Member Spotlight: Cuttlesoft

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Member Spotlight: Cuttlesoft

“Funny name, amazing software” welcomes you to the website of dynamic Tallahassee-based software developing service called Cuttlesoft. From its innocent Florida State undergrad roots to its newest expansion to Colorado, Cuttlesoft’s funny name seems like it will only be spiraling off more tongues as the former startup continues to flourish.

The story of Cuttlesoft began how many other startups have begun: innocently and unexpectedly. Founders, Frank Varcacel and Emily Moorehouse-Varcacel, met at a computer science lecture at Florida State University in their undergrad years. It did not take long for the duo to hit it off professionally and personally. Their professional networking began in 2014 when they met Brewfest, Tallahassee at one of Domi Station’s monthly Happy Hours. After a couple of beers and flavorful conversations, Frank and Emily volunteered to build an impromptu pro-bono mobile app for the local beer festival. Less than a year later, a small software and IT consulting startup agency was born.

Fast forwarding to three years later, Cuttlesoft expanded their services to the west, opened an office in Denver, Colorado, and currently balances more than 15 client projects between their Colorado and Florida locations.

Cuttlesoft has grown into a service that provides a unique level of expertise in custom software development and IT consulting by helping clients through business analysis, design, and development of a wide range of IT solutions including cloud computing, custom web and mobile apps, and more.

“We don't outsource any development or design; everything our team builds is 100% domestic,” adds Nick Farrell, Cuttlesoft’s Director of Communications, “We are a people-first organization.”

The future of Cuttlesoft is looking snowy but very bright with their current success in both offices. However, they do aim to extend their services to artificial intelligence and conversational computing, as well as continuing to support the entrepreneurial ecosystems of the cities who've helped them succeed.

What the community can do for Cuttlesoft is spread word of their incredibly diverse services and their insightful Startup Capital interview series and podcast focused on spotlighting Tallahassee’s ever-growing startup community.

Cuttlesoft accurately depicts the unique talents, strengths, and savviness that lives and cultivates in Tallahassee.

 

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Why I Chose to Pivot

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Why I Chose to Pivot

Initially, pivoting is what I feared most about entrepreneurship. The thought of shifting my focus from one direction to another scared me. It became a nightmare for me to accept change in my entrepreneurial pursuit, but it happened. I pivoted and here is why.

 

In March 2016, I introduced the world to Envint Management Group, a grant consultancy and fundraising conglomerate that specialized in creating funding opportunities for startup nonprofits and religious organizations. My efforts were birthed out of my desire to help others by providing real solutions to real problems via funding. I wanted to give resources to organizations that catered to the needs of the less fortunate. At the time, the morale behind my business idea felt strong enough to be able to support an actual business. Well, it wasn’t. The problem began when I started wearing a consultant hat without any consulting experience.

 

Consulting has big shoes to fill and it entails more than what it seems. It’s a lifestyle – one that’s heavily regimented. Grant consulting, with my exclusivity, required far more of my services than what I could provide. Some clients needed business consulting, strategic planning, and program building before I could begin to assess their funding opportunities. And those were just the simpler clients. It was then that I realized how far from prepared I was for the workload and the insistent demands of the clientele. Not to mention, my wage was not cutting it either. I was overworking and extremely underpaid, which only made me abrasive and terse with my clients. Eventually, I stopped caring altogether about the purpose of Envint Management Group.

 

I hit rock bottom both externally and internally. My faith collapsed and my health was compromised from all fronts. I became depressed and needed a break. I ran into a brick wall of hopelessness.

 

I once heard that great creativity comes from depression. Whether or not this is entirely true, it became my reality. I remember lying in bed contemplating the “how-tos” and “what-ifs” to changing Envint Management Group’s direction. Past conversations with mentors and colleagues about diversifying my services frequented my brain more than ever. I thought excessively but did nothing. At this point, my depression became a toxic concoction amalgamated with fear.

 

One day I decided to make a rash move. I contacted one of Domi Station’s mentors for guidance. At first, I was not prepared for the mentor’s openness and integrity. I expected him to be far removed and obtuse to my dealings. It did not take long to discover how far from the truth my expectations actually were. I initiated a conversation and we began sharing business interests and commonalities almost immediately. I strategically selected this mentor after learning that we both have a rigorous background in grant writing. We talked for an hour but its effect will last infinitely. I vividly remember griping about my experiences with Envint Management Group and seeing the mentor nod and smile in agreement. That meant a lot because I was no longer isolated with my feelings. I shared them with this stranger who I trusted. It was surreal.

 

As soon as the trust kicked in, I became all ears. The mentor dissected my grief and shared his views on my prior approach to Envint Management Group. Instead of insulting or picking at my mistakes, he suggested different paths to resolve my clients’ problems while minimizing my physical involvement. Amidst of his suggestions, it hit me that I had to pivot. Of the many offered suggestions, one aligned with my “what-ifs” and “how-tos” that I contemplated in my depressed state. It was verbatim, and couldn’t have been more serendipitous. Rather than doing any consulting myself, I transitioned my business into a web-based platform that facilitates all grant seekers to meet and connect with grant writers.

 

It suddenly all became worth it. From the shortcomings with my clients to the depression, my pivotal point was finally here. If I could, I wouldn’t change a thing because I learned to face my pivoting fears. It was uncomfortable and a lot of time was sacrificed. However, my time was not wasted. I learned to tolerate and grow through the struggle in order to make my business reach its full potential. Today, I am excited for what pivoting will do for Envint Management Group.

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Meet the Talent of Get Started Fall 2016

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Meet the Talent of Get Started Fall 2016

A solid pitch, a sustainable business model, a couple of potential clients, and validation to ignite momentum--these are just a few of the things each of the 11 teams in our Fall 2016 Get Started cohort signed up for. During Get Started, each team went outside of their comfort zone to learn about their markets and their business model.

Here’s the story of Get Started told by the entrepreneurs that proudly ran the gauntlet of 3 months of weekly meetings and intensive facilitated workshops.

 

Fly Mouthwash | Nick Telford

 

Fly Mouthwash is a highly concentrated mouthwash designed to give the traveling user the portability of a pack of gum or mints with the fresh feeling and effectiveness of an at-home mouthwash. At the beginning of Get Started we thought that every living human was part of our target market (like every startup for a time). Before coming to Domi, we were really infatuated with people using it at bars, clubs, or any social setting. Once I went through Get Started we began to peel back the layers of who really needs this in their life and started seeing our true target market. It became more clear that our product will make the most impact to someone who travels multiple times a year. We realized a strong piece of our product is that it's TSA friendly. For someone constantly on flights, it offers a much better value in their travel pack opposed to repeatedly buying travel sized mouthwashes. During the idea stage, our first thought was to heavily market our product as “safe to swallow” so consumers would be able to use it anywhere. After a few interviews and focus groups, we found out that people don’t like to swallow mouthwash, even if it’s safe. We then shifted to market it as a true mouthwash where you should spit after swishing for 30 seconds. However, you can also add a drop to your tongue if there's no water present to get the quick burst of freshness people need at critical times during the day. We also started out with a very weak concentrate and realized that it was lacking the burn that most consumers associate with germ killing. Since the testing, we have made a much stronger, better tasting and more effective product.

