The HT Group

Austin, aka the Silicon Hills, is a great place for tech industry professionals to live and work. The HT Group, one of Texas’ top staffing agencies, is thriving in the current candidate’s market. If you are looking to hire the best, or searching for your dream job in or out of tech, the HT Group is the recruiting partner you want on your side.

With offices in Austin, Beaumont, and Orange, the HT Group is a multi-solution employment agency that has been top-ranked by the Austin Business Journal for over a decade, and recognized by Forbes as one of two staffing firms in Austin to be listed as of America’s Best Professional Recruiting Firms. Over the past year, the staffing agency has put several new processes in place to help grow its Technical team. The effort has paid off. The group has since doubled in size, staff- and income-wise, and is proud of the work it has done for its clients in 2017, the company’s best year ever.

Jayson Spaits, Director of the HT Group’s Technical Staffing Services Division, said, “New technologies are coming online at a fast pace, which means we have new specializations and niche clients to serve. We are focusing on emerging markets, finding talent and filling positions in DevOps, full stack developing, blockchain, and IoT. The market has really changed over the past three years. Now, there is lot more opportunity in Austin to find a wide diversity of positions.”

Spaits moved to Austin after working in Dallas because he wanted to help established and up-and-coming companies and candidates find their place among the diverse opportunities they are afforded here. He said, “The market in Dallas is more focused on older technologies. Tech companies in Austin, on the other hand, are always striving to be on the edge of a new technology. They are pushing the boundaries of tech all over the place. Here, you can get in on the ground floor of something special. Austin is the future. It’s where it’s at. It’s got a better tech vibe, for sure.”

He explains that Dallas is very mid-market driven, basically founded on start-ups with funding. Austin, conversely, has a range of huge tech innovators, including Dell, Apple, and Google, as well as a spate of start-ups looking to disrupt markets and create real change. Spaits said, “The philosophy on the tech side of staffing has changed significantly. There has been a real shift from being primarily client-driven to being much more of a candidate’s market.”

Recruiting processes have changed within this candidate’s market to keep up with the many emerging technologies. “We like to focus on candidates and companies who are trying to grow something,” Spaits said. “In that environment, given the new specializations and niche clients, such as those focusing on cybersecurity, for example, it’s important to remember that companies know how a potential candidate thinks. They are willing to train someone in emerging tech as long as they know that the candidate can adapt and learn quickly. It’s the difference between learned knowledge and application knowledge. Because older skillsets are dying out, it’s critical from a recruiting standpoint to staff the most cutting edge technologies. That’s the most challenging, and it’s where we can make the most impact.”

The HT Group has adapted to keep up with the new tech that continues to emerge and change. But their guiding principle has remained the same. Spaits said, “I embrace the HT way because we really want to help people. I’m not just here to staff. It’s a big win if we can place talent where they can create a new, successful app or technology and grow and sell that. We want to help companies grow. By placing the right talent there, we can do that.” The HT Group CEO, Mark Turpin said, “We are excited by the growth of our technical staffing division under Jayson. Austin is the center of tech activity in Texas and a great place for us to grow the business.”

Visit The HT Group at 7718 Wood Hollow Dr., Suite 100, 512-533-9700 or www.htstaffing.com.

AiBA Member: Spendindie

Local Shopping…Anytime, Anywhere on Spendindie.com.

Spendindie is a new and exciting way of making local shopping accessible to everyone. After 13 years of working in London and Chicago with various international investment banks and with an MBA from the University of Chicago in hand, Thad Beversdorf, decided it was time to repent for his sins by exiting the banking world. He chose instead to become a conduit for truth in a world where independent businesses face unprecedented competition from larger chain competitors, internet merchants and franchises that enjoy national or international branding power and major economies of scale.

And so with his banking career behind him, Thad started Spendindie. Spendindie is, an objective driven not profit driven, ecommerce platform for independent and local merchants only. Its objective is to even the playing field with larger chain competitors. It gives local and independent merchants the technology, marketing and commitment to compete with corporate competitors.

Some Cool things about Spendindie:

  • Spendindie’s mission is to build stronger communities and drive widespread prosperity through the support of local and independent businesses
  • 25% of all pretax profits are allocated to funding entrepreneurs (with a focus on women founders and manufacturing)
  • Spendindie’s pioneering technology will turn everyday shoppers into policymakers and advocates for local and independent business.

