December 07, 2016

Hispanic Small Business Owners’ Secrets to Success

By Gary Garth

Gary Garth HeadshotWe heard a lot during the Presidential campaign about the importance of winning the Hispanic vote. But any campaign strategist knows you can’t paint such a diverse population with one broad brush. The same holds true for Hispanic business owners. The key to growing your customer base is developing marketing campaigns that target specific demographics and drives them to your website and bricks-and-mortar locations. In an age where we’re all connected 24/7 to the Internet and our attention spans are shorter than ever, search engine marketing is the most efficient and cost-effective way to do just that.

Having just advised you not to lump all Hispanics into one category, I will backtrack just a bit to point out there is one generalization that holds true: Hispanics are the fastest-growing segment of our local and national populations.

The U.S. Census bureau reports that Florida’s population grew by 1.46 million people from 2010 to 2015. Hispanics represent 51 percent of that surge. In five years, Florida’s Hispanic population grew six times more than non-Hispanic whites, and more than twice as fast as blacks. Nationally, Hispanics count for 56.6 million citizens. That’s 17.6 percent of the U.S. population, the country’s largest ethnic or racial minority. Local Hispanic small business owners who cater to Hispanic consumers should hear sounds of cash registers ringing (or computer mice clicking) when they see those statistics. Their customer bases are large and still growing.

Of course, thanks to the ubiquity of high-speed Wi-Fi connections and powerful mobile devices, the entire world has become one big consumer marketplace. While this enables local businesses to consider pursuing new customers outside South Florida, it also means they must compete for those customers’ eyeballs with other businesses nationwide and even internationally.

To make things even more difficult, consider this bit of irony: while consumers spend more time online than ever before, they have also never been quicker to hop from web site to web site. Consider these three statistics:

*We've seen a 20 percent increase in mobile's share of online sessions across the web in the past year;

*At the same time, we’ve seen an 18 percent decrease in time spent per visit across the web in the past year. As mobile accounts for more sessions, they’re getting shorter overall;

*But there’s a lot happening in these session: In the past year, mobile conversion rates have increased by 29 percent.

I call these “micro-moments”, and they are critical for brands to win. These are the moments that can keep a first-time customer coming back to your web site, or attract new customers to visit and linger. Search is the top online source used when gathering information about a potential purchase. Google has found that 86 percent of Hispanics use search to gather information, and that 93 percent of that group who remember seeing an online advertisement took action such as visiting a web site.

The challenge for Hispanic business owners is drawing Hispanic consumers to their web sites, and more importantly, how to keep them from leaving. We’ve found that search engine marketing campaigns that target both English- and Spanish-speaking Hispanic consumers yield significantly better returns:

*221 percent increase in click-through rates

*25 percent higher conversion rates

*63 percent lowered cost-per-click

*65 percent lower cost per conversion

An effective search engine marketing campaign leverages Google AdWords to compel consumers to visit a web site. You’re likely familiar with the ads that appear on the tops of your computer or mobile browsers. Those are AdWord ads. You identify which keywords will grab your target customer’s attention as he or she is searching Google. You only pay Google if that person clicks on your ad and goes to your site.

To ensure a high return on your investment, be sure to target the right audience(s) for your market. For example, if you own a surfboard store on Miami Beach that caters to the local Hispanic communities, don’t blanket the entire country. Unless you’re selling surfboards online and shipping them nationwide, don’t bother targeting people shopping for surfboards outside South Florida. Target only the local communities, beaches and cities near your store so potential local clients become aware of your services and generate sales.

AdWords can also provide you with invaluable data on your customers’ behaviors and preferences, and whether you’re getting a good return on your investment. You can do this by implementing Google Analytics, Conversion Tracking or Call Tracking.

Of course, getting people to your web site is just step one. Your landing page must keep them on your site, and compel them to take specific actions such as requesting more information or making a purchase. There must be a strong correlation between the ad that the user clicked and the page on which they land. If users do not find what they expect, your bounce rates will be unacceptably high. Bounce rate indicates the effectiveness of a website in encouraging visitors to stay. A good bounce rate is generally below 60 percent. 

