February 09, 2017

WIN Lab Miami gets new director: Meet Carolina Pina

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

CarolinaPinaWIN Lab Miami, an accelerator program for women entrepreneurs created and run by Babson College, has named a director.

Carolina Pina, an entrepreneur, advisor and philanthropist, will take over as director of the Miami program that is already in progress. Most recently she was the director of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. “I look forward to working with Babson College and the entire WIN Lab team to make an impact on Miami’s entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Pina said in the announcement.

WIN (Women Innovating Now) Lab was originally launched by Massachusetts-based Babson College in 2013, and expanded to Miami in 2016, with $800,000 in support from the Knight Foundation. The first cohort in the eight-month program started in the fall of 2016 and finishes this spring; another cohort will follow next fall. Entrepreneurs in the program can come from any industry. The first cohort includes startups focused on tech, food, fashion, e-commerce, shipping and other areas.

[READ MORE: Meet WIN Lab’s first accelerator class]

In addition to her Kellog School position, Pina founded Ignitus, a consulting practice that helps organizations implement social impact initiatives. Her most recent accomplishment was leading the RiseUp AS ONE concert in San Diego for Fusion Media Group. She has also held leadership roles with the New World Symphony, the Miami Film Festival, and the Lung Transplant Foundation.

Originally from Venezuela, Pina holds a bachelor’s degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering from Florida International University, an MBA from Rice University’s Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Management, and Executive Scholars in Leadership and Management from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

“Carolina brings both great managerial talent and passion for women’s entrepreneurship to this role,” said Babson WIN Lab Global Director Heatherjean MacNeil. “She has a strong vision for WIN Lab Miami and is dedicated to building an ecosystem where women founders thrive.”

February 02, 2017

Meet the entrepreneurs in Cohort 2 of StartUP FIU accelerator

StartUP C2

StartUP FIU is launching  its second cohort of its 14-week accelerator, Empower, this month. The cohort includes entrepreneurs from 17 businesses or concepts in a variety of industries, including music, fashion, shipping, health and education. It also includes a number of social entrepreneurs. The free 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 2 of StartUP FIU?  Find the list below: 

Audio EP

Founder: Stephen Sullivan

Audio EP provides music students interactive exercises to develop various music related skills essential to music production and songwriting in today's digital age. It also connects students with music instructors through the online platform for coaching services.

BECOS

Founder: Jorge Arias

BECOS produces handbags, book bags, wallets and others, with recycled materials in order to create conscience within our customers. The recycled materials are from cement bags and food sacks for animals, and these bags are put together by employees with disabilities. In addition to that, 15% of  annual profit will support children that have been displaced by violence.

BENBO

Founder: Carolina Hoyos

BENBO is a new interactive, simple and easy to use business networking app, where we try to simplify the user’s interaction when sharing business cards.  BENBO lets you: Create and customize your very own business card, uniquely designed, in just a few seconds.

Boatrax

Founder: David Villegas

Boatrax facilitates the logging experience for boat owners with a mobile app that allows them to organize their logs and share them with local service providers to purchase right-on-time services using our marketplace platform.

Cargo42

Founder: Francine Gervazio

Cargo42 is a marketplace for trucking committed to reducing idle time and capacity. We seek to provide shippers (local businesses) a more competitive rate and simplify the shipping process, while carriers (local trucking companies) enjoy an additional revenue stream and maximize the trucks productivity.

Clutch Couture Bags

Co-founders: Jordan Johnson and Tia Plagata

Clutch Couture Bags provides a luxury handbag rental service that serves US customers via an online store. We provide a service that allows fellow fashion-lovers to experience the luxury of carrying some of the world’s most sought-after handbags, while paying a fraction of the price on a monthly basis.

Container Retail

Founder: Charles Sims

Retail Incubator space developed with reused shipping containers located in (Liberty City) Miami, FL. The hope is that a sustainable model can be created and deployed in similar communities throughout the U.S.

