April 21, 2015

Enstitute apprenticeship program launching in Miami this week

Enstitute, a national non-profit apprenticeship program, will launch its Miami Hub this week.

In conjunction with the launch, Enstitute is bringing in a dozen investors and entrepreneurs from around the country to explore the Miami startup ecosystem and meet with local founders and investors.

Visiting venture capitalists mainly from New York, San Francisco and Washington will spend 36 hours “founder dating” with about 30 Miami startups, touring local co-working spaces and communities such as Wynwood, Buro Midtown and The Idea Center, and have meetings with the Miami DDA, Knight Foundation, Venture Hive and other key Miami organizations, said Kane Sarhan, co-founder of Enstitute.

Investors include Nic Poulous of Bowery Capital, Scott Laughlin of LAO Ventures, Greg Rosen of BoxGroup, Patrick Murphy of Universal Music Group, Julia Taxin of GroTech, Megan Hannum of Comcast Ventures, Will Peng of Red Swan Ventures and others.

Enstitute is also hosting a launch event to introduce its program at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Venture Hive. More info: http://enstitutemiami.splashthat.com.

To equip millennials with relevant skills for 21st century careers, Enstitute provides participants with one-year, paid, full-time apprenticeships at high-growth startups, small businesses and corporations. Through Knight Foundation funding, Miami became the organization’s third hub; the others are in New York and Washington.


April 16, 2015

UM team wins Knight funding to create entrepreneurial hubs in underserved neighborhoods

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

The University of Miami School of Architecture will  bring entrepreneurial spaces -- including incubators for startups, marketplaces and training centers -- into two underserved Miami area neighborhoods. Its project was funded with $650,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The so-called Third Place Project will create hubs that provide resources to entrepreneurs, artists and other creatives, nonprofits and civic leaders, while helping transform the neighborhoods. “Third places,” as defined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg, are  informal public gathering places where people from all walks of life come together. 

The UM project is designed to fuel economic integration, said Charles Bohl, associate professor and director of the graduate program in Real Estate Development + Urbanism at the University of Miami School of Architecture and one of the project leaders.

"We have lots of very well to do and lots of poor people and they are clustered far from each other. Other cities have created these neighborhoods where the communities can cross paths; people are more connected and involved,"  said  Bohl, explaining he recently returned from Barcelona, which has 40 public markets that have become vibrant centers of activity.

Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation program director for Miami, said the project will also help ensure a constant diversity of ideas. “The Third Place Project will grow and foster the unique character and qualities of these neighborhoods, bringing the ideas of entrepreneurs, artists and others into the forefront.”

 The metropolitan Miami neighborhoods have not yet been selected, but it could be in areas such as, for example, Allapattah, Little Haiti/Little River or Opa-locka, said Bohl, adding that the School of Architecture has already been working in these long-struggling urban areas for years. The new spaces will build on the art, culture and entrepreneurial energy already present, and a key component is that they will provide training programs to entrepreneurs and nonprofits through the incubators, he added. The two projects will be created over the next two years.

Along with the School of Architecture, the project will also involve UM programs in business and social entrepreneurship, including the Center for Urban and Community Design, the Office of Civic and Community Engagement, and business startup and support programs at the School of Business Administration.

The next step is to identify and secure sites that have the best potential to serve as gathering places. It could be land  or a structure that could be adapted, with indoor and outdoor space. Architecture faculty and students will help adapt existing buildings, or create  “pop-up” structures to house entrepreneurs and vendors. Kiosks could be arranged to create year-round marketplaces  that showcase the mix of art, commerce, food and entertainment and attract new visitors -- while also offering full Internet connectivity and other resources for the businesses.

The Third Place Project is evaluating project sites and is slated to begin work during the 2015-2016 academic year. Over the past 2 1/2 years, Knight has made more than 100 investments in entrepreneurship in South Florida. 

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

Read Knight blog post by Charles Bohl here.


