative place," says Molly Demeulenaere, VP of development for MOSI.

Panelists include Raul Cuero, PhD., MOSI's 2013 National Hispanic Scientist of the Year. A microbiologist originally from Columbia, Cuero is a national spokesperson for STEAM and innovation who discovered through growing up in poverty that creativity can help bring about a better way of life.

Kerriann Greenlagh, Ph.D., a local organic chemist and University of South Florida graduate will provide an entrepreneur’s perspective of taking her liquid bandaid, KeriCure, from lab to market.

The panel is rounded out by local artpreneur and biologist Jeff Hazelton whose innovations include medical games, animation and imaging technology.

In addition to the panelists, the event is intended be an interactive conversation with involvement from the entire community.

STEAM is a focus of MOSI’s masterplan for 2025, but it has always been an important part of the educational process for the museum.

"As a science center, we have been teaching STEM/STEAM since MOSI opened in the 1950s," says Demeulenaere, adding that many people don’t realize that art is already integrated into STEM initiatives. For example, architecture plays a critical part in building design, as does design as an element in automobile manufacturing.

In bringing the STEAM conversation to the masses, MOSI also hopes to inspire the next generation of our region’s youth to take advantage of careers in STEAM fields. "We want people to know that it’s accessible, that it’s not hard for them to accomplish."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Molly Demeulenaere, MOSI Tampa

Tampa Native Creates Wallet With Slim Design

The Snapback Wallet was designed with minimalists in mind. With space for 10 credit cards, as well as receipts and cash, the wallet is made of stretchy elastic that can be carried on a wrist or in a pocket or purse.

The concept was developed by Nick Augeri, a Tampa native and University of South Florida graduate, who was frustrated with the lack of quality wallets in a slim size that would hold cards, cash and receipts. After Internet and retail searches came up blank, he decided to start sewing. "I had some terrible prototypes at first," laughs Augeri.

The product development involved a great deal of searching for the perfect elastic, as well as enlisting the help of his mother, an experienced seamstress. Once the design was perfected, he found a manufacturer located in Melbourne. All in all, the process took approximately five months from idea to final execution.

"There’s a lot that goes into making a product that I had no idea about," says Augeri. He learned, for instance, that the country of origin has to be on every product, as well as the nuances involved with shipping.

Augeri launched a campaign on Kickstarter to raise funds to make the first products. The campaign recently exceeded the initial $10,000 goal. He plans to launch two new colors if $15,000 is raised by the end of the campaign on September 27.

He contributes social media channels with helping him spread the word, as well as USF marketing professor Bob Pecoraro for giving him the guidance and direction needed to get the business started.

Augeri hopes to eventually turn the company into a full-time job, selling the wallets both online and in retail establishments.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Nick Augeri, University of South Florida

Anago Cleaning Systems Grows, Adds 40+ Jobs in Tampa

Anago Cleaning Systems’ Master Franchise Owners Raul Gonzalez and Omar Fernandez are spurring economic growth in Tampa Bay, creating small business opportunities for entrepreneurs while generating more than 40 jobs.

One of the leading commercial cleaning franchise organizations with over 2,400 business units across the country, Anago has been recognized by the Entrepreneur Magazine as the 10th fastest-growing franchise in 2013 in the United States and by the National Minority Franchising Initiative as the top franchise for minorities.

"We are adding small businesses by virtue of those people who open a cleaning business and are simultaneously adding jobs because the unit franchisees are hiring employees to assist them in running their small business," says VP of Marketing Judy Walker.

Cousins that came from a close-knit family in New York, Gonzalez and Fernandez moved to Florida together and saw a need for growing companies that would cater to the entrepreneurial needs of the Spanish community. Many of Anago’s Florida unit franchisees are from different countries -- entrepreneurs seeking business opportunities but who may face market entry and language barriers.

"They saw a need that people wanted. In a community, people really stick together, and we wanted to become part of that community by reaching out to them and fulfilling their needs," says Trish Carr, regional director of Anago Tampa.

For the past 15 years, Gonzalez and Fernandez have successfully added new franchise units in the area, connecting entrepreneurs with a structured business management system, allowing franchise business owners the freedom to concentrate on their craft while fulfilling the American Dream. The Master Franchiser, Anago Tampa, provides the franchise unit with on-going local contracts, mentorship, marketing and administrative services, effectually connecting families and communities with long-term business and job opportunities.

"We work hand-in-hand with our business owners. We build relationships," says Carr.

Gonzalez and Fernandez have already added seven new franchise units this year and plans to plant up to eight more before the end of 2013.

"I have so much faith and belief in Omar, Raul and Trish. Their success has been excellent through the years, and we expect them to grow exponentially and the economy as well," says Walker.

For more information on unit franchise or career opportunities, visit Anago Tampa online or call Trish Carr at 727.535.8752.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Sources: Judy Walker and Trish Carr, Anago Cleaning Systems

xByte Technologies Adds New Location, Jobs

Sarasota-based xByte Technologies nearly tripled its physical space recently with the purchase of a new 30,000-square-foot facility in south Manatee County.

