Shoals Idea Audition – Deadline to Register Approaching!!!

October 22, 2015

Do you think your idea is worth $5,000.00? Well it could be! The only way for you to find out is if you enter the Shoals Idea Audition!

On November 19th the Shoals Idea Audition will be taking place at the GUC on the UNA campus!  The Shoals Idea Audition is your opportunity to present your business idea to a panel of business leaders and experts.

Do you have an idea for the next big smartphone app? Audition it!

The next big idea for a product? Audition it!

Whatever your idea is, presenting at the Idea Audition has the potential for you to win $5000, providing the groundwork to make your idea into reality!  There is still time for you to get in on the Idea Audition!  You can register to participate through Midnight on November 1st.  Enter today at

Got a Business Idea? Audition it for a Chance to Win $5,000!!

October 6, 2015

Part Shark Tank, part American Idol, this contest allows you to present your idea in front of a panel of business leaders and experts–and if your presentation is the best, you win!  This will be a fun process which could be very profitable!

Visit Shoals Idea Audition for more details and to register for this November 19th, 2015 event—deadline for entry is Sunday, November 1 at midnight.



Let’s Meet for Biz Buzz

October 5, 2015

Biz Buzz

Join the Shoals Areas’s Entrepreneur Networking Group…

A new networking program for budding entrepreneurs began in September. Biz Buzz is a free, weekly program designed to educate, engage and connect entrepreneurs. Developed by the Shoals Chamber of Commerce, the University of North Alabama College of Business, the Shoals Entrepreneurial Center and the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library, Biz Buzz is based on the notion that entrepreneurs discover solutions through networking together and learning from others who have created their own, unique business in the Shoals. “There’s a strong spirit of innovation here. We see it every day because we’re in the business of doing that,” explains Shoals Chamber President Steve Holt. “Biz Buzz is an opportunity for others to see what we see. It is a chance for those with innovative ideas to learn from each other and grow.”

“I am excited to support Biz Buzz and its role to build a place where our startups and entrepreneurs can meet to share their successes and challenges,” added Dr. Greg Carnes, Dean of University of North Alabama’s College of Business.

Giles McDaniel, Executive Director of the Shoals Entrepreneurial Center, expanded on that purpose. “The program should increase collaboration among our small businesses in the Shoals and make them aware of all the resources available to them among their fellow business owners,” he explained. “We want to continually offer resources that will fill our innovation ecosystem here.”

Events are held weekly at 9:00 am at the Florence Lauderdale Public Library and will include a featured speaker and coffee. Stack & Blair, LLC are the coffee sponsors. The next Biz Buzz session will be held Wednesday, October 7 th and will feature Sherri Stout-Boyle of Birthday Direct.

These events are open to the public. Additional information can be found: or you may join the Biz Buzz Community at

Alabama Launchpad–Meet the 10 Startups to Pitch!

October 2, 2015


By Val Walton on September 23, 2015
The startups have been chosen, and the venue is set.

The countdown begins for the Alabama Launchpad Startup Pitch event on Oct. 2 at Evonik Industries, 750 Lakeshore Parkway in Birmingham.

Ten companies will pitch their products and services to a judging panel that includes Mickey Millsap, Executive Director, Youth Entrepreneur Labs; David Kassouf, Director, Kassouf & Company; Figen Petka, Investment Strategist, ADTRAN, Inc; Jason Thomas, General Counsel, Total EHR; and Dennis Hinton, Director, Bonaventure Capital.

This cycle’s class ranges from a startup that protects cars from rear-end crashes to a tool that allows for the better treatment of congestive heart failure patients. The startup teams will have eight minutes each to present their concepts on stage in an effort to move on to the next phase, the Dec. 10 finale and win a share of up to $250,000 in funding for job creation.

Since 2006, Alabama Launchpad, a program of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, has awarded $2.1 million to 47 companies.

Below are the 10 startups presenting on Oct. 2:

The Ark Labs, based in Florence, has developed a smart device, The Ark, which is a monitoring solution with a control mechanism that is empowered by artificial intelligence software to eliminate inefficiency and major damage caused by water leaks in homes.