So the benefit of maintaining a high degree of relevance between your ads and landing pages is enormous. On one hand, you enjoy better quality scores and on the other you achieve a higher conversion rate in conjunction with lower bounce rates. This sets you up for an improved ROI on your ad spend.

Done correctly, search engine marketing can be your best marketing tactic for targeting specific audiences within the local and national Hispanic communities. You can set up your campaigns in English, Spanish, by geographical area and even target visitors who have left your site. Search is the most efficient outlet to get measurable and quick results because, unlike most other forms of advertising, you can see in real time how each dollar spent is working (or not) and quickly make minor or major adjustments. 

Finally, be sure to avoid the common mistakes that drive first-time visitors away from your site. Delete or optimize visibly outdated content, modernize tired-looking design, ensure your call to actions are set up properly, and establish your credibility by making sure your contact information is always visible, maintain a blog, and provide easy access to customer service and support resources.

Gary Garth is co-founder and CEO of White Shark Media. He is responsible for guiding the company’s strategy and growth.

November 30, 2016

EDC launches “Inside the Investors Head” series with Miami DDA

EDCRob Strandberg intro Steve O'Hara

 

By Deborah Johnson

Enterprise Development Corporation launched a new series of investor/startup events meant to provide entrepreneurs valuable funding insights.  The series combines one-on-one investor/startup introductions with a reception for a broader audience of entrepreneurs.    The objective of these “capital Introductions” is to both help startups acquaint themselves with active Florida and non-Florida early stage investors and help investors identify South Florida’s best emerging investor-ready companies. 

The series launch event featured New World Angels (NWA) and their new president, Steve O’Hara.  Mr. O’Hara met in the afternoon with five NWA selected companies from a growing event database of over 30 companies.   Each company received feedback on their presentation, an initial interest level and specific advice in applying for formal consideration by NWA. 

The five companies selected were:  Recordgram – a mobile music and video recording studio that allow for instant song collaboration; BBConnect – a cloud based reservation and marketing solution for the $3B B&B industry; Cargo42 – an on-demand marketplace for local trucking scheduling; YouCloud – a digital coach for team effectiveness; and Magneceutical Health – Magnetic Resonance Therapy addressing chronic stress and related conditions. 

These 1 on 1s were followed by an evening reception where Mr. O’Hara shared with the audience general funding guidance for entrepreneurs as well as specific insights into NWA’s selection and funding process. 

Future events in this series will be ongoing throughout 2017, with the January investor announced soon so please check www.enterbusiness.org for updates.

For entrepreneurs wishing to participate in future events, please submit an executive summary and investor slide deck to team@edc-tech.org

November 27, 2016

Startup Spotlight: The Wynwood Coloring Book

Wynwoodcoloringbook

The Wynwood Coloring Book is a coloring book for adults inspired by the world famous street art of Wynwood. A second edition is planned, as well as a broader book featuring street artists from throughout the U.S.

Company name: The Wynwood Coloring Book, by AimfulMedia

Headquarters: MADE at the Citadel, 8325 NE Second Ave., Miami

Concept: The Wynwood Coloring Book is a coloring book for adults inspired by the world famous street art of Wynwood.

Story: As an entrepreneur, Diego Orlandini (pictured above) has always been passionate about ideas that are socially responsible and community-oriented and that deepen the human experience. He admires TOMS Shoes and similar companies that bring tangible positive social impact to their business models.

“Last year, when I was stressed trying to build AimfulMedia and writing a novel, my girlfriend at the time introduced me to a coloring book for adults. We imagined how cool it could be to color the murals of the city, and I saw that as the opportunity to put all my passions into one single project,” Orlandini said. Orlandini, a yoga enthusiast who traveled to India this summer, also discovered firsthand what research has shown to be true: Coloring can be a “mindful” way of relaxing and focusing.

Orlandini partnered with a number of Wynwood artists, and with the help of that community, the first edition of the $25 coloring book published in April. The 64-page book, made with high-quality environmentally friendly wood-free paper, features the work of 43 street artists, including Alex Senna, Mijares and Patch Whisky and includes a directory with information about each artist and work of art.

