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8 female entrepreneurs to compete in regional SBA InnovateHER Challenge

LocalShops1 Creator Ester Venouziou is partnering with the Gulfport Area Chamber of Commerce to offer eight Tampa Bay area female entrepreneurs the chance to compete for up to $70,000 in prizes during the Small Business Association InnovateHER Challenge. 

While all of the applications in the local round came from women entrepreneurs, the competition is open to both male and female business owners whose products and services focus on women and their families.

Finalists in the Pinellas County regional round of the InnovateHER Challenge include:“One of the goals of LocalShops1 is to put local businesses in the spotlight,” Venouziou says, and the SBA InnovateHER Challenge “gives us an excellent opportunity to do so on a national level. Tampa Bay has so many creative and talented entrepreneurs, so let's show them off to the rest of the world.”

The LocalShops1 round of the national SBA InnovateHER Challenge will take place from 5-8 pm on Wednesday, Dec. 2, at Catherine Hickman Theatre, 5501 27th Ave S in Gulfport.

Following an opening reception hosted by Pinellas County businesses Three Birds Tavern, Out of the Weeds and Red Hot Tiki Market, finalists will participate in a live pitch competition moderated by Gulfport Chamber president Barry Rubin.

Isabel Laessig, Founder of Family Foodie, is keynote speaker for the event.

Laessig “turned a hobby -- cooking and blogging -- into not only a successful business, but a national movement encouraging families to eat together,” Venouziou says. 

The judges panel for the pitch competition includes Gallerie 909 Owner Carla Bristol; Diana M. Hechavarria, an entrepreneurship professor at the University South Florida; Marie Tomassi, a managing partner at Trenam Law; Rita Lowman, COO of C1 Bank; and Robin King, co-Owner of  Three Birds Tavern and Out of the Weeds.

Winners of regional rounds will be submitted to the SBA National headquarters for consideration in the live pitch final round on March 16 and 17, 2016, in Washington. DC, where selected finalists will compete for prizes from Microsoft that total $70,000.

Venouziou expects to see more than 100 local business owners, civic leaders and community members attend the regional round of the challenge. To register for the free event, click here

“We hope the contestants and all the entrepreneurs -- and entrepreneurs-to-be -- in the audience walk away inspired and with a better understanding of what they need to run a successful business,” Venouziou says. “And of course, we hope that our local winner will make it to the national round and win one of the cash prizes!”

Venouziou commends the city of Gulfport and the Gulfport Area Chamber of Commerce, as well as event sponsors and community partners, for supporting the event. St. Pete Chamber of Commerce, St Pete Greenhouse and SCORE will be on hand during the Dec. 2 competition to provide free resources available to local businesses.

Meanwhile in Tampa, The Centre for Women is working with the SBA as a partner agency to prepare Tampa entrepreneurs for the competition. Winners of the local round will receive $5,000 in cash or prizes furnished by sponsors and supporters of The Centre.

Popular Tampa blog partners with Ybor City businesses to create candles, clothing

In 2012, Nicholas Catania and Ryan Sullivan, along with friend Allison Vetter, formed the social group Never Have I Ever Tampa Bay, launching a blog and a tradition of trying everything local.

The goal of the three transplants from the Northeastern U.S.: to 'discover' and share all of the unique sights, sounds and tastes of the Tampa Bay area with friends and strangers alike through their blog, social media platforms and word of mouth.

Today, newfound friends and first-time visitors attend NHIE events across the Tampa Bay region. Through their joint efforts, Catania and Sullivan (graduates of local colleges University of Tampa and the University of South Florida, respectively), also have a hand in helping to shape many of the entrepreneurially focused or innovative startup business events that occur throughout the region, such as the upcoming Startup Weekend at UT.

Now, NHIE branded merchandise can be found at select Tampa stores.

In October 2015, the NHIE team announced a new partnership with Ybor City mainstay Seventh Avenue Apothecary, a local small business where candles are still poured by hand. Earlier in 2015, the team partnered with Black & Denim's Roberto Torres to create the 'Everything Local' T-shirt, which is sold in Torres' Blind Tiger Cafe and online.

Catania, a teacher, and Sullivan, a marketer, "decided to branch out and create local products because we love supporting local businesses," Catania says. "We live by the phrase ‘everything local,’ and enjoy finding all of the new and unique stops throughout Tampa Bay.”

Black & Denim and 7th Avenue whose candles are sold in boutiques throughout the country, became NHIE's first partnerships because those two businesses are “local companies doing cool things in the community,” Catania says.

NHIE’s candle from 7th Ave “carries a locally inspired Black Tea and Valencia Orange scent, representative of Tampa Bay," says Catania. Meanwhile, the 'Everything Local' T-shirt collaboration with Black & Denim "is meant to appeal to anyone who appreciates and supports local businesses."

Take a look at the shirt's design here.

Any proceeds from the sales of locally inspired merchandise will allow the duo to expand efforts in the Tampa Bay area. NHIE also plans to invest in future partnerships with other local businesses.