BDI Laboratories, based in Huntsville, has developed the MediaBit device that monitors TV viewing habits, making it possible to limit how much TV a family watches.

ESI Roundtable, based in Birmingham, provides practical, community-based eDiscovery continuing legal education (CLE).

LiTeWater, based in Tuscaloosa, filters and eliminates harmful bacteria and viruses from tap water through a breakthrough ultraviolet water treatment technology.
MechOptix, Inc., based in Madison, has developed Stoptix, an automatic brake lamp that protects your vehicle from rear-end collisions.

PartCycle Technologies, LLC, based in Florence, is an e-commerce marketplace for the auto parts industry that connects people who need auto parts with those who have them for sale, using a trustworthy, simple platform.

Space Resources Extraction Tech, based in Huntsville, has developed technology that can extract water from planetary soils very efficiently with low mass transported to the space body and will provide microwave water technology for water prospecting and mining demonstrations on the moon and Mars.

Vital Metrix, Inc., based in Huntsville, provides data to a patient’s cardiologist while the patient is home and allows for the better treatment of congestive heart failure and quality of life.

ACE Creative Engagement, LLC, based in Huntsville, is a consumer grade tool to address the pains of live video broadcasting.

Bright Willow, LLC, based in Mobile, revolutionizes bedsore prevention by identifying areas at risk sooner than ever before.

BDI Labs and the Ark Labs are the among the 10 startups to vie for a share of up to $250,000 for job creation.

Team members from BDI Laboratories and the Ark Labs are the among those vying for a share of up to $250,000 for job creation.

For more information about Alabama Launchpad, a program of EDPA,  visit


Engineering a better future: Florence man patents green fertilizer

September 10, 2015

Some of the success stories that come out of the Shoals Entrepreneurial Center involve bright, motivated people with interesting ideas. But many of the ideas are concepts most people can grasp.

Then there’s Phil Badger, of Florence, a Tennessee Valley Authority retiree, who has created a thermal heating process to patent a technology that creates some pretty creative uses for animal manure and other organic materials at a time when federal regulations are reducing its use as farm fertilizer.

It’s the type of project that few can fathom, but has the potential to be transformative in keeping the earth cleaner and safer for future generations.

Badger’s Renewable Oil International, whose decomposition process was patented last week, can turn animal manure into bio-oil for a fuel additive or asphalt extender, a charcoal-like product for compost, synthetic gas that can create a heat source to dry poultry litter. Badger said it’s even proven to work as jet fuel.

And if that doesn’t impress you, this will: He recently was awarded a $1.2 million grant from the state of Maryland to demonstrate his project on a farm in the poultry-heavy eastern shore portion of the state.

The process is called fast-pyrolysis process, in which any organic material is placed in a vessel and heated “extremely fast to almost 1,000 degrees,” he said. “That causes it to decompose into gas, vapor and char.”

Once cooled, the product is primarily liquid, char mixed with biomass ash and non-condensable gases.

Badger — and the state of Maryland — believe it will help farms meet increasing phosphorus-discharge standards required by the Environmental Protection Agency.

While Badger has been working on his technology for a decade — and made impressive pitches and demonstrations for uses such as jet fuel — it resonated in Maryland because of a near-desperate situation involving eight eastern shore counties near Chesapeake Bay. The region is heavily dependent on the poultry industry, and accounts for 5 percent of the state’s personal wealth.

For more on this story visit

These Nerds are So Cool!

August 17, 2015

Steve McKinney and his team have an indoor mapping software, called nSide, that can document detailed, interconnected images and geographic positions of everything from rooms and hallways to HVAC systems of office and school buildings.

Ed Balch is a YouTube “partner” whose financial advice and entertainment videos attract 850,000 views per month.

Jay Hayes is a self-described “nerd” who owns a dance studio and writes code in his spare time.
Jeffrey Allen is a recent UNA computer science graduate and Simon Solutions employee who likes to connect techies who might be able to work together.

They are among about four dozen computer tech whizzes, most of whom had no idea the others existed until Florence’s first “techie meetup” last month. They held their second meeting last week, and techies were were in awe so many of like mind and passion were right here all along. And their stories and projects left a handful of non-techies in their midst in awe.

