April 07, 2016

Study: South Florida a hotspot for women-owned firms -- but they're small

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Florida ranked No. 1 in the nation for the growth of women-owned businesses, according to a new report. The Miami metropolitan area led the state in growth as well, and the Miami area ranked No. 3 in the nation for the number of women-owned firms. Yet, the vast majority of these businesses have no employees.

The 2016 State of Women-Owned Businesses report, commissioned by American Express OPEN, found that Florida has an estimated 971,000 women-owned firms, employing 500,000. Florida is the fast-growing state in the growth of the number of firms (67.1 percent growth) over the past nine years and No. 31 for its 25.2 percent in growth of firm revenue between 2007 and 2016, the study found.

Nearly half the state’s total of women-owned businesses are in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale metro area, according to the report. In 2016, an estimated 453,100 firms employed 184,100 people, suggesting that the vast majority of these firms are one-women companies or employ solely contractors. In recent years, a number of small business and entrepreneurial organizations, including the Small Business Administration and Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, have launched programs in South Florida to help these businesses grow. Most recently, WIN Lab, an accelerator for women-owned businesses expanding to Miami, cited this trend of South Florida’s women-owned businesses tending to stay very small . Still, the Miami area led the state with a 97 percent growth rate of women-owned companies between 2007 and 2016.

Nationally, the number of women-owned firms increased by 42 percent to 11.3 million enterprises, compared to just a 9 percent increase among all businesses since 2007. These businesses employ nearly 9 million people and are generating $1.6 trillion in revenue. Over the past nine years, the number of women-owned firms has grown at a rate five times faster than the national average.

"We are pleased to see the continued rise of the vital role that women-owned businesses play in our country’s post-recession recovery," said Susan Sobbott, president of American Express Global Commercial Payments. “We are inspired by these women who are continuing to pursue their entrepreneurial passions, and are strengthening our communities and economy even further.”

Among women-owned firms nationally, one of the fastest-growing sectors are businesses owned by women of color. Over the past nine years, the number of firms owned by women of color increased by 126 percent. In addition, the nearly five million businesses owned by women of color make up almost half of all women-owned firms. When comparing the growth in the number of firms owned by women of color with women-owned firms overall, nearly eight in 10 of the net new women-owned firms were started by a woman of color since 2007, the report found.

The sixth annual report is based on historical and current U.S. Census Bureau and Gross Domestic Product data. Read the full report here.

March 29, 2016

Meet Nelly Farra, new leader of WIN Lab set to launch in Miami

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Wanted: South Florida women “with the fire to make it happen.”

Nelly farraThat’s Nelly Farra’s message. She’s the new director of the WIN Lab, a Miami accelerator for women entrepreneurs launching on Thursday. With the launch, the program plans to begin taking applications for its first cohort of 20 selected female founders that will start this fall.

The eight-month entrepreneurship program was the brainchild of Babson College, consistently ranked tops in the nation for entrepreneurship education, and its Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership. Its Miami expansion, funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, will be modeled after Babson’s successful program in Boston.

The WIN (Women Innovating Now) Lab is looking for outstanding early-stage founders — so-called WINners — from South Florida.

 “We are industry-agnostic and age-agnostic. We are looking for women who might have come out of wonderful corporate jobs and now are starting their own businesses as well as individuals earlier on in their careers who have that idea and are going for it,” Farra said.

Farra, born and raised in South Florida, most recently led business development for the Morrison, Brown, Argiz & Farra (MBAF) accounting firm, where she expanded the firm’s reach into the entrepreneurial ecosystem through its work with Endeavor. Before joining MBAF, Farra partnered on the launch of a green-gym concept in the Los Angeles area and also pioneered wellness professional talent management in South Florida. Farra is a graduate of the University of Miami and received her MBA from Babson College in 2010, where she was also co-chair of the Babson Entrepreneurship Forum.

“Our secret sauce is a developing community of women eager to build the next big idea,” said Farra, noting that just 15 percent of venture accelerator participants are women. That low level of diversity also pervades venture capital, the tech industry, CEO ranks and boards. To help build a stronger pipeline, Farra said: “We use near-peer role modeling so we have women who have been there and done that. We’ll have 20 female mentors matched up with the founders. We will also have entrepreneurs, executives and investors in residence.” Johanna Mikkola, co-founder of Wyncode Academy, will be an entrepreneur-in-residence, and others will be announced soon. The program will be free, and WINners will also get co-working space.

