By Marie Gilmore

The premise: Take 54 hours to fully develop a business idea and create a logo, marketing plan, working app and then be prepared to present your idea in a 5 minute pitch to six college and business professionals as judges. With a cross between The Apprentice and Shark Tank, entrepreneurs, students, advocates and even teens gathered for a Startup Weekend Tampa Bay event to launch a start-up.

Startup Weekend is an international non-profit think-tank incubator program designed to encourage creativity and business start ups.

The organized and well-sponsored weekend starts with a pitch session. Interested entrepreneurs have 60 seconds to ‘pitch’ their idea and encourage others to join the team. For the recent event hosted at USF St. Petersburg, 50 ideas were pitched and 17 were developed through the weekend and presented on Sunday.

As an entrepreneur and marketing professional, I jumped on board.

Joining Phil Peyton, and the Top It Off, Rental Car Gas Return Company and our team of coders including Luqmaan Dawoodjee, Jeremy Fisher, Thien-Bach Huynh, Francis Gelderloos plus a little help from friends, we took the weekend to develop a business startup based on an App that would help travelers find the nearest and most convenient gas station to the rental car return drop-off. Although everyone agreed it was a great concept, the conflict was finding a way to make profit, as Mr. Wonderful from Shark Tank would agree, is important.

By Sunday, we had a logo, tag line, “Top It Off, Before You Drop It Off,” a 30-second promo commercial thanks to Doug Gilmore, T-shirts for our team thanks to Tom and Michele Rumbaugh at LogoASAP, a presentation folder, a business plan and most importantly, a working App prototype thanks to our team.

This year’s Startup Tampa Bay winner was Live Warfare, a iPhone app first person shooter by 14-year-old Nathan Eyal, who developed the business during the weekend with father, Omer.

For Valrico-based social media business owner and organizer, Kim Randall, this year’s event was a huge success. “I was overwhelmed by the support of the community,” she said. “The passion within ­­­the Tampa Bay entrepreneurial community is completely amazing.” For more information on future events, visit


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Marie is the Managing Editor at the Osprey Observer. She covers news, transportation, education and likes to make a positive impact on the community and be 'in the know'!