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Tampa Innovation Summit features Hyperloop, Tesla, IBM, Water Street Tampa, and more

Imagine traveling from Tampa to Tallahassee or from Tampa to Miami in 20 minutes or so? Or zipping across the continent from Florida to California on the ground, at airplane speeds, safely and securely? It may sound like a science fiction plot, but it isn’t.

It’s a revolutionary, tube-based transport system capable of speeds of 700 miles per hour, which has been under development since 2013 by Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, a California-based company.

Hyperloop has put together a team of more than 800 on six continents to work on the system powered by magnets and sunlight. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but it’s already attracting plenty of interest. A Cleveland-to-Chicago run could well be the first in the United States. And it has already passed the muster of a major reinsurer, Munich RE.

So where does Tampa Bay fit into this, you might ask? Hyperloop’s CEO Dirk Ahlborn will be a featured speaker at the 2018 Innovation Summit March 28 and 29 at the Amalie Arena in downtown Tampa. The event organized by the nonprofit Synapse is part of an effort to unify the community to make Tampa Bay a “very welcoming and easy place to do business,” says Marc Blumenthal, a Founding Partner of Synapse. 

What Hyperloop is developing has the potential to change the way people think and operate as well as where they can live,” he says.

They’re designing this thing to be far more affordable than ... most rail,” he adds.

Ahlborn’s talk, part of a segment on the future of mobility after lunch on the 29th, is expected to lead to further meetings among community leaders. “Clearly Hyperloop is something that can be considered to move people around the region and the state,” Blumenthal says.

The summit is expected to include 257 exhibitors, more than 70 pavilions and 55 breakout sessions. It also has at least a couple of more items of special interest on transportation. Kasra Moshkani, a General Manager for Uber in the southeastern U.S., is expected to share Uber’s vision for the future in that segment on mobility. 

“It’s not going to be whatever they do today. It’s going to be what they do tomorrow," explains Blumenthal. “Somebody’s got to move you the last mile.”

Tesla will have a number of vehicles on hand on the 28th to give people rides around the arena and downtown.

Look who else is talking

Other key speakers include Jeff Vinik, Tampa Bay Lightning owner and part owner of Strategic Property Partners, the real estate entity which has embarked on the $3 billion Water Street Tampa project; Dr. Bernard Meyerson, Chief Innovation Officer of IBM; Lakshmi Shenoy, CEO of the Innovation Hub started by Vinik; Arnie Bellini, CEO of the Tampa-based Connectwise; Dr. A.J. Seth, CEO of Bionic Miracle; Col. Josh Potter of the U.S. Special Operations Command’s Transnational Threats Division; and Blaire Martin, Executive Director of Florida Angel Nexus.

There will be sessions for folks of varying interests, allowing them to focus on topics like financial tech and blockchain, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, biotech and healthcare, defense and cybersecurity, building a business, urban tech, software, coding and more.

Participants also can take in exhibits like On Med, a telemedicine booth facilitating physical examination and treatment without the doctor or pharmacist being physically present. Or from Marxent, a St. Petersburg software company which has developed View In Room Augmented Reality for furniture retail. Or the Tampa-based Flymotion Unmanned Systems, a veteran-owned small business utilizing drones for public safety purposes.

Signups for the summit have already far surpassed last year’s 600. We anticipate no less than 2500. We can probably support 4,000. They should hurry up and get their tickets,” Blumenthal says. “We just want people to participate. It’s for everyone. It’s not just for people involved in tech.”

Reservations for breakout sessions are encouraged but not required. A mobile app will enable users to sign up on their Smart phones or on the web.

At the event, Synapse is rolling out its digital platform to help businesses make those all-important connections required to further their endeavors. “Tampa’s success is the state’s success,” he says. “We believe it’s important to nurture those relationships, those connections across the entire state.”

Momentum is building for the Tampa Bay Area’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. “You can sense that this is the moment. This is the crescendo, where we bring all the great members of this community together and we start working for a common vision,” Blumenthal says.

Learn more or signup on the Synapse website here.


Career Readiness: USF pilots program to digitally demonstrate skills

If you’re a jobseeker, there’s something you really ought to know: more than likely, your resume will have to pass the muster of a machine before you’re given an interview. It works very much like search engines when they rank websites, except it’s your resume that is ranked by keyword.

“It’s just easier to let computers make the first pass,” explains Peter Thorsett, Communications and Marketing Officer for Career Services at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

That is not to say you should stuff your resume with keywords so it’s nonsensical. After all, humans are behind the machinery. Still, it can help to know how your resume is being screened.

Networking is advised to help you build your skills and connect you to potential employers. “It’s best not to go it alone,” advises Lynn Chisholm, USF’s Director of Internships and Career Readiness. “So much of it is based on who you know and whether you are branded effectively for the company.”

Keeping current also is important. “I have not seen a lot of success in individuals who think what they did 15 years ago will help them get a job now,” she adds. “The whole process has changed.”

USF is helping students compete in an increasingly automated job market through its new Career Readiness Badging program, now in pilot mode on the main campus. It works pretty similar to the Scout badges system, except students don’t wear the badges on a sash. Instead, they post digital badges on resumes or electronic job boards, helping students rank higher on applicant tracking systems.

