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October 10, 2015
Lighting an entrepreneurial fire in Jacksonville


One Spark was founded by (from left) Varick Rosete (pink shirt), Elton Rivas and Dennis Eusebio.

Northeast Florida Roundup

Lighting an entrepreneurial fire in Jacksonville

Young partners set out to make Jacksonville an entrepreneurial hotbed.

Lilly Rockwell | 6/27/2014

For five days in April about 260,000 people flocked to a 20-block area in downtown Jacksonville for the second annual One Spark festival. The event offers entrepreneurs, musicians and artists a chance to showcase their projects or business ideas while raising money through votes from festival attendees.

The combination party/ investor pitch is the creation of three young entrepreneurs in Jacksonville who all had job offers in other cities but decided to stay and work on a project that would help make Jacksonville a better place for entrepreneurs.

“The entire startup world seems to be going in a direction of online and moving away from the business of people,” says One Spark Executive Director Joe Sampson. “One Spark cuts through all that digital noise. It gives them an opportunity to connect with not only the funding they need, but they also get market feedback and validation.”

This year’s festival had 600 entrepreneurs, musicians and artists — and 40,000 people who registered to vote for a project. Each vote translates to a percentage of a $200,000 pot of money. Another $110,000 is available through cash prizes granted per category, juried awards and the top vote-getters.

Some of the most popular projects at this year’s festival included a non-profit that wants to bring theater to children in Africa, which got nearly $12,000 in donations and award prizes. Another project, AquaJax, a group that wants to build an aquarium in downtown Jacksonville, garnered more than $13,000 in donations and prize money.

The festival was started in 2013 after founders Elton Rivas, Dennis Eusebio and Varick Rosete launched a Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $100,000. Local businessman Peter Rummell contributed $1 million to fund the first year’s festival, which cost about $1.3 million to stage. Sampson would not disclose One Spark’s revenue; the group makes money from sponsorships and proceeds from food and beverage sales at the festival, as well as ticketed events and merchandise, he says.


Timothy Goldfarb, CEO of UF Health Shands Hospital, is stepping down and will assume a new position overseeing the hospitals' regional and governmental affairs. His interim successor is Shands COO Edward Jimenez.

Michelle Braun is new president and CEO of the United Way of Northeast Florida. Braun was previously a banking executive who became COO of United Way of Northeast Florida last year.

Isabelle Rodriguez, who was the interim head of the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce, will officially be its president. She replaces Kirk Wendland, who resigned last year.

Business Briefs

GAINESVILLE - The University of Florida is restarting its search for its next president. It began a search last year but called it off after Gov. Rick Scott asked current UF President Bernie Machen to stay on longer to help fulfill Machen's vision of making UF a top 10 public research university. Machen is expected to retire by the end of this year.

JACKSONVILLE - A half-built condominium in downtown Jacksonville known as Berkman Plaza II was put up for public auction but drew no bids. Choate Construction of Atlanta is the general contractor for the building. It received the building in a $10.2-million foreclosure judgment. The company's COO told the Times- Union the next step is looking for a developer to buy and finish the project.

JACKSONVILLE - Businessman Peter Rummell, a supporter of Alvin Brown in his mayoral election in 2011, has announced he is withdrawing his support and backing former GOP Chairman Lenny Curry for mayor. Brown's handling of the budget and other issues put him at odds with Rummell and others in the business community. Navy Federal Credit Union plans to open four new branches in the area. > Mayport will soon host a gambling ship, Victory Casino Cruises. The ship will run two cruises a day; each cruise costs $10. > Body Central, a women's clothing store struggling with declining sales, has retained a mergers and acquisitions firm to weigh its options. Its stock is hovering around $1 a share. > Ride-sharing service Lyft has entered the Jacksonville market. The San Francisco startup is offering free rides for the first two weeks. Uber, another ridesharing service, started service in Jacksonville in January. > The city received a $13.4-million settlement related to the bankruptcy case of LandMar Group, a company that had planned to build a $450-million mixedused project on Jacksonville's north bank. The settlement is related to payments the company owed over bonds the city had on the property before declaring bankruptcy. Former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll failed to report thousands of dollars she earned from Allied Veterans of the World, according to documents related to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation. Allied Veterans was accused of operating an illegal gambling scheme. Carroll has said she felt betrayed by Gov. Rick Scott when his office asked her to resign and that the FDLE documents prove she did nothing criminal. > The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers approved a plan to deepen the port in Jacksonville from 40 feet to 47 feet. > Crowley Maritime bought Accord Ship Management and Accord Marine Management. Crowley would not disclose the sale price.

OCALA - The Ocala Breeders Sales' April auction of thoroughbreds set a record after $57 million worth of horses were sold during the four-day sale. > Albany, Ga.-based Heritage Bank of the South plans to merge with Ocala-based Alarion Bank. Alarion has six banks in the Ocala and Gainesville area and $283 million in assets.

ST. AUGUSTINE - Defenshield, a ballistic protection equipment maker, will move its headquarters to St. Augustine. It plans to employ about 20. Its offices were in Syracuse, N. Y., and Washington.

Profile: Full Core

Full Core markets its 25-calorie, 10-ounce drink as an appetite suppressant because it contains 10 grams of fiber in every drink. "Let's say you drink a couple of these a day," says Full Core founder Peter Hayes. "You will feel full. It works. It's like a healthy soda." He founded Jacksonville-based Full Core in January 2012 and now has the drink in GNCs stores and Chamberlin's in the Orlando area. Hayes says he's negotiating with Winn-Dixie. "It ended up that fiber is the miracle Cinderella ingredient that if you get it into your diet, it will naturally help you control your appetite," Hayes says.

In addition to the lemon-lime drink, Full Core plans to introduce three new flavors this year — pomegranate, green tea and mandarin orange.

Tags: Northeast

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