“The Wynwood Coloring Book is a lot of things. It’s a tool for mindfulness, to help people take a break from the hustle and remember a simpler time. It’s a souvenir for visitors who want to bring home a part of this place. And it’s a time capsule, capturing Wynwood at a pivotal moment in its young life, preserving today’s art long after it is painted over to make way for a new mural,” The New Tropic wrote earlier this year about the book.

The first printing of the Wynwood Coloring Book sold out in June and a second printing is nearly sold out. There will be one more printing before the next edition of Wynwood Coloring Book comes out featuring a new set of street artists. About 5,000 copies have been sold so far.

Orlandini also has plans to expand beyond Wynwood: “We are now embarking on the next bigger, larger project: A coloring book featuring over 100 artists around the country and a buy-one, give-one initiative that will come with it. For every book sold, we will place a textbook in the hands of schoolchildren in the developing world.”

Orlandini said he is working on a prototype for the national book now and will put out a call to artists in January.

Founded: 2015 (first book in 2016)

Management team: Diego Orlandini

Website: wynwoodcoloringbook.com

Financing: $5,000 via a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign. Hoping to raise $50,000 for a national project.

Recent milestones reached: The Wynwood Coloring Book is now available at Miami International Airport, Books & Books, several museum gift shops including PAMM, and top retailers in Wynwood, including The Wynwood Walls Shop, Glotman, Frangipani and Wynwood Letterpress. Faber-Castell approached the company and together they launched a Wynwood Coloring Book colored pencil set to accompany the book. The startup organized a coloring party at the Miami Book Fair that entertained hundreds of attendees, adults and children alike.

Biggest startup challenge: “Not having a mentor to guide me through the process was the biggest challenge,” Orlandini said. “I’m still looking for one!”

Next step: A coloring book with 100-plus artists and their street art from around the country and a buy one, give one program (for every book sold, the company will give a textbook to schoolchildren in the developing world). “Doing something like this has been a dream of mine since my college years,” he said.

Strategy for next step: With the rapid experience, important connections and growing audience as a result of The Wynwood Coloring Book, the company will implement the same lean process used to create this book, but at a much larger scale.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

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November 17, 2016

South Florida small business: No. 10 in U.S. among metro areas

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Nearly one out of every 10 adults owns a business in South Florida — the highest rate among metro areas in the United States. But just 45 percent of the region’s small businesses survive at least five years.

Because of those findings and others, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale metropolitan area ranked 10th in the nation for small business activity in a report released Thursday by the Kauffman Foundation.

Nationally, small business activity is on the rise in 47 of 50 states, including Florida, and in 38 of the top 40 largest metropolitan areas this year, according to the 2016 Kauffman Index: Main Street Entrepreneurship. The Kauffman Foundation, a national nonprofit, researches and supports entrepreneurship.

In South Florida, small businesses make up roughly 90 percent of the economy by many measures. The Main Street Entrepreneurship Index is an indicator of small business activity, focusing on established small businesses and trends in ownership rates. The Index measures the rate of business owners in the economy, as defined by the percentage of adults owning a business in a given month, the rate of business survival, or the percentage of firms in operation throughout their first five years, and established small business density, as defined by the ratio of established small businesses compared to the population, all based on the prior year’s data.  

The top five metropolitan areas for small business activity as measured by the index were Pittsburgh, Boston, Portland, Oregon, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

The Miami area ranked No. 10, up seven spots since 2015 (note: the rate of business survival was added to the index in 2016 so the 2015 index data was re-ranked with the new data), and it ranked high in several measures, including No. 1 in the rate of business owners, with 94 business owners for every 1,000 adults. By contrast, the lowest rate was 39 business owners in the Virginia Beach metropolitan area. For the business survival metric, Miami ranked among the bottom five at 45 percent surviving past five years. Orlando ranked the lowest with a 39 percent rate.

The report also showed owner demographic trends in states and metro areas, broken out by gender, age, nativity, race and education. Miami came up in the top five of two lists: Metro areas with the highest rates of older adult business owners (ages 55-64), where it was No. 4; and the areas with the highest rates of young adult business owners (ages 20-34), where Miami was No.1. Miami was No. 3 for the number of female business owners. In the Miami metro area, there are more immigrant-run businesses than ones run by the native born (12 percent vs 8 percent), and Hispanics had the highest level of entrepreneurship among ethnic groups.

