Wednesday, September 14, 2016

FSBDC Nonprofit Conference Keynote: Michelle Braun, President and CEO of United Way

We are honored to have Michelle Braun, CEO of the United Way of Northeast Florida give the keynote address at the FSBDC Nonprofit Conference September 16th. Michelle will talk about nonprofit sustainability among other topics. In an environmental context, "sustainability" generally means finding a way to use resources in a manner that prevents their depletion. For charitable nonprofits, the phrase “sustainability” is commonly used to describe a nonprofit that is able to sustain itself over the long term, perpetuating its ability to fulfill its mission. 

Michelle Braun is president and CEO of United Way of Northeast Florida.  United Way’s goal is to mobilize people and resources to make lasting change in the areas of education, income and health.  United Way serves a five-county area of Northeast Florida and one in three people in the region. 

Michelle has been very involved with United Way in many capacities prior to becoming president, including serving as a member of the board of directors, community chair for United Way’s RealSense initiative and as the vice president of Resource Development where she led a record-setting campaign of $17.2 million. 

Michelle returned to United Way after spending more than a decade in the corporate world.  Having served as  the Florida community development manager for Wells Fargo, she was responsible for coordinating the bank’s resources and partners to ensure the bank served all of Florida’s diverse communities – especially low- and moderate-income individuals and families.  She was previously Wachovia’s community relations executive for Florida before the merger with Wells Fargo.

Prior to her career at Wachovia, Braun worked for Bank of America as director of the Florida Foundation and as community development manager.  She has also served in leadership positions at nonprofit agencies across the country. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business and philosophy from The University of Notre Dame and earned a master’s degree in nonprofit management from The Weatherhead School of Management at CaseWestern Reserve University

Michelle is passionate about serving the community. She serves on the board of directors for the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, the Early Learning Coalition of Duval, the Jacksonville Children’s Commission and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC).  She is a member of United Way Worldwide’s National Professional Council and recently served as chair of the JCCI mental health inquiry.

Michelle is married to Paul, her artist husband, and they have two children Quinn, 12, and Shea, 10.

To register for the conference click HERE.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A New Drink from our clients the Florida Ti Company: Yerba Mate!

Brendan Schneck is leading the charge to make yerba mate a household word. We asked him to talk about both the beverage and his company the Florida ti Company.

What is your philosophy at Florida Ti?

Florida Ti is founded on the principal of living a healthy lifestyle that co-exists with the natural world. We feel that the best tea comes from the best ingredients with little to no additives.

Tell us about yerba mate.

Yerba mate has been around for thousands of years. Although its popularity in North America is fairly new, South Americans have been drinking yerba mate for centuries.  The main reason for drinking yerba mate is the focused energy it provides. It contains three main components that attribute to this anti-jittery focused energy; Theobromine found in raw cacao that elicits a euphoric sensation, theophylline found in tea that causes you to relax and finally matiene, a derivative of caffeine that gives you energy. The health benefits of yerba mate are also staggering. Yerba mate contains twice the anti-oxidants of green tea as well as 24 vitamins and minerals, more than any other plant in the world!

We hear you have a recycled bottle campaign underway. Tell us about it.

We are determined to find new ways to start conversations about recycling and conservation. One of our main programs involves buying back a percentage of the plastic we sell and recycling them into promotional clothing and yoga pants. Its a great way to spread our brand and help get people thinking about where their bottles go. 

What advice would you give to someone who is looking to introduce a food product into our market?

Research is key. Knowing your market and finding a niche in the ever growing product category. Talking to retailers is very helpful, but better is sampling your product and getting feedback from customers. A great general rule is if you don't use it everyday, why would anyone else. Passion and Persistence will make or break your brand.

What are the hardest/most satisfying aspects to being in business?

Talking to consumers really helps me when I am dealing with all the stress of owning a business. Knowing you are providing a product that can change someones life for the better. It feels really great to see your product on the shelves and know you can stand behind it.

Florida Ti Company
Brendan Schneck

Monday, March 21, 2016

Inventor Spotlight: Client Cody Vincent and Double Doggie.

How do you make a great idea come to life? It is not easy, but Cody Vincent gave us some insights into this journey getting his invention to market:

The problem!