“I walked into the first meeting and it was, ‘Shazam!’” Florence city Councilman Andy Betterton said, sitting amid the group of creative entrepreneurs and computer geeks at Singin’ River Brewery on Thursday evening. “What I saw was just amazing.”
These guys — mostly younger than 40, but encompassing a wide age range — met with people like Joey and Anne Ryan Leavitt, creators of the first Shoals-produced iPhone app; Robbie Hillis, whose Ark Labs recently was on display for investors at a major gathering of tech startups in Chattanooga; and Andy Alonso, managing partner of PartCycle, an online auto parts marketplace working out of the Shoals Entrepreneurial Center.

Read the rest of the story at


July 16, 2015

Laura Hester, owner of Red Gingham Gourmet, LLC, a  Florence Woman Owned Business (WOB) was recently invited to participate in Walmart’s Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative in Bentonville, Arkansas.  Laura was among a select group of Women Owned Business executives that attended the Accelerator Training Program sponsored by the Walmart Women’s Economic Empowerment Team.

The conference, held July 8 – 10 at Walmart’s Bentonville headquarters, was established in 2014 to provide women-owned businesses with knowledge and skills that they can apply toward “accelerating” the growth of their business with Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

Red Gingham Gourmet, LLC, (RGG) founded in 2005 by Laura, produces a variety of cornbread muffins now offered in over 400 Walmart stores, including stores in North Alabama.

Laura stated that she appreciated being selected to attend the Walmart conference and benefited greatly from the sessions taught by Walmart and Sam’s Club associates who are experts in their respective subjects.

Red Gingham Gourmet utilizes the Shoals Entrepreneurial Center’s Commercial Culinary Kitchen for production of products sold to Walmart.  Laura has been associated with the Culinary Kitchen for several years and credits her success, in large part, to the availability of the Culinary Kitchen facilities; she also credits her success to the advice and direction afforded by Giles McDaniel, Director of Shoals Entrepreneurial Center, and the Center’s talented staff.

For more information regarding Red Gingham Gourmet visit their web site at

Performance Scrubs Goes Pro

June 17, 2015, a Performance HealthCare Products company, launched its new high-tech clothing manufacturing facility in Florence, Alabama in late 2014.  Now, Performance Scrubs has Gone PRO!

Dr. Burton Elrod of Elite Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center, one of the top NFL doctors in the country, was recently featured in the Nashville Business Journal as a Health Care Hero. While his accomplishments are impressive, his choice of uniform is what excites us.  Dr. Elrod is wearing Performance Scrubs in this portrait.  And from what we understand, he makes Performance his exclusive uniform.

To find out more about 100% made in the USA Performance Scrubs, click here.  Performance Scrubs is the largest supplier of American-made scrubs to nursing schools in the U.S.

To read Dr. Elrod’s article in the Nashville Business Journal, click here

Shoals Entrepreneurial Center Business Accepted into Prestigious Accelerator Program

May 28, 2015

One leaky faucet, dripping five times a minute, loses 173 gallons of water in a year.

A continuously running toilet can waste more than 1,000 gallons in a single day.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates an average household leaks 10,000 gallons of water every year — water that could have washed 270 loads of laundry.

These are the kind of statistics that drove Florence resident Robbie Hillis to create a start-up company that has been accepted into a prestigious accelerator program in Chattanooga.

The Ark Labs is one of 14 companies chosen from 150 applicants that will receive intensive assistance over three months.

Its ultimate goal: “We’re trying to change the world by making houses efficient so we don’t have to fight over water,” Hillis said.

Like most innovators, he was drawn to his mission because of need. But unlike many, he is not an engineer. He’s worked 15 years in sales and marketing.

Visit for the rest of the story.

Amazing Tech-Oriented Youth Summer Camps at UNA

May 26, 2015

UNA Continuing Studies & Outreach is partnering with the College of Business and the Shoals Entrepreneurial Center/Culinary Complex to offer some amazing tech-oriented youth summer camps.

Get the details at UNA Tech Lions Black Rocket Summer Camps for 2015.