Atlanta Magazine Article Features Florence’s North Court Street

May 13, 2015

Although an hour from the closest interstate, Florence, Alabama, manages to attract clothing designers, musicians, and creatives of all stripes. Home to the University of North Alabama and the state’s only Frank Lloyd Wright residence, life centers on North Court Street, a thoroughfare with brick buildings and a vibe straight out of the fifties. But unlike so many other downtowns struggling to stay afloat, Florence buzzes with restaurants, bars, and boutiques. At one end, visitors can pay homage to Leo III and Una, feline college mascots who live in the nation’s only campus lion habitat. At the other, a new state historic marker notes that the Rolling Stones stayed here when they recorded legendary hits “Brown Sugar” and “Wild Horses” at nearby Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. In the nine blocks in between, Florence finds its cool. – See more at Atlanta



$2500 Prize for New SBIR/STTR Logo Design

May 8, 2015

Dear Technologists, Entrepreneurs, Artists, Designers, Researchers, SBC’s & More…

       Javier Saade, Associate Administration of Investment and Innovation for the SBA is leading the SBA’s Office of Investment and Innovation which oversees the SBIR and STTR programs across the entire Federal government.  These programs are collectively the largest pool of seed funding in the globe, aka America’s Seed Fund.   ~$2.5 billion a year is awarded to bleeding-edge, STEM-driven and high tech innovators and small businesses across a very broad swath of the economy.   Since inception about $40 billion has been awarded to over 150,000 inventive and forward-looking projects and companies.  3D printing technology, minimally invasive surgery, biotech (e.g., Amgen, Genetech, Biogen) and communications advances such as the ones Qualcomm and Symantec pioneered were all were born thanks in large part to very early funding from SBIR/STTR.

On May 4th, after about year of work and thousands of man-hours, the SBA unveiled a new and improved  It’s a pretty and functional website with amazingly more robust and useful information underlying it.   Not only do our incredibly savvy innovators demand a better interface, they needed it badly.  It is much more sleek and its 2-click user interface and smart connectivity engages with the greater innovation ecosystem, more deeply and meaningfully. 

The Competition!!!

To match the bleeding-edge innovation crowd, we decided that should engage the equally amazing American creative community to get a new official logo of America’s Seed Fund, aka, SBIR/STTR. Our theme is 12 Agencies…1 Vision: Seed The Future.   

The competition will run pursuant to the America Competes Act, and encourages the amazingly creative community in the United States to create a thoughtful and imaginative visual representation of the government’s largest innovation effort focused on research-driven, innovative and cutting-edge small businesses.

For more information visit United States Small Business Administration

B. Electric Joins List of Distinguished Graduates

April 2, 2015

B Electric, the Shoals Entrepreneurial Center’s (SEC) most recent graduate,  conducted a ribbon cutting and open house to dedicate the opening of their new facility located at 6644 Highway 17 in Florence on Tuesday March 31st.

B Electric photo

B Electric, Inc. is a rapidly growing electrical contracting company providing quality electrical services with only the best electricians. Located in Florence, Alabama, B Electric, Inc. sales, customer base, and employees have steadily increased every year since beginning their operation — indicating that the decision to locate in the Shoals was a good one. Now licensed in four states, B Electric, Inc. has built a reputation for high quality electrical work on commercial and industrial construction projects, and has achieved an unlimited bid amount limit from the State of Alabama. The company undertakes basic electrical work such as lighting and power as well as specialized control systems for manufacturing companies. The “B” logo is one of the most recognized symbols in the Shoals area.

James Bowles attributes his company’s success to good employees, ongoing training, a stellar safety record, a positive reputation, strong relationships, community support, and a heart for service. Bowles stated, “There is no doubt God has blessed B Electric, Inc. and we try our best to be a good steward of what He has provided.”

SEC Board Chairman Mark Linder presented Mr. Bowles with an award in recognition of B. Electric’s success.  Linder stated, “the SEC would like to thank you for your continued investments and job creation in the Shoals area.  It is an honor to add B. Electric to the growing list of distinguished graduates of the Shoals Entrepreneurial Center who have grown to become self-sustaining members of the Shoals business community providing numerous jobs throughout the area.”