Among states, Florida ranked 19th, up two places since 2015’s revamped ranking and brought up by Miami’s strong showing (Tampa-St Petersburg was 28th, Orlando was 37th and Jacksonville was 39th in the index).

The Kauffman Index: Main Street Entrepreneurship is part of a series on entrepreneurship reports; the first report was the Kauffman Index: Startup Activity, in which Miami ranked No. 2 in the nation for 2016 and 2015. In the Entrepreneurship Growth Index for 2016, Miami ranked 39 out of 40. The Main Street report is available at www.kauffmanindex.org.

Nancy Dahlberg; 305-376-3595; @ndahlberg

Read more: Miami’s small businesses see growth, more employees in year ahead

October 19, 2016

JPMorgan Chase grants aim to expand micro-lending in South Florida

JPMorgan Chase is more than doubling the size of its global Small Business Forward program by committing $75 million over the next three years to support women, minority and veteran-owned small businesses, including through programs that connect small business owners with alternative funding sources when they are unable to qualify for traditional loans.

In South Florida, a $250,000 two-year grant to Accion will help increase the lending organization’s capacity to serve more micro- and small-business owners, launch its Community Advantage loan program, and expand operations to include Broward County. Accion provides loans up to $50,000 and offers free financial education to small businesses.

JPMorgan Chase also will be supporting Grameen America with a two-year $500,000 as it expands to Miami-Dade County. Grameen’s pioneering microlending program will provide small loans to Hispanic women to help them build businesses, achieve higher family incomes and develop entrepreneurial skills.

Small businesses are growing fastest among people of color, particularly Latinas and African American women, yet Brookings Institution research shows minority-owned businesses rely significantly more on investments of personal or family wealth than on outside debt or equity. Moreover, only 16 percent of conventional small-business loans go to women entrepreneurs, a U.S. Senate report found, and despite the higher startup rate for African-American owned businesses, these businesses received less than two percent of SBA loans in 2013.

Launched in 2014, Small Business Forward is a global initiative to support small businesses with the potential to grow, offer quality employment, and generate financial security and economic opportunity for vulnerable populations and their communities by connecting capital with highly targeted technical assistance and support networks to help small businesses grow sustainably.

October 16, 2016

Building entrepreneurs: Where Endeavor sees progress in year 3

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By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

High-growth companies are “believed to create nearly all net new jobs,” although they make up a minority of companies in the U.S., according to a 2011 study for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy.

Developing a strong support system for helping increase sales at already-growing small businesses with proven business models can do more for economic development than promoting startups or luring large corporations with tax breaks, a recent Bloomberg Business article noted. Yet in Miami this year, the metropolitan area ranked No. 2 in the nation among major metro areas for small-business creation but second from last (no. 39) for growth, analyses by the Kauffman Foundation found.

Endeavor Miami, a nonprofit organization that selects, supports and accelerates high-impact entrepreneurs, aims to help grow the Miami economy by giving companies that already have traction a chance to secure a foothold and expand, Endeavor Miami Managing Director Laura Maydón said. To do that, it selects high-potential companies to support from a diverse cross-section of industries — including food/beverage, tech and healthcare — and in time, those entrepreneurs are expected to help other companies scale up. “These high-growth companies can add proportionally more jobs and wealth to our economy,” she said. 

Endeavor posted a new report this week marking progress, as well as challenges ahead, in its mission. Find it on here on EndeavorMiami.org. Here are a few highlights:

* Food and beverage has been among the most active entrepreneurial sectors, with a number of new companies gaining traction, many of them focused on healthier eating and convenient delivery. Four of Endeavor’s 15 companies are in this vertical and more are in the pipeline. Ginnybakes, for instance, launched a hospitality unit that focuses on putting its “mindfully indulgent” organic cookies and bars into hotel minibars. My Ceviche, already with a fast-casual chain, launched Zuuk, a healthy, fast-casual Mediterranean-style eatery in Brickell and at Miami International Airport. FastCasual.com, a media site for the $23.5 billion fast-casual restaurant industry segment, ranked the newest Endeavor Entrepreneur, Pincho Factory, at No. 11 in the Fast Casual Top 100 this year. DeliverLean, a fast-growing healthy-meal delivery service, employs 118, according to the report. 

