Miami Herald Makeover: Overview

yaya wine emineo media Miami Herald MakeoverIn 2014, Miami Herald makeovers helped small businesses across Miami-Dade County. The Herald partnered with certified counselors from the Miami-Dade Chapter of SCORE, a nonprofit organization of volunteers who have been successful entrepreneurs. SCORE volunteer counselors use their experience in business and offer mentoring services free of charge to help small businesses grow and succeed. For each makeover, SCORE assembled a team of experts to give advice and assistance that helped small businesses like Roy’s Delivery Service, YaYa Wines and Heywood-Wakefield Furniture streamline operations, kick start their marketing efforts and find new ways to reach customers.

Recently, the Herald sat down with Orlando Espinosa of SCORE to take a look back at how some of these small businesses are faring today.

ROY’S DELIVERY SERVICE

Back in July, SCORE counselors Carlos Blanco and Oscar Rospigliosi helped Hada Grullon, owner of Roy’s Delivery Service in Kendall. Blanco has grown several businesses and sold his IT marketing agency, Next Level, to a multinational advertising agency based in the United Kingdom. Rospigliosi is a partner at Newport Board Group, a national professional firm that provides services to emerging growth middle market companies and private equity firms.

While Roy’s has been around for 20 years, handling deliveries of all kinds, Blanco and Rospigliosi advised Grullon to do three things to grow her small business and focus the services she provides. First, Grullon, a self-confessed workaholic, needed to hire an operations manager. Next, SCORE counselors recommended she rebrand her business online, including launching a new website. Last but not least, Grullon’s SCORE team recommended that she focus solely on building the medical delivery area of her business.

“Hada is one of the wonderful SCORE success stories,” Espinosa said. “She really dug her heels in and took what the counselors told her to heart.”

At her first meeting with SCORE, Grullon admitted she did almost everything related to her business herself something the counselors agreed was impeding her business. Grullon hired her sister to take over operations. A month after that, she revamped and re-launched her website. She also focused on social media to improve her company’s online presence and changed direction to focus more on medical deliveries for hospitals, doctors’ offices and nursing homes.

“Working with SCORE changed my life,” Grullon said. “The counselors helped me to see what I wasn’t able to see for years: One person can’t run a business alone. Because I was doing everything, there were areas of the business that weren’t running at full capacity. SCORE helped me to change that, and now I’m happy to report that since implementing their advice, my business has grown nearly 40 percent.”

HEYWOOD-WAKEFIELD FURNITURE

In May, SCORE counselors worked with Leonard Riforgiato, owner of Heywood-Wakefield Furniture. Espinosa and counselors Rosi Arboleya, creative director at Perpetual Message and Frank Padron of We Simplify the Internet (WSI), an Internet marketing firm in Coral Gables, recommended that Riforgiato focus his marketing efforts on acquiring new customers through the Web.

Riforgiato was tasked with accomplishing five things: revamping his website, creating a blog, developing a branded customer e-blast, updating the Wikipedia page about Heywood-Wakefield, and making his first foray into using social media to promote his company.

“With Leonard, we were able to take someone who knew relatively little about the Web and social media and educate him about how these tools can help him market his business,” Espinosa said.

Today, nearly eight months later, Riforgiato has launched a new website, created a blog and is sending out regular e-blasts to his customers. He hasn’t yet taken the plunge into social media, but according to Espinosa, this is something SCORE has been working with him on.

“We are helping Leonard develop his social media presence,” Espinosa said. “He has taken a lot of our advice over the last eight months and we are looking forward to seeing him create a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest where he can showcase the beautiful furniture his company creates.”

YAYA WINES

In September, SCORE worked with YaYa LeGrand, owner of YaYa Wines in North Miami. The SCORE team was made of professionals with experience in marketing, wine buying and the law, all areas where LeGrand needed help.

Hillary Metz, an intellectual property and trademark attorney at Mills Metz Law and Nora Adler, a former wine buyer with over 20 years of experience in marketing, advised LeGrand to do three things to take her business to next level: First, LeGrand had to protect her brand. Metz recommended that LeGrand immediately begin using her federally registered trademark on the wine bottles. Next, Adler recommended that LeGrand partner with a reputable distributor to gain entry into major chain supermarkets. Adler also encouraged LeGrand to foster relationships with wine buyers and store managers to boost sales.

“SCORE really made a difference in the way I do business,” LeGrand said. “I thought I had a lot of areas of my business covered, but I didn’t know what I didn’t know until I worked with the SCORE counselors. They opened my eyes to things I had no idea about that were impacting my small business.”