“We hope to expand our collaborations in the future to include a whole line of NHIE ‘Everything Local’ products,” Catania says. In fact, the NHIE team is currently “in talks with a few other local brands -- so stay tuned.”

Upcoming in February 2016, NHIE will host the first-time Everything Local Market, showcasing local goods from artisans and business owners in the Tampa Bay community.

“We want our community to experience these products in their own lives, and also want new people to join us as we continue to explore ‘Everything Local,’ Catania says. 

Local artisans and business owners interested in being featured at NHIE’s market event in February can email NHIE for more information. 

Pitch competition offers prize money, mentorship to local winners

Startup companies affiliated with several business incubators in the Tampa Bay area will have the opportunity to win $1,000 in prize money at an upcoming business pitch competition.

Building Entrepreneurship Around Tampa (B.E.A.T.) Pitch Competition, sponsored by South-Florida based investors New World Angels, is a collaborative pitch event open to companies currently working with Tampa's USF CONNECT or Tampa Bay WaVE, Pasco County's SMARTstart and St. Pete's TEC Garage.

The B.E.A.T. Pitch Competition will provide local entrepreneurs from six finalist companies with the opportunity to pitch their ventures to angel investors on November 17, 2015. The winner of the pitch competition will receive $1,000 in prize money. Perhaps equally as valuable, winners also earn 20 hours of coaching. 

First, second and third place winners will also receive the opportunity to pitch in front of 15 investors at a New World Angels monthly meeting.

The pitch competition comes at a time when local innovation efforts are expanding through the leadership of groups like the Tampa Innovation Alliance and Hillsborough County. USF CONNECT Program Coordinator Amy Yonai expects the B.E.A.T. Pitch Competition to attract “an expanded network of individuals, due to the growth of the economic ecosystem in Tampa.”
The B.E.A.T. Pitch Competition is tapping into that growth by hosting a “TEC Talk” during the event -- attendees can sip coffee and start a conversation with Tampa Innovation Alliance Director Mark Sharpe and Stephanie Ashley, Director of Incubation Programs and Economic Development at USF Research.

Along with the TEC Talk, the B.E.A.T. Pitch Competition will feature a keynote speaker and “Entrepreneurship Breakout Sessions” that cover a gamut of topics from potential legal concerns to adversity and leadership or startup funding.

“B.E.A.T. is an event that supports the entrepreneurial ecosystem though a showcase of innovative start-ups, educational programming and opportunities to pitch for capital,” says Yonai, who received a BA from the University of California, Irvine.

Local start-ups, business leaders, entrepreneurial support organizations, [and] anyone interested in becoming involved in the economic ecosystem in Tampa" should consider attending the event, says Yonai, who has worked as a program coordinator at Duke University and a fellowship coordinator at UNC Chapel Hill.

Yonai stepped into the role of program coordinator at USF Connect and the Tampa Bay Technology Incubator (TBTI) in May 2015.
USF CONNECT works to provide support for technology start-ups and connects new companies from counties across Florida to business opportunities with the school. USF CONNECT and the USF Research Foundation are located at the University of South Florida, 3802 Spectrum Blvd., Suite 100, in Tampa. To learn more about the B.E.A.T event, click here.

Tampa Innovation Alliance hosts global thought leader at dinner

Tampa Innovation Alliance will unveil an updated plan for revitalizing a section of Tampa once known as “Suitcase City” at a dinner celebrating author Bruce Katz on Oct. 29.

Katz, a renowned expert on innovation districts, is founding director of D.C.-based think tank The Brookings Institute and author of The Metropolitan Revolution. Tampa Innovation Alliance Founder, Mark Sharpe, a former Hillsborough County commissioner, who follows and engages with Katz on social media, invited him to speak at the dinner.

“We realized that as we launch an innovation district, there’s no one better to come in and assess the situation and be a part of it,” explains Kelley Sims, director of communications and community engagement for the Tampa Innovation Alliance.

“It’s time for us to really launch the vision for the district,” says Sims. “We have a sense for the change that can be made and how it will happen here, and it’s really time for us to share that with the community. A great deal of forward movement is happening.”

The Museum of Science and Industry will host the “cooking with science” concept dinner, which is open to the public. The event will “feature science and technology in a lot of different ways,” says Sims.

The Tampa Innovation Alliance was developed by Sharpe in 2014 and launched almost one year ago with four program “anchors”: the University of South Florida, Busch Gardens, Florida Hospital and Moffitt Cancer Center

“Anchor institutions that were doing things on their own weren’t necessarily working together before,” Sims says, “but now, you see this incredible dynamic between them.”

Membership has increased to around 90 members since the Innovation Alliance launched, including community leaders like MOSI and big-name brands like Brighthouse. The addition of University Mall owners New York-based RD Management to the Alliance executive committee is “very exciting,” Sims says, “because they have plans to put as much as $150 million into a complete revitalization of that mall -- a completely new concept.”