[Read more: How millennial trends shape a new generation of food startups]

 * Young technology and healthcare companies are also making strides. EveryMundo, which provides airlines with proprietary technology and strategies, has commercialized two additional software solutions and signed deals with two of the top five airlines. It’s one of the eight Endeavor companies in the software, tech and IT area. In healthcare and medtech, seen as one of five key areas for entrepreneurial growth and potential global impact because of its hospital and university network already in place and its proximity to Latin America’s emerging markets. Already, three of the top 10 private employers in Miami are healthcare providers, according to the Beacon Council. In its buy-one-give-one social impact program, FIGS, a company modernizing medical apparel, has donated more than 90,000 sets of scrubs to medical professionals in Latin American, Caribbean and other emerging markets (co-founder Trina Spear is pictured above).

 * Some of Endeavor’s entrepreneurs are innovating the future of work itself. Encompass Onsite, which provides housekeeping, engineering maintenance and facilities management services, is mapping a step-by-step career path for every employee that even includes placing employees in opportunities in its partner network if they outgrow the company’s available opportunities. “We have a very deliberate and formalized way to provide our team members with new sets of skills within their chosen areas of expertise. Salaries inevitably increase as team members progress in this journey,” said CEO Marcell Haywood, who credits Endeavor with giving him a valuable advisory board. Meanwhile, Yandiki’s technology has empowered women around the world by providing them with access to work that allows for location and schedule flexibility. For instance, it partnered with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to allow more than 250,000 previously unemployed women to join the workforce working from home through an online employment program. In Saudi Arabia, many women were unable to work in gender-mixed environments. 

[Read more: It’s not all tech – five industries with strong growth potential

Endeavor Miami launched in 2013 with funding from the Knight Foundation and Endeavor Miami’s local board; Endeavor Miami was the global nonprofit’s first U.S. program. In the past three years, Endeavor has screened 265 companies, including 45 so far this year. Through an extensive selection process that culminated in judging by international selection panels, 24 entrepreneurs from 15 companies are now Endeavor Entrepreneurs, joining the global network of more than 1,300 entrepreneurs in 25 countries.

Together, these 15 companies have generated more than $100 million in revenue, up 55 percent since 2013 levels, and more than 1,500 jobs, up 70 percent, the report said. Fifty-seven mentors have donated 1,114 hours since 2013, and 20 of them sit on Endeavor Miami Entrepreneurs’ advisory boards. In addition to receiving mentorship and introductions, Endeavor companies have participated in or have been supported by programs such as EY’s Growth Navigator, Bain & Company’s “Externship” program, Harvard and Stanford business schools, and Kellogg’s executive MBA program. Maydón hopes to get more local companies involved in the next year.

Endeavor Miami banks on the multiplier effect: High-growth companies not only generate jobs, but their founders become role models and leaders in the entrepreneurship community, inspiring and mentoring future generations to think big and pursue high-growth entrepreneurship in the Miami area.

“We need to take a pause and acknowledge we’ve made progress, but there is still so much to do. This is a long-term play,” Maydón said. It’s also a team effort: “The sooner more stakeholders come together to support companies that are growing, the better position we will be in. Everyone has a place in this ecosystem.”

ENDEAVOR MIAMI

Find out more about Endeavor Miami and nominate a deserving entrepreneur for the program atEndeavorMiami.orgFind the report here.

COMING UP: ENDEAVOR GALA

Endeavor Miami is holding a gala on Saturday evening at Soho Studios in Wynwood, and all proceeds go to furthering the organization’s mission. Honored with the “Impact Award” will be Jessica Goldman Srebnick, CEO of Goldman Properties. Find out more and buy tickets at EndeavorMiami.org.

