June 27, 2016

Startup Spotlight: Shanti Bar founders passionate about health, attract Hope Solo

Lauren Feingold_Ashanty Williams

Shanti Bar, a line of energy and protein bars sold in more than 150 venues, is created, manufactured and distributed by a Miami-based startup. The Olympic champ and soccer star Hope Solo recently endorsed Shanti Bar as her performance bar of choice.


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/#storylink=cpy

Company name: Organically Raw (produces Shanti Bar line of products)

Headquarters: Miami

Business: Organically Raw is aiming to disrupt the functional food bar category by introducing superfoods to the masses, and to be the leader in the high-performance, high-protein, nutrient-dense, raw superfood space. “We want to create a revolution whereby sports and active performance nutrition is fueled by natural sources and superfoods,” CEO Lauren Feingold said. The company’s first product line is Shanti Bar. To the co-founders, Shanti Bar celebrates the raw power of female excellence and beauty and supports sexual equality.

Story: Feingold and Ashanty Williams (pictured above), who both studied culinary arts and have a passion for health and wellness, met at a local gym in Miami in 2012 and became friends. Williams asked Feingold to try a Shanti Bar she developed. “Once I did, I was hooked and the two of us formed a partnership based on a mutual dynamic skill set of the culinary arts, business management and ambition to see the endeavor through.”

Most all products in the market contained loads of unnecessary ingredients and lacked nutritional and functional health benefits, Feingold said. “We believe the consumer deserves more and should have a product they can rely on whether it is at the gym, work, traveling, or on the go.”

Shanti Bar is manufactured, produced and distributed from its facilities in Miami, and this summer, Organically Raw is set to launch Shanti Bar into mainstream retailers. While the market is crowded with competitors, this 100 percent raw, vegan and organic product has a secret weapon: Olympic champion Hope Solo.

Hope Solo (4)

Solo said “the brand represents the idea of what a powerful and purposeful woman is” and last month endorsed the Shanti Bar as her “performance bar of choice.”

“Female entrepreneurs are a very strong and vibrant community, and they want to help each other,” said Solo, who was already a fan and regular customer of Shanti Bar. “I’m excited to work with Lauren and Ashanty — they’re incredible women who want to chart their own path and have found something they love and believe in.”

The energy and protein bars are sold in nearly 150 locations in South Florida, including Tunies Natural Market, Beehive, One Hotel, The Standard, Soho House, Native Sun Grocers, Juice n Java and Miami Cafe, and are now distributed nationally in New York, Colorado, California, Georgia, Oregon and Nevada.

Company launched: March 2015

Management team: Lauren Feingold, CEO; Ashanty Williams, COO; Zussy Williams, facility manager.

Employees: 31

Website: shanti.bar

Financing: Mainly self-financed. Obtained a few equipment loans.

Milestones: Partnership with Hope Solo, a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and FIFA World Cup Champion goalie, was announced in May. Also this year, the company further automated its production in order to manufacture mass quantities and launched a new flavor, Acai Lush, in its Shanti Bar Mini line.

Biggest startup challenge: “There isn’t anything easy about it,” Feingold said. “But probably the biggest challenge has been penetrating the natural channel’s mainstream retailers and mass market key accounts.”

Next steps: The company is working with a broker to help take Shanti Bar nationwide. It also plans to participate in various trade shows outside of its natural channel — for example, Shanti Bar could be marketed for hiking, biking, camping, skiing, etc.

“Ashanty and I are dedicated and determined to make a positive impact in the world of health and wellness nutrition and sports and active performance nutrition,” Feingold said.

Nancy Dahlberg @ndahlberg

[Read more Startup Spotlights here and here and see more small business coverage here.]

SHANTI Bar_Group

June 21, 2016

A case study for helping companies grow: Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses

Locally, 10,000 Small Businesses at Miami Dade College has helped 230 companies grow their businesses, adding revenue and jobs. Revenues have more than doubled for Miami entrepreneur Enrique Torres’ business, Excellent Fruit & Produce. Still, challenges remain for small businesses, as a new study by Babson College shows.

Enrique

Enrique Torres, owner of Excellent Fruit & Produce in Miami.

 

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Nearly 62 percent of small businesses in America have four or fewer employees, and we know in South Florida that number tops 90 percent.

Helping small businesses scale offers enormous, and largely untapped potential in creating new jobs and generating economic development, according to a new report titled “The State of Small Business in America” by Babson College.

