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Networking in St. Petersberg, Florida

St. Petersburg’s Best Business Networking Opportunities

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Networking over lunchJessica Rivelli can stand in a ballroom filled with 400 women entrepreneurs and business leaders and, seemingly, know them all.

It’s a reflection of how the Working Women of Tampa Bay founder has built her organization into one of the state’s fastest growing women’s business groups. In nine years, Rivelli’s group has risen to include nearly 1,000 members, and she’s expanded with a second chapter in the Orlando area.

Through monthly events, periodic seminars and annual conferences, Rivelli has managed to foster an atmosphere of motivation, education and inspiration.

Yet it’s Rivelli’s natural ability to enter an event teeming with people and emerge with new friendships that serves her so well.

Rivelli knows all too well the importance of networking, and she encourages those to engage with fellow businessmen and businesswomen, even when it can be daunting.

For the shy, the introverted and the increasing number of young people more accustom to communicating via emails, texts and social media, the idea of stepping into an organization’s luncheon or happy hour can be an intimidating challenge.

“If you’re new to the networking world, no need to be nervous,” Rivelli says. “Just remember everyone in the room is there for the same reason you are: to make new connections.

“One tip to make connecting easier is to ask people about the things they are passionate about like family, food and what they do for fun.”

Rivelli identifies approaching every opportunity with a genuine and authentic attitude as an important tenet, and the networker must go beyond what they can gain from the connection.

“Caring about others and creating value for them is the key,” Rivelli said. “Ask them how you can help them. Offer to make a connection for them or send them a referral. When those kinds of relationships are cultivated over the long term, you now have a network of people to draw upon when you have a need.”

But with so many networking options in Tampa Bay, and so little time to invest in events, how does one go about choosing the best opportunities?

Kyle Parks, principle and co-founder of B2 Communications in St. Petersburg, said he aims to go macro and micro. He frequents chamber of commerce events on both sides of the bay to connect with a diverse group of businesses. However, he also targets smaller events that focus on his specific interests.

“We stress to our clients to go narrow and deep with their involvements,” Parks said. “Don’t obsess about how many events you go to in a week. Instead, think about picking groups that match your interests, and also will help your business.

“Get on a committee, get involved,” Parks added. “That will get you a lot further than just going to events and hoping you meet the right people.”

Whether you’re looking for an organization that features broad collections of professionals, or smaller groups that target folks with similar interests, here are six great networking recommendations (in no particular order of preference).

No. 1: Rising Tide Innovation Center

Founded by the attorneys of the Fletcher and Fischer law firm, the cowork space burst onto the scene earlier this year and quickly established itself as a go-to for those looking to connect with a supportive community.

But it also hosts a multiple networking events including a monthly gathering staged by Rivelli.

The center’s other monthly events range from learning events to guest speakers. It also serves as a gathering spot for specific groups. Located in downtown St. Petersburg, the center sits in the heart of the business district and offers a smartly appointed environment in a convenient location.

Says Rivelli: “I admire what the founders of Rising Tide are doing by creating a gathering space for entrepreneurs and executives to connect and create together.”

No. 2: St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce

The chamber continues to reinvent its traditional role as a networking organization. Executive director Chris Steinocher says innovation is key.

“We’ve learned our members want unconventional opportunities to collide,” Steinocher said.

The chamber’s efforts include a weekly “Million Cups” event staged every Wednesday morning where it offers Kahwa coffee and two 9-minute presentations from local entrepreneurs.

At its “Member Appreciation Nights,” the chamber spotlights a new hotspot foodie/beverage place to check out. “Now Trending” is the lunchtime opportunity to network, eat and learn about the next hot topic in the burg.

Of course, the chamber still maintains one traditional approach: ribbon cuttings are a weekly if not daily occurrence. It introduces new entrepreneurs/businesses to the community, maintaining a mission it first started as the Board of Trade in 1899.

Steinocher, however, says the chamber has made a concerted effort to move into the 21st Century with an emphasis on diverse events and times.

“We’ve learned some want to connect in the morning, some at lunch and some after work – so we offer it all,” Steinocher said.

Learn more at

No. 3: Network Professionals Inc., South Pinellas County

This group provides a platform for small businesses to expand their salesforce by networking with a diverse group of professionals. It’s on the micro level, with one person exclusively representing a specific professional category. The group maintains a reputation of being friendly and outgoing, but it’s focus is definitely on business.

The strategy? Members refer business to each other, effectively becoming each other’s sales force. Meetings are weekly and structured for maximum results. Members join to grow their business, cultivate business resources and expand their networking sphere of influence.

In South Pinellas, the organization maintains a number of geographic chapters with some meeting in the morning and others gathering for lunch. For more information, visit

No. 4: Keystone Mastermind Alliance 

Co-founded by small business owners Liz M. Lopez and Tracie Thompson, the Keystone Mastermind Alliance touts itself as an organization that provides a high-quality and active networking environment. It’s particularly focused on helping professionals of all backgrounds.

The KMA Network offers a variety of events that combine networking opportunities with marketing information, access to business leaders and educational workshops. It strives to replicate a corporate support system for small business owners.

“Big companies don’t just have one person making decisions,” Thompson wrote on the KMA site. “They have an executive leadership team and a board of directors. Together they make healthy decisions for the growth of the company, bring new ideas to the table, and join forces to overcome challenges.

“Through our … events, we offer business owners a trustworthy and effective source of guidance and support that actively contributes to their growth and development.”

The networks stages events throughout Pinellas and routinely holds gatherings in St. Petersburg on Fridays. For more information, visit

No. 5: LinkedIn

Okay, this isn’t a macro group or micro interest organization, but for those seeking the convenience of a targeted audience, this social medium can prove valuable. It’s not the face-to-face encounter of a traditional networking event, but LinkedIn often gives entrepreneurs the chance to make a direct connection with someone in their field.

“Social media can be incredibly helpful throughout the networking process,” Rivelli said. “I especially love LinkedIn. I consider it my digital Rolodex. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can be helpful as well especially for small businesses with small marketing budgets.”

If a specific person could serve as a cog with a major business goal, bid to link with them, but remain open to a future face-to-face meeting.

No. 6: Working Women of Tampa Bay

We end where we started. Rivelli continues to offer varied meetups in Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties. The former television producer prides herself on the geographic diversity of her meetings as well as the size and scope. Working Women may offer a simple morning coffee or a luncheon with 200 people and a well-known speaker all in the same month.

It helps that Rivelli strives to make the group all-inclusive.

“It embraces everyone, every woman is welcomed,” she said. “There aren’t criteria on how much you make; you don’t have to be at an executive level.  It’s all women who work. That’s what makes it special.”

Yet it’s the supportive nature of the group that helps it thrives. In a world where women can, at times, be their own worst enemy, Working Women fight against the broad-brush assertion and genuinely fosters strong relationships between its members.

“I’ve experienced situations where a woman wasn’t always my best advocate in the workplace,” said Rivelli. “We want Working Women to be a place where women can be each other’s best ambassadors.”

We second that sentiment at Rising Tide Innovation Center. We’re striving to create a team of ambassadors for those who join our cowork collaborative. Every successful entrepreneur and business person rises with the aid of a community, and we enhance our community every day at Rising Tide.


Start-up business

How to Side-Hustle Your Way to a Successful Start-Up

By | Business 'How-To' | No Comments

Collaboration to start a businessWhen Forbes magazine anointed Clearwater native Sara Blakely as the youngest self-made female billionaire in 2012, the Spanx founder proudly boasted on her website: “Putting her butt on the line pays off.”

It’s a line you might expect from someone who dabbled in stand-up comedy and once worked as a chipmunk at Disney. But what you may not realize is that Spanx — the multi-million dollar brand that Blakely initiated as “legless panty hose that offered control without the leggings — started as a side hustle.

