Co-working member, Mark Newell, shares his experiences at Domi Station and how it helped him find work-life balance.
Domi Station was selected to participate in the fourth iteration of Pitch Distilled - a multi-city competition sponsored by Gentleman Jack Double Mellowed Tennessee Whiskey and WIRED Brand Lab. The incubator has been challenged to formulate a pitch and idea that resolves a sustainability issue and represents them at a national scale.
Thanks to Domi Station’s strong community ties, the incubator will put together a team that best represents Tallahassee with the support of local partners like Leon County, Florida A&M University, Sustainable Tallahassee, Florida State University, and the City of Tallahassee.
On Thursday, January 24th at 5:30pm, the incubator will be hosting an Information Session at their facility (914 Railroad Avenue) to go over the competition, present existing sustainability problems in the local area, and begin the team selection process. This event is free and open to the community.
The Pitch Distilled winner will be selected by the public through a national, online voting process and the first-place team will receive a monetary award and branded feature on WIRED.com. Other competing cities include Oakland, Philly, Houston, Denver, Detroit and Atlanta.
"We're thrilled to bring Pitch Distilled back for the fourth year to a new group of markets across the US," said Ben Osei, Gentleman Jack Associate Brand Manager. "Our founder Mr. Jack Daniel instilled a passion for sustainable stewardship and environmental protection that still exists within our distillery today. Our hope is that this program will inspire our friends and partners to do the same."
New this year, each submission will be uploaded to https://www.wired.com/pitchdistilled/, and viewable to the public—who will ultimately vote on the winning pitch in March 2019. Each team is competing for a sum of $10,000, an interview and professional photoshoot with a WIRED Brand Lab editor on WIRED.com, and a reception featuring a special keynote speaker at their incubator location.
Pitch Distilled is also proud to partner with actor, filmmaker and social advocate, Adrian Grenier, who has spent much of his career supporting organizations focused on habit-changing education and nature conservation. As part of the partnership, Grenier will serve as keynote speaker at the winner reception and support the competition on social media.
"I'm pleased to partner with Wired and Gentleman Jack for the fourth installation of Pitch Distilled," said Grenier. "This year we're empowering local communities to tackle an important issue and I look forward to reviewing the submissions and casting my vote."
Pitch Distilled kicks off January 17 on https://www.wired.com/pitchdistilled/.
For more information on Pitch Distilled visit https://www.wired.com/pitchdistilled/. For the latest news on the Pitch Distilled, including event dates, location, and updates follow @WIREDInsider on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
About Jack Daniel's
Officially registered by the U.S. Government in 1866 and based in Lynchburg, Tenn., the Jack Daniel Distillery, Lem Motlow proprietor, is the first registered distillery in the United States and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Jack Daniel's is the maker of the world-famous Jack Daniel's Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey, Gentleman Jack Double Mellowed Tennessee Whiskey, Jack Daniel's Tennessee Rye Whiskey, Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Tennessee Whiskey, Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey, Jack Daniel's Tennessee Fire, Jack Daniel's Sinatra Select and Jack Daniel's Country Cocktails. Today, Jack Daniel's is a true global icon found in more than 170 countries around the world and is the most valuable spirits brand in the world as recognized by Interbrand. Your friends at Jack Daniel's remind you to drink responsibly.
Pitch Distilled is produced by WIRED Brand Lab, a creative and experiential in-house agency for the WIRED Media Group, which includes WIRED, Ars Technica, and Backchannel. WIRED Brand Lab connects brands with a WIRED-approved roster of writers, filmmakers, photographers, designers, and engineers, for cross-platform storytelling experiences with a distinctly WIRED-style.
About Domi Station
Domi is a non-profit startup incubator and coworking space with 125 active members. We offer programs, resources, and events that help entrepreneurs start and scale sustainable companies. Our regional network enables us to match our members to seasoned mentors, investors, and industry advisors. Domi’s incubators programs educate and empower early-stage entrepreneurs.
The holidays are coming up… Here’s a list of great gifts to get for your loved ones via startups straight out of Domi!