Extreme Weather Experience

Founder: Erik Salna

Extreme Weather Experience is a one-of-a-kind concept to develop an immersive, experiential, interactive, hands-on weather education theme park attraction with entertainment, retail, restaurants, a weather forecast center and a media broadcast center.

Give Wink

Founder: Francine Delarosa

Give Wink is a full-service boutique that provides added value services such as full space planning and design, nursery set up and reveals, customization and personalization of many products, gift registries and educational classes/events

 

GlanceHouse Cloud

Founder: Andrew Ritch

GlanceHouse allows businesses and organizations to automate the backup and archiving of video surveillance data to the Cloud. Users can store that data from 30 days to an indefinite amount of time.

Mind&Melody

Founder: Cristina Rodriguez

Mind&Melody has designed a proprietary music curriculum with three goals: to deliver live musical performances; teach music theory concepts in a simple, fun and artistic way; play sheet music and create original composition through our color-coding system. Our program is highly individualized to reach and engage different levels of dementia and musical ability.

SkillCourt LLC

Founder: Gudmundur Traustason

SkillCourt is an athletic training system consisting of pads built with LED lights for cue targets. The goal of the illuminated targets is to be hit with an object like a soccer ball through a timed sequence. Inside each pad are sensors that provide feedback for detailed performance which reports performance information to the SkillCourt app.

Stealth Simulation

Founder: Christian Gutierrez

Stealth Simulation by Boorpus™ LLC was born out of the need to increase the fidelity of standardized patient physical examination. We focus on technology-driven innovative solutions aimed to improve medical simulation while maintaining the highest degree of realism of virtual patient encounters.

Viera Academy

Founder: Carlos Raul Garcia

Viera Academy provides a playground e-learning platform that specializes in Standardized Tests, as well as world level Mental Math and Memory courses, developed by Guinness World Record holders.

WeWomen

Founder: Dorothy Peck

WeWomen is aiming to solve the lack of feminine hygienic pads in refugee camps. Their solution is using banana leaves from banana trees to produce hypoallergenic and environmentally friendly menstrual pads. Providing women with a product that will allow them to work, go to school and be productive members in society

Worcket

Founder: Sergio Klarreich

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Worcket is a millennials-ready phone app and a cloud service that enterprises use to recruit University and College students or professionals for employment opportunities, in the US first and then worldwide. It leverages disruptive technologies like Video Profiles, Machine Learning, and Artificial Intelligence. We are a truly innovative Seattle based start-up, that is part of the Microsoft BizSpark incubation initiative. Our first production release will be ready in mid-December.

No Name Company

Founder: Megan Twomey

The idea presented here is for a novel class of Nitric Oxide (NO) probes that are based on unique metal photoluminescent complexes that directly react with NO to provide highly sensitive and cost-effective detection. This novel class of probes would benefit the scientific and medical communities by advancing the understanding of NO's biological roles and subsequent pathological conditions that arise from NO dysfunction.

January 22, 2017

Startup Spotlight: WashMyWhip brings car wash to you and saves water, too

WWW00 Washmywhip News rk

WashMyWhip, a Miami-based startup, provides an on-demand, eco-friendly car-care service. Through the WashMyWhip app, you can drop a pin on your car’s location, select a service, and a WashPro will tend to your vehicle at a place and time of your choosing. 

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Company name: WashMyWhip 

Headquarters: The LAB Miami

Concept: WashMyWhip is an on-demand, eco-friendly car-care service. Through the WashMyWhip app, you can drop a pin on your car’s location and select a service, and a WashPro will tend to your vehicle at a time of your choosing. 

Story: Imagine telling your JPMorgan bosses you’re leaving a high-finance career to start a car-wash company. “They thought I was crazy,” Nathan Bekerman said. “But my years at JPMorgan taught me how to execute and run a business.” 