Today, LeGrand has implemented all the advice she was given by SCORE. “I’m using my trademark everywhere now,” she said. “I also signed a contract with a major distributor and am actively working with wine buyers and store managers to get into major chain stores. It’s been a wonderful and very rewarding experience working with SCORE. I am grateful, and it has set me on the path to growing my business with all my bases covered.”

For his part, Espinosa is happy to help.

“At SCORE, we work hard to provide real-world advice from experts who have walked in the shoes of the entrepreneurs they are helping,” Espinosa said. “Anyone can give advice, but at SCORE, we partner with the small businesses we help with one goal in mind: giving them a road map to grow and thrive.”

Read more here: Miami Herald
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Miami Herald Makeover: MoonAmie

Emineo Media Moonamie Miami Herald MakeoverA lifelong love of contemporary dance, a stint as a journalist and a chance encounter at the Miami Children’s Theater brought two entrepreneurs together to create what they say is a unique experience for singers, actors, scriptwriters and musicians of all ages, particularly children, looking to hone their craft without breaking the bank.

But for Tara Allen, 26, and Monica Rosell, 28, owners of MoonAmie in Palmetto Bay, the decision to open a business focused on several different fine arts disciplines wasn’t easy.

“We’re really a dance conservatory,” Allen said. “It is a unique concept in that we cater to the goals of everyone interested in the arts — from singers auditioning for Broadway plays to students trying to secure the lead in their high school play. All the training you need is under one roof.”

Allen, who began dance lessons at the age 5, went on to graduate from Miami Dade College, try a stint as a journalist — “I wanted to see the world and document it” — and traveled extensively. She ultimately returned to her love of dance: “Seeing the world I think actually made me a better dancer. In every country I visited, I ended up learning the traditional dance and culture. I was able to bring a lot of that back to my students, exposing them to new art forms.”

She met Rosell three years ago at the Miami Children’s Theater. “Tara happened to be there for a class and I was directing a play,” Rosell said. “We hit it off immediately and found that we had a lot in common with each other, including a dream to one day turn our passion for the arts into a business.”

Rosell has a master’s degree in fine arts from SUNY-Stony Brook, has directed nine plays at the Children’s Theater over the past two years, and has even worked as a stage hand in an off-Broadway plan. She also was assistant director for the musical Rock Odyssey at the Adrienne Arsht Center in 2011.

To get MoonAmie off the ground, Rosell and Allen each gave up their freelance businesses. “We basically took all of the clients we were working with individually and brought them here to MoonAmie,” Rosell said.

Using money they earned giving private lessons over the years, Allen and Rosell upgraded MoonAmie’s studio, in a 3,000-square-foot industrial space in Palmetto Bay just off U.S.1, in June. “In order to realize our vision of creating a space where you can take a voice lesson, sharpen your piano-playing skills upstairs and rehearse for a musical on our stage, we needed to renovate,” Rosell said. “It’s a project we had just 30 days to complete,” with a very limited budget.

Now, on any given day, there are as many as 10 to 12 classes held at MoonAmie in a variety of disciplines.

They’re also preparing a production of the musical Rent at the Mandelstam Theater in South Miami. “This will be our first major MoonAmie production,” Rosell said. “The musical opens on Jan.8, so it has been hectic for the both of us.”

Allen’s and Rosell’s lofty goals for their business also including opening a conservatory in New York City — an expensive prospect. “We know we have to put the work in now to make a name for ourselves locally before expanding nationally,” Allen said.

But for now, both Allen and Rosell agree it’s time to focus on the 50 to 60 clients they have at their studio, most of whom are from South Miami, Pinecrest and Palmetto Bay.

“It’s weird to say, but we actually have too much business in Miami,” Rosell said. “It’s hard for us to handle the clientele we have,” she said. “As it is, we have a waiting list now of people trying to sign up for classes. We keep our classes small, around 6 to 10 per class, so we want to make sure we have the resources to keep up with that demand.”

To do that, the duo sought help from the Miami Herald for a Small Business Makeover.

The Herald turned to Miami SCORE, a nonprofit organization of volunteers who have been successful entrepreneurs. SCORE volunteer counselors offer free mentoring services to help small businesses expand and succeed. The SCORE counselors who sought to arm Allen and Rosell with a solid plan to serve their current customers have experience in business, law and fine arts:

Jane Muir is an attorney at the law firm of Gersten and Muir in Midtown Miami. Muir, a former ballet dancer, studied musical theater at the Miracle Theater. She was admitted to New World School for the Performing Arts for musical theater, but ended up attending a private school in Connecticut, where she studied formal operatic vocal music with Ruth Lansche, a former soprano with the Metropolitan Opera. Muir even fronted a jazz band once and has acted in several play productions. Today, she fronts a law practice that focus on commercial litigation and business transactions. And she helps small businesses develop successful solutions to handle rapid growth.