Get Started is a program designed to help our local startup community grow. Through our cohort, we help startups test their ideas and bring them into reality. Get to know the companies that made up our Spring 2018 Cohort!
Over the past few months, our team has been meeting up with local restaurants in hopes of getting to know them, their work, and their mission like never before. We want to highlight what makes them special in our community and with #TheNeighborhood, we did just that. Here’s PART TWO.
Over the past few months, our team has been meeting up with local restaurants in hopes of getting to know them, their work, and their mission like never before. We want to highlight what makes them special in our community and with #TheNeighborhood, we did just that.
In January 2018, Domi Station was awarded a $35,000 matching grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation fund at the Community Foundation of North Florida. Domi will use the funding to support its flagship incubator program Get Started, adding resources to strengthen the program and ensure its continued positive impact on the community.
“I’m proud to say that over the last four years, we have engaged 113 early-stage startup teams through incubator programs,” said Lucas Lindsey, Domi’s former Executive Director. “Knight Foundation and the Community Foundation of North Florida have been great partners since Domi first opened in 2014, this grant is a renewed sign of confidence in our ability to execute and make a difference.”
Over the next few months Domi’s new Executive Director, Antonio Montoya, will be working closely with our Board of Directors to match the $35,000. “I have no doubt that our local business partners and funders will raise to the occasion and help us meet, and perhaps exceed, the matching goal so that we can continue to serve entrepreneurs turn their ideas into sustainable businesses.”
Knight Foundation is a national organization that supports journalism, the arts and communities; its support of this project through the community foundation helps to highlight Tallahassee’s growth and its emerging innovation. The support will help Domi advance its mission to empower early-stage entrepreneurs to scale up, connect with the community and local resources, and give the future a home.
“Our startup community has made it to the national radar and it can only continue to go up from here as we build and continue to empower local talent!” said Montoya.
About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy.
To our friends, partners, and members--thank you all for your support as we have waded through a time of transition. We are excited to announce some important news. After interviewing candidates from across the Southeast, our Board of Directors has selected Antonio Montoya to lead Domi forward as our new Executive Director. Antonio and his family will relocate to Tallahassee from Huntsville, Alabama, a significant decision that we feel speaks both to Antonio’s commitment and the attractive energy of our community’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
There is so much momentum right now--if you haven't had a chance to read our look back on all that's happened over the last few years, please give it a read here. Antonio will work with Domi's team, Board of Directors, and members to build on the foundation that has been laid.
“I am very excited to join Domi's team and continue the great work started by Micah and Lucas," said Montoya. "I believe that Tallahassee is well on its way to create a truly inclusive and diverse startup community, I see Domi as a key catalyst for it, and I can’t wait to add to this effort leveraging Domi’s resources as a convener, incubator, and accelerator."
Antonio did not just meet the qualifications our Board of Directors were searching for in a new Executive Director--he exceeded them. Montoya last served as Executive Director of HuntsvilleWest, a high-impact coworking space serving the greater Huntsville area. Prior to HuntsvilleWest, Montoya made significant contributions to the growth of the startup ecosystem in North Alabama launching a broad range of initiatives under the Rocket Hatch umbrella, a non-profit entrepreneur support organization he co-founded.
He has also supported state and national efforts including Alabama Launchpad and the SXSW Accelerator, and is a member of the Startup Champions Network, a national organization focused on innovation ecosystem building. Prior to Rocket Hatch, Montoya held executive positions at several global technology companies and has been involved in multiple startup ventures since his college days.
David Lawson, the Chair of Domi’s Board, was impressed by Antonio’s deep background in tech, business development, and building a startup community in another midsize Southeast city.
“Antonio leaves Huntsville with a legacy of spurring growth and excitement around entrepreneurship,” Lawson said. “Everyone speaks highly of his integrity and hard work, and now we have the opportunity to incorporate his experience, network, and vision into the next phase of Tallahassee’s development.”
Our incoming leader will hit the ground running over the next few weeks, officially taking over the role of Executive Director on April 1st. This timeline leaves our team multiple months of crossover before Lucas departs for Phoenix in late June.
