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8-Count Studios adds new twist to urban dance battles

Downtown Tampa’s newest renovated theater space turned dance studio hopes to revolutionize the way dance battles are run.

Traditionally, a ballroom or swing dance studio will host a recital to allow its students to show off their work, sometimes with a competition element. In the urban and hip hop scene, their version of a recital is referred to as a battle or jam. Jamming originated as an informal show-off of dance moves in a social circle, where dancers would clear a circle and then take turns displaying their best moves. In a battle, the circle becomes more formal and individuals or pairs of dancers pair off against each other in a competition-style event.

Most battles lack an element of formality, with different dance styles competing against each other. In a desire to formalize these events, 8-Count Studios on North Franklin Street in Tampa is hosting a Layer Cake Battle on January 3.

"We want to revolutionize how battles are run," says Hope Donnelly, co-owner of 8-Count Studios.

The event is named Layer Cake Battle because of the layered judging that will be done in rounds. Using Donnelly’s sports dance background, the studio will introduce a bracket system that will list names of dancers on a board. Dance brackets include: popping and locking, wacking and voguing, breaking, and krumping. Each winner will progress to the next level with prizes awarded in each bracket until an ultimate Best of Show winner is announced.

"Dancing is a sport, so we’re treating it like a sport," says Donnelly. "Dancers are athletes; they are competitors."

Well-known choreographers and judges will be flown in from across the country. The event will also include workshops, vendors and a concert. Cash and other prizes will be given to the winners, as well as a private brunch session with the judges.

The event is open to the public. The price of admission is $20 per person.

Air Animal Pet Movers helps ease stress of relocation

A Tampa-based company that built its reputation around transporting pets -- from tiny birds to giant horses -- across country when families move is adding jobs and expanding services due to growing demand.

Air Animal Pet Movers transports an average of 2,000 pets, mostly dogs and cats, each year. The company currently employs 15 staff, including two added recently. They also are outgrowing their 3,600-square-foot location on W. Cypress Street on Tampa and are looking for a new location.

Founded in 1969 by practicing veterinarian Walter Woolf and his late wife, Millie, Air Animal thrives by providing peace of mind while managing the moving process from start to finish. Moving anytime anywhere with a pet can be stressful, Woolf says, from researching the safest travel option to booking the actual accommodations. 

In the beginning, as part of his veterinary practice, Woolf worked with local airlines to provide services for pets arriving at night. In 1977, the company incorporated as a full service pet travel agency.

The company organizes pick-up of a pet at a residence or airport, handles all of the associated airline reservations and required paperwork, and ultimately delivers the pet to the final destination – whether it be a residence or an airport pick-up. They have transported pets to and from destinations across the world, from Lima, Peru to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Woolf’s experience with and knowledge about the relationship between pets and family members was the basis for getting into the business. He wanted to provide the safest, most humane way to minimize stress on families during relocation. "Today, the pet is a very, very cherished member of the family," says Woolf, Founder and Managing Director.

The company recently received the 2014 Impact Award from CARTUS, a relocation network they have been working with since 1994. The honor recognizes innovation and outstanding customer service.

Tampa Water Taxi adds Riverwalk ferry service

Tampa Water Taxi Company, LLC plans to add a continuous loop through the Tampa Riverwalk to its transportation lineup.  

Now going into its seventh year of operation, the company was founded by Capt. Laurence (Larry) Salkin, who was shocked when he moved to Tampa and found a city with a large amount of area surrounded by water that had very little water-based activities. Salkin wanted to show off the city from a different vantage point, to residents and visitors alike.

"Our water is a diamond. It’s a gem," says Salkin. "The views of Tampa from the water are like no views you can get from anywhere on land."

The biggest compliment during his tenure with the company was from a 96-year-old seventh generation Tampa resident, stating that he never knew the city looked this beautiful.

The company offers regular public tours of the water surrounding Tampa’s downtown, including a city overview called "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Tampa," history tours, and year-round dolphin tours.There are also sunset and nightlife tours, featuring the lighted bridges.

