Making It Work

By Beau Denton January 29, 2014

Plenty of people have "aha" moments, but only some can turn those great ideas into awesome products. We asked these entrepreneurs what inspired them and how they developed their ideas.

By Abby Weingarten

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Steve Greenstein


WHAT IS CAREGIVERWATCH? “It’s a company that offers a monitoring device called CareAlert for in-home caregivers of patients with cognitive impairments such as Alzheimer’s disease and autism.”

HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH YOUR IDEA? “I’ve been following the demographic trends of our aging population as well as wireless technology advancements, so when I was introduced to Dr. Meredeth Rowe, a professor at USF’s College of Nursing, and became familiar with her research and technology, I knew I’d found a home run. She was looking for someone who could focus on the commercialization and business aspects.”

HOW DID YOU RESEARCH THE COMPETITION? “Most technologies in the aging in place category are directed towards individuals who are still able to live independently. Our product will be one of the first to hit the market that was specifically developed through NIH-sponsored clinical trials for the in-home caregiver.”

HOW DID YOU FIND YOUR AUDIENCE? “In Florida alone, more than 500,000 individuals have some form of dementia. In the United States, there are over 5 million people.”

WHAT ABOUT START-UP FUNDING? “We’ve utilized grants as well as founder and family investments to produce our first round of commercial prototype units. We are now seeking outside investments to move us to the reve-nue-generating stage.”

WHAT WAS THE HARDEST PART OF GETTING THE IDEA OFF THE GROUND? “Dealing with the delays that pop up out of left field.”

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Diana Kelly Buchanan


HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH YOUR CONCEPT FOR JEWEL-BEDECKED FLATS? “I used to wear my grandmother’s beautiful brooch in my hair and on my clothes, and then one day in 2009 I dreamt about having a pair of brooches to put on a pair of shoes.”

HOW DID YOU FIND YOUR MARKET? “I read every fashion/shoe/entrepreneurial periodical I could get my hands on. I held focus groups with friends and acquaintances. I also met with every person who had either been in the fashion industry, had imported or exported any kind of product, knew anything about manufacturing goods, or knew anything about the footwear industry. We found our first customer at the FN Platform expo in Las Vegas, an international footwear event.”

HOW DID YOU FIND YOUR START-UP FUNDING? “I had looked at bank loans, but eventually found it through private investors.”

WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO PITCH TO INVESTORS? “If they are women, we have them try on the shoes.”

SCARIEST MOMENT. “We ordered our first lot of 6,000 pairs of shoes without one single order. We eventually sold those shoes through participating in lots of trade shows and retail shows.”

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST MOTIVATOR? “The more shoes I sell, the more philanthropy work I can do. Our ‘Flats for Philanthropy’ initiative donated more than $15,000 to various charities in Sarasota and throughout the country during its first year.”

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Tracy Ingram


WHAT DOES YOUR COMPANY DO? “We’re experts in bioinformatics and have imported technology from all across the globe, specializing in medical diagnostic devices. Our big project right now is our entry in the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE competition, which is an international humanitarian challenge to create a noninvasive medical device that can accurately diagnose 23 separate diseases.”

HOW DID YOU GET INTO THIS FIELD? “I spent over a decade importing medical technology that tracked patient health trends for healthcare professionals, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that it became a personal crusade. My mother was misdiagnosed for an aneurysm that led to her being bedridden for two full years of her life.”

EXPLAIN YOUR XPRIZE PRODUCT. “It’s called the Bioscan, which is a combination of a Bluetooth headset that tracks your vital signs and a smartphone app that interprets the results. Insurance companies want to increase prevention, doctors need quicker and more accurate test results and people like you and I can take control over what’s happening in our bodies. That means fewer out-of-pocket expenses for everyone.”

WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO PITCH TO INVESTORS? “A strong presentation and a business plan, but ultimately what works best for me are honest conversations where I get to share my passion. Initially, I thought I had to wow investors with the technology, but serious investors want to get more personal.”

