Tuesday, March 19th, members of the Menifee community and surrounding areas gathered together at Merna's Cafe to engage in discussion about newly created business startups in the local area and region, with a specific focus on technology startups.


Of course, you may have already guessed that this was a group of individuals focused on technology from the name alone – Menifee Matrix (a play on the 1999 movie The Matrix).

The goal is to help support those businesses already in the sphere and to encourage the growth of new technology-based businesses right here in Menifee, instead of allowing them to be lured away by already established technology centers like Silicon Valley. The group is bringing together business-minded owners, entrepreneurs, and city personnel and forging an active community for the improvement of the economic environment necessary for success.

Clockwise: Gina Gonzalez (Menifee EconDev), Jimmy Fu (JimmyFu-tography), George Mills (MVCC), Tony LoPiccolo (MVCC).

Gina Gonzalez is the Economic Development Director for the City of Menifee. When I asked her, she explained that the City is focused on job creation, and especially with young growth-oriented businesses. "To have a room of over 30 in attendance was fabulous!"

"Anytime we have businesses, entrepreneurs or start-ups supporting the development of each other, the faster we can all grow business in our region and create jobs. As the City looks to provide and support resources for our business community, we meet with our start-up community so we can begin to identify their needs and find ways we can provide for those needs to see them blossom and become successful!"

"Yes, if someone is thinking about an idea, or has an idea for a business, this is a great avenue to get feedback, support resources, and information on how to develop the idea. This is really a thinktank for tech industries and innovation."

While I was talking with Gina, a thought came to me that it is vital that our region aggressively pursue the cultivation of an identity as a leader in technology-based businesses. This came from a very personal place.

When our children grow up and attend University and think about starting a business, they most likely believe that they will have to move out of the area. Silicon Valley is known worldwide for being the center of technological development. Why shouldn't we seek to become a destination for technology companies? Wouldn't it be great if our children could get their education and establish their businesses right here?


Left to Right: Philip McAndrew (Heartcup.com), George Benjamin (BenBen Media), Chris Hernandez (Appcore Labs).

Upon arrival at the event, every attendee received a wristband with a blue bead (aka the blue pill). If you've seen the movie, you'll get the reference. While everyone who decided to come to the meeting had already made a conscious effort to connect and improve the community, the evening's presenter, Philip McAndrew, founder of Heartcup.com, received a red bead as a thank you for presenting to the group.

The Heartcup.com social media network, is a website designed to empower people to impact their communities by monetizing social sharing in the form of donations to nonprofits.

"We are changing the giving experience and making it possible for people with just $10 to support 100 nonprofits. Our technology makes giving fun. Our time in social media can now be meaningful instead of feeling like a waste."

"Menifee Matrix was an important event for me because it represents the uprising of entrepreneurial energy in our region. The daily hustle for people starting and running businesses is real, and we need to support one another and share the experience along the way."

"I got further insight into the chief concerns that my users will care about. I was able to get a better understanding of the trust factor and some more ideas on how best to increase transparency in the nonprofit space."

"The energy in the room was very positive, and it was nice that every person had a chance to introduce themselves. It made connecting with people after my presentation easier and more exciting."

The creator of the Menifee Matrix Meetup is George Benjamin, Founder of BenBen Media, a Menifee based web design and digital marketing firm.

"I'm thankful that I was given the opportunity by Gina and her team to partner with the city and do this for our community. The community and it's people are what's important, along with the connections we make. Our mission statement has always been to 'bring technology to humanity and humanity to technology'. A lot of times as techies we forget that it's all about the human connection. "

I can't end this article without saying something about Merna's Cafe & Grill. I had to try the food to find out why this eatery has received such surprisingly high ratings on all the review sites: Yelp Reviews, Facebook reviews, Google Reviews and Grubhub.

I was absolutely blown away by the flavors I experienced and the quality and quantity of food on the plate was top notch. The service was outstanding and Merna herself spent considerable time with the guests.

While I initially experienced a little trouble finding the location, it is truly worth the effort. I now know where it is, and I will definitely be back.

Review: "Well done Merna!! Today was the first time I stepped into the restaurant. Excellent food and atmosphere. Kudos and I will be back with others !!!"

Left to Right: Chris Courtney (Courtney Enterprises), Jeannette LeHoullier (DJ's Virtual Management), Gary Hawthorne (Sun City Gold), Shawn Brown (S.E.B Sounds), George Benjamin (BenBen Media), Nellie Hathorn (Accipiter Marketing).


Join us at our next event.#MenifeeMatrix is held every third Tuesday of the month. You can find more information at www.menifeematrix.com

Signing off,
Gerry Michaels
Freelance Writer
BenBen Media

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