They also provide private charters for parties and weddings, and transportation to and from Davis and Harbour Islands to Amelia Arena for Tampa Bay Lightning games and concerts. The four boats seating 30 people each have transported as many as 400 people during a single event, lightning the traffic congestion.

The company is planning a new ferry service for the Tampa Riverwalk, which is scheduled for completion by the end of November. The ferry will run a continuous loop along the Riverwalk Friday afternoon through the weekend, with the ability to get on and off at stops along the way. The goal is to charge a minimal cost for riders and obtain sponsorship to cover expenses.

LabTech Software expands Tampa operations, adds jobs

LabTech Software, provider of a remote monitoring and management (RMM) solution, is adding over 100 jobs to its Tampa headquarters.

The company was founded in 2004 by six individuals in Toledo, OH with a managed services provider (MSP) business looking for a way to become more efficient in their business practice through automation. The RMM tool allows companies to automate IT tasks, such as work on multiple machines at the same time, manage billable hours for client projects and solve client issues remotely. The product is unique in that it was built and designed by and for MSP providers, allowing for a high level of detail in meeting client needs.

Tampa-based ConnectWise, an IT automation company that also provides MSP services, took an interest in LabTech and provided the capital needed to take them to the next level. In 2010, LabTech’s headquarters was relocated to ConnectWise’s offices in Tampa. Since then, the company has gone from $1 million to over $50 million in sales revenue.

"Technology companies are starting to grow and find that Florida and the Tampa Bay area are great opportunities for growth," says John Timko, director of marketing for LabTech, noting that the Tampa Bay job market is well positioned to meet that growth.

Now with 325 employees, the company shares both facilitates and staffing resources with Connectwise, creating a mutually beneficial partnership.

The company is currently hiring in the areas of marketing, sales, development, support, product management, consulting and training. "Every department within our organization is growing and scaling, not just to accommodate the present but the future as well," says Timko.

LabTech attributes their growth to the strength of the product as well as the company culture and values, which focus on commitment, integrity and service

Canine Ranch Country Club offers full service amenities for dogs, dog lovers

Most dog owners are aware of the benefits of exercising their pet, from fewer behavior problems to less obesity and even a longer life. But, sometimes schedules get in the way and exercise takes a back seat to work and other priorities.

Canine Ranch Country Club  in Bradenton brings together dogs and their owners to not only provide a place for dogs to exercise and play, but owners can participate in activities with their dogs and even meet other like-minded individuals. K-9 coaches provide structured exercise activities that can be done with or without the owner. While dogs are being exercised, groomed or even enjoying time in the therapeutic Jacuzzi tub, owners can relax in a lounge with couches, a large screen TV and juice bar or even pull out their laptop and get some work done.

"I did some research and found that dogs live an average of two years longer when they’re well exercised," says Heather Perry, the club’s owner. "I wanted to get the word out that dogs need to be exercised."

Perry has a background in membership-based organizations and recently owned a personal development and sales training center in D.C. From these experiences, she learned how much people like being around those of like minds, which helped inspire the club's design.
 
She moved to Bradenton initially to purchase land for her horse, and realized that the land was also a dog’s paradise. Combining her membership management experience with her love of canines, the concept of Canine Ranch Country Club was born.

In addition to the focus on exercise, the club’s Ranch Manager, a veterinary technician, provides seminars on topics such as dog nutrition. A resource library provides books on pet-related topics. Other services include obedience courses, an agility area, dog yoga, winding trails with running creeks, doggy day care, birthday parties and arts and crafts. Future plans include a putting green for owners to enjoy while dogs are being exercised.

The club opened by appointment on October 1 and will have a grand opening October 30 complete with a Halloween costume contest.

Tampa startup offers combination personal and professional social network

With the myriad of social networks available for personal and professional use, it can sometimes become confusing and cumbersome to manage everything. A new startup in Tampa hopes to ease this burden by creating a combination personal and professional network, with an added job search component.

Founded in November of 2013, Flipsetter provides an online tool that meets several goals. At the basic level, it operates as a social network similar to LinkedIn or Facebook, allowing users to share news, photos, links and videos. Addressing a common concern with other networks, Flipsetter provides users with ultimate control of privacy settings, allowing them to choose which of their networks can see which information.   

