Honoring A Special Friendship By Seeding The Future

Carl DeSantis and Jerry Kay in NYC circa 2018.

Longtime friendships are magical.

They feed our souls and enrich our lives. And sometimes, when they are really special, they enrich the lives of others.

When I see old friends, my mind instantly scans the years. I can still picture my buddies as young men, with everything in front of them. Of course, we are now 40 and 50 years older, so the “boys” are well into middle age or dare I say it: old age.  As my friend Scott reminds us: how many 116 year-olds do you know?

He’s right, but we aren’t old—yet. Hopefully, we will get there. Together.

Regardless, as we age, I can still see the boy in every face. I know their laughs; I know their voices and their expressions. I still see the 8-year-old and the 18-year-old when I talk to the 58-year-old.

It’s oddly comforting.

Once again, old friends are top of mind.

Recently, the foundation I’m involved with—the Carl Angus DeSantis Foundation—honored a special friendship between our namesake and his best friend Jerry Kay, who passed away suddenly in March.

Below is the story.

It’s a good one and I wanted to share it because friendship is one of life’s biggest blessings.

Many of us at CDS International Holdings—where I work—got to witness the chemistry between Carl and Jerry. We relished hearing the stories of long-ago adventures and we happily tagged along as these two gentlemen—who are gentle men—made new memories.

Please enjoy, and if you are so inclined, call an old friend. We never know how long we have left.


Entrepreneur Carl DeSantis’s gift pays tribute to the legacy of his lifelong friend and business partner E. Gerald “Jerry” Kay.


By Debbie Meyers


Carl DeSantis began his entrepreneurial journey in the 1970s by running his home-based, mail order vitamin and herbal supplement company out of his garage in Florida. Meanwhile, up in New Jersey, after years of working with his father in the nutrition industry, E. Gerald “Jerry” Kay became the sole owner of Manhattan Drug Company.


When DeSantis and Kay met, they had an immediate connection. DeSantis’s spark and drive moved Kay to invest in him. DeSantis’s business flourished to become Rexall Sundown, one of the world’s largest vitamin manufacturers, which DeSantis sold in 2000. Kay’s enterprise also experienced growth as he founded Integrated BioPharma, a company which manufactures, distributes, and sells vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products.


Kay died in March 2023, weeks before his 87th birthday. To honor his lifelong friend and supporter’s memory, DeSantis’s foundation has given $1.25 million to establish an endowed scholarship in Kay’s name for students enrolled in a Rutgers nutrition program.


“Since Mr. Kay was a pioneer in the nutritional field, we thought it made sense to support the next generation of leaders in that space,” says Jeff Perlman, a director of the Carl Angus DeSantis Foundation. “We researched several programs and were deeply impressed by Rutgers. Since Mr. Kay lived and worked in New Jersey, choosing Rutgers felt right. It’s a wonderful university.”


Laura Lawson, executive dean of the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, says the scholarship will benefit students in the school’s Department of Nutritional Sciences, which is ranked tenth nationally for undergraduate and master’s programs in nutrition. “We are honored that the Carl Angus DeSantis Foundation has chosen to memorialize Mr. Kay’s memory through the E. Gerald Kay Scholarship in support of nutritional sciences students,” Lawson says. “This scholarship will help to ease our students’ financial burdens and allow them to develop careers that will support the common good, improving health locally and globally.”


In addition to undergraduate students majoring in the nutritional sciences program, of which there are 150, any undergraduate studying nutrition at Rutgers will be eligible for the scholarship. This includes students in the School of Public Health and the School of Health Professions.


Perlman says the DeSantis Foundation created this scholarship as homage to Kay, someone who gave DeSantis years of joy and friendship. Their friendship took them on travels and adventures all over the world. Their professional relationship endured, and they were advisers to each other’s businesses for decades.


“The common thread for both men was entrepreneurship—they were always discussing ideas for new businesses, new products, new packaging, and exciting marketing campaigns,” Perlman says. “As much success as they had, they never stopped dreaming. For them, it was less about financial success and more about the process and whether they could create something consumers would benefit from. It’s inspiring to be around that kind of passion because it is so rare.”


They ultimately were passionate about supporting good health. “Health and nutrition are inextricably linked—you can’t have one without the other,” Perlman says. “Since health is so important to a good life, the advancement of nutrition is essentially an investment in people. We’re hoping that the next generation can be as innovative as Carl and Jerry have been so that we can improve the health and quality of life for people all over the world.”


Kay’s daughters, Christina Kay and Riva Sheppard, continue to follow the family’s vocation as executive officers of both Manhattan Drug Company and Integrated BioPharma, which are based in Hillside, New Jersey. “My dad was a dedicated family man,” Christina Kay says. “Family also included the staff present and past at the company and great friends he met during his 60-plus years in the business. He loved life and went to the office every day, even if just to say hello to Riva, me, and his work family.”


