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Millennial Mixer: Diverse networking group hits one-year mark

He’s an internist. She’s a general dentist. Together, they run the Healthy Bodies Medical and Dental Center in Brandon. The husband-and-wife team, Martha and Watson Ducatel, got their start with help from Millennial Mixer, a regular East Tampa event that brings together millennials and those who want to connect with them.

“It’s really just to connect millennials and to connect other people with millennials,” explains Fort Myers native Ivy Box, Millennial Mixer's founder and curator. “We just want to provide a comfortable atmosphere.”

Millennial Mixer attracts a diverse crowd to its gatherings at 5508 Co-working and Collaboration Exchange, a place where small minority-owned businesses can operate affordably. While there, attendees might munch on finger foods, order drinks at the cash bar, or buy food from food trucks.

The space is donated. Sometimes wine is donated to be sold at the event. So people show up and mingle. Businesses show up and advertise for free.

“It’s a mixed crowd. A majority of businesses are minority owned,” says Box, whose parents migrated to Florida from Haiti for a safer environment and more financial opportunity. “They’re diverse in their background and they’re diverse in their professions.”

The idea developed to make more people aware of the exchange run by Tampa-Hillsborough Action Plan Inc. and Coastal Bay Properties. “It just made sense. Provide something for millennials to do. Get them over to 5508 to see what’s going on,” says Box, a millennial herself.

So Millennial Mixer began as an every other month event – and celebrated its first year in existence with a gathering Jan. 24 at 5508 N. 50th St. In the future, Box may hold the mixers on a quarterly basis and involve more people, perhaps by collaborating with other groups on themed events.

Many who come aren’t familiar with the facility made of refurbished old storage units converted into offices and businesses. Its conference center is the event space, where vendors can set up tables and people can sit at high top tables in the middle and socialize while music plays in the background.

Through word of mouth and social media promotion, the event has grown from 30 people and three vendors to more than 100 with 13 to 14 vendors. “That’s all that can fit in that room. We’ve had to run away vendors,” she says. “We’re almost at the point where we probably need to get a bigger space. For now, we’ll stay at the space that’s free.”

What sets Millennial Mixer apart is its demographic and its laid back approach. After all, there are no memberships, meeting agendas or admission fees. “Here people can ... loosen up a little bit. They can chill at the bar,” she says.

In keeping with the millennial style, the mixers last about two hours. “We like it fast and quick,” Box says.

Box, the chief executive officer of the nonprofit Voice T.H.E. Movement, has a passion for encouraging those who seek to inspire others. A portion of money generated goes toward the organization seeking to improve individuals’ quality of life through health, education, arts, entertainment, and technology.

A marketing consultant and former castmate on Black Entertainment Television‘s hit reality TV series College Hill: Interns, the event helps Box connect to marketing clients. It’s also a place where she can sell her self-help book, The 365 Go Get H.E.R.S. Guide.

Though Millennial Mixer is designed for business, personal relationships could potentially develop. “For us, it’s strictly business,” Box says. “Whatever happens, it’s on them."


Tampa company works to cut power costs for businesses

The Tampa-based COI Energy Services has gone live with a platform designed to cut energy costs from 6 to 30 percent for commercial and industrial users. Among its first clients are the University of South Florida Research Park and an undisclosed Tampa-based utility.

We’re getting a lot of attention from utilities. This is definitely a problem that has not been solved [previously],” says Founder and CEO SaLisa Berrien. “It is a unique solution.”

The company is preparing for growth by raising seed capital to pay for 12 additional staff members needed to serve more than 1,000 customers. It’s hiring people in software engineering, marketing, business development, and customer’s experience within the next quarter.

USF Research Park was to be the first to use the platform. That installation was completed Thursday, Feb. 1, with training following.

The park also lined up a $1,650 rebate on a 150-ton air conditioning unit.

“Energy sustainability is an important issue at the University of South Florida Research Park, and we are proud to be one of the first customers for COI and explore how this new technology can provide us greater insight into how we use energy,” says Allison Madden, director of USF Research Foundation Operations.

Site inspections for some 100 users are required before the utility can utilize the system. “It will save in time and cost to support the grid. Simply put, our platform saves time, saves money, and saves the environment for both the utility and its business users,” Berrien says.

Another major customer is PBS39, a key account for Pennsylvania Power and Light.

A public demonstration is scheduled at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Feb. 9, at the Galleria of USF Research Park. It is expected to attract investors, potential customers and partners. “Anybody that is interested in clean tech is welcome to come,” she adds.

The 2-year-old company helps energy users save in three key ways: 1) by alerting customers when are able to cut waste, and 2) notifying them about potential rebate programs they qualify for, and 3) facilitating the sale of renewable energy into the grid. It is designed for businesses with a peak use of at least 50kW.

“We can predict their bill, based on how they are using their energy now,” Berrien says. “If they’re fine with the way the bill looks, they can continue operating as they are.”

COI Energy already has outgrown its three-person office space at USF Connect in the Research Park. The staff is using communal office space at the facility while the company waits for a larger office. It also is considering space in Channelside.

Additionally, COI Energy has been participating in the climate economy innovation accelerator, Accel-VT, in Montpelier, VT. It is slated to complete the three-month program, aimed at helping with capitalization, next week.
 


World IA Day: Walking tour of downtown highlights information architecture event

Local residents are familiar with parking in the Poe Garage in downtown Tampa to get to the Straz Center by crossing West Cass Street through the glass-encased walkway next to the John F. Germany Public Library. But are they acquainted with the library's auditorium? Not so much.

Downtown drivers have probably noticed the tall Sam M. Gibbons U.S. Courthouse on District Court on North Florida Avenue. But have they paid much attention to the Robert L.Timberlake Jr. Federal Building at 500 Zack Street? Probably not.

And when some come to The Portico at North Florida Avenue and East Tyler Street for open mike night, or youth activities, they might notice the old pipe organ. Yet they probably don’t remember the old church steeple that was a downtown landmark before the old Methodist Church building was demolished there in the 1960s.

Similarly, Tampa Bay residents are familiar with architecture and even landscape architecture. But they may have not heard of Information Architecture, an information age term first introduced in 1975 by Richard Saul Wurman, the founder of the TED Conference.

The Internet made information architecture more relevant -- and it garnered more of a following with Peter Morville’s book Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, which he co-authored with Louis Rosenfeld and Jorge Arango. It’s now the focus of World Information Architecture Day, a global event which began seven years ago in 14 cities including Ann Arbor, MI; Los Angeles, Paris, Tokyo, Vancouver, Sao Paolo, Bucharest and Johannesburg.