The Alliance sees the mall “as sort of the town center,” Sims says, “a beginning of the revitalization of the whole alliance area.”

The area comprises about 25,000 acres -- bordered by Bearss Ave to the north and Busch Boulevard to the south, between interstates 275 and 75. Working with Hillsborough County’s Economic Development Corporation has helped the Alliance to identify an “inner core,” where an innovation district will be centrally defined over time, Sims says.

Discussions regarding some gateway projects have also begun; these could include freeway identifier signs to brand the district.

“There’s serious momentum with regards to change, and it will be nice for folks to see that as they enter the area,” Sims says.

Students and professors from USF are assisting the Alliance with studying the area and conducting planning studies.

“We feel that this is incredibly important: to involve the community that already lives in our area,” Sims says. “We want those who are living here to have opportunities for better wage jobs, better education, startup business support; and we want to make sure the community is involved and their ideas are represented in our planning."

“We’re building an innovation district where people want to 'live, work, play, study, and stay.' Having involvement at every age is really important to us.” 

Visit Eventbrite for tickets to the Premiere Innovation dinner or visit the Tampa Innovation Alliance website for more information. Katz will also speak at the Florida Chamber of Commerce quarterly innovation caucus during his visit; contact Sims to attend.

Uber hosts "ride-and-pitch" for Tampa Bay investors, entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs and aspiring startup founders in Tampa Bay enjoyed a new way to reach an investment audience for one day only: in an Uber car.

For three hours on Friday, October 9, select Uber drivers hosted investors from the local Tampa Bay area, giving entrepreneurs the chance to "ride and pitch." 

Following two successful stints in its home base of San Francisco and in Philadephia, ridesharing company Uber paired up with Florida Funders, LLC to bring Tampa Bay investors and entrepreneurs together - for 15 minutes per ride. 

David Chitester founded Florida Funders, a Tampa-based company that connects local businesses with investors and financing, in 2014, after noting that the Tampa Bay region was "losing too many young, promising entrepreneurs to places like Silicon Valley and Austin. If we can fund some of these firms, they can grow here, and the local community will benefit.''

Using modern technology to give them a few minutes of investors' time could be a good way to keep those young, promising entrepreneurs. 

Chitester found himself hesitant to get involved with the UberPitch contest initially - "but when I returned the call from Uber and discussed the concept, it really made sense for us to get involved," he says. "We are well connected in the Tampa Bay region with both investors and entrepreneurs. Also, we are disrupting the investment industry and Uber is disrupting the transportation industry, so it is a great match of philosophies." 

Since Uber has run the pitch contest in only a few cities around the country, the unconventional company's selection of Tampa as a host city "shows we are getting national recognition for the efforts everyone here is making in the local startup community and eco-system," Chitester says.

Each Uber car involved in the pitch contests hosted two investors, riding separately, for an hour and a half each on Friday morning. Altogether, two UberPitch cars could be requested around downtown St. Petersburg; two in Tampa's downtown and West Shore business districts; and one in the University of South Florida's growing "Innovation District." That means that selected riders were able to talk about their ideas with ten potential investors during the three-hour event.

To access Uber cars with investors, individuals simply input a code (TBPITCH) when reserving a ride through the Uber smartphone app. Once an investor car picked them up, riders had 15 minutes to pitch to an investor before getting dropped back off at their original locations.

Not all rider requested were granted in the "lottery-style" special event time frame.

Several of the participating investors are based in Tampa Bay; all in the state of Florida. Investor riders include:Interested in learning more about the Uber Pitch events? Search the hashtag #UberPITCH on social media sites and follow @Uber_Florida on Twitter for real-time updates.

Marlow’s Tavern hires 62 new employees, opens in Carrollwood neighborhood of Tampa

Marlow’s Tavern, a neighborhood-style tavern known for its low employee turnover, is making its first foray into the Tampa Bay area with a new restaurant in Tampa’s Carrollwood community.

Although the company eventually expects to open several restaurants in the region, opening first in Carrollwood in September made good business sense, says Harold Phillips, local operating partner for the restaurant.  

“Carrollwood is an established community with a diverse, fairly affluent residential base and a significant number of homes are within a five mile radius of our location,” says Phillips.

The restaurant will be located in the Village Center (13164 N Dale Mabry Highway), a high-traffic area that has seen substantial investment in the last few years.  

In 2014, the shopping and dining destination completed a multi-million dollar renovation project that resulted in an updated courtyard, a reconfigured entryway and a major remodel for anchor tenants, including an expanded, 49,000-square-foot Publix grocery store.

Marlow’s Tavern opened its first location in Alpharetta, GA, in 2014 and now has restaurants throughout Georgia, as well as locations in Orlando and Winter Park.

In an industry known for its high turnover – the average restaurant has a 100-to-150 percent annual turnover – Marlow’s Tavern has been averaging 18-to-20 percent, perhaps attributed to the company’s rigorous employee screening process.