April 11, 2015

Entrepreneurship Datebook: Startup events, workshops in South Florida

Tech eggSPEED COACHING: Samuel Adams, in partnership with Accion, hosts its small business Speed Coaching event, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 14. 10055 NW 12th St., Doral. speedcoachingmiami.eventbrite.com

STARTUP GRIND: Bob Fitts, president of the Gold Coast Venture Capital Association and CEO of Trident Global, is this month’s speaker, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, April 14, Venture Hive, 1010 NE Second Ave., Miami. startupgrind.com/miami

WIT EVENT: eMerge Americas WIT event presents “How to Start Up Your Startup,” featuring Roger Duarte of My Ceviche, Vicky Fulop of DLA Piper and Derrick Ashong of Amp.it, 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Wednesday, April 15, Idea Center at Miami Dade College’s Wolfson campus, Building 8, fifth floor.

OPEN HACK NIGHT @ NSU: Join civic hackers at Code for Fort Lauderdale’s meetup, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 15, Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences, Nova Southeastern University. More info: meetup.com/Code-for-FTL/

D3 CONFERENCE & EXPO: D3 (Digital Design Den) focuses on developing creative talent and improving skill, and is presented by The Idea Center at Miami Dade College and The School of Design and Entertainment Technology in collaboration with New World School of the Arts, Thursday, April 16,  at North Campus and Friday, April 17, at the Wolfson Campus Idea Center. Free but RSVP required. More info: www.theideacenter.co/D3expo

FEDERAL CONTRACTING 101: SCORE Miami-Dade presents a workshop on doing business without pay, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, April 16, Ponce Business Center, 2000 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Suite 569, Coral Gables. Fee applies. Register here.


Keep up with startup news, coming events and community views on the Starting Gate blog on MiamiHerald.com/business.

Nancy Dahlberg @ndahlberg

April 08, 2015

Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream’s Speed Coaching event returns

Samuel Adams, in partnership with Accion, is returning to Miami to host its signature small business Speed Coaching event on Tuesday, April 14. Designed to provide business advice, the event is part of Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream, a micro-lending and coaching program for small business owners working in food and beverage including craft brewing.

During the Speed Coaching, entrepreneurs have the opportunity to participate in up to six 20-minute, one-on-one sessions. Coaches will include Samuel Adams professionals, and topics covered will range from sales, distribution and packaging to finance, e-commerce, and marketing.

Participants are encouraged to bring samples of product and packaging that they want feedback on, and should also come prepared with questions regarding specific challenges their businesses are facing. For example, a small business owner may want to ask a finance professional for advice on how to competitively price his/her product.

WHEN: Tuesday, April 14, 2015, 6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. EDT

WHERE: Gold Coast Beverage Distributors, 10055 Northwest 12th Street, Doral, Florida 33172

HOW: Entrepreneurs interested in participating in the free Speed Coaching should register at http://speedcoachingmiami.eventbrite.com

April 06, 2015

News: Pipeline Workspaces announces minority investor

Pipeline 3

Pipeline Workspaces, a fast-growing shared workspace concept that started in Miami and is expanding nationally, announced Monday that it has sold a minority stake valuing the company at about $15 million.

The investment comes from Gordon G. Pratt, founder and CEO of Fund Management Group (FMG), a private holding and investment company. Pratt has been a member of Pipeline Brickell, the company’s original location, for two years.  FMG became a limited partner in Pipeline’s second shared workspace located in Philadelphia and followed up with the minority investment in the Pipeline Workspaces general partner.

Todd Oretsky headshot“Gordon tested our business platform first-hand as a member and experienced how the concept we offer and our management team is different from other co-working spaces in the US today,” said Todd Oretsky, co-founder of Pipeline Workspaces, in a news release.

