February 21, 2015

Business Plan Bootcamp: Focus, share, test, learn



By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Focus on customer experience first. Share your idea widely to gain valuable feedback. Start building your network and never stop learning.

A panel of serial entrepreneurs and investors — most were both — shared that advice and more with 325 attendees at the Miami Herald’s Business Plan Bootcamp Wednesday night at Miami Dade College. The bootcamp was held in conjunction with the

2015 Business Plan Challenge, the Miami Herald’s annual entrepreneurship contest that is open for entries until March 16.

Panelists included Melissa Krinzman, co-founder of Krillion Ventures; Steven McKean, serial tech entrepreneur and startup advisor; Benoit Wirz, director of venture investments for the Knight Foundation; Leandro Finol, executive director of Miami Dade College’s Idea Center; and Adam Smith, partner at Medina Capital.

What do they look for when they are reviewing business plans?

"What’s the problem you are trying to solve but also how do you know it is a real problem, what’s the evidence?" Wirz said. "What is it about you, specifically the team, that makes me believe you can solve that problem? As a general rule, the more competitive the space, the more important it is you have a very specific background that gives you an unfair advantage."

Wirz also looks for a plan for how customers find out about your product. "If you have some secret hook, an advantage you can leverage, that’s great," Wirz said. Be sure to show evidence of product-market fit, added McKean.

Krinzman and McKean, veteran Business Plan Challenge judges, also advised paying attention to the storytelling. Said Krinzman: "You have to remember that there is a person reading the plan, and we need to be interested. ... Work hard on your first paragraph and define the problem you are solving: why should we care, why should we keep reading, and do we understand what you are talking about. Share at least your first couple of paragraphs with someone who doesn’t know your business and see if they understand it."

Include financials in your plan, but be realistic and include assumptions. A photo or rendering is good to include, particularly if you are a product company. In live pitches, product demos are effective, Smith said. If you get to the finalist stage of the Challenge, you will be presenting your elevator pitch on video.

Advice on starting a business came pouring out. "If you are small and don’t have a lot of capital, go after a small but growing market and think about world domination later," Finol sad. In selecting your idea, follow your passion and do it because you love it, he said. "Branding is important but focus on user experience first," Finol added. Focus on the why — why should customers tell others to use your products. The branding will evolve."

Wirz said in most cases entrepreneurs shouldn’t be so secretive: "Tell everyone about your idea, and get feedback. The more feedback the stronger your idea will become and the more ready you are to build your business."

If you are a first-time entrepreneur, you can establish some credibility through social proof, said Krinzman. One way to do this: Create a board of advisors of people who believe in you and have credibility in your category or can add value.

When capital raising, do your homework and target investors in your industry or sector, Smith said. It sounds obvious, but the investors said the great majority of emails they receive are not fits. If you do get in the door, "don’t be defensive, you are going to be challenged, and you can’t have all the answers so don’t worry about that," said Smith. "Be engaging and conversational and you will get through it."

Get introduced the right way. Get active on LinkedIn and build your networks, McKean said. It’s a relationships game.

The good news on that front: Thanks to the Knight Foundation and others, South Florida’s entrepreneurial ecosystem has evolved. "It’s an ecosystem that is very open and if you are part of it, opportunities will come to you as well. More doors will open," Finol said.

A not to be missed event, particularly if you are in tech, is the eMerge Americas conference coming up in May. A sampling of other resources mentioned by the panelists (get on their mailing lists): Refresh Miami (refreshmiami.com), the largest meetup group for early stage entrepreneurs; The LAB Miami (thelabmiami.com), a co-working space in Wynwood with many events; and AGP (AGPMiami.com), an active angel network. For companies much further along, there’s Endeavor Miami (endeavormiami.org) providing mentorship and support. Take advantage of local resources and follow the Starting Gate blog (on MiamiHerald.com/business).