 

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

 

 

September 23, 2016

Spotlight: Rising Tide Car Wash makes waves in social impact

Risingtide
From left, Andrew D’Eri, Donna D’Eri, John D’Eri, Tom D’Eri and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, celebrate ‘Employing the Full Spectrum,’ part of Starbucks’ new ‘Upstanders’ series.

This social entrepreneurial company focuses on employing adults with autism. 

Name: Rising Tide Car Wash

Location: 7201 N. State Road 7, Parkland

What it is: A car wash with a focus on employing adults with autism. 

Website: risingtidecarwash.com

Services provided: Washes, some cleaning services. Prices start at $6 for a simple, basic wash of the exterior and use of a free vacuum. 

How it began: An existing car wash was purchased and renovated in 2012, and then launched as Rising Tide in April 2013 in Parkland. The business gives job opportunities to people with autism. When John and his son Tom D’Eri learned that 80 to 90 percent of adults with autism are unemployed, they set out to change that statistic. The D’Eris researched options and determined a car wash would be the ideal business for creating jobs for people with autism, like Tom’s brother Andrew, who likes structure and performing repetitive tasks and follows safety guidelines to the letter. 

Management team: John D’Eri, CEO; Tom D’Eri, co-founder and COO; Tom Sena, CFO. Dr. Michael Alessandri, executive director of the University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, is an advisor.

Number of employees: 42, with 35 on the autism spectrum. 

Competitors: Others are in the area including Express Car Wash in Boca Raton and Sample Road Auto Spa in Pompano Beach.

Year-over-year: Six months after it started its car-wash operation, the business had tripled its customer base of 35,000 to 40,000 and had its first profitable month in October 2013. In its first full year, Rising Tide did about 110,000 car washes. In its second year, it did 142,000. For its third year, the company projects 160,000 to 170,000 washes. 

Milestone: 

September 2016: Starbucks is highlighting the business in one of 10 videos “about ordinary people doing extraordinary things to create positive change in their communities,” as it says in a news release. The “Upstanders” series, as it’s called, is available through the coffee chain’s mobile app, website (Starbucks.com/Upstanders) and its YouTube account. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, senior vice president of public affairs at Starbucks and the executive producer of the company’s social impact media initiatives, wrote and produced the series. Shot over two days in August, the six-minute video entitled “Employing the Full Spectrum” shows Andrew D’Eri drying cars and polishing tires with fellow employees at Rising Tide as well as scenes from D’Eri’s family’s home life in Fort Lauderdale. John and Tom D’Eri also are in the video.

Watch video below:

Upcoming: A second location in Margate is planned, with groundbreaking expected in the next two weeks. It’s projected to be completely built in about six months, with a spring opening. The new car wash  will be on 1.5 acres at 2970 N. State Road 7 that were purchased for $1.5 million and will be about one and a half times larger than the one in Parkland. It will cost about $3.4 million to get  it up and running. More than 50 people will work at the Margate location. 

Major keys to success: “You can’t do this without dedicated employees,” John D’Eri said. He cites “the dedication of all his employees, their willingness to follow proper protocol, their desire to deliver value, the fact that they treat clients with respect, value their position in the company and create a culture of acceptance” for the success of Rising Tide.

Strategy for success: John D’Eri said the company plans to replicate the success of the business locally, regionally and then nationally with a hub-and-spoke concept with the Parkland operation as a hub. In addition, he said, the company plans to analyze and use the knowledge gained to produce a superior product and delve into other businesses, using best practices as they relate to people on the autism spectrum — “the autism advantage,” he calls it.

RORY CLARKE

 

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For small businesses stung by Zika, here's help

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Small businesses who suffered business losses due to being in the Wynwood “Zika zone” may be eligible for a loan program.

Miami Bayside Foundation, an economic development nonprofit, will be extending loans of up to $20,000 to minority- and woman-owned businesses in the city of Miami that can demonstrate their business has been adversely affected by the Zika vrus.

The new Zika Emergency Assistance Loan Program, or ZEAL, part of the Miami Bayside Foundation’s micro-loan program, is designed to specifically provide assistance with payroll expenses in order to ensure job retention in what was previously designated “Zika Zone.” The loans are for two years at 6 percent and the only fees are $100 for pulling credit and closing costs, said Kathleen Murphy, the foundation’s executive director.