In 2 1/2 years, Pipeline has opened collaborative workspaces in Miami’s Brickell Financial District and Philadelphia’s Center City. A third location is under construction in Coral Gables and should open in the first half of this year. In the planning phase is a co-working and co-warehousing space in Little River area for artists and small business owners.

Philippe Houdard - headshot 2Pipeline is also exploring expansion in Atlanta, Charlotte, Denver and Dallas, as well as other locations in South Florida.

 “Across our current locations, we already are seeing members take advantage of the opportunity to work out of multiple offices and network in new cities, which makes expansion of their businesses into new markets much more seamless,” said Philippe Houdard, co-founder of Pipeline Workspaces. “Imagine having a network with one degree of separation from many industries in multiple cities.”

That is what the Pipeline team is building.

March 18, 2015

SBA accepting applications this week for next Emerging Leaders program

Seventeen Miami-Dade small business owners and principals ready to grow their businesses will be chosen for the Small Business Administration’s free Emerging Leaders Program. Applications are now being accepted for the next class that will give selected small businesses a tailored three-year strategic growth plan to help bring their business to the next level.

Owners interested in the program should be the owner or principal in the small business that has annual revenues of at least $400,000, been in business for at least 3 years, and has at least one employee other than the owner. The participant must be dedicated to attend 13 evening training sessions and complete required homework.

The curriculum called the StreetWise Steps to Small Business Growth, is comprised of five modules: Business and Strategy Assessment; Financials; Marketing and Sales; Resources (People, Accessing Capital and Government Contracting); and Strategic Growth Plan Presentations.

The deadline to apply for the next class is March 20. Register here: www.interise.org/sbaemergingleaders.

March 05, 2015

Kabaccha of Miami kicks up crowd-funding record with colorful men's shoes


Kabeer Arora is the designer and owner of Kabaccha Shoes in Miami. He holds an Italian-made grey and red loafer, one of the styles currently offered on his highly successful Kickstarter campaign. PETER ANDREW BOSCH MIAMI HERALD STAFF

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Tired of men’s shoes in boring brown, Kabeer Arora set out to create soles with soul.

Arora’s father and grandfather were shoemakers, and he grew up in their factories in India. To carry on the family tradition — but with a modern twist — he designed and created a line of men’s dress shoes that go well beyond the basic brown and black. His Kabaccha Italian leather wingtips and loafers come in colors like light gray, blue and green. Even the more classic brown and black styles carry a Kabaccha signature throughout the line: colorful soles, including red, light blue and purple.

After his training in the trenches, Arora, 27, studied footwear design in London and Milan. In 2007, he moved to Miami and about a year ago began creating his line. Fast forward to now, and his small Miami office (and makeshift photo studio) is awash in Italian-made sample shoes of various color combinations — styles he hopes will retail for $200 to $250 a pair. “Why don’t men have colorful shoes?” he asked, holding up a royal blue pair of loafers. “These complete the look.”

Ready, set, go to market? Like thousands of entrepreneurs with products, Arora turned to Kickstarter, the most-popular crowd-funding platform hosting donation campaigns, to fund his first production run. But Arora has done what 61 percent of Kickstarter crowdfunding campaigns do not: Reach goal. And he did it in one day.

Arora originally set out to raise $25,000, the minimum amount he says he needed to reserve a manufacturer. With Kickstarter.com campaigns, the projects need to make their goals in order to obtain funds. No problem there. He's already attracted more than 10 times that. His campaign’s total late Thursday afternoon: about $270,000 from more than 1,000 backers -- with  a week still to go. That’s a Kickstarter record for shoes.

Donations at various price levels entitle backers to shoes of their choice. For early birds, $150 got them a pair of their choice, now it is $180. He’s got eight backers at $1,350 or more, entitling them to nine pairs of shoes.

Arora’s secret to crowd-funding success: “Start with a disruptive product, something very different than what is out there.” It also helps that his product is very visual, and judging by the 200+ comments on the campaign page, people are very passionate about their footwear.