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE OF WORKING IN SARASOTA-MANATEE? “Finding quality technology talent. With the help of a few others, I decided to do something about this and we founded BarCamp Sarasota to help solidify the local tech community.”

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST MOTIVATOR? “I’ve been called a crusader, and it’s a name I’ll take if it means I can prevent just one person from the pain of losing years of their life to medical misdiagnosis.”

WHAT IS THE BEST QUESTION TO ASK A JOB APPLICANT? “‘How many coyotes are there in New Mexico?’ I’m not looking for an actual number. I’m looking to see how (and if) the applicant could solve it.”

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE IPHONE APP? “AudioNote. I use it when driving to meetings or the grocery store.”

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R. Charles Murray


YOU ARE A RECIPIENT OF THE ERNST & YOUNG ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR 2013 AWARD. WHAT DOES YOUR COMPANY DO? “PPi is a single-source machine supply company and the largest supplier of standup pouch machinery for food, beverages, healthcare products and more in North America. The machines can cost anywhere from $100,000 to $3 million. We have 45 employees.”

HOW DO YOU FIND YOUR CUSTOMERS? “We look for rigid containers and prepare a prototype of a company’s product in a pouch, and then we meet with them to discuss potential machinery.”

WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO PITCH TO INVESTORS? “We show that each dollar invested gives a rate as good as the stock market, without speculation.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE HERE? “Finding experienced technical staff.”

THE BEST PART? “Nice area with great weather; and the Economic Development Corporation supports local businesses.”

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST MOTIVATOR? “Offering something that is better and has a zero carbon dioxide footprint for our grandkids.”

WHAT IS THE BEST QUESTION TO ASK A JOB APPLICANT? “’What did you think of our website?’ It shows that the potential candidate has exhibited an interest in the company.

YOUR FAVORITE APP? “The new NFC [near field communication] chip PPiTG/iZipline technology enables us to print an antenna onto a pouch and place in a chip, so when your NFC-enabled phone or mobile device touches the chip a message is sent to the supplier. Then marketing knows exactly who bought that pouch and can start communicating with the pouch owner’s phone by offering key information about the product—how old the product is, that it is not a counterfeit product, offer coupons, etc.”

WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO STAY AWAKE DURING THOSE LONG 80-HOUR WORKWEEKS? “I’ve been working for 51 years and never get sleepy. In fact, I find the days are too short.”

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Jonathan Boos


YOUR PRODUCT IS ON SHELVES FROM NORDSTROM TO DILLARD’S. HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH YOUR IDEA? “Back in 2005, I was running late for dinner. My wife threw me a brand-new shirt with a collar that was flared out like I was going to a disco. I literally had that ‘aha’ moment in the mirror; I grabbed a couple of paperclips and magnets pried off a name badge. I walked out the door with the first-ever magnetic collar stays. Certain Power Stays run $40 in packages of six, while six Power Buttons are $15.”

HOW DID YOU MARKET? “I started online with a one-page website and a ‘buy now’ button. I had no prior history of building websites. I was posting on online menswear forums, and contacting bloggers and print magazines. My big break came this fall while selling online from They did a piece on the collar stays and we got over 200 orders in hours.”

WEREN’T YOU ON ABC’S SHARK TANK?Shark Tank called me because they had seen my Power Stays at Nordstrom, so my experience was different than the cattle-call auditions. Over 80 entrepreneurs had passed the final audition process. I did a deal on-air with judges Barbara Corcoran and Daymond Johns. Ultimately, there was no real upswing for Würkin Stiffs, so I bowed out gracefully. However, Daymond calls me a couple of times a year, and I’ve produced cufflinks for his company many times.”

BEST INVESTOR PITCH? “Be honest about your strengths, weaknesses and financials.”

WHAT WAS THE HARDEST PART OF GETTING YOUR IDEA OFF THE GROUND? “Timing. The more consistent and persistent you are about reaching people, the more opportunities you’ll have to hit the right timing.”

WHAT IS THE MOST REWARDING ASPECT OF WHAT YOU DO? “Creating products. It’s still cool to me when someone buys my stuff.”

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