Some recommendations on other blogs, books and websites from the panel: The Hard Thing about Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz, Brad Feld’s books on capital raising, blogs by well-known investors such as Fred Wilson (http://avc.com/) and Mark Suster (http://www.bothsidesofthetable.com/); and Eric Reis’ The Lean Startup, particularty if you are a tech company. Pitchenvy.com is an enviable collection of investor decks, and there’s "How to get an investor to say yes," by Adeo Ressi (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tzef-oKee0).

"Over the winter break I went through "How to Start a Startup" by YCombinator’s Sam Altman (http://startupclass.samaltman.com/). It is free and it is unbelievable," said Finol.

Listen to podcasts. Smith suggests Jason Calacanis’ "This Week in Startups" podcast (http://thisweekinstartups.com), which includes a new series for his Launch incubator with great speakers. Another is "Startup," a series by Gimletmedia (http://gimletmedia.com/show/startup/)

At eMerge Americas last year, Manny Medina interviewed Pitbull; an amazing and enlightening interview worth watching, the panelists said (watch it here).

Just getting started? Finol said the Idea Center, theideacenter.co, offers a workshop on design thinking every month that will help you create, refine, validate and test innovative ideas. After the Bootcamp, he suggested  this template  may also help -- start with the pains and gains sections.

"Find mentors who have been there before to help get you there faster," McKean said. "Your ability to grow a company will be dependent on of how fast you are able to learn. The fastest learning will come from who you surround yourself with."




Panelists were Melissa Krinzman, co-founder of Krillion Ventures; Steven McKean, serial tech entrepreneur and startup advisor; Benoit Wirz, director of venture investments for the Knight Foundation; Leandro Finol, executive director of Miami Dade College’s Idea Center; and Adam Smith, partner at Medina Capital.


Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg and find rules, tips, a Q&A and other resources for the Business Plan Challenge at MiamiHerald.com/challenge.

Posted Feb. 21, 2015

February 11, 2015

Business Plan Bootcamp speakers announced; sign up today

Real advice, no fluff: That’s what experts at the upcoming Miami Herald Business Plan Bootcamp promise to deliver.

Krinzman__2__3_1_SJ1TVKKK_L54772747The free event on Feb. 18, held during the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge entry season, will help entrepreneurs getting started in their businesses as well as those who are further along. “Whether you’re applying to the Business Plan Challenge, raising investment capital or thinking about raising capital, the Bootcamp is not to be missed,” says Melissa Krinzman, who will lead a panel discussion with advice on what elements make a winning short business plan, as well as do’s and don’ts when pitching investors.

Krinzman, who has been a judge for the Business Plan Challenge for 10 years, is co-founder and managing partner of Krillion Ventures, a $50 million venture capital fund that invests in emerging technology companies at the seed and venture stages. She is also the founder of Venture Architects, a business planning firm that positions early and growth-stage companies for success in the capital-raising process. Since 1998, Venture Architects has worked with more than 900 companies that have raised more than $1 billion in investment capital.

Leandro Finol

Her panel of experts will include:

Leandro Finol, a serial entrepreneur, investor and professor. His first business in the United States was DIREC4U, a company that was formed with very little capital, grew to $76 million in revenue in six years and was sold in 2007. He has recently joined MiamiDadeCollege as the executive director of the IdeaCenter, where he will work to bring innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship to the institution and community. Finol will also be a judge in the Business Plan Challenge High School Track.

  Steven McKean
Steven A. McKean, who specializes in starting and scaling technology companies. Most recently, he was CEO of Acceller, a company he founded and grew to 300 employees before merging with Bridgevine in 2014; he is vice chairman of the combined company. He also co-founded Animusoft and advises early stage companies in team-building, culture, financing and marketing. McKean is a veteran Business Plan Challenge judge in the Community Track.

Adam SmithAdam T. Smith, a partner at Medina Capital. Smith has more than 17 years of experience as a legal executive with expertise in managing global legal affairs, corporate securities, technology contracting and mergers and acquisitions. He is responsible for sourcing potential investment opportunities and providing Medina Capital’s portfolio companies with strategic advice with business development, mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance, intellectual property protection, contracting and all legal issues.