Bekerman and Tarek El Gammal (pictured above), who was also working at JPMorgan, as well as Ryan Serkes, “the computer guy,” believed there was something lacking in car-washing: consumer convenience. It also disturbed them that car-wash employees were typically being overworked and underpaid. Add to that the frightening figure that a traditional car wash can waste 50 to 100 gallons of water, and you have an industry in dire need of a makeover, they thought.

Their solution: WashMyWhip.

“We believe that everyone deserves to have quality car care right at their fingertips. Why would you take the time to drive to a car wash when you can launch an app and have a trained professional tend to your car whenever and wherever you want? The convenience and satisfaction of our customers is our utmost concern,” Bekerman, the CEO, said. “If they’re happy, we’re happy.”

WashMyWhip’s “WashPros” have the ability to manage a flexible schedule and earn both salary and commission-based pay. “We feel that these car-wash experts don’t deserve the working conditions of other car washes and can find a more pleasant working experience with WashMyWhip,” Bekerman said. A graduate of Bentley University, he worked at JPMorgan for 51/2 years before starting WashMyWhip.

Water conservation is key, Bekerman said. Instead of gallons and gallons of water, WashMyWhip uses a waterless car wash service that consists of lubricants that raise the dirt, clay that breaks it down, and wax that makes sure a car stays shiny and protected.

The service was launched last summer, and so far, the company has cleaned more than 5,000 cars without wasting 250,000 to 500,000 gallons of water. A reservation can be made sun-up to sundown daily via the free app (iOS or Android). An outside cleaning is $20, inside and out is $30, and full detailing is $120.

But where WashMyWhip sees real opportunity is with corporate clients that manage fleets of cars, and it has developed a web application that can manage their inventory for car care, which is tailored to them. WashMyWhip has already secured a partnership with Xchange Leasing, an Uber company, as its preferred car-cleaning provider, and has begun expanding into other major cities such as Atlanta, Philadelphia and New York. 

“Our goal is to eventually expand to other car services, such as battery and tire changes, wiper blade replacements and windshield replacements,” Bekerman said.

Where did the name “WashMyWhip” come from? In the early days of automobiles, a car’s steering wheel was called a whip, alluding to horse and buggy days, the team said. Who knew?

Launched: April 2016

Website: www.washmywhip.com/cities/miami 

Management team: CEO: Nathan Bekerman; COO: Tarek El Gammal; CTO: Ryan Serkes.

Number of employees: 40

Financing: More than $225,000 in funding to date

Recent milestones reached: Acquired Xchange Leasing (an Uber company) as a partner; expanded into Philadelphia and Atlanta with wmwFleets (the fleet servicing arm of WashMyWhip); was a finalist in the Global Mobile Challenge for the U.S. and Canada. 

Biggest startup challenge: Educating the consumer about its waterless car-cleaning service. 

Next step: Expand into other markets while continuing to partner with local businesses in South Florida to grow its foothold. 

Strategy for next step: WashMyWhip now offers a comprehensive solution for businesses that own/operate large fleets. The startup plans to continue partnering with car dealerships and car-rental agencies to grow wmwFleets to a national level and leverage that to expand the WashMyWhip app.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

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WDG00 Washmywhip News rk

 

 

January 17, 2017

Small Business Spotlight: USP Motorsports owner's road to riches was slow and steady, unlike his Orange Lamborghini

Chrisgreen-usp-allcars-1

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Turbocharging and test driving some of the fastest cars on the road: Just another day at the office?

For Chris Green (pictured above), founder of USP Motorsports, it is. The 35-year-old Coral Springs small-business owner, who started the company when he was 18, will be featured this week on CNBC’s second season of “Blue Collar Millionaires: Dirty Stinkin’ Rich,” a show that celebrates America’s self-made successes.

Green grew up modestly in the South Miami area, the son of a single mom. He sold candy to make money before turning to selling $60 car speaker boxes he built himself out of the family’s garage while in high school.

“I wasn’t exactly the best student in school, put it that way,” Green said.