According to various reports, including the Tampa Bay Times, Blakely was selling fax machines for Danka in Florida when she originated her idea. She cut the feet off of her stockings in order to wear them under her white pants for a more flattering look.

With only $5,000 in her savings account she first pursued her dream, she continued to work her day job—even after a transfer to Atlanta. It took her two years to fully develop the product and she stayed at Danka even after landing deals with Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman.

It wasn’t until she scheduled an appearance on an episode of Oprah, anticipating a huge boost in sales, that she quit her day job.

The story, however, illustrates that a side hustle can turn into a success, even if you’re not steep in industry knowledge.

“Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know,” Blakely told the Tampa Bay Times. “That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.”

Everyone aspires to be Blakely, seamlessly slide into a side hustle and eventually enjoy success. Here are five factors that can help you “get it done.”



Rebecca Livermore, who turned her side hustle into Professional Content Creation, says one of the nation’s common surnames is “Someday,” noting that Mr. and Mrs. Someday always talk about starting a side hustle, pursuing a passion or elevating above their “soul-sucking job” but never do it.
We’ll address some of the foundational blocks needed to get started—priority, plan, passion, pay—but the side hustle will remain an incomplete endeavor if those elements remain stuck in your mind.

Blakely employed a learn as you go approach but made sure she embarked on the venture even with limited financial resources and scant knowledge about the textile industry. A willingness to learn from early failures and a drive sustained her effort. It took two years just to persuade a hosiery mill to even make an initial run of her product.

“Trust your gut,” she said.

Another great piece of advice: stay mum. Blakely purposely did not tell anyone about her initial legless pantyhose idea for an entire year because she did not want to have to defend it or be talked out of it.

Sure, you want to share your hopes and aspirations with a few friends, but it’s probably best to hold your side hustle cards close to the vest, especially regarding the co-workers at your day job.



The side hustle requires that it stays on the side in the beginning. You have to maintain a focus on your daily duties, so you don’t jeopardize your primary source of income. Daymond John, founder of the FUBU clothing line and a co-star on television’s Shark Tank, worked at Red Lobster for five years while getting his business off the ground. He says his nights as a server helped him serve up security at home in case his fledgling business went belly up. And even after he started bringing in money, he continued to wait tables.

Of course, that doesn’t remain an option if you lose the steady pay of you regular job. Follow these three admonitions to avoid that pitfall:

  • Don’t let the side hustle become a distracting daydream but take a minute when you can to write down reminders about your side hustle.
  • Don’t do work for your new venture while you’re on the clock at your existing job.
  • If the businesses are related, don’t plot to steal clients and make sure you won’t be subject to a no-compete clause.

The bottom line is while you can maintain two separate jobs, you can’t mix business with business.



The best way to separate work from your side endeavors is to hustle in the off hours. So many people say they don’t have time to initiate an outside effort, but it really boils down to making the most of your spare hours.

One key step involves routine. If you get accustom to focusing on your side hustle during a specific time every day, you’re going to generate more efficiency.

Livermore said she made a point of doing specific client work for her side business in the morning before she reported to work. John worked only when his Red Lobster stints allowed time to focus, and he admits to sewing together some of his initial apparel offerings after midnight.

“I said to myself, ‘I’m going to put in three hours on this business a week,” John told Fortune magazine. “If I can last, I’m going to put in eight hours a week.”

Novelist Michael Connelly also spent late-night hours writing his first crime fiction books after covering crime stories for the Los Angeles Times. Interestingly, he had to purchase black out curtains and dim the lights in his home after leaving the Times because he needed the mood to generate the dark, gritty feel of his works.

Now Bosch, the Amazon Prime series in its fourth season, is based on one of Connelly’s most popular characters.

The routine, however, cannot lead to over-working, stress and potential burnout. The side hustle requires work and determination, but it also necessitates a focus on your physical and mental well-being.

“In the early days when I was working around the clock, I reached a point when I nearly cracked,” O2E Brands founder Brian Scudamore wrote in a piece for Inc. “I started having panic attacks and suffered from severe anxiety. I realized overworking myself wasn’t doing me or the business any favors: our growth had stalled and I wasn’t having fun anymore.

“It was only when I learned to delegate to my team that we started to pick up momentum again.”



Julius Davis, co-founder and owner of Tampa-based Volt Air engineering firm didn’t start his business as a side hustle, but he did spend long hours planning a transition for his independent bid. While working for an engineering firm, Davis started acquiring knowledge to venture out on his own.

“My business partner and I, when we were working at another firm together, we would go in on our lunch breaks or our coffee breaks and sign up for classes at the (University of South Florida) Small Business Development Center,” Davis told the Tampa Bay Times. “They had classes on how to start the business … and we attended all those classes they had to offer.

“The key thing was writing that business plan because that forces you to set the roots and foundation for everything you need. It asks questions you really don’t have the answers to, and it forces you to go get the answers and make sure you know what you’re doing.”

Some of the answers must revolve around key financial decisions. If your monetary resources are limited, avoid debt and spend only on the items that are truly necessary. Inc. contributing writer Jeff Haden recently wrote that side hustle entrepreneurs need to be judicious.

“Before you spend money, always ask yourself one question: “Does (this) touch the customer?” If it doesn’t, don’t buy it.

For all of her success, it’s worth nothing that when producers from Oprah reached out to Blakely, she didn’t have a web site. She told Forbes she worked tirelessly but didn’t spend money on marketing and business tools until after the product took off.



One of the biggest keys to generating success with your side hustle involves determining your self-worth.

The business plan must involve setting an incremental schedule for income. You may start with a lower price for your product or services, and then increase it as you gain experience and clients gain confidence in your services. However, be careful not to undervalue your work. The long hours and added effort need to pay off eventually.

Patience may prove as valuable as pay in getting your business off the ground.

“Making the decision to pursue your passion is exciting and rewarding,” Scudamore said. “But try to resist the urge to do too much, too soon. Building a business from nothing is a long, arduous process and it will be slow (at least in the beginning). If you try to grow too fast, you’ll set yourself back.”

Finally, passion remains another key ingredient. Davis, the Tampa engineer, now maintains one of the nation’s leading firms with multi-million contracts at Houston Hobby International and Tampa International Airports. But the business wasn’t always a bed of roses.

His love of the work sustained him in the early days of his independence.

“You have to make sure you have the passion to do what you want to do,” Davis said. “It can’t be money because if you have a passion, the money will come. It’s going to be challenging, it’s going to be frustrating. You may get discouraged and that’s how a lot of businesses (get derailed).

“Some people say, ‘I went out on my own because I want to be my own boss.’ That doesn’t work. You have to find something you really have a passion for and then everything else will fall into place. If you have a passion for it, you’re not going to let it fail.”


The Rising Tide Innovation Center can prove a viable option as you look to find your passion, establish a plan and build your side hustle into a success. In our cowork space, you can find the tools, support and community spirit needed to launch your effort and sustain it through the early days. Pay us a visit when you’re ready to get started.


William "Bill" Lederer

Member Spotlight: William “Bill” Lederer , iSOCRATES 

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William "Bill" LedererHe’s a gifted wordsmith who just happens to have a mind for abstract math.

He’s worked on Wall Street and boosted the fortunes of his father’s business.

He’s started six different companies and sold four of them.

He’s the former CEO of early e-commerce company, a former executive at advertising giant WPP, and founder of MediaCrossing, the world’s first digital media trading company.

He’s a husband, a father, and a collegiate professor with so much knowledge he’s rewriting a major text book in his field.

Now Bill Lederer brings his business savvy and latest venture to Tampa Bay.

He’s currently chairman and CEO of iSOCRATES, the leading end-to-end provider of what Lederer calls PRPE: Programmatic Resource Planning and Execution. With a specialization in data analytics, iSOCRATES looks to lead the way in marketing and media automation.