 *BenWirz Benoit Wirz, director of venture investments at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Wirz manages the Knight Enterprise Fund, a venture fund investing in early stage startups that improve access to quality, useful information. He also helps advise the nonprofits in Knight’s portfolio around issues of sustainability and growth. Prior to Knight, he was a partner with US Global, where he invested in and developed energy, manufacturing and technology companies.

The bootcamp will be 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 18 (check in at 6:15) in the ChapmanConferenceCenter at MiamiDadeCollege’s downtown Miami Wolfson campus (300 NE 2nd Ave., Building 3, Room 3210). The program will start promptly. There is free parking in the MDC lot at 500 NE 2nd Ave. (entrances are on NE 5th and 6th Streets).

There is no cost but space is limited so registration and required. Register here: http://hrld.us/bootcamp. If you have a question, please email ndahlberg@miamiherald.com and put bootcamp in the subject line.

Be sure to come with your questions: There will be plenty of time for Q&A.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg @ndahlberg on Twitter.


You have five weeks left to enter the 17th annual Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, our annual contest to showcase South Florida’s entrepreneurial might.

If you have a business idea or your startup is under 2 years old, submit your entry in the form of a three-page business plan. There are three ways to win: a community track for all South Floridians, an FIU Track for students and alumni of that university and a High School Track.

See the contest rules and tips for preparing your entry, find judges’ bios, questions and answers and more information on MiamiHerald.com/challenge. Deadline: March 16. Good luck!

January 26, 2015

2015 Business Plan Challenge opens for entries: The lowdown



South Florida entrepreneurs, this is your time to shine!

Today we are launching our 17th Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, our annual celebration of South Florida innovation in one of the most entrepreneurial regions in the nation. If you have a business idea or an operating startup that is less than two years old, you can enter.

Sponsored by the Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center at Florida International University, our contest welcomes business plan entries from any industry. There are three tracks — a Community Track, open to all South Floridians; an FIU Track, open to students and alumni of that university; and a High School Track, co-sponsored by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship.

Don't let the name of the contest scare you: We don’t want long, laboriously detailed business plans. That’s because today's investors in very early-stage companies want to see a succinct presentation of your concept and how you plan to turn it into a success. So do we.

Your entry may be up to three pages, and you may attach one additional page for a photo, chart or diagram if you wish. Think of it as a meaty executive summary. Experts in all aspects of entrepreneurship — serial entrepreneurs, executives, investors, advisors and academics (see their bios here on MiamiHerald.com/challenge) — will judge your short plan.

Judges will be looking at your product or service's value to the customer, the market opportunity, business model, management team and your marketing and financial strategies. Define the problem your business or business idea is solving, clearly explain your solution, and provide tangible details as to why— and how — you can make it a success. See the contest rules on MiamiHerald.com/challenge here.

Your entry is due by 11:59 p.m. March 16. Entries should be sent to challenge@MiamiHerald.com, fiuchallenge@MiamiHerald.com or highschoolchallenge@MiamiHerald.com.

Need help? On Feb. 18, we’ll host a free Business Plan Bootcamp, where Challenge judges Melissa Krinzman, co-founder of Krillion Ventures, and Steven McKean, serial entrepreneur in the tech space, Adam Smith of Medina Capital and other entrepreneurial experts will shed light on what should be in your business plan and share tips on pitching to investors. Register through this link: http://hrld.us/bootcamp.

And think of MiamiHerald.com/challenge as your base throughout this contest, as we'll be bringing you advice and answering your questions. You can email your questions to ndahlberg@MiamiHerald.com (please put challenge in the subject line). Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

The top six finalists in the Community and FIU Tracks will present their 90-second elevator pitches for our popular weeklong video contest in early April on MiamiHerald.com. We will also unveil semifinalists and finalists to keep the suspense building.

