Lauren Koff holds a large check with her business partner and administrator
From left: United Way Miami Dade President and CEO, Maria C. Alonso with co-founders of Mind&Melody Lauren Koff and Cristina Rodriguez.

UF MBA alumna wins $15,000 in grant competition for startup

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – UF MBA alumna Lauren Koff (MBA ’18) recently won The Trailblazer Prize of $10,000 for her startup Mind&Melody as part of the United Way of Miami-Dade’s first Inspire305 grant competition. In a surprising last-minute twist, an anonymous donor added $5,000 to her award, along with the other competition winners.

Mind&Melody is a non-profit that brings musical instruments to healthcare facilities, nursing homes, day centers and assisted living facilities to improve the quality of life for individuals with and without neurological impairments, like dementia. Koff started the company with partner Cristina Rodriguez in 2014.

Mind&Melody team member Diogo, participant Trini and co-founder Lauren Koff sit together

Mind&Melody team member Diogo, Mind&Melody participant Trini and Mind&Melody co-founder Lauren Koff. Photo by Amanda Smith Photography.

“It feels fantastic [to win this award]!” Koff said. “This grant will allow us to expand to new parts of Miami to deliver our innovative, intergenerational music programs that excite, stimulate, and positively transform souls and social/emotional well-being. We will be expanding our network of musicians and volunteers in the Miami area and enhancing the daily lives of individuals experiencing neurological impairments like dementia.”

She added, “I started crying when it was announced after we won that an anonymous donor in the crowd gave $35,000 right then so all of the non-profits could take home $5,000. It was such an incredible act of kindness and giving, and suddenly we were awarded a total of $15,000 and other non-profits were able to win as well – it was an amazing moment!”

Inspire305 was launched in March of 2017 by the United Way to give the community organizers the chance to compete for prize money to help budding non-profits grow. The contest was open to organizations five years old or less, registered as a 501(c)3 with a formal written purpose or mission to improve the lives of Miami-Dade County residents. The winners of Inspire305 were chosen by the residents of Miami-Dade County in an online voting competition.

Koff said she’s incredibly grateful to the individuals that voted for Mind&Melody as part of Inspire305.

“We could not have done this without everyone’s help,” Koff said. “It’s been a dream come true to transform so many lives throughout Florida and we aren’t stopping here! We are incredibly thankful for every individual that has contributed to Mind&Melody in some way, our progress is only possible because so many people believe in our mission!”

Koff is grateful for her education as part of the UF MBA program, as it has proven invaluable in helping her run her business.

“While working on my MBA, my view of the business world became much more holistic and big-picture focused,” she said. “My strategy and communication skills improved in areas of business that were completely unfamiliar to me before, like accounting. I feel confident in my ability to keep our company moving forward now much more so than I did when I first started the MBA program.”

She added, “Dr. Fiona Barnes’ class on professional writing was by far the most beneficial class I took. My written communication skills dramatically improved and my co-workers noticed! My emails are now clear, concise and written in an active voice. I still hear her lovely voice in my head with every memo and email I compose. The accounting and finance classes were also very helpful. I handle all of the accounting for Mind&Melody and feel having a formal education in that field is invaluable.”

Koff also won $10,000 for Mind&Melody last October as part of the Florida Blue Healthcare Competition. Learn more about Mind&Melody.