“Antonio brings a wealth of executive experience particularly in the areas of startup incubation and coworking," said Jake Kiker, Domi Co-Founder and Board Vice-Chair. “Most importantly, Antonio shares our vision of a collaborative approach to growth by leveraging all local and regional players, and connecting us and our members at the national level.”
Please join everyone at Domi Station in welcoming Antonio and Ana to our community! To find out a little more about their impressive work in Huntsville, click here!
A few years ago, when I was first exploring Tallahassee's seven hills, before I’d figured out the difference between Tennessee and Mahan or, more complicated still, Macomb, Railroad, and Wannish, I wrote an article about the room by the railroad. I wrote about Tallahassee as I saw it, through the eyes of a newcomer, someone who had moved from a metro of 4,500,000 to a metro of 370,000 while my wife took on the challenge of earning a Phd. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was writing about the room where I’d spend the next four years of my life, working days and nights and weekends now and then to help people believe in things bigger than themselves.
Fast forward and Domi, true to its name, has become a home. Like others searching for a like-minded community in a new place, I found a family here. I learned to lead here. Indeed, I grew up here. It has been my greatest honor to help shape and execute Domi’s mission. The results have created a strong foundation for all that comes next. Since our opening, Domi member companies have collectively raised $5.4m in investment and grants, fueling this city's growing fire of innovation and entrepreneurship.
Notably, Domi began as a meetup group, gaining momentum by gathering people. We've kept that going each and every year, organizing or hosting 465 events at Domi Station since the doors opened. From data science meetups to hackathons with Visit Tallahassee and Florida A&M, these events engaged and, I can only hope, inspired thousands of North Florida residents of all ages, backgrounds, and interests.
Without a doubt, Tallahassee's visibility as a startup community has increased, earning shoutouts as a Top 50 City for Entrepreneurs and strengthening connections to major startup hubs in places like Raleigh/Durham, Atlanta, Chattanooga, and Miami. Over the last few years, Domi's website alone has collected over 163,000 views. Don't let anyone tell you different: there are eyes on this city.
People have grown more confident, more empowered, and fallen more in love with Tallahassee. Even those who have left, or will leave, often feel a certain debt to this community because it believed in them, embraced them, and let them have an impact. If I had to list all of the companies and entrepreneurs creating that impact, this post would go on and on. Amazingly, Domi's incubator programs--flagships like Get Started, TCAP, and PowerUP--have engaged with 113 early-stage teams since we opened our doors in 2014. Every one of them was important to the movement.
More than a mere business incubator, I believe Domi has become a place where Tallahassee challenges itself and its history, however unjust, to go above and beyond, to defy stereotypes, and to become a community worth calling home. I'm most proud to say that over the last two years, 50% of our Get Started participants were people of color and 40% were women. Domi has become a place where people who wouldn’t have otherwise met meet. And perhaps that, however humble, is actually its most notable achievement.
Thank you to Micah, Jake, David, and John for welcoming me to the family. Thank you to our Board of Directors for your mentorship. Thank you to Sabrina and Dominick for having my back. Thank you to our sponsors and partners who believe, organizations like Leon County, Florida A&M University, and Florida State University. Thank you, Tallahassee, for letting me be a part of this amazing moment in your history. I cannot wait to follow along as you continue to build your future.
I’ll close the same way I closed that first article because, in spite of all the metrics and momentum of the last few years, some fundamental things remain true, and more work remains.
“It's pretty clear that nobody is here by accident. Everyone is right where they need to be, and if they work together they might do more than just build businesses—they might help change the way we talk about an entire community.”
After months of preparation alongside our Board of Directors, staff, and community partners, Lucas Lindsey will be stepping down as Domi’s Executive Director at the end of March.
Lucas has played a core role in Domi’s operation and growth since our nonprofit first opened its doors almost four years ago. He was hired as Domi’s Community Manager in May 2014, serving as the organization’s first employee. In July 2016, Lucas was named Executive Director, marking the beginning of a phase we affectionately called Domi 2.0.