Sheppard adds, “Our family is honored, especially our mother and his wife, Heidi Kay, that his name will be remembered for years to come through the E. Gerald Kay Scholarship. Our father—a man who believed that a balanced lifestyle is key to longevity—would have been thrilled that many will be given the opportunity to pursue their interest in the industry that he dedicated his life to along with his best friend Carl.”

Heroes & Villains

Dropout is the mesmerizing story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos.

We’ve been watching two fascinating series about wayward entrepreneurs on Showtime and Hulu.

“Super Pumped” is the story of Uber and its “tech bro” founder Travis Kalanick. “TK”, as he was known,  broke a lot of dishes while disrupting the taxi business before being dumped for creating a culture more toxic than sucking on the tailpipe of a Checker cab.

“Dropout” is the fascinating story of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes who modeled herself on Apple’s Steve Jobs— except for the fraud part. She will be sentenced this fall for essentially lying her way to the top before taking a fall. Her black turtleneck didn’t save her from the fact that her company was built on…well…nothing but hype.

Yes, it seems that Hollywood is taking a dim view of entrepreneurs lately. The trend goes back a decade or so to the “Social Network” which portrayed Mark Zuckerberg as an egomaniacal, socially awkward techie who climbed over a lot of people to build Facebook into a global behemoth. In other words, the movie was spot on.

Also, a fit for the evil entrepreneur narrative: “WeCrashed”, the story of WeWork founder Adam Neumann, who ran his $47 billion company off the rails before being given his walking papers.  We can also look forward to  “Billion Dollar Whale” a soon to be released movie about Jho Low who looted the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund before disappearing somewhere in China. He remains at large. But he did take down a government and ensnared Goldman Sachs during his memorable run. In a quirk of fate, I got to know one of the major players in that scheme, but I’m saving that story for my next book. It’s a good one.

Yep, there sure are some cautionary tales about gifted grifters whose magnetism, vision, and ability to tap into greed makes for great books and movies and in most cases bad businesses. The jury is still out on Facebook while Uber and WeWork seek to move past the dubious behavior of their founders.

But the evil entrepreneur narrative doesn’t tell the whole story.

Yes, there are villains in the world of entrepreneurship, but there are lots of heroes too. I wish Hollywood would publicize their work as well—in many ways they are more interesting if not as salacious.

Admittedly, I am biased, but I work alongside a very kind entrepreneur named Carl DeSantis. He built Rexall Sundown from scratch into a huge vitamin manufacturer right here in Boca Raton before selling it for $1.8 billion in 2000. Rexall Sundown employees shared in the wealth they created—which is Carl’s way. While most people would have retired after such a huge exit, Carl went back to work, creating a family office and investing in companies and people. His latest hit is Celsius, a wildly popular healthy energy drink that trades on NASDAQ. Celsius started in Delray Beach before moving to larger headquarters in Boca Raton. But when Celsius rang the bell on Wall Street, Carl was onto the next thing—Tabanero Hot Sauce, which we are working hard to make a hit. Make sure to try it at Caffe Luna Rosa and Christina’s among many other restaurants.

Another good guy entrepreneur is Delray’s very own Randy Smith, who runs Heritage Flooring. Randy is a serial entrepreneur with a curious mind that I deeply admire.  I’m lucky to call him a friend because having lunch with Randy is like going to business school with salad dressing (always on the side).

Randy and his wife Lennie, have a passion for sailing (and life itself) and I’ve been taken by their devotion to an organization called Warrior Sailing (www.warriorsailing.org) which provides maritime education and outreach for wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans. Warrior Sailing reconnects veterans to the camaraderie and teamwork they previously found in military service.

While Randy and Lennie certainly know how to have fun, the Wolf of Wall Street has nothing to worry about from these two.  They run a much cleaner ship.

We understand it is fashionable around these parts to bash developers. But like we’ve been saying, there are good developers and there are bad ones. We need the good ones because their entrepreneurship creates the vibrancy we rely on to make our cities work.

Along the way, I’ve known a few good ones (and a few bad ones too) and my company has dabbled a little bit in this world— as investors anyway. I can say that the development business is not for the faint of heart. Yes, there are great rewards if you do a good job, your timing is right and there’s a market for your work. But there is great risk as well—and mistakes can wipe you out, so can interest rate hikes, pandemics, hurricanes, bad politics, changing tastes and construction costs.

You must be a great entrepreneur to swim—and not sink— in those waters. Still, I know several developers who are very philanthropic, community minded and work hard to serve their communities.

Meanwhile, some of the best entrepreneurs I’ve met are in the restaurant biz.

Talk about a tough road.

The competition is fierce, the margins are small, it’s hard to build and keep a staff but somehow, they figure it out.

