Synapse Florida and Goodwill Select Winner for Innovative Solutions Challenge Powered by the SunTrust Foundation


Innovation Challenge awards $7,000 cash prize to Christina Dills of Smart Edge Technologies

TAMPA, Fla., Oct. 3, 2019— Synapse Florida, in partnership through a grant provided by the SunTrust Foundation, is empowering Florida’s most innovative and talented minds to solve today’s business challenges. In June of 2019, Synapse announced that the SunTrust Foundation would support challenges on behalf of Goodwill Industries-Suncoast and two other organizations.

Goodwill-Suncoast sought a solution for monitoring inventory levels, increasing efficiencies, and streamlining the customer’s and employee’s experience in Goodwill stores. Goodwill-Suncoast provides services in 10 counties, serving nearly 68,000 people last year and placing more than 1,700 people in jobs.

After dozens of submissions by Florida-based innovators, three teams were chosen for the final pitch on the Goodwill challenge: Christina Dills of Smart Edge Technologies, Jeff Toewe of 2 Save Network, and Michael Higgins of Higgins Dynamic Enterprises and Lisa Genco of Envisage.

Coming from across the state of Florida to participate, innovators pitched three unique and effective solutions. The judging was close, as winner Christina Dills of Smart Edge Technologies took home the $7,000 prize money by a mere 1.5 points.

“This really was a close call. All three teams worked incredibly hard to provide solutions that were meaningful and useful to aid Goodwill in bettering its customer and employee experience,” said Brad Steffani, director of retail operations at Goodwill-Suncoast.

Dills created a prototype of an automated inventory control system and automated check-out utilizing RFID deployment technologies. Such a system would allow Goodwill to provide relevant jobs and training in the ever changing environment of modern retail.

“Innovation challenges are a powerful tool to connect innovators with the companies and organizations that can benefit from their problem-solving skills,” said Lauren Prager, Synapse vice president for community engagement. “We are thrilled to activate our talented community to impact Goodwill’s valuable work for the community.  Synapse will continue to host these challenges to give the makers, doers and creators a pathway for meaningful connections to our most innovative companies and organizations.”

About Synapse Florida
Synapse Florida is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that connects entrepreneurs, talent, investors, corporations, educational institutions, and other stakeholders to accelerate success in Florida’s thriving economies. Based in Tampa, Fla., Synapse helps people find what they need and share what they have. For more information about Synapse, please visit 

About Goodwill Suncoast
Goodwill Suncoast, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to help people achieve their full potential through the dignity and power of work. The organization’s successful donated goods retail operation helps support its human services in 10 counties in West Central Florida including Job Connection centers, training and job placement for people with disabilities, a children’s literacy program, affordable apartment communities for seniors and people with disabilities, and community corrections programs.

About SunTrust Foundation 
The SunTrust Foundation is committed to SunTrust Bank’s (NYSE: STI) purpose of Lighting the Way to Financial Well-Being by engaging with local and national organizations to advance financial confidence. Grants and activities focus primarily on financial education, financial counseling, career readiness and small business/entrepreneurship, in addition to local community grants. The SunTrust Foundation supports American Red Cross disaster relief efforts and contributes as a United Way Global Corporate Leader. Established in 2008, the SunTrust Foundation has proudly provided grants totaling more than $170 million throughout the United States. 


2019-10-03T11:54:10-04:00October 3rd, 2019|