LARGO — Michael Batdorf was living in the darkness and every day, he looked at himself in the mirror and wondered if his paycheck was worth it: worth the hours, worth the stress. He had gotten divorced and shared custody of his two boys. His world was upended.
Batdorf was a scrappy, persistent man intent on climbing whatever ladder he happened to be on. After three years in the Marines, he got a job with Auto Trader in the mail room.
In 11 years, he worked his way up to the position of sales manager. Then he left for duPont Registry Magazines and clawed his way up to vice president of sales. He spent eight years there and, in 2006, he'd had enough. He'd met an amazing, kind woman — Lisa, who also was divorced, with two boys the same ages as his — through a Christian dating site. She gave him the support he needed to let go and leap.
He quit the corporate world and began his own magazine, the Tampa Bay Family Guide, which is free and highlights family-friendly places and events.
Then, a few months ago, he created another business: couponsof tampabay.com, which offers free coupons from local businesses in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties. Batdorf dreams of expanding this nationwide; a place where people can go and, with a few clicks, get coupons for places in their town.
Right now there are coupons from about 150 businesses on the site. Posting coupons on his site is cheaper than direct mailing or other advertising means, Batdorf said.
Customers don't have to sign up to get them — you just find what you want and print. Batdorf also has links on the site to money-saving articles.
"Our goal is to help people," he said.
All about family
He also started his own publishing company called It Matters, which means family is what matters.
Batdorf and his siblings grew up in Maryland and moved to Largo when Batdorf was 12. Their parents were both alcoholics, Batdorf said, and for a time, the children lived in foster homes.
His mother has been sober for nearly 30 years and is doing very well, he said. His father has lost contact with Batdorf.
Going through all of that growing up, Batdorf made the decision to be the best dad he could be. Instead of following a destructive path, as did a brother who died before the age of 40, Batdorf went to the other extreme. He is fit and healthy and drinks very little. And the decision to leave corporate America also was based on the boys.
Batdorf and Lisa were married nearly a year ago and their four boys live mostly with them, though both of their former spouses live within a mile of them, so going back and forth between homes is easy. Batdorf and his wife work from home and they are there whenever the boys need them. Batdorf still works at least 60 hours a week, but he can be flexible. He can go play football with the boys in the afternoon and can supervise them at the pool.
Sure, it's terrifying to be your own boss and not have a steady paycheck.
"But I'm happy," he said Wednesday afternoon, and then looked at the door. Lisa had just come home from picking up their boys at camp and the kids ran inside, all tanned with hair bleached by the sun. From his computer — his office — Batdorf reached out and grabbed one and hugged him tight.
After the boys settled down, both Batdorf and Lisa — at separate computers in separate rooms — went back to work, with Lisa holding one of the boys on her lap and the sounds of the rest of them, talking, laughing, padding around, filling the house.
Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4609.