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


February 06, 2015

SBA's free Emerging Leaders program for small businesses accepting applications

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s South Florida District is seeking 17 Miami-Dade small business owners for its SBA Emerging Leaders program that will give them a three-year, tailored strategic growth plan for their businesses. 

For a second year, Miami-Dade County was selected to be part of SBA’s Emerging Leaders initiative, a federal training initiative that focuses on business executives poised for growth in historically challenged communities, said SBA South Florida District Director Francisco "Pancho" Marrero.  “This initiative will provide executives from 17 Miami-Dade businesses with the organizational framework, resource network, and motivation required to build sustainable businesses and promote the economic development within the county,” he said.

While the executive-level course is free for businesses accepted into the program, executives must commit to about 100 hours of classroom and out-of-classroom work.  The first class meets April 14 and will meet on alternating Tuesday evenings through October.

This will be the second program offered. Moises Montanez, owner of Miami’s Alta Home Remodeling, was among the 13 graduates from the inaugural Emerging Leaders Class. He is in the process of remodeling his general contracting business with the knowledge he gained from the class.

For the next class, SBA is again partnering with the Small Business Development Center at Florida International University. Classes will be at FIU Downtown on Brickell Center at 1101 Brickell Ave. in Miami. The curriculum called the StreetWise Steps to Small Business Growth includes instruction on financials, marketing and sales, resources (human resources, accessing capital and government contracting); and strategic growth planning.

Business leaders 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 have at least one employee other than himself.

The application deadline is March 20.  The SBA South Florida district will make the final selection from the qualified applicants, said Marrero. 

Register at http://www.interise.org/sbaemergingleaders. 

More information about the program:


Posted Feb. 6, 2015


January 28, 2015

Learning from failure: Strategies for bouncing back

By Cindy Krischer Goodman

When Susie Taylor walked onto the set of ABC’s Shark Tank, she showed the investors her stain-resistant baby bibs and asked them for $40,000 to grow her Miami business. But something happened Taylor didn’t expect. The “sharks” reduced her to tears by calling her business a hobby, her margins terrible, her management skills lacking, and then delivering their famous line to indicate they weren’t investing: “I’m out!”

Taylor walked off the set in tears, having failed to secure an investment before seven million viewers on national television. Then she faced the challenge of bouncing back.

If your business or strategy failed, if you made an expensive mistake, or if you experienced a business or personal setback in 2014, this is the time for recovery. Today, failure is a hot topic, and the topic of bouncing back is even hotter. In Silicon Valley, for instance, failure has emerged as a badge of honor among start-ups who share their lessons publicly. FailCon, a one-day conference in San Francisco celebrating failure has been so successful that it has spread to other countries.

While no one wants to fail, wildly successful entrepreneurs such as Spanx founder Sara Blakely say that true failure is not taking risks or trying. Blakely publicly credits her embrace of failure for what helped make her the youngest self-made female billionaire in America.

“Most successful people have ‘failed’ multiple times,” says David Harkleroad of Chief Outsiders in Miami, a consultant to CEOs of small and mid-size companies. “What makes them successful is they seek to understand the opportunities that arise from the failure.”

To understand the opportunities, the first step is acknowledging your situation. Since her Shark Tank fiasco, Taylor has tried to scrutinize what went wrong and how it affected Bibbitec, her bib business.

Initially, she invested more money in Bibbitec to fill the orders that flooded in when the episode aired. But she had to figure out her next move: “It took a lot of self awareness.” Taylor says she considered the harsh advice doled out by the sharks and realized she needed a businessperson to run the company and an outlet for sales — not simply rely upon word-of-mouth praise among moms. Her husband now runs the company and has put in systems to operate it more efficiently. Bibbitec relinquished sales on its website and now sells its bibs almost entirely on Amazon, which markets the products for them. The company expanded its line to seven styles of bibs manufactured in Hialeah, and in 2014 the company sold 3,000 bibs for average price of $22. “We put down ‘failure,’ but it’s the only thing that makes you grow,” Taylor says.

Consultants say turning around failure requires searching for the root cause of what went wrong. “It’s usually not what people think it is,” Harkleroad says. Usually, listening carefully to customers, team members and trusted advisors reveals a clue for how to course correct: “It requires listening to understand, not listening to respond.”

When Jody Johnson expanded her company, ActionCoach Team Sage, by adding more business coaches, sales didn’t follow. She realized she needed to change course and listened carefully to feedback. “I had tried to grow too fast,” Johnson says. “I brought on coaches before I had a marketing machine in place to be able to feed them.” She then scaled back on staff and invested in marketing and tracking results for clients: “Now what I have is exactly the right plan to go forward. I will grow organically and I can bring on another coach when I’m ready.”