A user can create one or more of three profile types: business, organization or individual. Each type has their own tools, and all can be used within the same login or profile.

An added benefit is a feature similar to a virtual resume or portfolio where users can list their academic history, work history and other accomplishments. Businesses and other organizations can also use the service to set up a page for promotional and organizational purposes, and to post jobs.

"We call it one stop shopping," says founder Sabaresh Krishnan, USF graduate and current MBA student.

Krishnan thought of the name when hearing about the frustrations involved with having multiple networks and resources to manage profiles, time and organizations. Wanting to find a way to resolve this, he thought "let me flip that around and come up with a way to make it happen."

The service currently has approximately 300 users in beta phase, including several student groups at USF, and plans to go live by October.

Alakai Defense Systems' Mission Fuels Growth, Creates Jobs

"We were soldiers. Our children are soldiers. Our mission is to protect the soldier."

That’s the motto of Alakai Defense Systems. It drives who they are and what they do. It’s that kind of determination that helped them achieve compounded annual growth of 60 percent since the company’s restructure in 2009, bringing them to a current sales revenue on order of $8 million.

The Largo-based company provides explosive detection systems using laser and electro-optic sensing technology to ensure the utmost accuracy and reliability. Products include sensors that detect explosives in excess of 100 meters away, as well as vehicle-mounted systems for use at checkpoint gates.

Its flagship product is the Standoff Covert Eyesafe Explosives Detection System (SCEEDS). About the size of a large footlocker, the SCEEDS is mounted on vehicles.

With explosives being the number one killer of soldiers on the battlefield, Alakai’s mission cannot be underemphasized. With key staff having served in the military, many of whom have children who are currently serving, the company is intimately familiar with end user needs. "We want to make a contribution and protect the solders, bring our kids home," says Ed Dottery, president of Alakai Defense Systems.

Dottery has a background in special operations and Special Forces. After doing army reserve tours at MacDill, he decided to make Tampa Bay his home.

The company is a graduate of the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, which nurtures early stage ventures to help them grow and launch products. "It’s a great incubator," says Ed Dottery. "It helped me both as a small business and a second stage growth company."

Dottery attributes the company’s growth to a combination of factors, including the programs at the Innovation Center and other local economic development efforts, state tax incentives and its proximity to MacDill Airforce Base.

Alakai partners with universities such as University of South Florida and Florida A&M University on research and grant opportunities. Graduate students are able to obtain real-world experience and contribute their knowledge and research through industry practicum experiences. They also teamed up with USF recently to seek matching funds from the I-4 Corridor.

The company has 25 employees worldwide and is currently expanding its workforce to include 10 additional hires including a Senior Scientist, Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and Software Developers.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Ed Dottery, Alakai Defense Systems

Tampa startup uses crowdsourcing for innovative package delivery

A new company based out of Tampa plans to revolutionize the way packages are delivered by turning regular commuters into couriers.

Titled HITCH, the company is the brainchild of Chuck Pasquotto, an entrepreneur who runs several transportation-related companies. Seeing the success of companies like Uber and Air BnB, Pasquotto wanted to use the power of crowd sourcing to help streamline the package delivery process. The idea is to find someone who is traveling daily to a destination and ask them to deliver someone else’s package. The network is connected through a mobile app.

"Think of us as a marketplace," says Eric Torres, USF graduate and VP of Marketing for HITCH. "We’re giving the crowd an opportunity to earn extra money via the shared economy."

Those who want to deliver packages (called travelers) sign up on the site and provide their origin and destination information. They can then see a list of deliveries on their intended route. Travelers receive a payment upon successful package delivery.

A shipper enters information about the item needing to be delivered, along with a picture and description. They can then see the fee and accept or decline the delivery. The pick-up location is determined by the shipper and can be a home, office or other public place. Once the transaction is complete, the shipper can request a signature. The traveler is also required to take a picture of where the item was delivered, and it can also be tracked with a gps.

The benefits are lower costs than a typical courier service, environmental benefits and an opportunity for the travelers to earn extra money.