 

Envint Management Group | Quinterius Enzor

 

Envint Management Group started off as a grant consultancy and management conglomerate that specializes in creating funding opportunities for startup nonprofits and religious organizations. Since enrolling into Get Started, however, Envit Management pivoted and made important changes. With the program’s resources, I had the ability to transition EMG into a web-based platform for all grant seekers and grant writers. I started the program with very specific customers and a niche in place, but my customer discovery has widened to a new audience and my business model has strengthened.

 

Weather Tiger | Ryan Truchelut & Erica Staehling

 

WeatherTiger is a next-generation weather forecasting company with proprietary technology. It fuses the power of predictive analytics with meteorological insights to bring customized and accurate seasonal climate forecasts to commodity, risk, and retail markets. Our involvement in the Get Started program has led to our vision for WeatherTiger becoming more ambitious. The entrepreneurial development professionals at Domi Station helped us realize that we were undervaluing our core algorithm by limiting our marketing efforts to one sector. That discovery broadens our horizons and helped us find ways to more effectively grow our business. As both of our co-founders are technical, we truly value that kind of perspective. Get Started really encouraged us to deeply research our target markets and understand the unmet demand for quality long-range weather forecasts. In our conversations with prospective clients, we've found that off-the-shelf, overly broad seasonal outlooks aren't particularly valuable to them; they need a trustworthy forecast customized to their precise region of interest and for their exact weather concern. Those core principles guide WeatherTiger's product development as we bring our forecasting technology to market for threats ranging from seasonal hurricane risk to drought, heat, and severe weather.

 

Codecraft Works | Meagen Bonnell

 

Codecraft Works is a program that provides computer science and code education to students age 8 to 18. A lot has changed since joining Get Started! The main change we made was moving to a more agile business model. Codecraft Works is now set up to get students coding as soon as possible. We have trimmed the overhead of lab spaces and now work directly with schools and community centers that already have labs in place. Through customer discovery, we learned that there is a big market for computing education for kids and a lack of ready-to-go platforms. We learned that the biggest advantage Codecraft Works can offer is our awesome plug and play platform.

 

Career Mojo | Sam Brown & Bryan Skykes

 

Career Mojo is a personal and professional development platform that exists to transform companies and their people by discovering better ways to work. We offer products and services to help businesses avoid the high costs of "mis-hires", employee disengagement, and low-performance cultures. The software we are creating uses predictive performance analytics to predict the performance outcome of a potential candidate. Get Started really helped us build a formal structure to our efforts. The program immersed us in our idea, and now we can easily communicate not just the human resource problem we aim to solve but how our product solves it.

 

One Fresh Pillow | Aaron & Adrianne Kautz


One Fresh Pillow is the world's first online pillow subscription service. Millions of Americans sleep on pillows that don't support their body properly and that house millions of germs, bacteria, mold, and dust mites. We help you decide which of our three unique pillows is right for your body type, then ship one to you as often as you need it so you're always sleeping on a fresh pillow. The idea has really stayed the same since joining Get Started. What's changed is our operating less in hypotheticals and more in concrete tools and resources available to take our idea and make it come to fruition. We're still working on discovering who our customers are. We have found that our message and how we deliver it is very powerful. People who are skeptical of the idea of a pillow subscription service are quick to buy into the concept of One Fresh Pillow when we talk to them about how they're sleeping and why they could be sleeping better on a clean and supportive pillow.

 

FAN4D | Celeste Debro

 

FAN4D is a real-time fan interaction web-based application with SMS technology. The purpose of this company is to help music artists gain an organic fan-base in the most engaging moments. It also provides fans (supporters) with a better experience interacting with their favorite artists and an easier way to gather their information. Since joining Get Started my ideas have become more cohesive and I actually understand my customer. The things I have learned are invaluable to the progression of really making my vision come to life. Customer discovery broke down the important aspects of my customer and differentiated between the way I wanted to serve them and the way they actually needed to be served. That's super important when trying to find a valuable solution to a problem.

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The Future is Here: Our Thoughts on 2017

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The Future is Here: Our Thoughts on 2017

Over at Domi Station, we talk a lot about the future. Our members are building it, we give it a home, and so on and so forth in tweet-worthy bites. Because there’s nothing more at odds with startupland than the status quo, we’ve had our sights set further down the road. We’ve worked hard and learned a ton. We’ve built and planned and gotten things done, always in relentless pursuit of some near-term future state.

As a result, 2016 was a busy year. 18 teams graduated from Get Started, 9 from Get Started U, and 7 from TCAP. We hosted 125+ events, tag-teamed TrailHacks with Visit Tallahassee, tackled a 3-day event in Atlanta that brought together 80 HBCU students from across country, made transitions in (and additions to!) staff, built out a board (complete with elected officers and a finance committee), spoke at a couple of conferences, attracted new sponsors, worked up a strategic plan, partnered on a pitch event with The Chamber, joined the Startup Champions Network, and launched PowerUP (big thanks due to fine folks over at First Commerce Credit Union). But 2016 is over. The future, it seems, has finally arrived.

Domi is now well into its second act. We are a bigger, better, stronger version of ourself, but just because the future is here doesn’t mean we’re done. We’re happy to announce a handful of new things for the new year, including an updated website, big changes to coworking memberships, and a pretty awesome new promo video. Other 2017 announcements are in the works, but we won’t spill all the beans just yet. You’ll have to follow along to find out more as the news drops. 

Thanks to the work of many organizations and many more entrepreneurs, Tallahassee’s innovation ecosystem adds depth and complexity by the day. We plan to be there for it all, continuing to build, continuing to plan, and continuing to get things done. So here’s to a new year. Here’s to the future. 

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Kicking Off the Tallahassee Innovation Partnership (TIP)

Last Wednesday, on the final night of Entrepreneur Month, The Gathering thrived with students, startups, government officials, entrepreneurs, non-profits, business owners, and more. They came together for one reason: entrepreneurial growth in Tallahassee.

The Tallahassee Innovation Partnership is a collaboration with leaders from Domi Station, Florida A&M University, Florida State University, Tallahassee Community College, the state of Florida, Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare, the city of Tallahassee, and other large nonprofit and public institutions. The overall goal of the initiative is to “facilitate business relationships between local institutions and local entrepreneurs; build a forum for decision-makers to provide useful feedback on local products and services directly to entrepreneurs; and leverage the ideas and innovations from local startups and small businesses to help local institutions address their most pressing challenges” (Tallahassee Democrat).

    Six startups pitched on Wednesday night to an audience that ranged from university students to city government officials. Proper Channel, Swellcoin, Elite Office and Business Supplies, StatusTLH, Pinnacle Education, and Rent Certified each took the stage for 6 minutes followed by a brief Q&A session from the audience. Open Pitch Nights like this one benefits all community attendees, not just shark tank investors. Dustin Daniels, the Chief of Staff to the Office of the Mayor, explains that the Tallahassee Innovative Partnership’s focus on this Pitch Night “takes the conventional understanding of a pitch night and flips it on its head. [Pitch nights] are usually for angel investors, but it’s for bureaucrats and public sector individuals too because we make decisions that direct resources in a very large significant way.”