Another key to bouncing back is to cut losses early. Whether you’re the guy who introduced McPizza to the McDonald’s menu or the one who expanded Pollo Tropical into an underperforming market, knowing when to give up when the signs are obvious can be critical to long-term success.

Continue reading "Learning from failure: Strategies for bouncing back " »

Kendall brothers ages 7 and 9 launch company selling socks designed by kids



SOCK KINGS: CEO Sebastian Martinez, 7, left, and his brother, Brandon, 9, sales director, have started with their mother a company, Are You Kidding, selling socks with different designs. The boys were featured on ‘Good Morning America’s Shark Tank Your Life: Kid-Preneurs Edition.’ PATRICK FARRELL MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/article8423790.html#storylink=cpy


Ever since he was a baby, Sebastian Martinez loved socks. He collected socks of all kinds, with different colors, patterns and styles.

About two years ago, his mother, Rachel Martinez, asked him if he wanted to design his own.

“He was so excited he ran to the table with his pencils and paper and markers, and he sat down and started drawing,” she said.

And on Friday, Sebastian, 7, and his brother Brandon, 9, were featured on Good Morning America’s Shark Tank Your Life: Kid-Preneurs Edition, for their business designing and selling different styles of socks.

Sebastian is the CEO of Are You Kidding, Brandon is the director of sales, and their mother is the president.

The brothers, who live in Kendall, got their moment in the spotlight Friday when they got to pitch their company to Daymond John, a Shark Tank investor, and to George Stephanopoulos, co-anchor of ABC News’ Good Morning America, on national television.

Before the show, they sent in an audition video, had a phone interview and a few days later, they booked their flights to New York. At the end of the show, the two brothers each took home a special trophy for their work.

Martinez said it was a great experience and the the show helped the business to get more exposure.

“Friday was amazing,” she said, watching the video of her sons giving their pitch for Are You Kidding during the show.

 Since the business started in May 2014, they have sold their socks to many different stores and raised thousands of dollars for charity.

Sebastian is responsible for all the designs. His mother then transfers them onto a computer and they are made by a company in Guatemala. Brandon is then in charge of selling the merchandise.

“It’s kind of like a little tag team,” Martinez said.

The business made about $15,000 last year. They sell their socks to local stores, through their website and on other online sites such as Etsy.

In addition to just bringing in revenue though, the company has a “dual-mission,” Martinez said.

“We want to not only be a for-profit company,” she said, “but also teach philanthropy to kids which is very important to us.”

In October, Are You Kidding sold specially designed socks for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

“We all spent the entire month of October selling the socks everywhere,” Martinez said. “At Tamiami basketball, all the kids were wearing the socks, the coaches, the refs. Everybody had our socks on.”

The $3,000 raised from the socks was donated to the American Cancer Society for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. Martinez said next year, they are hoping to reach their goal of donating $10,000 to the organization.

Are You Kidding is also working with a safe driving campaign called Be a Hero and Save Lives, cautioning people against texting and driving.

To teach kids about the charities, the company uses an app called VeePop, where people can scan the tags of the socks and a video will play giving information about the charity. Martinez said the team is planning to reach out to more organizations in the future to continue their charity work.

The company is also looking to expand, potentially adding T-shirts to the collection, she said.

“At the end of the day we want to create a brand,” Martinez said. “We started with socks because that’s the passion that I saw in my son and if you don’t start off with your passion, you’re never going to continue the business.”

She said running the business has been an exciting learning experience for her and her children, and she hopes to have more kids contribute in the future.

“It’s teaching kids how to start a business, run a business and grow a business. It’s not easy and it takes a lot of time and effort, but at the end of the day we do it as a family,” Martinez said. “We just want to make sure that it’s a fun brand. ... We want it to be a by kids for you collection.”

Website: http://www.areyoukidding.net/


Posted Jan. 28, 2015



Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/article8423790.html#storylink=cpy

January 26, 2015

Startup Spotlight: Beyond Zero

01BM startup spotlight Beyond Zero_CPJ

DRINK UP: Jason Sherman, center, who founded Beyond Zero, a product that makes liquor ice cubes, is joined by team members Sean O’Brien, left, and Tim Couch. CARL JUSTE MIAMI HERALD STAFF


04BM startup spotlight Beyond Zero_CPJBEYOND ZERO

Headquarters: Midtown Miami

Concept: Beyond Zero appliances make, store and dispense pure liquor ice. Plug it in. add liquor, and just a few minutes later, it comes out like ice. It makes cocktails colder, smoother and stronger than if regular frozen-water ice cubes were used.