The program will meet one evening a week. It will begin with a two-day retreat for self exploration, idea investigation, inspiration and community building, Farra said. Then the WINners will get help in every step of launching and growing a business, including building a team, customer acquisition, capital raising and scaling.

The program is more spread out than a traditional three-month accelerator, so women may find it easier to work into their lives while their build their startups. They could also be students.

In Boston the WIN Lab has attracted founders such as Emily Levy and Maria Del Mar Gomes of PICCPerfect, maker of functional and fashionable medical dressings for chronic illness patients treated with PICC lines. Francine Gervazio of Cargo 42 created a platform where customers can post their shipping needs and shippers can make an offer to carry their cargo. Bernette Dawson launched Made Organics, a line of handcrafted personal-care products.

“We will expect a lot from our founders — an eight-month commitment — but we provide a lot in return,” Farra said.

The program embodies entrepreneurial thought and action — part of Babson’s methodology — to balance action, experimentation and creativity to create economic and social value. “That is what we are all about,” Farra said. “The concept is to take iterative steps to prove your model. That’s how I embody it: Everything I do is to go out and get it done.”

The deadline for applications will be May 2. For more information about the WIN Lab, go to www.babson.edu/WINLab and learn more about the program at the launch event on Thursday. (See accompanying box).

WIN Lab Miami Launch

When: 6-8 p.m. Thursday

Where: The Light Box, 404 NW 26th St., Miami

Speakers: Mary Biggins of ClassPass and MealPass; Julia Ford-Carther of Bammies; Jessica Do of PalmPress; Isabella Acker of Culture; Johanna Mikkola of Wyncode Academy

Cost: Free, but registration is required on Eventbrite.

For more information about WIN Lab: www.babson.edu/WINLab

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

Read more: Babson's Women Innovating Now Lab to launch in Miami

Read more: Numbers don't lie: Silicon Valley still has a diversity problem

 

March 17, 2016

Flat Out of Heels founder wins 2nd place in national contest

 

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

DawnMiami Beach entrepreneur Dawn Dickson took home second place Tuesday in the 2016 InnovateHER: Innovating for Women Business Challenge, the Small Business Administration’s nationwide business competition to highlight innovative products and services created and launched by cutting-edge entrepreneurs. Dickson won $20,000.

Dickson’s company designs and sells rollable ballet flats that can easily fit in a purse — a convenient way for women to relieve stiletto sore feet on the go. She has partnered with Loren Ridinger of Market America on an exclusive collection, and has won a number of contests, including a national pitch competition by PowerMoves last year.

Other winners in the InnovateHER contest were Elizabeth Caven from Upcraft Club in Des Moines, Iowa, winning $40,000 and first place, and Dr. Agnes Scoville from Scoville & Company in St. Louis, Mo., taking third place and winning $10,000.

In making the announcement, SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet said: “SBA created this challenge to empower women in the face of ongoing gender inequities in the technology and investment sectors. Women venture capital partners are stuck below 10 percent. The amount of venture capital funding that goes to women entrepreneurs is even lower — only about 4 percent. On behalf of SBA, I congratulate all of our winners and contestants. Their incredible talent is proof that America’s small businesses and entrepreneurs are launching and growing businesses that not only disrupt the status quo but have the power to improve countless lives.”

The InnovateHER Business Challenge began in August 2015 and drew nearly 2,000 competitors, who competed first in regional competitions around the country. The contest culminating in Tuesday’s live pitch competition involving 10 finalists in Washington, D.C.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter

February 26, 2016

Coming up: Small Business Expo, with Shark Tank casting call

Who: Small business owners and executives

What: Small Business Expo         

Where:  Miami Beach Convention Center

When: March 3, 2016 9:30 am5 pm

Why:

The day-long conference and trade show brings together industry thought leaders and experts in a hands-on environment that features more than 20+ FREE business critical workshops and programs along with 100+ interactive booths, demos and brand exhibits. Headlining the event is Bill Walsh, Founder and CEO of Powerteam International with his presentation “The 7 Keys to Build a Mega-Successful Business” on the Inspiration 2020 Showcase Theater stage.  Additionally, AT&T Business Circle SMB expert James Hilliard will be hosting a workshop “Video 101: Tips for Small Business.” Video is becoming the preferred medium for customers to connect with companies. How can a small business leverage video to capitalize on its popularity? Video host and producer James Hilliard will share insights and tips that will help you start creating your video content library, without breaking the bank.  In 2002, James began producing and hosting online videos for CNET Networks. From that experience, Hilly Productions was born, and since then, companies of all sizes, from all industries, have come to rely on James to deliver compelling videos that their audiences deserve.