The free event, held in conjunction with the Grand Rapids, MI-based Information Architect Institute, first came to Tampa four years ago. A Tampa team led by Amy Espinosa and Carlisle Stoup has been preparing the next program to be held Saturday, Feb. 24, at the downtown library’s auditorium at 900 N. Ashley St. Featured are Dan Klyn, president of IAI; Gus Paras, one of the library auditorium’s architects; and Arango, a partner in the Oakland, CA. consultancy Futuredraft.

“Now that technology has progressed so rapidly, and we have information being consumed all the time, there’s more of a need than ever to recognize it [information architecture],” Espinosa says.

Although the late 1990s book was launched for the digital age, the concept has evolved since then. “Digital and physical worlds are merging -- machine learning, artificial intelligence, augmented virtual reality. Now we are organized,” explains Espinosa, a Tampa consultant and self-taught information architect. “Information architecture is in a new space.”

The Tampa Bay program, which kicks off with registration at 10:30 a.m., features a two-mile walking tour including the riverfront and some of downtown Tampa’s less talked about sites like Franklin Exchange block, Tampa Police Department block, and Tampa municipal building block. Participants are encouraged to bring a water bottle and comfortable shoes for the walk from 1:15 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.

While there’s concern for older buildings like the Tampa Theatre, built in 1926, which is being refurbished, newer buildings may be torn down or drastically altered to meet current needs. Concern about the future of the library buildings helped prompt the tour in an attempt to bring awareness to structures built between 1940 and 1989. It’s also an opportunity to share stories about the people and culture of Tampa, as well as buildings that existed downtown at some point.

“We wanted to do something a little unique this year,” Espinosa adds. “That’s why we decided to focus on preservation and do a walking tour.”

She’s been interviewing people to put together a book about the city’s history as well.

Part of the goal of the day is to teach others what information architecture is. “We want people to be interested in information architecture,” says Espinosa, who has a background in digital and software design.

IA involves organizing information by location, alphabet, time, category, and hierarchy, according to IA expert Chris How, in his video “Yippee-IA: All You Need To Know About Information Architecture In 10 Minutes.” It’s useful in different professions because they involve information being shared with students or customers.

Espinosa says the day’s theme this year is “IA for good.” “The question is how can IA help protect people from misinformation?” she continues. “Cities around the world will be tackling this topic in their own way.”

Tampa’s goal is to stress the importance of learning and researching to find the truth. “That is what we feel will help people protect themselves from misinformation,” she explains.

WIA Day is for those who are interested in learning about Tampa and about information architecture. Interested parties can register online; the event ends with a 5 p.m. Happy Hour.

In case you’re wondering, information architecture is a “high-paying” career, Espinosa says. But it’s not widely known. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook refers to the field of Information Architect Librarians under the category Librarians; in fact, there aren’t many colleges with an information architect degree, although there are information and library science and design curriculums.

“The educational system hasn’t caught up,” she says.

Read about the Tampa Theatre renovation project.


Tampa Bay Startup Week: Bigger, better than ever

Tampa Bay Startup Week is growing -- and expecting to double attendance with this year’s diverse program spanning both sides of Tampa Bay. This year’s calendar, which attempts to weave diversity into the events, features a panel of female leaders who, collectively, have experience raising $500 million in capital.

“It’s going to be really cool. We’re really excited about it,” says Lead Organizer Gracie Leigh Stemmer.

“Gender dynamics in the workplace” will be discussed, she says. “Men and women both were highly recommended to come to the talk. We want it to be a conversation.”

The event is called “Fullstack Pancake Breakfast + Boost Your Business with the $500M All-Star Panel,” and it starts at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13, with a pancake breakfast sponsored by Full Stack Talent. Stefanie Jewett, Founder and CEO of Activvely, will moderate the panel including Chitra Kanagaraj, COO of Pikmykid; Susan O'Neal, CEO and CTO of Dabbl; Joy Randels, serial entrepreneur and CEO; and Jamie SewellCMO of Washlava.

The program, which lasts until 10 a.m., is being sponsored by Startup Sisters. It will be held at CAVU, 1601 N. Franklin St, Tampa.

Startup Week 2018, scheduled from Monday, Feb. 12, through Friday, Feb. 16, is expected to draw some 3,400 attendees, double the number who participated in 2017. Early registrations were brisk, with about 1,300 registered by Friday, Jan. 26, Stemmer says.

Keynote speaker is serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, co-Founder of the full-service digital agency VaynerMedia. Most known for helping his father grow one of the first e-commerce wine sites, WineLibrary, into a multi-million dollar business, Vaynerchuk is a New York City venture capitalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is expected to talk about marketing, media and his new book, Crushing It!: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence - and How You Can, Too.

His 30-minute talk, followed by a question-and-answer session, is slated at 5:45 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13, at Tampa Theatre, 711 N. Franklin St. Seating is limited and an RSVP does not guarantee a seat, so interested parties are advised to arrive early.

The free event is intended to help people with business ideas, people trying to network, people trying to raise capital, and people developing new ideas/products within larger corporations.

Organized by the nonprofit Startup Tampa Bay, the event is presented in conjunction with Tech Stars, a global network that helps entrepreneurs be successful.

The program in its fourth year features 14 tracks on a wide variety of topics including education and health technologies, cybersecurity, legal, veterans, food and beverage and fashion. Some tracks will have limited seating because of the size of the venue.

Here are some other highlights.

• Q&A with Tampa Bay’s Talent Leaders, “Learn from the Pros and hear their successes and failures!” The event is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., Monday, Feb. 12, Redeemer, 1602 N Florida Ave, Tampa.

• “How to Build a Multi-Million Dollar Business from Home,” slated from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Monday, Feb. 12, also at Redeemer, 1602 N Florida Ave, Tampa.

• “Pitch the Press,” with members of the local media giving their ideas about to effectively work with journalists, scheduled from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Feb. 12, at CAVU, 1601 N. Franklin St, Tampa.

• “Startup Surge,” hosted by Tampa Bay WaVE, an accelerator for Tampa Bay’s tech community, is scheduled from 9 a.m. until noon on Wednesday, Feb. 14, at CAVU, 1601 N. Franklin St, Tampa. Seating is limited at the program bringing together regional tech advisors.