“The more we can have a student showcase those skills ... The more likely it is that they are going to be called in for an interview,” Thorsett says.  “We also empower them with the right language to be able to talk to an employer.”

The pilot began last fall and is expected to roll out across the Tampa campus next fall.

USF recognizes students may not be able to articulate their academic experiences effectively, or in ways employers expect. So the badging program helps by building and demonstrating eight key skills including communication, leadership, critical thinking technology, global citizenship, career management, professionalism and teamwork.

Through various partners on campus, even more badges are offered. For example, USF Libraries are offering workshops to build skills in Adobe Creative Cloud, Photoshop, Indesign, Illustrator and Premiere. The workshops, which are one and half hours long, are in the afternoons and evenings, says Barbara Lewis, USF’s Digital Learning Librarian.

More workshops are planned, and students can also use the school’s subscription to Lynda.com for online tutorials, she adds.

The program helps prepare students for broader, open learning sources in the future. “It is exciting for our students. They’re learning how to do something they’re gong to use their entire career,” Chisholm says. “It’s going to set them up for career success beyond USF.”

Students on the Tampa campus can enroll in the program through the online job platform Handshake or through Career Services. Professors can involve students through their department or individual coursework. There is no charge to participate.

There are lots of opportunities for jobseekers in Tampa Bay, if the numbers of recruiters on campus are any indication. Top career fields are healthcare, tech, sales, and financial services.

Internships are being used to recruit new talent. “We find that there is a very healthy market for internships in the Tampa Bay area,” Chisholm says. “There are likely more internships than there are students to fill them.”

Read on to learn more about the local job scene.

• Two of the 2018 FORTUNE “100 Best Companies to Work For are based in the Tampa Bay region, including the Lakeland-based Publix Super Markets ranked 47th, and the Clearwater-based Baycare Health System ranked 65th. Power Home Remodeling, which ranked 87th on the list, has a Tampa Bay office at 4135 Crescent Park Drive in Riverview. It is based in the Philadelphia region.

Publix hires for a wide variety of careers in the region, including corporate and administrative, real estate, quality assurance, marketing, pharmacy, distribution, manufacturing and human resources. It likes to promote its associates. An online search tool lets potential employees track opportunities that suit their particular interests and qualifications.

Baycare operates 15 hospitals in the Tampa Bay region, including St. Joseph's Hospital in West Tampa, and has openings listed for medical technologists, registered nurses, clinical nurses, patient support technicians, histologists, pharmacy technicians, cooks, medical office reps, environmental services techs, home health clinicians and more.

Power Home Remodeling currently lists openings for sales representatives in Riverview. Learn more.

• Interested in a career in Finance? Raymond James lists a wide variety of openings in St. Petersburg, including summer internships, a staff accountant’s position for a new graduate, a number of analyst positions, a reconciliation specialist, a portfolio reviewer, and a marketing associate for investment products.

Headquartered in Herndon, VA, Indexcel, a technology provider specializing in Cloud Services, Application Modernization, and Data Analytics is looking for a Tableau Developer/Data Reporting Analyst in Tampa. The job requires the ability to act as a data storyteller and liaison between tech and non-tech workers. The position requires one to three years in reporting and analytics.


Looking for a job? Habitat, Sprouts, Penny Hoarder, FEMA hiring

Growth is bringing new jobs to Tampa Bay -- and two examples are expansions planned at Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County and Sprout’s Farmers Market in Valrico.

The Clearwater-based Habitat, which has been working in south St. Petersburg on and off for 32 years, invested $1.8 million in the community this year, building 15 homes.

“We decided to go one extra step and purchase an office presence,” says CEO Mike Sutton.

Habitat purchased an existing building on 22nd Street South, directly south of St. Petersburg College’s midtown campus, for $165,000. It is expecting to move in by February or March.

“Our plan now is to have about 5-6 staff members that will work out of that office,” Sutton explains. “It will also be a hub for us to do education classes for our [Habitat] families and the community.”

Habitat is actively seeking a Director of Community Relations that will serve as the organization’s “face” in the community, Sutton says. Candidates should have a bachelor’s degree and be people-oriented. The job includes building one-on-one relationships in the community, serving on Habitat’s leadership team and ensuring the organization’s mission in South St. Pete is being fulfilled.

It also is a hiring program coordinator, who will be in charge of recruiting partner families, and an office/information specialist who will work with walk-ins to provide resources and troubleshoot problems. Additionally, two new site supervisors will oversee volunteers and homeowners with construction.

Habitat would like to fill the jobs by Jan. 1, 2018.

The underserved midtown area, which is directly south of Tropicana Field, includes properties between 9th Avenue South, 30th Avenue South, 4th Street South and 49th Street South.

“It [the new office and staff] is an investment outside of our normal budget,” Sutton says. “We do anticipate, as we move forward, it will be a regular piece to our program and our operations,”

Many of the existing homes in the area are in need of repair; others have been condemned. “A lot of the homes in the area are generational housing, so they are pieces of property or homes that have been passed down generation to generation. One of the biggest problems we see is finding clear title,” he explains.

The nonprofit builds new homes on property they’ve invested in, then sells them to qualified families with zero-percent mortgage rates. It also works with families to repair dilapidated homes.