They moved to Broward when Green was 15, and by the time he graduated from Coconut Creek Senior High School, he had saved up $5,000 in a bubble gum jar to rent 1,200 square foot space and had incorporated USP Motorsports. The venture combined his interest in car audio with his love of fast cars, because he also taught himself how to modify a car’s computer to make more horsepower, a service he began doing for his customers, while also providing custom parts. That was his start to his road to riches. But Green says it was passion, not the pursuit of dollars, that fueled his drive to succeed.

Far from being an overnight success, Green described his entrepreneurial journey as slow and steady. In the next few years, Green began adding high-level repair services for these fast cars. “I had no schooling for this stuff — it was literally 20 hour days just doing and doing and doing,” said "Green said. Even now when he hires specialists for his shop, he is not impressed with degrees and certifications: “You have to put your time into it.”

USP Motorsports was chugging along, and Green began to make a name for himself drag racing cars around the country —even winning races with a turbocharged Volkswagen Jetta, which is still on display at his Coral Springs location. In 2008, he began putting his business on the Internet and started to see opportunities beyond being a retail grease monkey in his shop.

Today, USP Motorsports, with 20 employees, is a repair shop, bricks-and-mortar retail location for custom parts and accessories and an e-commerce business for selling car parts worldwide. The company hit its first million in annual revenues in 2008.

“By 2012, it was a $3 million company, and last year, we did $7 million, and I hope to be in the $9 million range this year,” said Green, who owns an orange Lamborghini Superleggera with the license plate “NO DEGREE.”

Green is the second South Florida business owner to be featured on “Blue Collar Millionaires” this season. Antonio Ofer Sustiel, aka The Flooring King of Fort Lauderdale, was featured Jan. 4.

Each half-hour episode explores three success stories. Green’s episode is scheduled to air on CNBC at 10 p.m. Wednesday.

South Floridians are becoming regulars on business and reality TV shows. A dozen or so entrepreneurs have appeared on ABC’s “Shark Tank” over the years, and some have been on CNBC’s “The Profit.”

On Tuesday night at 10 p.m., Luke Freeman, founder of Wizard Creations, a Fort Lauderdale marketing and promotions company that makes custom T-shirts, hats and other branded products for clients including South Florida’s professional sports teams, Carnival Cruise Lines, University of Miami, Florida International University, ADT, Boca Regional Hospital and others, will appear on an episode of CNBC’s “Billion Dollar Buyer.” “We’re an underdog fight story,” Freeman told the Sun Sentinel about the $5 million company. On the show, Freeman will try to strike a large deal with restaurant operator Landry’s. He’s sworn to secrecy about whether Wizard Creations wins the contract.

 

January 16, 2017

Why we chose Miami as the US headquarters for Solomoto

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CEO Pasha Romanovski, CEO of Solomoto, presents at the Startup Nation conference at the Idea Center last summer.

By Pasha Romanovski

Following my visit in May to Miami for the Startup Nation Conference at Miami Dade College's Idea Center, it became clear that the city would be the future home of Solomoto in the US. And next month we are finally making this decision a reality.

Solomoto is a global company that helps small business owner  grow online, simplifying the confusing world of digital marketing. We recently crossed the 100 000 mark of small business owners using the platform, and these entrepreneurs from Latin America, Europe and now the US are enjoying our simple dashboard to grow their business digitally in only 30 minutes a day.

 What makes Miami a good fit for us? After scouting different locations, we liked these two ingredients:

Talent – Miami has one of the most diverse populations in the US, an important fact that aligned with our team culture in both Israel and Europe. As a global company, we have found talent of every nationality to support our global growth.

Open ecosystem – Miami is an open city. In a relatively short period of time, we have met key stakeholders of the city’s growing innovation ecosystem. We get a sense of ambition and commitment to build a real tech hub, so we decided to be pioneers, not followers, and be part of this emerging hub.

What is Solomoto?

Solomoto is a digital marketing solution for small businesses. We understand that online visibility is an area many business are looking to grow, but they don’t understand its complexities or don’t have the time to dedicate to it.

