Made in Brevard: Entrepreneurs Grow National Reach
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Made in Brevard: Entrepreneurs Grow National Reach

Made in Brevard: Entrepreneurs Grow National Reach

Brevard County is known as a space and technology hub, but in fact, there is much more to industry here. 

“For a place known as the Space Coast, Brevard County is actually one of the most industry-diversified economies in Florida,” said Brian Baluta, vice president of communications and partner relations for the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast. “There are more than 500 manufacturers across the Space Coast, which gives us two to three times the concentration of manufacturing jobs compared to the rest of the state.”

The scope of products of these homegrown companies encompasses everything from medical equipment (Sun Nuclear) and semiconductors (Renesas) to marine audio equipment (Roswell Marine) and auto parts (Arnott). But behind such larger industries is an army of mom-and-pop entrepreneurs eager to make their mark with plenty of hard work, some luck and a great idea — be it a lure course for dogs, botanical beauty products or pickle juice. 

For these homegrown companies, failure is not an option. Their creativity and optimism, and their desire to create something that is made in Brevard, are inspiring and proof that the American Dream thrives here. 

SwiftPaws

In 2011, fresh out of college with a degree in economics, Meghan Wolfgram was considering careers when she took some time to play with her miniature Pinscher, Pretzel, who didn’t particularly like toys and other dogs, but did love to chase. 

Wolfgram explored lure coursing, a dog sport in which canines chase a lure that simulates the unpredictability of live prey. Pretzel couldn’t get enough of it, but at the time, the closest outlet for the sport was in Georgia and the equipment cost $4,000.

“There was no way I could spend $4,000,” she said. 

She could, however, conjure a reasonable facsimile of a lure course with the help of her dad. Wolfgram invited dog-loving friends to a lure course party at a friend’s horse farm.

“Sixty dogs showed up and it snowballed from there,” she said.

Headquartered in Melbourne, SwiftPaws® is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. The company’s flagship product, SwiftPaws Home, drives dogs crazy happy both in backyards and indoors. 

Although dogs are the primary customer, cats also appreciate the thrill of the chase, as do cheetahs at zoological parks such as San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park and Australia Zoo. 

The company partners with Brevard Achievement Center for assembly. Givr Packaging, also local, provides plastic-free, net positive packaging. Conduction Technologies helped design, develop, test and produce SwiftPaws Home, which is 100 percent assembled, packaged and fulfilled in Brevard. 

Pretzel, the pup that started it all, is unfortunately gone, but his paw prints live on the bottom of SwiftPaws’ field pulleys.

And now, after earning Lori Greiner’s golden ticket —  a $240,000 investment — on ABC’s “Shark Tank” in April, look for SoftPaws to grow even more. 

Swiftpaws.com 

SAHARA ROSE

Motherhood got Ikram Elharti on course for her homegrown, yet exotic, beauty products line. The native of Morocco had recently moved to Brevard and noticed her skin was not doing well with the humidity and sunshine of the Space Coast. 

She grew up watching her grandmother and her friends relaxing at the local bathhouse, indulging in products that benefitted both their body and souls, and she began mixing her own botanicals based on tried-and-true recipes.  

Soon friends were asking for Elharti’s wondrous concoctions and she gladly would tell them how to prepare the mixtures.

“They didn’t have the time, so I realized there was a need,” said Elharti, who began consulting with chemists and investigating sustainable packaging and even traveling to London to enroll in an organic skin care formulation school.   

The result is SAHARA ROSE®, named after the desert rose that thrives despite harsh climates. It may be named after an African desert, but Elharti’s company, launched in 2017, is based in Brevard, with a manufacturing facility not far from the new Costco in Viera. 

The fact that macys.com carries the line has launched SAHARA ROSE into the next level.

“Lots of women try to be beauty brands, but Ikram has done it!” said Kathryn Rudloff, executive director of weVENTURE.

Sahararose.com

Pucker Pickle Juice

Twins Ronald and Donald Deel grew up with pickle juice.