He already counts News Corporation and Proctor & Gamble among his clients, but after acquiring new office space at Rising Tide Innovation Center in downtown St. Petersburg, he believes he’s perfectly positioned to grow iSOCRATES into an even bigger company.

Lederer roots his confidence in an uncanny ability to forecast industry changes, and all of the experience he draws from his varied background.

“Everything I’m doing now, you could look at it and say it’s a version of what I’ve already done,” Lederer said.

Lederer recently spoke to us about iSOCRATES, the changing dynamics of media and marketing and what drives him to continue seeking success in the industry.

Tell me about your business. It sounds complex, but the complexities 
seem to simplify business for your clients.

Absolutely. My background and the background of my business partner (COO Michael Weaver) is that we’ve spent a long time, more than 20 years, in media and marketing. We’ve tended to work more on the data and advertising side of the industry than on the content and creation side. There is a tremendous movement within media and marketing towards automation. Michael and I have basically been riding this wave from Day 1. We have both been there for the creation and development of automated approaches to media and marketing services. It has been our experience that the market is looking for end-to-end resources that can provide consulting, managed services and business process outsourcing. All of these are essentially technology-enabled services of one kind or another.

What makes the Tampa Bay area fertile ground to grow your business?

This community has done extremely well over the years with a variety of different kinds of outsourcing, particularly around technology. There are a mixture of data, technology and people here. It’s a very common thing. In fact, if you look at the greatest job creation that has occurred in this market, it’s basically been related to outsourcing and managed services of various kinds. This is a community that has always been well known for that. Pinellas County and Hillsborough County are rich in data and analytics talent, as well. It’s also very strong in account management and in sales and marketing. When you put all those things together, it’s a rich stew that for us creates a critical mass in terms of talent and potentially other kinds of growth resources.

Many people come to Florida looking to make a lifestyle change, and then they’re hopeful that they can find appropriate work. In our case, we came here knowing we already had a good, successful, profitable business that was going to grow a lot. So, we’re about job creation.

In what areas does the community need to improve?

I wish there was mass transit. More than mass transit, I really wish the educational commitment was stronger in these communities. There is a palpable difference in terms of investment and the priority for education, which is disappointing for me.

How have you and your company helped News Corporation.

I’ve basically been doing strategic consulting, operational consulting, managed services and business process outsourcing for almost two years, and we’re growing and growing and growing with that client. What we do for them is we help them better monetize the ad inventory that they have. We allow them to understand audiences much better than they would otherwise. We get more effectiveness out of their existing labor, and they’re able to grow more profitable. We’ve significantly increased their revenue in a dramatic way. In the case of News Corp as in our other clients, we typically start building a relationship in the U.S., we continue to do that and at the same time we’re putting in people off shore, that do various work that candidly is less expensive than if they were hired to do the work in the U.S.

Are the media and marketing buys related to social media?

It’s related to trafficking adds, selling unsold ad inventory, doing data science — all kinds of modeling work associated with trying to figure out the value of the inventory. It’s planning and executing media buying of various kinds for a wide variety of different kinds of clients. It’s both business to consumer and business to business.

Do the media buys typically include Facebook, Google?

It’s typically digital and it’s all programmatic. Our expertise is programmatic media marketing. We say that we are the global leader in Programmatic Resource Planning and Execution.

Yes, PRPE. You’ve trademarked that.

Right. What’s happening in our industry, media and marketing, is very much like what’s happened in financial services and enterprise resource planning and corporate software. Essentially, advertising, whatever kind of advertising we’re talking about, is in the process of becoming commodified and commoditized. In that process, as we develop more and more standards and there’s more use of technology and cloud computing — various software, artificial intelligence, block chain — all those things are coming to bear on media and marketing. The clients don’t have enough resources in terms of talent to understand what all of this is, how to apply it, how to make the best use of it and how to sustain employment. What happens in these very hot areas is it’s hard to keep your people. They get some exposure and training, and they expect more compensation and off they go to the next place. We are a point of stability and continuity for a lot of these companies.

You handle a lot of different tasks for your clients.

It’s incredibly wide ranging. You’re going to see this company grow and grow and grow where we’re going to have all kinds of different capabilities, largely driven by our clients. This is a good example of a company where our clients are driving the show. they say to me, who’s our audience? Where are they coming from? Where are they going? Did we price this too high? Too low? I don’t have enough audience. I don’t have enough traffic. Can you help me?

Is that why we hear so much about data analytics, because it can be used as a guide to consumer behavior?

From a consumer standpoint, we’re getting more relevant messages. We care about that, right? We need to be careful, however, that we don’t abuse our privilege. Our clients need a great deal of guidance about what they can and can’t do, technically, procedurally, legally, and how to price it. I spend a lot of time training sales people on how to sell it. We’re end to end.

What advice would you give to start-up entrepreneurs who may find a home at Rising Tide?

Your time and reputation are precious. Especially when you are trying to get established. Be ruthless about your focus and prioritization. For start-up entrepreneurs, time literally is money. Make every minute and experience counts. How and where you organize yourself and your team is critical. The market for financial and human capital is really competitive and unforgiving. Conceive, Build, Test, Fail, Learn, Optimize…fast. Reduce your drag coefficient wherever you can. Follow Your Bliss.

What do you find appealing about Rising Tide?

Welcome, the waters here at Rising Tide are warm and fertile for personal and professional growth as is the community you will be joining. The esprit de corps here is relaxed, but mature and flexible. The vibe is positive, supportive and unpretentious. Management under promises and overdelivers. They care and are paying attention, so you can focus your time and attention on those things you value most. iSOCRATES is lucky and proud to be here.

You’ve enjoyed so much success. You could be out at Pass-A-Grille every day sticking your toes in the sand. What’s driving you?

I think the thing that’s driving me is that I have this vision of the way the world could be or should be, and I’m really interested in making that happen. I know my clients need help and I know that there are other companies out there that can use that help. Rightly or wrongly, I have this vision of the next 10 years and what the needs will be of the community I work in. I think I’m capable of building a substantial business that can systematically meet the needs of those companies. It’s not the same thing as saving kids from cancer, but it’s something within the realm of what I know how to do.

It sounds like you’re talking about your legacy. In 10 years, you’ll be able to point to the impact you’ve had on the automation of media and marketing.

I don’t think of it that way. But in the end, the only real thing that makes a difference is the impact on individual people. I’ve had the benefit of creating thousands of jobs where I can see what I’ve been able to do for people. That’s a lot more interesting to me than the companies.


Collaboration for start-ups

Collaboration: Why and How It Can Help Your Start-Up

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Collaboration for start-up successTrent McAree had a vision for a business selling smoothie fruit bowls, but to make a go of selling organic acai blended with fresh tastes, whole fruits and flax and chia granola, he needed a location.

So McAree teamed with the DI Coffee Bar on Tampa’s Davis Islands. He carved out a small corner in the shop and applied his wares, taking advantage of a steady location in a popular strip mall. Meanwhile, the coffee bar got to expand its options.

Now McAree will replicate the model at a South Tampa yoga studio where participants will surely look for a healthy snack after wrapping up a session in the lotus position.

In the end, a win-win for both, and another example of how a collaborative effort can work for a start-up business.

These days, collaboration in the business world most often refers to corporations working with startups. Startup Bootcamp, a global accelerator group, estimates that 70 percent of startups have done business with larger corporations.

Yet collaboration also can involve teaming with another startup or enhancing the effort with experts from a specific field. Either way collaboration remains a key tenet for entrepreneurs.

In short, teamwork can make the dream work.

Here are five reasons every start-up should explore collaborative possibilities, and five ways how they can make it happen.


