News Column

Floridians Rebranded, Innovated to Build Businesses in 2012

Jan. 2, 2013

Cindy Kent, Sun Sentinel

Whether entrepreneurs launched a new business in South Florida, or expanded an existing one, the sampling is a mixed bag of strategies including: the tried and true, thinking outside the box, the big idea and more.

Rebranding

What: Exults, Internet marketing, search engine optimization, paid search management, website design, social media management, image enhancement/reputation management.

Where: Fort Lauderdale

How it happened: Zach Hoffman worked as a promoter for a local band and starting affiliate marketing websites. He managed his father's dental practice's Internet marketing and developed expertise in search engine optimization, paid search management and multimedia platforms. Later, Hoffman formed SEO.cc before rebranding as Exults.

Strategy: Hoffman recognized that in the evolving online platform, he needed to rebrand just as his clients were doing. Once clients got past the concept of search engine optimization, they needed services to push their messages and conversations forward in meaningful effective ways.

Bottom line: Stay on top of the market pulses; never dismiss a potential market movement, pay attention to what the major players are doing and the trends influencing their behaviors. Acknowledge that not all people maintain the same decision-making process for one site as they may for another.

Innovation

What: Dr. Patty's Dental Boutique, regular dental care such as oral cancer screenings, cavity fillings, tooth cleanings and implants. Consumers can also get massages, facials, peels, waxing and eyelash and permanent makeup treatments from on-site independent contractors.

Where: Fort Lauderdale

How it happened: April Patterson conducted extensive research including demographics. She worked closely with her banker for credit, loans and financial operations. Her plan would grow the business organically by adding a variety of outside services as a one-stop shop. She developed strong relationships through networking opportunities with Emerge Broward and Femfessionals.

Strategy: Patterson blends her innovative approach to dental health and personal care with technology. Clients can manage their services such with the Dr. Patty app that lets them make an appointment, view Web page content and refer the practice to others.

Bottom line: Make it easy for the client to navigate your practice, says Patterson. She emphasizes the accessibility of information patients have at their fingertips from educational clips about procedures to viewing a relaxing movie.

Outside the box

What: VirtuFit, online personal trainer via Skype

Where: Boca Raton

How it happened: Marc D. Thompson, a professional fitness expert and personal trainer, founded VirtuFit as a studio operation in 1987. He turned to social media to grow his business, adding the virtual component in 2008.

Strategy: Wanting to reach anyone anywhere, Thompson has had to think outside the box, and inside technology to bridge distance, time and convenience as a way to find and retain clients. Utilizing visual technology like Skype for real-time interaction was the turning point. He creates original content, shares links and more.

Bottom line: Taking the logistics of traffic or a late night at the office out of the equation, makes using Thompson's services convenient for clients. Using Skype, and with the proper skill, knowledge and articulation, Thompson is virtually in the room with clients providing real-time, face-to-face interaction.

Tried and true

What: Vince Canning Shoes, shoe retailer.

Where: Delray Beach

How it happened: Mark Denkler, the grandson of Vince Canning Sr. who opened the store on Atlantic Avenue in 1952, took over the business from his uncle, Vince Canning Jr., about 18 years ago. Already in place: a supportive community and generations of regular customers; strong existing relationships with shoe distributors, vendors and suppliers.

Strategy: Mark Denkler, and his wife, LaRonda, needed to be proactive to get up to speed. They sought marketing advice from the Small Business Development Center at Palm Beach State College. They network and stay in the conversation with other local business people. Giving back, LaRonda Denkler participates with the Women's Entrepreneur Network in Boca Raton.

Bottom line: Provide old-fashioned customer service, but know what to do when, by reshifting priorities to stay competitive. Blending brick-and-mortar with online into a seamless business model boosts relationships with manufacturers, wholesalers and smaller, as yet undiscovered, industry entrepreneurs.

The big idea

What: Muses & Visionaries, member-based co-working space designed specifically for women

Where: West Palm Beach

How it happened: In the fall of 2011, Lena Hyde, who was expanding her photography business, turned to her friend, Erin Rossitto, for advice on the space she found. As they analyzed the 4,000-square-foot loft-style studio, the idea occurred to them to build it out as a work space for women who could also meet and share ideas and resources.

Strategy: In seeking other women to join them, Rossitto and Hyde targeted entrepreneurs and others who found owning or leasing office space cost-prohibitive.

Bottom line: Provide a venue that engages people into becoming stakeholders. Rossitto and Hyde know they are on to something big: they caught the women-only shared work space niche in its infancy.



Source: (c)2013 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) Distributed by MCT Information Services