Growing up in his family’s Tampa commercial painting business, Callahan Reynolds devised a business idea of his own while busy cost estimating jobs.
“Since age 15, I was calculating the square footage of these high rises and large buildings based on blueprints and coming up with how much it will cost to paint it,” Reynolds says.
“I always thought to myself how would a homeowner figure out how much paint they need, where they’re going to buy it and how they’re going to do the job. That’s what sparked the whole idea.”
That idea is iPaint, a photo estimating app that uses a smartphone camera and augmented reality technology to scan the area that’s going to be painted and calculate how much paint is needed based on the project and square footage. Users will also be able to purchase paint from stores and watch tutorial videos from professional painters to prepare them for their DIY paint project. Over the last three years, Reynolds, a senior at the University of Tampa, has taken iPaint from an idea to the software development stage through the John P. Lowth Entrepreneurship Center at the UT Skyes College of Business.
Reynolds was one of several dozen student entrepreneurs and community-based founders from the center’s accelerator and incubator programs who had their businesses on display at the annual New Venture Expo on April 14th. That day, iPaint won the $3,000 first prize in the UT student company category. After Reynolds graduates in May, he and his business partner, a computer science major at the University of South Florida, plan to launch the iPaint app in the summer.
A launching pad for business ideas
Entrepreneur Akshay Bhuva looked at the tangle of wires and cords that connect our kitchen appliances to power outlets and came up with the idea for his company Kitchenery, which uses wireless power technology to run countertop appliances.
“The kitchen is one of the places that gets the most foot traffic,” Bhuva says. “It is the heart of everyone’s home. And it’s a place where we saw a huge gap in technology, innovation and cooking experience. Millions of individuals are looking for a smarter, sexier, more socially welcoming kitchen space to use on a day-to-day basis. You can see the evolution of other technological devices. Cell phones, you go back two decades, these were big boots that came with large cords. Now, it’s a touchscreen device that fits on your palm. But with kitchen appliances, we are still using the same old technology and the same old products. This is an area that is overlooked even though it is used every day. That’s the evolution we are bringing into the space.”
At the New Venture Expo, Kitchenery won the $3,000 first prize for companies from the Spartan Incubator, a program for early-stage community businesses. Bhuva says Kitchenery recently raised more than $100,000 from community investors through Wefunder, which connects startups to investors online. He plans for the company to begin sales in October, at first targeting the high-end market with its wireless power pad and five appliances: toaster, coffee maker, blender, air fryer and pressure cooker.
Julius Becker, founder of Newport & State.
While tech has a big presence on the startup scene and at the New Venture Expo, there are plenty of other business ventures launching out of the Lowth Entrepreneurship Center. Italian-born founder Marcus Menniti is bringing high-end Italian fashion to Tampa with his fashion brand MENNITI. Julius Becker, who played soccer professionally in Germany and at the college level at UT, is the founder of a marketing and consulting firm Newport & State that represents both athletes and brands to improve cooperation and increase marketing opportunities. At the New Venture Expo, MENNITI won the $500 third-place prize for incubator companies and Newport & State won the $1,500 second-place prize.
Shaping student entrepreneurs
In addition to the community entrepreneurs who launch companies through the incubator, the entrepreneurship program gives UT students valuable hands-on experience in starting a business with the guidance of professors and mentors who have real-world business experience..
Graduate student Lucas Scordo first came up with an idea for a device that picks up dog poop for pet owners as a child. Through the entrepreneurship program, he’s worked out a detailed plan and pitch for his product, the iScoop, down to the tagline: “I scoop so you don’t have to.”
“I’ve been in this program eight to nine months now and it’s been very accelerated,” Scordo says. “We’ve had a lot of professors who have been helping me along this process the entire time. This was just an idea at the start of this. With their help, I figured out how to start a business and work toward making this a reality. I’ve had this idea since I was seven years old but I had a biology background so I never had any experience and business knowledge to start this. They’ve really helped me get this thing off the ground. This program really dials down on helping a person take an idea and launch a business. Even if it’s not the idea they finish out with, it helps them figure out if it’s going to be feasible, if it’s going to work, and the steps to take along the way. They also just get you out there and get you to experience talking to different investors.”
UT seniors Rachel Szala, Kayli Gaud and Emanuel Heredia part of a student team behind Fused, a platform for artists, musicians and songwriters to find like-minded collaborators and avenues to promote and distribute their work. What sets the Lowrh Center apart from other programs, they say, are the mentors and faculty with real-world startup experience and the connections with investors and business veterans with finance and legal experience.
Reynolds, the founder of iPaint, says the entrepreneurship program has helped him develop his idea into a ready-to-launch business.
“I cannot speak any more highly about UT and my experience there, what they have provided me with, the networking and the opportunities,” he says.
For more information, go to John P. Lowth Entrepreneurship Center.