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May 12, 2012

Locavore expo puts spotlight on area’s local farmers and food innovators

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Charlottesville City Market was bigger than ever Saturday morning — literally. As part of the Tom Tom Founders Festival, the market area was expanded for a Locavore Expo to celebrate and educate the community about local food.

Expo organizer Natasha Sienitsky, a member of the Charlottesville Planning Commission, said local food complimented the festival’s innovation program.

“I think it’s a natural fit for the innovation series because it’s an area that our community has been particularly innovative in,” said Sienitsky. “It’s something there is clearly passion for in the community.”

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Locavore Expo organizer Natasha Sienitsky


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While parents made their market purchases, Sienitsky made sure the more youthful locavores had learning opportunities too.

“We had seed ball making for kids, and we did veggie prints with them,” Sienitsky said. “The whole idea is that by getting kids excited and engaged about food, and seeds and planting and harvesting, that will create the next generation of consumers who feel passionately about local food.”

Sienitsky and her husband Oliver Platts-Mills, who co-founded the Tom Tom festival with Paul Beyer, hosted a panel discussion on local foods inside the South Street Brewery.

Representatives from Albemarle County, the Local Food Hub, the Jefferson Area Board for Aging, and the Piedmont Environmental Council talked about their work. They described a wide variety and scale of local food initiatives in the community.

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May 10, 2012

Social media and mobile web developers share insights on their growing businesses

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Tom Tom Founders Festival held the fourth in a series of weekly place-based innovation talks Wednesday with a panel discussion examining how businesses are incorporating social media and mobile software applications into many facets of their work.

Local experts described how they are growing their businesses in Charlottesville as they help other companies implement their marketing and digital plans.



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“We are a digital marketing company,” said Ryan Derose, founder of VibeThink. “What that really means is a digital strategy and building digital assets, from websites to mobile applications, then we also execute [those strategies].”

VibeThink launched in January and its four staff members already are working on a number of significant projects, including the digital strategy and new website for C-Ville Weekly.

20120509-TomTom1(In photo L to R) Oliver Platts-Mills (Tom Tom), Ryan Derose (VibeThink), Evan Cooper (Red Light Management), Tobias Dengel (WillowTree Apps), and Marijean Jaggers (Jaggers Communications)

Evan Cooper, director of digital strategies with Red Light Management, described how the changing music industry has elevated the importance of online connections.

“I handle the digital strategy for the East Coast side of our company — online fan clubs, online stores, all the social media stuff,” Cooper said. “It’s about figuring out the best strategy for an artist. We have all shapes and sizes and we figure out what the best fit is for those bands.”

“The music space has changed drastically, the big part of that being the move into the digital realm,” Cooper said. “Every touch point has some digital component.”

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May 04, 2012

City catering business wins top prize at innovation pitch night

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, May 4, 2012

In an evening full of new ideas, more than 100 people cast their votes and Sandra Carter and her Sixth Street Mini Mart Catering business were named the winner of the first Tom Tom Founders Festival’s “crowd sourced pitch night.”

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Sandra Carter gets the good news about winning the $1,000 prize

“I am on a crusade to resurrect my sister’s catering business to see her dream manifested into an establishment that is loved, respected and appreciated among generations to come,” Carter told the audience at the Thursday event. “My sister Denise was an amazing woman who was loved by so many people for her heart and food.”


 

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Carter’s store, at the intersection of Sixth Street Southeast and Montrose Avenue, sits on the border of the city’s Belmont and Ridge Street neighborhoods.

Audience members paid a $10 entry fee and 10 teams had four minutes each to make a pitch for why their idea deserved the $1,000 grand prize.

Entries included a variety of innovative projects such as a smart phone application to find taxis, a nonprofit giving platform utilizing personal investment accounts, and a team of University of Virginia students launching a “micro-volunteering” resource platform.

Carter said winning the prize money would help her family buy new equipment for catering and take care of some legal work necessary for the business.

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May 03, 2012

Biotech leaders say their industry is primed for growth around university

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, May 3, 2012

On one side of town, advocates for limiting local population growth told the Albemarle supervisors a new study recommending industries targeted for economic growth was flawed. In part, they said, because new businesses would seek to retain in the community students graduating from the University of Virginia.

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Graham Anthony, CFO of Biovista

Later that evening in the city of Charlottesville, a mix of local officials, investors, innovators and start-up incubators gathered to talk about the work that’s already happening to grow the area’s biotech sector.