Fran Marincola and his father started with a small gelato shop on A1A in Delray and built it into Caffe Luna Rosa, a Delray landmark. CLR— as some of us call it— offers health insurance to its employees and the restaurant has given back a lot to Delray Beach over the years.

Same goes for former Boston’s on the Beach proprietor Perry Don Francisco, co-founder of Delray Citizens for Delray Police. For 30 plus years, Perry has quietly been there for so many people while being a steadfast supporter of police, fire, and local schools. He’s one of a kind; a gifted, hardworking entrepreneur.

I can think of dozens of examples of talented entrepreneurs who are role models as well.

So, as much as we are enjoying the drama behind the creation of Uber and Theranos, we are heartened by the good guys. They are everywhere. You just have to look.

And when they cast the part of Randy Smith in the Netflix version of his story (the series should be called “Floor It”)  I hope they consider Brad Pitt for the role.


Facts about entrepreneurship:

America just witnessed the biggest business startup boom of our lifetimes.

  •    5.4 million people applied for small-business licenses last year — a 53% jump from 2019, pre-pandemic.
  •  Global investment in startups shattered records in 2021, hitting $643 billion — 10x what it was 10 years ago.




The New Wave Is Here…

A weekly dose of goodness.

The Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce is an oasis of warmth and community in what can sometimes feel like an endless sea of negativity.

Like many locals, I’ve been moping about the short-sighted decision to kick Old School Square to the curb after 32 years of service to the community.
But just when you feel like chucking it all and moving to Maine, here comes the Chamber of Commerce to the rescue.

They did the same thing last year, when in the midst of our Covid gloom, they took the time to honor hometown heroes.
That event was a Valentine to the community. A much needed, deeply appreciated Valentine.

This time, the Chamber saved the day with an event at the gorgeous new Ray Hotel that honored local business leaders in an array of categories.
My wife and I were in Maine buying that escape property so we couldn’t attend the event. And then we were off to Polk County to pick up our new puppy so I couldn’t get to the Delray Morning Live Show that celebrated the winners and nominees.

I regret missing these events because I appreciate the Chamber, was honored to be nominated for a community service award, and am a big fan of all the nominees.
These men and women represent the best of this city and serve as a reminder that we can have a bright future. A very bright future if…if we stop tearing things down and start supporting those who are hard at work building the future.

These people are exceptional and they have a passion for Delray Beach that is inspiring.

Let’s start with Jamael Stewart and Amanda Perna, the co-hosts of Delray Morning Live.
The show is simply outstanding and serves as a weekly pick me up for all who watch. The chemistry between the hosts is palpable and so is the positivity. Add in great guests, humor and tons of local information and you have a recipe for success.

Amanda and Jamael are great people. I admire Amanda’s world class design skills and her entrepreneurial chops which includes a retail store “A Little Wyld” and her design business “House of Perna.”

Jamael is a local success story who coaches football, volunteers tirelessly and is a master marketer for local attorney (and all around good guy) Lee Cohen.
Jamael was raised here. He was helped by great mentors like C. Ron Allen and Michael Coleman . He  is proud of Delray. We are proud of you too ,Jamael. And glad that you live and breathe your hometown.

I’m also impressed by Shaun Hall, who runs a company called Viral Vision Marketing.
Shaun is passionate about helping local non-profits and while he’s very humble, be assured he is someone to watch. He’s making an impact. That’s good news, because his heart is in the right place.

Another extraordinary leader is Business Person of the Year Allison Turner of BatCat Media.
Allison is kind, smart and dedicated to this city. And if you don’t follow her on social media, you are missing some great messages and some amazing photos of her long walks through town. I’m so thrilled she won.

There were other worthy winners and nominees: Lionfish, a great new spot from the people at Clique Hospitality and Menin Development, Johnny Mackey of Shamrock Restoration, Robes Law Group, Milagro Center, The Institute for Regional Conservation, Anna Hess and the visionaries behind Masterwing Creative. And let’s not forget Debra Tendrich, a talented non-profit leader with Eat Better, Live Better with a heart for public service.

These are the type of leaders who move the needle.

Entrepreneurial energy is essential to a city’s success.

Entrepreneurs by their nature are creative, passionate and energetic. They embrace risk, have vision and are fueled by a belief that tomorrow can be better than today.

These are the people who move a place forward.

They work hard. They play hard. They love—deeply and when they find a place they fall for they will take you places you never knew existed.

I’m passionate about the dreamers, the doers, the givers and those who support and light the way for these special people.

Way back when, when we dreamed of the future at a visioning event or a community goal setting session, we dreamt that our town would attract and retain people like Amanda, Shaun, Jamael, Allison and so many more.

I, for one, am glad they are here.

They make me bullish about our future.

Yes, we bought that place in Maine because it’s on my bucket list and Covid reminded me that we don’t get to live forever and the sand is flying fast through my personal hourglass.