On April 27, in a special section of Business Monday, we will annouce and profile the winners — the judge's top three selections in each track plus the People’s Pick winners. DonorCommunity, PassTheNotes, AdMobilize, DeliverLean, WedWu, JustAskBoo and Baby Abuelita are just a few of the past winners in recent years — so this year’s winners will be in good company. What do winners win? Valuable exposure in the Miami Herald (we cover our winners’ progress for years to come), connections and mentorship.

Today we are looking back on the entrepreneurial journeys of our 2014 winners. Funding was a challenge for all, and many spent much of the year developing (or redeveloping) their platforms. Throughout the entry period, we’ll also look back on a few winners from the past 16 years.

You have seven weeks. May the best plans win. Go!


Meet the Judges

Free Business Plan Bootcamp set for Feb. 18

2014 Community Track winners have listened, improved, expanded

2014 FIU Track winners reached out to broader markets, refined their technology

2014 high school winners made a game of learning language skills

Posted Jan. 26, 2014

January 24, 2015

Sign up now for Miami Herald Business Plan Bootcamp Feb. 18

OK, I am usually posting other people's entrepreneurship-related events on this blog but here is one of mine. Hope you can make it! 

Want expert advice on crafting a short business plan and pitching your company to investors? Mark your calendars and sign up for our free Miami Herald Business Plan Bootcamp.

Melissa Krinzman, co-founder of Krillion Ventures, which invests in early-stage tech-enabled companies, will moderate a panel of investors and entrepreneurial experts. Confirmed speakers include serial entrepreneur Steven McKean, who is the former CEO of Acceller, Adam  Smith, a partner in Medina Capital, a private-equity fund for growth-stage companies, Benoit Wirz, director of venture investments for the Knight Foundation, where he manages the Knight Enterprise Fund, and Leandro Finol, entrepreneur, investor and director of Miami Dade College’s new Idea Center.


This bootcamp is ideal for people planning to enter the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge (deadline March 16; more details on Miamiherald.com/challenge) as well as for other startup entrepreneurs and those planning to start businesses.

There will be plenty of time for Q&A with the audience so bring your questions.

The bootcamp will be Wednesday, Feb. 18, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Miami Dade College’s Chapman Conference Center on the Wolfson Campus. There's no charge for the event but space is limited, and registration is required. Sign up for the Business Plan Bootcamp at http://hrld.us/bootcamp.

Questions? email ndahlberg@MiamiHerald.com and put bootcamp in the subject line.


January 06, 2015

Business plan competition season opens -- are you ready?

It's Business Plan Contest season. Here are a few on the horizon. The first one, the Idea Center Startup Challenge, is open to Miami Dade College students (all 165,000 of you!) but the other two are open community-wide.

1. The Idea Center Startup Challenge -- January 6 through January 30, 2015

Are you an MDC student with a great idea for a new business or product? Ready to go from idea to reality? Entering the Startup Challenge is easy! All you need to start is a 60-second video pitching your idea. Open to Miami Dade College students of all disciplines and at all campuses. Win $5,000 as seed money toward your venture.

For more information and to enter, please visit: theideacenter.co/startup

2. FAU Business Plan Competition -- first deadline for entry is Feb. 15, 2015

All students, faculty and members of the community may be eligible to participate in this annual competition. Teams participating  can network with venture capital principals, early stage angel investors, successful entrepreneurs and  business leaders who will serve as competition judges. There is a substantial prize pool too.

For more information: http://business.fau.edu/centers/adams-center/business-plan-competition/index.aspx#.VKvzea10wuQ

3. Coming soon: 17th Annual Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge -- opens Jan. 26, 2015; submission deadline is March 16

Take the Challenge, even if you are entering another competition as well Your short business plan could wow our judges. There will be a community track open to all, an FIU track open to students and alumni and a track open to grades 8-12. Full info will be available Jan. 26 and thereafter on MiamiHerald.com/challenge. (Questions? I will be coordinating this again so you can always email me at ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Posted  Jan. 6, 2015

November 06, 2014

Pitch your way to an eMerge Americas summit pass

Are you ready to jump into the FIU Pino Center Shark Tank?  On Friday, Nov. 21, at FIU Downtown on Brickell from 10:00am to 3:00pm, the Pino Center is offering an opportunity for attendees to deliver a 5-minute pitch on their business, to be followed directly by 5 minutes of Q & A from the judging panel. They will receive feedback and be coached on how to improve their pitches by a team of experts.

