Students Gain Insights and Practical Advice at Entrepreneurship Symposium

March 30, 2017

Thirteen years ago, Omar Soliman (BBA ’04), prepared the winning business plan for the School of Business’ second annual Business Plan Competition. Today, he is co-founder and CEO of College Hunks Hauling Junk, a $70 million company with 2,000 employees nationwide.

“I stepped out of my comfort zone and took a risk,” said Soliman at the School’s Entrepreneurship Symposium on March 30. “We have been able to build a successful brand by helping to take away the stress of moving. If you can form an emotional connection with your customers and deliver on your promise, everything else about your business will fall into place.”

“Starting a business is like running a marathon."

Jamie Rosenberg
Founder and CEO, ClassWallet
Soliman was one of three successful UM alumni who offered their ideas, advice and insights to students at the half-day symposium, which included panel discussions on Miami’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and venture capital opportunities.

“Starting a business is like running a marathon,” said Jamie Rosenberg, founder and CEO of ClassWallet, a paperless solution for educators to allocate spending and track purchases. “You have to take micro steps one at a time. But the most important thing is understanding what’s driving your heart.”

After earning his law degree, Rosenberg joined Akerman as a corporate mergers and acquisitions attorney. But his life took a different path in 1998 after he was able to coax a “high five” from a partially paralyzed Haitian student he had been helping as a volunteer mentor. “I started a charity called AdoptAClassroom to raise money for teachers, and began asking for donations,” he said. “More recently I started ClassWallet to have a bigger impact.”

Albert Santalo, started working as a software developer for a bank while still an undergraduate. At age 24 he was head of technology for a health care startup. After several years as a consultant, he launched Avisena, a health care software company in 2001, successfully raising money in the wake of the dot-com recession. Eight years later, he founded CareCloud, a Miami company that offers practice management software and back-office services to health care providers. After stepping down as CEO and chairman, Santalo is now planning his next venture.

“It has never been easier to become an entrepreneur,” he said. “There are many great platforms to help you launch a business with very little outside funding. If you are serious about your idea and willing to work hard every day, I encourage you to jump in. Otherwise, you’ll be watching from the sidelines.”
At the symposium, JC Whitner (BBA ’11), director, business development, Startup Bootcamp, moderated a discussion on “The Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Miami” with panelists Wifredo Fernandez, co-founder, The Lab Miami; Natalia Martinez-Kalinia, general manager, Cambridge Innovation Center; Peter Martinez, co-director, Refresh Miami; and Matt Haggman, program director, Knight Foundation.

“If you see yourself as a change-maker, Miami is the place to be,” said Martinez. “We are all very collegial, making it easy to access the right resources. Even well-established companies contribute to the ecosystem here.”

Haggman noted that Miami is one of the top five U.S. cities in new business formations, with an appealing lifestyle, international population and global connections. “Miami is at a formative stage with a wide open field that reward innovation and entrepreneurship. In many ways, we represent America's future.”

Whitner also moderated “Everything You Need to Know About Venture Capital,” a panel discussion with Raul Moas (BBA ’10, MS ’11), managing director at AGP Miami; Ben Kosinski (BBA ’11), managing partner, Kosinski Ventures; Jason Shuman (BBA ’13), principal, US Investment Partners; and Ana Paul González, Miami operations, 500 Startups.

“When looking for capital, you need to focus on building relationships,” said Moas. “Be polite, be persistent and be sure your financial partner is a good fit for your business.”
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