Yuliya LaRoe is an attorney who owns Confident Entrepreneur, a Miami-based company that provides private coaching to small businesses. LaRoe started Confident Entrepreneur in 2011 and has helped at least 100 business owners each year. Through its private coaching, seminars, workshops, and group coaching courses, Confident Entrepreneur helps business owners grow by recommending solid growth strategies.

Luis Zuniga is a seasoned entrepreneur who built a strong 35-year career marketing multinational companies. Most recently, he ran the Latin American division of Apple. He has also bought and sold small businesses and is an expert at teaching owners how to manage and market their companies. Today, he spends much of his time providing advice to small businesses in need through SCORE.

Orlando Espinosa, co-founder of Emineo Media, who has more than 25 years of experience in branding and social media. He has also led training programs for entrepreneurs both in the United States and abroad.

At their first meeting with the SCORE representatives, Allen and Rosell explained what they needed help with.

“Tara and Monica shared that their biggest challenge is not how to attract clients but how to handle all the clients that they already have. They have been placing people on a waiting list,” LaRoe said. “While some might say that this is a great problem to have, it could also negatively impact the business.”

SCORE counselors quickly identified a few issues Rosell and Allen faced in solving their problem. First, the company’s pricing for services needed an adjustment.

“The owners have indicated that their schedule is constantly filled and that it’s becoming challenging to service all of the current clients,” LaRoe said. “The demand for what MoonAmie offers is high. This is typically a good indicator that their prices are below the value that they are delivering to their clients.”

Another issue Allen and Rosell had to address was their website. While the business has built its success on word-of-mouth, SCORE counselors agreed that having a website is a must-have.

“We are very active on social media and online,” Allen said. “In fact, it’s been one of the ways we promote MoonAmie along with word-of-mouth from our existing client base.”

“We noted that there was a dance studio with a similar address nearby,” Muir said. “So we suggested that they improve their web presence by adding a registration for Google Places, Yelp and advertising their address prominently on the Internet. Tara and Monica also said that the majority of their clients came through referrals, so we suggested that they leverage the referrals by requesting reviews online.”

But social media is a tool to bring more business in the door. To get MoonAmie on track to handle the influx of clients, the SCORE team had this advice:

Raise prices. Right now, MoonAmie charges $65 for a private lesson, $40 for a two-student lesson, and $25 per person in a group of five or more; there’s a discount if a package of 10 lessons is paid for in advance. “The recommended strategy would be to raise their prices by 15 to 25 percent,” LaRoe said, noting that other area dance studios in the area charge more. “The price adjustment can Jan.1. MoonAmie should, however, begin notifying its current clients base of the upcoming adjustment. In fact, this is a great promotional opportunity as it allows MoonAmie to offer its current clients a chance to pre-purchase class packages at the current price before it goes up, thus saving them money in the long run.”

Hire more staff. Right now, the two owners are teaching full time. MoonAmie also has a freelance voice teacher and two interns. With the increased income from raising prices, the SCORE counselors agreed that MoonAmie needed more staff to handle the demand. “You can’t build a business like this without having adequate staff,” Muir said. “It’s not efficient for the two owners of the business to do the bulk of the lessons. Tara and Monica need to look at supplementing their staff with additional instructors. If they can’t hire more personnel right away, they should consider creating partnerships with qualified freelancers.”

Make sure to manage cash flow. “This business is very popular now and making money,” Zuniga said. “But there needs to be a system in place that allows Tara and Monica to manage cash flow for the long haul. They need to address things that what happens when a customer is late paying or doesn’t pay at all. Hopefully, this will never happen, but they need to create a plan for it in case they find themselves in that circumstance with a client.”

To help the business grow, the counselors recommended the following:

Get the proper partnerships agreements in place. “Tara and Monica have an LLC, but they don’t have a formal partnership agreement,” Muir said. “Both of them said they had a 50/50 partnership and didn’t need to formalize it, but that they should definitely consider formalizing their dispute resolution procedure to help in the event of a deadlock between them. Even if they were to sign an agreement to let a flip of a coin decide a question that they could not agree on, that would be better than having no agreement.”