• “How to fund your TB startup using Bootstrapping, Internet, Blockchain and ICO” features high-tech from artificial intelligence and Blockchain, which powers Bitcoin, to the Internet of Things, smart homes and cars. The class kicks off at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 14, at 2 p.m. and lasts an hour. It’s at CAVU, 1601 N. Franklin St, Tampa.

• “How to Build an E-Commerce Empire from Scratch (using Amazon and Shopify)” is planned from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., Thursday, Feb. 15, at Station House - 4th Floor, 260 1st Ave. S., St. Petersburg.

• If you’re seeking the ear of startup health and technology CEOs, this is the event for you. A CEO Roundtable, with limited seating, is scheduled from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., Station House - 4th Floor, 260 1st Ave. S., St. Petersburg. The CEOs will be meeting with attendees in small groups. The event is suited for investors, plus collaborative individuals in healthcare, research and the community.

Check out the full program and register here. Registration is recommended.


Ministry employment lab works to end joblessness

Many people think of Metropolitan Ministries as a place that feeds the hungry and houses the homeless. But the ministry is also working to solve those problems by helping people find jobs. Just ask Chef Pete Bates. Or Bob Kines.

Bates runs a six-month training class for line cooks as part of a culinary arts program created by the ministry’s Vice President of Social Enterprise and Food Service Cliff Barsi. Graduates work at places like downtown Tampa’s Ulele’s and Mise en Place restaurants, and make use of their knife skills to advance.

Kines coordinates the Employment Lab, also known as the Computer Lab, which often serves as a port in the storm for the homeless who need a general mailing address -- or help creating a resume or free gmail account.

Some, looking for an alternative to day labor pools, turn to the ministry for help securing an entry-level job. “We’re basically ... a quick fix or a Bandaid, with the hope of getting them a little more self confidence,” explains Bill Stone, the ministry’s outreach services manager. “Our future goal is to hopefully have more employers know who we are, and have more communications.”

Though the process is informal, the ministry can refer the needy to employers looking for entry-level help. “They just need somebody that’s reliable,” Kines says. “They [the homeless or displaced] are not at a real disadvantage to anybody else when it come to entry-level employers.”

The people who end up at Metropolitan Ministries, located at 2301 N. Tampa St. in Tampa, are of varying education levels. But its GED program is there to help those who don’t have a high school diploma. Instruction also is available with personal finance.

A frequent limitation is lack of transportation. “Very few of the folks that come in here have their own transportation, which does limit some of the things we can have them engage in,” Kines adds.

Read more on for job opportunities in the Tampa Bay area:

  • The city of Tampa is listing 13 job openings, among them a Benefits and Human Resources Management System manager requiring five years of experience, three in a supervisory capacity. The full-time position, which pays $70,532.80 - $110,676.80 annually, requires at least a bachelor’s degree in human resources, business/public administration or a related field. Among the other openings are fleet mechanic II, automotive equipment operator III, building maintenance tradesworker I and police officer. Learn more here.
  • Johnson and Johnson has an opening for a junior graphic designer at the company’s Vogue International in Clearwater. A candidate with a bachelor’s degree or higher in communications, graphic arts, advertising, interactive media or a business-related field is sought. Graphic design experience – and thorough knowledge of Adobe Creative Cloud Suite -- is required. The company also is seeking a clinical specialist in Tampa for NeuWave Medical, a division of Ethicon and a member of the Johnson and Johnson Family of Companies. The candidate must have at least a high school diploma and related medical training; an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a healthcare field is preferred. At least five years of medical experience is required. Visit the Johnson and Johnson website for more details and other openings.
  • Walker Consultants in Tampa is looking for a civil/structural engineering intern this summer to assist project managers in new design and renovation projects. The position, which runs from May to August, involves collecting data, participating in on-site survey teams, and assisting in the design of conventional elements. The company also is seeking a project accountant with an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance and one to five years of experience. Check current openings here.
  • McClatchy is seeking a medical media consultant to work in the advertising department at The Bradenton Herald. The job pays salary plus commission. Candidates should be knowledgeable about and use consultative sales practices; experience in media or digital sales is a plus. Learn more here.
  • Franklin Templeton Investments is recruiting a senior client service representative-international transfer agent for its St. Petersburg office. Job candidates must speak English and Spanish and possess an undergraduate degree or equivalent experience. Learn more about this job or other Franklin Templeton openings here.
  • Tampa’s Haneke Design is seeking a User Interface Designer, an iOS Mobile Application Developer and an Android Mobile Application Developer. Candidates can learn more and apply at the company’s website.

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


Job fairs recruit road crews, students, stadium and beach help

State contractors are looking for road construction crews for long-term work in the Tampa Bay Area.

“In the next 10 years, Tampa is the focus area,” says Rich Alvarez, director of workforce development for the Pinellas Ex-Offender Re-entry Coalition. “They’ll be long-term jobs.”

PERC is a partner in The Pinellas County Construction Careers Fair from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 30, at Pinellas Technical College, 901 34th St. S., St. Petersburg.

“We’re going to have clients there that are looking for jobs,” Alvarez says.

Typically the applicant pool is small for road construction jobs, which involve physical labor outdoors. “Companies are more willing to consider people they might not have considered in past,” he says.

The fair is an opportunity for jobseekers 18 and older to meet with contractors ready to hire for positions like general laborers, pipe layers, welders, carpenters, traffic flaggers, paving and concrete workers, and heavy machinery operators. Openings exist for both experienced and inexperienced candidates. The program’s goal is to boost the number of minorities, females and veterans in federal- and state-funded roadway construction jobs. 

Employees are being sought for the Gateway Expressway Project and other active road and bridge projects in the region. The Florida Department of Transportation currently has 19 ongoing road projects in Hillsborough County and another 17 in Pinellas County.  Learn more about local road projects here.

Applicants should be drug free, eligible to work in the United States, capable of lifting 50 to 90 pounds, and have transportation to work. Interested individuals are advised to bring resumes and a great attitude to the free Onboard4Jobs event. Registration is encouraged, but it isn’t necessary. Learn more at On Board 4 Jobs

Other partners in the fair include FDOT and Quest Corporation of America.

In Tampa, University of South Florida students and alumni from all campuses will be converging on the Marshall Student Center on the main campus soon for three separate job fairs.

The All Majors Fair is slated from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 31, followed by the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Fair from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 1. The Accounting and Financial Services Fair is scheduled on Friday, Feb. 2, at the same times. Learn more here.