Start-ups and business owners can take advantage of free admission and educational workshops covering online/social media marketing, employee benefit plans, credit and financing, strategies for increasing revenue and team productivity, mentoring, cloud technologies, retirement plans, and more. Shark Tank's casting team will be on hand to hear potential pitches for the show.

 

February 15, 2016

Spotlight: Boca Raton-based Fresh Meal Plan has appetite for high growth

FreshMealPlan

Company Name: Fresh Meal Plan

Headquarters: Boca Raton; commissary opened in Edison, New Jersey, to serve customers along Northeast corridor.

Business: Gourmet “farm to table” portion controlled meals that are prepared and delivered to your doorstep for healthy lifestyle eaters on the go. Fresh Meal Plan’s mission is to help members enhance and sustain a more wholesome existence through fresh, healthy prepared meals delivered to their doors.

Story: Founder Marc Elkman’s passion for the nutritional aspect of health and fitness initially began when he started in the personal training industry. In addition to guiding people in enhancing their quality of life through exercise, he would also give his clients healthy and low- calorie recipe ideas. “I found that for my clients that it was too much work to make these meals that would lead a healthy lifestyle. Though there are other companies that provide prepared meals delivered to your doorstep, the product is usually frozen and full of preservatives.”

Fresh Meal Plan also is riding a strong trend: “We found that consumers are learning more about ingredients and health every year, and there is a rise of demand for a higher quality product,” Elkman said.

With many people now consuming four to six smaller meals a day, Fresh Meal Plan presents its members with the option to consult with a nutritionist and choose from a variety of plans starting at $95 a week to best fit their health goals. Offerings include Paleo, vegetarian and vegan, as well as plans designed specifically for weight loss and high performance athletes. Each meal contains fewer than 500 calories and is never frozen, canned or packaged. Furthermore, no additives or preservatives are used in any of the dishes.

In 2015, Fresh Meal Plan produced more than 2 million meals and projects that it will double this volume this year as it expands throughout the Eastern Seaboard. New markets in 2016 will include Atlanta, Boston, Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia, he said.

Launched: 2011

Management team: Marc Elkman, CEO; Dave Long, National Developer; Patrick Delaney, Corporate Chef; Rob Strandberg, CFO

No. of employees: 275

Website: freshmealplan.com

Financing: Completed Series A financing, seeking private equity or venture capital partner.

Recent milestones reached: Fresh Meal Plan was named the 70th fastest-growing private company in the country, 2nd fastest-growing food & beverage company in the country and third fastest-growing company in Florida on the 2015 Inc. 5000 ranking. To achieve those rankings, Fresh Meal Plan generated nearly $11 million in 2014 revenue and a 4,128 percent three-year revenue growth rate. Revenue has continued to accelerate. Today, Fresh Meal Plan is the nation’s largest “FDD” (Fresh Diet Delivery) service in the country, said Elkman.

Biggest startup challenge: Early on it was building grassroots with minimal startup funding — less than $50,000 to start.

Next steps: “Our goal is to continue scaling and growing across the country, making people healthier one Fresh Meal at a time. Our target markets for 2016 include Atlanta, Boston, Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia,” Elkman said. “To expand the brand across the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S., we plan to continue building our team and sticking to what we’ve done to get here.”

Nancy Dahlberg

February 09, 2016

Sign up for free Business Plan Bootcamp March 7

Melissa Krinzman (2)Join us March 7 for a lively discussion and Q&A with our panel of experts sharing advice on launching your business, formulating a winning short business summary and pitching to investors. Also hear from a couple of previous Business Plan Challenge winners about their entrepreneurial experiences. You don’t have to enter the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge to attend our Bootcamp, but of course we hope you will.

Our discussion will be led by:

Melissa Krinzman, the Managing Partner of Krillion Ventures, a $50 million Miami-based early stage venture capital firm that actively invests in financial services, transportation, logistics, real estate and health startups. Her fund has invested in 17 early-stage companies, nine of which have South Florida roots. She is also a veteran Business Plan Challenge judge.

Mark Kingdon, a three-time tech CEO (Organic, SecondLife and NiftyThrifty) and an investor in two dozen early stage companies. His portfolio includes Twitter, TheRealReal, OfferUp, Refinery20 and three Miami-based companies (EveryPost, Sktchy and HYP3R).