Why It Works

1) Puts the Start in Start-Up

McAree’s story perfectly illustrates how collaboration can lend advantages to a start-up. He knew he had a marketable product, but how could he go about making it happen while minimizing overhead. Yes, he sacrifices a bit of control, but the coffee shop bridged the divide. The same can be said about other businesses. A start-up desire to connect with a larger corporation may be rooted in a desire to sell the company. Startup Bootcamp estimates 45 percent of start-ups are looking to be purchased by corporations. On the other hand, start-ups may simply be seeking a partnership to help grow the company.

2) Sharpens the Sales Pitch

The pursuit of a corporate partner can help the start-up perfect its sales pitch for actual customers. Just as the entrepreneur must perfect the “why” in capturing the interest of prospective buyers, he has to do so in reeling in a corporate partner. Keep in mind however, the product, app or service doesn’t have to be perfect before you begin to showcase it and look to entice partners. Tampa businessman Chon Nguyen says some focus on making the product perfect or pretty, instead of functional, and never get the business off the ground. Once the partnership is established, the corporate partner can use its experience to help the start-up enhance the pitch.

3) Enhances the Product

The collaborative partnership can help the entrepreneur improve on the product or service they hope to peddle. Nguyen grew his interest into multiple computer-related businesses, but then a friend working in the restaurant business reached out to him about a dilemma. They needed a way to distribute recipes to multiple restaurants in the chain, and paper wasn’t cutting it. Nguyen developed a digital system where the recipes could be reviewed on screens in the kitchen, but Nguyen said they needed to collaborate with the restaurateurs and kitchen staff to perfect the product. “We’re technologists, not chefs.” The partnership came up with the answers and now his company, FusionPrep, provides its system to more than 1,000 restaurants.

4) Brings it to the Market

Partnering with a company or angel investor can be the key to growing a business or increasing the distribution of the product. Mulberry’s Johnny Carter recognized a breakthrough in 2017 when Publix picked up his Johnny B Brown Bar-B-Que Sauce. The deal not only allowed him to sell more sauce, but according to a report in The Ledger newspaper it made it possible for him to partner with a packing company in Clearwater to help deliver his brown, hickory-flavored sauce. It’s a classic example of scaling up, and it harkens back to Nguyen’s advice about functionality over perfection. The larger corporation or collaborative partner can help with the perfection aspects. Make it functional.

5) Creates a Win-Win

The collaborative effort works best when it creates a win-win, but a mutual beneficial relationship often requires a strategic fit that goes beyond a general interest. It’s not just about finding a company with deep pockets. It’s about connecting with a corporation that can truly use your product or service to remain innovative. The startup should look for a company that really could benefit from what its offering and aligns with its values.


How to Make It Happen

1) Make the Connection

Networking remains an important part of any start-up’s path, and it goes beyond attendance at traditional events or joining the chamber. The tech community particularly offers several ways for startups to garner interest in their entrepreneurial ideas, including events specifically designed to connect new companies with established corporations looking to innovate through a start-up. While those approaches remain viable, it also helps to utilize the latest technology. Nguyen suggested using LinkedIn to target specific companies who might benefit from the product.

2) Do Your Homework

The start-up entrepreneur must be a knowledge expert about the targeted field, and he must understand the culture of the specific companies he targets. Nesta, a global innovation foundation, stressed the need for startups to understand how a company functions and the hurdles it’ll need to overcome to partner with a startup. The expert knowledge also will help in creating partnerships with companies to aid the efforts. Some corporations may expect the startup to provide marketing and PR. Understanding what you’re trying to achieve can sway a ancillary company to lend a hand.

3) Don’t Sweat the IP

Some startups worry about the theft of intellectual property when partnering with corporations, but it’s a fear largely unfounded. It’s necessary to take the proper legal steps to assure a sound partnership, but Nesta noted “most firms don’t want to steal your idea and, more often than not, the idea itself is a very small part of the finished product.” Nguyen backed that assertion, noting that the idea is worth a lot less than the execution required to build the product. “Grit and velocity often prove to be the real strengths.”

4) Be Patient

It may take time to find a corporate partner. Consider this statistic from Startup Bootcamp: an estimated 48 percent of startups took six months or more to partner with a corporation. According to KPMG, it takes an average of 9.4 months from the first meeting until a collaboration is established. In the interim seek mentors and other partners who can help you enhance what your selling. This can range from PR practitioners and marketers to web designers and others you might meet in a networking opportunity or at a cowork space.

5) Keep Your Options Open

A start-up may specifically target a company with the certainty that it’s the answer to its dreams. However, in the quest for success, alternative routes may emerge. Carter, the man who convinced Publix to carry his barbecue sauce, operates a restaurant in the same county where Publix is located. He longed for his sauce to be carried by the grocery store giant, but that didn’t lead him to pass up on an earlier chance to peddle his sauce through Publix competitor Winn Dixie, which had a special “Winn-Local” program aiming to assist mom-and-pop entrepreneurs, especially women and minorities.


It’s clear collaborative efforts reduce workloads and create shortcuts. Collaboration also leads to innovation, but start-ups must be positioned to find the collaborators and take advantage of the opportunities. With an entrepreneurial community dotted with successful veteran business leaders, as well as a calendar of networking events, Rising Tide Innovation Center is the perfect vehicle to help start-ups find the right collaborative fuel to drive your business.

Small business strategy

4 Big Biz Behaviors That Can Benefit Small Businesses

By | Business 'How-To' | No Comments

ideas for small businessEvery episode of Shark Tank comes with a B2B tutorial, and it’s often building that impossible bridge that connects big, successful CEOs to small, ambitious startups and entrepreneurs.

As each shark assesses the pitch, they often disburse advice that the hopefuls can take away even if they don’t come away with an offer. Whether it’s Lori Greiner telling someone how to cut down on shipping costs, or Kevin O’Leary explaining how to boost profit margins, the knowledge disseminated helps make the show popular.

The reality show helps people understand a specific reality: small business novices can learn from big business success.

Here are four big business hacks any small business can use to take a bite out of everyday entrepreneurial challenges.

Behavior #1 Create Team Buy-In

Entrepreneurs and small businesses focus on creating a foundation that will help them launch the business. Sometimes, however, they fail to lay out how the business will grow. In a Goldman Sachs YouTube broadcast, the company’s CEO and chairman, Lloyd C. Bankfein said while it’s important to focus on product and customers, entrepreneurs also need a strategy.

“Don’t forget to think about your business,” Bankfein said. “What your plans are, what you want to do next, how to take your business to the next level. Think about being in your business but think about your business as well.”

In short, you need a strategic plan that focuses on increasing customers, generating revenue and putting your company in a better competitive position. It sounds obvious, but many don’t create plans that are written, detailed and thoughtful. A rising trend involves the SMART approach of goal setting, making each target:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

The most important key, however, may involve getting fellow employees, as well as investors and customers, to buy into the mission. The plan must be shared and understood by your support players, even if it that’s just a small group.

Martin Jones, a senior marketing manager with Cox Communications, recently wrote that business leaders can follow the lead of CEO giants like General Electric’s Jack Welch by being, “the driving force behind everything you do. No one will ever care about your business as much as you do, so it’s on you to be the source of ambition and drive.”

That seems to be advice heeded by Well+Good media platform co-founders Alexa Brue and Melisse Gelula. Brue says getting buy-in from their team helped them emerge in a competitive field.

“Uniting everyone around why we do what we do is the most important thing,” Brue said. “I think that people want to make a difference, and so all of us feeling like we’re putting out information that’s making a difference and that our company conducts itself in a way that is demonstrative of our core values is really important. That sets a lot of cultural tone.”

Behavior #2 Figure Out the Financing

Everyone seems to hold a different theory about financing new businesses. Some say you have to spend money to make money, while others insist don’t spend money until you start making money.