Continue reading for information about other Tampa Bay area job fairs.

  • Looking for part-time work? Check out the Aramark Job Fair at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Wednesday, Jan. 24. The free event kicks off at 5 p.m. and lasts until 7 p.m. Attendees need to RSVP and bring a resume for these part-time seasonal, event-based jobs. Aramark is looking for bartenders, catering attendants, cleaning crew, concession stand workers, concession supervisors, cooks, retail sales associates, runners, stand leads, suite runners and a warehouse worker. Positions may involve nights, weekends and holidays. Interested parties should apply beforehand for one or two positions at most. Interviews will be inside the East Galley/Club Entrance. Candidates should enter at Gate B, with the guard shack on the left. Learn more.
  • Be prepared to meet, interview and be hired at the Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce job fair for the retail, hotel and restaurant industries Monday, Jan. 29. The Clearwater Beach Hospitality Job Fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Clearwater Beach Recreation Center, 69 Bay Esplanade, Clearwater Beach. The event is free. Register online.
  • Jobertising.com has planned its Tampa Career Fair with diversity in mind. The fair, scheduled Tuesday, Jan. 30, brings together jobseekers with diversity-minded companies. The free event is from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Doubletree by Hilton Tampa Airport – Westshore, 4500 West Cypress St., Tampa. Jobseekers should bring resumes and be prepared to interview.
  • All Support Services is holding its Tampa Job Fair and Hiring Event for healthcare workers Friday, Jan. 26. The free event will be held from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. at 5404 Hoover Blvd., Suite 11, Tampa. All Support Services is looking for full-time, part-time, and temporary employees, with openings available for caregivers, certified nurse assistants, home health aids, support living coaches, support employment coaches, and administrative support. Jobseekers must wear business professional attire or scrubs and present a resume at the entrance.
  • It’s time to mark your calendars for METRO Job Fair 2018, an annual event hosted by Metro Places, CareerSource Pasco Hernando, the Greater Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce and Pasco-Hernando State College. The job fair will be held from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13, at the college’s Porter Campus at Wiregrass Ranch, 2727 Mansfield Blvd., Wesley Chapel. Candidates should dress professionally, bring plenty of resumes and register in advance.
  • The Florida JobLink Career Fair for Tampa, Brandon and Lakeland area residents is slated from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 15, at Clarion Inn and Suites Conference Center, 9331 E. Adamo Dr., Tampa. Its mission is to connect the best candidates with companies seeking top talent, regardless of race, creed or other labels. A variety of jobs are being offered, including sales, management, customer service, insurance, education, government, information technology, human resources, engineering, blue collar, clerical and more. Career and resumes services are available at the free event. Learn more.
  • National Career Fairs is holding a free, live recruiting and hiring event from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 20, at Holiday Inn St. Petersburg North Clearwater, 3535 Ulmerton Rd., Clearwater. Jobseekers should register in advance, upload their resumes at NCF Jobs and wear business attire.
  • United Career Fairs is planning its Tampa Career Fair for sales, management and business jobseekers from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 19, at Doubletree by Hilton Tampa Westshore Airport, 4500 West Cypress St., Tampa. The free event caters to jobseekers of varying experience levels, providing face-to-face meetings with hiring managers. Jobseekers are advised to arrive no later than 6 p.m. to hear company presentations, bring 10 to 15 copies of their resume, look motivated, and wear professional business attire.

Synthetic body manufacturer grows in Tampa

The Tampa manufacturer of synthetic bodies for medical testing and training is in a growth streak. SynDaver, located near Tampa International Airport, has acquired the London area-based Lifecast Body Simulation, which specializes in making life-like mannequins, and a $186 million contract from the U.S. Department of the Army.

“Our bodies are made of a proprietary mix of water, salt and fiber,” explains Kevin King, the company’s VP of marketing. “It’s the closet thing ... to a real human for the medical training market.”

SynDaver, which handles management and assembly in Tampa, expects to merge the companies’ capabilities to create ultra-realistic, next-generation synthetic human and animal bodies. The models will include fully functioning anatomy and life-like tissues; humans will appear realistic enough to replace stuntmen in films.

“We’ve been making such great tissues from the skeleton on up,” King says. “Lifecast we thought was the world leader in the exterior.”

SynDaver did not release details about the acquisition made Sunday, Jan. 14.

Its models, distinguishable from cadavers because they don’t have a grayish cast caused by preservatives, are designed for use in anatomy and funeral science instruction, surgery simulation, clinical training, consumer product testing, automobile crash testing, TV and movie production, medical device testing and military product development. They are replacing live animals and cadavers.

“We want to continue driving the notion of patient safety and patient care as far as we can take it,” King says. “It’s all about the patient. As long as the focus remains there, we believe we are going to be successful.”

The company, which derived its name from the words synthetic and cadaver, is expected to supply both virtual patient simulation systems and whole body patient simulators for human medical and veterinarian training through its new government contract. Mark Owens, head of the company’s new Global Government Business Unit charged with overseeing the Army contract, described the deal as the "largest single award from DOD [the Department of Defense] that SynDaver has received."

Under the five-year contract with the Department of the Army’s Joint Project Management Office for Medical Modeling and Simulation, SynDaver is expected to deliver an indefinite number of simulators inside and outside of the United States for the training, evaluation and certification of medical personnel. The models will be used to train surgical personnel for both humans and canines.

Owens is one of seven recent hires in leadership roles, according to its website. "We are hiring nonstop right now for production and sales and also hiring in engineering," Founder Christopher Sakezles says.

Started in 2004, the company is experiencing rapid growth. “We’re growing at multiples of the compound annual growth rate of the industry,” King explains.

Among its clientele are industrial clients like Apple and Google, educational clients like the University of Florida and University of Saskatchewan, government customers like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and media customers like CBS, NBC and PBS.

The company’s models range in cost from $8,000 to $100,000 depending on the features sought.

SynDaver also is screening potential investors of $100,000 or more for its next private offering.

The technology used in the synthetic bodies dates back to 1993, when UF was involved in initial studies to create synthetic tracheas to replace live animals when testing airway devices. The materials developed are now used in the industry to mimic simple veins and arteries.

Sakezles, the president, chief technology officer, and chairman of the Board of Directors for SynDaver, is a Tampa native who earned a master’s in Materials Science and Engineering and a Ph.D. in Polymer Science from UF. He earned a bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering from the University of South Florida.