The Zika zone designation was lifted by Gov. Rick Scott on Monday, but businesses are still feeling the impact, said Murphy. "We know local small businesses are struggling to recover until the season kicks in and our number one priority is to help them stay open and ensure they are able to pay their employees."

For more information on loan criteria and to apply, visit www.miamibaysidefoundation.org.

September 18, 2016

Why every incubator needs social entrepreneurs

Startupfiucohort1

Photo by Daniela Cadena

By Robert Hacker

In January 2016, Emily Gresham and I began to design the program that became StartUP FIU, Florida International University’s (FIU) new incubator. Emily, who is Assistant Vice President for Research and Economic Development, holds the strong belief that hospitals and universities are the anchor institutions in cities. This philosophy lead to StartUP FIU’s focus on serving the entire community and not just the Brickell-Wynwood corridor. I believe there is much confusion between small business management and entrepreneurship and that Miami would be best served if StartUP FIU supported the entrepreneurship that grows large, scalable ventures. With community and scalable ventures in place as the founding principles, Emily and I quickly added other key principles:

Inclusion We welcome everyone to apply to StartUP FIU, from high schoolers and college students to faculty from any university in South Florida. We welcome retired people, FIU alumni and people with no formal education. We received 160 applications to Cohort 1 and the applications were split almost evenly between students, alumni and the community. As they say, “we bet on the jockeys and not on the horses”.

Free: To be truly inclusive a program cannot have financial barriers to entry. The signature, 13-week incubator program “Empower” is totally free--no application fees, no payments or charges during the program and no equity participation for the incubator. We also provide mentors, consultants, space and university resources at no charge.

Stage Agnostic: When we first started talking to prospective entrepreneurs, we realized that many people did not even know how to advance their ideas beyond their first doodles on a piece of paper. Therefore, we decided that we would accept people who just had ideas, people that had a minimal viable product (MVP) but no revenue and companies with revenue. Applicants did not even have to have a company formed.

General Incubator: We think of StartUP FIU as a startup. We are iterating to determine the best way to serve the South Florida community. Today we accept all types of ideas from food and fashion to edtech, high tech and medical diagnostics. We even have a chair company in Cohort 1. We may experiment with specially “themed cohorts” in the future as we continue to explore what types of entrepreneurship will best serve South Florida, but today we welcome applications from all industries.

Authenticity: When one spends a lot of time with students, one realizes that they are most engaged by hands on, experiential learning. StartUP FIU’s incubator is offered through a group of entrepreneurs that use the customer fieldwork approach in a modified Lean Startup methodology. We do not use the professorial approach so common in most academic incubators. Demo Day at StartUP FIU is a pitch day to angel, seed and “A” round VCs.

The last key decision Emily and I made was to combine traditional and social entrepreneurs in the same cohort. Several institutions have separate incubators for traditional and social entrepreneurs, but we found that perhaps only Y Combinator shares our view that all the entrepreneurs should be combined in one cohort. We opted for this approach in part because we believe that diversity breeds better collaboration.

Secondly, we believe that the social entrepreneurs will help the traditional entrepreneurs to remember their responsibility to not only make a profit but also to improve society.

Lastly, millennials have a high level of genuine social concern. As they reach the years where they become the major purchasers, they will force all entrepreneurs to become social entrepreneurs.

Perhaps the evidence for this view of social entrepreneurship comes from the people and companies that began Cohort 1 Sept. 6 (pictured above). We have a former Detroit schoolteacher trying to provide better information about higher education alternatives to students. We have a team originally from Venezuela working to use bee keeping as a micro-entrepreneurship concept to help poor women raise their standard of living. We have a team composed of about fifteen FIU computer science graduate and undergraduate students from all over the world creating a new pedagogy for early child learning using the agile development methodology. We also have a PhD researcher from Baskin Palmer working on a new approach to eye diagnostics and a team building prosthetics with 3-D printers. As is obvious, the line between social and traditional entrepreneurship is becoming very cloudy.

[Who's in Cohort 1? See the list here.]