“We all benefit if we are able to foster a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem that best supports ongoing small business growth and job creation in America,” said Babson College President Kerry Healey. “Public and private sectors must work together to support small businesses, which comprise 99 percent of all U.S. employer firms and which account for more than half of the private sector’s net new jobs over the past two decades.”

More than 1,800 businesses across the United States were surveyed for the report. Most of them were participants in Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, a national program available in South Florida that helps existing small businesses grow. Key findings included:

Obtaining capital remains a big hurdle. Small businesses are four times more likely to go to a bank for capital needs. Looking across all sources of capital, survey respondents apply for a median amount of $100,000, but receive only 40 percent of what they seek. Businesses say they need more flexible loan terms.

Business owners find regulation both difficult and time-consuming. On average, four hours per week is spent dealing with government regulations and tax compliance, which totals over 200 hours per year.

The skills gap is overwhelmingly a small business owner’s No. 1 issue with respect to hiring. Over 70 percent of respondents find it difficult to hire qualified employees because they say potential candidates lack the requisite skill sets — over and above competition for talent, salary requirements, and the provision of benefits.

This new report comes out on the heels of the Kauffman Foundation’s Index of Growth Entrepreneurship ranking the Miami area as second to last among metro areas for scale-up businesses. Yet the 10,000 Small Businesses Program, among other programs, is directly addressing the very issue of helping existing small businesses to scale, including assistance with capital raising, navigating government regulations, and team building.

And it’s working.

Nationally, over about six years, 10KSB with program locations in 22 states has now served more than 6,100 businesses, representing more than $5 billion in total revenues and more than 80,000 employees. Nationally, more than 60 percent of program alumni have added jobs 30 months after graduating with average job growth at the rate of 114 percent, and 82 percent of program alumni have increased revenues by an average rate of 106 percent within 30 months.

John Hall, executive director of the 10,000 Small Businesses at Miami Dade College program, said the growth trends of local 10KSB graduates have been consistent with the national averages. The local, free 16-week 10KSB program, which uses Babson’s curriculum and supplements the education with individual mentorship and a sharp focus on growth strategy, kicked off its first cohort in early 2014.

Enrique Torres, who owns Excellent Fruit & Produce in Miami, was part of Cohort No. 1. Since graduating in May 2014, he said his company, a fresh produce distributor to restaurants, hotels and hospitals in the region, has more than doubled revenues and employees. Through the program’s workshops, “I discovered the identity of my company,” he said, and that resulted in a complete re-branding, from new trucks to the design of the produce boxes.

Torres said he learned how to hire smarter, professionalize procedures, add technology to make the company more efficient and, in essence, “using all the tools to attain your goals.” Networking with fellow entrepreneurs who are outside his industry was also very valuable, he said. The homegrown company that he has owned since 2005 now has 16 full-time employees.

Locally, 39 companies are enrolled in Cohort 8, the largest class yet for the business education program that launched at Miami Dade College in September 2013 with $5 million in funding from Goldman Sachs.

“The local program has served a total of 230 businesses to date, representing more than 3,900 jobs throughout Greater Miami and more than $340 million in aggregate revenues,” Hall said.

The 10KSB program at Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus runs several cohorts every year. Applicants should own or co-own a business in operation for at least two years, with at least $150,000 in revenues in the most recent fiscal year. To apply, visit http://www.10KSBapply.com or call or call 305-237-7824.

Babson College is also involved locally in launching the Women Innovating Now (WIN) Lab, a new Miami accelerator program that aims to help female entrepreneurs start and grow businesses. Find out more about WINLab here.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg. Read more small business coverage here.

June 06, 2016

Multi-campus StartUP FIU gets ready for takeoff

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Emily Gresham and Robert Hacker, shown at Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, are spearheading the StartUP FIU program. It will include three hubs, with programs for food businesses, tech and social entrepreneurship, and will be open to the community as well as to students. Alexia Fodere For The Miami Herald

Below: One of the events held for students as part of StartUP FIU. Photo by Daniela Ferrato.

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By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Cheng photoIn the culinary kitchens of Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, Michael Cheng smelled opportunity. The commercial facilities were only being used about half time; as the director of the food-and-beverage program, Cheng thought FIU should offer the excess capacity to companies for a fee.