“Without a doubt, Tallahassee is a different, more dynamic city than the one I moved to for grad school six years ago, and I’m proud that Domi has played a role in making that happen,” Lucas said. “Our community is in a strong position to double down on the recent momentum toward building a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
During Lucas’ time as Executive Director, Domi hit a number of important milestones, such as
- Engaging 58 early-stage startup teams in a Domi incubator program;
- Increasing the diversity of our Get Started program, with women representing 40% and people of color representing 50% of participants;
- Launching I/O Avenue, a nonprofit digital skills academy, in partnership with Florida A&M University and the Mayor’s Office
“Lucas was pivotal over the last few years to the activity and impact of Domi Station,” said David Lawson, Chairman of Domi’s Board of Directors, “Under his leadership, we saw strong growth in membership, programming, and community partnerships. He will be missed, but we couldn’t be happier for his family as they take on the next phase of life.”
Lucas plans to relocate this summer to Phoenix, where his wife has accepted a faculty position at Arizona State University. Returning to his roots in urban planning and real estate, he will be joining Venue Projects, a redevelopment practice active across Arizona.
For Lawson and Domi’s Board members, the next steps are clear: Finalize the selection of a new Executive Director and execute a smooth transition. To that end, Lucas will remain available to the team as a consultant through June.
“We have spent the last few months interviewing experienced, entrepreneurial candidates from across the country,” Lawson said. “We are excited to be nearing the finish line, and we will have an announcement ready within the next few weeks.”
If there is one thing that Hair on Earth would tell you in this very moment, it might just be their tagline: Stay Cute. Hair On Earth is a local hair salon that empowers you to be exactly who you are, inside and out. We explored what makes them go beyond a typical salon to make their customer experience impactful and give people so much more than meets the eye.
This year, Hair on Earth celebrates 20 years of business, but it wasn’t always what it is today. The locally owned hair salon experienced a fundamental shift that forever changed the atmosphere into one of self-empowerment for stylists and customers alike. Their entrepreneurial story is not a traditional one, mainly because the current owners did not start the business. Hair on Earth’s CEOs, Will and Holly Galotti, took the reins just 10 years ago.
Will Galotti started out at Hair on Earth as a stylist under its original management. After working there for several years, he began to notice a decline in the atmosphere affecting both the work environment and clientele. Rather than standing by and watching the business fail, he began working with his boss on revamping traditional methods and implementing new systems to improve the company. At that point, it did not take long for Will to become a partner and, in 2008, CEO, along with his wife Holly. With their fresh ideas and leadership, Hair On Earth became an eclectic space for hair stylists to grow as artists and customers to explore themselves in a salon where no haircut nor color is too out of the park.
When the Galottis took over, the business model and work environment were restructured to include effective restocking systems, better work-home balance for employees, and active support for each individual as an artist.
“Greatness doesn’t happen by accident, it happens with intention. His approach to the staff is unlike any salon owner I have ever encountered. And that is largely what has led to the growth of our artists,” longtime employee Britney White told us. “He finds ways to work in opportunities for the stylists to do more than just see guests all day every day. Last year he started funding two Look Book Photoshoots a year for stylists to really express themselves and try new trends.”
The creativity that now flows through Hair on Earth has formed an exciting, inspiring, and tight-knit team that continues to encourage each other’s ideas and creations. This culture shift produces an authentic atmosphere unique to the hair salon. They pridefully reject the toxic standards of attractiveness set by the beauty industry. Instead, Hair on Earth embraces everyone's individuality, believing they are already attractive. And that’s why when you walk into Hair on Earth the only thing that matters is that you “Stay cute”.
We are proud to announce a new role at Domi Station: Entrepreneur in Residence. Dominick Ard'is, who previously served as our Director of Programs, will take on the title and take up the important responsibility of all that the new position means to us.
After his years as both a Rattler and then a Seminole, Dominick spent time with Booz Allen Hamilton in Minneapolis, but he will be the first to tell you that while he was gone Tallahassee kept calling his name. Eventually, he found his way back home, ready to dive into the growing startup community and take on a leadership role at Domi Station. As our team and Board of Directors worked hard to spin up Domi 2.0, Dominick took the lead on implementing Get Started and PowerUP.