Even casual readers of this blog (I appreciate you all) know I’ve been profoundly disappointed with some of the recent events in our town. No sense in sugar coating things.
But thanks to organizations like the chamber, I’m excited about the future. I can’t wait to see where our talented young business leaders will take this city. The sky is the limit. I’ve been a believer in Delray since the first time I laid eyes on the place back in 1987.
I still believe.
Yes I do.

Random thoughts:
I found myself deeply moved by the loss of General Colin Powell who died of Covid last week.
I had the privilege of meeting him briefly during a visit he made to Delray years ago. If I remember correctly, he went to the Boys and Girls Club and maybe the Full Service Center. My mom went to high school with him in The Bronx which I used as an icebreaker. He was a warm and friendly man and the kids he visited with that day were in awe. His America’s Promise effort touched a lot of lives thanks to Rita Thrasher and others in Boca. He will be missed.

I watched with a fair degree of nausea a slick video produced by the City of Delray Beach on how the city is saving the day by using Parks employees to staff events the non-profit is no longer equipped to do thanks to the city’s decision to cut off funding and end its lease.
It’s like an arsonist taking credit for putting out the fire they started. Not a good look for new City Manager Terrance Moore to be out front on a wildly unpopular and short sighted decision.
Taxpayers should be asking how much this is costing. I asked a commissioner that question and was told that the manager found “efficiencies”—which is bureaucratese or bs, take your pick. There’s no way these “efficiencies” can be more efficient than having a non-profit provide those services rather than government.
Mr. Moore seems like a kind man.  And I get that he has to carry out the will of a majority of his bosses.

But he would be well served to expand his circle by talking to people who made OSS go for three plus decades. It would serve us and him well if he did so.

On a positive note, one of the best lessons from the life of Colin Powell was his ability to own his mistakes which he did after falsely telling the United Nations that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
When that assertion proved false, General Powell admitted he was wrong. He gained a lot of admirers by doing so. Maybe that kind of character and integrity will return to politics at all levels.


The Best Leaders Deliver Happiness

Tony Hsieh’s philosophy was summed up in the book “Delivering Happiness.” Zappos’ legendary customer service made Zappos a $1.2 billion company.

There was shocking news over the Thanksgiving weekend for those of us who are fans of great entrepreneurs.

Tony Hsieh, (pronounced shay) the visionary founder of Zappos and the driving force behind The Downtown Project in Las Vegas, was dead at the young age of 46. Mr. Hsieh succumbed to injuries suffered in a house fire.

Zappos was an early e-commerce success story selling shoes by the truckloads until Amazon came along and scooped up the company for $1.2 billion in 2009.

Hsieh took his fortune and wrote one of the best business books ever “Delivering Happiness” which preached the Zappos philosophy of exceptional customer service. His book and business model influenced scores of entrepreneurs then he pivoted to Las Vegas where he bought a slew of real estate in the old moribund downtown and set about trying to transform the place.

I’ve been following those efforts for years and while the results have met with mixed reviews I deeply admired his vision and audacity.

Transformation is a risky venture. Efforts often fall short but without these special people willing to take risks and buck conventional wisdom change won’t happen.

Within reason, we ought to be encouraging and where possible helping these pioneers who see potential where others see blight.

Hsieh took a boring category (shoes) and created a culture that revolutionized customer service and how to buy a product.

When it came to downtown revitalization, he spent his money and time trying to lure talent and enterprise to a part of Las Vegas long ago written off.  The Downtown Project is a $350 million investment: $200 million for real estate, $50 million for tech startups, $50 million for small businesses and $50 million for education, arts and culture.

Noted urban journalist Aaron Renn was a fan of the ambitious effort.

“While I had some critiques of the downtown project, his vision to remake the unbelievably bleak downtown Las Vegas into a hub of creativity was audacity on steroids,” Renn wrote.  “ Again, most cities could only dream of having someone with that kind of vision and willingness to attempt the impossible.”

Those “someone’s” are developer/entrepreneurs and I think we make a big mistake when we paint with a broad brush and write them all off as rapacious enemies we must instinctively fight.

As has been noted many times in this space, there are good developers and there are bad ones. We benefit when we can distinguish between the two.

Good developers transform communities. They create places and jobs and they generate vibrancy while growing the tax base.

If we engage them early, we can shape development and make sure projects respect the style and aesthetics of the community. It can be done. But only if we elevate the conversation and work with people not on them.


Attracting good developers to your city is critical of you want to succeed. Avoiding bad ones is equally important.

As for Hsieh, his model called for investing in tech companies in exchange for their promise to relocate to Las Vegas.

He also recruited restaurants, coffee shops and other cool businesses to downtown Las Vegas so that the tech workers who moved there would enjoy a good quality of life.