Sakezles is expected to investigate live tissue replacement such as artificial hips or knees in the future. “We believe can play a role in the medical device and replacement arena,” King says.

For now, the company with strategic national and international flight access is working on new animals; a cat is coming out in the spring. They’re also working with a horse model. “We are driving toward rats and mice as well. They are being used so prevalently in testing,” he explains.

While the synthetic bodies are expected to replace real animals in surgeries like gastropexy, used to treat a life-threatening condition involving the stomach, they aren’t life-like enough to use in movies because they have no fur.

But Lifecast already has supplied human synthetic bodies for films like Saving Private Ryan and Gladiator, for which it won an Academy Award.

There are no plans for SynDaver models to be paired with robotics to do mundane tasks like clean house or pick fruit. “It’s just not something that’s in our wheelhouse, nor is it in our short term roadmap,” King says.

If something like that becomes a reality, he says, “it won’t be our stuff.”


DOD courts local innovators for MD5 accelerator

Business accelerators and hackathons are all the rage these days. Even the federal government is getting in on the act: its MD5 is on the local tech scene to help innovators create new products.

“We reach out to innovators that typically would not be working with the DOD [Department of Defense],” explains William Kernick Ph.D., a principal in the MD5 national security technology accelerator, which is part of the DOD. “We want to make these communities of innovators aware of very interesting and challenging problems. ... Part of what we’re doing is building those connections.”

MD5 held its first event in the Tampa Bay area in December in partnership with the Ybor City-based SOFWERX, an organization formed to facilitate collaboration between innovators and the U.S. Special Operations Command, or SOCOM. Called Hacking the Human Element, the three-day hackathon brought together participants from across the United States to develop prototypes using wearable technology to boost productivity in austere environments.

Squad Dr. Bones McCoy claimed a prize worth up to $15,000 to work on a prototype that monitors vital signs through wearable technology, helping first responders to more easily assess the urgency of medical treatment.

 

“What we focused on was the telemedicine aspect,” says team spokesperson Tracy Ingram, CEO of Intention Technology based in Dade City, which is building non-invasive medical diagnostic tools.

In a combat situation, Squad Dr. Bones McCoy’s automated alert system would enable medics to identify stable patients from those whose conditions are rapidly deteriorating, or who are deceased. It relies on off-the-shelf technology that is commercially viable.

 

A member of Pasco Economic Development Council’s SMARTstart Incubator, Ingram recruited a seasoned team after showing up at the event's trade show. “We had this perfect mix of all these people that kind of came together to make this happen,” he says.

Members of the large team included David Hirschberg, Natalie Concors, Asia Hall, Alec Thurman, Brian Meredith, Steve McCalmont, Yves St Laurent and Terry Shaw.

The team expects to use the money to seek a Small Business Innovation Research grant for $200,000 to further the technology, with the goal of making it available to the military and commercial markets.


“Really what you are doing is extending telemedicine from the hospital room to potentially the home or wherever that patient would be,” says Ingram, co-Founder of the nonprofit Healthcamp Florida, which identifies innovative medical technologies.

The other teams receiving up to $15,000 were:

• Squad Smart Tourniquets, which showed how tourniquets embedded in undergarments could stop bleeding in extremities;

• Squad Blood Suckers, which demonstrated how an intravenous diagnostic probe can provide real-time and continuous blood analysis; and

• Squad Fabric Communications, which showed how fabric could be used to ensure communication in austere environments.


In addition to the money and mentoring, teams were recognized by Manufacturing USA at the Defense Manufacturing Conference (DMC 2017) in Tampa in December.

While MD5 is working to improve the national security, its efforts are not solely to assist warfighters. “When we work with entities on these ideas, we like to focus on something called dual use,” Kernick says, adding it should be aimed at national defense and commercial markets. “Just doing a national security application is not sufficient for a company to be successful. You also want them to make sure they’re looking at dual use.”

 

A good example of why this is important is GPS, which was military technology 40 years ago. Commercializing the product advanced the product and reduced its cost.

 

The prize money will be awarded to teams for follow through on product development, with installments given at designated milestones. “We give them the freedom to put their plan in place,” he says. “We’re very flexible about how they deploy the funds. They have to keep it going.”

MD5’s customized approach doesn’t include a physical cohort, application process, or set program. Instead, the hackathon is the “lead-in,” Kernick says.

“It’s more like they’re now in the fold, so we continue to work with them,” he explains.

Kernick says discussions are underway about another event with SOFWERX. “We want to keep going and figure out another way to do a collaboration,” he says.

Interested in learning more about SOFWERX? Check out this article in 83 Degrees Media.


Tech Bytes: Tampa Bay WaVE joins Global Accelerator Network

The Tampa Bay WaVE, downtown Tampa’s tech accelerator, has become the first in Florida to join the Global Accelerator Network, a move expected to create new international opportunities for Tampa Bay’s tech community.

It adds credibility, its adds visibility and basically collaboration with the worldwide tech community,” explains Rich Heruska, Interim Accelerator Director. “It further puts the Tampa Bay and Florida tech system on the map.”

The Global Accelerator Network, which includes 90 top accelerators in more than 120 cities globally, can advertise the WaVE’s programs, giving it international exposure in its efforts to attract tech companies to Tampa Bay. It also will create new potential funding opportunities for WaVE companies, provide access to discounts, and enable free shared workspace opportunities in other cities, he says.

The WaVE has been interested in joining the network, which charges an annual fee of more than $10,000, for five years. “They don’t accept everybody,” he points out.

The nonprofit also has added three new board members: Joe Hodges, Stewart Kelly and Kailah Matyas. Alfred Goldberg of Absolute Marketing Solutions will continue to serve as board chair.

A pioneer in the healthcare field, Hodges’ latest venture is the Tampa-based CareValet, which helps to solve the healthcare access maze for consumers. Kelly is a sales account executive at Florida Blue with more than nine years of experience in the healthcare insurance industry. Matyas, managing partner at Redwood Partners, is expert at finding the best people to build successful businesses and accomplish their goals.

Additionally, Avril Stinson, a seasoned investor relations manager, has joined The WaVE as its new director of development. Her duties include community support and strategic leadership. Stinson previously worked as investor relations director for the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation.