     Joseph Sasson of Pinnacle Education spoke to the usefulness of events like these for local startups. “I want to tell the community what we’re doing and give back to the the city and let them know that their support is driving the development of good businesses in Tallahassee.” Even community members not involved with the entrepreneurship scene are encouraged to attend to learn, engage, and network.

    People naturally associate Tallahassee as a government and college town, which brings a unique opportunity for the entrepreneurs in this town. Daniels says that Tallahassee has large purchasing powers with state and local government and three institutions of higher education. “If we were to take all of those institutions and help them be a little more intentional about investing in local startups and entrepreneurs in terms of doing business, make referrals, or even just giving them feedback about their products and services, we can actually turn the reality of Tallahassee into one of our strengths.”

    This collaboration, along with the other entrepreneurial efforts picking up in the city, give exciting insight into what may unfold in Tallahassee’s entrepreneurial ecosystem in 2017 and beyond.

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5 Local Businesses Selected to PowerUP with Domi Station and First Commerce

A diverse group of five businesses have been selected to participate in PowerUP's inaugural 2017 class. PowerUP is a 12-month long incubator program for local entrepreneurs who are ready to expand the market footprint of their existing small business by delivering new products and scaling-up operations. The program is made possible by a partnership between Domi Station and First Commerce Credit Union. 

A committee of seven small business and entrepreneurship experts reviewed PowerUP applications and selected a highly-competitive cohort of five local businesses. The businesses were selected based on key criteria, including existing revenue, potential for economic impact, and capacity for innovation. Domi and First Commerce Credit Union are excited to announce that the 2017 PowerUP class includes Nic's Toggery, Chop Barbershop, Catalina Café, the FL Aviation Center, and Secure Records Solutions.

"We are impressed by the strength of PowerUP's first class," said Cecilia D. Homison, CEO of First Commerce Credit Union. "Our city has many strong entrepreneurs, but there are some of the best. They run well-known companies with a proven track record, and they are ready to be leaders in the growth of Tallahassee's entrepreneurial ecosystem."

PowerUP offers a chance for local business owners to look at entering a growth phase and reinvest in their company's future. The 2017 class will meet quarterly at Domi Station in a facilitated, peer-to-peer environment, and have monthly meetings with experienced consultants and advisors. 

"It's exciting that our entrepreneurial ecosystem is growing and finding more resources for second stage communities that are looking to simplify, scale, and re-invent themselves." said Dominick Ard'is, Domi's Director of Incubation Programs. "Selecting these companies was extremely difficult but we are confident that we have a diverse group of companies, ranging from retail to fashion to technology, that have collectively served our community over 75 years."

The program aims to bring a fresh set of eyes to existing businesses by connecting them to an experienced group of program facilitators who act as objective consultants. Participants can explore the launch of a new product, the viability of entering a new market, or make plans to expand existing operations. 

More information about PowerUP can be found here: www.domistaiton.com/powerup

About Domi

Domi is on a mission to educate and empower entrepreneurs. It offers incubator program, mentorship resources, connections to capital, and community events at Domi Staiton, a 8,000 sf warehouse turned coworking space. Over the last year, Domi has worked with 43+ different early-stage startup teams through competitive, cohort-based incubator programs. 

About First Commerce Credit Union

First Commerce believes in The Power of Yes! It's the power to realize your business's dreams. The power to fuel our local economy. The power to improve our communities. That's why First Commerce looks for ways to say yes to local businesses. That's what we call local strong! First Commerce makes local decisions on loans, has deep knowledge of the local economy, offers local advice on growing a business, and provides local service by local people. First Commerce Credit Union is federally insured by the NCUA and is an equal housing opportunity lender. 

About Entrepreneurship in Tallahassee

Tallahassee continues to gain momentum toward building a thriving environment for startups and small businesses. In July, the city was named a Top 50 City for Entrepreneurs by Entrepreneur Magazine. Local officials and economic development related organizations increasingly recognize that the future of our region hinges on empowering entrepreneurs to take bold, calculated risks, build high-impact companies, and diversify the economy. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, startups that survive their first five years often turn into growth phase companies that account for a significant number of new jobs, making the expansion of existing firms an important emphasis for successful economic development. (http://www.nber.org/digest/feb11/w16300.html)

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Better Block Foundation stops by Frenchtown, Tallahassee

Local businesses frame a community, but participation and unity from the people builds and sustains its growth. This past Saturday, on the corner of Old Bainbridge and Brevard, local food, pop up shops, a newly built greenhouse, and live music set an ambience of ease in Frenchtown. In an area some perceive as threatening, Frenchtown Better Block united a community to create a large interactive effort to improve Frenchtown and set new goals for the area. The project began on August 6th, with the help of volunteers from Florida State University, Florida A&M University, the city of Tallahassee, and Better Block, and finalized on Saturday with a block party to showcase the progress being put into enhancing Frenchtown. The Better Block Foundation provides and donates the resources to build, and the people of Tallahassee provide the vision to remodel the historical city of Frenchtown.

Saturday’s festivities were nearly impossible to miss if one drove by the Old Bainbridge block. Activities ranging from the multi-colored crosswalks to children and volunteers painting a multi-colored “Frenchtown” mural, brought enthusiasm and unity to the community. The pop-up shops from local businesses displayed the different talents of the town and their genuine ambition to renovate Frenchtown. “All we really need is a community effort to continue what Better Block started,” said one of the local businesses.

Devan Leavins, senior planner for Tallahassee-Leon County’s Planning Department who contacted Better Block Foundation to come to Frenchtown, credits a large portion of the success of the Frenchtown Better Block project to the Frenchtown residents communicating their ideas and desires for a better community. “I think how many people are out here is a success,” Devan says. “From that point forward the successes are what the people want to see left behind, what should stay and where it could use to grow in the future.”

He believes that the project will help change the perception some people have of Frenchtown by showing that it “is a safe place where people like each other and want to hang out and talk. There’s also a lot of talent in the community that people need to know about.”

Piecing the project together has also been impactful to those working on it from the start. Anthony Milordis, a graduate student in the Florida State University Urban and Regional Planning Department, has been volunteering for the project since it began in August. When asked about the challenges of the project, he tells that although the Frenchtown residents are very passionate people, it was a challenge reaching out to them due to their lack of internet and social media access. “A lot of them don’t even have emails, so we’ve been firing the neighborhood and getting to know people, which required a lot of manpower. It’s been challenging, but fun.”

The Frenchtown Better Block project has succeeded in getting word out on what the community wants to see and bringing people of all ages together to collaborate in a vision to renovate the neighborhood, remove its negative stigma, and imagine a new future for the historic area.