I thought his approach was fascinating because it tried to be holistic.

He didn’t just build, lease to anyone who showed up and then abandon the place. He curated and stayed around.

He took a long term view and did a huge amount of marketing to promote the vision. He was an evangelist for an old part of Vegas that had been written off as the focus shifted to The Strip.

In more than 30 years of watching local development trends I’ve seen a wide range of development philosophies.

There were those who settled in and did multiple projects while making it a point to give back to the community through service and philanthropy and there were those who acted like strip miners extracting value with little regard to giving back. We make a mistake if we conflate the two types. The former is what you want to attract and nurture, the latter is what you want to avoid.

It’s easy to distinguish who’s who.

Tony Hsieh was the kind of investor you want to attract. Losing him at a young age is tragic.

But he sets an example for those of us who care about our local communities and economies.

There is an opportunity to find and or encourage developers to act as curators to bring desirable uses to our cities.

There is also an opportunity to elevate the conversation around development. The current discourse doesn’t serve anyone and will chase away the visionaries we need to keep our cities vibrant and healthy.



Delray Beach lost two community leaders in recent days who will be long remembered for their contributions.

Nadine Hart was a long time community leader, educator and former chair of the TED Center, a local business incubator. She was a guiding light for generations of Delray residents. She was also known for having mentored hundreds of young women in Delray.  She will be greatly missed.

John Ingles was a legendary local tennis coach who quietly added immense value to Delray’s  tennis community. “Jingles” as he was affectionately known, was a kind man and a trusted advisor for anyone interested in learning about tennis’ potential in Delray. Rest In Peace my friend.

On a happier note, congratulations to Jeffrey Costello who left for the U.S. Marine Corps over the weekend. Jeffrey grew up next store to us in Delray Lakes and has always been a great young man. He was in Junior ROTC at Atlantic High School and has been focused on a military career for quite some time. He’s the pride of our neighborhood and we will be praying for his safety and success.





You are never FINISHED

“By nature good public spaces that respond to the needs, the opinions and the ongoing changes of the community require attention.  Amenities wear out, needs change and other things happen in an urban environment. Being open to the need for change and having the management flexibility to enact that change is what builds great public spaces and great cities and towns”–Project for Public Spaces 11 principles for creating great community spaces. Note: Founder and President Fred Kent has a home in Delray Beach.

The Project for Public Spaces is spot on, as they always seem to be.

The best part of cities is their changing nature. Cities evolve. Places change. That’s the beauty of an urban environment, it’s never stale. And switched on cities know this, embrace this and seek to shape and ride the waves of change.

We are witnessing tremendous change in Boca Raton these days. Just cruise on over to Palmetto Park Road and you’ll see large scale development taking shape on what I’ve always found to be an interesting but underperforming street.

The nature of the development is not everyone’s idea of healthy growth but there’s no question that Boca is evolving before our eyes. And I’ve talked to many people who love what they’re seeing. Development and change will always be a mixed bag. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder as they say.

On Military Trail, the Moderne Boca is taking shape and its nice to see some attention to design in a western location.

FAU Research Park is booming under the capable leadership of Andrew Duffell.  Both FAU and Lynn are coming of age as innovative institutions of higher learning and the Park at Broken Sound  is sprouting three new residential apartment projects (1,050 units) to go along with office space and new retail in the 700 acre business park. With yoga rooms, pet facilities, a Fresh Market, putting greens and Zen Gardens, the former home of IBM is shaping up to be a true, live, work, play destination.

It’s an interesting time.

And a time when visionary public officials have an opportunity to work with the community and design spaces that can become great public spaces.

In Delray, the opportunities are immense but only if we recognize them and embrace good design and change.

US 1 is looking good these days. And there is tremendous opportunity to extend the downtown north and south along Federal Highway. The idea to narrow the federals and slow down speeding traffic was first broached in 1991 but it took a decade before it became a city goal when it was included in the Downtown Master Plan. It took years to construct, but now that the project is complete, it presents an opportunity to create something special; it’s now a street not a highway. There’s a difference.

The area near Third and Third and South of the Avenue offer great opportunities for infill development.

Congress Avenue also represents an important opportunity for transformation.

My hope is that both Delray and Boca think strategically about placemaking and about what is needed in order to sustain and build on their obvious success.

Any analysis would include honest discussions about what has worked (and how those aspects can be extended and sustained), what’s not working, what can work better (lazy assets) and what’s missing.

Other key discussions should focus on demographics, design, mobility, land uses and how it’s all paid for.

In Delray, that means focusing on what’s important and no more majoring in the minor. (For example, weeks of discussion on a tattoo shop but little or no discussion on how to attract millennials, create more jobs and add middle class housing or how to improve our torturous approval process).

