One of McAllen's most innovative startups sprang from the mind of someone who wasn't even interested in business.
Dalinda Gonzalez-Alcantar, the founder of eJucomm LLC, simply wanted to make information in her school district more accessible to families. The company was a way to make it happen.
Business Born from a Frustration
She got the idea while working as a teacher at DeLeon Middle School in McAllen and was frustrated that families without computers had difficulty communicating with teachers and administrators. So she decided to develop a smartphone app that would solve the problem.
With no previous technical experience, she researched code online at night, and a year later was selling the app to school districts.
"The app enables Android and iPhone users to access information for things like grades and attendance," Gonzalez-Alcantar says.
The entrepreneur also faced unexpected challenges "“ for instance, how to tailor individual apps to the roughly seven school districts and 40 campuses that now use them. No longer teaching, she has partnered with a chief technology officer so she can focus on sales and marketing.
One of her biggest hurdles was finding legal fees to fund the startup, and a $10,000 McAllen Chamber of Commerce Innovation Grant in 2011 helped pay for a licensing agreement and intellectual property protection for eJucomm to move forward.
Banana E-Z Split
Another McAllen resident, Gerald Guerra, faced a similar obstacle when developing a product called Banana E-Z Split. A health insurance broker, Guerra was inspired at his own kitchen table to create single serving packets with all three syrups (pineapple, chocolate, strawberry) needed for a banana split.
The concept led to a 2011 McAllen Business Plan Competition grant to fund the necessary patents.
"I envisioned a product that could hang easily in refrigerated sections at big box stores," Guerra says. "I have lined up a distributor and a broker with my ultimate goal being to have Banana E-Z Split available to customers in large grocery chains. It is close to happening."
Another startup in McAllen is already making waves globally. FibeRio Technology Corp., another McAllen Chamber of Commerce Innovation Grant recipient, is thriving thanks to ground-breaking nanofiber-producing machinery. The nanofibers can be used to make products ranging from diapers to ballistics, using a new way to spin microscopic nanofibers.
The technology serves industries that feature filtration, textiles or biomedical applications.
"Dr. Karen Lozano at UT-Pan American discovered the process, and I was contacted because I am an entrepreneur familiar with launching technology-based companies including nanotechnology," says FibeRio president/CEO Ellery Buchanan. "I assisted in making the process more cost effective, and now we are producing laboratory-related and industrial products that will be sold around the world. Plus we use local McAllen suppliers whenever possible including machine shops, parts suppliers, IT contractors and other business services."