“We’re looking for people who fit with our culture, what we call Marlow’s Magic,” says Phillips. “It’s a set of principles, beliefs and promises we make to our stakeholders, which includes everyone from our guests to vendors, the neighborhood and our employees.” 

Sixty-two employees were hired for the new Carrollwood restaurant from an initial applicant pool of nearly 1,000 online applicants, says Phillips. Personality tests, an interview with the management team, pre-orientation and then a two-week training program are all part of the hiring process.

Caution: Flashing yellow left-turn arrows light up more Tampa Bay intersections

Florida motorists still getting used to flashing yellow left-turn signals, are seeing more of them at intersections throughout the Tampa Bay area. The signals have become increasingly common along major roadways, such as State Road 60 in Clearwater, Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa and State Road 54 in Pasco County. 

The flashing left-turn arrows started appearing across the United States several years ago and caught on quickly as innovative devices to improve traffic flow. The first one was installed locally at the intersection of Nebraska Avenue and Belcher Road in Palm Harbor in November 2009. 

“Since then, the use [of these signals] has been implemented at state and local intersections throughout Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties,” says Florida Department of Transportation spokesperson Kristen Carson. 

In some respects, the distinctive-looking, four-lens traffic signals generally function in much the same way as the more widely recognized three-lens traffic signals; a green arrow provides a protected left turn; a red arrow tells drivers to stop. It’s the blinking yellow arrows that sometimes confuse drivers.

The flashing yellow arrows (actually an amber color) indicates that motorists in the left-turn lane are permitted to cautiously make left turns, but they must yield to oncoming traffic. 

A solid yellow left-turn light signifies that a red light is about to illuminate and therefore motorists should prepare to stop if they have not yet proceeded into the intersection. 

The flashing yellow lights have been replacing a common five-lens traffic signal widely referred to as a “doghouse” signal. Doghouse signals, featuring a clustered arrangement of four lenses topped with a single red light, provide drivers with a green left-turn arrow for a short time; once the protected green left-turn light disappears on the doghouse signal, a solid, circular green light indicates motorists should yield to oncoming traffic before making left turns. 

“Research from the Federal Highway Administration found that the flashing yellow arrow made significant improvements to left-turn safety compared with the circular green signal,” Carson reports. 

There are currently about 90 intersections in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties with the flashing yellow left-turn signals. More are on the way.

“The department has received positive feedback from citizens with continued requests for locations, on a case-by-case basis, to be modified with the flashing yellow arrows installed.”

Design Week art installations to transform Selmon Greenway

A pop-up festival, art installations along the Selmon Greenway and design-inspired events throughout the local region are all part of the expanded Tampa Bay Design Week in October 2015.

“As our urban core continues to grow and we discuss issues of mobility, it is critical to engage the public in a conversation about design's impact on our daily lives,” explains Design Week chair Kim Headland.

Interested parties are welcome to attend a design charrette session on September 25 and join a team, Headland says. After that session, teams will begin the process of building and displaying their final installation along the Selmon Greenway path, which opened in spring 2015.

Already, teams include members from an array of design disciplines, such as architects, landscape architects, graphic artists, artists, photographers, planners, interior designers and students. Those interested in the role that public art plays in the local community may want to join.

Design charrettes are “an opportunity for guided brainstorming” for teams to begin developing concepts around the TBDW theme, 'Mobility and Connectivity','' explains Headland, a member of event sponsor American Institute of Design Architects.

Topics for consideration include:
  • What design elements will encourage pedestrian activity?
  • How does design and art impact our daily routines in the city?
  • What role does tactical urbanism play in our downtown community?
  • How can design influence the experience along the Greenway and make it "uniquely Tampa"?
  • What is the future potential of our City's under-utilized areas?
  • How can design elements and space adjacent, positively impact the greenway?
  • How can design promote economic growth and development along pedestrian paths?
  • How do historic events and places impact future design on a variety of scales?
The main objective of Design Week is “to promote the importance of design to the broader community, while engaging the community in relevant conversations about how design shapes our built environment,” Headland explains.

The Design Week team hopes to accomplish that goal by demonstrating the impact of design on local community through temporary art installations by the design teams, which will be placed along the Selmon Greenway, between the Tampa Riverwalk and Jefferson Street.

Headland hopes to see the designs “engage festival goers in thinking about 'Mobility and Connectivity,’ specifically along the Greenway.”

Events for TBDW will begin October 9 and conclude with a “Made in the Shade" event and a pop-up festival on October 17th.

The free, family-friendly pop-up fest is set to coincide with Tampa’s Streetcar Fest on the same day. The TBDW lineup has also expanded to include stops in St. Petersburg: a Dining by Design event, and a panel discussion with Rogers Partners Architects and ASD about the new St. Pete Pier designs.  

“Tampa Bay Design Week brings together designers, enthusiasts, leaders and citizens to celebrate, inspire, showcase and grow Tampa Bay’s creative community,” Headland says.