Story: Jason Sherman has always been a fan of bourbon and scotch and would frequently receive drinks served with too much ice, leading to a watered-down waste of alcohol. So he created a machine to easily solve the problem.

“After you mix the cubes with more liquor or a mixer, they melt, and you have this incredibly cold smooth drink that has removed the ethanol bite and left behind great flavors regardless of the type of spirit,” Sherman said. “We are fortunate to have a great team, solid investors, excellent mentors, and are looking forward to selling machines so the general public can start ‘product testing’ along with us.”

The company has three models: a single-serving unit that makes the cubes, a second unit that stores the cubes, plus another unit that does both. Currently the single-serving unit encased in a decorative barrel is priced at $5,000, but Sherman expects to bring the price down with volume manufacturing.

07BM startup spotlight Beyond Zero_CPJThe company’s startup journey has covered a lot of miles — 38,000 in the past year. With a trailer Sherman calls “the spaceship,” the team visits liquor distilleries and retailers, meets with master distillers and branding experts, and attends trade shows and industry events. On a visit to the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky, for instance, a chance meeting with an economic development official led to discussions at the state offices about possibly manufacturing the product in that state. Beyond Zero’s tagline “We Don’t Water It Down,” which Sherman said “speaks to how we live our lives,” came from Joey Reiman, a visionary who generally works exclusively with Fortune 500 companies.

“We feel very lucky to be in the situation to get really good feedback from really smart people in the industry,” said Sherman, who holds degrees in finance and law but considers himself more of a creative person.

“People are very passionate about what they drink and how it is served. These products will open a lot of new markets for millennials to try a drink that isn’t overbearing because it takes the bite out of it. ... We don’t want a fad — here today and gone tomorrow — so we have been very strategic about how we introduce this new category and getting the right people behind us.”

06BM startup spotlight Beyond Zero_CPJFounded: 2009, but product was introduced to market in ’14.

Management team: Jason Sherman, Tim Couch, Wesley Suskind, Russell Suskind, Sean O’Brien.

Website: bzice.com

Financing: $750,000 in friends and family investments and from brothers Wes and Russ Suskind, Beyond Zero’s first investors.

Recent milestones reached:
Product introduced at National Restaurant Association Show in May; first patent issued in October; first sale to Beam Suntory Innovation Center in Clermont, Kentucky, in September, where the machine gets prime exposure.

Biggest startup challenge: Building a manufactured product vs. a software app.

Next steps: Developing pilot program to get the product into more businesses. Selecting a contract manufacturer and actively working with the State of Kentucky Economic Development Association about 03BM startup spotlight Beyond Zero_CPJrelocation and manufactuing. Educating the industry about the “In The Rocks” style of drinking. Raising additional capital to support growth. Considering a Kickstarter campaign.

Advisor’s view: John Christopher of Christopher & Weisberg is Beyond Zero’s intellectual property attorney and advisor. “Jason is charismatic, intelligent, organized, prepared, all the right things, and we have been working closely with him to protect his ideas. … There’s a lot of excitement about it. It’s a whole new thing, and there isn’t anything else like it.”

Nancy Dahlberg

Posted Jan. 26, 2015 

January 24, 2015

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


January 22, 2015

Miami Dade College accepting applications for 10,000 Small Businesses program

Miami Dade College  is  accepting applications for Cohort 5 of the 10,000 Small Businesses program scheduled to begin June 4, at the Wolfson Campus. The deadline for applications is Feb. 21.

Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses (10KSB) is a classroom-based practical business education program that gives entrepreneurs valuable skills for growing their businesses, the opportunity to access financial capital and powerful networking opportunities, among other benefits, at no cost to participants.

The curriculum includes one-on-one advice, clinics, and workshops administered by subject matter experts. Goldman Sachs professionals also serve as panelists and judges for the so-called scholar rehearsals, the “Rocket Pitches.” Participants will also learn to identify and evaluate opportunities, understand financial statements, hire, retain and lead employees, negotiate successfully and create a comprehensive growth plan, among other lessons.

Applicants should meet the following criteria:

  • * Owner or co-owner of a business
  • * Business in operation for at least two years
  • * Business revenues of at least $150,000 in the most recent fiscal year
  • * Minimum of four employees, including the owner

To learn more, please register for the upcoming 10KSB Informational Webinars on Wednesday, Feb. 11 at 1:30 p.m. here:  https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2069446174015959554

 To apply to  Cohort 5 of MDC’s 10KSB program, visit http://www.mdc.edu/10ksb  or call 305-237-7812

- Information submitted by Miami Dade College

January 21, 2015

Titan Paddles of Dania Beach chosen for national Chase grant



A Dania Beach paddleboard maker was one of 20 small businesses around the nation selected by Chase for $150,000 Mission Main Street Grants to help them thrive.