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Startup Spotlight: 3 Startups Investing in the Growth of Tallahassee

Businesses do more than just sell; they work to solve problems for people that speak to our priorities as a society. Tallahassee startup culture embodies this idea by creating services that teach the new generation how to code, reduce the number of drunk drivers, and eliminate the dependency companies have on paper. Startups like Codecraft Lab, Blaze 24x7, and Greenflux provide innovative services while combating issues that hold the world back.

Codecraft Lab recognizes the importance of empowering children to have the right tools in the ever-changing workforce. They teach children one the most useful skills employers are already looking for: computer science. Codecraft Lab, which began as a coding school in Melbourne, Florida for children ages 8-18, has recently branched out to Tallahassee, partnering with FAMU’s Developmental Research School to run a summer pilot program.

Meagan Bonnell, Program Director of the FAMU DRS summer pilot, said that students can start with the Introduction to Computer Programming Class and continue with further classes to grow their skill set. Codecraft Lab is looking to expand in the fall and spring at both FAMU DRS and other local schools. In response to the growing gender and racial gap in the STEM workforce, the program has a mission to reach out to girls and minority groups. Fortunately, many organizations share Codecraft Lab’s passion and are financially supporting the movement. “This year, for example, a generous donation from Florida Blue will provide scholarships to a number of students who are excited to start learning to code,” Bonnell said. “We are constantly looking for new partners who can help us reach out to more young people.”

The courses are hands-on, communicative, and social, so students remain engaged as they develop multiple skills needed in any workforce. “There is nothing stopping them from building an app, a game, a website, or even starting their own company,” says Bonnell. From expanding a person’s problem-solving abilities to being able to make a high-wage salary, coding is a multidimensional skill that suits anybody with or without an interest in a career in STEM.

Shifting from an educational service to a potentially life-saving one, Blaze 24x7 offers several opportunities to avoid drunk-driving and time-wasting. Their app allows one to order basic grocery items, hard and soft drinks, late-night munchies, and miscellaneous items generally carried by convenience stores. Blaze’s Founder and CEO, Charlie Patel, grew up in the gas station business. His family owns several Sunoco locations throughout Tallahassee. Based on his knowledge of the industry, Patel came up with the idea for Blaze 24x7 after several of his friends received DUIs for late-night beer and cigarette runs—runs that could have been easily avoided.

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“It happens. People drunk-drive on a daily basis,” Patel said. “People, especially college students, should be more cautious and not ruin their lives by partying.” Blaze 24x7 prioritizes convenience by offering product discounts and weekly offers. Purchases over $35 offer free delivery, purchases of 15-30 items charge a $1 delivery fee, and purchases under 15 items charge a $2.49 delivery fee. Items are typically delivered anywhere between 30 mins and 1.5 hours. Patel knows the clientele and caters to their needs as well as ensuring a strict ID check for orders that require it by law.

Convenience doesn’t end at home, though. Sometimes it extends into the workplace. Earlier this year, Joseph Petty created Greenflux, a customizable software for businesses that eliminates paper dependency. Greenflux provides small businesses with streamlined workflow that simplifies filing, removes human error in data entry, and facilitates document access. Along with these general features, Greenflux also offers customized software individually crafted to each business’s specific needs.

The development process begins with a free consultation from Petty, where he learns about the company’s goals and history. He then analyzes the best way to create an application for that company’s needs. With the workflow feature, a person can navigate through documents and data, normally printed on paper, from any electronic device. For example, if a company has their Greenflux app, an employee who is momentarily out of the office can access and handle work documents through a phone and immediately store it in the company files, or share it with co-workers. Petty noted that the business of going paperless is efficient, more company-manageable, environmentally-friendly, and exceptionally cost effective. “I did a study on paper waste and found that the money a company spends on paper-related expenses combined, such as printers, ink, storage, shredding, and more, is 31x the amount a company spends on paper alone,” he said. Petty is currently making more third-party integrations, such as PayPal and Dropbox, available for the software. He looks to share his services with small and local businesses that can truly benefit from a service like Greenflux.

Tallahassee’s startup culture is rooted in advancing the community at-large. The success of startups of CodeCraft, Blaze, and Greenflux will solve problems, grow our economy, and make Tallahassee an even better place to call home. 

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UberOps Partners with Domi, Sponsors Startup Incubator Program

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UberOps Partners with Domi, Sponsors Startup Incubator Program

On their homepage, UberOps says they are on a mission to integrate the world’s data, bit by bit—but that’s not the only thing they are up to. They’re also on a mission to jumpstart Tallahassee, startup by startup. UberOps has joined Domi in building a startup community by sponsoring Get Started, our incubator program for high-growth companies. 

Thirty-five startup teams have participated in Get Started since it launched in the summer of 2015. A variety of public and private partners invest in the program in order to keep costs low to entrepreneurs and expand the number of resources available to startups across the region. 

“Over the last two years, we were able to stand up Get Started thanks to the backing of sponsors like Florida State University, Florida A&M University, and Carr Riggs & Ingram,” said Lucas Lindsey, Domi’s Executive Director. “It means a lot to add UberOps to that list of supporters.”

Dominick Ard’is, Domi’s Director of Incubation Programs and Operations, added that buy-in from private sponsors highlights Get Started’s value. “Whenever you have corporate sponsors buying into your mission, it’s a good sign, and it shows their commitment to educating and empowering early-stage entrepreneurs. They were there once, and it shows true community power when established businesses support early-stage entrepreneurs,” he said. 

For UberOps cofounder Jeff Couch, it all hinges on one word: Opportunity. 
Collaborating with a diverse group of people across backgrounds and interests gives his company an opportunity to learn new things, share new ideas, and meet talented new people. “UberOps is grateful for the opportunity to partner with Domi as it is a cornerstone of the growing tech community in Tallahassee,” said Couch. “The relationships and community that Domi affords have given us an opportunity to recruit from an expanding and visible pool of talent that will help us innovate the future of healthcare IT.”

One of those uber talented people is Karla Galvan. Once an FSU student and Domi’s part-time designer, she now works for full-time at UberOps, helping drive a culture of creativity. “Domi gave me the tools and support needed to succeed in a multi-generational workplace,” she said. “I made countless life-long connections and got to work on a wide range of projects. It opened up so many doors.”

Eduardo Gonzalez Loumiet, UberOps' CEO, emphasized the importance of creating environments that invest in professional and leadership development. “Domi doesn’t only produce amazing startups. It produces very talented people,” he said.

In addition to Get Started, UberOps supports important K-12 education programs like CreatorsCamp. At a recent Fireside event at Domi Station, young creatives learned what it takes to create something of value by rapidly planning the launch of a lemonade stand.

In addition to Get Started, UberOps supports important K-12 education programs like CreatorsCamp. At a recent Fireside event at Domi Station, young creatives learned what it takes to create something of value by rapidly planning the launch of a lemonade stand.

As a growing healthcare tech firm with a flair for innovation, UberOps demonstrates the importance of bridging partnerships between established tech firms and up-and-coming startups. What’s more, their commitment to innovation goes above and beyond the support of programs like Get Started. They’re in the trenches, staying creative and entrepreneurial, launching new startup products like BloomDot, a healthtech software used in newborn screening. Their work proves the importance of innovation as a mindset that helps companies not only keep pace with but outpace a rapidly changing market. 