For a full schedule of events or to learn more about the Sept. 25 design charrette, visit the Tampa Bay Design Week website

USF area in Tampa gets new pedestrian safety beacons

New pedestrian safety beacons have been installed along a one-mile stretch of 50th Street between Fowler and Fletcher Avenues in North Tampa. The goal is to help prevent accidents such as one that involved a University of South Florida student who was seriously injured in November 2014 while crossing the busy two-lane thoroughfare. 

The flashing beacons were officially unveiled on Wednesday (Sept. 16, 2015), and transportation officials spent the morning along the road passing out educational cards to pedestrians to help teach them about the new safety measures. Deputies from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office were also out in force, pulling over speeding motorists. 

“Speeding is one of the biggest problems we face when it comes to pedestrian safety,” says Julie Bond, a senior researcher at the Center for Urban Transportation Research. “We don’t want people to be scared to walk. Walking is a healthy and enjoyable way to get around, and we want our community to enjoy these benefits and feel safe.” 

The $70,000 pedestrian safety improvements along 50th Street are part of a larger initiative in the USF area. In early 2015, $5 million in improvements were completed along the congested stretch of Fletcher Avenue between Nebraska Avenue and Bruce B. Downs, just west of the USF campus. Speed limits along that portion of Fletcher Avenue were also reduced from 45 miles per hour to as low as 35 miles per hour.

“This is really an extension of the pedestrian safety enhancements that were recently completed along Fletcher Avenue,” Bond says. The flashing beacons along 50th Street, which benefit students walking to and from several apartment communities just east of the campus, pave the way for further pedestrian safety improvements around USF. In the next year, similar pedestrian safety enhancements will be completed along 42nd Street and 56th Street. 

These projects are funded and supported by a consortium of organizations, including the CUTR, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, and the Florida Department of Transportation. Another major advocate is WalkWise Tampa Bay, a grassroots initiative that aims to educate local citizens on pedestrian safety. The organization also offers free, personalized pedestrian safety presentations. 

“We need to talk to more people,” Bond adds. “Education is the only way we can help pedestrian and motorists safely co-mingle on the roads.”

HART upgrades innovative app so you can track your bus

No more standing at the bus stop wondering where your bus is.

Living in a world with modern technology definitely has its pros, one being the ability to track the bus you are waiting for on your phone. HART recently launched a new technology for its customers called OneBusAway. Hart partons can instantly track buses to see where the bus is, and calculate the distance either by number of bus stops or miles from the customer's location.
Features include an interactive map with vehicle locations, search engine-based interface, and an ADA compliant text-only mobile interface. OneBusAway can be accessed by both traditional computers as well as smart phones.
According to Shannon Haney of HART, OneBusAway improves the passenger experience.

“As part of the pilot project in Tampa, Georgia Tech conducted pre-and post-surveys, that for the first time quantified the effects that real-time transit information had on the passenger experience,” he says.  “The results outstandingly showed that wait times on the bus and anxiety levels significantly decreased, while customer satisfaction with HART and the sense of security while waiting at the stop increased.”

A couple years ago, HART launched a similar OneBusAway app, which delivered real-time bus arrival information directly to a passenger’s smart phone or computer giving customers real-time information. Since it was launched, it has been accessed more than 300,000 times per month.

With the upgrade, allowing customers to track buses on their phones or computers, HART hopes to see an even larger increase in those numbers.

“This was an important investment for HART,” Haney says. “It fully supports our mission and agency goals to provide safe, innovative and cost effective public transportation services that enhance the quality of life in our community.”

Florida Farm Bureau offers grants to local schools for agriculture, gardening projects

Florida's teachers have an opportunity to grow their classroom budgets this school year by snagging one of dozens of mini-grants from the Florida Farm Bureau Federation (FFBF) -- but they'd better hurry to beat the Sept 15 application deadline.

The organization is awarding $9,500 in grant money for creative school projects that teach students from Pre-K through high school about the importance of one of the state's top industries.

Core academic subjects like math, English and science are essential to agriculture, and the grants are meant to encourage teachers to incorporate it into their curriculum, says Michael Rogalsky, Field Services Director for the Federation.

"The idea is to familiarize children with where their food comes from," says Debra Jones, Rogalsky's assistant.

Teachers are asked to think outside the box, and the Farm Bureau will kick in up to $250 to help fund each project chosen.

Last year, 57 Florida teachers received grant funding for agricultural projects ranging from schoolyard gardens, to projects involving honeybees, fish and quail eggs, says Jones.

Pizza gardens, where students grow the ingredients needed to make pizzas they prepare for the class, are especially popular, she adds.

Last year, many of the schools in the FFBF's District 5 -- which includes Hillsborough, Pasco, Polk, Pinellas and other Central Florida counties -- opted to grow hydroponic gardens.

Among them: a class at Young Middle Magnet School in Tampa, 4th and 5th graders in the gifted program at Valleyview Elementary in Lakeland and Plant City High.  