Proud Austin Merchants already on Spendindie: Lafe’s Natural Body Care, Polyn, Fit PPL, Cuvee Coffee, Magical Vacation Planner by Michelle Glass, and Northern Poppy Designs Spendindie already features some of the coolest brands from around Austin and is looking to partner up with even more Austin businesses. Go to Spendindie.com to sign your business up or just to learn more. Don’t forget to check out the hottest products from local Austin merchants and independent brands from around the country.

The Spendindie Team (from left to right): Ashleigh Opachen (Head of Brand Marketing), Jason Grant (Head of Marketing and Merchant Partnerships), Thad Beversdorf (CEO), and Ferry Chahaya (Head of Opperations)

Spendindie is a proud partner of the Austin Independent Business Alliance. THINK LOCAL, BE LOCAL, BUY LOCAL.

IndieAustin: Furniture Market

What does your home say about you?  Are the furnishings, the lighting, the art a reflection of your taste and style?  Have you been telling yourself you can’t afford to express yourself in your décor?

Furniture Market says you can have the best, and it won’t ruin your bank account.

Step into Furniture Market on I-35 and now at The Shops at San Gabriel Ridge in Leander, and be transported into the world of possibilities, from sofas to leather to dining sets.  It’s all here, at the very best prices in Central Texas.

Furniture Market is a local spot.  That means owner Dwain Schuh can negotiate the best price from the supplier to the buyer.  He wants you to experience the unique and affordable offerings on display at Furniture Market showrooms, before you go anywhere else.  He says “people come here and find leather, bedroom and dining sets they bought elsewhere, and realize they could have saved thousands by coming to Furniture Market first.  Sometimes they’ll wait weeks for months for an order, when it’s right here, ready for delivery.”

That’s why the folks at Furniture Market created a brand new, second show place in Leander, at The Shops at San Gabriel Ridge- Over 22 thousand square feet of dreamy possibilities for your home, and advisors that want you to come back, again and again.

Great prices, unbelievable variety, quick delivery and easy access make Furniture Market the perfect place to find fashionable furniture that truly expresses your sense of style.  It’s a local place, hiring local people, that cares about Central Texas, the community and you.

If your budget allows you to furnish a small apartment or a palace, you’ll find it at Furniture Market.  Buy it today, sit on it tonight!

Furniture Market Austin, 10108 N. I-H 35, 512-836-6040 and now in Leander, 2081 Hwy. 183, Suite 120, 512-778-6100, www.myfurnituremarket.com.

Indie Austin: Wheatsville Food Co-op

Lots of local businesses have admirable intentions, but few impact the community on as deep and wide a scale as Wheatsville Food Co-Op. Wheatsville Brand Manager Raquel Dadomo puts the crux of the matter right up front when she says, “We strive to be a part of the solution. The people who own this business (referring to the 21,000+ co-op members) have a say in how it operates. Wheatsville is a responsibly run business that supports the community. Lots of good things happen when you give people what they want. It benefits everyone.”

Among Wheatsville’s top priorities is the drive to create opportunity for more local, organic, sustainable food. Dadomo says, “When the co-op grows, our orders get bigger, which helps support our local vendors and growers. The more demand we build, the more we help define the direction of food production. We tell our shoppers how many miles to market our local products have travelled so that the consumer can make an informed decision.”

The idea of supporting locally made goods is proving to be wildly successful. The co-op expanded to a second location on South Lamar in 2013, and “The South Austin community fully embraced us right out of the gate,” Dadomo says. The co-op routinely stocks over 2,000 locally produced items and sells an average of 80 percent organic produce each week. “Due to the demand that we’ve nurtured, we now buy produce from over 25 Texas growers, and that number keeps increasing. We support the root of building fiscal economic wealth in this community by supporting local businesses. We make that a very high priority,” she says.

Another priority is ensuring that Wheatsville is also a great place to work, which fits with the co-op model of community support. Entry level staffers start at $13.22; having livable wages and benefits in place, creates happy employees. The feel-good atmosphere created by satisfied workers humming along, doing what they do in the stores each day, creates an undeniable attraction. People just love shopping there. Both locations tend to be community hubs, places where people go to buy food, sure, but members and non-members alike just get a lot out of being there. Dadomo says, “We really are in the business of creating more happy people.”