Meanwhile the fast-growing retailer Sprouts has been expanding in Florida. “The local interest in health and value makes Valrico a natural fit for a Sprouts store,” says spokesperson Kalia Pang. “We’ve ramped up our expansion in Florida after the positive customer response and strong performance of our Tampa and Sarasota stores that opened earlier this year.”

The fifth in Florida, the Valrico store is scheduled to open at 7 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 21, in 30,000 square feet of leased space at 3315 Lithia Pinecrest Road. Sprouts is planning to hire 120 or more full- and part-time staffers, including department managers, assistant department managers, clerks, cashiers, a backup receiver, administrative coordinator and scan coordinator.

Sprouts is all about healthy living for less, so potential team members should share a passion for healthy eating and the fresh, natural and organic products offered throughout the store,” Pang says.

Interested persons can learn more at the company website.

The Phoenix-based Sprouts carries a full line of groceries.

Here are more job opportunities.

  • Interested in being an art instructor? There’s a Dec. 15 deadline to apply for Art Studio instructor positions with the Tampa Museum of Art. The museum is looking for teachers in beginning jewelry, electronic sculpture with batteries, lights, and small modules, and other fine art media. Candidates must have at least a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts with a specialty in Studio Art, or an equivalent degree, plus images of work and at least two years of experience teaching in public or private settings. Instructors are paid $20 an hour. Apply online.
  • The Penny Hoarder, owned by Taylor Media Inc., announced in November that it has expanded its St. Petersburg offices and will be hiring 165 new employees by 2020. It currently employs 80, and will be adding video editors, writers, data journalists, media analysts, developers and account managers. The publication shares real stories about how people make and save money.
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency is looking to hire civil engineers, flood plain managers, site inspectors and casualty insurance workers to help Florida recover from hurricane Irma. Florida residents who are interested should visit employflorida.com and search for Federal Emergency Management Agency.
  • The Minneapolis-based Sleep Number Corp., a mattress company that offers individualized, innovative solutions to improve sleep, has an opening for a sales professional in Clearwater. The position requires prior experience with face-to-face sales, preferably high-end sales.
  • The Nashville-based Correct Care Solutions is looking for healthcare professionals for the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office Detention Center at Land O’ Lakes. It has openings for a mental health professional, which requires a master’s degree in behavioral/social science, plus a registered nurse and licensed practical or vocational nurse.

If you are hiring skilled workers with five or less years of experience, drop us a line.

Tampa Bay job fairs match people with jobs; one caters to veterans

In honor of Veterans Day, CareerSource is holding its annual Florida Paychecks for Patriots Career Fair from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 8, at The EpiCenter at St. Petersburg College, 13805 58th St. N., St. Petersburg.

“Paychecks for Patriots has made a difference in the lives and careers of thousands of veteran candidates and military family members in the past four years," says CEO Ed Peachey of CareerSource Tampa Bay and CareerSource Pinellas, which are hosting the event. "We expect the fifth year to continue that tradition, so Florida can continue to be the most military and veteran-friendly state in the nation.”

For the first hour, the fair will be open exclusively for the military transitioning to civilian life, veterans, and their families, giving them the first opportunity to meet with potential employers. The event opens for the general public at 11 a.m.

At the event, information also will be provided on training and development programs available through CareerSource centers, such as the TechHire, CyberSecurity, CareerReady, and Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act programs.

Over 30 employers will be present at the event seeking to fill over 200 positions,” Peachey adds.

Among the job openings are positions for bus driver, caregiver, customer service representatives, fulltime sales, housekeepers, insurance agents, line cooks, mechanic, respite and servers.

The annual event is hosted by many of Regional Workforce Boards across the state.

Job candidates who want help preparing for the event can contact their local job center. Assistance is available with job applications and resumes. There also are Employability Skills Workshops (including Resume Development and Interviewing Skills Training).

Walk-ins are welcome to this free event, but attendees are encouraged to register in advance at either CareerSource Tampa Bay or CareerSource Pinellas.  Click on Career Seekers and then Career Fairs to access the webpage. Jobseekers also can also visit the CareerSource websites for more information on employers attending the opportunities available.

Here are some other career fairs you may want to check out soon.

  • Biz Bulls Connect gives students at USF St. Petersburg an opportunity to connect with potential employers from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9, at Lynn Pippenger Hall Atrium. Learn more on Handshake.
  • The Fall Instructional Job Fair, an event for teachers interested in working for Pasco County Schools, is slated from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9, at J. W. Mitchell High School, 2323 Little Rd., New Port Richey. Attendees can meet with principals, attend information sessions on certification, learn about the district’s benefits, and be hired for substitute or permanent positions. The event is free. Learn more and/or register here.
  • The Black Excellence Business Expo and Job Fair is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 11, at Pinellas Technical College, St. Petersburg Campus, 3548 11th Ave. S. General admission to the event, organized by The Community Development And Training Center Inc., is free. Register online here.
  • The Tampa Bay Job and Career Fair held by The Tampa Bay Times is slated from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Nov. 13, at Holiday Inn Tampa Westshore, 700 N. Westshore Blvd. Tampa. Admission and parking are free; no pre-registration is required. More than 50 local employers will be there. More information and online registration is available by visiting here.
  • The JobNewsUSA.com Job Fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 14, at St. Petersburg Marriott Clearwater, 12600 Roosevelt Blvd. N., St. Petersburg. There are hundreds of job opportunities in various fields. The event is free and job candidates are encouraged to register online. Click on Search Career Fairs.
  • Interested in a job with a cruise line? Norwegian Cruise Line is holding a Cruise Ship Job Fair in Tampa. It’s looking to hire for a variety of positions, including assistant chief butcher, assistant cook, assistant waiter, broadcast technician, restaurant steward, stateroom steward and more. Bring your resume! There are two information sessions, one at 10 a.m. and one at 3 p.m., on Tuesday, Nov. 14, at Hilton Tampa Downtown, 211 N. Tampa St., Tampa. On-site registration is held one hour beforehand; the doors close at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., respectively. Interviews follow the sessions. More information and online registration are available here.
  • The Florida Joblink 2017 Career Fair is slated from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov 16, at Clarion Inn and Suites Conference Center, 9331 E. Adamo Dr., Tampa. The fair, which serves jobseekers in Tampa, Brandon, Lakeland and the surrounding communities, is free. Career advice and resume assistance are available at the fair. Learn more and/or register here.