Mark Kingdon (1)This event will be at 6 p.m. March 7 at Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus Auditorium, Room 1261 in Building 1.

The Bootcamp is free but registration is required. When you register, the form will allow you to tell us the questions you would most like our panel to answer. Don’t be shy – this way we can tailor the program as much as possible to our audience. Here is a report on last year’s Bootcamp.

Register here: http://businessplanbootcamp.bpt.me

Questions: ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

February 05, 2016

Daymond John kicks off entrepreneurship contest, but first some Shark Tank advice

Daymond

Photos by Jasen Delgado / www.jasendelgado.com

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com / @ndahlberg

The American Entrepreneurship Award, a new contest for early-stage Miami-Dade entrepreneurs, used some celebrity magic to draw a standing room only audience to its launch event: Daymond John.

Daymond(3)The Shark Tank star entertained and inspired the audience Thursday with his rags to riches story – he started making urban streetwear while working at Red Lobster. He opened FUBU in 1989 and had to close it three times over the next three years because he ran out of capital. But his passion, and FUBU’s many fans, powered him forward: Now it’s a $6 billion enterprise.

Today, of course, John, who is the author of the new book The Power of Broke, has invested in scores of companies through Shark Tank, rolling up his sleeves and working closely with the companies, including South Florida's Three Jerks Jerky and AquaVault. “The Sharks all feel we are a very small part of a very huge [entrepreneurial] movement,” said John, noting that Shark Tank is one of the top shows watched by kids 5-15 and one of the top shows parents watch with kids. “We’re a part of something that will help the next generation.”

John will be a celebrity judge for the AEA award, a new annual contest offered by Libra Group and Miami Dade College’s Idea Center. It’s is open for applications at www.americanaward.com until April 29. The winner receives up to $25,000, as well mentorship and support services. In addition, Miami Dade College students will also be eligible for a separate $2,500 MDC award.

At the American Entrepreneurship Award event, Daymond John shared this advice:

* Successful entrepreneurs take affordable next steps.

* Surround yourself with like-minded friends who won’t let you quit. Seek out mentors from among the successful business people you know.

* Responsibility must be taken, not given (advice from his mom).

* Success is all about tapping into a movement. It’s about the following you create with your own authentic voice. It’s not the money that will get you there (”Money just drives your problems in a limousine”). And it is all about the hustle.

* What separates the rock stars from the rest on Shark Tank? Proof of concept first and foremost, the companies already have proved customers want the product and they have some sales. Second, the founders have failed more times than they have succeeded; they are so excited about what they are doing, they would do it for free the rest of their life if they could. And third, the business must be scalable.

 

 

 

January 26, 2016

Dawn Dickson a finalist for SBA’s InnovateHER Business Challenge

DawndicksonDawn Dickson, founder and CEO of Flat out of Heels, is one of 10 finalists of the 2016 InnovateHER: Innovating for Women Business Challenge, a nationwide business competition on March 17 presented by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Dickson’s Miami Beach-based companies makes and sells rollable ballet flats that can easily fit in a purse -- a convenient way for women to relieve stiletto sore feet on the go.

An executive committee of SBA officials reviewed more than 180 semi-finalist nominations and selected 10 finalists whose products and services best met the competition criteria and presented the greatest potential for success. The semi-finalists were chosen at more than 200 local competitions across the country hosted by universities, accelerators, clusters, scale-up communities, SBA’s resource partners and other local community organizations and involving more than 1,000 entrepreneurs.

These 10 finalists are invited to the National InnovateHER: Innovating for Women Business Challenge during Women’s History Month in Washington, D.C., where they will pitch their businesses to a panel of expert judges for an opportunity to win $70,000 in cash and prizes from Microsoft.

For more details on the competition and the other finalists, visit www.sba.gov/innovateHER.

 

January 17, 2016

What can you expect at WordCamp Feb. 19-21? Get the lowdown

Wordcamp

 

WordCamp Miami is back for another year on Feb. 19-21, with an expanded lineup of content, a Kids’ Workshop and more. Organizer David Bisset gives us the lowdown:

What WordCamps Are: WordCamps (wordcamp.org) are conferences that focuses on everything WordPress, which is open-source software that currently makes up 25% of the top million website of the web. Most weeks out of the year a WordCamp is happening somewhere in the world. From the United States to Europe, to places throughout Asia and Australia.