Part of that strategic growth plan involves understanding how to fund your startup and when to seek outside dollars. The traditional model typically involves borrowing money from a bank. Small-term and medium-term loans remain an option, but other possibilities have emerged as the economy has rebounded. As Dallas doctor and Forbes contributor Amir Baluch notes, the business community finds itself surrounded by lenders hungry to put capital to work in small businesses at low rates and with simple qualifications. The sharks are eager.

The options include lines of credit, working capital and strategic partnerships.

  • A line of credit can be set aside for emergencies or specific needs and the interest may accrue only on the money drawn from the line and the amount you draw down on.
  • A working capital loan generally aimsto cover operational costs for a short moment in time, usually an anticipated period of slow growth. In some instances, they can be paid in smaller daily payments as opposed to larger monthly sums.
  • Strategic partnerships are at the core of the Shark Tank For the promise of a percentage of profits, investors are willing to lend capital as well as advice and connections. Earlier this year, Fox Business News featured Chef’s Cut Real Jerky co-founder Dennis Reidel credited the growth of his business to a partnership with marketing whiz Rohan Oza and Halen Brands. In four years, the business grew from $460,000 in profits to $47.5 million in profits.

Start-up capital can help ignite a startup business, and it allows the owner to focus on other needs.

Behavior #3 Prioritize Tasks

Shark Tank star and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban likes to tell entrepreneurs, “Choose something that you both love and you’re good at doing.”
However, between creating and implementing a growth strategy and finding the funds to fuel the strategy, it’s easy to see how a small business owner could get lost in pursuit of what they love and they’re good at.

There are several keys to avoiding this pitfall. Just as big businesses craft processes to streamline production, small business owners must do the same.

  • Create goal lists and categorize what needs to be done annually, monthly, weekly and daily. Create synergy with the growth plan. Troy Dye, Capital One Chief Marketing Officer, Small Business Credit Cards, recently wrote in an entrepreneur blog that, “If tasks do not align with goals, they should be eliminated.”
  • Delegate to team members; hire an assistant. Some tasks, while important, need to be handled by others so the leader can focus on growing the business.
  • Outsource; utilize contractors. This not only allows some tasks to be lowered in priority, but the contractors often bring knowledge and expertise to the task.
  • Take advantage of technology; With each advance, marketing techniques continue to benefit small business owners and help them curb work demands.

In the final assessment, entrepreneurs are required to put in the work, but New York Times best-selling author Jon Acuff told entrepreneur Ryan Robinson, “Hustle is an act of focus, not frenzy. Hustle is about subtraction and addition. It’s not about doing more, it’s about focusing on the things that you need to do, in order to move your business forward.” He advises: “Hustle the right way.”

Behavior #4 Be a Sponge

Small business owners need to realize they can learn a lot from big businesses, and that big business CEOs never stop learning. Even after building up his Lifestyle Fitness Centers from one club to a chain that annually enjoyed revenues of more than $100 million, fitness club magnate Geoffrey Dyer still made it a point to attend trade shows with pad and pencil.

“You should always want to be learning, otherwise I would be very fearful of what’s around the corner,” Dyer once told the Tampa Bay Times. “I think the thirst to learn is inherent in an entrepreneur.

“The passion to learn, I don’t think that ever goes away. I hope it never does.”

The lessons he gathered paid off. After selling most of his Lifestyle Fitness centers to LA Fitness in 2012, Dyer got back in the business as a partner with Crunch Fitness West Florida and Atlanta in 2015.


The Rising Tide Innovation Center offers opportunities for entrepreneurs to build their business, implement big business lessons and even network with successful CEOs. Engage with the community at this St. Petersburg cowork space and experience how a rising tide lifts all boats.


Bill Bensing

Member Spotlight: Bill Bensing, WB3 Tech and Clatsch

By | Member Spotlight | No Comments

Bill BensingBill Bensing has five fingers, not three.

His ears are normal, not pointy. He’s never handled a real light saber, he possesses a full head of hair and sports a healthy tan instead of a green-tinted exterior.

Yet if Bensing has his way, he will become Tampa Bay’s experiential Yoda.

The St. Louis native came to Tampa Bay in 2016 and immediately sought to immerse himself in the community through different activities. Now he’s step out of the corporate world and into a start-up role to help consumers answer that question with an application he’s developing through his company, WB3 Tech, called Clatsch.

What’s a Clatsch? It’s a collection of related activities site users can create and then share with others. You can go to a ballgame at Tropicana Field, or you can lunch at a nearby restaurant, cross over to an afternoon game and cap off the evening with drinks at a local watering hole.

The idea is not only to provide packaged suggestions akin to vacation packages, but help businesses connect and collaborate on related forays.

A self-admitted big dreamer, Bensing, 32, hopes that in a year Clatsch will be the No. 1 destination for Tampa Bay residents trying to determine what to do in their free time. And he’s eying taking the model to other cities.
It’s his second startup effort after walking away from his first in 2015, and this time he’s looking to make the Rising Tide Innovation Center his launching pad.

Bensing recently spoke about delving into entrepreneurship, his hopes for Clatsch and why Rising Tide is the best place to begin his business.

What draws you to the start-up community? What motivated you to leave the security of your job and set your sights on being an entrepreneur?

Entrepreneurs are trying to find new value propositions, new ways to solve people’s problems and I really love doing that, and I also love software. From the risk perspective, in my first attempt to do a start-up, I had this big set of anxieties — I’m not going to have a job for a year. After doing it, I realized it wasn’t that hard. My marketable skillset after that went up and my career took a different path which was for the better.

So, you feel like your first start-up was almost like a sabbatical. Tell us about that. 

Being put into a spot where I had to figure out how am I going to solve this problem, is the problem I’m solving economical and valuable, how do I implement the problem. When you put yourself in that position, you’re sort of on a sabbatical and there’s a lot of growth there. What I really liked was being able to solve people’s problems, but I also see my own growth and the growth of the people around me.

How did you find the courage to be an entrepreneur?

I’ve never thought of it that way. I think people think it takes a lot, but I really think it’s just more of an inner-drive. I may not be a representative sample, but in the very beginning, before I left my first job, it really took me close to nine months to come up with the courage to do it. It took me almost a year to determine how I was going to mitigate my risk, how I was going to save up money, how I was going to pay for what I’m doing. I had to build it up, and then I just jumped. This being my second start-up, it comes easier. You can’t just wake up one day and do it. I do think there’s some planning you have to put into it. The process of planning, the process of thinking it through builds the courage and the confidence to just do it.

How did you formulate the idea for Clatsch

Clatsch is born out of my experience moving here. I moved here in February 2016. Tampa Bay has always been a vacation destination for me just living in the midwest. All of a sudden, I’m living in a top vacation destination and I’m trying to figure out how do I establish my life. I bought a bike and and I just biked around to a lot of places. You have vacation packages and vacation offerings, I was wondering why can’t I do that in my everyday life? Why can’t I just get on a web site and say, “Hey, I want to do an experience package today.” Maybe it’s beer and wings and the Rays game. Maybe it’s Dali and wine. I want to put my own together, but I also want to see how other people experience life down here and become a part of it. That’s where the idea of Clatsch came from, from my own needs and wants to experience the area.

Do you think people are searching for more than just a singular destination — a package of two to three activities in a single evening?

Yes. I think when you specifically ask someone that question, their mind doesn’t go directly to that. They think of an individual event because that’s sort of our mental model and our construct today. But how they act is different. They act in multiple spots. But in the way I’ve asked it, the light bulbs pop on. There’s been a significant amount of positive feedback.

It seems like an application that would be perfect for newcomers.