The community is monitored, and users get ratings based on their reliability and effectiveness. For example, users can request to work with only five star rated travelers or shippers. Users also have to become verified by providing a bank account or credit card information.

HITCH recently partnered with Tampa-based creative agency PP+K to help launch the app. The app is currently in beta mode and aims for a soft launch in October in the I-4 corridor area. The company plans to expand nationwide after the launch.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Eric Torres, HITCH

Carrollwood Day School Hosts Startup Weekend For Youth Entrepreneurs

Pitch an idea, form a team and become part of the world’s largest entrepreneurial community in 54 hours. That’s the strategy behind every Startup Weekend around the globe – and it’s the mission for the first ever Startup Weekend Tampa Youth on September 12-14, 2014.
 
The intensive, team-based concept at the backbone of the global Startup Weekend movement has gained steam in Tampa Bay over several years of biannual events.

Growing, innovative local startups such as Wazinit, and breakout success stories like Eventjoy (formerly EXMO), are the result of previous Tampa Bay Startup Weekends.
 
Ryan Sullivan, a “Global Facilitator” and local organizer for Startup Weekend Tampa Bay and Startup Weekend Tampa Youth, says that the goal for the events in over 200 cities worldwide “is to educate and inspire people in the community to take action in entrepreneurship.”

Startup Weekend Youth is specifically geared toward 5th–8th graders - “the next generation’s entrepreneurs.” Sullivan notes that the event will look and feel a little different this time around. Participants will still pitch ideas and work in teams, but with a focus on teaching and inspiring young thinkers. Attendees will also have the opportunity to interact with coaches who are experts in their field and successful entrepreneurs.

“This is something special,” Sullivan says. “We will create an atmosphere of exercises and experiences that will inspire creative ideas in young minds and help kids to learn how to move those ideas forward towards action, and in the process, collaborate with their peers.”
 
Students are encouraged to register under one of three categories (Creative/Design, Coding/Programming, Business/Finance) based on their interests. Hands-on activities will be geared toward helping students identify a challenge to solve, learn to understand potential customers or users, work effectively with others, “and in the end, build something they are proud of as a team,” says Sullivan.

“Today’s youth are full of creative ideas for how to make lives and the world a better place. This will be a place for them to take those ideas and move them towards reality,” he explains. “This event will also help build confidence in creating and sharing ideas for those that tend to keep them inward.” 

Along with Sullivan, Nicholas Catania, Deborah Neff and Todd Broyles are co-organizers of the event. They expect more than 50 students to attend and participate in Startup Weekend Tampa Youth.
 
“We like to say that it is the least expensive babysitter at $25 for the weekend,” Sullivan says.

Startup Weekend Tampa Youth starts Friday, Sept. 12, at 6 p.m. and concludes on Sunday, Sept. 14, at 4 p.m. The event will take place at Carrollwood Day School, 1515 W. Bearss Ave. in Tampa. Tickets can be purchased by clicking here for $25.00. 

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Ryan Sullivan, Startup Weekend Tampa Bay

Eckerd College, FSU Partner For Accelerated Law Degree

Students studying at Eckerd College can now obtain a law degree in just six years.

The degree is a part of partnership between Eckerd College and Florida State University (FSU) College of Law. Students complete the first three years of undergraduate study at Eckerd and then transfer to FSU as seniors. They then complete the usual coursework for a first-year law student, with the courses also counting for the senior year at Eckerd, essentially allowing them to skip a year. Students can then graduate with a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science from Eckerd and continue on at FSU to complete the final two years of law school.

Eckerd decided to move forward with the program after looking at the curriculum and realizing the courses would be accepted for both programs as transfer credits. The rising cost of higher education was also a determining factor.

"College costs have increased, yet a college degree is still tremendously important not only for someone’s future career success but also in terms of the way in which students develop during the four years they spend in college," says Suzan Harrison, PhD., dean of faculty for Eckerd College.

The program is designed for high achieving, ambitious students who know their career plans early and plan out their three years at Eckerd carefully, making sure they complete the correct requirements for their major. The benefits to the student are saving a year’s worth of tuition and being able to start their law careers sooner.