“Over the last four years we have experienced a tremendous amount of growth—not only throughout Florida but nationwide,” Loumiet added. “In order to fulfill our commitment to Tallahassee and the Big Bend region, it is important that we partner with organizations like Domi. Through this partnership, we have met other tech companies, we have learned about innovative products and services, and we have had the opportunity to recruit and hire the best talent in all facets of our business.” 


Stay tuned for more news about our Get Started program. Applications open in September, and the admitted cohort will kick off their journey in October. 

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Domi 2.0: Where We've Been and Where We're Headed

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Domi 2.0: Where We've Been and Where We're Headed

This summer Domi rocketed by its 2nd anniversary. It's been a wild ride, but a ton of incredible things have happened thanks to the hard work, creativity, and relentless drive of hundreds of Tallahassee's finest entrepreneurs. An angel investment network launched. Then they put their money where their mouth was. Startups have been acquired. Storefronts have opened (bonus example). Partnerships have formed. Events have been thrown. Tech celebs have visited. New programs have launched. Awards have been won (by awards we mean plural; like, a lot of them; ok, we’re really done this time). We were ranked a top 50 city for entrepreneurs. And, not least of all, NASA landed in TLH.

But what's past is prologue. The future is why we’re all here, and we’re happy to report that the future is bright. Over the next year, we plan to do two things: 1. Double down on what's working and 2. Increase impact through new initiatives. These include improvements to our Get Started incubator program, the launch of a research commercialization series in partnership with FAMU and the Florida Institute, a strong focus on increasing diversity in our startup community, and forays into K12 code education. Stay tuned over the next few months as we release more information about each of these important initiatives.

Another thing you can expect to see are new faces and strategic shifts in Domi’s full-time staff. As a cofounding partner, Micah Widen served as Domi’s leader and CEO for more than two years. He worked tirelessly to build a startup community in Tallahassee and laid a strong foundation for Domi’s future. Micah has transitioned to serving on our board, where he will continue to create and invest in partnerships that return significant value to the capital-region.

Similarly, Domi’s former Incubator Manager, Christine Urban, also sits on our board, focusing her energy on research commercialization and diversity initiatives. In a show of true commitment to entrepreneurship, Christine has launched a healthcare tech startup called BloomDot. If you haven’t heard of it, you can find out more here.

Domi’s mission--to educate and empower early-stage entrepreneurs--will be executed by three full-time staff. Lucas Lindsey will serve as our Executive Director. Sabrina Torres will serve as our Community Manager. And Dominick Ard’is will join the team as our Director of Incubator Programs and Operations. Lucas, Sabrina, and Dominick will be backed by an active board of advisors and a passionate community of entrepreneurs. Domi’s board currently includes cofounders Micah Widen, John Vecchio, David Lawson, and Jake Kiker, as well as Christine Urban, David White, Yuh-Mei Hutt, Reis Alsberry, and Christic Henry. Each board member brings experience and vision to the table, rounding out a committed and capable team.

Over the last two years, we’ve come to realize that Domi isn’t just another building down by the railroad, a network of ambitious creators, or the best place to spend Happy Hour on the first Friday of each and every month. It’s much more than that. If we build it the right way, it’s not about any one organization. It’s about a community-wide movement.

It’s about a rising tide of people that believe in this city, in this state, and in the South. It's about a forward-thinking, future-building, critics-be-damned group of leaders banding together to leverage shared resources, build upon each other's shoulders, and get things done.

We’ve spent years building a startup community, and we’re ready to spend years continuing to accelerate its growth. Whether it means investing in local startups, putting your company through Get Started, or simply attending an event--come on over, get involved, and let's build the future together. 

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Get Started Spring 2016 Class

In entrepreneurship, validation is the most important stage in the life of a startup. Our Get Started cohort helps startups at this stage test their ideas through two moths of customer discovery and market research. Seven companies were selected to join the Spring 2016 cohort and, after arduous work, all of them made it to the finish line. After their final presentation, a panel of judges awarded A-to-B the $5,000 grand prize, courtesy of Carr Riggs & Ingram.

Get Started is a program designed to help our local startup community grow and we would like to thank our mentors, staff and Carr Riggs & Ingram for making this class possible. We are very proud of the work these startups put into the program and wanted to know how the class impacted their ideas. This is what they had to say:

A-to-B | Carl Forney

Our idea for A to B was to provide transit authorities with a dynamic solution to their routing strategy and to be able to leverage on their existing resources. A to B would basically make public transportation quicker, easier, and less expensive. Our idea has evolved since the beginning of Get Started. The most prominent advance we've made has come from the validation process. We learned we need to keep flexible and nimble about the product and the market. Based on customer discovery, we also learned that we need to shift away from some of our initial pricing assumptions and even make changes to the pricing model itself. The size of our transportation vehicles has also shifted thanks to customer feedback. We now expect future changes to our product based on recent and future conversations with StartMetro, who we hope will be a potential pilot partner.  

Codeslam | Geoffrey Miller

The core mission of Codeslam was to make programming a more accessible field of study regardless of background, experience or education. Coming into Get Started, I initially intended to integrate multiple features into my product like online courses, personal mentoring, games, competitions, and tool-assisted programing systems. However, after going through weeks of customer discovery, I decided my product needed to change. Getting out and actually talking to potential customers made me realize that my original product, while some people were interested, no one actually needed it. Listening to customers has made me more aware of opportunities that actually exist in the marketplace for Codeslam. Now, I am working on prototyping a product that people tell me they want, rather than one I think they want.

Blue Planet Kids | Miranda Manning

When I began the Get Started program, Blue Planet Kids was meant to be a subscription-based science kit provider. We would sell cutting edge science experiments to homeschool children and other interested parties. However, I have made some changes throughout the past two months. The biggest shift happened when I really forced myself to understand what I was trying to accomplish with BPK and if my method was in fact the best approach. During the course of my interviews, I realized that a community lab would be much more effective. I want to bring innovation and exploration in STEM fields to middle and high school students. In order to really do that effectively, these students need real lab equipment and a clean space to conduct long-term experiments. Current public schools have very little, if any, lab time. There is no encouragement for exploration and I strongly believe that access to a space like this could fix that. I am currently working on a plan and interviewing key people to really get an understanding on the best way to execute this project. 

A-to-B team receiving the $5,000 prize from Carr Riggs & Ingram.

A-to-B team receiving the $5,000 prize from Carr Riggs & Ingram.

EyeDope | Ronald McCoy

The idea for EyeDope began as a premium sunglass company targeting African-American millennials. While going through the Get Started program, that idea has certainly evolved. I am now more strategic and thorough when thinking about how my product fits in the market. Instead of simply putting up a website and expecting the masses to show up, I'm now thinking about how my customers behave and live their day-to-day, as well as how to better reach them. For example, most millennials go to barbershops and hair salons. This unconventional venue could be an excellent place to advertise, or even make some product available for purchase. I would have never considered that idea as an option.

