Huey: Ringling Innovation Award winners show the need for creative thinking

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”
— Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs forged Apple with that belief, and dynamic entrepreneurs throughout Sarasota County do the same today. Their success starting, building and growing companies will be critical to how successful we will be in creating a more economically diverse, sustainable economy.

The dynamism of innovation is at the core.

That’s why we began partnering with the Ringling College of Art & Design in 2015 to develop the Ringling College Innovation By Creative Design Award, recognizing businesses that are bringing innovation to their industry sector, and driving business growth in the process.

Last year’s winner was Dealers United, which was founded in 2012 as a resource for independent auto dealers to purchase products and services at competitive prices.
The award was specifically for the design of “Facebook Inventory + VIN Lead Ads” which helps dealers assess shopper data and deliver targeted ads. Dealers United boasts the largest number of automotive success stories published by Facebook Business and is a Facebook Marketing Partner and Facebook Marketplace Inventory Partner.
“The Ringling Innovation Award made our employees feel really special and recognized. The employee recognition was worth every ounce of effort,” said CEO Pete Petersen. “We also used it a lot in our marketing and it helped us get speaking gigs. It’s been a great positioning statement.”

Dealers United has experienced more than a 50% year-over-year growth on its Facebook and Instagram advertising side that won the award. Petersen said the company is in talks with Google and other major players to extend the Dealers United platform.

Ringling College President Larry Thompson said, “This award is what Ringling College is all about — building creative, original solutions for both large system problems as well as everyday inefficiencies. We know the vision, dedication and effort required to create this kind of value.”

Sarasota-based Osprey Biotechnics won the first-ever award in 2015 for its microbial product Microlife L, a probiotic for poultry that replaces the use of antibiotics — part of Osprey Biotechnics’ mission to create products better for the environment, and for animal and human health.

After winning the award, the company saw a significant increase in sales of Microlife L, said Lauren Danielson, president and CEO. Plus the company used the media exposure in their marketing.

Sarasota-based PPi Technologies won the award in 2016 for its product VialPaQ, which is a small and convenient travel repellent filled with no-bite deet-free mosquito lotion.

“The award gave us great exposure,” Charles Murray said. “It helped people become very aware there was this innovative VialPaQ.”

Sarasota-based Cruise Car won the 2017 award and it sharply changed the growth trajectory of the already fast-growing company. “The award has helped us pivot from strictly institutional fleet sales and exposed us to the vast retail market,” said Adam Sulimirski, president. “Our phones started ringing from all over.”

Cruise Car is unique in its space of low-speed, street-legal vehicles that are larger and more durable than golf carts, and built to buyer specifications. Their client base began with the military, expanded to all of the federal government, and now municipalities and private enterprise, such as Universal Studios in Hollywood, Calif.

Cruise Car grew 64% last year, and as of June 2019, is tracking at 120% growth over 2018.
Cruise Car uses its credibility obtained from receiving several prestigious awards, such as the Ringling Award, to create the confidence buyers need.

The Ringling award honors a Sarasota County business or nonprofit for an innovative product or service that demonstrates a creative design solution that has earned market success.
We are now accepting nominations for the 2019 awards. Basic qualifications for nominations include:
● Self-nominations are welcome.
● Nominated organizations must be a profit or nonprofit business located in Sarasota County.
● A majority of revenues must come from outside Sarasota County.
● The specific product or service of the applicant must have been developed in the last five years.
● The product or service must be available in the marketplace and have demonstrated financial success.

Judges from the EDC Board and Ringling College will rank nominees based on: significance of the problem that the design solution is addressing; quality of the design/innovation process, including research, conceptual development, prototyping and final solution; quality and success of the final design solution; market success.
This year’s winner will be announced at the EDC Annual Meeting and Awards Luncheon Sept. 12 at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota. Applications are available www.edcsarasotacounty.com/events/. If you have questions, please contact Kate Atkin at katkin@edcsarasotacounty.com or (941) 309-1200, ext. 102.