Develop a strategic growth plan. “MoonAmie would benefit from developing a strategic growth plan,” LaRoe said. “They can begin by conducting a SWOT (Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats) analysis. In other words, what you as a business are good at, what you are bad at; what sounds like great opportunities for growth, and what risks you have to be aware of and minimize if you can in order to make it happen.”

Whittle down the waiting list. “It’s important for Tara and Monica to spend time handling their waiting list,” Zuniga said. “They need to call each person on the list and work with them to schedule classes. The list contains people who want to spend money with this business. So we have recommended that they pay attention to this group of people who want their service.”

Allen and Rosell said they would implement the advice. “Their advice will help us plan the future of our business,” Allen said.

Read more here: Miami Herald
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Miami Herald Makeover: YaYa Wines

emineo media yaya wines miami herald makeoverA government job, a stint in the U.S. Army, red wine from Chile and a restaurant napkin helped put Miami entrepreneur YaYa LeGrand on an unconventional path to small business ownership. LeGrand, who spent over two decades working for Miami-Dade County government, is a determined businesswoman with a lofty goal: seeing her product, YaYa Wines, on Publix and Winn-Dixie shelves by the end of next year.

LeGrand’s journey began with vacations her mother, Kathleen, took to Chile when she was a teenager. “My mom would go to Chile and bring back these red wines with interesting designs on the bottles,” LeGrand said. “When I got older, I could actually drink the wine and it was delicious.”

After a career that included four years in the military and another 20 working for Miami-Dade County in a security-management role, LeGrand retired — and was finally able to realize her dream of starting her own business.

LeGrand had already come up with a name for her new wine a few years before she retired — YaYa Wines. “The name and logo actually came out of a meal I had at a restaurant with a friend,” LeGrand said. “I started doodling on a napkin and ended up drawing three hearts on a napkin with my name above them.”

That became the label that adorns her wine bottles. LeGrand then set about creating a wine that reminded her of the Chilean varieties her mother had brought home. “After checking out vineyards in California’s Napa Valley and Sonoma, LeGrand went with Brotherhood, America’s oldest winery. Brotherhood, in Washingtonville, New York, was established in 1839.

“At Brotherhood, I was able to find the perfect wines that were so reminiscent of what my mother found in Chile,” LeGrand said. “It’s a great partnership that we have.”

In just over three years, LeGrand has grown YaYa Wines into a product that is sold in more than 60 retail locations in South Florida including Milam’s Market in Miami. But she has not reached her ultimate goal of getting YaYa Wines into Publix and Winn-Dixie.

Today, YaYa Wines generates over $65,000 in annual sales. LeGrand is hoping to triple her sales over the next year if she is able to achieve her goal of seeing Ya-Ya Wines on major supermarket shelves. To do that, LeGrand asked the Miami Herald for a Small Business Makeover.

The Herald enlisted the help of the Miami chapter of SCORE. SCORE reached out to three counselors to help LeGrand determine what she needs to do: Hilary Metz, Nora Adler and Orlando Espinosa (details in box).

At the first meeting LeGrand had with the SCORE counselors, she outlined her goal. She also explained that before working with SCORE for the makeover, she was in the process of applying to a Publix program that helps minority and women-owned businesses interested in bringing their products to store shelves. SCORE counselors worked with LeGrand to develop a plan, but first, she had to protect her intellectual property. “YaYa had a federal trademark that she applied for years earlier,” Metz said. “But she wasn’t using it. So we had to change that to make sure she was protected.”

Another problem LeGrand faced was securing reliable distribution for her product. “A big part of YaYa’s success is going to be in distribution,” Adler said. “It’s great to have her wines in a few Milam’s Markets and small liquor stores, but to propel her forward and grow the business, she needed to secure strong distribution with a company that could give her exposure to regional and national grocery store chains.”

Distribution alone wasn’t going to get LeGrand where she wanted to go, however. “YaYa is great because she is her brand,” Espinosa said. “But she needed to position herself better as the face of it, which meant getting out there and pounding the pavement to achieve the success she envisioned.”

To point her in the right direction, the SCORE team had the following advice:

Protect the intellectual property owned by the business: “One of the main things that YaYa needs to do here is start using her federally registered trademark,” Metz said. “If you look at the wine bottles, they don’t have the ‘R’ with the circle around it next to YaYa Wines, which indicates that the brand is protected. This is not a good thing and something that needs to be corrected as soon as possible.”

According to Metz, using the registered trademark symbol is important for several reasons: “There are a host of benefits that come with trademark protection that allow you to prevent others from using it and to collect damages if they do.”