StartUP FIU will begin accepting applications Sept. 19, 2016, for its second cohort beginning in January 2017. Applications and more information about StartUP FIU can be found at Startup.FIU.edu.

Robert Hacker is the Director of StartUP FIU and teaches social entrepreneurship at FIU, MIT and UM. He is the former CFO of One Laptop per Child and prior to that built a publicly traded billion-dollar company in seven years in Indonesia. He consults to companies in the U.S., the Caribbean and Central America on growth strategies and complex problems through GH Growth Advisors. His books on entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship are available on Amazon.

READ MORE: Multi-campus StartUP FIU gets ready for takeoff

READ MORE: Q&A with Robert Hacker on scaling social entrepreneurship, finding partners, thinking big

Hacker1

 Above, Bob Hacker introduced the mentors to the StartUP FIU entrepreneurs. At top of post, the first cohort of StartUP FIU.

September 17, 2016

Meet the entrepreneurs in StartUP FIU's Cohort 1

StartUP FIU launched its first cohort of its 13-week Empower incubator Sept. 6. The cohort, selected from 160 applications, includes 20 entrepreneurs from 19 businesses or concepts in a variety of industries. It also includes social entrepreneurs. The free incubator program accepted entrepreneurs from the idea stage to revenue-producing companies; it includes community members as well as FIU students and alumni. Read more about the program here: Multi-campus StartUP FIU gets ready for takeoff

Who's in Cohort 1 of StartUP FIU?  Find the list below: 

Addigy

Founder: Jason Dettbarn.

Addigy provides a cloud based IT Management platform for organizations to manage their growing portfolio Apple Mac computers.

Ascynd.co

Founder: Andru Fratarcangeli

eSport is a marketplace for players to seek competitions and funding.

BAHL Design Group LLC

Founder: Brandt H. Labastille

BAHL Design Group offers world's lightest deskchair in waterproof backpack with solar panel/battery pack

Bid.Aero

Founder: Anthony Leon

Bid.Aero is a sourcing & procurement platform for aircraft and engine part sales.

College Pop

Founder: Oneika Osborne

College Pop is the mobile student development and college preparation hub.

Delta Designs

Founder: Christopher Scull

Delta Designs is proposing a locally-sourced, rapid-prototyping business with the exclusive goal to produce prosthetic components using 3D printing.

Helene's Ice Cream

Founder: Helene's Ice Cream

Helene's handcrafts highly addictive frozen custard. Happiness in a jar.

iscreen2prevent

Founder: Delia DeBuc

'One Stop Mobile Eye Care' idea is to provide convenient comprehensive eye screening to rural and urban seniors as well as the general population

Jarly

Founder: Steve Aitken

Jarly is a subscription box service for artisan made fresh baked goods. We've launched. We have customers and revenue.

Master Honey

Founder: Andrea Saladrigas

Master Honey empowers low income women by giving them all the resources necessary to start their own beekeeping business.

MMM

Founder: Giovanna Gallardo

Discover, personalize and share transportation loops linking cultural destinations.

MPG (The Molecular Pearl Group)

Founder: Xavier González & Argelio Maldonado

Technology designed for automated creation of avant-garde food/beverage pearls

Neat Study

Founder: Ranjeet Deshmukh

Neat Study's app helps students ace their assignments while making learning fun.

NPC Publishing

Founder: Ivan Rodriguez

NPC Publishing creates a game universe where the players control their content

Pilot VR

Founder: Jose Maldonado

 Pilot VR is an all-in-one affordable VR system aimed at physical therapy.

SD Technologies

Founder: Sebastian Duque

SD Technologies is disrupting a niche market within the sports industry.

SoundBite LLC

Founder: Daniel Gonzalez

SoundBite brings the beauty of audio to the social media world.

VoterAid

Founder: Christopher Knowles

VoterAid connects voters and candidates with heuristics based on a set of questions designed to highlight the differences between candidates in a given election.

No Name Company

Founder: Rory Kennedy

Natural organic banana juice based beverage marketed towards individuals with active healthy lifestyles.

Startupfiucohort1

 Photo of StartUP FIU's Cohort 1 of Empower by Daniela Cadena