“Our family made it for years and years,” Ron Deel said.

Making the juice saved them from picking out the pickles from pickle jars to extract the flavorful brine. 

“We like it for the flavor, but it’s also good for you,” Deel added. 

Before going pro with Pucker Pickle Juice in 2017, the brothers had been brewing the odorous juice on their back porch. Drawn by the smell, neighbors would drop in and taste it. 

Word got out and folks started using this pickle elixir to help with ailments such as heartburn and cramps. Runners love it because it replaces the salts lost during exercise.  

“I was surprised at how quickly it took off,” Deel said. 

Through outlets such as Walmart.com and amazon.com, the Brothers Deel have reached a national market crazy for the pickle juice they manufacture in Suntree. 

The company now even has a mascot, Pucker T. Pickle, who loves to appear at tasting events around town. 

Puckerpicklejuice.com

Geshelli Labs

Geno Bisceglia didn’t have much discretionary income to indulge the audiophile within, so he began making his own audio equipment — which sounds extremely good.

“The sound is so clear and crisp and beautiful,” said his wife, Sherri.

Geno began selling on eBay the equipment the couple were hand-soldering in their living room and garage. 

“All of a sudden, we had all these orders,” added Sherri.

In 2017, the couple launched Geshelli Labs, Melbourne manufacturer of headphone amplifiers and digital-to-analog convertors for HiFi audio. Praise from experts such as Audio Science Review and SoundStageGlobal.com has propelled Geshelli Labs fame and fortunes. 

“We have the opportunity to be as huge as we can,” said Sherri, who added they are looking for a bigger facility and more funding.   

Geshelli.com

Wine It Foods

Ken Medei had a three-decades career in the specialty food business, a career that even included helping celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse better market a line of seasonings through B&G Foods. 

Medei, who had also already created and sold a line of pasta products, wanted to go with his own brand again, this time with wine-infused seasonings and rubs. His Wine It Foods is the result.

“My goal is to accentuate the flavor of what you are cooking,” he said. “I want folks to taste the beef, etc., and not just the seasoning.” 

Wine It Foods currently offers five different seasonings and rubs, with flavors like Here Chicky Chicky, Sooey, and Savory Steer. The products are available through iwineit.com, on Amazon and Etsy and at local specialty markets Clayton’s Crab Company, Wassi’s Meats and Dijon’s Village Market, among others.  

Iwineit.com

Barn Light Electric

A passion for refurbishing antique lights became a profession for Bryan and Donna Scott, who launched Barn Light Electric in 2008. 

Inspired by early 20th century lighting designs, the Scotts updated the classics with modern finishes and options, in the process reviving the art of handcrafting porcelain enamel lighting and becoming the only manufacturer in the United States of porcelain lights.

“Barn Light Electric employs roughly 120 employees,” said Samantha Decker, director of marketing and events. “We manufacture all our lighting, dinnerware and furniture pieces here in Titusville, Florida.”

The lights have earned high praise around the world.

Todd Talbot of HGTV’s “Love It or List It-Vancouver” calls them “beautifully crafted and of the highest quality.”

Barnlight.com

Joy’s Gourmet

The air around 2600 Aurora Road always smells tantalizingly of garlic. It is here that John Najjar, founder of Joy’s Gourmet, creates and packages garlic-intensive delights such as garlic spreads, sauces, dressings and more. 

Named after his daughter and based on his grandparents’ recipes, Joy’s Gourmet launched in 2005 after Najjar, a former space program engineer, wanted a career that would allow for more family time.

“I wanted to follow my passion,” said the native of Lebanon. 

At one time, Whole Foods, Kroger, Costco and Publix carried Najjar’s products, but he eventually opted out because of the small profit margins and the many dollars he needed to market the products.

“You end up working for these companies,” he said.

In 2010, he reformatted the business, selling online and through representatives at farmers’ markets throughout the state.

“I make a living,” he said. “It’s all good.”

Joyofgarlic.com

 

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