Our solution is to provide an affordable alternative to agencies, a DIY platform where any small business owner can create an online presence that will help attract more consumers. With ready-made content, cross platform publishing tools for advertising and social media, a small business owner can grow his online visibility with just 30 minutes of digital marketing.  All of from one simple dashboard!

Pasha Romanovski is co-founder and CEO of Solomoto, based in Tel Aviv.

READ MORE: How to think big: Israeli entrepreneurs show how it's done

 

January 09, 2017

Startup Spotlight: Sociallybuzz

Andre

Company name: Sociallybuzz

Headquarters: Weston

Concept: Sociallybuzz helps businesses grow using social media and data.

Story: Andre Kay bootstrapped Sociallybuzz from a small social media “do it for you” company to a nationally recognized social media agency and software company. But Sociallybuzz today is not anything like what it was conceived to be seven years ago. “It was supposed to be a social media influencer platform. The idea was to connect businesses with celebrities. I hired an outside engineer to assist me with building out the platform. After three months, he disappeared with my money and my codes. I was down thousands of dollars and nothing to show for it,” Kay said. “I was stuck at a two-way street deciding to quit or keep going.”

He kept going but changed the course of Sociallybuzz into a human-powered social media and tech agency. “That essentially became my greatest decision,” said Kay, who had co-founded and helped run Go Media Marketing, an outdoor marketing company, and was in bank management prior to launching Sociallybuzz. “I eventually grew the company from $0 to over $5 million with no outside investments. My ‘why’ for running this company is knowing that something that we’re doing at Sociallybuzz is helping other businesses grow. When they grow, the owners can support their families, hire more people, and those people can also support their families. That is what drives us to do what we do.”

There are many aspects to running a business that are never taught in school. So Kay applied for and was selected to be part of the three-month Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses at Miami Dade College in 2014 to get a better grounding in all aspects of running a small business – particularly the human resources side of the company. “I knew hiring the right people would be essential to growing the company,” said Kay, who is 34 and a proud graduate of the program. In 2015, Kay, who has won several entrepreneurship awards, launched the Sociallybuzz giveback program, which included pledging 1 percent of time, talent and treasures to the community. That pledge included donating over 200 turkeys and toys to families in need.

Growth often springs from more focus on the core business. In early 2016, Kay made the difficult decision of closing down the app side of his business, because it wasn’t gaining the traction the company needed to self-fund it, and went back to investing time and resources in growing Sociallybuzz’s core business model. Because of that change, company revenues grew 100 percent in 2016, said Kay, who was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and moved to South Florida when he was 16

“We’re now executing on our biggest change at the company. We’re adding content development, creative and paid media as core services, to complement our social media managed services and will be accepting up to 50 carefully selected new clients per year,” Kay said. “We want to continue to do amazing work to help our clients grow, but we can only do that if the businesses we’re working with also appreciate and understand the true value of social media. We’ll be launching the new website this month.”

Launched: 2009

Website: www.Sociallybuzz.com / Social: @Sociallybuzz

Management team: Andre Kay, founder and CEO; Thuy Nguyen, founding partner and account executive; Sharon Walters, human resources director.

No. of employees: 10

Financing: Self-financed

Recent milestones reached: Increased revenues by 100 percent in 2016; recently hit $5 million in revenue; launched new business model at start of 2017; added three core services: content development, creative and paid media.

Biggest startup challenge: Not understanding early on the true value of having the right people to help you run the company, whether they are at the executive level or at the day-to-day, getting your hands dirty level.

Next steps: To grow the company to $10 million.

Strategy for next steps: To continue to adapt to the constant change in social and digital media while expanding the knowledge of Sociallybuzz’s core team and hiring more talent.