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A panel of speakers assembled Wednesday as part of the Tom Tom Founders Festival’s innovation series said they need students to stay in the area after graduating and that biotech is growth that’s good for the community.

In the audience of about 40 people, City Councilor Kathy M. Galvin challenged the crowd to work toward getting local government and the community to “embrace the idea of growth” to address “entrenched poverty.”

“I think when we no longer have 18 percent unemployment among our 18- to 30-year-old population in the city, when we no longer have over 50 percent of our children on the free and reduced[-price] lunch program in the city, [then] I think we can be very comfortable and say we don’t need to worry about growth and economic vitality,” Galvin said.

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April 26, 2012

Sustainability innovations shared on local food, buildings, and autos

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Tom Tom Founders Festival continued its series of weekly innovation talks Wednesday with a panel discussion examining Charlottesville-based entrepreneurs working in the field of sustainability and sustainable design.

20120425-TomTom-IS2B“My interest was to bring a conversation around innovation to Charlottesville,” said Tom Tom co-founder Oliver Platts-Mills.  “It is stylized after SXSW in Austin.”

Pam Haley, a former NASA engineer from the Tidewater area, said she came to the event because she has long been interested in innovation.

“I also came last week and was thrilled to see what’s going on in this community.,” said Haley.  “This is why I left Tidewater.”

Haley, a nine-month resident of Charlottesville, added that before the Tom Tom festival, she had been reluctant to move her furniture into her new home.

“Last week was the first time I felt like I might be in the right place,” Haley said.


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Platts-Mills assembled a panel of five local innovators to share their experiences before a group of almost 40 people.

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April 19, 2012

Social entrepreneurs share their innovative community building projects

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Tom Tom Founders Festival launched a series of weekly innovation talks Wednesday with a panel discussion examining “social entrepreneurs,” local people starting projects focused on social change.

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The first innovation panel at the Tom Tom Founders Festival.  (L to R) Oliver Platts-Mills, Dave Norris, Kim Suyes, Toan Nguyen, Wendy Brown, and Paul Beyer

“The underlying idea [of the festival] is that Charlottesville is a creative hub among many different disciplines,” said Tom Tom co-founder Paul Beyer, making introductions to a gathering of almost 30 people.

“Specifically with this series, we want to highlight innovation,” added co-founder Oliver Platts-Mills. “Place-based innovation is highly influenced by the place itself, Charlottesville.”



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Belmont resident Michelle Oliva is a consultant supporting social enterprises. After moving here in 2010, Oliva said she is seeing a critical mass of people getting interested in this issue.

“Social entrepreneurship should be built into the DNA of a company,” said Oliva. “It should be something that is sustainable and that generates benefit to society.”

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April 13, 2012

Tom Tom festival to spark conversations about local innovation and entrepreneurs

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, April 13, 2012

As the inaugural Tom Tom Founders Festival launches today, one co-founder has made sure the month-long event produces a lot more than art and music.

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Oliver Platts-Mills, the Tom Tom Founders Festival innovation director

Oliver Platts-Mills is responsible for the festival’s innovation series, a new grassroots effort to celebrate the area’s talents and brand Charlottesville as the hip place to be an entrepreneur. He and Tom Tom co-founder Paul Beyer both grew up in the Charlottesville-Albemarle area.

“When we started talking to Paul about Tom Tom — this concept of a music festival on the Downtown Mall — Paul realized that he wanted it to be more than a music festival, to include art and some other creative aspects,” Platts-Mills said. “I’m a big proponent of when you want to talk about creativity broadly in Charlottesville, that we ought to include innovation.”

When he’s not planning a major new festival, Platts-Mills is an analyst at Investure, an investment management firm for nonprofits and university endowments. His wife, Natasha Sienitsky, also a Tom Tom organizer, serves on the Charlottesville Planning Commission.

“If you were just to look at music and art, you’d be missing out on a great deal of creative work,” Platts-Mills said. “And I also thought that the synergy between these different things is very, very interesting and exciting.”

Tom Tom kicks off with a block party at the McGuffey Art Center at 5 p.m. today, in honor of founding father Thomas Jefferson’s birthday, and concludes in a gala field day event May 13 at the Ix Building.

The innovation programming includes a series of free talks culminating in a keynote presentation on May 11 and a “locavore expo” on May 12, the same two days as the music portion of Tom Tom.

Every Monday during the festival, four resident entrepreneurs and artists will hold informal talks at the Tom Tom headquarters at 105 South First St. Every Wednesday, the conversation shifts to examples of local innovation with panel discussions at The Gleason at 126 Garrett St.

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