WordCamp Miami: WordCamp Miami has been an annual event in South Florida for the past 8 years. It’s grown from a 150 person event from its first year to over 770 attendees in 2015. The scope of the event has also grown in that time to not only include talks specifically on WordPress but also blogging, content creation, SEO, designing, marketing, and developer related topics. It’s been on of the longest running non-profit tech conferences in South Florida.

The 8th annual WordCamp Miami is happening next month - February 19-21 - at Florida International University. It has a full schedule lined up for everyone from those wanting to learn WordPress for the first time to those who are already skilled at developing with it.

 Here are some of the highlights:

* If you’ve never used WordPress and want to learn, a full-day workshop is available on Friday February 19th. The class is limited to 100 individuals so that the instructors can take you step by step from learning hosting basics to being able to customize a basic WordPress site of your own.

* If you are a freelancer (whether you use WordPress or not), there’s a full-day freelancer’s workshop on Friday February 19th.

Saturday and Sunday (February 20th and 21st) are full of talks ranging from how to improve your website’s SEO, security, and how to build an commerce site with WordPress. Sunday has a full track dedicated to business owners and agencies, along with a brand new “Learn JavaScript deeply” for developers.

* The conference is especially family-friendly this year with a Kid’s Workshop Sunday morning (where parents and kids ages 8-13 can learn to create their first blog), an arts/crafts/STEM class in the afternoon, and then a kid’s panel to end the day (in which the invite is still open if you want to nominate your child who blogs to come and speak). Kids are welcome to attend both days on the weekend, and are free to attend.

Outside of the knowledge provided by over 70 speakers from across South Florida and the rest of the world, WordCamp Miami has many knowledgable sponsors on hand if you want to talk to anyone face to face about website hosting and security. There is also “Happiness Bar” staffed over the weekend by knowledgable WordPress users if you have a question about your WordPress site or need advice about your next website.

Because this is a non-profit event, ticket prices are a low $35 for the weekend (plus a little more if you want to attend a workshop on Friday). Discounts for students and teachers available. The event usually sells out so you might want to pick up your tickets as soon as possible. Weekend tickets include food, swag, t-shirts and access to the after-party.

Tickets: 2016.miami.wordcamp.org/tickets

 

January 11, 2016

Startups can now benefit from the R&D tax credit

Guay.Louis-Oliver_2014By Louis Guay

Startups, welcome to the R&D tax credit party.

The days of the R&D tax credit’s temporary and retroactive extensions are finally over. Thirty-five years after its original introduction as a temporary provision of the tax code, the federal R&D tax credit was made permanent by The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (“PATH” Act) last month.

In addition, the PATH Act includes two new provisions that will make it easier for startups as well as small and medium-sized businesses to immediately benefit from the lucrative R&D tax credit. These two modifications to the credit are effective for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2015.

Immediate value for startups

The first significant R&D tax provision introduced by the PATH Act will have a major impact on emerging and early-stage startups.

Historically, these startups that have yet to generate enough income to have a federal income tax liability could not get any immediate value from the R&D credit. They had to carry forward the credit in hope of applying it against a future income tax liability.

Starting in 2016, eligible startups with less than $5 million in gross receipts will now be able to use their R&D tax credit (capped at up to $250,000) to offset payroll taxes, generating immediate value.

AMT turnoff

The second key provision removes one of the biggest limitations that had prevented certain small and medium-sized businesses from capturing the credit in the past.

The PATH Act will allow eligible businesses with $50 million and less in gross receipts (based on a three-year average) to apply the R&D tax credit against the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). This is huge news for shareholders of qualifying pass-through entities (e.g., S corporations and partnerships) who have an AMT liability.

Act now

A common misconception about the R&D credit is that only large companies are eligible and that it’s too complicated to qualify. However, with the two major barriers discussed above mitigated or eliminated entirely, startups as well as small and medium-sized companies have an unprecedented opportunity to benefit from this valuable credit – and they need to start planning now.

Even with the changes, this credit remains one of the most challenging provisions of the tax code; therefore it’s critical for businesses to establish appropriate tracking mechanisms and documentation strategies for their research and development activities. A tax professional with R&D tax credit expertise can assist businesses with qualifying for and claiming the credit. Act now to take advantage of this new opportunity.

Louis Guay is a tax manager in Kaufman Rossin’s Boca Raton, Florida, office, where he specializes in assisting taxpayers with R&D tax incentives. Kaufman Rossin is one of the Top 100 CPA firms in the U.S. Louis can be reached at lguay@kaufmanrossin.com.