The program is brand new and could start as early as this fall, as students qualify. Students are already expressing interest.

The program is the third of its kind for FSU. Other programs exist at FSU and the University of Central Florida.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Suzan Harrison, PhD., Eckerd College

Tampa Bay's First Senior Care ER Opens In St. Petersburg

Seniors looking for emergency care in Pinellas County will now have an option for a more personalized experience.

St. Petersburg General Hospital opened the first Senior Care Emergency Room in the Tampa Bay region in mid-August.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 23 percent of the population in Pinellas County is over 65 years of age, and this population continues to grow each year. The hospital noticed that approximately 20 percent of patients are over 60. That, combined with the growing number of seniors in the Tampa Bay region prompted the emphasis.

The hospital talked with patients to find out what they could do to better meet their needs. The result was a remodeling of a 4-bed wing and waiting area in the emergency room into a senior care area. The remodeled space includes non-skid floor, dimmer lighting and more comfortable chairs at the bedside for family members. The stretcher pads themselves are also thicker and more comfortable.

"We tried to make it a little bit more of a healing, comfortable environment," says Diane Conti, director of ER services for the hospital.

A section of the waiting area is now set aside for seniors as well, with softer lighting, more comfortable chairs and a larger television. Hearing and visual aids are available for patients who may have forgotten their hearing aids or glasses. Three parking spaces close to the building are designated as senior parking.

The hospital’s staff also underwent training on the needs of senior patients, such as dementia screening, fall risks and social screening. Emphasis is placed on working with caregivers to maximize the at-home healing experience.

"We don’t want them to be thought of as a different group, but rather a group with different needs," says Conti.

The move is part of a national trend, with over 50 hospitals in the U.S. opening senior specific emergency centers since 2011, according to the ECRI Institute.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Diane Conti, St. Petersburg Hospital

Clearwater Continues Greening Efforts With LED Streetlights

Residents of Clearwater will soon have softer streetlights and fewer outages as a result of the City’s latest efforts to go green.

The City is replacing the standard incandescent light bulbs in all 11,290 streetlights with LED bulbs. The new bulbs will produce the same amount of light, but use less energy and last longer.

"In light of the city’s green policy, we wanted to say the whole city is green and reduce the carbon footprint," says Paul Bertels, traffic operations manager for the City of Clearwater. "It’s important to the City Council and to the residents that we try to do everything we can to reduce our impact on the environment."

The major benefit from the move will be less outages. Standard bulbs typically have to be replaced every 18 months. The new LED bulbs will last an average of seven years before outage problems are experienced.

The decision was made by the City of Clearwater and Duke Energy, which currently provides maintenance for the streetlights. In a true public-private partnership, the bulbs will be funded by Duke Energy, so the replacement will be at no cost to citizens. Duke’s costs will be reduced due to less frequent maintenance.

Residents will mainly notice the white color of the lights vs. the orange color of the current bulbs. They will also notice a lot more stability with the less frequent outages.

The move is part of the city’s overall efforts to go green, which include a full service citywide recycling program, streetscaping, and water management.

"Clearwater has always been a very progressive place, and I think this policy on being green fits right in line with that thinking," says Bertels.

The project will begin in the Northeast quadrant of the city, with an estimated citywide completion in 18 months.   

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Paul Bertels, City of Clearwater

Urban Conga Transforms Downtown Parking Spaces On National Park(ing) Day

On September 19, a handful of metered parking spaces in downtown Tampa will take on a different purpose.  Instead of cars, you’ll find car parts, art and musicians.

As part of National Park(ing) Day, Urban Conga, a group of local creatives who promote community awareness through the use of play, will be taking over random parking spaces and turning them into parks. The goal is to encourage less driving and more walkability in the downtown area.

National Park(ing) Day is a worldwide event that began in 2005 by Rebar, a San Francisco-based art and design studio. The idea is for artists and activists to create debate about how urban space is allocated by transforming parking spaces into temporary public spaces. The event is now a global movement, with 162 cities in 35 countries expected to participate this year.