The results speak for themselves. Over the last three cohorts, Get Started has served thirty-three early-stage startup teams, leading to the launch of companies like Fly Mouthwash, One Fresh Pillow, Footy Training, and more. Equally important, especially to established small businesses hungry to grow and innovate, was PowerUP, an intensive deep dive into the people, products, and processes of five local-area businesses. Thanks to the support of First Commerce Credit Union, PowerUP's first cohort included Catalina Café, Nic's Toggery, Secure Records Solutions, Chop Barbershop, and FL Aviation Center. First Commerce recently published a great set of testimonials from each participant that you can find here.
The best entrepreneurs never stop creating, though. Even as he worked day and night alongside Domi's incubator members, Dominick found high-impact ways to stay active in the greater-Tallahassee ecosystem. Last fall, in partnership with the School of Business and Industry at FAMU, he launched ACT House, a leadership and startup house that gives three students one year to build and launch a technology product. His work made waves and turned heads--this week he and the ACT House team traveled to speak at Black Tech Week in Miami.
Here at Domi, we're committed to a handful of simple things. Things like empowering early-stage entrepreneurs, building the most diverse startup community in the Southeast, and practicing what we preach by having our team members stay hands-on as creators and builders.
Since we believe in those things, we want to put our money where our mouth is and create a system that allows talented entrepreneurs like Dominick to have an impact not just at Domi through the facilitation of programs but across the wider ecosystem as active founders. As Domi's inaugural Entrepreneur in Residence, Dominick will continue to play a central role at Domi architecting and managing flagship programs like Get Started, but he will also have time to plant more seeds in the ecosystem by working directly on startups like ACT House.
Our team is really excited about this shift. We feel it illustrates our commitment to continuous improvement and the refinement of our approach, especially as Tallahassee's startup community grows and matures.
But we're also excited to say that this announcement gets even better. In addition to Dominick's continued leadership and hard work, Domi will be strengthened by the addition of Ido David, a former investment banking consultant at Barclays who will also join as an Entrepreneur in Residence and co-facilitate this Spring's Get Started cohort alongside Dominick.
Ido comes to Domi from Israel, a tech powerhouse known across the globe as a thriving entrepreneur ecosystem thanks to startups like Waze, Fiverr, and Wix. We are thankful to have Ido in Tallahassee, and fortunate to levergage his rich experience in high-growth investment banking. While at Barclays, Ido was active in assisting companies through mergers, acquisitions, and public offerings, so he adds a good deal of depth and perspective to the Domi team.
Over the coming months, we'll share more stories about what Dominick, Ido, and all of this Spring's Get Started entrepreneurs are working on. If you’d like to follow along, please sign up for our newsletter.
When Bryant Joseph and Connor Grady studied at Florida State University, they wanted one thing: for local food truck Kübanos to deliver their delicious Cuban cuisine in a convenient and cost-effective way. At the time, there was no service in Tallahassee that adequately tapped into everyone’s introspective longing for low-cost delivery from their favorite local restaurants.
After Joseph and Grady graduated from FSU, they began building their concept and developed a concession delivery app which they presented to their friend Zach Zelner, CEO of Z Baked. The team fused Joseph and Grady's tech expertise with Zelner’s operations experience to create an independent, tech-based food delivery service called Penny Delivery! Aside from fulfilling college-day yearnings, Penny's main goal is to solve a clear problem: Tallahassee needed an efficient delivery service for non-fast food options.
Penny Delivery is a service that delivers food from local restaurants like Kiku Japanese Fusion, Madison Social, Guthrie's, and Starbucks who typically do not offer delivery services. “We route orders very competently and our entire model is predicated on achieving a level of efficiency that is necessary for us to sustain what we do,” Joseph tells us.
The structure of Penny’s network of drivers is formulated to allow space for service expansion, where partnerships with retail stores hold a lot of promise for future endeavors. “Any local store can have same-day shipping as an option,” Joseph says. “We have a network of drivers who are already delivering, which lets us make other kinds of deliveries more efficiently.”
