Seeding Entrepreneurs in Delray & Boca

Loic at work.

Loic at work.

Entrepreneurship is alive and well in Delray Beach and Boca Raton.

And the business activity is not just tech related, its food, fashion and social entrepreneurship as well.

Sometimes, entrepreneurial activity comes from sources that you least expect: a chamber program for youth, a reality TV show and the Delray CRA’s Green Market in the Park are only some examples of places that have given rise to new local businesses.

About a year or so ago, I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of 12-17 year old entrepreneurs participating in the Boca Chamber’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy.

I have stayed in touch with a few of the bright minds and met last week with Jake Artzi, the CEO of BoVault, which is a cool startup that provides solar powered “vaults” that allows people to store their valuables while they go to the beach, the pool, the gym or exercise in the park. BoVault  is a next generation locker that uses biometrics and the sun to provide airtight security. Jake, a high school senior, has all the traits of a great entrepreneur. He’s passionate about his work, is constantly studying and improving his model and is out there knocking on doors to make it happen. He has a dream. And he will not be denied.

BoVault would be a smart solution for people who want a secure environment for wallets, keys, cell phones and other valuables while visiting Delray’s municipal beach or any one of Boca’s incredible parks.

I’m hoping that a smart city manager or elected official will give this young business a chance.  Vaults are provided free to cities or hotels and can become a moneymaker because the model includes a revenue share for clients.

The local food scene is also teeming with entrepreneurs. Even this old blogger is in the game (shameless plug: Tabanero Hot Sauce and Bloody Mary mix, with more extensions on the way some other examples are  Celsius a Boca-based beverage company (full disclosure I’m a former COO of the company, a shareholder and still involved with the team), Amy’s Cookies (the wonderful Amy Robinson) and a soon to open French Bakery which first gained traction at Delray’s Green Market.

On Saturday morning at 9 a.m. fans of Loic Autret French Artisan Bakery can take an exclusive tour of the new business located 814 N.E. Sixth Ave. directly south of Plastridge Insurance. A grand opening is imminent. Tours will be offered until 1 p.m.

I recently took an impromptu tour of the bakery which is just wonderful.

Loic Autret became such a popular vendor at the market that lines form before it opens and often every baked good is sold out.

So Loic, sensing opportunity, decided to open a permanent location. I think he will be a smashing success. Kudos to property owner Connor Lynch for recognizing talent and helping to make it all work.

We often don’t think of the Delray Green Market as a business incubator, but it is. It gives budding entrepreneurs a chance to showcase their goods, test the market and if successful think about expansion. That’s really cool and very powerful.

So are the personal stories behind the businesses.

Loïc Autret’s first career was in the military. He was a Paratrooper in the French Army. As he tells it; one day, he met a beautiful American woman and fell deeply in love. As he was considering leaving the army to follow her to Florida, he thought: “What would a Frenchman who doesn’t speak English do in the United States? What do Frenchmen know best? Romance? Naturally! Fine Cuisine? Of Course! Baking? YES!”

So Loïc enrolled in “Ecole de Gregoire Ferrandi”, an exclusive French Baking and Pastry School in Paris to learn his new trade before moving to Florida and eventually marrying his dream girl.

In the last ten years, Loïc shared his new found passion for baking with South Floridians at the Four Seasons hotel in Palm Beach, the Barton G restaurant in Miami and the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Fort Lauderdale.

In 2013, Loïc started to make plans to open his own bakery one day. He has been honing his skills and perfecting his recipes while appearing at local green markets. And now his dream is coming true, with a built in fan base, courtesy of the Green Market.

Amanda Perna, also has a cool entrepreneurial story. Thanks to Karen Granger and the Delray Chamber I had a chance to meet Amanda at 50 Ocean recently for an event.

Amanda gained national fame on the hit show “Project Runway” and recently relocated her “House of Perna” fashion line from New York to Delray’s Artist’s Alley neighborhood. Take that Big Apple, Delray is cool too and we have better weather.

Amanda is a passionate entrepreneur who takes pride in her design skills and the fact that her clothing is sewn here in the United States, an important value for her.

Something very positive is happening. We are only at the beginning and the future is very bright.



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