But after a discussion with Emily Gresham, who is spearheading a university-wide StartUP FIU program, and its student leader Valeria Siegrist, Cheng’s mindset changed. “They opened my eyes... They told me ‘there is an entire community of food entrepreneurs out there who would die to have this space but they can’t afford it.’ and I said ‘Well, let’s open that up to them.’ That’s how Food FIU got started.”

Beginning this fall, the Food FIU program will help entrepreneurs from low- and moderate-income communities in three stages of development – those at the idea stage, entrepreneurs selling in farmers’ markets but are ready to move to the next level, and later stage companies that want to scale. Cheng (pictured at right), who is also an associate processor, said StartUP FIU will start working with firms from North Miami, where the Biscayne Bay Campus is located, with a potential Homestead outpost at a later time. The program is free, and the entrepreneurs do not have to be affiliated with FIU in any way.

The Food innovation hub, supported in part by a $500,000 grant from Citi Foundation, will be one leg of a larger effort called StartUP FIU launching this fall. The interdisciplinary multi-campus resource for students, faculty, staff, alumni and entrepreneurs in the community will include physical spaces, programs and events for entrepreneurs and entrepreneur-wannabes to meet, collaborate, be mentored and take training. An accelerator will work with teams on commercializing concepts.

“Our economy increasingly offers opportunities to people who are able to make good jobs rather than take good jobs. We see this transformation as emblematic of what we have to do at FIU,” said FIU President Mark Rosenberg. “FIU is a huge cluster of talent ... What we are trying to do is provide platforms for that talent to come together around the capabilities that we have. ... We want to provide a safe haven for that talent to come together, with some supervision, to develop products, ideas and opportunities.”

Initially, StartUP FIU, will take root in three locations: the Modesto Maidique campus in Sweetwater, the Hospitality School at the Biscayne Bay campus, and a facility near Tamiami airport serving the growing cadre of technology and medical businesses there. The program has been appropriated $1.25 million from the state in addition to the Citi Foundation funding. It is run by Gresham, FIU’s assistant vice president for Research – Innovation and Economic Development, and Robert Hacker, StartUP FIU’s director.

The program joins existing FIU entrepreneurship resources including the Small Business Development Center, a new Tech Station, the Miami Fintech Forum and the Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center, most located on the Maidique campus on Tamiami Trail. FIU is also a designated “changemaker campus” for Ashoka, the global network for social entrepreneurship.

Despite those existing resources, students had no one-stop-shop for connecting with resources, concluded StartUP FIU’s team after conducting more than 100 interviews with students, faculty and community leaders. Often, students didn’t know where to go, nor were they connecting with the larger community.

“Our students are our energy, our talent, and the diversity of our students, faculty, alumni and the community improves collaboration,” said Gresham. “We’ve decided to have a more inclusive StartUP FIU, which means everyone’s welcome.”

Regionwide, students have more resources than just a few years ago. The Idea Center at MDC opened 18 months ago with an accelerator for MDC students, startup contests, events and a coding school. The University of Miami has been expanding its commercialization efforts, particularly in the healthcare area, working closely with dozens of startups. Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton opened Tech Runway, an accelerator that also offers funding and mentorship for student and community teams. Broward College opened its incubator last month.

These join a region-wide effort, fueled by the Knight Foundation, to accelerate entrepreneurship by expanding resources for mentorship, talent-building and funding. Entrepreneurial co-working spaces, incubators and accelerators have been proliferating, but most are in Miami’s urban core.

That’s the void in the ecosystem StartUP FIU hopes to help fill by focusing on Miami-Dade’s lower income communities and far west suburbs. “There’s a lot of activity, but we are still looking for depth, right?,” said Gresham. “We think we have something to offer in terms of depth building.”

Social entrepreneurship will be a key facet of the program, said Hacker. He expects ongoing themes to include sustainable cities, sea level rise, food supply, medical technology and education technology. An international businessman, Hacker has been teaching entrepreneurship and socially concsious business for more than a decade at FIU’s Honors College and Engineering School and MIT’s Sloan School.

“Miami enjoys the distinction of being the only city in the world that has two Ashoka Changemaker campuses – FIU and MDC. I think that both universities are fomenting all kinds of social entrepreneurs looking for support. We are interested and committed to putting incubators in communities that have not been served by incubators, and I think that will also naturally produce social entrepreneurs,” said Hacker.

