Business Plan Challenge

Challenge finalists represent a range of industries

Passion poured from the pages of the 234 business plan entries in the 19th annual Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, a near record. Included were concepts for healthcare, education, the sharing economy, fashion, music, healthy living, toys, pets and food products.

Here are the semifinalists and finalists:



Melanites, by Jennifer Pierre, designs and creates diverse toys, storybooks and games that celebrate brown boyhood. Its mission is to inspire children of color to dream big, stand tall and live out their childhood. (Melanites video is above)

Modulux Lighting, by Bill Cummings, creates an LED-based grow-light product called GroMax focused on the massive cannabis market and vertical farming. GroMax lights are modular, programmable and scalable and can be assembled like Lego Blocks to create an efficient lighting solution for any size grower.

School Climate Solutions, by Maribel Gonzalez, delivers customized on-demand content for educators, parents and students that helps improve school environments and creates pathways that lead to academic and social success.


Aquaco Farms, by Joe Cardenas, is an aquaculture company that has selected the Florida Pompano as the best species to focus on for its growth. This high-margin fish has been limited on menus because of the challenge of meeting demand from wild stock.

Pierce Plan, by Kelly Pierce, is a software platform to automatically track academic requirements in real time to help high school student athletes more easily obtain scholarships to play in college, compete in the classroom and succeed in life.

Surgical & Aesthetic Supplies, by Camilo F. Sanchez and Dr. Sheri Prentiss, sells designer compression garments created to support recovery and healing at an affordable price for inflammatory conditions including lymphedema, arthritis, swelling following surgery, fractures, burns or other trauma.

VarDragons, by Thomas Byrd Jr., Jason Keasler and Joe Rjeili, creates technology to transform real airplanes into dragons through mobile devices. VarDragons (Virtual / Augmented Reality Dragons) is an innovative massive multiplayer online mobile game using a new mixed-reality technology.

VideoRehearser, by Carlos Vazquez and David L. Kay, is a cloud-based training management system using neurobehavioral and educational principles to increase retention and improve professional and personal performance.

Zulubots, by Elizabeth, Monica and Julian F. De Zulueta, is a consumer robotics company that focuses on the design and fabrication of assistive robots for the home to improve the resident’s quality of life and provide prolonged independence. Zulubots is developing Carrli, a robot that helps customers lift and carry objects around the home.


DoUCare, pitched by Maurice Pinto, is a cloud-based platform that connects freelance caregivers to families seeking nonmedical home-care services for elderly loved ones. Careseekers get immediate or future-scheduled care services through a phone or web app. Caregivers get access to an online marketplace that gets them hired at the rate of their choice.

Ketamine Health Centers, by Dr. Raul Cruz, Dr. Francisco Cruz, Dennis Diaz and May Nunez, will own, develop and operate multiple outpatient clinics to provide ketamine infusions, a new treatment for patients suffering from mental-health disorders. The clinic provides an innovative use of the FDA-approved anesthetic ketamine, whose effectiveness in the treatment of mental health is gaining recognition in the medical community.


BEST-Ware, by Eitan Dooreck-Aloni, Julia Ortiz and Erin Bakes of Ransom Everglades, is user-friendly software that enables parents to efficiently and effectively monitor and regulate their children’s phone usage while limiting the power struggle between parents and their children.

Coegi, by Yoav Grainer and Corey Kraftsow of Ransom Everglades, is a fun, innovative app that makes a game of discouraging drivers from texting and driving. Coegi’s game rewards drivers for not using their phones while driving.

Equix, by Leonardo Nadais, Victor Rego and Aaron Carey of Gulliver Preparatory, is a portable reusable water bottle that also includes a phone charger. Its target market is college students, athletes and office workers.

Gluton Free Zone, by Jamie Shapiro, Alexandra Yaniz and Juliana Yaniz of Gulliver Prep, is an app that would provide all the information necessary for anyone following a gluten-free diet, including what goods have gluten, gluten-free replacements, restaurant and supermarket recommendations, meal plans and more.

HART (High Altitude Rocket Transport), by Sebastian Abisleiman and Adrian Ruiz of the School for Advanced Studies, will inspire students around the world to consider engineering and STEM fields by providing innovative model rocket kits that can be improved upon by the collaborative global community.

LocatED (Honorable Mention), by Chase Feldman, Clinton Jules, Ben Manley, Marissa Manley, Eliza Morton, Stephanie Morton and Monica Wang of Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High, is a community emergency response app, helping registered users having a medical emergency find a medical device such as an inhaler or EpiPen nearby.

Shock-Block, by Caroline Krystoff, Kate Heatzip and Danna Martinez of Pine Crest School, envisions Lacrosse Concussion Helmut Sensors that attach to the inside of a helmet to evaluate impacts and send alerts to the coach.

Speckey, by Aditya Devendra, Mihail Rogatykh and Paridhi Kapadia of American Heritage, is an innovative way to learn music and play a new instrument for beginners. App users can play via an interactive virtual diagram of the chords or keys.

SupportMe, by Harrison Kellner, Vivi Cardoso and Axel Rizzo of Gulliver Prep, is a social media app designed for teens who are victims of bullying or suffering from depression and anxiety. SupportMe will connect users who are going through similar struggles and also connect them with psychology students.

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