I have also decided to raise funds for EyeDope's launch by selling non-branded sunglasses for fraternities and sororities. When Christine first made this suggestion, it didn't resonate with me. But now I see the potential and value in this initial proposition to get the line started. The Get Started program has definitely put me on the path to success with my business! 

LiveWire | Jennifer Paul

LiveWire is a crowdfunding platform for social entrepreneurship. It allows startups to validate their business ideas by the amount of funding they receive and be geared towards investing those funds in a project that provides meaningful social change. Since I joined Get Started, LiveWire has gone through some changes. The customer discovery phase allowed me to learn what my customer needed in order to engage with the platform. I have really focused on my value proposition and made it fit the specific needs of my market. 

OwnIt | Helen Giraitis

Prior to Get Started, OwnIt was intended to be a public charter high school geared specifically towards 11th and 12th graders. The curriculum would focus on teaching entrepreneurial business skills, while still meeting all state requirements. After going through some customer discovery, I have decided to expand the program to grades 9th to 12th. Many folks expressed an interest in a full four-year experience for their children so they don't have to rebuild their social networks in a new school. Additions to the curriculum were also made based on the validation process. Aside from business and entrepreneurial skills, the community also wants students to have access to personal financial literacy. There has been a tremendous amount of interest being shown for a charter school where students can learn about startups and nonprofits, while earning credit, through a hands-on experience. I'm excited to be able to provide this environment to them. 

OCPerfectionist | Karl Bertelsen

OCPerfectionist is a cleaning service for allergy sufferers, OCD and cleanliness neurotics, and overall perfectionists. For me, cleaning is an art-form and I aim to provide the best service in the industry. Through Get Started, the evolution of my idea has been mainly perceptual. Being introduced to a customer-centric approach has made me aware of a better way to position my company. The customer discovery process has really helped validate the product and has opened my eyes to new market opportunities. I have also become more aware of the existing risks for OCPerfectionist, which ultimately helps me put my business plan into action.

 

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Domi Station Presents: Tallahassee Female Entrepreneurs

When we support women, we support our collective economic growth. Over the years, female empowerment has become a top priority for many companies--and there's good reason for it. Women-owned businesses account for 30% of all new businesses in the United States, generating nearly $1.5 trillion in revenue and employing over 7.9 million workers. The numbers don't lie. The world needs more female entrepreneurs!

In honor of Women's History Month, we reached out to our awesome Domi ladies to talk about their entrepreneurial experience. This is what they had to say:

Carolyn Reoyo | Proper Channel

My entrepreneurial journey began in August 2015 as a web development intern at Proper Channel. Coming from a pharmaceutical background and being new to the startup culture, I have to say the experience so far has been life changing! William, our CEO, has been incredibly supportive and helpful. I have learned more in this internship than I have in the majority of classes I've taken in college. 

In January of this year, I attended SwampHacks, the annual Hackathon at the University of Florida. This was the first time some of my teammates and I had attended an event like this. When we arrived, I noticed we were the only all-female group out of 350 participants. It was very weird having to almost be a representative of my gender. It made it very obvious to me that we need more female participation. 

Because I'm a full-time student and a pharmacy technician, I usually come to Domi after-hours. As a female, there aren't many places in Tallahassee where I feel safe going to at night, but I have never felt unsafe or unwelcome at Domi. If I could give any woman looking into entrepreneurship advice, I would say do what makes you happy and take risks! The bigger regrets most people have are missed opportunities. 

Christine Urban | UberOps and Domi Station

Entrepreneurship was a natural fit for me. I've always been on a relentless search to find a scalable business model that I can be a part of. At the moment I am working with UberOps and I lead the Get Started Cohort in customer discovery at Domi Station. 

What attracted me to entrepreneurship was the people. I connect very well with disrupters, rebels, and go getters. I like intellectuals who like to get things done. Also, it's great when you don't have to wait around for anyone and just do your thing! The experience so far has been very difficult but at the same time very rewarding. 

As a female entrepreneur I have noticed that my ideas don't always get taken seriously and I often get talked over or interrupted. Sometimes I resort to planting the seed in a male colleague's mind and let them take ownership. Sad, but a strategy I have employed at times because it ultimately gets the job done. 

Domi has been a great place for me. I feel like it's a very safe and supportive place. The people that I have met and the level of expertise I have been exposed to is really astounding. If I could give any woman a piece of advice in entrepreneurship is think bigger! Work on a business model that involves technology and scale up. 

Pamela Jones-Smith | Bernexis Construction & Development, LLC

I've always been an entrepreneur. It's in my blood! Right now I'm a certified general contractor and certified roofing contractor, and before that I was a realtor. I'd say being an entrepreneur is challenging but so worth it. As a female entrepreneur you face many challenges. You hear things like "you're a girl in what people call a man's world". But that does't bother me. I'm just going to kick those challenges with my high heels on!

Although I don't rent a space in Domi, I have been there to meet other entrepreneurs who are members. The experience is always great. It's a very welcoming environment for everyone. My advice to future female entrepreneurs is in the words of Joel Osteen "Stay prayerful, stay strong, stay focused and dedicated to your dream. God will take you places you never even dreamed of".

Alissa Rudloe | Train. Fight. Win. Tallahassee and Total Knockout, LLC

Entrepreneurship won me over when I realized I could be my own boss and embrace my creativity. I am only attracted to things that have a purpose. With my day job at the State of Florida, I work towards stopping crime. As a co-owner of Train. Fight. Win. Tallahassee and Total Knockout, LLC, I am motivated to install confidence in other women.

Being a female entrepreneur definitely has its good and bad days. I've had to give up a lot to gain a lot, but it's all been worth it so far. I wouldn't change it for the world! From where I was 10 years ago to the woman I am today, I can see a more confident version of myself. One of the challenges I often face in this industry is when people come into the gym and immediately assume I'm the front desk girl or part of the marketing team. Once I tell them I own the gym, alongside with my husband, they are either shocked or impressed. Same goes with any encounters we have with people when we're out. They tend to only address him rather than both of us. I don't let it bother me and it really helps that my husband is incredibly supportive and treats me as an equal in the business.

My experience with Domi has been pretty good! Barbara Wescott from Point Catcher has been the most welcoming woman I have encountered and I thank her for making me feel at home so quickly. My best advice for any woman looking into entrepreneurship is don't wait! Do it. It will be the most fulfilling career path you could take. You are a warrior queen and the world better watch out! Here's one of my favorite quotes: "I'm not bossy. I'm the boss".

Barbara Wescott | Point Catcher

I've been an entrepreneur for a long time. Whether flipping houses, creating a vacation rental company, or now with Point Catcher, creating the world's best loyalty points platform! I think what inspired me to follow this path is the MacGyver spirit. The "where there's a will, there's a way" mentality. The act of figuring things out and finding a way to make good things happen is what excited me. 