As a startup itself, StartUP FIU has been developing over the past year, gaining grassroots support. StartUP FIU student directors Siegrist and Alessia Tacchella took Hacker’s course on Entrepreneurship and Design Thinking. That got the entrepreneurial juices flowing. But instead of working on their own startups, they jumped on the opportunity to help develop StartUP FIU. Tacchella, a finance/economics major who recently graduated, took the lead.

They gathered a diverse group of students with marketing, finance and technical expertise and began meeting weekly to plan the launch and test concepts, she said. About 80 to 100 students have been turning out for events. “When you tell them you want to help them to make their idea become a company, they are thrilled about it. They can’t believe all the resources we are bringing in on campus,” said Siegrist, a communications student.

Wifredo Fernandez, who co-founded The LAB Miami and was one of the founders of MDC’s’ Idea Center, offered insights on best practices and valuable connections, said Gresham. He now works with Gresham in the Innovation and Economic Development department and is StartUP FIU’s associate director.

Applications are being accepted at startup.fiu.edu for the accelerator’s first class. The free 13-week program will begin Sept. 6, will include weekly programs, mentorship and regular milestones for teams to meet, and end with a traditional demo day in which teams pitch to investors. The new StartUP FIU hub at the Maidique campus, a-10,000-square-foot space in the Marc building, should be ready by January; the program will operate in temporary space until then. Programs at the Biscayne Bay campus and near the Tamiami Airport will also get underway in the fall. The services are free.

“It’s an idea whose time has come,” said Rosenberg. “We’re pumped, we’re ready to go.”

Nancy Dahlberg; 305-376-3595; @ndahlberg

 

 

 

 

May 26, 2016

It’s all about efficiency: A conversation with SpeedETab’s cofounders

By Rhiya Mittal / RhiyaMittal@gmail.com

PicturePicture this. It’s already 6:50 pm and you just arrived to the Wynwood Art District to attend Startup Grind Miami’s monthly Fireside Chat. Only 10 minutes remain until the chat begins but you need to get your medium latte from Panther Coffee after your grueling day at work. For the average person, this may seem like quite the dilemma. But not for you! You’ve already ordered and paid for your coffee ahead of time through your SpeedETab app on your smartphone. You quickly run into Panther Coffee, snigger at the long line of eager coffee drinkers, spot an inviting to-go cup with your name on it on SpeedETab’s signature black and green mat, scoop it up, and leave the store- all in a span of two minutes. You then head on over to LAB Miami, Wynwood’s hub for entrepreneurs and innovators (and the venue for the night’s Startup Grind event), and make it just in time for the Fireside Chat, caffeinated and ready to go! You whip out your laptop and get ready to take notes on tonight’s conversation with SpeedETab cofounders, Adam Garfield and Ed Gilmore, to see how they made the magic happen.

(Side note- the above anecdote is a true story based on my personal experience/)

So, what is SpeedETab? After working long hours at a corporate finance firm in Boston, Adam Garfield would often go out with his friends to grab a beer at a local bar. It was then that he noticed a recurring problem that did not yet seem to have a solution: he would often be standing at the bar after ordering his drink, with his cash in hand, for upwards of 10 minutes, waiting for a bartender to process his order and deliver his beverage. Something had to be done. Adam and cofounder Ed Gilmore decided to take matters into their own hands and create SpeedETab, a mobile ordering app that allows users to discover nearby restaurants, order food and drinks, and pay for their order- all in one go. To retrieve their orders, users simply skip the line at their favorite venues, walk up to the SpeedETab mat by the cashiers, and pick up their items. It’s that easy! Launched in March 2015, SpeedETab has taken the South Florida region by storm and is used at over 100 venues, with plans to expand to New York soon.

NewstartupgrindProduct is king. Focus is key. In the tech environment, there are countless ways to improve a product and add new, shiny features that may seem revolutionary. However, constant feature upgrades and additions may prove to actually detract from the product itself and could be economically impractical. So how does one choose which features stay and which ones go? Adam and Ed believe that in order to be successful, a team’s main focus must be guaranteeing that its main product works efficiently and successfully while consistently delivering and achieving its ultimate goal. SpeedETab’s team focuses primarily on the ultimate user experience, for both its merchants and its clients. Before updating the app in any way, Adam and Ed ensure that the user experience will remain streamlined and reliable, as their goal is to create a frictionless connection between technology and hospitality. To do this, both cofounders constantly keep each other balanced and evaluate each change they make to make sure that the modifications will benefit the company both technologically and economically. Product success will also help in other ways. While advertising, marketing, and sales promotions do build hype around a product, the best PR comes from letting the product speak for itself. Allowing customers to share their own experiences with a product and tell their friends and families about the reasons why they love it is invaluable and extremely effective. The easiest way to make sure this happens is to have a team that focuses on the product itself, not the revenue it generates.

