Entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of any small community. Daring, creative and independent-minded, they are the brave souls who fly in the face of tradition to start their own businesses. They create jobs, generate tax revenue, and provide the goods and services that make our economy run. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses are responsible for 65% of new jobs created over the past two decades and account for half of the country’s payroll, making their viability crucial to our national wellbeing. Small business success is often seen as a “canary in the coal mine” when it comes to a region’s overall economic health. If that’s true, Venice and its surrounding areas must be in the midst of an economic upswing.
We talked to a sampling of local entrepreneurs and found that all share a sense of optimism about the future. Whether they are natives or newcomers, seasoned professionals or just starting out, all are convinced that better days lie ahead and are determined to do what it takes to make their business and their community thrive. Read on to learn their stories.
Glitz, That's It!
Susan Viteri has always loved pretty things. Even while a special education teacher in the Chicago area for 30 years, she liked to sell jewelry as a part-time job/hobby. After moving to Venice, she decided that she wasn’t ready for full-fledged retirement and set out to create a new career for herself. She began to sell various jewelry lines again, and this time added handbags and natural health remedies. She also advertised her services as an image consultant. She joined the Venice Chamber, signed up for several committees and began volunteering in the community.
“I like to be busy,” said Susan, who estimates that she spends 25 hours a week on her new business. “If you love what you do, it’s not really a job.”
Susan created a name for her company—Glitz, That’s It!—and is in the midst of developing a website and honing her social media skills. Her advice when it comes to starting a business is simple. “Get to know people. Get involved. Stay focused on one task at a time. And most importantly, do something that you enjoy.”
Susan often runs fundraisers through her company and is proud to be able to give something back to the Venice community that she has quickly learned to love. “Moving here and starting this second phase of my career is one of the best things I ever did,” she said. “The area, the people—it’s like paradise.”
Joyner Family Insurance
Although his family has been in the insurance business for decades, David Joyner never imagined himself following that path. After graduating from Venice High School, he headed north to college and was on track for a successful career as a CPA in corporate America. Once he had a family of his own, his perspective began to change. He returned to Venice to work at his father’s Port Charlotte firm before opening his own office—Joyner Family Insurance—in 2010. “We started with literally nothing, but we have been very fortunate,” said David, who estimates that his company now represents more than 750 households. He credits the success of his firm to its client-focused approach and notes that the word “family” in the name reflects the way he feels about the people he represents.
“Succeeding in business means having a plan, knowing what you want to do and being able to measure your results,” he said. Other key elements include being flexible when things don’t go as expected and sticking to your core values.
David is very involved in the community and has served in leadership roles with the Sertoma Club and the American Cancer Society. He currently volunteers on the Chamber’s economic development task force and is encouraged by the city’s evolving business climate. “There is a major push to do everything possible to support businesses and make it easy to do business in the city of Venice, and that is something that will benefit everyone,” he said. “Like anything, there is a process involved. The important thing is to keep on track and keep things in perspective.”
Take Care Advisor, LLC
When twenty-something Courtney Wise started Take Care Advisor in 2008 as a geriatric care management agency, she felt as if she had to prove herself a little bit more because of her age. With a master’s degree in gerontology, she had the book smarts she needed. Because she opened her business under the umbrella of her mother’s successful home health agency, she had a professional network readily available. And because Courtney had grown up in Sarasota, she had friends and family nearby to cheer her on. What she didn’t have was the hands-on experience of running a business and supervising staff. But that didn’t slow her down.
“I started from scratch to build a name for my business as its own entity and to educate people about the care management concept,” she said. “Running a business, especially managing people, has been difficult at times but fun. I had my mom’s example as a successful business owner and saw how she always treated people with respect. She’s been a great inspiration.”
Now celebrating its fourth anniversary, Take Care Advisor provides a team of registered nurses to manage all aspects of their patients’ health care, including coordinating with insurance companies and Medicare, scheduling appointments, conducting well checks and communicating with family.
“I hadn’t really considered starting my own business, but this opportunity came along and I couldn’t pass it by,” said Courtney. “Things are going well. We’ve been able to hire more staff, which allows me to get out into the community more often. I find that this work has become natural for me, and I like helping people grow in their positions. It’s a very satisfying experience.”
Steve Burnett has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. As a child, he would claim the unsold comic books from the corner store at the end of every month and sell them to friends. He later delivered newspapers and ran a slushy stand. At age 15, he started painting houses and knew he had found his calling. He tried a “traditional” factory job at one point but lasted only two weeks before he couldn’t stand it anymore. “Having your own business gives you the opportunity to create and to think for yourself,” he explained. “The sky is the limit. That’s very inspiring.”
Originally from Michigan, Steve moved his painting business to this area after Hurricane Charley created a need for house painters, and he has been here ever since. He specializes in residential repainting and has taught himself the intricacies of business management by reading voraciously and consulting with others.
“Know what you want to do and write it down,” he advised. “I write and re-write my goals every morning—it’s a powerful exercise. Don’t be afraid to seek out experts and learn from them. And finally, you have to have a ‘why’—a BIG reason that you do what you do. It has to be a big reason so it can carry you through the down cycles and keep you motivated.”
As a business owner whose success is tied, in part, to the housing industry, Steve is all too familiar with down cycles. But he doesn’t let negative news get him down. “Ignore the media, stay positive and have a good attitude,” he said. “Success is all about exceeding customer expectations, and if you can do that, you will succeed.” That advice certainly seems to be working for Steve, who reported a 112 percent increase in business last year and another significant improvement for 2012.