B. Electric Award Photo
SEC Board Chairman Mark Linder (left) and James Bowles (right)

Photos courtesy of Quad-Cities Daily

Incubating Success

March 31, 2015

Please note:  The correct name for Russell Killen’s business is “Progressive” Insulation:………………………..

Russell Killen felt like he’d jumped off a cliff. At least, his wife did.

He was more the risk taker, she the pragmatic one.

But quitting his job of 28 years at 2:30 one November 2008 afternoon, only to drive straight to a bank with four friends who also were about to put up property, houses and whatever other collateral they could find for a loan to enter a business world they weren’t fully prepared to navigate — this was an especially high cliff.

“It’s pretty scary, risking everything you have,” Killen said.

Six years later, the Killens and their partners have seen the reward of their gambit. Their business, Performance Insulation, has been a resounding success.

But it started, like many current and past business ventures in the region, in a secluded office at the Shoals Entrepreneurial Center in the Florence-Lauderdale Industrial Park. They had big dreams, little resources, and thanks to the business incubator, a lot of help.

While such incubators are relatively recent creations in many cities, the Shoals Entrepreneurial Center has been around a while – since 1992 – and has birthed more than 150 businesses.

Read more about this story at

UNA Students Pitch Innovative Ideas to Local Investors

March 9, 2015

Thirty five students representing all four colleges at the University of North Alabama participated in UNA’s 3 Day Startup Feb. 27- March 1. The event, sponsored by Charleston Laboratories, Inc., was a learning-by-doing campus workshop that taught entrepreneurial skills to university students in an extreme hands-on environment. The idea is simple: start a company over the course of three days.

The six companies that were formed over the weekend presented to a panel of business leaders as the final part of the event. Each team gave a five minute presentation followed by a short Q&A session. The teams each had the task of creating a company name, identifying a problem and presenting their solution to the problem. The teams were as follows:

  • Smith Enterprises: A roofing and construction company that improves safety of roof inspections by using drones.
  • IT Geex: An on campus, college budget friendly, tech support business that provides 24/7 access to technical support in the form of real life assistance from peers.
  • Footprints: A social media app/website duo that uses local tour guides, families, and fellow travelers to provide users with an authentic travel experience.
  • StartSmart: A website/app that connects high school seniors and current college students with pre-selected mentors from esteemed colleges/programs across the country to navigate the difficult decision of selecting a major by providing counseling sessions.
  • T3 Biodynamics: A company focused on amateur athletic excellence that takes performance based simulation and provides real time feedback to the athlete that can lead to improved results.
  • Recruit Group: A company that simplifies the hiring process combining custom testing with resume analysis to select potential applicants for the hiring process with the benefit of reduced time and increased success. .

During the weekend, over 20 local business people and faculty attended as mentors to the student led companies. The students prepared an investment level pitch and presented to a panel of five industry leaders composed of Joel Anderson, Ryan Baker, Sherri Stout Boyle, Joe Fields and Ron Wicks.

Dr. Gregory Carnes, Dean of the UNA’s College of Business, hosted the event and said the event was positively received by the students, mentors and panelists. “We are excited for the students and the companies they are forming. 3 Day Startup is one part of the Total Student Experience that we offer at UNA’s College of Business. Our goal is that each student knows how to form ideas into companies that could be their own or their employer,” he said.

3 Day Startup has already conducted 132 events at 60 schools across five continents that launched 70 companies with over $49 million of investment. The goal for 3 Day Startup is to kick start new student-run companies and build entrepreneurial capabilities in students and their university communities.

For more information:, or

Shoals BIG Idea Competition

February 10, 2015

Announcing the Shoals BIG Idea Competition March 5, 2015, 5 p.m.- Middle/High School, University/College, and Community categories . . . .$500 to the winner in each category

$1,000 scholarship to UNA for the Fall 2015 semester for the winner of the Middle School/High School category


The purpose of the BIG Idea Competition is to foster innovation and entrepreneurship by getting OUR community to “Imagine the Shoals as the Next Leader in Digital Technology”.

What will we have to do as a community to get there?  We are seeking YOUR help to assist us in identifying some of the ideas that we need to embrace and build on to be a significant player in the digital space.

To learn more including what kind of ideas might win, contest submission deadlines, etc. visit

Submit questions to

What is Really in Your Food?

January 13, 2015

What is Really in Your Food?