The prize for the winning pitch: A summit ticket to the upcoming eMerge Americas.

The Shark Tank will be an educational opportunity for all, regardless of whether you are in the audience or on the main stage. Registration fee: $40 per person

Attention 2014 Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge participants: For you, the event is free of charge. If you didn't win this year, you can enter again and this is a great way to prepare for the 2015 Challenge. Challenge participants: please email me for the promotional code at ndahlberg@miamiherald.com. There are also discounts for FIU students and alumni; call the Pino Center for more information on those. 
Posted Nov. 6, 2014

August 27, 2014

Wynwood parking issue on the menu at #WaffleWednesday

Waffle1At LiveNinja's weekly #WaffleWednesday,  chef Alfonso Martinez's creations are  always yummy. But this week's main course was a spirited discussion about the Wynwood parking issue.

Art Noriega, CEO of the Miami Parking Authority, mingled with the crowd and then took part in a talk moderated by documentary filmaker Billy Corben and also including Mario Cruz, Choose Digital's CTO who kicked off the community debate with this Starting Gate post. You can get an idea about the issues  the Wynwood tech and arts community are concerned about -- primarily safety but also parking accessibility, cost and lack of public transit options --  in the numerous comments on that post, too. In response to the debate, which has moved from online to the real world in community meetings, the MPA added more decal parking on certain streets.

  Waffle3"Art was very responsive in adding back some spaces," said Cruz, who also wrote a follow-up guest post here. "But we still face issues ... we need better transit, we need better security... and we want to be involved in the discussions. Tech is here to stay. In seven months, [tech companies] have created 100 jobs in Wynwood."

Noriega, who brought some of his staff and MPA board member Marlon Hill, noted that there are a lot of different needs -- short term parking, long term decal parking, accommodating peak hours. He also said the MPA is still figuring it out, and will tweak and modify the plans as needed, as it has already done with the decal parking.  And he took a lot of questions. Among the answers:

* The long-promised, long-awaited DecoBikes is supposed to roll out by Oct. 1 but which sections fo town it will be available in first is unclear.

* Noriega said the MPA is involved in negotiating a couple of parking garages within Wynwood, and one is moving fairly quickly (though don't look for it before 2016). He said he learned the hard way from Coconut Grove that smaller spread-out parking facilities work better than one large one on the outskirts. 

* Noriega said he would look into why the parking app only charges in increments of an hour. "we can certainly modify that." He also said the MPA is looking at extending the 3-hour limit on short-term parking in some places and hours.

* Noriega said the MPA would be doing away with the surcharges on the pay-by-phone in coming months.  

* As to why Wynwood doesn't have a trolley stop, while that isn't under the MPA, Noriega said new stops and trolley expansion is being discussed in the city manager's office now and he recommended "getting in there now and pushing for Wynwood to be a piece of that .. reach out to Alice Bravo, the assistant city manager."

Waffle2The issue is clearly an evolving one, and no one has all the answers.  Hill suggested a parking hackathon is needed. 

LiveNinja CEO Will Weinraub explained that LiveNinja's #WaffleWednesday grew organically, starting as a weekly team gathering when the startup moved into its larger space with a kitchen. Soon team members began to invite friends  from other Wynwood businesses and as awareness of the fun event grew, now -- at least some weeks -- it has also evolved into a community platform to talk about issues. Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado has been invited to next week's #WaffleWednesday -- no confirmation yet, however.

 Posted Aug. 27, 2014

May 20, 2014

Business Plan Challenge announces winners

We are pleased to introduce you to the winners of the 16th Annual Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge.

