BEACHSIDE BUSINESS WINS TOP PRIZE IN J.J.’s ENTREPRENEURS CONTEST AT PBAU

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Palm Beach Atlantic University junior Emily Hochheiser found a profitable way to combine her dreams of starting a business with her love of sun and surf.

She wrote a plan for a company called Mahalo, a mobile rental and retail business for various beach-related products, from chairs and umbrellas to paddle boards and sports equipment.

“I just wanted to figure out a way to put my passions into my job,” said the Manchester, Maryland, native who is majoring in management and minoring in communication. The company’s name, Mahalo, is a word used to express gratitude in Hawaiian.

Her idea now has the financial support to get it off the ground. As the first-place winner in the University’s fifth annual J.J.’s Entrepreneurs business plan competition, Hochheiser now has $10,000 in seed money to begin renting equipment to beachgoers from a vehicle similar to a food truck, a concept with potential to spread throughout Florida’s coast and beyond.

The United Franchise Group, the global leader for entrepreneurs, is home to seven leading franchise brands that can be found in more than 80 countries.  It partnered with the University to create J.J.’s Entrepreneurs in 2011 to encourage and teach college students about the benefits of entrepreneurship and owning their own business.

The second-place prize of $5,000 went to Heidi Ferguson of West Palm Beach, a mother of two who is majoring in psychology. Her business is called Stitches & Rust, a multiple-dealer collective vintage store specializing in vintage clothing, handmade artisan goods and unique home accessories.

Ferguson said that while walking to class one day, she noticed several signs advertising the competition and decided to apply. Though she had already laid the groundwork for her business by that point, “writing the business plan was daunting,” she said.

Hochheiser agreed. For advice she turned to her parents, Bryan and Melaney Hochheiser, who operate a plumbing business in her hometown. She said she also consulted with PBA alumnus A.J. Titus ’14, grandson of the competition’s namesake, J.J. Prendamano. Titus also mentored several other entrants.

“This has been the toughest year to decide the winner,” said Titus, who serves as operations manager of United Franchise Group. During the awards presentation, he urged the remaining finalists to return and enter again next year.

That strategy worked for Hochheiser, who said she entered the contest previously but did not make it to the final round.

In all, four business plans made it to the final round of the competition. Like the entrepreneurs on television’s Shark Tank, each finalist faced tough questions from a panel of judges.

Also making it to the final round was the student team of Fabio Nagy and Christian Segurado. Their plan is for a business called ScholarAgents, a provider of a web-based service for transferring German athletes to American varsity teams.

The other finalist was Keenan Kauth, the founder of a startup called Church-Taxi. His company is a ride-sharing software application/phone call service that provides reliable transportation to churchgoers free of charge.

This year’s judges were Dale Hedrick, Ray Titus, Jim Tatem, Penny Murphy and Jared Reuter ’12. Reuter was the competition’s first $10,000 prizewinner.

Palm Beach Atlantic University is a private, independent university offering undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees in West Palm Beach, Orlando, Wellington and online. The University is dedicated to the integration of Christian principles to prepare students for learning, leadership and service.

Local Start-Up Software Development Company Launches Innovate Technology

GaleForce Digital Technologies, a provider of innovative digital marketing solution products, has chosen Palm Beach Gardens for its headquarters as it ramps up efforts to market an exclusive review generation software technology. GaleForce also intends on upgrading its entire software suite to have a multi-language interface and expanding into international markets within six months. With this anticipated growth and development of new software, GaleForce plans to increase its workforce by 35 to 40 employees with an average salary of $65,000 dollars over the next 18 months. The local start-up company will be directing sales, marketing and product development expansion efforts from its center of operations here.

GaleForce Digital Technologies launched a new version of its software, ReForce, a proprietary review generation software technology which helps companies generate positive online reviews, while providing feedback to business owners and managers for strategic planning and training purposes. One of the latest trends in algorithms used by search engine giants, such as Google, Yahoo and Bing, is to incorporate data from consumer review sites into search engine results page (SERP) rankings. Each search engine has its own set of web page ranking and listing criteria based on proprietary ranking algorithms; however, similarities such as keywords, site speed, URL structure and now customer reviews affect search result rankings across the board.

The BDB assisted the company with an introduction to CareerSource Palm Beach County for screening and referral of potential employees.

ReForce is a program which was created as a result of years of industry research and software development.  The idea began as company president Terry Murphy noticed a pattern when speaking with clients who were becoming increasingly frustrated with the effect that negative reviews were having on their online reputations and search engine rankings. He saw the need for a way to manage customer reviews and feedback efficiently, but also recognized that most businesses have limited time and resources available to do so.

“It really was a matter of a disease in search of a cure,” Murphy said. “The whole notion of review sites is biased against a business; this helps level the playing field. It has been gratifying to see how ReForce is making a real difference for our clients. Not only are they getting credit when they do a great job, but they are getting more prominent placement in search engine results pages.”