Natural skin care company grows with help from black business development initiatives

Renee Edwards didn’t set out to start a business. She was a mom with a problem: Her daughter was suffering from acne -- and she wanted to help.

So Edwards, who works in clinical research at St. Petersburg’s Hill Top Research, began experimenting with essential oils and exfoliation.

“It worked for my daughter [Jakara Fitzpatrick],” she says. “I thought I could sell it.”

And sell it she has. Her Skin Kandii products are available in nine retail outlets in St. Petersburg and Clearwater, including the St. Pete Store and Visitor’s Center.

A ceremonial ribbon-cutting was held last Thursday at the Second Avenue North store to mark the occasion.

“I think the real root of cleaning the skin, and relieving acne, is exfoliation,” she asserts. “I think the vitamins that are added to the scrub, and the essential oils ... aid in the healing.”

Edwards, Skin Kandii’s CEO, participated in two Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg-funded initiatives designed to help black businesses open and grow: Community Business Development Initiative and CATCH.

“It [the Community Business Development Initiative] has resulted in the creation of 27 new businesses,” says Sean Kennedy, Manager of The Greenhouse, which created the program. “Twenty existing businesses have seen revenue growth.”

The initiative was designed to encourage black-owned businesses, which are under-represented in the community, Kennedy says.

“The point of the program was to eliminate the barriers to entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial growth,” he explains.

Skin Kandii became the first African American-manufactured product line sold in The St Pete Store, a retail showcase backed by the City of St. Petersburg and the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce.

Fitzpatrick was about 13 when she was experiencing severe skin issues, Edwards recalls. “She wouldn’t wear shorts or skirt in her early middle school and high school years,” she continues.

It took three years of testing, but Edwards eventually discovered sugar and essential oils could be used to exfoliate two or three times a week -- and get that problem under control.

“Once you exfoliate your skin, you also need to use a sunscreen,” she adds. “The fresh skin was turning darker.”

Along the way, with feedback from family and friends, Edwards learned enough to develop eight different scrubs she’s priced at $12.99 each. She’s also developed a lotion bar, lip balms and bath balms.

She has a stress reliever, a skin replenisher, a relaxing anti-inflammatory scrub, and even an Island blend to boost energy. Edwards’ best-selling product is a dry skin formula that has become popular as a foot scrub. It also can help with eczema.

Skin Kandii got is name as Edwards developed the dry skin formula to help her nephew, Jeremieco Robinson, with eczema. She enticed him by saying the product was candy for his skin.

Edwards also offers create-your-own formulas made with the essential oils the user prefers and containers labeled with a distributor’s name. In addition to being available in stores, Skin Kandii is sold at house parties.

Edwards would like to have a TV commercial in six months and eventually sell on St. Pete’s Home Shopping Network.

While Skin Kandii currently is run by a staff of three, she hopes to expand to hire “a whole lot of people,” she says.

She’s working on soy candles, to go on sale in December, and all natural soaps, to sell in the summer of 2018.

The Greenhouse is looking at funding options to continue the initiative, which offered training and business financing. The program already has assisted 60 businesses, among them the affordable housing firm Sago House, the youth employment company I Support Youth, the educational consulting company Global Intelligences and Brea’s Coffee, which also held a ribbon-cutting in October.

Meanwhile Tahisia Scantling, a consultant working with the Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corporation, which now is backing the other program Edwards participated in, says the community development financial institution holds two cohorts of CATCH per year. It offers training and financing to help businesses.

Although a $100 application fee is charged, the fee is returned to the 10 businesses selected for the 15-week training program.

The CATCH acronym stands for coachable, action-oriented, timely, collaboration help. The program now is also being offered in Hillsborough County, with sponsorship by Wells Fargo.


Innovative Smart Lab to open in Tampa in 2018

The innovative builder Suffolk is planning to open a Smart Lab in Tampa that will help clients visualize construction projects using virtual reality. The construction firm, which already has opened a similar lab in New York City and San Francisco, currently is building the Tampa Smart Lab adjacent to its Channelside office.

“We are looking to open early in 2018, hopefully in January or February,” says Josh Christensen, VP for the Suffolk’s West Coast Operations in Florida.