Tell us how you came up with the idea for Double Doggie and how does it work?
The idea was sprung after years of watching people struggle to walk two dogs at once. My partner Josh came up with a simple sketch of the handle and we took it from there. The Double Doggie works by separating each leash completely on opposite ends of a 360 degree swivel, therefore if the dogs decide to cross paths, the handle turns and the leashes do not tangle.
The solution! (prototype rendering)

How has the reception for this been so far?
The reception has been great! People are excited and like the product and most importantly, want to get their hands on one! Further, inquiries at pet stores and such has revealed that there is nothing similar on the shelves. Having both potential customers and vendors excited and on board has been very exciting.

Tell us about your crowdsourcing campaign.
Our crowdsourcing campaign was launched on Kickstarter March 4th and will run until April 7th. Our goal is $20,000 and to date we have raised about $7,400. The crowdsourcing campaign is focused on raising money to enable us to jump right into production as soon as possible. Our product is available via the Kickstarter campaign at 30% off expected retail price so I would encourage everyone reading to please visit our Kickstarter page and contribute. Any amount helps and it means so much to us when we see people contribute to not only our product, but our dream to make it come to life!

What is the hardest part of getting an idea from design to market?
The hardest part of having an idea from a sketch to final is bridging all the competencies involved. I’m a CPA by day, so I understand business and numbers, but I did not understand CAD, product design, manufacturing processes, tooling, and injection molding. I was introduced to our product engineer, Troy Lane, via a neighbor of mine and he has been instrumental in helping us bring our product to life. He is really good! He designed our prototypes from our sketch and we went through a couple variations before we arrived at our final design. From there we had a 3D printer in Jax, FORGE, print us our prototypes and we began shopping molds to various injection mold manufacturers. It has been quite the learning experience!
Completed prototype.

You are participating in One Spark this year. What are your expectations?
We are very excited for One Spark! We are looking forward to letting the One Spark community see and use our product and in turn we hope they spread the word on our product and it helps to fuel our Kickstarter campaign. We are incorporating some fun items at our booth to draw in the crowd and really look forward to seeing how we are received on a bigger stage.

What advice would you give someone who has a great idea?
The advice I would give would be to ask for feedback from potential clients/customers. We wanted to make sure our product worked really well and offered a true benefit to our customers. Once we were satisfied it did, we knew we could move forward!

Here is the link to Cody's Kickstarter campaign:

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Client Interview: Flippin' Good Cookies to Expand!

While looking at Janice and Mike Newton's new space, it seemed like it was high time we interviewed them about their business Flippin' Good Cookies and their entrepreneurial journey thus far!

Tell us about your growth.

We started with a small 400 s.f. space and now that another business is moving out of our current location, we will be expanding to 1,200 s.f.   This will give us the room we need to further grow our business and product line that we could not do before.  The larger space will let us add new employees as we grow. We will also use this larger space to incorporate a small storefront which will complement our current business model.  We should be fully transitioned by the middle of February 2016.

What are you selling?

We are a specialty cookie company.  Our cookies range from comfort cookies to our signature shortbread cookies that we use for edible logo/photo cookies.  We also do specialty orders for cake pops, cupcakes and edible logo lollipops.  The majority of our cookies are sent as thank you gifts to clients, employees and for personal occasions.     Our cookies are all made from scratch and we can personalize the shapes and hand-decorate them for any occasion.

Who is the customer?

We help companies who want to get their brand out in a fun and delicious way with edible logo cookies.  We can also package a variety of our comfort cookies with the company's printed labeling on the outside of the cookie gift box.  We also help brides with their customized wedding cookies, and other individuals who want to celebrate their personal events in a special way.  We also create dessert table displays for companies who what to show appreciation to their clients and employees.

We can customize just about any order that will fit the personality of the business or individual without adding additional cost to the client.  We take pride in helping people customize their events by sharing and discussing ideas; so just about any order is special for that person.

Our orders range from one dozen cookies to thousands of cookies per single order.  Our products are fresh baked and made from scratch that give a special quality and personal touch for that special customer.

We have an online website where customers can order cookies and we offer local delivery as well as nationwide shipping.

Seems like there is no limit to the types of companies who might want your custom cookies.

Several types of businesses and individuals use us for their event needs:  The types of clients who currently order from us are realtors, home builders, hospitals, medical sales, banks, investment companies, insurance, hotels, event planners and brides

How did all this happen?

Mike and I started the cookie business in May 2008.  Mike has a business background and I was a former owner of a catering company.  After 5 years, I left the catering business to start a cookie company as that was my original dream.  During that time, Mike's job was downsized due to the economy in 2008; so, it was the perfect opportunity for husband and wife to work together and grow a business.  People still scratch their heads and wonder how a married couple can run a business together, but we have done it successfully for the last 7 + years.