Mentor’s view: “Many entrepreneurs do not have the discipline or the flexibility to put sales and marketing on hold for several months while prioritizing putting the right staff and back office operations in place. Andre had that discipline, and once he made corrections to the fundamentals that were not working smoothly, revenues and profits began to scale,” said John Hall, executive director of the local 10,000 Small Businesses program. Going forward, Hall’s advice for Kay is “to continue to push revenues in his current growing niches while pursuing ‘innovative differentiation’ in services and product lines that are not easily replicable, possibly with a tech component.”

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg

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December 30, 2016

SBA's 3rd InnovateHER competition launches: Will a South Florida company win again?

Will South Florida produce another winner in the national InnovateHER competition?

The U.S. Small Business Administration today announced the launch of the 2017 InnovateHER: Innovating for Women Business Challenge, a nationwide business competition to drive attention and resources to innovative products and services that make our lives easier and longer.  Competitors vie for $70,000 in prize money provided to SBA for the InnovateHER competition through a gift from the Sara Blakely Foundation.

“The return of SBA’s InnovateHER Business Challenge presents an exciting opportunity for some of our nation’s foremost entrepreneurs and innovators,” said SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet.  “Women represent half of the U.S. workforce and control 80 percent of the nation’s purchasing power, but still make up less than five percent of venture capitalists. I decided to launch this annual competition two years ago so that we could begin to address that opportunity gap, because when women have an equal role in the marketplace and are able to chart their own paths, our nation as a whole is stronger and more globally competitive.”

The South Florida District is home to the 2nd place winners of the agency’s 2015 and 2016 InnovateHER Business Challenges.

“In 2016, Miami Beach-based “Flat out of Heels” owner Dawn Dickson took a need to provide a comfortable, yet fashionable alternative for women who wear high heels on a daily basis, and produced rollable ballet flats as a stylish alternative,” said SBA South Florida District Director Francisco “Pancho” Marrero. “Lisa Crites, inventor of the only water-resistant mastectomy garment on the U.S. market and owner of the Shower Shirt Company in Cocoa Beach was 2nd place winner in 2015.  Women and families across the country will benefit from these inventions."

The number of women venture capital partners has dropped from 10 percent in 1999 to just six percent in 2014, a trend directly correlated to women’s access to capital; only about seven percent of venture capital funding in the United States currently goes to women-owned ventures. Gender bias is well documented in this area: a Harvard Business School study asked potential investors to rate a series of pitches, some of which were narrated by women and some by men. Even when the scripts were exactly the same, only 32 percent of people said they would fund the woman, compared to 68 percent who said they would fund the man.

InnovateHER: Innovating for Women Business Challenge officially kicks off in winter of 2017 with local competitions to be hosted by universities, accelerators, clusters, scale-up communities, SBA resource partners, and other economic development organizations.  Through the competition, SBA is seeking to amplify products or services that fill a need in the marketplace and have the potential for commercialization.  SBA continues in its efforts to expand the InnovateHER Challenge, focusing on empowering more women in the investment and innovation space.  Additional details on the InnovateHER can be found on the online competition platform www.challenge.gov

Entrepreneurs selected as winners in local competitions will advance to the semi-final round.  From the pool of semi-finalists, SBA will select up to 10 finalists who will be invited to the National InnovateHER: Innovating for Women Business Challenge to be held in mid-2017.  The finalists will pitch their products and ideas to a panel of expert judges and compete for the top three awards along with $70,000 in prizes.

Over the past two decades, women entrepreneurs have been critical to growing businesses and creating jobs in cutting-edge fields such as precision medicine or cybersecurity, as well as through advances in agriculture and manufacturing.  Women across the nation will benefit from investing in research and inventions that impact their experiences.  A lack of inclusion in the innovation space leads to missed opportunities, especially when women make the majority of the buying decisions.  The SBA is encouraging organizations across the country to participate in this important business challenge.

For more information including competition rules, go to www.sba.gov/innovateHER

- Submitted by the SBA

December 27, 2016

SBA expands microloan program in Florida

Money

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

The South Florida District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration announced that the agency’s Microloan Program is now available to qualifying small businesses throughout the state.