The Smart Lab features a virtual reality cave, which simulates what it will be like inside a building that has not been constructed yet. “We call it a lab for a reason. We’re testing things,” he says. “You don’t have to go build in the field to see if you like it.”

Models will be technically accurate. “It’s a working model, not just a cartoon,” Christensen says.

A whole wall will be a touch screen for interactive planning and collaboration. “We used to do with sticky notes back in the day,” Christensen explains. “Now you do it all virtually, and all by touching.”

Another wall, for data, includes live camera feeds of the jobs.

The company has been relying upon virtual reality goggles, which limits the experience to one or two people instead of about six to a room. “Most people don’t love putting the goggles on,” he says.

Suffolk is adding an additional 2,200 square feet, 1,500 for the lab, to its office at 615 Channelside Drive, Suite 102. The office, which opened last spring, will now be 6,600 square feet. Cost figures weren’t released.

We’re in an existing building, We just took it back to the studs,” he explains.

The Smart Lab will primarily be staffed with existing workers.

Suffolk’s Smart Labs are expected to facilitate brainstorming in ways that can significantly alter project designs. For the industry, it may mean changing the way buildings are designed and built.

Its emphasis on innovation meshes well with the “entrepreneurial spirit” in Tampa, Christensen says.

“We have some challenging, logistically complex jobs, and it will really help us,” he adds.

More Smart Labs are to open in Boston, Miami and Los Angeles on varying schedules.

The national building contractor generates some $2.9 billion in revenue annually serving clients in healthcare, science and technology, education, federal government, gaming, aviation and commercial sectors.


Tampa Bay startup: Washlava debuts app-enabled laundry in Tampa

The nation’s laundry industry is largely coin operated, but that may change soon thanks to a new app. The app, pioneered at a Carrollwood neighborhood laundromat in Tampa, enables laundries to ditch the quarters and rely exclusively on digital payments.

“Tampa is our first laundromat conversion,” says Washlava Founder and CEO Todd Belveal. “We do not take coins. We do not take a credit card swipe. You cannot access the store unless you download the app.”

Belveal converted the family’s Carrollwood laundry, Washlava Carrollwood, to the app this month, making it the first entirely app-enabled laundromat. It previously beta-tested the app on dorm machines at the Gainesville-based University of Florida, with students preferring the Washlava app 12 to 1 over quarters and 7 to 1 over credit cards.

It is now looking to expand into 20 markets, cities like Austin, Washington D.C., New York City, Dallas, Denver, San Francisco and Chicago. “We’re looking for urban, dense communities where there’s a heavy rental population,” he says.

Younger people also are more likely to rent and rely upon the app, which finds Washlava locations, checks for machine availability, reserves washers, accepts payment and notifies users when the laundry is done.

Belveal entered the laundry business as part of a family venture more than three years ago, when they bought a laundromat at 11819 N. Armenia Ave. for $60,000. He quickly learned laundries weren’t that easy to run. There were buckets and buckets of quarters to weigh.

He didn’t set out to make an app though, until after a burglar pried their coin machine off the wall. He decided there had to be a better way to run the business. “There has to be an app,” he thought.

Except he couldn’t find one. “I really expected to find something like Parkmobile that took a coin-based business and turned it into something digital,” he says.

Instead, he found an industry “completely untouched by modern technology,” he says.

Fortunately, Belveal was no stranger to how apps could automate a business. He’d already started Silvercar, a car rental company where customers book with a smartphone, which he later sold to Audi.

So he founded Washlava, naming it lava both for the Spanish word lava, which means wash, and the English word lava associated with heat from volcanoes.

Converting to the Washlava platform involves installing hardware into the machines for $149 each. “We simply drop our technology into their fleet of equipment, and brand it or not,” Belveal says.

Washlava keeps a percentage of gross receipts on each cycle completed. “We get paid when they get paid,” he says.

With the Carrollwood conversion behind them, the Washlava staff of 12 is making plans to convert its second and possibly third laundromat in early fall.

“After here, New York is likely second,” he says.

Plans call for hiring another 10 to 20 in the fall as the business expands into new territory, with those positions being split between Tampa and the new location. A lot of support will be provided remotely. “They don’t need to be there. They’ll be here,” he says.

Founded in 2015, Washlava has already raised some $4 million in two rounds of funding. “Our intent is to create a network of convenient locations,” he says.

Users must have a smartphone and a credit card or debit card, or alternatively a pre-paid card. “Ultimately, we’ll probably expand the number of options, but we’ll never move towards cash,” he says.

It may be a welcome change for laundromat customers who spend on average 200 quarters every month to wash and dry clothes. “There are several million vended machines that live in dorms, hotels and military bases. They’re hidden from public view, but there’s a lot of them,” he says.


Shiftgig hiring for hourly, Tampa Bay jobs

A Chicago-based company is acting like a matchmaker for Tampa Bay employers and employees looking for shift-based, or hourly, gigs. Called Shiftgig, the company uses apps to sign up individuals for work in a variety of career fields.

“There’s a lot of hospitality, a lot of sports and entertainment [jobs]. Those work very well in the app because there are a lot of one-off shifts,” explains Laura Turner, Managing Director of Shiftgig’s Tampa office.

The 6-year-old company operates in 15 cities nationwide, and is growing. An Orlando office is expected to open within two months.