In other tech news, Penny Hoarder Founder and CEO Kyle Taylor is scheduled to speak at the Tampa Bay Innovation Center’s quarterly Diary of an Entrepreneur program at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13, at Microsoft Headquarter offices, 5426 Bay Center Dr., Suite 700, Tampa. His talk will share how he grew his blog on personal student loan and credit card debt into a thriving website with millions of readers monthly.

When I first racked up all this debt I was afraid to tell anybody about it,” Taylor admits. “What I learned was that all that hiding was making the situation even more shameful for me. When I started to own it, and started telling people about it, is when I started making a difference.”

He’s developed a brand that shares stories from people who have accomplished their financial goals. “We really try to stay focused on our mission, which is to us money in people’s pockets. It really drives every decision that we make,” he explains.

That means turning away half of the advertisers, and passing on story ideas that would attract web traffic, whenever they don’t stay true to its mission, he says.

The event is free, but registration is recommended.

Read on for more tech happenings in Tampa Bay.

SOFWERX, a U.S. Special Operations Command-funded agency that works with the community to meet military and civilian needs, will be awarding six $50,000 prizes for passive infrared projects. Its Passsive IR Rapid Prototyping Event kicks off with an information session today, Jan. 16, and runs through Friday, Jan. 19. Winners will be announced after pitches are made Sunday, Jan. 28, and Monday, Jan. 29; they have two to four weeks to complete their prototypes. A second ThunderDrone Rapid Prototyping Event Tech Expo is planned Monday, Jan. 29 through Wednesday, Jan. 31, with more than $600,000 in prize money available.

• The survey deadline is Wednesday, Jan. 17, for the Startup Genome Project 2018. The group surveys 100+ local startups from assorted industries to support emerging startup hubs and produce a Global Startup Ecosystem Report.  It takes about 15 minutes to fill out; you’ll find the survey here.

Homebrew Hillsborough, a free monthly networking meeting, features a tour of the advertising firm Adjoy at 8:30 a.m. Friday, Jan. 26, at 1906 N. Armenia Ave., Tampa.

• Geeks are gathering for their monthly Geek Breakfast at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 25, at Jimbo’s Pit Bar-B-Q, 4103 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. The event is held regularly on the last Thursday of the month. Learn more.

Computer Mentors, an East Tampa nonprofit that helps youths build self esteem by teaching them computer skills, has launched a fundraiser to buy 100 computers for seven schools: Foster, Mort, Oak Park, Potter, Sheehy, and Booker T. Washington elementaries and Memorial Middle School. The computers will be used in classrooms or to create computer labs. Computer Mentors is trying to raise $210 for each computer by the end of January. More information is available at 813-236-1191.

• Interested in networking with the Tampa Bay tech community? The national nonprofit Launchcode is holding a Tampa Bay Networking Open House from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 1, at Entrepreneur Collaborative Center, 2101 East Palm Ave., Tampa. The free event is an opportunity for recent graduates of Launchcode’s LC101, as well as newcomers to the local tech scene, to hang out with potential employers in an informal setting. Free parking is available across Palm Avenue. Online registration is available.

• Ken Countess, managing director of the Countess Group, is featured at “Linkedin for Business: How to Get More Out of Linkedin,” from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8, at USF Connect’s Oak View Room, 3802 Spectrum Blvd., Tampa. You can register online.
 

• The career site Zippia has recognized the “10 Best Startups to Work for in Tampa”: Whooshfly, SavvyCard, LumaStream, Fair Warning Inc, Therapist Assisted Online, Nitro Solutions, Priatek, Washlava, Peerfit, and PikMyKid!

 


Tampa-based startup focused on weight loss considers options for growth

When Mark Springer was in middle school, he was a chubby guy who joked about his weight to mask the pain. “I didn’t know where to get good information [about weight loss],” he recalls. “The best I could come up with was, what if I just start doing what skinny people do? They must run. They probably eat a lot of salads.”

So in high school, he took up running. He joined the cross-country team and he dieted by not eating. Although he shed unwanted pounds, he became gaunt. “I was just skin and bones. I had no muscle,” he says. “I was like a stick.”

At Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, LA, where he played football, Springer figured out how to beef up with a different body composition. “It changed my life. It gave me so much confidence,” Springer adds. “It really did turn my life around.”

Springer started Avatar Nutrition three years ago to share what he’s learned -- and help others sidestep the pitfalls of mass-marketed fad diets. Today, at 28, Springer is CEO of Avatar Nutrition, which customizes dietary recommendations for each of its 24,000 users.

“Most people don’t know what the scientific methods are for losing fat,” says Springer, who partnered with Katie Coles, now the chief science officer.

Dieters suffer because their bodies learn to survive on fewer calories when they are on low-calorie diets, he says. When their metabolisms continue to slow down, the diets eventually becomes unsustainable. In those cases, he recommends a “reverse diet” to rev up the metabolism again.

“Metabolism can adapt in both directions,” he says. “It’s a survival mechanism.”

He says low-carb diets appear to be helpful by causing dieters to lose water weight. “Basically, you’re just peeing off all this body weight,” he explains. “It was never fat.”

While the Avatar’s program is nutritionally sound, it doesn’t require users to choose whole foods instead of fortified foods. “We’re not saying you shouldn’t eat whole foods. You’re not locked to them to be successful,” he says.

Avatar, which uses an app, charges $10 a month to gain access to the membership service. Members have access to a team of experts, such as a registered dietitian or certified strength and conditioning expert.

The program offers flexible dieting, which means there aren’t any no-nos. Users just adjust their protein, carbohydrate and fat requirements to include their favorite foods, or that piece of birthday cake.

“As your body changes, your needs for each of those micronutrients changes as well,” he says.

It takes the long-term, rather than short-term, approach to dieting. “It’s not just about what I can do in this six-week program,” he explains. “You have your entire life ahead of you. You need long-term thinking and planning to have results that stick.”

Avatar attracts users of all ages and walks of life, including women from a senior ladies ski club in Utah, nurses, and bartenders -- even a contingent of 200 from Singapore. “There’s almost like built in virality to it,” he explains.

Currently operating with a staff of 12, with a family-style office culture, Avatar is also employing four remote workers across the United States. “It’s a lot of fun. We kind of think of ourselves as a big family,” he says.

The company was growing so fast last summer they had to slow down the marketing. “The program is so effective that people using it are advertising it by word of mouth,” he says. “So many of our users are becoming walking billboards.”

Located on Northdale Boulevard in Carrollwood, Springer has decided to move to Austin, potentially next spring, to accommodate the company’s rapid expansion.