Jones says she was surprised to discover that only five schools in District 5 have applied for a grant for the 2015-2016 school  year, and she encourages teachers to make the most of the opportunity.

The mini-grant program is part of the Florida Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee’s push to support agricultural education in the state's classrooms, and recipients will be selected by the committee.

But the funding doesn't stop there, says Jones.

"A lot of our county farm bureaus will pick up the ones we don't fund, just to get gardening back in the classroom."

Grant applications are due Sept. 15. Winners will be notified by Nov. 15 via email. Teachers can apply for the grant by visiting the Florida Farm Bureau Federation website.

Team beer challenge at St. Pete Shuffle to benefit Florida's waterways

Sip freshly poured beer, say hello to a new friend or neighbor, and support local Florida waterways during the Great Beer Challenge on August 29 in St. Petersburg. Do all of this while teams of four compete in a shuffleboard showdown at the world’s largest and oldest shuffleboard court – St. Pete Shuffleboard Club, which opened in 1924.

The inaugural Great Beer Challenge, sponsored by Atlanta-based Sweetwater Brewing Company, will feature craft beer from the brewery, an array of games, and the opportunity to meet other locals.

Chris Favaloro, one of the event’s organizers, says that staging the special event at St. Pete Shuffle “was an easy choice. The City of St Pete is exploding and the community is friendly, strong and together.”

That sense of community, combined with the talking point distinction of being the oldest and largest shuffleboard court in the world, makes the group "happy to be there," Favarolo says. "With our enthusiasm for craft beer and meeting new people, we saw this as an opportunity to introduce something exciting and reinvent the weekend events that Tampa Bay loves." 

Other, similar events “are typically places where you go with your friends to have a few drinks, try some food and go home. You never end up meeting someone new," Favaloro explains. But during the Great Beer Challenge, Favaloro says that event organizers hope to see new friendships form.

To help ease participants into working together or mingling, Favaloro says that event organizers will employ an array of “social ice-breakers to encourage meeting new people outside of your team.” 

The Great Beer Challenge is anticipated to bring out between 40-60 teams of four, giving locals the opportunity to meet and mingle with around 150-250 participants. For $30 in advance or $45 at the door, challengers in the event can score commemorative swag from local sponsors or vendors; enjoy games like cornhole, flipcup, and, of course, shuffleboard; or simply attend the event as a spectator (tickets are $20).

A limited amount of teams can participate in the shuffleboard events, so head over to the event website to learn more or sign up. Groups of four who register together will save $10. Don’t have a team of four? No problem; event organizers will assign you to a group.

"Our event is focused around meeting new people and having fun,” Favaloro says.

When it came to selecting an event sponsor, “we have done our due diligence,” he explains. “Sweetwater Brewing Company was born with the same mission in mind: to connect good people with good beer.”

Another one of the reasons that the group called upon Sweetwater Brewing Company to sponsor the Great Beer Challenge is the beer brewery’s connection to the Sarasota-based nonprofit group Suncoast Waterkeeper.

Suncoast Waterkeeper “focuses on protecting and restoring the Florida Suncoast’s waterways,” Favaloro explains. “We love this and support this.”

Five dollars from each ticket sale will be donated to the organization.

The Great Beer Challenge will be held from 2-5 p.m. on Saturday, August 29, at St. Pete Shuffle, 559 Mirror Lake Drive N in DTSP. To purchase participant or spectator tickets, visit the event website.

“The goal of the Great Beer Challenge is to introduce a new type of social event to Tampa Bay,” Favaloro says.

HART CEO earns White House recognition as innovator in transit

Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) has a slogan: Driven to Serve You.

The public transportation authority serving Hillsborough County is currently experiencing record numbers of riders, expanding the TECO streetcar line, employing innovative technology and enabling young professionals to go carless.

Now HART CEO Katharine Eagan is garnering national attention for HART with her nomination for the White House "Champion of Change" program as an innovator in transportation for the future.

Eagan is recognized in the category "Beyond Traffic: Innovators in Transportation." The U.S. Department of Transportation and the White House Office of Public Engagement will host the winning White House “Champions of Change” focused on this category at an event on October 13, 2015; selected individuals will be notified in late September.

For consideration, individuals must have shown outstanding leadership in transportation and innovation in developing and implementing strategies for enhancing transit systems for the future.  

Eagan credits “the hard work of our entire team” at HART for the recognition.

“As a team, we are incredibly proud that our efforts to be a change agent and a transportation agency of choice have been noticed on a national scale,” she says. “Personally, I’m honored to be considered, and excited to build on this momentum as we keep moving forward.”

One of the drivers behind Eagan’s nomination: technology. HART is pursuing updated fare technology for eight Tampa Bay area counties, Eagan says.

If implemented, Hillsborough, Citrus, Hernando, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota counties would utilize the same fare technology – including “smart cards and bus passes that you purchase from and scan on your phone,” Eagan explains. 