Metz said many small business owners don’t know the difference between a trademark and copyright: “Copyright applies to things like songs and literary works. Trademarks apply to things like logos and symbols. In this case, the name YaYa Wines and the three hearts that make up her logo are trademarked.”

Metz told LeGrand that using your federally registered trademark also adds value to your brand. “If YaYa were to partner with a distributor or try to seek financing for her business, those companies know that they are investing in a brand that is fully protected and that they won’t be sued or entangled legally by doing business with YaYa Wines,” Metz said.

Partner with a reputable distributor to get exposure to major chain supermarkets: The SCORE counselors encouraged LeGrand to partner with a distributor she could trust with the connections to get her brand regional and national exposure. LeGrand had worked with several distributors over the years. “In the wine business, distribution is essential to success,” Adler said. “It’s important to partner with a company that has a strong track record.”

A chance posting on Facebook led LeGrand to KeHE Distributors, a company based in Naperville, Illinois. “A friend of mine posted something on Facebook about wine,” LeGrand said. “That led to me discovering that I knew someone who worked for KeHE, and we started talking about my business.”

LeGrand is working with KeHE to secure distribution in South Florida supermarket chains like Sedano’s, Publix and Winn-Dixie.

Foster relationships with wine buyers, store managers and others in the industry: Adler reminded LeGrand that even with distribution, bringing a wine to the mass market isn’t easy. “Securing distribution is really only half of the battle,” Adler said. “YaYa needs to keep herself and her brand on people’s radars.”

To do that, Adler recommended fostering relationships with wine buyers. “YaYa should not rely on a distributor to do marketing for the brand,” Adler said. “She needs to also take the bull by the horns and get her brand in front of wine buyers. The individual wine buyers and store managers are the ones who have the final say as to whether a product goes on the shelves in their stores.”

Become the brand: “YaYa Wines is a brand that centers around its creator,” said Espinosa, who met LeGrand several years ago at a SCORE workshop. “When you have a brand like that it’s important to make sure that you are out there constantly promoting yourself, and by extension, your brand.”

Espinosa recommended that LeGrand create opportunities for people to experience YaYa Wines. “I think that once people taste the wine, they will love it and tell others about it,” Espinosa said. “YaYa needs to organize wine tastings, raffle off bottles of wine for charity and get involved in high-profile events around town that will raise her profile.”

He also urged her to grow her presence on social media. “Ya-Ya has about 150 followers on Twitter and needs to strengthen her presence on Facebook and Instagram,” Espinosa said. “With a brand like hers that is fun and hip, social media is an inexpensive tool to help drive people to it.”

LeGrand is taking the SCORE counselors’ advice and working hard to make her dream a reality.

How to apply for a makeover

Business Monday’s Small Business Makeovers focus on a particular aspect of a business that needs help. Experts in the community will provide the advice. The makeover is open to full-time businesses in Miami-Dade or Broward counties open at least two years. Email your request to rclarke@MiamiHerald.com and put “Makeover” in the subject line.

About SCORE

Based in Washington, D.C., SCORE is a nonprofit with more than 12,000 volunteers working out of about 400 chapters around the country offering free counseling to small businesses. There are seven chapters on Florida’s east coast, including SCORE Miami-Dade, with more than 90 volunteer counselors. Counselors from SCORE Miami-Dade meet with small business owners and offer free one-on-one counseling as well as dozens of low-cost workshops. To register or see more, click on “Local Workshops” on miami-dade.score.org. To volunteer or learn more about SCORE, go to www.score.org or www.miamidade.score.org.

The makeover

The business: YaYa Wines, located at 921 NE 147th St. in North Miami, sells wines produced by America’s oldest winery. Founded in 2007, the business is owned by YaYa LeGrand, who formerly worked for Miami-Dade County government.

The challenge: Developing a plan to successfully grow the business by getting the wines on Publix and Winn-Dixie store shelves.

The experts: SCORE Miami-Dade counselor Orlando Espinosa, co-founder of Emineo Media, has more than 25 years of experience in branding and social media. Nora Adler is a marketing consultant who specializes in the wine business. Hilary Metz is an intellectual property and trademark attorney whose business specializes in helping business owners protect themselves against infringement.

The results: In just over a month, the SCORE team developed a plan for LeGrand. They showed her how to protect her brand, gain exposure to the major supermarket chains she was targeting and how to increase the buzz for her brand by attending events, hosting wine tastings and networking. They showed her how to develop a strategy to maximize her social media online presence. They also helped LeGrand figure out what she needed to do to find a reputable distributor for her products.

Read more here: Miami Herald
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