It’s time to move on Congress Avenue, not wait for an outside firm to confirm and codify what 30 plus citizens who studied the corridor for nearly a year already concluded. A sense of urgency is needed to take advantage of the economic cycle.

It’s also time to activate the Old School Park and make it a great public space as was envisioned when voters overwhelmingly passed a bond issue in support of that idea in 2005.

It’s time to bring back discussion of a bonus program for our CBD to jumpstart housing for young professionals who are attracted to downtown living. The best way to support our mom and pop businesses is to encourage people to live downtown. Study after study show that downtown residents strongly support local businesses. As rents soar –threatening to crowd out independents –this is needed more than ever.

Downtown office space is also critical. Every conversation I’ve witnessed with and about entrepreneurs laments the lack of office space in the urban core. This isn’t necessarily a call for class A space, but rather creative space, co-working space and incubator space. It’s nice to see The Kitchn open inside the offices of Woo Creative and Delray Newspaper, but more is needed.

The aim of past citizen driven visions was to build on food, beverage and culture and create a sustainable city driven by creative industries. Delray’s vibrant, urban feel is hugely appealing to entrepreneurs but a lack of space hinders the sectors ability to gain traction in our central business district.

An important caveat to note: the key words are “build on” not jettison or replace. So it would be folly to lose events or culture or our robust food scene, we need an additive attitude because community building is not a zero sum game.

Finally, both Delray and Boca are blessed with abundant human capital. A strategy to retain graduating college students and bring home locals who go off to college while also attracting the best and brightest from other locales will go a long way toward diversifying our economy and growing opportunities. Again, placemaking is at the core but so is opportunity making. We need to create cities of opportunity.

We also need to tap into the incredible knowledge base of our boomer and senior population many of whom long to be creative, active and involved as they age.

Cultivating our human capital is the best economic development strategy we can ever hope to conceive.

When I survey the region, it’s hard not to get excited by the possibilities. Sure there are big problems and challenges. Every single place in America has them. But few regions have our upside potential.

Miami is rapidly taking its place as among the world’s most exciting cities. Fort Lauderdale is making some interesting strides and several other cities in Broward, notably Pompano Beach are well positioned for a renaissance.

Boca is attracting industry and further north Boynton Beach is making some noise with several growing breweries, Hacklab, young leaders, eastern investment and some really cool restaurants (Bond and Smolders, Sweetwater and The Living Room among them) and keep your eyes on 22-year-old Ariana Peters who is quietly accumulating key properties in Lake Worth. Northern Palm Beach County cities, led by dynamic business leaders such as Chamber President Beth Kigel, are working well together on branding and industry recruitment efforts.

It’s an exciting time. Cities can’t rest on their laurels and they can’t succumb to those who want to freeze progress and stop change.

You can do the former but you can’t do the latter. And if you freeze progress you can be sure that the change you’ll see won’t be pleasant. Not at all. It will be ruinous.

As General Eric Shinsecki once said: “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”


Here’s to the Innovators


Innovation comes from those who see things that others don’t. It comes from people who not only question the status quo- But keep persisting in the face of all the naysayers. Steve Blank

Innovators and entrepreneurs are fun to hang around with.

They see the world differently, questioning, probing and always trying to find a new and better way forward.

They tend to be optimists; in fact I can’t remember ever meeting a pessimistic entrepreneur.

In order to be an entrepreneur you have to be willing to take risks and willing to fail–sometimes publicly. Sometimes spectacularly.  Those failures—while sometimes painful and expensive– make you stronger.

I’m sure there are fearless people out there-somewhere–but I haven’t met any. It’s not whether you have fears, but whether you can overcome those doubts that allow you to be a successful entrepreneur.

I’m involved with a dedicated group of entrepreneurs on several projects at the moment.

Celsius is a company that is pioneering a healthy energy drink that is clinically proven to burn body fat and calories. The beverage space is known for innovation–from coconut water and protein drinks to hangover and relaxation drinks –it’s a fascinating and highly competitive space. The beverage business is complicated and capital intensive. The competition is also fierce. But the rewards can be amazing if you can create a hit brand.

Celsius has the added pressure of being a public company with all the scrutiny and regulation that comes with life in the world of Sarbanes Oxley.

It’s also an international business with distribution in Asia, Europe and Brazil. The company does great business via ecommerce and in channels ranging from fitness to grocery, convenience, mass and specialty retailers.

It’s a fascinating business that often comes down to hand to hand combat on the shelves. But when you believe in your brand—as we do passionately– and the importance of introducing a drink without sugar and aspartame to the mass market it’s a privilege to pursue the opportunity.

We believe we can change the world.

So do our investors, which include two self-made billionaires who remain in the game because they still have a hunger to bet on companies and technologies that make a dent in the universe.