HART, which was founded in 1980, will also be the first transit agency in the state to be ISO 14001 certified, Eagan says, “which draws environmental stewardship and sensitivity into all aspects of how we deliver service.”

Eagan credits HART’s innovation in tech and transit to necessity: “We don’t have the time to wait! Like many public agencies, we shrank our administrative staff during the recession, but technology kept evolving and new challenges arose in transit and transportation.”

Business as usual, Eagan says, wasn’t cutting it. “So what would?”

Solutions like a low-cost semester pass for Hillsborough Community College students “made transit more affordable and didn’t require a special fee,” Eagan explains. “That’s been a very popular innovation.”

Another example of change: HART’s newly revamped website.

One of the first agencies to use real-time bus arrival tool OneBusAway, HART has also developed partnerships with MegaBus and RedCoach to bring more routes to downtown Tampa from across the state; additionally, the MegaBus Orlando-Tampa route will expand to include Burnett Park and Ride in eastern Hillsborough County.

HART routes include fixed and express bus service, as well customized services like HARTplus, which offers door-to-door paratransit in vans, and HARTflex, a neighborhood connector route. The agency is seeking partnerships with taxis to make these services even more viable, Eagan says.

A partnership with “private transit providers [including private cabs, Uber and Lyft] to provide a rideshare-style program as part of our 'first mile, last mile' solution” is being considered, Eagan says.

Eagan, who earned a BA in history at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and an MPA at Angelo State University, has been HART CEO since May 2014. Eagan has earned prior recognition for her leadership and track record in transportation: she was placed on the 2012 Mass Transit 40 under 40 List and was named the National Association of Women in Construction's Rookie of the Year in 2012. 

Concentrating efforts on the goals of increasing ridership, refining HART’s community image and setting “the transit agency bar higher as a trendsetting innovator” led to success for the agency, Eagan says.

“Thanks to the great work of our over 750 employees, we are better positioned today to provide the Tampa Bay area with quality service and choices.”

In other words, Eagan – and HART – is driven to serve you.

Upcoming Tampa Bay tech events focus on community, collaboration

Summer is here, temperatures are high and tech-centric events are happening all around Tampa Bay. Technology-driven meetups and innovation-fueled gatherings in Tampa Bay during summer 2015 all seem to share a common theme: cooperation and collaboration with other members of the local tech community. 

83 Degrees Media has the scoop on which tech-oriented events are happening when, so settle in with your desktop screen or smart device and start scrolling -- summer in Tampa Bay has a lot of tech to offer!
Saturday, July 25: Tech Community Night at the Rays Game
6 p.m.-10 pm.
Tropicana Field
1 Tropicana Drive

Join fellow techies, community leaders and friends as the Tampa Bay Rays take on the Baltimore Orioles during a baseball game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. Discounted tickets at $30/person include a baseline box seat in section 134, and access to the on-field Casey Musgraves concert post-game.
For more information, visit the Tech Community Night Eventjoy website.

Tuesday, July 29: Startup Grind
6:30 p.m.-9 p.m.
CoWork Ybor
1901 E. 7th Ave.

Each month, Startup Grind events around the country unfold as fireside chats between moderators and guest speakers, who share stories of their successes – and failures – as entrepreneurs. Tampa Bay moderator Joy Randels brings speakers from a variety of industries to join chats at locally owned venues around Tampa Bay, including well-known thought leaders and entrepreneurs.

To get a feel for the meetup style, see the above video of a June 2014 Startup Grind event featuring Tampa native Joey Redner, the founder of Tampa's well-known craft brewery Cigar City

Join Startup Grind Tampa Bay in July 2015 at CoWork Ybor Blind Tiger Cafe to hear from Jeff Gigante, founder of Ciccio Restaurant Group, the company behind The Lodge, Green Lemon, Ciccio’s/Water and other well-known South Tampa eateries.

For more information visit the Startup Grind Tampa Bay website.
Friday, July 31: Homebrew Hillsborough
8:30 a.m.
Tampa Club
101 E. Kennedy Blvd., Suite 4200

Homebrew Hillsborough is an innovation of Hillsborough County Economic Development. Monthly meetups take place at coffee shops around the county, and local business owners, tech enthusiasts and community members are encouraged to attend, network and enjoy local coffee as they discuss ways to make a “Homegrown Hillsborough.”

During July’s event, attendees will enjoy a visit to the Tampa Club, a private dining club situated high above the streets of downtown Tampa in the Bank of America plaza. For more information, visit Homebrew Hillsborough's website.
Wednesday, August 26: Startup Grind will host patent and intellectual property attorney Christ Tanner, of Tanner Law. To register, click here.

Thursday, August 27: Ignite Tampa Bay 
6:30 p.m.
Cuban Club
2010 Avenida Republica De Cuba

Ignite events have a simple request: “Entertain us, but make it fast.” During each Ignite events in cities across the country and world, speakers have five minutes to discuss a topic of their choice, aided by slides and whatever props they carry to the podium. In Tampa Bay alone, speakers at annual Ignite events have covered topics that range from extreme sports to inventions to politics. The only thing that’s discouraged is a direct sales pitch.