From their versatile experiences of living and operating here for a period of time, Joseph, Grady, and Zelner have gained a unique understanding of the geography and customer base in Tallahassee. The capital city serves as a testbed for exploring other opportunities in a market in which they have familiarity. The founding team constantly works to understand and meet the needs of the ever-evolving market. However, their eye remains focused on why they started in the first place. “It’s always good to solve a problem that you experienced first hand, that’s what happened with Penny Delivery,” says Joseph. Tallahassee can now order Kübanos for the fee of a penny.
Next time you're hungry, treat-yo-self by eating out without going out. Order from Penny Delivery’s array of food and snacks at any time of the day. Companies interested in doing business with Penny may contact headquarters here.
Somehow, someway, it's already that time of year, so we went ahead and made a guide to help you spread some holiday cheer! Here's a curated list of 10 Domi startups—be they online or IRL—that offer the perfect holiday gifts for anyone in your life. So break out your credit card and check out all these startups have to sell! 🎄🎁
For the Tosser & Turner
Your friends and family deserve better than to go into 2018 with a stiff neck after a bad night's sleep. One Fresh Pillow is the world's first pillow subscription service. These upstarts invented and patented a new kind of pillow perfect for side and back sleepers. Give the gift of a good night's sleep!
Can't-Miss Gift: The Dreambox
For the Rad Friend
Fashion trends constantly change, but this startup is always up-to-date. Olde Fields is a Gaines Street classic, an on-trend local boutique packed full of apparel, jewelry and accessories for both women and men.
Can't-Miss Gift: All Power to the People tee
For the Traveler in Your Life
Sometimes the best gift is new (and possibly life-changing) experiences. Driftour is a one-of-a-kind subscription serving for local immersions, staycations, and unique tours through the very best of Tallahassee.
Can't-Miss Gift: 3 Month Staycationer Membership
For a Trip Down Memory Lane
There is never a reason to not wear a conversation-starting tee. Local Vyntage takes nostalgia to a whole new level with premium fitted apparel. If you remember the Silver Slipper, then this has your name written all over it.
Can't-Miss Gift: Noles 'Get Loud' Tee
For the Passionate Pet Owner
So your friend never stops talking about their new chihuahua (or pet rock, we don't judge). DivvyUp is a 1 for 1 custom sock company that'll put your furry friend's face right on a pair of high-quality socks. They're already booked until Christmas, but gift cards make for the perfect stocking stuffer!
Can't-Miss Gift: Gift Card Good for One Pair of Custom Pet Socks
For Those Who Love to Give Back
Big brands try but there's nothing like the real deal. Woven Futures partners with Guatemalan artisans to import hand-crafted shoes, bags, and bracelets. It's fashion with purpose, and all products support the women who make them.
Can't-Miss Gift: Amarillo Cosmetic Bag
For the Trendsetter
Introduce authentic Tallahassee fashion to a new set of eyes. EyeDope is a stylewear movement born right here in Florida's capital city. They design and sell premium sunglasses that are guaranteed to give you a #dopemoment every time you rock a pair.
Can't-Miss Gift: The Jag Multi-Hue
For the Sweet Tooth
The only thing better than a box of chocolates is a box of pretty gourmet chocolates. Chocolate Shanah is a local chocolatier featuring unique, artistic creations by Shanah, a Parisian trained Master Chocolatier. These beautiful sweets are perfect for those that love the finer things in life.
Can't-Miss Gift: Set of 6 Bonbons
For the Fitness Lover
Working out is a necessary evil. Thankfully there's ways to make the process as fun as possible. DripDrop is a group fitness studio that's sure to make you sweat, even while you have a good time. Their classes include yoga, dance cardio, and toning.
Can't-Miss Gift: 5 Class Pass
For the Pup in Your Life
Some people believe there is a limit to how much one should spoil their dog. Gourmet Pup Club doesn't. Customize all-natural dog treat boxes, including birthday cakes or monthly treats, delivered right to your doorstep! Give your pup the love (aka full-belly) they deserve.
Can't-Miss Gift: Monthly Treater & Eater box
“Entrepreneurs are seen as change agents in communities and I had never ascribed to such an aspiring label before, but there’s power to ascribing to what you aspire to be. So that’s kind of how I got started.” Val Rodriguez, co-founder and CEO of Driftour, never foresaw herself as a tech startup founder. Like many, Val didn’t know what being an entrepreneur really meant. However, in entrepreneurship she found the perfect avenue to pursue her passion for community growth, which led to the creation of Driftour.