It developed from of a Chicago job board for the hospitality sector, as the need to fill shifts grew.

Tampa’s office, which opened in February 2016, typically fills some 100 to 200 gigs from about 200 employers a day.  Some 1500 have signed up as “specialists,” or employees, Turner says.

“Typically they work as much as they want to work. We have some specialists that piece together a 40- hour work week,” she says.

About 65 percent of its employees have full-time jobs and are looking to supplement their income. “The other 35 percent are people that are looking for full-time jobs but don’t necessarily want to work at the same place all the time,” Turner says.

About half of the workforce in Tampa are millennials. “The technology is attractive to them,” she says.

Shift jobs are available in warehousing and logistics, hotels, food and beverage, and general labor.

Jobseekers can apply online in about two minutes, Turner says. They receive an email in 48 hours inviting them to a group interview session. “Everyone goes through a criminal background screen,” she says.

Applicants can opt into a drug screen, which is required by some employers.

Shiftgig’s employees have varying education and experience levels. Sometimes they’re recruited on their college campuses when the colleges partner with Shiftgig. E-learning is available to enhance their skills.

Workers usually are paid weekly by direct deposit or a pay card functioning like a debit card. “We’ve actually just implemented an option that, if they want to be paid after each shift they work, they are able to opt into that,” she adds.

Employers can get the word out about openings quickly to a pool of qualified individuals. “Those shifts are picked up really quickly,” she says.

The company's Tampa office serves the greater Tampa Bay area including Hillsborough, Pinellas, Sarasota, Manatee, Pasco and Polk counties.

Shiftgig was recognized in May by the Spend Matters website as one of 50 Providers to Watch, for the Contingent Workforce category.


Mall goers to play Wheel of Fortune, JEOPARDY!, other game shows in kiosks

Tampa Bay mall goers will soon be able to play the popular game shows Wheel of Fortune, JEOPARDY!, Family Feud and The Price is Right at mall kiosks. As part of its in2win advertising promotions, the St. Petersburg-based Priatek is expected to launch the games June 27.

“What we’ve been able to do is connect consumers with advertising in a fun and rewarding way,” says Milind Bharvirkar, Priatek’s President.

Priatek began offering games at mall kiosks in November, but its new revised app will include the popular reality show games, plus loyalty points and gift card programs. Currently there are 80 kiosks operating in the Tampa and Orlando areas.

The goal of the Priatek program is to engage consumers when they are pre-disposed to buy. So they allow consumers to play games for free and win prizes and coupons offered by advertisers, who pay when a customer chooses their product. When consumers register during the process, they’re more likely to follow through with a purchase, Bharvirkar says.

“It doesn’t matter if you play the game or you skip the game,” he says.

Lots of people love to play though, as was evidenced in the past by McDonald’s popular Monopoly promotion. Bharvirkar saw it first hand with coin-operated games for a San Jose, CA, business he founded, Global VR.

“The game element is simply about putting you in a positive state of mind. The games in general are an escape for people,” he explains. “... Just the anticipation of winning sets off dopamine in our brains that leads to a positive connection to that brand.”

Prizes or coupons are issued instantly; there’s a limit of 20 per day. Some people win big prizes like diamond earrings, cruises, VIP passes to the Daytona 500, and fishing trips.

Users can download the app starting June 27 from the Apple and Google app stores, enabling them to play some of the games at the mall on their cellphones and tablets, but not computers.

In July, Wheel of Fortune and JEOPARDY! will be on a mobile app as well. Priatek doesn’t have mobile rights yet for Family Feud and The Price is Right.

Kiosks are installed at Tampa Bay area malls, including Tyrone Square, University, Westfield Brandon, Westfield Citrus Park, Westfield Countryside, and Westshore Plaza. Discussions are underway regarding International Plaza.

Bharvirkar is looking to expand into sports arenas, big box retailers, hotels and large retail chains.

Advertisers small and large can link their brand with a popular game show for as little as $100 a month. “Nobody’s ever been able to do that,” he says.

Priatek is interviewing to possibly hire two advertising sales reps for the Tampa Bay area soon. They’ll be hiring elsewhere too: Priatek is expanding nationally this year, starting with New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.


Looking for a new job? Goodwill, Tampa Airport, Bank of America, others plan local job fairs in May

Goodwill Industries-Suncoast Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to helping people find dignity through employment, is celebrating International Goodwill Industries Week with a Community Job Fair May 10. The St. Petersburg-based organization has scheduled the event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Pinellas Technical College’s St. Pete campus.

“The job fair is for anyone in the community that needs help finding a job,” says Chris Ward, Director of Marketing. “Already we’ve got 29 employers signed up.”

A mix of employers is anticipated, among them Home Shopping Network and Walmart. Staffing, bank and health care firms also are expected.

“We’ve done this for three years. We feel like it’s a great way to reach out and support the Goodwill mission of helping people,” Ward says.

Job seekers can learn more here

Goodwill’s Job Connection Center can help job seekers with preparing resumes, beefing up interviewing skills and more. A Skill Builder Workshop on resumes is planned from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. May 5 at the center at 3365 Central Ave., St. Pete. A workshop on overcoming the barriers of a criminal history is scheduled from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. May 4 at the center. To register, call 727-321-7337 or e-mail Job Connection.