How has the UNF SBDC been helpful?

Kevin Monahan was right there with us in the beginning when we wanted our own production facility but wanted to plan for it and have our earnings pay for it. He has and will always be a trusted advisor to us. He helped us take advantage of all the resources available in Jacksonville to help us grow.

Contact Information:,,,

Monday, January 11, 2016

Guest Blog by Kimberly Deas: Points to Consider When Selling Your Business

Strategy Execution Success

Points to Consider When Selling Your Business
Are you selling your small business and wondering about the best way to proceed? You aren’t alone. These tips will guide you toward completing the process in an efficient and reduced stress way to sell your business for the most.
Business Value
Ultimately, when preparing to sell your business you need to know what your business is worth. A broker can estimate the value, but by that time it is too late to increase the value (if necessary). So start by having a business valuation NOW. Understand the value of your business work towards increasing its value so that you will have an asset that is sellable.

Sadly, many businesses don’t sell because they are priced too high; in fact, that’s the number one obstacle to completing the sale.. Pricing needs to be based on sound financial data, so even if you’ve had your business valued before, the value may have changed. This will give you insight into where you stand now, and can help you determine what you need to do to maximize your selling price when the time is right.
Accurate Financial Data
Keep clear and accurate records. The second-biggest reason businesses don’t sell is poor quality of recordkeeping. You may rely on an accountant to maintain your records, but your accountant relies on the information you provide or the information the bookkeeper inputs.
If the information you give your accountant is incomplete or inaccurate, your records will reflect this. For example, if you are taking out cash and not reporting it as income, a potential buyer will not see this money as income and may doubt your credibility. Or if you are coding personal expenses as business expenses, your accountant may not know this. You will reduce you taxes this way, but you also drastically reduce the buyer’s ability to get financing meaning you will likely be left having to finance the business yourself.
Detailed Information
When looking to sell a business you will need to offer plenty of detailed information about what you have to offer: such as location, size of the business, what transfers, etc. Don’t leave room for assumptions about what is included in the sale.
A professional business broker, as part of his or her service, will write a confidential memorandum about the business, request current inventories and list of the furniture, fixtures and equipment along with current market values. The more information you can provide the buyer has up front, the less confusion and complication there will be when the time comes to close the sale.
Reasons for Selling
Start with: Why are you selling your business? It’s important that you’re clear on this because potential buyers will ask! Are you simply ready to move on to something different? Are you at a point in your life when you want to spend more time on leisure activities or with family? What are your specific reasons for selling? Have your answer ready, along with what’s right with the business. If you don’t present the positives of your business, buyers may assume that the business isn’t doing well and has become a liability. As a result, they may hesitate to buy.
Hire a Business Broker
A competent business broker can help you prepare and present your business, determine a justifiable selling price, and prepare you for the sale process. Putting your business on the market is easy; the key a quick sale is to get your business exposed to as many potential buyers as possible while maintaining confidentiality.

In addition to getting you this marketing exposure, a good business broker can help with evaluating and qualifying potential buyers. Once an offer is made, your business broker will see that the closing process goes smoothly and that the deal gets done. Many brokers will list businesses and a few will sell businesses. 

Kimberly Deas owns the Jacksonville territory for Murphy Business and Financial Services as a franchisee.  She is a member of our Small Business Resource Network.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Our Interview With Old Maid Cat Lady: Client Lynn Thompson!

 As holiday shopping begins, we are happy to have interviewed Lynn Thompson who has an amazing gift site for felines. We had a lot of questions about how this all came to fruition...

Tell us about your retail site.

Old Maid Cat Lady is an online store I launched in February, 2010. There is no bricks-and-mortar location.  It currently sells over 2,800 products from more than 60 suppliers. There are products for both cats and for people who love cats. Everything is arranged into logical categories, with menus so people can find things easily.
All products are shipped directly from my suppliers’ warehouses to my customers’ homes. This eliminates the need for a warehouse, inventory, shipping department, and a lot of other costs that allow me to keep my pricing competitive. It’s also allowed me to operate the store as a one-person entity.

Where did you get the idea for this business?