Urban Conga collaborated with University of South Florida art student Maeghann Coleman to design the spaces in downtown Tampa. The music-themed area will feature old tires and other car parts that can be used to make music, as well as a musical bench with piano keys. Jazz musicians from USF will also participate.

"It’s the idea of tactical urbanism," says Ryan Swanson, co-founder of Urban Conga. "We want to bring people there, not only to hang out but also to play."  

The Florida chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA Florida) recently ran a statewide parklet competition, in which Urban Conga received second place for their design. The $1200 prize will be used to fund the project. The City of Tampa is also supporting the project through the allocation of the parking spaces for the day.

Urban Conga is also promoting collaboration by asking people to send in pictures of what they’re doing in their areas.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Ryan Swanson, Urban Conga

Pecha Kucha V15: Engaging, Enlightening, Inspiring

Creatives, designers, students and community advocates will convene at the Tampa Museum of Art September 5 to hear unique ideas and experiences that make Tampa Bay a better place.

The event is Pecha Kucha, named for a Japanese term for "chit chat."

Speakers will talk for just over six minutes about something they are passionate about. In an effort to keep things interesting and moving, the format is 20 slides, each lasting 20 seconds each. In true "anything goes" style, speakers don’t know much about the participants ahead of time, and vice versa. Speaker names are released, but topics remain unknown until the event.

Pecha Kucha Tampa Bay is held four times a year and begins with an hour of socializing, followed by an hour of presentations.

"As always, there is no theme," says Ken Cowart, the event’s organizer. "It’s a mixed bag of creative people sharing their ideas."

Hope Donnelly, co-owner of 8-Count Studios at the Rialto, plans to speak about her experience as an entrepreneur renovating historic space in downtown Tampa. She first attended Pecha Kucha V13 in November of 2013 and immediately knew it was something she wanted to be a part of.

"It’s a sincere, organic way to connect with interesting people," says Donnelly. "It’s really engaging and human, and I love that!"

Other presenters at Volume 15 include:
  • John Denger. Director and advocate at The Well
  • Marcus DeSieno. USF art student
  • Tony DeSisto. Founder of Citizinvestor, a kick starter for cities and public projects
  • Courtney McCalden. Graphic designer
  • Sarah Ogdie, Community Tampa Bay
  • Jim Reiman. Photographer, art professor and founder of SwedeFest Tampa
  • Mark Weston, Architect and digital fabrication professor at USF

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Ken Cowart, Pecha Kucha; Hope Donnelly, Rialto

Florida Bookstore Day Celebrates Local Bookstores, Authors

Tiffany Razzano was driving down Central Avenue in downtown St. Petersburg when she spotted a poster in the storefront window at Daddy Cool Records promoting Record Store Day. She then drove past Wilson’s Book World and thought, "Why is there no bookstore day?"

She did some research only to learn that California is the only state that has fully developed the concept of a bookstore day.

So why not Florida? Why not now? she thought. The result?

The inaugural Florida Bookstore Day will take place at independent and used bookstores in cities throughout the state on November 15, concentrating on the Tampa Bay area, where Razzano runs Wordier Than Thou, a group that supports creative writers through open mic events, a literary magazine and a radio show.

"I wanted to do something big," says Razzano. "It’s a celebration of independent bookstores and the writing community. People won’t even know they’re at a literary event."

Her goal is to showcase local bookstores and the writing community. Soon after she started talking up the concept in social media and elsewhere, Razzano connected with book lovers in Orlando who wanted to be part of the celebration. Bookstores from the Panhandle to the Florida Keys have now signed on to participate. Expect a day of book releases and author signings, open mics and workshops on literary topics

Local participants include: Inkwood Books, Mojo Books and Music, Old Tampa Book Company and Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Standup Librarians, Wilson’s Book World and Wings Bookstore in St. Petersburg, Book Bank in Largo and Back in the Day Books in Dunedin.

An after party will take place at the Venture Compound in St. Petersburg, featuring local authors and literary organizations, the Bluebird Books Bus, raffles and food trucks.

The event is sponsored by Florida Antiquarian Book Fair and also received a grant from Awesome Tampa Bay.
 
Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Tiffany Razzano, Florida Bookstore Day
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