Oh yeah. When you talk about newcomers, I think it’s a problem a lot of folks have when they come into a new area … how do I become a local? What does a local mean? So, it’s about having something to help them learn what does local mean here. Every city in the United States is a microcosm of its own culture. Tampa has a neat, cool culture. St. Louis has one. They’re different, but how do I become a native Tampa Bay person? I think it’s geared towards that local aspect. It’s not geared towards somebody doing a vacation. It’s geared towards you living your life in the area you love and becoming part of that community.

What’s the business model for the consumer? Would they pay to be a member of Clatsch?

No. It’ll be completely free for the consumer side. I want them to come on and use the application and share their “clatsches,” create their own “clatsches” and subscribe to other people’s “clatsches.” That’s the model for them. They’ll be able to purchase the aggregated “clatsch” through there. So, say it’s four different events and the events cost a couple of dollars a spot, they can purchase that whole “clatsch and the businesses that are putting the events on will get their proportion of the money through the whole platform.


And it’ll also appeal to businesses because it’s going to help drive customers to their establishments, right?

From the business side, it’s giving them the ability to offer more than just discounts. During the recession, discounts were a big thing, like Groupon. Now that we’re sort of out of it, I’m seeing more people are willing to do those one-off, relatively expensive events. They also don’t just do one thing, they do a couple of things. So why can’t the Dali and the Sea Salt people get together and collaborate, so you and your family could have an exclusive experience. That’s really the attractiveness for the business, giving them the ability to build more service-oriented projects.

Clatsch can be the connector?

It’s a dual-sided market place. I think any great story always has a guide. It’s like Yoda and the Jedis. There’s always a good guy in the background. That’s really what I want Clatsch to be. I want Clatsch to be the guide for consumers, so it can guide them on how they can best experience their life. I’m using machine learning and AI in the background, so I’ll be able to learn a bit about the people and make recommendations. But it’ll also be able to make recommendations to the businesses. There’s a lot of traditional heuristics in business today, but what if there’s a guide that can show them how to make better products and better services? What if I can go to a business and say you should collaborate with this business? I think that’s what Clatsch can really be.

What’s the role that Rising Tide will play in your success?

Co-working is about the community. It’s about building communities of folks for help. It can be as simple as having someone to help you build PR. In our community, someone can help educate us on PR and sometimes we can trade and do something for them. Having that community of help is huge. Fletcher and Fischer being here, they’ve been able to help me with some legal aspects. It’s a community sharing. That’s what I love about Rising Tide and that’s why am here. Talking to Leigh, her vision of building a community is exactly in line with what I had in St. Louis. It’s a phenomenal space, but it’s the community that Leigh and Tina are trying to build that’s really the value proposition.



More Than A Desk: How to Maximize Your Cowork Time

By | Cowork Culture | No Comments

Maximizing coworkingShe came into the cowork space with uncertain expectations.

An adjunct professor longing to gain full-time status — she taught classes at the state university, the community college and a for-profit institution — she signed up seeking a quiet space to grade papers and sharpen course guidelines.

One morning, with space filling quickly, she stepped outside of her shell and took up a spot at a community tables next to a freelance writer.

They struck up a conversation, not about her work as a math educator or her doctoral degree in early learning education, but about the challenges of raising teenagers. A friendship began to form after that day and they made a point to speak each time they ran into each other at the cowork space.

When the freelance writer learned she held definitive thoughts about teaching math to children under 5, it piqued his curiosity. He suggested she contact his friend who conducts an annual early-learning seminar in the adjacent county and apply to teach a session.

She gained approval, and that one session led to more engagements. One of the participants who sat in on her seminar loved her theories. That initial impression led to an interview and she eventually landed a job — not teaching classes but serving as the executive director of an early learning initiative at the state university.

The story illustrates what can happen at a cowork space when you go beyond just seeking a place to squat with your laptop for a couple of hours.

Cowork spaces have risen in popularity because they offer a unique opportunity to utilize a productive work environment while taking advantage of networking opportunities and convenient amenities.

Here are four steps you can take to make the most of a cowork space.


A great cowork space will offer a variety of work stations and environments. The new member should experiment and find the spot where they can be most productive.

• The comfy chair, where you can make your computer live up to its name as a laptop, may be best.

• The standing desk fits your energy, allowing you to work while achieving your health goals.

• The conventional desk delivers the creature comforts of a traditional office.

• The community table allows you to spread out a little bit while inviting others to engage in conversation.

• The inner office lends greater quiet and allows for a more intense focus.

However, don’t overlook the art of getting comfortable. As you grow more accustom to the cowork space, you may discover the different options foster different types of productivity. Certain tasks may require a focused effort that necessitates retreating to the inner office; while the comfy chair may be best for editing your work or the work of others.

This is why experimenting with the different work stations can prove so beneficial. A great cowork space provides the options you can’t find at home or even a coffee shop.


Great cowork spaces feature great amenities. Once you join, make the most of them. If the Kuerig machine beckons, get another cup of your favorite joe. Need a pick me up, grab a snack out of the kitchen. Seeking a secluded spot for that private phone call, step into one of the closed rooms.

But those are the obvious. Some cowork members may not realize other great values.

• Get to know cowork community manager. Go beyond just learning their names. Connect with their hopes and aspirations and share your own dreams. They may be able to lend advice that can boost your goals or connect you to other cowork members who can prove to be an asset.

• Show off your space to clients and perspective clients. Some see the cowork space as the location for work tasks, and then flee to some restaurant or coffee shop to hold a meeting. Such an approach doesn’t maximize the value. Schedule coffee dates at your cowork space. Let others get a sense of the warmth and vibrancy you rely on to be productive. They may appreciate the introduction so much they will join you.

• Take advantage of event space. There may be an added fee, but inviting community members, potential investors or mentors into the center for a coffee klatch or happy hour can be the perfect way to showcase your efforts and reflect your goals and, in some cases, formally launch your business.

Yes, it’s a cowork space, but it’s also “your space.” Own it in its entirety.


The story of the aspiring professor reflects a real value of the community space. Networking. Serendipitous moments can arise from chance encounters and the benefits of extended friendships are all too real. Most important, they can’t really happen if you’re alone in your home office.

• Bring the sunshine each time you step into your cowork space. Each member operates independently, but activities and acknowledgment between members can fuel productivity and happiness. Wayne Baker, the Robert P. Thome Professor of Business Administration at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, defines this as “relational energy,” an energy that is a vital personal and organizational resource and a key to greater productivity.

• Make friends with your fellow cowork members. And don’t think it’s a simply a matter of networking so you can gain advantage. The great motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once said, ”You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.” Everyone brings a degree of expertise to a cowork space, and while you certainly want to tap into that advantage, you also want to recognize it’s a two-way street. Sometimes it’s not about immediate dividends, it’s about trusting the process and believing in a little karma.

• Attend events staged by the cowork. Yes, you will be smart to work at the community. If you have a separate office, forgo it from time to time and step into the primary cowork space. Yet, even if you do those things, you also should be a presence at the cowork’s nighttime or special events. Even the experienced entrepreneur can gain from various presentations, plus attendance reflects a true commitment to the cowork community.

The best cowork members not only follow these practices to benefit themselves, but to boost the quality of the cowork space. When you find a home at the right cowork space, engage and spread the word about the benefits.


While the cowork benefits are plentiful, you have to ensure the activity, acknowledgements and ambient noise all add to your productivity. There’s no advantage to belonging to a center where you converse with others but fail to get work done.

• Develop a routine once you find a cowork space that works best for you. Experts say routines serve as one of the biggest keys to productivity. It starts at home with preparing a to-do list the night before, awaking at a specific time and developing habits that point to accomplishing big tasks first. Stephen Covey, author of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, says, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”

• Navigate the networking with dedicated days or times. You want to connect with cowork members, as described above, but if you’re experiencing a particularly busy morning or need to focus on meeting a deadline, squirrel away in a corner, don headphones — the universal symbol you can’t talk — and go to work.

