By Nancy Dahlberg / firstname.lastname@example.org
This year’s entries in the 17th annual Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge include concepts for fashion, art, restaurants, maker spaces, social gaming, healthcare, real estate and logistics. There are plans to educate our kids, help us eat better and live socially conscious lives. And for every time you said “where’s my waiter?” there is a plan for that, too.
So who will win the 2015 Challenge? Thirty young businesses and business ideas are still in the running.
Having the right ingredients to win over our judges isn’t easy: They were looking at the viability of the business model, the team, marketing strategy, financial projections and more. A good idea alone won’t get you very far: Our judges were looking for a strong plan for execution.
To be sure, our three panels of judges — serial entrepreneurs, investors, academics and executives — had their work cut out for them. The Business Plan Challenge, sponsored by FIU’s Pino Global Entrerpreneurship Center, drew a record 248 qualified entries. The Community Track drew more than 100 entries, presenting a mix of businesses representative of South Florida’s diversity. Veteran judges said the overall quality of the entries was higher than previous years.
Competition in the High School Track, co-sponsored by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship in South Florida, was especially fierce with a record 111 entries. Half of those entries were from two schools, Ransom Everglades and Gulliver Prep, and classes taught by three teachers, Jennifer Nero of Ransom and Kamal James and Daniela Brenha of Gulliver.
For all 248 of you who entered, congratulations! You now have a strong start on your business plan — your road map to growing your business. Even if you didn’t make the list this time, we know you will carry on; please let us know how you do.
This week we announce our semifinalists. Next week we will unveil our top six in two tracks, and they will also be part of the video competition. The winners, finalists and semifinalists in all three tracks will be included in a special section April 27. Here, in alphabetical order are the semifinalists:
Accidental Archivist, by Stephanie Norman. Got photos? This is a free platform full of training and tips from industry leaders, a wide array of products and services and a community of all ages who share tips, rate products and connect with one another.
Art Preservation Index, by Emily MacDonald-Korth. The Art Preservation Index, or APIx, is a stability rating system for fine art, based on its patent-pending rating algorithm, comprehensive database of art material information, and proprietary mobile art evaluation software.
Coastal Risk Consulting, by Albert Slap. A comprehensive online service called the “Coastal Risk Rapid Assessment” provides a property’s future flood risk, changing the conversation around climate change.
Creating Revolutions, by Einer Rosenberg. To help restaurants and retailers capture the billions in sales lost each year due to poor customer service, CR has developed a patented simple-to-use technology called NFC Paging. First product: NFC Service Pager.
cTHRU Nutrition, by Lisa Dorfman and Adeel Murtaza. A feature-rich shopping application aims to ensure that families and consumers worldwide have a handy, fast, easy-to-use personalized tool to help them select the healthiest groceries and restaurant meals.
EarthWare, by Michael Caballero and Pandwe Gibson. Moving beyond old wasteful practices, EarthWare creates utensils, tableware and containers made from natural and recycled materials that are biodegradable and compostable.
Educrate, by Jacqueline Basallo and Patricia Ortega. This is a subscription e-commerce platform of educational and office supply products for teachers nationwide. Educrate brings teachers the tools to create, inspire and teach outside the box.
Grasp Learning, by Gary and Valerie Berman. Reinventing the K-8 after-school tutoring and academic support experience, Grasp empowers “edu-preneurial” teachers to supplement their income by operating their own micro-learning centers within nonprofits and community centers.
Juana la Iguana, by Tania Gilinski and Amanda Quijano. This learning and entertainment platform will help parents transmit to their kids their values, culture, music and Spanish vocabulary. It looks to launch 20 applications in the next four years.
Stow Simple, by Silvia Camps and Jorge Camps. With the click of a button, Stow Simple will pick up, safely store and return your belongings, with prices comparable to traditional self-storage. The initial target market will be city high-rise dwellers.
The HighBoy, by Douglas Scott and Olga Granda-Scott. Leveraging deep industry experience of its founders, The HighBoy delivers a streamlined method for sourcing and purchasing exceptional antiques, fine art and other historic design items online.