The company refurbishes and resells IT equipment, specializing in servers, storage components and networking equipment. They relocated to Tampa Bay in 2006, seeking a great living environment for employees.

They currently work mostly with Dell, HP and IBM computers. The new facility will allow them to expand their offerings to include Cisco products as well as expand their server manufacturing lines. In addition to hardware, the company will also be adding services component to its business model, including leasing, hosting and short-term equipment rentals.

The company participates in the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation’s (EDC) jobs incentives program to help identify qualified candidates.  

"The community involvement with organizations like the Bradenton Area EDC has been tremendously helpful for us to get our name out there," says Stephen Jaynes, COO for xByte Technologies, noting that the recognition they receive locally helps them attract good candidates and support their growth.

The expansion will bring about 10 to 20 new positions within the next year, adding to the current employee base of 32. Positions will be sales, administrative and IT technicians.

The company was recently honored in the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s Florida Fast 100 privately held companies. "It’s big news for us, something we’re very excited about," says Jaynes. The award reflects revenues, job growth and community involvement.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Stephen Jaynes, xByte Technologies

USF Grads Create New Approach To Online Giving

People interested in charitable giving now have a way to donate to Tampa Bay's hidden gems with complete transparency and assurance that 100 percent of their donation will be used for the intended purpose.

Track Your Effect features little known Tampa Bay charities that are in need of assistance. Opportunities to give run the gamut – from hay for abused horses to personal energy transportation vehicles for victims of landmines.

The website is the brainchild of recent University of South Florida graduates Todd Lincoln and Jason Scolaro, who met in a class through the MBA program. The inspiration came from their mutual frustration with charitable giving, especially as fake charities tend to pop up after national tragedies.  

"We can provide some great insight into how the money is spent and used, who it’s delivered to, and how it’s delivered," says Scolaro, Tampa native and USF MBA graduate, and co-founder of Track Your Effect.

The team meets with each charity to determine their unmet needs and then sets specific goals. They then create a web portal for the community to donate to the individual project. Once the goal is met, they purchase the items and deliver them directly to the charity, being able to show donors copies of receipts. Videos are created at the beginning and end of each project to add another layer of transparency for donors.

The team also hopes to raise awareness of nonprofits that may have flown under the radar but are doing good work and have real needs. The first project raised enough money to buy over 6,500 diapers for families in need through Lithia-based Blessed Bottoms.  

"We hope this will increase charitable giving in the community, and inspire more do-gooders." says Lincoln, Track Your Effect co-founder and USF Masters in Entrepreneurship graduate.

Track Your Effect is part of a larger project called Transparency Initiative led by Scolaro and Lincoln. The two intend to take the idea of transparency to the next level and provide clarity into other processes that are not so clear, such as the political sector.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Todd Lincoln, Jason Scolaro, Track Your Effect

Hackerspace Builds A Community Home In Tampa

How would you like to use a 3D printer to turn a wild invention into a working prototype? At Tampa Hackerspace, this kind of dream will soon be a reality.

Sufficient funding for the group's founding members to set up shop at CoWork Tampa was met in early August.

Working under a "short deadline to make it happen,'' founder Bill Shaw explains, the group appealed to Facebook members to help raise enough initial revenue to secure their new space, a large open-floor plan venue on the ground floor of the West Tampa building.

Education is the primary goal of the Tampa Hackerspace, says Shaw, founder of nonprofit Inspiration Labs. Shaw hopes to "build a community of people who like to experiment and tinker.'' 

Along with offering free classes and facilities where individuals and groups can work on projects, Tampa Hackerspace will house "equipment that's mostly too expensive for people to purchase on their own. We'll have 3D printers, laptop location equipment, soldering stations -- there will be a lot of things that people can come to use as members,'' Shaw explains.

Classes will be taught by members and the curriculum will be regulated by member interest, but Shaw notes that the Tampa Hackerspace hopes to bridge the gap between a "hackerspace and a makerspace.''

He emphasizes, "The type of audience that we're targeting are people who are into the do-it-yourself thing -- and not just traditional 'hardware' people. We have a pretty large number of people now who are into electronics and robotics and technology, and I think we have the potential to bring in members who enjoy different types of art projects, like the Tampa Bay Steampunk Society.''

Classes will also cover a broad range of topics: "Technology is not the only component; there's a large creative side to what we're trying to accomplish, as well,'' Shaw explains.

The group relies on the community it brings together, with "a small amount of revenue from classes,'' Shaw says, to raise enough funds for furnishings, equipment, and consumable resources.

"Primarily, our revenue will come from members. … There are a lot of other operating expenses now that we've secured the space,'' explains Shaw, "but CoWork Tampa has been really supportive in helping us make it work. And as we grow, we'll be improving equipment and adding new things to make it more valuable as a member.''

Tampa Hackerspace will offer 24/7 access to "keyholder'' members for $100 monthly, while lower-priced options are also available. Meetings, which Shaw hopes will becomes a weekly occurrence as Hackerspace finds footing, are open to the public.