Certified organic, naturally grown, GMO, hybrids, heirlooms, hormones, antibiotics, free range, grass fed, GAP.  What do these terms mean and how do they affect you, the consumer?

The Lauderdale County Extension Office is hosting a seminar to clear up some of the myths surrounding food production in today’s society.

Contact 256.766.6223 for more information and to register (seating is limited).


FedEx Small Business Grant Contest

January 13, 2015

You could win the $25,000 grand prize grant.

To enter the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest, share your story with us — what motivated you to get into the business and how you’d take it to the next level of success.

Your small business could win one of these grants:

  • One (1) grand prize grant of $25,000
  • One (1) grant of $10,000
  • Eight (8) grants of $5,000

Are you ready?


Send in your entry. After it’s approved and the voting period begins, you can vote for your business once a day — and get your friends, customers and associates to vote for you too.

For more information visits FedEx Small Business Grant Contest

The 3 Lists Every Entrepreneur Must Make

November 21, 2014

Producer and Founder of

Starting a company is like a dream come true: no one telling you when to go into the office, you can pick and choose meetings and there’s unlimited vacation. Sigh — the life of an entrepreneur. So flexible, so fabulous. If only it was that easy.

Those perks were likely on the “perk” side of the pro and con list you made before going into business for yourself. But the real truth is that now you’re busier than ever. You’re likely wearing the hat of HR, IT, marketing and business development teams, just to name a few.

Structure and organization are key to success as an entrepreneur. I know because without my lists I could never get anything done at home, work or play.

For those entrepreneurs needing a little help in the organization department, here are three lists you should be making:

1. To-do list

You have to have one. I structure mine with daily tasks but you may find that a weekly list works better. Another option is to organize your to-do list by project or client.

It’s easiest to plan ahead and make sure not to include too much on the list at once. Try to really be aware of what is feasible given the time frame and resources you have available. I make my to-do lists for the next day before I leave the office at night. I run through everything that is coming up and what has to be handled the next day. I include any appointments and meetings on the list as well. Then when I come in the following day, I just refer to it as my roadmap and hit the ground running.

2. Outsource list

Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. I get it, control is a difficult thing to give up — especially when we’re talking about your business. You’ll do whatever it takes to make sure it’s successful. So why not give the to-do list to someone else?

Outsourcing will provide you the freedom to focus on the tasks you’re really good at — and hopefully increase your chances of making more money. So, make a list of all the mundane tasks that are necessary but that you don’t need to physically do yourself. Responsibilities like making appointments, booking travel, uploading your blog posts and maintaining your social-media platforms can easily be outsourced. Investing in the help of interns or virtual assistants will be worth the trouble, as the time you will save is staggering. Make sure to also make a list of all the projects you want to work on once you have some extra help to get the busy work off your plate.

3. To-become list

I’m a big fan of Oprah’s mantra: “You become what you believe.” Once you set an intention to do something it becomes so much easier to attain it. And taking it one step further and writing it down can really seal the deal. In fact, Dr. Gail Matthews, a professor at the Dominican University of California found that writing down goals will make you 33 percent more likely to achieve them.

This list can include anything that you want for your business and your life — daydreaming is definitely in order for this list. Think big. Even if you can’t figure out how exactly you’d achieve that goal, write it down anyway. Making a to-become list will get you motivated, hold you accountable and remind you of what’s important to you and your business. Keep this list somewhere safe and set a reminder in your phone every few months to check it out and see what you’ve become.

Article Credit

Celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week in the Shoals!

November 17, 2014

Celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week in the Shoals!  Global Entrepreneurship Week is a celebration of innovation, creativity, and opportunity. This week is dedicated to those who create jobs, develop innovative products and services, and drive economic development.  The Shoals Entrepreneurial Center celebrates this week by partnering with the University of North Alabama, the Shoals Chamber of Commerce, and other community sponsors in hosting the Shoals Idea Audition.

You are invited to experience the first Shoals Idea Audition finalists compete for a $5,000 prize.  Eight or 9 finalists will be selected from 39 presenters. Part Shark Tank and part American Idol, the event showcases local entrepreneurs’ innovative business ideas. Several UNA students will be participating.  Join us at the Performance Center in the GUC at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov 18th and be one of the first to see the next great business idea!

More details at