He is interested in Austin is for its commercial campuses that allow companies to grow to a few hundred employees in a building -- as well as for its favorable tax structure.

But his options are open for the time being. “I’m all ears for possibilities,” he says. “If Tampa and the region can offer incentives that are more enticing to stay ... then I want it.”


West Tampa startup Dabbl launches consumer-friendly advertising app

Consumers no longer sit still for advertisements. Instead of watching TV with ads, they watch on demand or use ad-free services like NetFlix. Or they opt out of advertising, or employ an ad block.

“The digital media industry is doing the best that they can to deliver what their sponsors need,” says Tampa entrepreneur Susan O’Neal. “The game has changed. The world has changed.”

Enter Dabbl. The Tampa-based digital ad company takes a new approach to that old challenge of how to engage customers.

“There’s always been a demand for consumer attention, but most of the time companies are buying consumer attention from a third party,” explains O’Neal, Dabbl’s founder and CEO. “Dabbl is the first time that a consumer is able to skip that part.”

Instead of relying on a broadcaster to provide a free show, advertisers connect directly with their audience through a campaign on Dabbl. They may ask their potential customers to view a video or take a survey, for example. In all, the interchange may take something like 23 seconds.

The kicker is the consumer gets paid.

“At the conclusion, money goes into your Dabbl wallet,” O’Neal says. “Once you get $10, you can choose any number of gift cards from our partners.”

While it’s not intended to be a job, it is a way to make a little extra while you’re waiting at a doctor’s office or the airport. That few seconds may net you .30 a clip, which amounts to $46 an hour.

With the average person spending some five hours a day on their Smartphone, this is a better way to use their downtime, O’Neal says.

“I don’t want anyone to make this his or her full-time job,” she adds.

While people of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds like to interact this way, the ideal user is likely someone who buys groceries for the household, has a little bit of extra time, likes to learn about new products, and likes spending downtime on his or her Smartphone.

When they are paid for their time, consumers are more likely to be focused. “Most of the time you are going to give me your full and genuine attention,” O’Neal says. “The message that the brand was creating has a chance of doing what it was intended to do.”

O’Neal believes the advertiser/consumer relationship has matured. “We have to interact with consumers as partners, as peers,” she says. “Dabbl is the only place currently where as a marketer you can do that, and consumers respond honestly and enthusiastically.”

It creates a conversational experience in a digital space, rather than a gaming experience in a mall or retail space like the St. Petersburg-based Priatek does with Wheel of Fortune and JEOPARDY!

In the United States, companies spend $1 trillion on marketing, about $8,000 per household, according to the Association of National Advertisers. It’s been hard for companies to measure its actual value.

Digital ads may not even be seen because they may count as a chargeable impression when they are only partially visible for two seconds, O’Neal says.

“Digital advertising in particular is very broken,” she asserts. “Ads that aren’t seen can’t work.”

Dabbl, which opened in August, has some 30 to 40 advertisers, plus an undisclosed number of users who had some 6 million engagements in the company’s first 45 days of operation.

O’Neal founded Dabbl after an aha moment where she recognized marketing methods weren’t consumer friendly. “If I tried to use them in my personal life, I would probably not have friends,” she explains.

Headquartered in West Tampa in an old cigar factory at Armenia Avenue and Spruce Street, Dabbl has 35 employees, 20 in Tampa. They are looking to hire software engineers and sales personnel, possibly marketing support.

“There’s quite a bit of talent in this area that knows how to think about consumer relationships,” says O’Neal, a native Floridian from Fort Myers.

Their challenge is to grow both the advertising and consumer sides at about the same pace. “It takes awhile to change the way an industry thinks about how they interact with their audience,” she points out.

Dabbl is available from Google Play for the Android phone, or online at this link.


USF, TIE Tampa Bay enter collaboration agreement

The University of South Florida has entered into a five-year collaboration agreement with TIE Tampa Bay, the local chapter of a global nonprofit dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs, to further the development of Tampa Bay’s economic ecosystem.

“We’ve seen in the small steps we’ve made ... how much that increases the startup ecosystem,” says Valerie Landrio McDevitt, USF associate VP for technology transfer and business partnerships. “My expectation is that we're going to be able to see greater interaction.”

The collaboration began informally about a year and a half ago as an experiment.

“We tested out this relationship without any paperwork,” says TIE Tampa Bay President Ramesh Sambasivan. “We wanted to make sure that we didn’t start off with things that we will not be using.”

The USF agreement involves its Tampa Bay Technology Incubator, which helps early stage technology companies succeed and grow, the incubator’s outreach arm USF Connect, and the Student Innovation Incubator. They are located in USF Research Park, which acts as a front door to the Tampa campus on Fowler Avenue.

TIE, founded in Silicon Valley in 1992, has 13,000 members in 61 chapters across the globe. It seeks to help entrepreneurs through mentoring, networking, education, incubating and funding.

Founded in 2012, TIE Tampa Bay is run by successful entrepreneurs who volunteer their time to help other entrepreneurs. In early 2017, angel investors from TIE formed the TIE Tampa Bay Angel Fund with the goal of attracting and retaining talent in the Tampa Bay and North-Central Florida region through capital and mentorship.

Sambasivan expects to see a closer collaboration now that the agreement is formalized. “What we want to see unfold is a closer collaboration in terms of bringing potential mentors to the startup companies, founders and USF incubator space,” he says. “We want to be able to give the startup companies a pathway to capital, whether it is through TIE’s network in Tampa or through TIE globally. The pathway just doesn’t happen on its own.”

He also expects TIE members who are investors to become more active in the incubators.

McDevitt credits Sambasivan for helping to bring the collaboration into being.Ramesh is essentially one of the catalysts of it,” she says. “My group and him work very well together, that whole group.”

“The TIE group is a critical component in the ecosystem,” she explains. “The local group has tremendous talent and then they also have an international reach.”

Established in 1956, USF serves more than 49,000 students in three locations on an annual budget of $1.6 billion. In the last year, TBTI has served some 77 companies that either hired to retained 360 employees and raised more than $54 million externally.

The two groups have collaborated on six projects including the Startup Shuffle, which gave startups a chance to pitch to venture capitalists, among them Dr. Kanwal Rekhi of Silicon Valley.


Florida trade mission to Israel solidifies local economic development efforts

Dr. Vicki Rabenou was an OB-GYN juggling motherhood in the 1990s and her very demanding profession. One day she got a life-changing wakeup call: Her two young children were talking to her in the native language of their nanny, a Filipino.