Even though entrepreneurship is one of the hardest things I have ever done, it has toughen me out, helped me grow as a person, and connected me to amazing people. For that I am incredibly thankful. One of the challenges I see for female entrepreneurship is that there aren't more women entrepreneurs. Having more women helps change the culture, which benefits the entire entrepreneurial community. As both a female founder and the very first company admitted to Domi Station, it has been a pleasure to watch the growth of women in our startup community. With such a female friendly environment here at Domi the future is bright!

Right now there are ample efforts and incentives to attract talented women. So, whether you want to start your own business or bring your talents to an existing team or company, know that the entrepreneurial community want and needs you! How do you start? My advice, sign up for domistation.com/getstarted and Get Started with some training under your belt, surrounded by a community that wants you to succeed. 

Christina Todd | C. Todd Designs

C. Todd Designs is my first entrepreneurial endeavor. Before that, I was working at a local architect firm as a designer for about a year. I was also lucky enough to work with another private architect in town, who is now my mentor and a great supporter of my work. The entrepreneurial experience so far has been really great. Even though it has been hard and it will continue to be, it's really nice being your own boss. 

Being a female in what seems to be a male dominated industry, I feel like you face innate challenges. But, as a young entrepreneur, proving my work has been important when working with new clients. Being affiliated with Domi has really helped my company as well. People instantly recognize the Domi brand and it gives my startup a modern image and vibe that resonates with clients right away, which I really like.

My advice to any woman looking into entrepreneurship is just got for it! Seriously, if you have any doubt about an aspect of your business, it will all work out, and probably better than expected. As long as you do great work, find a market and product people want, and most importantly have good intentions, it will be the best decision you've made in your life.

Sabrina Torres | Domi Station

I never thought of entrepreneurship as an option until I started working at Domi. I come from an advertising background where all you hear is "move to New York City as soon as you graduate!". I used to only look forward to working for an advertising agency, but now with my job as Domi's marketing and event coordinator, I want more. 

Entrepreneurship is really hard. I would never tell anyone it's easy. However, it is very rewarding. I love being able to help startups get where they need to be and just watch them succeed. There is also more flexibility in this environment. I have never felt scared to try something new, because I'm always encouraged to experiment and be creative. Female entrepreneurship definitely has its challenges. There's a silly stereotype that entrepreneurship is a "man's world", but that's not true at all. The best part is when you find places like Domi and realize that the stereotype is just that - a dumb, factless stereotype. This community provides a very welcoming environment full of people who just want to see everyone grow! 

I know this will sound cliché, but if I could give any advice to women looking into entrepreneurship I would say just do it! Stop thinking so much about it and go for it. Things will never go exactly as planed, so you might as well figure it out as you go and learn from the experience.  

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Domi Station Presents: Startup New Year's Resolutions

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Domi Station Presents: Startup New Year's Resolutions

The end of each year is a great time to look back at our accomplishments and set new goals for the year ahead. While most people's New Year's resolutions tend to revolve around staying healthy, losing weight, and living life to the fullest, entrepreneurs often have their own set of goals they wish to accomplish. 

We asked our startup community what resolutions they had planned for 2016, and this is what they had to say:

1. Barbara Wescott | Point Catcher

"I want to help grow a vibrant buy-local Tallahassee community for businesses and customers alike."

2. Wade Henning | The Meaning of Shape Company

 In 2016, I want to practice yoga or meditation 4 times a week. Also, I want to provide our software-as-a-service application to 500 end users and win a significant R&D/commercialization grant." 

3. Charounson Saintilus | Conmart

"Next year's goals include recruitment of an experienced data scientist for the Conmart team, building and launching the MVP, and raising a seed round."

4. Mark Powell | HWind Scientific (now RMS)

"In 2015, HWind resolved to graduate from Domi Station and in 2016 we will take residence as "RMS Tallahassee" in new digs, just a couple of blocks away at the "Barn" (corner of Madison and Copeland). The new year has exciting things waiting for us ans we would really like to thank all the mentors and members at Domi for helping in our success!"

5. Patrick Breslend | Optimal Bagging

"I have two goals for the new year. First, I want to exceed the expectations of those who have helped me grow. Second, I want to build a quick-pack manufacturing facility that will add economic value to our community."

6. Christine Urban | Entrepreneur

"For 2016, I'd like to join a highly scalable startup."

7. Julia Holly | JH Creative

"My personal goal for next year is to find that perfect balance between family time and work. For JH Creative, I would like to first make twice as much using less time. Second, create more strategic connections. And third, be part of a positive progress for the local creative community."

8. Jason McIntosh and Mitch Nelson | DivvyUp

"In 2016, DivvyUp has a goal to give 20,000 pairs of socks to those in need across the United States."

9. Jacob Waites | Entrepreneur

"For my new year's resolution, I'm taking inspiration from the great Honey Boo Boo when I say that I am pretty cool now, but I wanna get cooler next year."

10. Dante Bland | Unufy

"In the new year, I want to begin Beta launch for my app Unufy."

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11. Lucas Lindsey | Domi Station

"In 2016 I'd like to see Tallahassee's startup community featured in at least two national publications. We have a story to tell!"

12. William McCluskey | Proper Channel

"Sell 1,000 licenses for Proper Channel and play a pickup game of Ultimate Frisbee!"

13. Jonathan James | Entrepreneur

"In 2016 I will complete a professional business analysis training program by passing the IIBA, CBAP, and CCBA certification exams, and pursue a creative strategy & business analysis path." 

14. Jeremy Cason | Entrepreneur

"My new years resolution for both Kargoh and Merge is to release fully functional apps before the summer."

15. Peter Salvatore | Entrepreneur

"In the new year I will nurture my family, embrace communities, and hack the planet with rigorous discipline #YOLO."

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5 Do's and Don'ts of Social Media Marketing

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5 Do's and Don'ts of Social Media Marketing

Social media is not for sales. Let's repeat that: social media is not for sales. Now that we have that clear, let's talk about what social media IS for. Social media is used for raising awareness. These communication channels are intended to disseminate a message about your product, company, organization, etc. It allows entities and individuals to engage in conversations and create genuine relationships that, in the past, couldn't be achieved through paid advertising. 

Relying on the greatness of your product alone doesn't guarantee anything. You have to make sure people know about it. It would make sense to think that, thanks to social media, getting your message out to the world is easier than ever, but you'd be surprised. With the broad accessibility of social platforms, businesses have to fight more and more each day to cut through the noise that surrounds social media marketing. Luckily, there are ways to use social media efficiently to maximize your level of engagement. 

Here are some Do's and Don'ts that everyone trying to reach an online audience should know:

1. Do Specify Your Audience. Don't Generalize. 

We are all unique. Keep that in mind when reaching out to your customers. There are social media platforms for every preference, so find the one that appeals the most to your audience. Don't assume everyone is just using Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. There are many other high traffic but often under appreciated places to connect like Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr, and LinkedIn. You have to really think "who am I trying to appeal to?" and find the social media platforms that best fit that description.  