• Take a break from key tasks. A lot of research into productivity — including groundbreaking research from pioneering sleep expert Nathaniel Kleitman — indicates that daily activity operates on “ultradian rhythms.” These waves of energy indicate that after 90 to 120 minutes of concentrated work, the mind often needs a 15-to-20-minute respite. This approach can help you maximize productivity in a cowork space.

In short, remember that collaboration and cooperation are key tenets of the cowork, but so too is work.

If you arrive at your cowork space with a developed routine, ready to connect and bring the sunshine, you can find the experience as exhilarating as a pilot taking off from the runway. Many are finding that experience at Rising Tide Innovation Center. Come learn more about how this cowork can help you rise to new heights.

Small business marketing

5 Marketing Elements to Turn Moments into Movements 

By | All Articles, Business 'How-To' | No Comments

Small business marketingSamyr Qureshi and his partners launched their business, Knack, in 2015 with a belief a peer-to-peer college student tutoring app akin to Uber would enjoy success.

Just as Uber connects passengers with drivers, the app Qureshi and his University of Florida student partners developed linked tutors who had earned high grades in specific courses to students struggling with the same courses.

Yet they knew they had to connect their idea to the students and tutors to make it flourish. They knew they had to have a marketing plan. They decided to do more than employ traditional approaches.

One approach was to incentive the tutors.

“We launched a tutor rewards program,” Qureshi said. “Essentially we built a tutor store for them to order personalized marketing collateral they could use to kickstart their marketing efforts on-campus. After a Knack Tutor’s first session, they’d get free credit to spend in the store.”

The tutor store not only helped them grow the business at UF, it played a key role in spurring its development into a national company. Now Knack is active on 40 college campuses across the country and considered a top start-up.

Marketing remains a key tool in helping entrepreneurs turn moments into movements. A strategic plan creates a network of connectivity that attracts and retains customers, creates buy-in and spurs business development. Here are the five elements of marketing you must master if you want to grow a thriving, sustainable business beyond the start-up phase.


#1. Master the Message

Your message is your magic; it’s how you solve your prospective client’s wake-up-in-the-morning problem in a way that is unique. You must be able to communicate your message powerfully and effectively whether you have an hour and 100 PowerPoint slides, or only 30 seconds in a rickety elevator. Too often the message gets muddled in fuzzy acronyms and what Inc. contributing writer Geoffrey James calls “corporate speak.” It’s best to build your brand around a message with familiar concepts, clear analogies and concise language. When Qureshi says, “It’s like Uber for tutoring,” he capsulizes the aim of Knack in seconds. His prospects know exactly what Knack and for whom. It may be tempting to skimp on this part because you think “Eh, it’s only a few words.” The fewer the words, the greater the impact. For example, test yourself and see how many of these messages you immediately associate with a brand (Hint: some are no longer used, but are so powerful they have become part of the American lexicon.):

  1. “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.”
  2. “Always low prices.”
  3. “Where shopping is a pleasure.”
  4. “We try harder.”
  5. “Think different.”
  6. “For life.”
  7. “Imagination at work.”
  8. “Just do it.”
  9. “Two-all-beef-patties-special-sauce-lettuce-cheese-pickles-onion-on-a-sesame-seed-bun.”
  10. “Have it your way.”

(The answers are at the bottom of this blog.)

Maybe your message won’t be a clever tagline. If you aren’t particularly clever with words and can’t yet afford an agency to help you come up with a catchy slogan, just start with this statement: “We help [describe who you help for example: “women over 40”] with [insert the problem you solve for example: “look a decade younger in just 30 days”] [hint at how you solve it in a unique way “without wasting hundreds of dollars on expensive department store lotions and potions that don’t work anyway.”]


#2 Manage the Media

Once you master your message, explore ways to propel it into the stratosphere through various social media platforms and generate buzz about your business.

There are three keys to success on social media:

1) Go where your prospective clients and/or referral sources hang out. If they are mostly on Instagram, you don’t want to be spending all day on LinkedIn or Twitter. If they love memes and lots of chit chat, don’t keep giving them soliloquys. Go where they are and speak their language.

2) Tailor your message for each outlet. The different platforms target different audiences, and the rules of each platform vary. Know the rules so you can play by them—and then disrupt them when you are ready. Words win out on Facebook, but it’s all about pics on Instagram and Pinterest. Everybody loves a good video—even LinkedIn is getting in the video game. Start with creating your own YouTube channel.

3) Don’t just “connect and forget.” Be sure to engage consistently and frequently. Don’t send the wrong signal with a Twitter account that’s grown inactive or a Facebook page that simply promotes your business without engaging others. Quality content can drive traffic and help build your Internet presence. Word of Mouth Marketing Association president Suzanne Fanning told Forbes, “Brands are too caught up in collecting social media fans and they are forgetting to actually connect with them.”

Finally, don’t underestimate the value of traditional media. A story on a reputable web site or an appearance on a popular television or radio show lends credibility and authenticity to your content marketing strategy and your brand. Social media is great but learn to write a media release that catches a journalist’s attention as well.


#3 Meet the Mentors

Mentors can be key to not only offering wisdom but opening the doors to greater opportunities. An established business leader can help you master the message, manage the media, and then they can introduce you to key figures in your industry. Entrée into a networking group can lead to pivotal connections. A meaningful conversation over lunch, a round of golf, or during Wine Down Wednesday can be rocket fuel for your marketing. Think about how many entrepreneurs who have crafted winning ideas on a cocktail napkin. How do you meet a great mentor? Community involvement – such as professional organizations, civic organizations, or a cowork space – can provide the pipeline to sage advisors.


#4 Manufacture Ambassadors

A team of folks who champion you, your idea and your spirit can prove invaluable. Message, media and mentoring can get you in the game, but ultimately you must win over every day community members and get them talking about your product. Angel investor Neil Patel refers to this tactic as creating “brand evangelists,” people willing to go out and preach the word about your product or service. It’s certainly clients whose satisfaction you can convert into testimonials, but it’s also family members, friends Nielsen research indicates that 92 percent of consumers trust recommendations from family and friends over every form of advertising. “Hey grandma, do you have a Twitter account?” Go beyond those who love you unconditionally and hire people with strong reputations who can meet your needs and promote your idea. And, connect with people who like you Facebook posts or heart your tweets. Let them know it’s appreciated and ask them to spread the word. There are countless stories about how companies got a bounce by creating a buzz among everyday citizens. If the United States has more than 180 ambassadors, you should aim to have just as many.


#5 Maximize the Brand

Whether you are a start-up with little budget or Nike, Inc., smart businesses find ways to leverage investments.  And, swag is a great and often, low barrier method to get your brand and messaging out to larger audiences.  First, internally, as the leaders at Knack knew – give your own team some swag that easily enables them to spread your message to prospective employees or clients.  People are (often) proud of where they work and likely to promote outside of the office.  Additionally, if you’re a company that’s working events, tradeshows or conferences – using your brand color creatively — from scarves, ties and shoes can be an easy conversation starter.  ChappellRoberts, a Tampa-based advertising and marketing agency, launched a big new brand for a financial services company, and one of the investments that company made was in well-made apparel and accessories for the team because they do so many client facing events.  More than five years later, the representation of this company brand at tradeshows is still a large differentiator for them. Second, externally, swag gives you opportunity to build brand loyalty and affinity with your paying customers.  Customers or clients want to know you get them, if you’re an innovation company – surprise your audience with something that relates to your unique industry and potentially makes their lives easier such as portable chargers or cell phone lights. If nothing else, get some company T-shirts and wear them everywhere you go. You might be surprised how many people ask you about what you do.