The winners’ circle contains concepts in healthcare, fashion, athletics and tech. One theme running through many of the plans: community connection. To rise to the top, winners had to make a strong case for how they planned to execute their business plan.

This year, among 196 entries received in our three tracks of the Challenge, there were food products, spaces for artists and makers to gather, restaurants, green products, sports-related ideas, social entrepreneurial ventures and plenty of apps. The three-page business plans in our Challenge, sponsored by Florida International University’s Eugenio Pino and Family Global Entrepreneurship Center, were judged by experts from our community — successful entrepreneurs, investors, executives and academics (see bios on MiamiHerald.com/challenge) — as well as by the public via our popular People’s Pick video competition.

"Since I began judging the Business Plan Challenge seven years ago, the quality of the submissions has greatly increased,” said judge Melissa Krinzman of Venture Architects, who led the Business Plan Bootcamp the last few “It's been quite exciting to see better business summaries as well as businesses that have a greater chance of achieving their goals."

Munchkin Fun, a community site to help parents choose, book and pay for kids’ classes, won the Community Track and also was named the Challenge Champion, based on judges’ scores and People’s Pick voting.


See story about Munchkin Fun here.


Fashion-tech company Fitting Room Social — an online shopping platform solving the question “will it fit me?” — came in second and AthleticSelect, linking future athletes with private coaches, was third. The Community Track attracted more than 100 entries.

On the FIU Track, XDG Technologies, a medical product to relieve polydactyly, the condition of extra fingers or toes, and remove skin tags, was the winning plan.


 See Story about XDG here.

Coming in second was Summer Camp Live, a platform that provides a virtual summer camp booking service, and Groove Caddy, with a new way to clean golf clubs, was third.

For the first time in the FIU Track, the judging included a live pitch session for the six finalists, which helped determine the final winners. Each team received up to 10 minutes to present their companies, and the sessions also included five minutes of Q&A time and feedback.

Over on the High School Track — which is co-sponsored by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship — the winner was Word Avenger, by Miami Edison Senior High students. Word Avenger is an app that makes vocabulary building into a game. “This mobile app will be popular with teens who dread SAT prep classes. It teaches through a medium that is familiar and comfortable to the age group," said Mercedes San Miguel, a CPA and judge, noting the creativity of all the winning plans.


 See story about Word Avenger here. 

MoodPoint, an app to help track mood swings and combat depression, and Chinese Picture Dictionary, an app for learning the Chinese language, both by Ransom Everglades students, took second and third place.

In the People’s Pick, which attracted 11,302 votes, it was neck-and-neck but the fashion-tech companies prevailed. Fitting Room Social edged out Munchkin Fun on the final day of voting, and Kloset Karma, a marketplace for trading clothes that uses points as currency, emerged the winner in a tough race with Groove Caddy and Moonlighter, a co-working/maker space specializing in 3-D printing and design.

Although the contest was based on votes cast — and getting out the vote in social media is a key component — the two winners also drew the most video views in their respective tracks. Overall, Fitting Room Social drew the most views, 1,904, and Snapscore also on the Community Track was a close number two with 1,878 views at the close of voting.

Some of today’s winners and finalists are first timers and others are serial entrepreneurs with decades of industry experience. But all are in the early stages of their businesses — we’ll be watching how they do!

Read about all the winners here.


See Fitting Room Social's story here.  


See Summer Camp Live's story here.



See MoodPoint's story here.



See AthleticSelect's story here.



See Groove Caddy's story here.


See Chinese Picture Dictionary's story here.


 Read Kloset Karma's story here.

May 14, 2014

DeliverLean expands with new 30,000-square-foot kitchen in Oakland Park


Olga Kuzenkov, co-founder, and Scott Harris, president and CEO of DeliverLean, a South Florida meal delivery service, show off the company's new kitchen space in Oakland Park. The 30,000 square foot commercial kitchen will fulfill the need for expansions allowing for more deliveries, new jobs and promoting healthier lifestyles in South Florida. WALTER MICHOT/MIAMI HERALD

By Chabeli Herrera

DeliverLean, one of South Florida’s most successful food delivery businesses, celebrated the opening of its Oakland Park facility Wednesday afternoon with a five-course meal presented by the chefs who have fed stars from Beyonce to Barack Obama.