Sustainability, a critical aspect of the Wheatsville model, drives every aspect of the business. “Even looking at something as small as the bag and box recycling effort we make is important. People appreciate that, and it has much wider implications that affect the whole community,” Dadomo says. On a larger scale, we serve as a sort of incubator for local producers. One aspect of supporting local is nurturing businesses such as Siete Foods. Several years ago they came to us with a bag of homemade grain-free tortillas and an idea for a product. They started their business when we decided to take a chance on them. From hand-rolling each tortilla for our shelves, they’ve now grown to national distribution, more products, and lots of happy customers.

Simply put, supporting Wheatsville mea

ns supporting the community. All the good the co-op and its members and producers do creates profits that go right back into the local economy and nonprofit organizations. The co-op’s generous support of such groups as SAFE, People’s Community Clinic, Austin Pets Alive! and on and on is impressive.

Austin is a great place to live for all kinds of reasons. The fact that it just happens to be the home of Wheatsville Food Co-Op, the only community-owned grocery co-op in Texas, definitely tops that long list.

Everyone is welcome to shop at Wheatsville! No membership required. Shop Wheatsville at 3101 Guadalupe St, 512-478-2667 or 4001 S. Lamar Blvd., 512-814-2888, www.wheatsville.coop. You can also shop online at the co-op through Instacart. https://www.instacart.com/wheatsville-co-op.

Phara’s Mediterranean Cuisine

There’s so much to love about the retail and restaurant strip on North Loop along the edge of Hyde Park, but Phara’s Mediterranean Cuisine stands out as a favorite neighborhood destination for several reasons. Phara’s authentic menu features a multicultural fusion of middle eastern flavors, there’s live music and belly dancing almost every night, and a large courtyard accommodates outdoor seating and a hookah lounge, which offers a variety of shisha. The atmosphere is warm and inviting, reflecting the temperament of its namesake, Jeanette Friedman, known by everyone as Phara.

Phara had never worked in a restaurant, much less owned one, when she decided to become a restaurateur. After a career in social work, she became a full-time belly dancer. When she and her husband moved to Austin, she started dancing at Ararat, the middle eastern restaurant that used to operate in the space now occupied by Phara’s. Then tragedy struck. Phara’s son, Christopher, who had been born with cystic fibrosis, died in 2004. “I was inspired to open this restaurant when I lost Christopher,” Phara says. “He had an astounding ability to give. He took very good care of his friends, and he taught me a lot about giving. I needed to do something, give back, and also stay busy, so I thought, ‘I’ll open a restaurant.’”

Phara expressed interest in Ararat when it closed in 2007, and after much wrangling and renovating, Phara’s Mediterranean Cuisine was opened in the spring of 2008. Phara learned everything she needed to know about running a restaurant over time, and credits her staff for helping her make Phara’s the success it has become. “We are like family. We come together and make this place what it is. It’s really special,” she says. Among the staff is an Iraqi chef, an Indian chef, belly dancers from Lebanon, Russia, and Brazil, as well as professional musicians from around the world.

Dining at Phara’s is a truly multicultural experience unlike any other in Austin. “It’s been described as magical, unique, evocative,” Phara says. “I just want people to feel relaxed here. When you come here, your table is yours for the night. We don’t focus on turning tables here. We want you to enjoy your dinner at your pace, in your time. And we serve full meals up until midnight. If you are here before midnight, we want you to order whatever you like and enjoy your meal without rushing. The kitchen closes at midnight, but customers are invited to stay until 1:30. I’ll be here until then, anyway!”

Phara also offers Christopher’s Casbah, the space adjoining Phara’s, to those looking to hold a party or other special event, free of charge. “I don’t charge a fee for the room. As long as they pay for the food, the space is available to customers wanting it.”

A beautiful black and white photograph of Christopher hangs above the corner table that is always reserved for Phara. “I’m here every day. I love being here. I love my special customers. Without them, I wouldn’t be here. I’d like to thank them for being here. I was inspired to open the restaurant because of Christopher’s death, and fulfillment has happened. I just want to do good for people, and that keeps me going.” Among the good things she is able to do because of the restaurant is fundraise for cystic fibrosis and anyone needing help due to a medical condition. Phara says, “I’ll seek out a special person who has a medical need and fundraise for them. I’ll take 100% of the proceeds of one day, and give that to the person who needs assistance. I do this for Christopher.”

Visit Phara’s Mediterranean Cuisine at 111 North Loop Blvd. E, 512-632-7067 or www.pharas.com today.

—Story and photo by Ann Guidry