“I felt so guilty,” she recalls. “I took one year leave of absence.”

That was the end of her career as a physician. Instead the Jerusalem native discovered her love of helping entrepreneurs. She migrated from Israel to the United States, and eventually landed in Tampa.

I really fell in love with Tampa. This is a great place,” she says. “Everybody is so welcoming and happy to work with you.”

Today Rabenou is co-Founder, President and CEO of StartUp Nation Ventures, an Orlando-based company with offices in Tampa and Tel Aviv. She is positioned to change attitudes when Israeli companies view Florida as a place for tourism and agriculture, not tech.

“I believe that our solution is a complete solution that really takes care of 360 degrees of the needs of companies that are looking to reach out to the U.S. market,” she says. “It’s for the long run.”

SUNV is partnering with the Israel Innovation Authority to spur the growth of Israeli companies that want to locate their U.S. headquarters in Florida. It will be investing up to $500,000 in select, innovative Israeli companies -- who are eligible for a 50 percent match from the Israeli government -- through the Israel-Florida Innovation Alliance, a cooperative initiative, says SUNV co-Founder A.J. Ripin.

The government money is a loan to be repaid when a company has sales.

“Startup nation is a nickname that Israel has been called in the business marketplace, because of the success that Israeli companies have had,” he explains.

“Memorializing” the SUNV agreement was part of a Florida trade mission to Israel earlier this month that included Florida Gov. Rick Scott and an entourage of nearly 70, he says.

This collaboration that I’ve signed with the Israeli Innovation Authority is all about going to market,” Rabenou explains. “Most times Israeli Innovation will only finance research and development that is done, and stays in, Israel.”

“The idea is that we will do it by [industrial] cluster. We will choose clusters that we have strength with here in Florida,” she adds.

Israeli companies are interested in economic opportunities abroad because of limited opportunities at home in the state about the size of New Jersey, Ripin points out.

“The Israeli companies are really advanced. They just don’t have the opportunities because of the small size of the state,” he explains. “Their natural place for that is the U.S. ... Once their product and solution work in the U.S. market, then they’re able to compete in the global market.”

The initiative gives Florida access to a pipeline of innovation for industry clusters throughout the state. It will focus on two to four areas in 2018; possible areas include cybersecurity, hotel technology, agriculture technology, automated vehicles, smart city, smart city innovation, and medical technology.

SUNV leaders point out Israeli innovation already is having a positive impact in the United States. A 2016 economic impact study shows Israeli innovation is a major driver of the Massachusetts economy. It indicates more 200 Israeli businesses made the greater Boston area home in 2015, bringing in more than $9 billion that year.

“This is the right time to reach out to these Israeli startups,” Rabenou asserts. “I believe we can duplicate what they have in Massachusetts. This is the first step.”

During the trade mission to strengthen its economic development/trading partnership with Israel, Gov. Scott also recognized the first class of graduates from the Tampa-based Florida-Israel Business Accelerator. In addition, FIBA attracted the attention of the Israeli media.

Rachel Marks Feinman, FIBA’s executive director, who made the trip, says the mission gave FIBA an opportunity to cultivate both relationships with Florida leaders as well as people in the Israeli startup community. “If we can have a critical mass of Israeli companies that call Florida their U.S. home, or even their international headquarters, that can really set Florida apart,” she says.

“I’m pleased that there is this effort to support Israeli companies,” she says of SUNV. “I think the FIBA program has its own way of achieving its goals.”

FIBA, a technology accelerator launched in 2016 by the Tampa Jewish Community Centers and Federation, is preparing for another cohort of eight companies to begin arriving by mid-February. It will be choosing from a pool of at least 40 applicants.

“There’s a lot of work to do in a short period of time,” she says.


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.

Exclusive dating app launches in Tampa, Orlando

An exclusive group of 507 in the Tampa Bay Area will gain access to an invitation-only dating app called The League today, Tuesday, Dec. 12. The app’s goal is to connect ambitious high achievers who are career focused -- and want partners to balance them.

“We weren’t planning to do this until spring 2018,” says Meredith Davis, head of Communications for the San Francisco-based company. “Once we launched Miami, we saw numbers in Tampa and Orlando skyrocket.”

The League had 2,524 in Tampa sign up, but pared that down for the initial class. Five percent are teachers, 3 percent are lawyers and 3 percent are founders. They live primarily in South Tampa, downtown Tampa, and northwest Tampa, representing 7, 5 and 3 percent of the class, respectively.

The League’s goal is to curate its membership much like universities do its students, using data from applicants’ Facebook and Linkedin accounts. It blocks colleagues and first-degree connections so users can keep their dating profiles and professional lives separate.

Users need clear photos, including face and full-body shots, of themselves alone rather than in groups.

Each week, a team at The League will sort through the wait list and invite more members, with the goal of having a diverse group in terms of race, ethnicity, religion, education, profession, and more.

The wait is intended to vet members and make sure they are interested in regular rather than casual dating.

The League profiles become live at noon. At 5 p.m. every day, dubbed Happy Hour, members will receive three potential matches. There also are groups similar to those on social media sites; groups might be for dog owners, or hikers, or people who like to eat brunch.  Members also can meet at special events, either The League events (such as a launch bash for Valentine’s Day) or community events like a parade.

“We’re really building a community,” Davis says. “It’s not just about dating. It’s about meeting other singles in your area.”

The app, which is free to download, can be used on iphones, Androids and tablets, but users pay for upgrades like additional matches or expedited review. It is different from apps like Tinder or Bumble because it is invitation only, she says.

“Not everyone gets in and the reason for that is this is a curated community,” Davis explains. “There are dating apps for everyone. Those are a great platform when you are looking for that.”

Members for the Tampa dating community will come from a 100-mile radius of the city. So far, the group includes women 22-32 and men 23-33, but later on The League will broaden the pool to include older adults. Their core demographic is for 28 to 35 year olds, she says.

Founded by its CEO Amanda Bradford, The League launches in Orlando Dec. 12 as well. Other cities may go live when they reach 2,500 applicants. “We wouldn’t open a city until we hit that number,” she says.

Davis is a success story for the app operating in New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, Washington D.C., Chicago, San Francisco and other areas across the United States; she currently is dating someone she met in The League. “We’ve seen tons of success stories form it,” she says. “We even have a few league babies right now.”

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