Executive Chefs Andrew Whiteman and James Donato rushed around the counter at the test kitchen, faces at eye-level with the plates, meticulously preparing the meals that are also delivered in plastic containers and thermally insulated cooler bags to doorsteps from Jupiter to Kendall. About 30 invited guests feasted and toured the 30,000-square-foot facility, at 4351 NE 12th Terrace, which now house’s the company’s office, commercial kitchen, combination ovens and separate dehydration rooms.

The brainchild of mortgage industry executive, Scott Harris, DeliverLean opened in September 2011 as a convenient and healthy alternative for people looking to balance their diet. The meals are prepared fresh daily and delivered to customers between 3 and 6 a.m., just in time for breakfast.

“All you have to do is wake up and eat healthy,” said Chief Marketing Officer Candy Tree.

The  latest expansion, at a cost of $250,000, is intended to increase deliveries to a total of 5,000 customers from the current 1,500. With more space and improved productivity, Harris said, he expects to  extend the company’s deliveries north to Tampa.

Since 2012, DeliverLean has gone from earning $2.9 million in revenue to an expected $10 million by the end of 2014. More than 130 employees work the kitchens and the 20 delivery cars that line the parking lot of the new office. In 2013, the company won the People’s Pick award in the annual Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge.

The company's success caused it to quickly outgrow its 8,000 square-foot Boca Raton facility, which was struggling to satisfy an influx of customers catching the health craze wave.

“It was coming like a tornado,” Tree said.

The new facility gives the company a more central position for delivery expansion.

Since 2011, the company has grown to include organic juices, low-calorie desserts and shelf-stable snacks. Harris said  the company expects to open a juice bar selling  its juice brand, On Juice, in Aventura Mall in the next 6 weeks. The team plans to expand to New York by the end of 2014 and Los Angeles by 2016. Also in the plans: a kids’ line to be delivered to schools and a line for diabetics.

The growth will help him broaden the reach of his ongoing goal: to help people maintain a healthy lifestyle and discourage fast-food as a convenient but hazardous option.

“We didn’t want to be a weight-loss or diet company,” Harris said. “We find that vanity is a by-product but it’s really about being healthy.”

Meals are priced at $7.95 and customers can mix and match dietary plans, choosing from five meal plan options.

Each DeliverLean package includes a breakdown of calories, protein and carbohydrates.

At the event, working parents Jessica and Donovan Campbell were ready to sign up for the plan. Their 10-month son, Kingston, wobbled between tables munching on kale chips.

Wedding and event planner Jessica Campbell likes the convience she will get from DeliverLean. “A company like this could not only give me time back but prepare dishes that I’m not familiar with,” she said.

For WSVN-7 sportscaster Donovan Campbell who often works irregular hours, convenience is also key.

“You just never know when your next assignment is going to be and you never know when your next meal is going to be,” he said. “It’s good to have these meals already prepared and you just grab the bag and go.

“At $8 or less a meal, you can’t beat that.”


May 04, 2014

Business Plan Challenge announces finalists; Vote today in People's Pick

Today we unveil the top six finishers in all three tracks of the 16th Annual Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, and you get to vote for your favorite plans in the Community and FIU Tracks. The People’s Pick competition, now in its eighth year as part of the Challenge, is open for voting.

With just a couple of days’ notice, the contenders presented their elevator pitches under the hot lights of the Miami Herald and FIU studios earlier this month.

To vote for your favorite contestants, here’s what to do:

Click on the “vote” button on MiamiHerald.com/Challenge (top left) to bring up the voting page or click here. View any of the short videos of the finalists’ elevator pitches. The six selections in the FIU Track follow the Community Track.