Titan Paddles designs and hand-crafts a strong, durable yet lightweight paddle for paddleboarding enthusiasts. The founders not only have a passion for paddleboarding, but also a passion for keeping jobs in the U.S. Most paddles are manufactured in Asia and the quality is not good, Carlos Menendez, one of the founders, said.

The paddles are used by Tom Jones, who has set two world records for stand-up paddleboarding, Menendez said.  Jones told the Sun Sentinel in an interview that he now plans to paddle board from California to Hawaii using Titan paddles that he said are so strong they don't break during heavy use. The paddles have a three-year warranty, which Menendez  said other manufacturers don't have.

 Nearly 25,000 business owners from all 50 states submitted applications for this year’s Mission Main Street Grants program, and more than 1.6 million votes were cast for participating small businesses. A diverse team of small business experts selected the grant recipients from the group of eligible businesses that received at least 250 votes.

In addition to the $150,000, the 20 grant recipients received a trip to premier sponsor, Google’s headquarters in California for an exclusive small business marketing workshop this February. Google will also provide a Chromebook Laptop computer and a $2,000 coupon toward one market research study with Google Consumer Surveys.

Our friend and partner, the South Florida Sun Sentinel, wrote a  story about Titan Paddles here.

And see Titan Paddles' video for the Chase contest here.


January 16, 2015

'Shark Tank' casting call draws wide range of pitches from UM alumni, students


Buttercream:   Kristine Graulich (left, BBA '00) and Jose Cuellar.


 Room2Care:   Todd Florin, (left, MD and MBA '12) and Richard Ashenoff (MBA '12)

By Richard Westlund 

Todd Florin, who earned an MD/MBA degree from the University of Miami in 2012, believes America is ready for a new concept in senior residential care.  Jordan Barrocas, who earned his MBA from UM in 2011, wants to expand his fillet mignon beef jerky business, while Justin Lichtenstaedter, a 2010 business school graduate, is ready to roll out Yapper, a location-based mobile chat service.

On Friday,  more than a dozen University of Miami alumni and student teams pitched their entrepreneurial concepts at a casting call for "Shark Tank," the critically acclaimed business-theme TV series airing on ABC and in syndication on CNBC.  

"Our school has an excellent reputation for having alumni who start successful businesses," said Susana Alvarez, director of entrepreneurship programs at the UM School of Business Administration, which hosted the casting call. "The 'Shark Tank' producers took that into consideration when selecting UM as the site of this casting call."   Two teams led by UM School of business graduates, Rodolfo Saccoman and Omar Soliman, were featured on the show in 2009.

Making their pitch on Friday were UM alumni Florin and Richard Ashenoff II, founders of rooms2care.com. "America is aging and there is a serious shortage of affordable senior care," Florin told the three "Shark Tank" evaluators, Mindy Zemrak,  casting manager, Michael Kramer, senior producer, and Shawn Aly, casting associate. "Our goal is to connect people with extra space in their homes with seniors who need some support." The team is seeking $100,000 from the show's five "Sharks" to launch and promote its innovative residential concept.

In his pitch, Lichtenstaedter asked for $200,000 to roll out his location-based messaging app Yapper, recently launched at eight universities. "This allows you to have conversations with everyone in your area in real time," he said. "It's ideal if you're going to a sporting event or a business conference or just watching 'Shark Tank' at home on a Friday night."

When Kramer asked him how Yapper will make money, Lichtenstaedter said the company's revenue model is based on geotargeted advertising, based on users' demonstrated interests, such as sports teams or happy hour lounges.

Three of the teams focused on upscale food products, including Barrocas' "Three Jerks Jerky," a company whose products are now in 75 independent grocery stores. "We are already profitable, but need funding to expand to the national chains," he said.

Alumnus Nekishia Lester hopes her sweet potato products will capture America's taste buds. "We make pies, parfaits and smoothies with this superfood, and we're looking for investment to expand our family business," she said.

For alumnus Kristine Graulich and her husband Jose Cuellar, funding from a "Shark Tank" investor would allow them to expand Buttercream Cupcakes, their seven-year-old business, whose customers include singer Celine Dion and Miami Heat star Chris Bosh. "We sell more than 150,000 cupcakes a year, but we have reached capacity," Graulich said. "We want to open a flagship store, expand our menu and keep growing our market."

After sampling a mini-cupcake, Zemrak had high praise, saying it was "the best frosting" she had ever tasted. Graulich responded with a big smile and a heartfelt plea, "Buttercream has been our baby for the past seven years," she said. "I want to be on 'Shark Tank' more than I want to breathe air."

Posted Jan. 16, 2015