2. Do Share Consistently. Don't Spam. 

There's nothing worse than an oversharer. Understand that, just as all of your customers are unique, so too are the platforms they use. Each social media has a science behind it and being able to cater your content to specific to the strength's of each one will do wonders for connecting with your audience. Here are some rule-of-thumb social media guidelines for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn from Quick Sprout and Buffer:

Facebook

  • Best days to post on Facebook are Monday through Friday with engagement peaking on Thursdays and Fridays
  • Best times of the day to post are 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM with 1:00 PM for more shares and 3:00 PM for more clicks
  • Post no more than twice a day to avoid a decrease on likes and comments

Twitter

  • Tweets intended for B2B interactions find their best days Monday through Friday, while tweets intended for B2C interactions are most effective on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays
  • Best times to tweet are 5:00 PM for most retweets and 12:00 PM & 6:00 PM for highest CTR (Click-through Rate)
  • Post three times or more per day for best engagement 

Instagram

  • The best days to post on Instagram are Monday through Saturday with engagement peaking on Monday
  • Best times to post are off-work hours with 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM receiving the most engagement 
  • Post on average 1.5 times or more per day

LinkedIn

  • Best days to post on LinkedIn are Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday with Wednesday within business hours receiving the most engagement
  • Best times to post are 7:00 AM - 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM - 6:00 PM with Thursdays from 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM receiving the most clicks and shares 
  • Post one time per day to reach up to 60% of your audience

It's important to keep in mind that these guidelines are good stating points, but should be adjusted depending on your industry. The best way to know what works for you is by assessing your own data and posting accordingly. 

3. Do Use Visuals. Don't Overwrite. 

We live in a highly visual world. For the most part, we prefer to look at pictures rather than read descriptions or lengthy explanations. According to data collected by MDG Advertising, content incorporating compelling images receive 94% more total views than content with nor images. In addition, 67% of customers consider high quality images to be more important and carry more weight than a product's information, description, or rating. 

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, but in your case it could be worth revenue and new customers. 

 4. Do Utilize Built-in Analytics. Don't Play a Guessing Game. 

You need to asses your own data. Almost every social media platform brings a built in set of analytics that are specific to you. Not to everyone in your industry, but to you and only you. Instead of frantically blasting your message out to everyone, pay attention to the activity of your followers and focus on that. This will allow you to draft the perfect message for your customers and share it at the time with the most traffic. 

5. Do Be Authentic. Don't Plagiarize. 

If you weren't allowed to do it in school, you best believe you're not allowed to do it for business. Plagiarism is highly frowned upon in social media. It happens often, but it is also discovered very quickly. Companies should absolutely create their own content. This not only allows for a cohesive feel and consistent online presence, but also adds authenticity in the eyes of followers and customers. 

If you do decide to use someone else's images or videos, be aware of the copyright. According to Creative Commons,  there are various copyright licenses that stipulate whether an image is allowed to be used by other. Do some research and figure out under what category the image you're looking to use falls under, before using it. Remember that using others' work without their permission is not only illegal, but it's also very rude. So be courteous to others and establish yourself as a transparent, fair, and respectful brand by always sharing your sources. Credibility is one of the most powerful assets a brand can have. 

Overall, social media can be the best or worst money you ever spend. It will come down to how you use it. Take advantage of the helpful features it provides and start putting your message out there in a focused and strategic way. Work smarter and unleash your social media accounts full potential.  
 

This was a post guest authored by Sabrina Torres. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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Beachhead Markets: How to Take Your Sales Process by Storm

When it comes to sales, I've gotten great traction through first conquering beachhead markets. The word "beachhead" itself suggests a strong metaphor directly referencing the 1944 invasion of Normandy where allied troops made a daring assault on Omaha beach in order to stage a counter-invasion of Europe and ultimately win the Second World War. 

While planning to enter a new market can hardly compare to defeating the Nazis, every entrepreneur has felt the plunge into the cold unforgiving sea of competition and strove to make their claim to a piece of dry sand from which to achieve total victory. Entrepreneurs also tend to love hyperbole.  

First presented in Geoffrey Moore's 1991 work: "Crossing the Chasm", the idea of a beachhead market fits comfortably into our lexicon, and is likely here to stay. Let's dive in and see what insights this bellicose buzzword has in store.

Definition

According to The Cambridge Business Dictionary, a Beachhead Market is "a position in a market that a company achieves and that it hopes to make stronger in the future." This definition is truly devoid of all usefulness, so I came up with my own:

A beachhead market is a small market with very specific characteristics that make it an ideal target for a new product or service based on unique compatibility between the market, the product, and the marketing resources available.  

My definition may be more tedious to parse. However, it covers the important principles that are vital to understanding and implementing Beachhead strategies.

Understand your needs

Twitter's ability to survive was dependent on gathering a critical mass of users. Raley's Confectionary - my candy company - needed to move enough product to make rent, payroll, and purchase the next round of ingredients. Tesla needed to prove the quality and viability of its product in a real world setting.  

The Beachhead market exists to serve a specific purpose related to seeing your company through the perils of infancy. That purpose is determined by the characteristics of your business, the market, and it's environment. These objectives must be kept in mind when defining your particular beachhead market. 

Define your Beachhead

Are you going to be targeting under 30, early tech adopters in Midwestern suburbs? Should you focus on middle aged single men who binge watch YouTube cooking shows? How does one determine which beach to land on? I followed Bill Aulet's advice which recommends deselecting markets until you have one option left.  

When I was starting Raley's Confectionary, I knew my candies were not going to end up in Wal-Mart. We didn't have the capacity. I also knew that the local market was too small to get us cash positive before the advent horizon and that shipping could add as much as 25% to the price of my product. That ruled out everywhere but the south. My products are expensive. They couldn't be sold in a market where customers would cross shop them with other candies. In the end. I targeted health-oriented independently owned boutique retailers in high income pockets located in the southeast. 

Implement your plan. Be excellent. Move forward

Once a beachhead market is selected, it is important to move quickly and decisively. Companies targeting beachhead markets are often short on cash to throw at marketing. Any resources available should be examined. Look at what makes your beachhead market unique. The

reasons you chose your beachhead market can give you insights in how to start making sales. 

In the early days of Raley's Confectionary, I was targeting small independent boutiques. This meant that it took relatively little detective work to contact a buyer directly. Once I was able to talk or email my way into a sample request, I knew I had a likely sale. 

Your first customers are going to do a lot more than write you checks. The judgments they pass on to you will leave an irrevocable mark on your company and your brand both as you see it and as your customers see it. It is important to be excellent to your beachhead market, because they are hand-picked, uniquely suited customers. They are going to have a potential for enthusiasm and evangelism to larger markets. 

One last thought

As your business venture grows, it is important to broaden your market. By their very nature, beachhead markets are generally scalable. During D-day, taking the beachhead was the means to an end, not and end itself. 

Colonel George A. Taylor rallied survivors with a cry "Two kinds of people are staying on this beach; the dead and those who are going to die. Now, let's get the hell out of here!"

This post was written by guest blogger and Tallahassee entrepreneur Wes Raley. Learn more about his adventures in candy making at Raley's Confectionary

 


 

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