The expansion comes because the lending territory of a previously approved firm, Black Business Investment Fund of Central Florida (BBIF), was increased. Prior to obtaining statewide micro lending status, BBIF previously provided microloans mainly through the North Florida District.

SBA’s Microloan Program, which is focused on startups, minority and other underserved markets, provides loans up to $50,000 to help small businesses and certain not-for-profit childcare centers start up and expand. Microloans play an important role in distressed communities where access to conventional lending remains a challenge. The average microloan size is approximately $13,000. More information about the microloan program can be found at http://www.sba.gov/microloans/.

“Due to successful performances in BBIF’s portfolio, the SBA has granted their firm the ability to lend through the entire state of Florida, which is a win-win for businesses and consumers alike,” said SBA South Florida District Director Francisco “Pancho” Marrero. “This access opens the doors to business ownership by making loans accessible to a broader segment of our population who might not traditionally qualify for a bank loan. We look forward to working with them in their expanded capacity to assist Florida’s small businesses.” 

Headquartered in Orlando, BBIF is Florida’s largest statewide small business lender that specializes in providing capital for African-American and minority businesses.

December 25, 2016

Startup Spotlight: Condition Culture goes all-in on hair — and fur

Condition

Company: Condition Culture

Headquarters: Miami

Concept: Five beauty brands for people and their pets — as the company’s tagline says, “beauty for your best friend.” Condition Culture creates products that aim to enhance confidence and freedom of expression.

Story: Founded by twin sisters Alex and Donya Litowitz, Condition Culture launched its first product, Featherlocks (feather decorations for the hair), in April 2010, appearing in top fashion magazines and television shows. Condition Culture continues to sell the original hair feather extensions and has since developed several other products, including Puppylocks, feather accessories for dogs.

After graduating from the Kellogg School of Management in December, Donya decided to purchase the company and move it further into professional haircare products. Alex, a hair stylist who would put artistic feathers in her clients’ hair before they created the product, wanted to start a family and return to hair styling. “Since the purchase, I have focused on reorganizing the operations and product development to refocus the resources on the new direction,” said Donya, who had a background in real-estate finance.

Condition Culture’s latest brand, COLORSMASH color-kissed hairspray, a color hairspray with no iron oxides, launched in June at Cosmoprof in Vegas. It is also sold in Germany, the UK, South Africa, Australia, Italy, China, Korea, Israel Scandinavia and the Netherlands. The product (about $20 a can) results in professional-looking color without the commitment or mess like current options on the market, Donya said. It is now the company’s key product.

This year, international distribution has doubled for Condition Culture; the next growth focus is the Asian market. Donya has also increased the use of technology to increase efficiency and has reduced the team to eight core people in a flat organization where she interacts with all areas of the business as needed but allows each department to function independently. More deliverables are outsourced to keep the company lean and agile.

“We have created a very collaborative environment. It’s become a family; we spend a lot of time together, and working toward a common goal keeps us united and moving forward. Stella, the office dog, contributes just as much,” said Donya, a third generation Miamian. The company’s offices in Miami’s Little River area include a showroom, product design, business development and distribution. Stella is a key part of the staff, offering valuable feedback on the company’s pet products, as well as being a stress reliever and morale booster.

Plans include bringing more manufacturing back into the U.S., and new product development with a focus on COLORSMASH and Puppylocks. The next big product launch is in July. The company won’t dislose what’s coming but said it is aimed at significantly widening Condition Culture’s market. Condition Culture’s products are sold online at Conditionculture.com, as well as by retail partners. Its popular pet products are also sold at PetsMart.

“You have to make mistakes to learn anything,” Donya said. “Don’t compromise on what you really want.”

Founded: 2010

Management team: Donya Litowitz, CEO; Chris Askew, Product Development; Linda Uribe, International Accounts; Megan Patton, Domestic Accounts; Jenny Hernandez, Inventory & office management; Nicholas Piniero, Marketing/Creative; Stella, the dog, Director of Office Morale

No. of employees: 8

Financing: Self-funded and not looking for investment. “We were profitable from the first year and have reinvested into the development and growth of new products,” Donya said.