Over 35 participants attended the group's second meeting. The next Tampa Hackerspace event will be held tonight (Aug. 20), at 7:00 PM, at 3104 N Armenia Ave.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Bill Shaw, Inanimate Reason, Inc.

Accuform Signs Grows In Brooksville, Globally

Family owned and operated Accuform Signs makes signs and other products that inform, protect and motivate employees in the workplace.

"The products are designed to help people think more about being safe," says CEO Wayne Johnson.

The company was founded by Johnson’s parents, Ron and Veronica Johnson in 1976. Originally in New Port Richey, they began with just one type of custom product. Since then, the company has grown to 296 employees and a three-building campus in Brooksville.

Wayne Johnson began working for the company in a sales role in 1977 and eventually worked his way up the ranks to CEO. He is also Managing Partner, along with his brother David.

He is the recent recipient of Ernst & Young’s 2013 Entrepreneur of the Year Award, in the Family Business category.

"We’re really a big, giant family so it was kind of appropriate to be in that category," says Johnson.

The award was based on a successful track record, as indicated by the company’s doubling in size every five years. "Hernando has been a great place for us to accomplish a lot of that growth because of the strong workforce availability," says Johnson.

Other award criteria included financial stability. The company was able to finance most of its growth without incurring debt and is currently exporting products to Canada, Mexico and Latin America.

A third criteria was culture and company environment. The company has been nominated for and won several “best places to work” awards locally because of its strong commitment to its employees.

Accuform's newest products focus on lock out tag out safety. These products help people control hazardous energy, such as locking out power while certain equipment is being used. They’re also developing new graphic materials that can cling to any surface -- even concrete block walls.

The company is planning another expansion with a 304,000 feet facility in 2014.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Wayne Johnson, Accuform Signs

Healthbox, Florida Blue Team Up To Create Jobs

Florida Blue is partnering with Chicago-based Healthbox to bring to Florida the platform designed to stimulate healthcare entrepreneurialism and expose the healthcare industry to innovative solutions.

Just two years old, Healthbox is experiencing significant growth, expanding to Boston and London with a mission to create opportunities for healthcare entrepreneurs while fostering broader system collaboration.

"We saw a need in the industry for more innovation. From that, we saw that entrepreneurs needed to be introduced to different groups within the healthcare industry, but we also wanted to learn from them and learn to grow within the context of the industry," says Healthbox Communications Manager Abbie Ginther.

Since the program's inception in 2012, 37 early-stage healthcare companies have received capital investments with more than 80 partnerships while creating nearly 20 new jobs.

"Success of startups lead to growth and infusion of capital which leads to economic development and job creation across the state. It is certainly something that will help spur the economic development statewide," says Les McPhearson, innovation and business development executive for Florida Blue.

With each new emerging local program, 10 healthcare startups are targeted to be selected into the program and receive $50,000 in seed capital in exchange for 7 percent equity.

"The exploration is a journey. There are insights and intelligence to be gained that can add value," says McPhearson. "It is a combination of a very disciplined and rigorous program to help these companies become successful and grow while providing them the opportunity to run their companies. We want to help them find that right balance to help them become successful.''

Florida's resilient healthcare entrepreneurial ecosystem paired with technological innovations and the incubation of startups presents an opportunity to capitalize upon regional growth opportunities that lead to economic stimulation and job creation.

"Florida poses some interesting dynamics that other regions don't face. Our hubs in Tampa, Jacksonville, Orlando, central and south Florida bring different dynamics around access to capital, research, acadamia, and entrepreneurial support. We view it as an opportunity to weave some of this together," says McPhearson.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Sources: Abbie Ginther, Healthbox; Les McPhearson, Florida Blue

Tampa Entrepreneurs Develop BuzzMe App

Imagine that it’s 5 o’clock and you just remembered that today is a friend’s birthday. What do you do other than admit you forgot? You could call, post on Facebook, send her a text, or do something really cool, like buy her a martini at a local restaurant. You don’t even have to be at the venue to make it happen. And neither does she.

Thanks to BuzzMe, a new startup by Tampa entrepreneurs Nathaniel Waring and Philippe Theodore, users can browse a venue’s drink list or menu (pre-loaded on the app) from anywhere in the world, select and pay for the item they want, and then send or “buzz” the surprise to a friend. The recipient can redeem the gift whenever they happen to be at the venue. BuzzMe takes a small commission on each order.

What’s in it for the venue? “It doesn’t cost the restaurant or bar anything to participate, it gives them great visibility and they’re getting a sale from someone not even in their place of business,” says Waring. “It’s absolutely risk free.”

BuzzMe launched in June and so far, says Waring, about 15 local places are participating as are several national liquor brands. 

“I get pitched every day about different marketing ideas and this is one of the best,” says Alex Steppacher, Florida sales manager for Russian Standard Vodka. “People ages 25 to 35 are very social media-oriented. The brand exposure for us could be tremendous.”

Waring’s goal is to sign up 100 bars and restaurants in the Tampa region by fall, eventually expanding to Orlando and Gainesville and then to other areas around the country.

Writer: Janan Talafer
Sources: Nathaniel Waring, BuzzMe; Alex Steppacher, Russian Standard
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