ShoesAnother tip: Do lots of pre-campaign research. Before launching the campaign, Arora reached out to founders of other Kickstarter success stories for advice and read academic research on crowd-funding strategies. In choosing the 18 original shoes he wanted to feature on Kickstarter (he has since added a few more), he tested his prototype shoes out on Instagram, posting one pair at a time, and seeing what got the most “likes” (the gray suede wingtip with the red sole is a crowd favorite).

Once the Kabaccha campaign kicked off Feb. 2, Arora was responding to questions and comments from his funders and fans 24/7, taking cat naps on the couch in his studio. It helped, too, that his campaign was deemed a “Kickstarter Staff Pick” early on.

But would people wonder if the shoes are as nice in real life as they look in the photos and video? And are the lightweight shoes really comfortable? Early on in the campaign, Arora asked some of his local backers to come in and try on the shoes, and their testimonials are now featured on the campaign page. Arora also has been keeping it fresh with new offers. At certain funding levels, new styles or color combinations were “unlocked” and this week he says he will give each backer a pair of colorful laces, their choice of color.

As soon as the campaign ends March 14th, Arora says he will be on the first plane to Italy, where he will be overseeing production, 1,500 pairs of shoes and counting. While he won’t make money on the Kickstarter production run, he says it’s worth it.

“This gives me an initial base of passionate customers — they will be the ones cheering for me,” Arora says. “My strategy is to make my first wave of customers so happy that that will resonate and in the next wave, that’s when I will see results.”

See the Kickstarter campaign here.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.


March 04, 2015

UBS, partners roll out Greater Miami Business Opportunity Fund for small businesses

UBS, together with its small business lending partners, explained its new Greater Miami Business Opportunity Fund on Wednesday and met with small businesses interested in applying during a morning Elevating Entrepreneurs event in downtown Miami.

Funded with $5 million from UBS, the Greater Miami Business Opportunity Fund was announced in December. No loans have been made yet, but there are loans in the pipeline and the fund will be revolving, meaning more loans will be generated as loans are paid back, said Megan Mitchell, program manager of UBS’s Elevating Entrepreneurs. The loan process is administered by the national nonprofit VEDC, which has assisted more than 103,000 businesses, and Tampa-based Neighborhood Lending Partners.

The fund provides loans of $50,000 to $500,000 to existing qualifying businesses, growing companies of 1 to 200 employees and revenues up to $10 million. The business must operate in a low and moderate income community or 75 percent of its jobs must be for low to moderate income residents. The market interest rate in the program currently is 8.25 percent. For more information on the loan program, go to www.vedc.org or email apollan-sanchez@gmbof.org.

At the event, small businesses also heard about alternative financing programs, such as Accion for loans up to $50,000 and Liquid Capital for accounts receivables financing services. Frank Velasco of the U.S. Small Business Administration South Florida District was also on hand to talk about the services of the SBA and Florida Small Business Development Centers, which are full-service shops offering free help with incorporation, licensing, leasing and business planning, he said. The newest center opened recently at Florida International University. Small businesses not ready for VEDC financing were encouraged to look into Accion. “It’s not just about getting the money into your hands, its about the advice they offer – it’s an incredible resource,” Velasco said.

More Elevating Entrepreneurs educational events are in the plans, Mitchell said. UBS also offers these funding programs in Los Angeles, Chicago, the New York area and Nevada.

February 16, 2015

Startup Spotlight: Titan Paddles

Fl titan paddles dania21b


Headquarters: 236 N. Federal Hwy., Dania Beach.

Concept: Titan Paddles was created to fill a void for quality paddles in the stand-up paddleboard market. Handcrafted in America, Titan delivers a strong, durable, yet lightweight paddle for paddleboarding enthusiasts.

