Make us your home page
Instagram

Startup success secrets revealed

It was a panel of misfits: four guys who couldn't stand working for someone else and were arrogant enough to think they knew a better way to build both a business and a workplace.

But here's the rub: The four Florida businessmen who spoke Wednesday to a sold-out audience of 140 people at the University of Tampa were right. Their companies' revenues have grown from 900 to more than 2,600 percent over the past three years, earning them a place on Inc. magazine's 2007 list of the nation's fastest-growing businesses.

Marcus Adolfsson, 26, is president and founder of Smartphone Experts, the company ringing up the highest growth rate of the group. He started the business in his dorm room at the University of Florida in 2002, selling Treos and accessories online. The self-described gadget freak now runs a $20-million retail business based in Inverness.

Brian Blackburn, 53, was looking for fun when he started Xymogen, a nutraceuticals distributor in Orlando in 2002. "We're dedicated to each other first, the customer comes second," he said of his work force of 62. "It's amazing the talent we attract."

Though each of the speakers at the event sponsored by UT's Florida Entrepreneur and Family Business Center exuded confidence, it didn't take much scratching beneath the surface for the nerves to appear. Robert Byrne, 46, had worked in venture capital and telecommunications when he realized there was a market for someone to service retailers and cell towers' giant power generators. So he hung a shingle out of a home office and began pounding on doors. His Maitland company, Power Pro-Tech Services, soon won such "elephant" accounts as Publix and AT&T, but the money didn't come as quickly. "I spent many a day looking down the barrel of a gun," he said of pressure from creditors early on. "I broke all the rules."

Chris Hurn, 35, started a company making real estate loans to small-business owners. His first criteria for employees of Mercantile Commercial Capital in Altamonte Springs: no banking experience. "I didn't want the baggage," he said.

Hurn advised would-be entrepreneurs to do likewise. "Be like the Vikings, who burned their boats behind them," he said. "You have to believe in your business 100 percent. Failure is not an option."

Startup success secrets revealed 02/27/08 [Last modified: Thursday, March 6, 2008 10:48am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Seminole Heights restaurants face struggles amid killings, post-Irma

    Food & Dining

    SEMINOLE HEIGHTS — The neighborhood's hip circle of popular, well-regarded restaurants is feeling the squeeze in the wake of a recent killing spree. And the timing is rough.

    Ella's American Folk Art Cafe. Times files
  2. St. Pete-Clearwater holding food, supply drive for hurricane refugees

    Airlines

    CLEARWATER — St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport and Allegiant Air are holding a food and supply drive for the Hispanic Outreach Center in Pinellas County. The event, which will benefit refugees displaced by Hurricane Maria, will be held Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the airport at 14700 Terminal Blvd.

    St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport and Allegiant Air are hosting a food and supplies drive Tuesday for refugees displaced by Hurricane Maria. | [Times file photo]
  3. Tallest building in Pinellas County in search of a new name

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — The name "Priatek" is gone from Pinellas County's tallest building, perhaps to be replaced by that of a much better-known company new to the Tampa Bay area.

    The Priatek name is off of downtown St. Petersburg's tallest building.
 [LARA CERRI  |   Times.  2015]
  4. Estuary wins pier design contest for the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway extension

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — And the winner is… Estuary.

    Voters overwhelmingly supported a pier design called Estuary for the $200-million extension of the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway in Tampa.
[Courtesy of AECOM]
  5. Amazon receives 238 proposals from places eager to become its 2nd headquarters

    Business

    NEW YORK — Amazon said Monday that it received 238 proposals from cities and regions in the United States, Canada and Mexico hoping to be the home of the company's second headquarters.

    Earlier this month, an Amazon employee gives her dog a biscuit as the pair head into a company building, where dogs are welcome, in Seattle. Amazon says it received 238 proposals from cities and regions hoping to be the home of the company's second headquarters. 
[AP Photo/Elaine Thompson]