Sheffie Robinson’s company Shamrck reflects the real-world problem of preparing students for future careers. Shamrcks’s career exploration platform helps education systems use artificial intelligence to analyze pathways to success for middle school and high school students, whether they’re bound for enrollment in college, employment immediately post-high school, enlistment in the military, or entrepreneurship and starting their own business. The platform connects students to classes, training, and internships.
Selected as one of 50 recipients of the Google for Startups Black Founders Fund in 2021, Shamrck’s founder & CEO Robinson otherwise bootstrapped the company. She is in the process of raising a $500,000 pre-seed round and plans to launch a seed round for roughly $5 million. Shamrck projects nearly quadrupling its user base to 2,700 in early 2022. The long-term plan is to go public in four to seven years.
When Robinson was moving from Mississippi to Tampa for her husband’s job, one of the most important decisions she needed to make was where to locate her business. As she looked around the Tampa Bay area for potential sites, she Googled “moving a business to St. Pete,” and discovered the St. Pete Economic Development Corporation. She “loved that there was a wealth of information,” and she reached out to business development manager Meghan O’Keefe, who “responded right away.”
“Business-Friendly Government at the Top of the List”
After coming from an area where local government was concerned primarily with manufacturing jobs, “[finding a site with] with business-friendly government was at the top of our list,” says Robinson. O’Keefe introduced Robinson to Dr. Richard Munassi, director of accelerator cohorts at the Tampa Bay Wave. Robinson was selected to pitch as part of the Tampa Bay Wave’s TechWomenRising cohort, and while she was in town, O’Keefe coordinated meetings with additional St. Pete business leaders.
“Between the EDC and the [St. Pete] Chamber, I was sold,” says Robinson. “Everyone provided contact with key partners of the city and the overall willingness to assist was apparent. The St. Pete EDC seems very engaged in business growth and that's the kind of place we want to be a part of.”
Robinson joined the Thrive DTSP co-working site on 4th Street North in downtown St. Pete with plans to add 10 local employees to Shamrck’s ranks.
Social Impact in St. Pete
Shamrck is a minority woman-owned, military spouse led organization that does all it can to close the gap in racial and gender equity for all, so compatibility with the firm’s mission was also important. Robinson adds, “We also looked at the available space and the potential social impact in areas like South St. Pete that would help us prove our concept and give back to the community. We sought to be a partner in community growth, and we saw that St. Pete was a city willing to do that as well.”
Tampa Bay is “Incredibly Inviting”
Robinson was also drawn by the Tampa Bay community at large, saying “the Tampa Bay community has been incredibly inviting. From the Tampa Bay Wave to Embarc Collective and everyone at Thrive DTSP, we've been welcomed with open arms. We look forward to continuing to build an amazing company via St. Pete and the Tampa Bay area.”
Shamrck Expanding to Workforce Development
In addition to charting an academic course for students, Robinson is working with employers on micro-internships of several weeks that allow students to explore interests and gain experience. She notes that Shamrck is “currently in the process of expanding our product offering to workforce development agencies so that we can help increase the availability of talented labor. Our success as a company is predicated on the success of municipalities around us,” so Robinson welcomes connections to businesses, schools, and other partners.
For more information about Shamrck, visit https://shamrck.com/.