UX Gofer, by Jacqueline Stetson Pastore. Built by UX pros, this app makes usability testing easier, faster and more accessible. It streamlines the workflow of senior practitioners and guides the newbie on how to set up a study, capture data and do analysis.
Court Buddy, by James Jones Jr. and Kristina Jones. Founded by an attorney, this online legal matchmaking system connects people and businesses with affordable attorneys based on their budgets; it gives people, regardless of background or financial situation, access to a legal system.
FlowKPI, by Rodolfo Navarro, Luis Caro, Ernesto Ruiz and Giancarlo Zarrillo. This provider of business software wants to redefine the tools businesses rely on to accomplish their goals and achieve their real potential. It plans to develop software-as-a-service solutions for different industries.
Relentless Roasters, by Daniel Choiseul Paguaga and Andre Villarreal. A collaborative workspace and specialty coffee café on the FIU campus would serve as a retail location, roasting facility and educational center focused on entrepreneurship and School of Hospitality-connected activities.
Room2Care.com, by Todd Florin and Richard Ashenoff. Leveraging the power of the sharing economy, this end-to-end platform is designed to connect those who need long-term care with those who can provide care in the local community.
Senzu Foods, by Ricardo Delgado, Nicolexander Garza and Valerie Yoda. This company’s goal is to provide a sustainable solution to food security, public health and environmental concerns by becoming a leading producer and distributor of insect-based food products.
Wuelto, by Gerson Gomez and Alejandro Gomez. This global social e-commerce platform provides users with a going-to-a-mall experience by allowing people to share items with friends while also being able to ask questions and interact with the stores.
High School Track
2 Charge, by David Herrera, Gustavo Ciobataru and Lain Huguet, Gulliver Prep. The 2 Charge Power Card will transfer battery from one phone to another and charge two phones at once, all in one product no bigger than a credit card.
All Pro Sports Highlights, by Emmanuel Cineus, Miami Edison Sr. High. This service business would create customized, personalized mobile apps for athletes, showing highlights and stats and becoming a marketing tool to show to college recruiters.
Find My Dog, by Lucas Lowenstein, Tatiana Ramirez and Sophia Esquenazi, Gulliver. A GPS tracking dog collar would track a dog through a detailed map using the Find My Dog app or website. The collar would also include a fitness monitor and a camera at an extra cost.
Food Pages, by Noah Rolnick and Yoav Grainer, Miami Palmetto Sr. High and Ransom Everglades. An iOS app that would allow users to research food products rated by people like them while earning rewards for their ratings.
Magistrae, by Alain Carles, Ransom Everglades. A smartphone application aims to consolidate and catalog lists of academic tutors, art instructors and sports coaches all in one place, with user profiles, a calendar, ratings and reviews.
Mood4Food, by Alex Levine, Jillian Hersman and Kayla Sharp, Gulliver. A mobile food-ordering company would connect consumers and corporate businesses with thousands of restaurants in South Florida. A portion of the profits would go to charity.
MyScholarship, by Wesley Villano and Eduardo Garcia-Montes, Ransom Everglades. This app would match you to university aid packages and scholarships, with tips on the process and a rating of universities based on affordability.
ROBA, by Gabriela Telepman and Madeleine Granados, Gulliver. This website would act as an outlet to buy fashions worn by popular figures. By clicking on a photo in an article, the customer will be taken to online stores where they can buy that item or one like it.
Savvy Seniors, by Sophie Leon, Ransom Everglades. To help navigate the college application process, Savvy Seniors notifies students and parents about important dates and deadlines.
SOSpeech, by Valentina Barragan and Michelle Palm, St. Thomas Aquinas. This app would perfect the eloquence of your words in presentations, interviews and conversations; it’s targeted at students as well as adults.
Teenography.com, by Katelyn Barclay, University School. This operating teen-owned photography business offers services of talented and ambitious teen photographers at affordable prices.
USA Veteran Transportation, by Alexander Futernick, Ransom Everglades. USAVT strives to be the safest and most reliable transportation service to companies across America while combating nationwide veteran unemployment.
Find more information about the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge at MiamiHerald.com/challenge. Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.