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North Pinellas business news for Dec. 22

Olive Garden volunteers at Ride and Run With the Stars: back, Emily Kahael, left, Toni Hoeft, Billy Black, Blair Tetenbaum; front, Eddie Panaro, left, and Robin Fisher-Jordan.

Olive Garden

Olive Garden volunteers at Ride and Run With the Stars: back, Emily Kahael, left, Toni Hoeft, Billy Black, Blair Tetenbaum; front, Eddie Panaro, left, and Robin Fisher-Jordan.

For nine weeks, 13 teams participating in the WorkNet Pinellas StartUp Quest have been working toward one goal: to show what they've learned as they pitch a real product concept and business plan.

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On Dec. 11 at the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa, each team was given 10 minutes to explain the main points of its business plan in front of three experienced judges: Dr. Cynthia Johnson, from Pinellas County Economic Development; Roland Feijoo, founder of Extensys Inc., co-founder and managing member of MDIntellesys, LLC, and WorkNet Pinellas board member; and Kunal Jain, founder of Practiceforces and founding president of TiE Tampa.

Prior to pitch day the judges reviewed and scored each team's business plan, which made up half the teams' final scores.

Team Solar Amp, mentored by William "Bill" Roeling, earned a first-place award for its increased-efficiency solar panels that harvest infrared energy; Team Hug Safe, mentored by Steve Lightburn, was awarded second place for its product that restores bridge pilings while stopping corrosion; and Team Stay Alert, mentored by Timothy Freriks, came in third place for its driver fatigue alarm system.

Team members received an $800 cash prize for first place, $500 for second place, or $300 for third place. All winning team members were also given a three-month pass to the Tampa Bay Innovation Center's Launch Lab, where they will have access to an entrepreneurial environment to work out their business and network with other entrepreneurs.

"Through the StartUp Quest program, participants have gained valuable skills that will set them apart from their competition in the job market. They have strengthened their teamwork, research and analytic and project management skills, among others," said Ed Peachey, president and CEO of WorkNet Pinellas. "We also hope these skills may inspire participants to begin a new business and therefore create more jobs here in the Tampa Bay region."

WorkNet Pinellas, an equal opportunity employer/program, is a member of the Employ Florida statewide network of workforce services and resources. Call (727) 524-4344 or visit

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As it has for the past nine years, Olive Garden at 10500 Ulmerton Road in Largo donated food for more than 700 participants who worked up an appetite during the 20th annual Ride and Run With the Stars event, the largest law enforcement-organized holiday charity fundraiser in the Tampa Bay area.

Emily Kahael, Toni Hoeft, Billy Black, Blair Tetenbaum, Eddie Panaro and Robin Fisher-Jordan served hungry attendees from Olive Garden's Taste of Italy menu, including Tuscan white bean hummus, chicken meatballs, Parmesan roasted asparagus and tortellini al forno.

The event, which took place Dec. 7 at Fort DeSoto Park, included cycling and running events, a rock climbing wall and a visit from Santa, Mrs. Claus and their elves in a Pinellas County Sheriff's Office helicopter.

According to Maj. Sean Jowell of the Sheriff's Office, donations so far have totalled about $52,000, enabling the organization to serve 339 families and more than 740 children. All proceeds raised by the Ride and Run With the Stars event through sponsorships and registrations provide food, clothing and toys for underprivileged and/or crime-stricken children and families in the area throughout the holiday season.

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North Pinellas business news for Dec. 22 12/20/13 [Last modified: Friday, December 20, 2013 5:11pm]
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