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.



The Future is Here

Entrepreneurs have discovered Delray.

Entrepreneurs have discovered Delray.

I don’t believe in the status quo.

I’m not even sure it’s possible to stay in place even if you are determined to do so.

Change seems to be the rule of the universe and while sometimes it can be hard to embrace, it’s inevitable.

Time passes; things change.

I also don’t believe in the conventional wisdom when it comes to living the good life.

For many that means winning the lottery or cashing in big in business and living on a beach somewhere.

Seems pretty good in the abstract, but it doesn’t explain why:

  • Entrepreneurs begin yet another business even after cashing out big.
  • Humans seek constant mental, spiritual, and creative development.

People aspire, we are restless and we constantly seek knowledge and progress.

A pessimist would  view this as living in a permanent state of dissatisfaction. But an optimist celebrates the journey and sees the hammock on the beach as a rest stop, not a permanent destination.

I think people, organizations, schools and communities thrive when they have a sense of purpose; when they strive, envision, iterate and engage with the world.

Consequently, I think the same entities erode when they cling to the status quo.

Last week, I attended one of the most exciting events I’ve been to in a long, long time. It was called “Smart Uprising” and it was hosted by an immensely gifted young entrepreneur named Jeremy Office and his wonderful team at MacLendon Wealth Management right here in Delray Beach.

Jeremy is a financial professional with a sterling reputation; but he’s also an entrepreneur brimming with ideas, enthusiasm, warmth and vision. He’s an investor, community volunteer, VC, and deeply involved in our community with pursuits ranging from education to mentoring entrepreneurs.

The Uprising was staged at Honey, a smart, sophisticated new bar/lounge at 16 E. Atlantic Avenue. When you walk through the doors of Honey, the first thought you have is the bar has indeed been raised in Delray. (Pun intended).

The Smart Uprising event  is proof that Delray has reached a new level in its development.

The creative class is here and they are embracing Delray in a big, big way.

As I soaked in the event at Honey; listening to a brilliant young Goldman Sachs executive speak about market opportunities and my friend Nabyl Charania, co-founder and CEO of Rokk3r Labs,  discuss disruptive technologies I couldn’t help but feel energized and excited for the future.

I hung out at the event with John Ferber, a super guy and a world class entrepreneur who has  fallen hard for Delray; choosing our village to build more businesses and a life, with his lovely wife Jenna. A few years ago, I had the pleasure of marrying John and Jenna on the beach and was thrilled to see them put roots down in our city because I know that John and Jenna will create great things and provide opportunities and inspiration for others.

On the way out, I chatted with Jeremy’s colleague Kilburn Sherman who heads the Young Professionals Association of Delray. YPAD is a group to watch, they are not only focused on growing their businesses but on a new initiative called #BekindDelray which is encouraging kindness in our community; much needed at this time.

I also ran into the talented Ryan Boylston, who has a creative agency called Woo Creative and is a co-founder of The Pineapple Newspaper. He has an office on Atlantic Avenue that he is transforming into a hub for conversation and events.

I also spoke with some out-of-towners who marveled at Delray’s energy and vibe.

All this is not to say that we don’t have real and enduring problems and challenges to overcome. There’s still too much crime, vagrancy, drugs, poverty and lack of economic opportunity. We have educational challenges and neighborhood concerns to address. We are a diverse community and that is a real strength, but we are also segregated in so many ways.

We suffer from terrible political divisiveness and sometimes the level of our debate is debilitating and dare I say less than intellectual.

But…there is a youth movement in Delray and it’s not just chronological.  It’s a youthful mindset, one that embraces change, community and challenge.

Our host, Jeremy Office summed it up when he said he sensed a “brotherly love” taking hold in the business community; an ethos that embraces building relationships, trust and value.

There is a belief that problems can be solved; opportunities can and should be created and that there is a desperate need for leadership, entrepreneurship and community.

We can keep our charm and evolve. We can respect our heritage and history and still embrace change. We can welcome new people and ideas without fear and we can engage each other to solve some of our city’s pressing problems.

Delray 2.0 is here and it’s a good thing.