Driftour is a micro-tourism subscription service for Tallahassee’s local and visiting explorers, who seek authentic and unique adventures. It offers locals two kinds of subscriptions, Solo Staycationer and Staycationer Duo. These packages provide Tallahassee residents with various options to engage locally in a brand new way. They include one monthly immersion, an exclusive event held and hosted by a local business, and access to self-guided tours. For visitors, the company offers The Weekender. This package gives visitors access to locally themed self-guided tours for the duration of their stay, as well as itineraries they can follow at their own pace based on the kind of Tallahassee experience they seek. Through Driftour, anyone with a traveler’s soul can explore the capital city in an unprecedented way.
Val’s experiences as a student at Tallahassee Community College and Florida State University set the foundation to start a business that cultivates her vision of impacting systemic change in communities. She now gives back to the city that gave her everything to pursue her passion. It began at TCC where she was student government vice president and attended conferences, spoke in front of 300+ students, and developed her resume. “I have so much love for TCC. I was able to accomplish a lot of great things that began to shape me into the professional I am today, because I opened the door and asked a question,”.
At Florida State University, Val’s undergraduate studies did not initially involve the college of business. Instead, she gravitated towards social sciences and opportunities like the social entrepreneurship specialization. There, she was invited to attend an interdisciplinary design thinking exchange program with students from the College of Communication and Information. Through this program, Val and 4 FSU STARS (Students & Technology in Academia, Research, and Service) students went to Puerto Rico with the task to partner with creative entrepreneurship students from the Universidad del Sagrado Corazón and prototype a business idea. Val and her partners formulated an events calendar that would allow locals from different parts of the island to connect with other locals and exchange tourism information. Residents would then use the platform to discover new parts of Puerto Rico. The bedrock of the prototype were local businesses thriving with genuine community interest and support, while producing economic growth. It would also attract tourists interested in local authentic experiences and invite them to get to know and invest in Puerto Rico. “When you shop at the local businesses, the local establishments, the corner store with the really good pinchos, you become a traveler who invests in community growth,” Val explained. Going through the exchange program gave Val the idea of bringing an initiative like this to Tallahassee.
After graduating, Val and Chelsea Schneider, Driftour’s co-founder and Val’s former business partner, started Driftour and applied to Domi Station’s Get Started incubator program. “I didn’t get into Get Started, but they told me I could reach out to them, so I did. They reviewed the problems in my application and gave me a year’s worth of membership to work on those problems,” Val said. “A really cool aspect about Domi is that even though I didn’t get into the program, I showed an initiative to get productive feedback and they opened up resources for me. That personal connection is more apparent in smaller cities.”
Val and Chelsea used Domi’s mentors and coworking space to work on Driftour. They participated in 1 Million Cups and began testing out immersions with local businesses, which exposed Driftour to a whole new network bringing in pivotal results. “The best part of growing professionally in Tallahassee is working alongside revolving doors of people passionately working to uplift the community,” said Val. “You’re a part of something bigger in Tallahassee.”
From that moment, Driftour progressed to an easily-navigable, user and mobile-friendly web-app with GPS directions for each immersion. Last month, Driftour beta launched with “The Barista Experience Immersion” hosted by Red-Eye Coffee. This event takes staycationers through a coffee triad by learning how to make lattes with baristas and how to brew your own coffee using different methods. The immersions allow local business owners to form a meaningful bond with customers while delving into a different and engaging marketing approach. Local businesses and organizations can reach out to Val to hold immersions or sponsor self-guided tours. Hosting an immersion with Driftour results less costly than regular marketing fees and brings new traffic through the door.
For some, the misconception that Tallahassee doesn’t offer much past college and government resources is prevalent. Val invites residents and visitors to get to know Tallahassee, see what it offers, and get inspired by the people living and dreaming in the capital city. There is a community culture waiting to be explored. “Driftour is for those with exploratory tastebuds,” Val emphasizes. “We are your guide to the local current.”