Through many years of living with cats, I’d experienced frustration that pet stores always had a huge amount of products for dogs, but very little for cats. There were things I wanted for my cats that I couldn’t find in any pet store. When I attended a Cat Fanciers’ Association cat show out of curiosity one year, there were so many really cool products that vendors were selling, so I knew those things existed. And I figured that surely there were other people out there just like me who were looking for them.
I’d been searching for something different to do than the project work for my writing and editing business, and attended a seminar about online stores. Everything just sort of came together and resulted in my vision for a store that could be a sort of upscale online department store, but filled with great products for cats and cat lovers. That’s what I set out to create.

And that crazy name?

There’s a video on YouTube that explains that, “The Old Maid Cat Lady Story.” It’s a pretty funny story, but I’ll let people watch the video without spoiling it here! I actually started a blog by the same name about four months before launching the retail site.

Has the vision evolved? 

Oh, yes! Once I started networking with other cat lovers online, I saw a great need for education. Cats are often misunderstood. People tend to anthropomorphize their kitties, and imagine they’re misbehaving or somehow malevolent, when the cats are just being cats, simply doing what normal cats do. They have certain needs, and to keep them happy we need to provide for those needs.
Shows like Jackson Galaxy’s “My Cat From Hell” have helped people understand cats better, and I’ve also learned a lot from living with them for a while. So I started building educational components into the store: there’s a page of free brochures people can download that address behavioral and care issues. There are articles on some of the health category pages that provide some basic information about cats. There’s a page with links to all kinds of other sites that would interest cat lovers. And, of course, the blog. Even the product copy for a lot of items contains some “Did you know…” features.

Where do you find your products?

Everywhere! I attend Global Pet Expo every year; it’s the largest pet industry trade show in the world, with well over 1,000 vendors selling every kind of pet product imaginable. I also subscribe to pet industry magazines to keep up with new companies and products. And just in networking online I’ll hear of great products and get in touch with the companies that make those to see if they want to sell them on my site. I’m constantly thinking outside the box, trying to imagine what kinds of things cat lovers need.

What are your best sellers?

It varies. Jewelry and T-shirts for cat lovers are always big sellers. Cremation urns were something I added around the third year of operation, and people buy a lot of those. Once identifying that need, I was able to add a whole section of cat bereavement products: books, condolence gifts, and cards, as well. Supplements are consistent; I have a wide assortment of those to address pretty much every condition imaginable. Books and calendars do well through the holidays. Life preservers for cats, the Kitty Palm cat trees, outdoor enclosures, wall-mounted cat climbing products, and litter box covers that look like furniture are other good sellers. I’ve even sold a few air conditioners sized just for pet houses!

What’s next for Old Maid Cat Lady? 

There are so many ways I want to grow in the future! Because I’m a one-person operation, there are still some existing suppliers who want to do business with me that I just haven’t had time to get added to the site. I could easily double the number of products on it just by doing that. So one thing will be getting those on there. I’d like to someday have some private branded merchandise, a few products I can create that aren’t already being made by anyone else.
I have ideas for a couple of books I could write to build the brand. Being a published author raises your profile a lot. I want to market more to people who are into exhibiting their cats in shows. And I’ve been in talks with a potential partner about expanding the site in ways I hadn’t even considered; can’t talk much about that yet, but it’s going to be exciting!
The name may be based on a joke, but this is a serious business. Working on this site has been more fun for me than anything else I’ve done since starting my business in 2003! Sales growth has been consistent every year and continues to grow. Old Maid Cat Lady has the potential to be huge…and it will be!

Where can people find your store?

It’s online at!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Our Interview with Bernadette Rivell Daniels, Identity Brand + Design

stand out from the competition - the when and why of rebranding your business

Identity Brand + Design is a brand, creative and marketing boutique located in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, that provides innovative, strategic solutions focusing on the visual brand experience – the {id} – of businesses, non-profits and start-ups across the United States. Founded by multiple Emmy-award winning Art Director/Graphic Designer Bernadette Rivell Daniels in November 2010, Identity Brand + Design combines high-end, large market expertise with individualized, detailed attention focusing on clients’ total brand experience to produce dynamic, powerful results. Here is our interview with her:

Q: You had a long, successful career in the television industry in NYC and Philadelphia. What made you decide to start your own business?
A: After relocating to the Jacksonville, Florida area in 2009 on my husband’s job transfer, it was evident that this market was extremely limited with opportunities in television with my experience and skill-set. It was also time for a change as I had been in the business for about 17 years, and the thought of bringing my expertise in brand development and creative directly to the client was very appealing to me as many business owners really need it.
Identity Brand + Design is a brand, creative and marketing boutique located in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, that provides innovative, strategic solutions focusing on the visual brand experience – the {id} – of businesses, non-profits and start-ups across the United States. Founded by multiple Emmy-award winning Art Director/Graphic Designer Bernadette Rivell Daniels in November 2010, Identity Brand + Design combines high-end, large market expertise with individualized, detailed attention focusing on clients’ total brand experience to produce dynamic, powerful results. Here is our interview with her:

Q: How would you describe your target market?
A: Identity Brand + Design’s target market consists basically of small to medium-sized businesses with anywhere from 5-100 employees that have been somewhat established in their industry for 3 or more years. We also work with start-ups as well as corporate departments that prefer to outsource their creative & marketing needs.

Q: What differentiates you from your competitors?
A: The expertise that I bring to the Jacksonville market from 2 of the top 5 markets in the country is a definite distinguishing factor. I also believe that how I operate Identity Brand + Design – based on character, honesty and integrity, which is extremely important to me – is a bit different than most in my industry. I truly value and nurture the relationships that are built as client interaction is integral to the success of the collaboration.

Q: What inspires you in your work?
A: It’s all about the client – their story, their goals, their needs, their enthusiasm and expectations – that sparks the motivation in the creative process to provide the best possible solution to the problem.

Q: Do you have a favorite quote that resonates?
A: There are many quotes that I like that revolve around business and life, but the one that resonates the most is the Commencement Speech “You’ve Got to Find What You Love” that Steve Jobs gave in 2005 to Stanford University:
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma - which is living with the
results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
I truly love what Identity Brand + Design does for our clients and I think it’s evident through our client interactions and end results.

Bernadette Rivell Daniels
Principal/Creative Director
Identity Brand + Design
ph 904.834.3374 cell 904.477.4113

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Diane Boyle to Deliver Keynote Address at FSBDC Nonprofit Conference this Friday!

If you were to look for a great example of nonprofit leadership, you won't do better than Diane Boyle of Ronald McDonald House. In the keynote address at our 5th Annual FSBDC Nonprofit Conference this Friday, Diane is going to discuss change and how to lead you organization through it. 

Diane Boyle has been Executive Director of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Jacksonville since July 2013. She is the 4th Executive Director in RMHC’s 27 year history.
Building on RMHC’s many years of success, Diane is championing the power of mission-driven achievement to lead RMHC through a period of transformation that is delivering results. In the past two years, Diane’s leadership has led RMHC’s Capital Campaign to raise $12.5M for the construction and renovation of the Ronald McDonald House- expanding it from a 30 to 54 room facility. Targeted for completion in February 2016, this expansion will enable RMHC to increase its operation by 80% serving over 1800 families a year from the United States and globally; thus aligning RMHC’s mission with the increasing demand of families seeking the best pediatric treatment for their children in Jacksonville.

Decisively positioning the organization for its next generation of growth, Diane is executing a strong strategic plan which includes access to technology, informal educational programs and a health & wellness initiative for families which will become cornerstones of the RMHC mission. Under Diane’s leadership and vision, RMHC of Jacksonville is now poised to become one of the premier RMHC’s in the United States.  

Prior to Diane’s directorship at RMHC, her career spanned three sectors: Private, Non-Profit and Higher Education. Initiating her career in the retail Diane was responsible for significant sales growth and brand recognition for fashion industry giants, Federated Department Stores and Revlon.

Propelled by her business acumen, Diane founded Protocol Partners Inc., a consulting and training company that delivered top-tier learning and training solutions to the financial services industry.  Focused on leadership development, Protocol Partners programs were delivered to 60,000 employees worldwide through Merrill Lynch’s Learning Management System. Managing the rapid growth of her company inside such a dynamic financial organization, would set the course for Diane’s entrĂ©e into higher education and the non-profit world.

In 2004 Diane joined the adjunct faculty of Lehigh University’s College of Business and Economics where she was an instructor of an entrepreneurial business course.  She also acted as Lehigh University’s Representative to the United Nations and was a member of the South African Education Development Initiative (SAEDI).  Also invited to serve as a Project Mentor for the prestigious Lehigh University’s Iacocca Institute’s Global Village for Future Leaders in Business & Industry, she lead international business teams in consulting projects and implementation strategies for global clients. 

Connecting her business and leadership experience, and eager to give back to her local community, Diane is an active member of the UNF Dean’s Council, as well as a trustee member of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, the Jacksonville Southside Rotary Club and the Women’s Giving Alliance.