America at work
Why is Miami the Nation’s Hottest Spot for Entrepreneurship? Meet 3 Startups There Warming it Up
Cassie Ann Hodges | April 25, 2018

Miami is hot, but the entrepreneurial startup scene is hotter.

The Miami-Fort Lauderdale metropolitan ranked number one in the country for new startup activity—ahead of cities like Austin, Los Angeles, and San Diego,  according to the Kaufmann Foundation, which studies entrepreneurship activity in America. And the entrepreneur bug continues to grow along with the city’s spirit of collaboration.

Free Enterprise had the opportunity to meet with three startups, Lulu’s Ice Cream, 01, and Moonlighter Makerspace, all of which have found their home at CIC Miami, a vibrant coworking space that concentrates on many of Miami’s up-and-coming entrepreneurs in their high-energy, community building working environment.

The startups have also taken part in Radical Partner’s entrepreneurship bootcamp. Now in its fifth year, the Radical Partners social entrepreneurship bootcamp is a 12-week accelerator program for high-impact leaders who want to use their companies as social good agents. The program takes about a dozen entrepreneurs annually and teaches the cohort how to grow their business model, provides an environment for powerful connections and programming, and mobilizes entrepreneurs to be a force for good in their community.

“We are their cheerleaders, and we offer a safe space for entrepreneurs to be able to say ‘I need advice,’” says Alia Mahmoud, Director of Radical Partners. “We teach them the hard skills, but we also make it fun.”

So what is the secret sauce that these Miami-based social innovators have in Florida?

Free Enterprise went down to CIC Miami to see what Lulu’s Ice Cream, 01, and Moonlighter Makerspace had to say:

What inspired you to go down this path? And if you could go back and tell yourself a piece of advice when you were starting this process, what would you say?

Luisa Santos, Founder, Lulu’s Ice Cream: Lulu’s loves to thrill tastebuds. We are a sustainable, value-driven business that all started when I was a student at Georgetown. I was interested in creating ice cream with liquid nitrogen, so I met with chemistry professors, I would watch videos on YouTube, and I would attempt to create ice cream with nitrogen in my dorm room. My RA’s were not happy – there was Nutella everywhere. But I started selling in markets in D.C. and on the sidewalk of my house. It wasn’t glamourous but I was on a mission. I would tell myself that ignorance is bliss. Ignorance was actually a powerful tool in my entrepreneurship journey – I was a full blank canvas.

Tom Pupo, Co-Founder, Moonlighter Makerspace: After I received my Masters of Arts in Design, I knew I was going to lose the privilege of using the tools I got so used to during my studies. I went to Europe and noticed that they had these collaborative working spaces, and I thought that the U.S., especially Miami, could use a space like that to inspire and build Miami. I’m so proud to have a company that empowers people in the Miami area to know that they can build (literally) their dreams at Moonlight Makerspace. I would tell myself that being naïve is a good thing. I didn’t know how I would start this business and I definitely didn’t know how much work it would take, but I am grateful that I didn’t know how hard it would be. I would tell myself to build my tribe quicker. I would have liked to find my team quicker instead of being a lone wolf in the beginning – plus it’s more fun with more people helping you

Willie Avendano, Co-Founder, 01: I grew up in Miami and left to study computer science in New York. When I came back to Miami, I tried to find my niche and stumbled into teaching computer science. I would research and ask myself “how can I create projects that are crazy while still giving back to my community?” So I thought I could create a summer camp to give young students a space to experiment with robotics, 3D design and printing, and the like – I want young learners to build crazy skills. I would have told myself that it is more expensive to start a business than you may realize – it always costs more money than you think!

What makes your company better or different than the rest?

Luisa Santos, Founder, Lulu’s Ice Cream: Being successful, you have you be smart of who you surround yourself with. We have surrounded ourselves with friends and passionate entrepreneurs that we have met through Radical Partners. They have been a big part of our support system, and it’s so necessary. People are inspired by constantly giving and sharing your success. Oh, and we also have our own cow and her cow friends at a nearby farm– So we source locally, and we freeze the ice cream with liquid nitrogen which makes it extra smooth!

Tom Pupo, Co-Founder, Moonlighter Makerspace: We are a S.T.E.A.M learning center for creative collaboration – whether that means 3D printing, a Maker’s Market, eco materials lab, sewing machines – you name it, we have it. There isn’t really anything like this in Miami. We are also very diverse. Our space is not just for experienced artists – in one hour we will have an afterschool program working alongside engineers, designers, and innovators. We so many diverse people interacting at all times, it is really beautiful to see that kind of collaboration.

Willie Avendano, Co-Founder, 01: Through our summer camp, we are providing children and students the ability to be on the forefront of the current and emerging technology to solve problems. Each day we are training the students to think outside the box. We are giving them exposure to develop innovatively, and then they’re creating a pathway that will eventually give them access to new technologies – some that we may not even be using yet. I call it a successful day if these kids don’t want to leave the lab because they are learning but having so much fun through the process.

Advice for entrepreneurs on the rise?

Luisa Santos, Founder, Lulu’s Ice Cream: I would say that you have to embrace making hard decisions in order to save the things that you are working on and love. You have to have the gut – You need to be able to stomach the ups and downs and remain optimistic. We have to keep one foot in front of the other – things will seem monumentally out of control, but you have to stay focused. Women in particular have to have the courage to take the small steps and the confidence to never stop learning.

Tom Pupo, Co-Founder, Moonlighter Makerspace: Reach out to local business development partners. Plan out how you will make everything work financially. Yes, your idea might be great, but you need to build something sustainable.

Nelson Milian, Co-Founder, 01: It is imperative to get a good team. A strong team is critical. I have a strong cofounder in Willie. We have strong collaboration, the same vision, same goals, and we are problem solvers. You need to have a team of strong motivators, because it’s a difficult process starting a business!