I’m also involved with introducing an all-natural, gluten free premium hot sauce and Bloody Mary mix to the market. We recently gained distribution for Tabanero in Publix, a point of pride. We already are on the shelves at HEB, Lucky’s Market, Sprouts and soon a division of Kroger, the largest supermarket chain in America. We are served in close to 3,000 restaurants in South Florida, Tampa and Southern California and have made the cut at some really cool restaurant and hotel chains including Tupelo Honey, Margaritaville, select Marriott’s and Bokamper’s.

It’s been quite a ride. And while hot sauce is an exploding category, it’s also fiercely contested by some huge brands.

So what’s the opportunity that we see? We think we have the best tasting sauce in the world and its healthy too, featuring premium veggies without the vinegary taste. Even people who typically don’t like hot sauce– love Tabanero. To see people enjoy the hard work of your team provides tremendous satisfaction.

It’s cool to be an insurgent brand; to take on the big guys and to develop a fan base all from two small offices in Boca Raton and LA.

Knowing my love of entrepreneurs, I’m often approached by fledgling companies for help and advice and I in turn seek help and advice from others who have made the journey. While business is competitive, I have found that most people you ask are happy to lend an ear, open a door and connect you to others who may be able to help you achieve a dream. Entrepreneurs tend to be generous, another reason to embrace them.

Among the many young entrepreneurs that I have worked with, I see similar traits of curiosity, courage and a strong desire to serve others. I’d like you to know about a few.

I met Jake Artzi a few years back when I spoke to a class at the Boca Chamber’s YEA program (Young Entrepreneurs Academy). Jake and I have stayed in touch and now he’s at the University of Michigan where he is pursuing his studies while also building a company called BoVault.  https://bovault.com/

BoVault is a safe place to store your valuables and charge your gadgets while you enjoy a recreational activity such as a trip to the beach. The BoVault locker has cameras embedded in the unit to provide 24/7 security monitoring. BoVault is completely solar powered and 100% Made in America. It’s a cool technology and Jake is a driven young entrepreneur. I have no doubt he will build a great company over time.

Brian Niles and Patrick Stinus were two guys I met in a Delray coffee shop a few years back. GE trained MBA’s who understand operations and finance, they were business consultants who were so good clients wanted to hire them permanently to run and grow their businesses. But Brian and Patrick had a dream of their own called “Rooster”, a company that helps a huge range of service providers grow their businesses. Armed with a passion to help other entrepreneurs, off the charts smarts and a work ethic that simply won’t quit, I have no doubt that Rooster, a local start-up is going to be huge.

From that first meeting on Atlantic Avenue until today, we have continued a conversation about life and business.

Check out their site: https://www.roosterlocal.com/. At last week’s Business Development Board Entrepreneurs lunch, Brian and Patrick surprised me with a founder’s button, which was a touching gesture that really moved me. Because the truth is, there’s not much I can teach these guys. They are just brilliant people. But I can listen and I can encourage because entrepreneurship can be lonely and more than a little scary. And I can relate very well to those emotions as well as to the highs you experience when you see a product come to life and you take it to market.

This blog is primarily about how cities and towns can be entrepreneurial too. Yes governments can be entrepreneurial and I would argue that they need to be.

Delray has been a very entrepreneurial city taking risks, overcoming the critics and naysayers and creating a vibrant community that has created value both real (dollars, tax base and jobs) and intangible (quality of life).

Boca’s roots are also very entrepreneurial with the IBM PC being invented here among other incredible technological feats that have changed the world.

The city has innovative schools and universities, a thriving tech sector and incredible medical research happening everywhere you look.

In addition, both cities have thriving food and beverage scenes, innovative vacation properties, marketing and media geniuses, artistic visionaries and some very talented designers and architects. The list goes on and it’s exciting to see the area grow and thrive.

The key is to be a community of opportunity, where people of all ages can find inspiration and personal growth.

Critics and naysayers will focus on the negative impacts and all that can go wrong. That’s what they do.

And truth is they play a role. They raise some questions that must be answered and they also serve as inspiration–if nothing else to prove them wrong.

But make no mistake, businesses and communities must embrace the innovators and the entrepreneurs if we are to grow and create opportunities. If you succumb to the negative you’ll be hard pressed to uncover the positive.

Years ago, I had the privilege to work with an Office Depot executive named Sam Mathis. Sam, has since passed, but he touched a lot of lives and he helped our city on a race relations initiative that many thought was foolish but others thought was necessary and overdo. Sam taught me that the sweetest fruit often resides on the part of the tree most difficult to reach. When I got tired, he had a unique ability to read my moods and he would reach out and keep me motivated.

I know we didn’t “solve” the challenge, but I do think we made a difference.

We should all agree on the need to reach and stretch…it makes all the difference. As Steve Blank says: keep persisting in the face of the naysayers.