Website: ConditionCulture.com

Recent milestones: The launch of COLORSMASH hairspray, which has already established international distribution in Germany, South Africa, England, Australia and the Netherlands in less than five months and won the 2016 PDC Haircare Award for innovation in formulation/packaging compatibility and design.

Biggest startup challenge: The large financial and emotional investment that goes into running a company, the sleepless nights, and the ups and downs, Donya said. “But at the end of the day, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The key is to believe in what you’re doing and to surround yourself with people that encourage you to be better every day. Having a solid team is key. Everyone in my family are entrepreneurs, so I guess you can say it’s in our blood.”

Copycats have also been a problem for the company, but since the COLORSMASH hair spray took four years to develop and has a patent pending, Donya believes it will not be easily copied.

Next step: Expanding the COLORSMASH brand by evaluating the consumer response from the initial launch and continuing to improve the assortment of colors.

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

Condition2

 

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December 12, 2016

Uber, Ironhack team up to offer coding bootcamp scholarships to Uber drivers, riders

Ironhackclass

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

South Florida Uber drivers and riders can apply for scholarships to learn to code, thanks to a partnership announced Monday between ride-hailing giant Uber and Ironhack, one of Miami’s leading coding bootcamps.

The partners will offer $100,000 in scholarships to acquire professional skills in coding and design. Two winners will be awarded full scholarships to take one of Ironhack’s bootcamps in 2017, and 50 partial scholarships will be awarded to additional winners.

“Uber’s roots will always be in building world-class technology, and this scholarship will help fuel South Florida’s growing tech ecosystem and startup scene – while making invaluable learning opportunities accessible to even more people looking to launch careers in tech," said Uber South Florida General Manager Kasra Moshkani.

It’s the first time Uber has offered coding scholarships in its markets, however it has sponsored UberPitch events in Miami and other cities that match entrepreneurs with investors, a spokesman said.

Ironhack is located in downtown Brickell at Building.co, a shared workspace for growing tech companies and startups. The school, which opened in Miami two years ago, also has campuses in Madrid and Barcelona.

To apply for the Uber/Ironhack scholarships, Uber riders and driver-partners in South Florida should check their rider or driver app before Dec. 21 and click the posted link to apply to one of Ironhack’s three courses (make sure you have the latest version of the Uber app installed). Scholarship applications must be received by 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 21.

Selected finalists will be contacted for second-round interviews, and winners will have six months to redeem their scholarships at Ironhack.

“Uber is making an incredible opportunity available to deserving students in South Florida who wish to become the next generation of digital creators,” said Ironhack Co-founder Ariel Quiñones, who runs the school in South Florida. “Miami has immense entrepreneurial energy, and there are massive opportunities for people who want to learn how to build and design the products and tools that will improve our lives.”

Interested Uber driver-partners and riders can also apply for the scholarship at Ironhack’s free open house on Dec. 18 at noon at Ironhack’s campus at 120 SW Eighth St. in Miami. To attend, RSVP here. For more information about the event or Uber’s scholarship, contact Ironhack at (305) 907-7086.

In Miami, Ironhack offers five nine-week nine-week bootcamps a year in Web Development and another five full-time UX/UI Design, Quiñones said. This year it began offering part-time courses held over six months to accommodate students with jobs. The goal of all the programs is to gain the skills needed to land an entry-level job in the industry. Bootcamps, capped at 20 students, cost $11,000 in 2017. Ironhack says it has an 83 percent job placement rate for its students within three months of graduation and was ranked Miami’s No. 1 student-rated coding and design bootcamp by national rating site Course Report. For more information, go to Ironhack.com.

On Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Building.co, Ironhack will be hosting its two-year anniversary party and Hackshow, a demo day for students in its most recent Web Development and UX/UI Design cohorts. RSVP here.