Then scroll down to the bottom of the page to cast your ballot, voting for one video in each track. You may vote once per day.

Lastly, get out the vote! Give your favorite entrepreneurial team more support by asking your social networks to vote. In previous contests, we've had votes from all over the world. Follow along on Twitter with #mhchallenge.

Voting closes at 11:59 p.m. May 11. The teams with the most votes in each track will be awarded the People’s Pick and honored in the May 19 Business Monday section along with the judges’ selections. Go here to vote.

Today, we are also naming the finalists in the High School Track. The 2014 finalists in all three tracks are:


AthleticSelect, by Travis Smith and Eric Dooling, connects aspiring athletes and their parents with experienced private coaches in their area and offers tools to help coaches market and monetize their business.

Feel Good’s, by Steve Capellini and Patricia Woodson, provides the spa experience in a novel manner and unique environment, focusing on community involvement and technological integration.

Fitting Room Social, by Brad Liff, is more than a consumer fashion app, it’s a full-service e-commerce platform designed to help women answer the question, “Will this fit me?”

Miami Exchange, by Catherine Penrod and Audrey Nelligan, is a contact center business for small businesses, with a keen focus on healthcare service providers.

Munchkin Fun, by Valerie Schimel, Molly Blanco and Aleesa Adams, functions like a Ticketmaster for kids’ classes and camps, giving parents a single place to find and book children’s programs.

Snapscore, by Ryan Del Rosal, Newt Porter and Taylor Auerbach, measures individuals’ qualifications and provides meaningful insights to accelerate their careers. Similar to a credit score, Snapscore is a baseline of their current professional merit.


Groove Caddy, by Jose Espin, Carlos Martell and Mike Lowell, introduces a product that revolutionizes the way people clean their golf clubs, particularly in the grooves.

Kloset Karma, by Paula Celestino and Christopher Rivera, is a fashion exchange marketplace mobile app that allows users to affordably update wardrobes by finding new or almost-new clothing within their communities and to pay using a controlled point currency system.

Moonlighter, by Daisy Nodal and Tom Pupo, is a tech cafe and lounge that allows local designers, entrepreneurs and the public to co-create, prototype and retail new products.

Recall Safe, by Steven Rojas Tallon, is focused on alerting consumers directly of recalls and safety warnings, seeking to change the entire process and help avoid preventable injuries or deaths.

Summer Camp Live, by Vicky di Colloredo-Mels, Carlo di Colloredo-Mels, Felipe Ospina and Juan Pablo Villegas, is a new way for summer camp owners to promote their services and to cost effectively communicate with camp seekers worldwide.

XDG Technologies, by Carlos Hondal and Dr. Juan Roig, has developed a proprietary hand-held medical device for the treatment of a genetic medical condition called polydactyly (extra fingers or toes) and the removal of skin tags.


Amplify, by Adam Chiavacci, Daniel Stein and Jack Davis of Ransom Everglades, would link up to six phones together so the host smartphone playing music can utilize all the other phones’ speakers as though it were its own.

Chinese Picture Dictionary, by Dante Bolzan, Adam Moreno-Mendelson and Ethan Arteaga of Ransom Everglades, is an app called Xue Wen, the Chinese word for knowledge, that provides a Chinese/Chinese-English dictionary with photo recognition software.

FoodNection, by Gavin Sitkoff-Vuong and Sabrina Ibarra of Ransom Everglades, will connect chefs, restaurants and passionate foodies through a Web platform and app.

Maestro Rhythm, by Annabel Chyung of Ransom Everglades, is a game app that will help both beginner and advanced musicians triumph over their frustrations with rhythm.

MoodPoint, by Catherine Lindsay of Ransom Everglades, is an iPhone app that detects and offers basic relief for all forms of mental illness, including depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety.

Word Avenger, by Gerlannda Asse, Evanson Telisme, Franceline Pierre-Louis and Frantz Senat of Miami Edison, is a fun mobile app game created to help improve vocabulary and word knowledge.