The Suncoast division founded in 1954 operates 22 stores in the 10-county West Central Florida region.

An Airport Concessions Job Fair is slated from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 8 at Tampa International’s Airport Boardroom. Airport Concessions are looking to hire 350 to fill openings at new restaurants and shops expected to open this summer. Learn more.

Here are some other hiring events scheduled in the area.

• The Bank of America is holding a Recruitment Event from 10 a.m. to noon on May 11 at Tampa Center, 9215 N. Florida Ave., Conference Room #1. They are looking for inbound specialists and small business deposit servicing specialists who have one year of experience working with customers. Learn more.

Kaiser University Tampa Career Fair is slated from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 16 at 5002 W. Waters Ave., Tampa. The free event, open to students, graduates and people in the community, is expected to include employers from a variety of careers such as business, legal, technology, allied health, sports medicine and fitness, and criminal justice.

• CareerIntro is holding a Tampa Career Fair from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 23 at Doubletree, 4500 W. Cypress St., Tampa. Job seekers can meet local, regional, and Fortune 500 companies with openings. The event is free; professional attire is mandatory. Applicants are advised to register and submit their resume for review before the event.

•  Best Hire Career Fairs is planning its Tampa Job Fair from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 25 at Holiday Inn Tampa Westshore Airport, 700 North Westshore Blvd. Candidates are advised to update their resumes and upload them for employers in advance.


Jobs Roundup: Who is hiring? Home Depot, Vistra Communications, CWU Inc., City of Clearwater

The Atlanta-based Home Depot is in a spring hiring spree, with plans to hire some 1,350 in the greater Tampa area during March, or by early April. Its goal is to hire more than 80,000 associates in all of its stores and distribution centers for the season.

“Some of those have already been hired,” says Matt Harrigan, a Home Depot spokesman. “Spring is always our busiest time of year. ... It’s kind of like Christmas in our stores. Its really our holiday season.”

Home Depot is hiring for a “mix” of positions, depending on the individual store’s needs, he says. It will fill positions for cashiers, lot associates, garden and freight personnel. Full, part-time and temporary positions may be available.

About half of the typical, 90-day-seasonal workers stay on after the rush, and can apply their hours toward company benefits, Harrigan says.

Those benefits include profit sharing, tuition assistance, discounted stock purchases, and 401Ks. Employees also have access to the company's associate discount site, where they can purchase cell phones, electronics, gym memberships and other items.

Salaries vary by store location and employee qualifications, Harrigan says.

Home Depot announced its streamlined online application process earlier this month. It optimized the process for mobile use, reducing estimated application time from 90 to 15 minutes, he explains.

It offers job-related training on product lines, computers and other skills associated with their assignment.

“Primarily we look for just someone who is passionate about customer service,” Harrigan adds. “Our focus is always to find associates that will fit our orange-blooded culture.”

Employees typically wear an orange apron saying “I put customers first.” The company’s core values include taking care of customers and each other, the entrepreneurial spirit, giving back to the community, veterans' housing and other home improvement projects, he says.

With 30 stores in the greater Tampa area, it’s one of Home Depot’s larger markets, he says.

The company’s website advertises jobs are “in bloom” and people can “put down roots where they really can grow.” It indicates 16- and 17-year-olds in Florida are welcome to apply for store support/lot associate, customer service/sales associate (garden) and cashier jobs.

Home Depot, which has a total of 2,278 retail stores, racked up $94.6 billion in sales during the 2016 fiscal year, earning $8 billion.

Here are some other job opportunities in Tampa Bay.

• Vistra Communications has moved its headquarters to Lutz and is planning to hire 50 new employees by 2022, doubling its size and pumping $1.3 million into the economy. Vistra was founded in 2007 and serves corporate, government and nonprofit clients. It is a nationally recognized, full-service communications and professional solutions agency. Submit your resume or learn more about current opportunities here.

• CWU Inc. recently announced plans to move from Clearwater to Tampa and add 20 new jobs by 2018. The company, founded in 2004, also is moving 30 existing positions to Tampa. It provides direct operational and training support services to more than 90 federal agencies. Learn more.

• The city of Clearwater is advertising ongoing employment opportunities on its website for a library volunteer coordinator, library intern, seasonal marine operator, social events staff, beach lifeguards, wastewater plant operators, and school crossing guards. Applicants should print out an application here, fill it out and submit it to Municipal Services Building at 100 South Myrtle Avenue, Clearwater, FL, or fax it to (727) 562-4877. No online applications are being accepted for these positions.


Checkers rolls out new look, expands in Tampa Bay Area in new year

Shaji Joseph is a man of firsts. He owns the oldest Checkers in Tampa and the first Checkers in a Walmart in the Tampa area, which is in Oldsmar. Now he is now making plans to open the first updated modular Checkers in Tampa.
 
For all appearances, this Indian immigrant is living the American dream. “I am so proud and happy to cherish what this great nation has offered me and my family,” the 46-year-old entrepreneur says. “[I] will forever be in debt to this great organization [Checkers] that believed in me and gave me such an awesome avenue.” 
 