Need more ideas about marketing? Come hang out with us at Rising Tide Innovation Center. We believe in collaboration, community and the power of co-working for success.


1.FedEx 2. Walmart 3. Publix 4. Avis 5. Apple 6. Volvo 7. G.E. 8. Nike 9. McDonald’s 10. Burger King


7 Ways Coworking Can Help You Grow Your Business

By | All Articles, Cowork Culture | No Comments

CoworkingSometimes the home office grows a little too homey.

The entrepreneur can thrive working out of the house, until the call of the couch and the temptation of the television prove too much.

Who can work when The Breakfast Club flashes onto the screen for the 4,037th time? Your efforts to generate the next great idea aren’t quite as lonely when you’re hanging in the high school library with Molly, Judd, Emilio, Ally and Anthony.

“Don’t mess with the bull, young man, you’ll get the horns.”

Even the focused worker who leaves the TV off may find the silence of home a bit too deafening. So, they retreat to a coffee shop. There, they nestle among strangers and hope that parent doesn’t arrive with a distracting child who insists he deserves a cookie.

When the piercing pleas of a toddler or the gossipy laughs of neighbors don’t disrupt morning routines, ambitious start-up owners still worry someone will pilfer their laptop each time they go to the bathroom or step outside to take a call.

The solution? The cowork space. It’s a place that can lead to laser-focus efforts without laser-like costs, a place that offers the ambient noise of an office and the professional support more commonly found in the corporate world.

Most of all, you get community. The cowork space fosters work ethic while allowing for meaningful connections. Here are seven coworking benefits that have helped the industry become one of the nation’s fastest-growing business trends.

1. Escape the House

Working from home may hold some financial advantages, but the distractions—be it television, sofa or food—eat away at productivity. Devoting your energy to getting up, getting dressed and going to a dedicated work space lends purpose to your work day. Studies indicate people generate greater focus and achieve more when dressed for the day instead of sitting down in their pajamas and fuzzy slippers. Officevibe, a company that monitors and measures employee satisfaction, revealed in a recent survey that 68 percent of coworkers possess a greater focus while in the space, and 64 percent are better able to complete tasks on time. The cowork space also allows entrepreneurs to enhance the intrinsic value of separating work from home.

2. Add the Amenities

The cowork space offers services an entrepreneur may not possess at home: a business address, business mail service, copying and printing, and in some cases, a receptionist and other support staff.  It also features advantages seldom found in the neighborhood coffee shop, including viable Internet services, Skype capabilities, conference rooms and isolated rooms for phone conversations. In the effort to expand your business with face-to-face meetings, the cowork space proves more professional than the home and more discreet than the Starbucks.

3. Keep it Simple

Utilizing cowork space allows for greater flexibility and freedom than renting your own office space. Overhead is minimized because of the shared resources approach, freeing up precious financial resources for other needs. It also reduces the need to work 9-5 in “your office.” Because of the shared approach, someone can mind the store while you’re out lunching with prospective clients, connecting with disrupters, furthering your business or even devoting some midday hours to a family need.

4. Acquire New Skills

Most cowork spaces offer classes and events that can enhance the skill set of folks who own small businesses and start-up companies. Look for the cowork space that fills its calendars with how-to presentations and easily accessible seminars about succeeding in the 21st century business. The chance to expand your knowledge base may be one of the most important amenities offered by a cowork space.

5. Amp the Atmosphere

Entering an office space with like-minded individuals can sharpen focus, boost energy and increase productivity. When people put themselves among other entrepreneurs all looking to fuel their dreams, they can channel that entrepreneurial spirit into their own efforts. The independent mindset that’s so germane to co-work spaces not only fosters a stronger perspective, but it can lend to support when the aspiring business person encounters disappointing days or suffers a setback.

6. Conquer Loneliness

Working at home or squirreling away in a coffee shop can lead to feelings of isolation or loneliness. This not only applies to the enterprising entrepreneurs but to the growing number of corporate employees who are being asked to telecommute. Emergent Research shared its recent findings in a Harvard Business Review article, and the numbers were striking: 87 percent of coworking members meet other members for social reasons; 83 percent decrease their sense of loneliness and 89 percent are happier.

7. Collaborate with Community

Once entrepreneurs and workers find their way into the cowork space, they often discover a sense of collaboration and community. A tech worker looking to develop a new application may connect with a fellow cowork member who can help him market the product. A public relations practitioner may be steered towards a new client thanks to a reference from a fellow cowork member. Infinite networking possibilities exist, and all of them can generate greater success.

The Rising Tide Innovation Center possesses all the above benefits and a few more (like a cereal bar!). With Fletcher & Fischer. P.L. operating the center, Rising Tide members can reach out to a legal team that serves developers, lenders and businesses in Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands. They also can tap into the firm’s genuine passion for building community, which has served as a cornerstone for the firm. Says partner Leigh Fletcher: “Community building is so exciting and enriching to me. It makes me a better business person, a better lawyer and a better person, in general. I want to create the opportunity for others to have that.”

If you’re looking for the right co-work space, visit the center and discover how a rising tide lifts all boats.

Business Plan for Start-Ups

One-Page Business Plan to Jump-Start Your Start-Up

By | All Articles, Business 'How-To', Special Features | No Comments

Business Plan for Start-UpsBusiness plans come in all shapes and sizes, depending on their purpose. Lenders typically require much more formal and detailed business plans, complete with financial projections, tax returns, and other financial records and disclosures attached. The Small Business Administration (SBA), in particular, since it guarantees government-backed loans, expects to see a voluminous and detailed business plan and presentation. Just when you think you have it nailed, they are likely to ask for some more documents.

Venture capitalists and investors will eventually want to see all the details of your plan, but initially, they are going to want to see a presentation that captures their imagination. Some just want you to get right to the numbers—or at least that’s what they say. Read “Pitch Anything,” by Oren Klaff, though, before you buy that line.

Marketers and agencies who’ll be running your campaigns, on the other hand, will want to know all about your ideal clients/target audience, unique sales proposition, competitors and the like, but won’t care at all about your personal tax returns from 2008.

So, if you are getting ready to start a business, do you need a business plan? And if you do, what type of business plan, exactly do you need?

The answer to the first question is: Yes, you need a plan.

Think of it this way. If we were to start out on a road trip, let’s say from St. Petersburg to Las Vegas, and we just hopped in the car and began driving without a map or a GPS or any directions at all, we might eventually wind up in Vegas. Or not. Of course, if we did make it, it would take you a whole lot longer, and we likely would wind up going down many, many wrong paths and getting lost before we got there.

But, if we put the address to our destination in the GPS and let it map out the exact route, well, we still might take a wrong turn here or there, but we’d likely course-correct pretty quickly and get back on the right road faster. In no time (35 hours, exactly, if we didn’t stop), we’d end up in in Vegas, partying our asses off at The Bellagio.

It’s the same with a business plan. We could build a business without a plan, but with a plan makes a whole lot more sense.

The next step, then, is to decide what kind of plan you need. If you are seeking funding, then you need to find out from the potential source of your funding what they would expect to see in a plan because, as stated earlier, lenders and investors can be picky.

If, however, you just need a plan for YOU, and you really aren’t that great at planning or excited about it, then try this simple, one-page business plan to help you get started.

Set aside a morning, with a fresh cup of coffee and no distractions, to work on your simple plan. The purpose of this plan is to help you get your business idea down on paper and out of your head so you can start assessing its viability.

This is not a be-all-end-all plan, it’s a starting point. Over time, you may want to elaborate on this plan. When you are ready, you can check of resources like SCORE, a service of the SBA designed to help small business owners with issues like preparing business plans, or you can buy a few books (there are many on Amazon), or simply Google “business plans for small businesses,” and you’ll find lots of options.

Ready to get started? Click here for your plan.