Story: In 2010, Toby Grimes and Carlos Menendez set out to build a stand-up paddleboard like no other in the market. They jointly developed and patented a radically new board, which they named “Recon.” Specifically, the Recon board offers features and functionalities never before offered, such as a built-in stereo system, all-around illumination at flotation line, three waterproof storage compartments, the ability to haul cargo and a detachable fishing rod holder among other features. However, Recon requires a reasonable investment, and this project is on hold pending financing, Menendez said.

Yet, a great board requires a great paddle, the inventors reasoned, so in 2011 Titan Paddles started operations with that purpose in mind. The handcrafted paddles, which sell for $195 to $295, are sold in the United States, Caribbean and Canada, and the current generation of paddles carries a three-year guarantee, the best in the market, Menendez said.

About a third of Titan’s diverse team are military veterans. “Titan Paddles is living proof of what Americans can achieve when they work together as people regardless of descent, race, religious beliefs and/or political views — and we are very proud of it,” Menendez said.

The founders hope to manufacture the Recon someday, but for now they are busy manufacturing and selling their paddles, offered in two sizes, 10 colors and an array of designs, from their manufacturing facilities in Dania Beach. They recently received national attention when Titan Paddles was selected as one of 20 businesses nationwide in a Chase grant program that attracted 25,000 applicants. The company received $150,000, which will be used for marketing and sales, as well as for expanding manufacturing.

Launched: August 2011.

Management team: Co-owners Carlos Menendez, Toby Grimes and Sean Collins.

No. of employees: 12.

Website: www.titanpaddles.com

Financing: Recently received a $150,000 Chase grant; co-owners have provided all other funding to date.

Recent milestones reached: Moved manufacturing facilities to Dania Beach; signed Tom Jones, who has set two world records for distance stand-up paddleboarding, to use Titan Paddles exclusively; introduced its Graphic Paddles line; received JPMorgan Chase Mission Main Street Grant of $150,000. At Surf Expo, selected for inclusion in Boarders’ “Best of Surf Expo” video.

Biggest startup challenge: Overcoming the technical and manufacturing challenges in order to develop a quality product with limited financial resources.

Next steps: To flawlessly fulfill customers’ demands and expectations, and manage growth effectively in all operational areas. Looking into co-branding with retailers and evaluating other opportunities.

Nancy Dahlberg

Posted Feb. 16, 2015

February 13, 2015

Crowdfunding Friday: Have these coffee lovers built a better grinder?


Wake up and smell the coffee. If your coffee grinder is producing inconsistent grounds, it doesn’t matter how good your coffee maker is -- your morning jolt will be substandard, say the owners of a small Miami based coffee and kitchen products company called Kuissential.

The good news, these coffee lovers say, is you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on a grinder like coffee shops use to get the right grounds for that perfect cup of coffee.

 “Our product is it is an improved coffee grinder design that is a lot more accurate than other grinders in the same price range. Because it is more accurate, our EvenGrind gives you much better tasting coffee,” said Alex Cacciamani, who cofounded the company with Andres Fernandez in 2011.

The co-founders say their Kuissential EvenGrind,  a manual grinder that  will sell for under $40,  is an excellent option for home grinding because it uses a patent-pending system to deliver a very even grind size, something not found with current affordable grinders, while being a fraction of the price of expensive commercial grinders usually found in coffee shops.

 Kuissential is appealing to the coffee fans on Kickstarter to move this project from prototype to  production.

“We are trying to raise our goal of $30,000 to help pay for the mold setup, patent fees and initial minimum production size. Being a small business, we need all the help we can get,” the co-founders said on their campaign page.

With 19 days to go, they are more than halfway to goal, and the EvenGrinder, which has multiple settings, was chosen as a "KickStarter Staff Pick." The Kuissential team has raised more than $16,000 from 415 backers so far, even though  another grinder launched at the same time. The team won't receive any of the funds unless the goal is reached, however.

At the $30 donation level, funders will receive an EvenGrind. You can see the campaign here.

Posted Feb. 13, 2015