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EcoTech Visions seeks to open incubator for 'green' product startups

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Ecotech1It’s great that technology entrepreneurs in South Florida are helped by many organizations and several incubators but, as Pandwe Gibson sees it, product companies are often left out.

That’s one reason she is building an incubator designed to assist entrepreneurs in creating and launching innovative, “green” and local light-manufacturing businesses.

While Gibson searches for a location and raises funds for her startup incubator, EcoTech Visions, the energetic founder is already working with “green” projects: Earth Ware, which makes reusable eating utensils from potato and soy, cups from corn and plates from sugar cane; Raw Beauty & Health, a maker of all-natural skin-care scrubs; Cerasee Farm, an organic farm in Liberty City run by Urban GreenWorks, a green power-wash product maker, and three very young concepts — a company that makes an oil from truffles grown in coffee grounds, an electric motorcycle maker and a recharge station manufacturer.

Gibson believes that with nurturing they can grow and provide jobs in low-income areas.

“These companies don’t get enough traction because they don’t create the volume,” said Gibson, who has a background in education, business development and marketing. “Our mission is to help them scale ... so they can provide jobs while creating clean sustainable products for consumers.”

Last week, several of the companies met at Cerasee Farm. One of James Jiler’s urban farms already helps Chiara Forestieri of Raw by growing the herb gotu kola for one of her scrubs, and they discussed what else they could grow for her skincare products.

Forestieri said EcoTech helped her line up partners and hire interns. Gibson envisions a day when there is a dozen or more companies like Raw under one roof served with resources, sharing wisdom and growing opportunities for under-served communities.

Gibson, who also does consulting work, would like to locate the incubator in Liberty City if possible, and she said she is in discussions with potential sites there as well as with one in the West Little River area. She is also developing an incubator scholarship program for the entrepreneurs. Last week, she learned she will be receiving a $52,000 grant from the county to help with the development of EcoTech, and other fund-raising efforts are ongoing. In addition, she said EcoTech has partnered with the University of Miami, Johnson & Wales, and Barry University for EcoTech’s Green Scouts internship program.

Pandwe Gibson, above and left, of EcoTech, an incubator for “green” product companies, talks with, from left, Chiara Forestieri of Raw Beauty & Health, which makes organic skin-care scrubs, James Jiler and Roger Horne at the Cerasee Farm, an organic urban farm run by Urban GreenWorks in Liberty City. Photos by Peter Andrew Bosch / Miami Herald staff