Healthy competition. When direct competitors are out there in the market, do not hide from them, embrace them! Your competitors will have products that serve a purpose similar to yours and may even utilize a similar platform as yours- this is extremely beneficial as it familiarizes the consumer population with your product type. For example, SpeedETab’s major competitors include other mobile ordering platforms such as the Starbucks app, Chipotle app, etc. Users who have been using these apps to order their favorite items from various venues are already educated about the benefits of mobile ordering. This reduces the efforts SpeedETab has to make to inform the public about the uses of mobile ordering, thus cutting down on promotional costs the company would have to incur. Furthermore, SpeedETab can use the fact that it has so many competitors to capitalize on the way that it streamlines mobile ordering from many venues into just one simple app. This way, instead of users having pages of mobile ordering applications on their phones, they can maximize their efficiency by just having one, SpeedETab. So remember, use your competitors’ similarities to further highlight your unique factors.

Team dynamics. To be successful in any venture, it is essential to have a diverse yet coherent team. At the inception of many startups, entrepreneurs often find themselves wearing many hats: that of a brand ambassador, marketing executive, operations director, financier, product developer, etc. While it may seem invigorating at first, this causes many entrepreneurs to burn out quickly, thus making their startup suffer. In a tech-centered business, it is often beneficial to have one cofounder who handles the business aspect and one who focuses on product development and technology. After acquiring the necessary funds, however, cofounders must recruit a structured team of specialists and delegate tasks to ensure that the company’s goals are met in an efficient manner. Communication amongst team members is necessary to make sure all team members are connected and aware of the company’s overall progress and direction. Good leaders should also focus on seeing that relationships between colleagues are both professional and amicable.

Want to gain more advice from leading entrepreneurs? Come to Startup Grind Miami’s next event on June 13. More information will be on StartupGrind.com/miami.

Rhiya Mittal is a student at the University of Miami, currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Neuroscience along with minors in Chemistry, Health Sector Management & Policy, and Marketing. She hopes to work on further merging the fields of healthcare and marketing and attend medical school in the future. Reach her at RhiyaMittal@gmail.com

May 24, 2016

Broward College launches accelerator in downtown Fort Lauderdale

Broward College announced the launch of its business accelerator, to be located at the downtown Fort Lauderdale campus on Las Olas Boulevard.

“This marks an exciting time for startup companies in Broward County,” said J. David Armstrong, Jr., president of Broward College. “Our business community partners have shared with us the need for support beyond the initial planning and business plan phase. We listened, and our accelerator will provide wraparound services to budding entrepreneurs as they refine their businesses to seek funding.”

The announcement comes on the heels of the success of the Innovation Hub at Broward College. In less than a year, Innovation Hub, directed by Enrique Triay with support from Professor Steven Gross, has generated significant activity. At the present time, there are 20 companies that reside -- or have weekly contact with -- the Innovation Hub, and many are capitalizing on the expertise provided by Triay and Professor Gross; business people who serve as consultants; and numerous students who actively are involved as interns in these companies. Two companies currently at Innovation Hub will be a part of Broward College’s new accelerator program.

Broward College launches accelerator in downtown Fort Lauderdale

Broward College announced the launch of its business accelerator, to be located at the downtown Fort Lauderdale campus on Las Olas Boulevard.

“This marks an exciting time for startup companies in Broward County,” said J. David Armstrong, Jr., president of Broward College. “Our business community partners have shared with us the need for support beyond the initial planning and business plan phase. We listened, and our accelerator will provide wraparound services to budding entrepreneurs as they refine their businesses to seek funding.”

The announcement comes on the heels of the success of the Innovation Hub at Broward College. In less than a year, Innovation Hub, directed by Enrique Triay with support from Professor Steven Gross, has generated significant activity. At the present time, there are 20 companies that reside -- or have weekly contact with -- the Innovation Hub, and many are capitalizing on the expertise provided by Triay and Professor Gross; business people who serve as consultants; and numerous students who actively are involved as interns in these companies. Two companies currently at Innovation Hub will be a part of Broward College’s new accelerator program.

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.