The software was designed to be self-sufficient, while still allowing the business owner to utilize data captured on a user-friendly, dashboard which contains the performance metrics of digital marketing efforts in one location. In addition to the review-generating software, the company also offers a best-in-class suite of digital solutions, including a proprietary pay-per-click (PPC) platform and a local search management tool that helps businesses to show up in maps and underlying organic search results.

“We are excited to offer our clients industry-leading technology to help them create and manage their online fingerprint and, at the same time, optimize their search result rankings,” said Murphy. “In today’s ecommerce society, if a company’s website is not optimized in such a way that information feeds straight into the appetites of the search engines’ web crawlers, you might as well hang a closed sign on the door and stay home, because chances are that consumers who are searching for your particular products or services won’t find you when they are looking.”

GaleForce Technologies specializes in providing superior software and Internet marketing solutions for advertising agencies, Internet marketing firms, multi-location outlets and franchise groups. ReForce is an online reputation customer experience, and review generation management platform designed to help businesses gain better control of consumer sentiment and continue to grow their presence by adding more reviews. ReForce takes the guesswork and tedium out of managing every aspect of a company’s online reputation by offering a suite of tools flexible enough to automate the process and versatile enough to adapt to any unique requirements.

For more information about GaleForce Digital Technologies, please visit galeforcedigital.com or contact:

Terry Murphy
8895 North Military Trail
Suite B202
Palm Beach Gardens, FL  33410
561.688.8155
[email protected]

Teen entrepreneurs eager to take RentAll to market

entreEntrepreneurship is all about the execution. The winning team members behind RentAll not only submitted a strong plan, but they have a road map to take their concept to market.

RentAll, co-founded by Yash Daftary, Alexander Baikovitz and Brandon Dinner of American Heritage School, is a geo-localized, peer-to-peer mobile app and website that enables customers to rent items that they typically would not purchase because of the expense or limited use, like tents, kayaks or extra chairs for a party. RentAll took third place in the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge High School Track, which drew 104 entries.

The success of on-demand peer-to-peer networks like Airbnb and Uber inspired their idea for RentAll, which also was a finalist in the statewide Future Business Leaders of America competition. The renter doesn’t have to buy a $250 tent, and the tent owner is making money from something that was just sitting in the house, said Yash, a junior who has developed other startups including Hercules Protein, a high-protein gum he is working on licensing.

“It goes even further,” added Alex, a senior who will attend Carnegie Mellon next year and study engineering. “It’s not just people renting stuff of their own, it’s people creating micro businesses. RentAll creates an outlet for these businesses to form by providing them a way to rent directly to their consumers.”

That inspired RentAll’s slogan: “Become a Backyard Billionaire.”

“Why it may be somewhat hyperbole, we believe it attracts a lot of attention,” said Brandon, a junior who launched his first company at age 12 and is also working on a hydroponics startup. Every venture is an important learning experience, he says.

RentAll (www.rentall.rent) was born in American Heritage’s Entrepreneurship Program. When Yash discovered there was no entrepreneurship program at the school, he started one, similar to one he launched in his freshman and sophomore years at his former school in New Jersey. He’s president of the group, Brandon is vice president, and there are 46 student members, including Alex. At the club, the students work on ideas with five mentors — a lawyer, an investment banker and three entrepreneurs from different industries. Seeing the success of the program’s first year, the school is considering adding a business track in addition to to its existing engineering and pre-med tracks, Yash said.

The RentAll team is working on its social-media marketing plan and plans to go into full development this summer. Yash and Alex, who attended an MIT summer program last year and has created a smart parking application and a medical technology product, are looking forward to tackling the tech challenge of developing the platform, perhaps working with a team offshore.

“What we plan to do is execute within the South Florida region and prove viability in that test market and scale it further by going for funding. With a Series A, we could go into bigger cities across the United States, and that widespread market share will help us against third-party competition that might be taking place,” Alex said. They see college students as a big market for them.

A key challenge will be time management, especially as Alex goes off to Carnegie Mellon and Yash and Brandon approach senior year, each with five Advanced Placement courses, college applications and tests, said their mentor and Yash’s father, Bhavik Daftary, who is a tech entrepreneur and investor.

“Focusing 80 hours a week on this business is going to be very hard. If they are able to find some investors to back them and use that money to hire the right people to help them run the company, that could solve some of the problems,” Bhavik Daftary said.

He has helped them accurately estimate what their business will look like, by understanding their expenses, their cost for selling their goods and their technology, and to project their revenue and profitability.

Daftary’s advice: “Leave the egos far, far away. Stay focused. Work hard, but work smart. You’ve got to be more than 1,000 percent committed. … Focus on your goals and create a road map.”

Sounds like this team is well on its way.

Read the full Miami Herald article here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/business-plan-challenge/article76411972.html