Interested in speaking at the next Ignite Tampa Bay, hosted at the historic Cuban Club in Ybor City? Learn more here. For more information about volunteering at or attending Ignite Tampa Bay, visit IgniteTampa's website.

Friday, August 28: Homebrew Hillsborough
8:30 a.m.
The monthly coffee networking meetup for members of the Hillsborough County community will be hosted at Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI), located at 4801 E. Fowler Ave.
Saturday, August 29: TEDxTampaRiverwalk
1 p.m.
John F. Germany Library Auditorium
900 N. Ashley Drive

TEDx events are independently organized talks, modeled after TED talks, that communities can create around topics of their choice. The theme for the 2015 TEDxTampaRiverwalk is "Going Places!" Potential speakers should consider applying that theme to their speeches: scientifically, socially, economically, geographically, artistically and philosophically. The event will be held at downtown Tampa's John F. Germany library auditorium.

Visit the TEDxTampaRiverwalk website for more more information.
Thursday, September 3: #Collabtb Q3 Tech and Entrepreneur Peer Networking 
5 p.m.-8 p.m.
The Hyde Out
1809 W. Platt St.

Collabtb quarterly techie and entrepreneur peer networking events bring together several hundred members of the Tampa Bay technology community in low-key environments where appetizers, specialty drinks and networking are the main attractions. Bonus: The first 200 guests receive a free T-shirt. Raffle items will also be given away to a few lucky winners.

To register for the Collabtb Q3 Tech and Entrepreneur Peer networking event, click here. Be sure to use the hashtag #Collabtb on Twitter.

Friday, September 25: Homebrew Hillsborough
8:30 a.m.
The monthly coffee networking meetup for members of the Hillsborough County community will be hosted at Tre Amici at The Bunker, located at 1907 N. 19th St. in Ybor City.
Saturday, October 10- Sunday, Oct. 11: ROBOTICON Tampa Bay 2015
9 a.m.
University of Tampa Bob Martinez Athletics Center 
401 W. Kennedy Blvd

ROBOTICON Tampa Bay 2015 presents a variety of engaging and innovative activities for teams of students from around Florida, grades K-12, to compete in a fun robots-oriented event. ROBOTICON will host events like the FIRST Robotics Competition and FIRST Tech Challenge scrimmage and build day; FIRST LEGO League practice and training as well as a Jr. FIRST LEGO League mini-Expo; a vendor hall, career expo, and more. Join other teams at the University of Tampa campus Bob Martinez Athletics Center, across the Hillsborough River from downtown Tampa, for the two-day special event.

For more information, visit the ROBOTICON website.

Are you, or an organization you know, hosting a tech-oriented event in the Tampa Bay area in 2015? Email the info here to have your activity included in a future 83 Degrees newsletter!

Job workshop offers training, tips on landing employment

An upcoming Job Readiness Workshop will give members of the local Tampa community -- particularly those who have background complications -- the tools to successfully prepare for and attend job interviews.

Carla Lewis, a neighborhood liaison with the City of Tampa Community Partnerships & Neighborhood Engagement, as well as a member of the Tampa Bay Community Advocacy Committee, says that TBCAC is hosting the “hands on” workshop to help prepare City of Tampa and Hillsborough County residents with the necessary skills to teach them:
  • How to create a resume using action words that will stand out to employers
  • How to interview for a successful job search
  • Job readiness, along with other social service needs
“The ultimate goal is to help prepare applicants for jobs with professional resumes and effective interview skills so that when they are face-to-face with potential employers, they will be ready and eligible for hire,” Lewis says. 

The Job Readiness Workshop will host guest speakers from the local business industry and will stage various solutions-based workshops that cover topics such as resume creation and enhancement, refining interview skills and developing job readiness. 

The event is open to anyone over the age of 18, and participants will be required to register prior to attending. A complimentary light breakfast and lunch will be served.

City of Tampa and Hillsborough County residents who are “actively seeking employment in construction jobs during the Tampa International Airport’s multibillion dollar master plan expansion” should consider attending the workshop, Lewis says.

The one-day workshop, hosted by TBCAC along with Austin Commercial and Ariel Business Group, will be held from 9 a.m.- 3 p.m. on Wednesday, July 29, at the 34th Street Church of God, located at 3000 North 34th Street in Tampa.

Lewis hopes to see the free workshop help participants prepare for the upcoming TBCAC Job Fair Workforce Initiative in fall 2015.

Job seekers at the TBCAC Job Fair Workforce Initiative can expect to see the sub-contractors who are hiring onsite, Lewis says, and "priority will be given first to the applicants who attend the job readiness workshop in July."

“These potential employers will be ready to interview and hire perspective candidates," Lewis explains. 

To learn more about the TBCAC Job Readiness Workshop or upcoming events, contact TampaBayCAC@gmail.com or call 813-812-5629.
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