Celebrating Entrepreneurs Delray Style


It’s Sugar CEO Jeff Rubin

Five years ago I co-chaired a committee for the Business Development Board that focused on entrepreneurship.
It was a change of pace for the BDB– our county’s chief economic development organization– which has traditionally focused on recruiting new businesses and expanding existing ones.

But more and more communities are realizing that economic gardening –growing your own–is a desirable strategy. I would argue it’s the most desirable strategy– surely better than throwing money and incentives at companies that may or may not stay for the long haul.
The  entrepreneurship committee is the BDB’s foray into connecting with and supporting efforts to strengthen our entrepreneurial ecosystem. The BDB is an effective convening entity able to bring big businesses, governments and chambers together and introduce them to the next generation of business leaders.
So when my friend, Committee Chair Connor Lynch, invited me to this year’s entrepreneurs lunch I was eager to see what’s happened since Connor and I along with other committee members launched the lunch a few years back with a keynote from the founder of Priceline.
That event was a success and I’m happy to report that this year’s event was even better and far more powerful.
Connor and the BDB delivered.
And what made the event even cooler for me and other Delray folks in the crowd -Chamber CEO Karen Granger, UBS exec Nick Sadowsky, Red Pepper Principal Christina Hammond, Florida Blue’s Beth Johnston, Economic Development officials Joan Goodrich and Liz Burrows and the Small Business Development Center’s Vin Nolan–was that this year’s lunch featured TED like talks from three talented entrepreneurs with strong Delray ties.


Woo Creative founder Ryan Boylston

The featured speakers were Ryan Boylston founder of Woo Creative and my partner in Four Story Media, Felecia Hatcher founder of Feverish Pops and Code Fever and Jeff Rubin founder and CEO of It’s Sugar.
Ryan runs a successful branding and creative agency, serves on city boards and is an active volunteer for community causes. Together with several other partners, employees and freelancers we are working on creating a Hyperlocal news platform in Delray and Boca. Ryan is a whirlwind of activity and ideas as well as a young father and husband.  You can get exhausted just thinking about his daily responsibilities. Ryan’s talk focused on millennials and business creation. It was fascinating and can be viewed on Facebook’s Woo Creative page. (If I was tech savvy I would have figured out how to add the link).
He also made an important point: while we celebrate the Zuckerberg’s and Branson’s for their moon shot success we need to build the capacity of those starting local businesses so that they can succeed and create  jobs.
Yes. We. Do.

Felecia Hatcher founder of Code Fever

Felecia Hatcher founder of Code Fever

Felecia, who is a delightful and energetic entrepreneur, grew up in Delray (she went to high school with Connor) and her dad has run a successful construction company here for 17 years. She sold Feverish Pops, has written some great books and is now passionately building Code Fever which seeks to teach African Americans and Hispanics the coding skills they need to succeed in the 21st Century.
That type of effort needs to happen in Delray.
Jeff Rubin has an It’s  Sugar store on Atlantic Avenue and has seen his candy business grow exponentially. He’s on pace to have over 100 stores in 2017.
Despite that frenetic pace, he has found the time to connect with students at Carver Middle School teaching students about business and marketing. The effort created a Carver branded gummy bear. How cool is that?
Kudos to the Delray chamber and City education efforts for making that connection happen.
So my friends,  Delray’s Got Talent.

It’s here.

The talent has been attracted to Delray by three decades of redevelopment efforts which has created a vibrant place with great restaurants, events, festivals, cultural activities, recreational opportunities and other intangibles that we need to support, cherish, improve, protect and nurture. These are the conversations we need to be having. How to leverage what has been created in our city.
Unfortunately, our city is not having those discussions and to the extent they are, the discussion seems fixated on costs, negative not positive impacts, inconveniences etc.  All of those are valid items to discuss and debate but it’s not a complete picture if you don’t include the benefits and the possibilities. And I would argue that the benefits far, far outweigh the negatives.
If we want to take care of our future we have to raise the level of discussion beyond whether Garlic festivals should have mechanized rides or whether we should permit a tattoo business into town.
We have to figure out how we can make sure Felecia brings Code Fever to Delray so our children can learn needed skills.
We have to figure out how to improve our public schools. And we  have to figure out where our workforce can live and how we can bring businesses to our downtown (which will never be done) and to Congress Avenue and to our Federal Highway corridor, West Atlantic and “four corners” area at Atlantic and Military Trail.
You can’t cut your way to success, you have to grow responsibly and strategically.
We need expansive thinking, not regressive and deconstructive policies.
The entrepreneurs are here. And more will come and more will emerge if we continue to aspire as a community. They will go elsewhere and our youth will leave  if we don’t aspire. That’s how communities whither and die, when they fixate on negatives, grow complacent or send a message that business (and dreams) should look elsewhere.
Let’s embrace progress and manage change. It’s what entrepreneurs do every day.