Joseph attended business school in India, then became an assistant manager for Checkers in Pennsylvania. Fast forward 19 years, and Joseph owns eight franchises, with a commitment to build five more. His eighth location, in Spring Hill, is scheduled to open this month. The modular restaurant on Busch Boulevard is slated to open in the second quarter of 2017.
 
“I hit the ground running. I never stop. I never look back. I just keep going,” he says.
 
Formerly the corporation’s Director of Operations, Joseph is excited about the new design options, which enables him to save money and time. Each restaurant with a new modular design costs approximately $250,000 to build, which is $100,000 less than the traditional option.
 
The new modular restaurant features structural steel, which enhances sturdiness. It will have one instead of two drive-thru lanes plus a covered, outdoor seating area and a walk-up window.
 
His new Busch Boulevard location, which is currently awaiting city approval, is right by his franchise office, Wow Burgers LLC.
 
The new restaurants will incorporate the company’s traditional red, black and white colors. “There’s a lot of excitement and how it’s convenient,” he says. “We’re not losing our charm.”
 
Joseph’s Busch Boulevard location will be one of more than 50 in the nation with the Tampa-based Checkers & Rally’s Restaurants' updated designs. The new design is rolling out in key markets in Tampa, South Florida, Los Angeles, Nashville, Columbus and Houston.
 
Its Model 4.0 design gives franchise holders three options: traditional, modular and hybrid.
 
Jennifer Durham, Checkers & Rally’s Senior VP, says both the modular and hybrid designs are built offsite and feature structural steel. The hybrid design includes structural steel recycled from shipping boxes from overseas.
 
“It’s actually cheaper for manufacturers overseas to leave them behind than to ship them back empty,” Durham says. “We’re working through a third party to acquire the used shipping containers and remanufacture them into our buildings.”
 
Reusing the boxes isn’t quite as cost effective as she initially thought. “The more people that go after them, the price goes up,” she explains. “We weren’t the first or the last one to think of this design concept.”
 
She became interested in the concept after reading about them in architectural and design magazines. “To me, it was worth exploring. Given the size of our restaurant, its seemed like there was a natural fit,” she says.
 
With transport costs at $10 to $15 a mile for the pre-fabricated buildings, Checkers & Rally’s is considering multiple manufacturers across the country. It has more than 840 locations in the United States, and more than 250 more in the works.

White House recognizes Tampa Bay as TechHire Community

Tampa Bay is now officially a TechHire community, which is pretty good news for jobseekers here between 17 and 29. That is if they’re willing to learn new computer skills like java programming, mobile applications or web development.
 
White House officials and community leaders announced Tampa Bay’s TechHire designation last Thursday in separate events. Tampa Bay is now one of more than 70 such areas nationwide.
 
The designation indicates Tampa’s Innovation District, which includes the University of South Florida, Busch Gardens and Moffitt Cancer Center, has met White House TechHire standards. It bolsters the area’s opportunities to achieve job-training goals.
 
Mark Sharpe, CEO of Tampa Innovation Alliance, says the designation “cements you in the [TechHire] club.”
 
“The whole point of bringing the public and private institutions together is to create opportunities for everyone,” Sharpe adds. “There is a sense that not everyone has benefited from trade and from the emerging tech economy. When people don’t have that opportunity, it creates frustration and, in many instances, struggle.”
 
“It [the designation] identifies us as a community that is working towards improving our IT industry sector, that we’re looking for ways to make opportunities available -- for people, for companies,” adds Edward Peachey, President and CEO of CareerSource Tampa Bay, which is partnering in the initiative.
 
Tampa Bay received a $3.8 million federal grant last summer to fund technical training in the community and connect people with jobs. Some $150 million in grants were awarded to 39 TechHire communities, with the communities kicking in nearly $50 million in additional philanthropic, private and other funding.
 
Nationwide, more than 4,000 people have been trained and connected to higher-paying job opportunities.
 
Peachey notes the TechHire designation is distinct from the funding, which lasts for three years. “Being a TechHire community has a longer life to it,” he explains. “What really stands out is the partnership that it creates between employers and community-based organizations and government. And the recognition that we’re all working together to improve our community for the tech companies and tech employees.”
 
The designation also facilitates information sharing about developing a tech workforce, he adds.
 
The TechHire initiative, launched by President Barack Obama in March, 2015, is building a pipeline of tech talent to local communities across the nation, creating jobs and facilitating business growth.
 
Tampa Bay was one of 20 communities added to the initiative Thursday. Three others were in Florida: Central Florida, including Sumter, Lake, Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties; Alachua and Bradford counties; and Pensacola.
 
CareerSource Tampa Bay is fast-tracking IT training and employment opportunities for more than 1,000 out-of-school youth and young adults through 2020. Some jobs are in health care. Employers such as BayCare Health Systems and Cognizant Technology Solutions are working to advance the community’s economic health and technology industry.
 
The training program is short, and can take about four months, Sharpe says.
 
Those who are interested in free training can apply online at http://www.careersourcetampabay.com or visit one of the CareerSource Tampa Bay offices.
 
The alliance and other initiative leaders will be meeting with the business community Dec. 15 as part of its effort to develop its employment base – which already numbers more than 200.
 
Unemployment rates for IT jobs in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area were greater than one percent in August, 2015, compared to 5.2 percent overall, according to a CareerSource workforce analysis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

USF celebrates record year for cultivating startups, new products

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