By B.C. Manion
Entrepreneurs flocked to BizGROW 2.0 to learn what to do — and what not to do — to help them succeed in business.
The Pasco Economic Development Council (PEDC) at the Pasco-Hernando Community College Conference Center in New Port Richey hosted the event.
About 100 people registered for the all-day conference, with around 60 in attendance at the morning session Nov. 7.
Panelists Rosie Paulsen, Nicole Denzik, Brad Savage and Chad Carter offered their insights about what has helped their businesses succeed and what they would do differently if they had the chance.
Paulsen, who owns Good Faith Insurance Services and is the founder of the Pasco-Hernando Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said she got into the business world because she had an idea and followed her passion.
She said part of being successful is recognizing one’s strengths and weaknesses.
“I don’t care about details that much,” Paulsen said. “I care about relationships.”
She focuses on her strengths and has found help in other areas.
Denzik, owner of United Underwriters of Tampa, said she encountered a variety of difficulties when she started.
“Cash flow absolutely was the biggest challenge. Working 60- to 80-hour weeks and not taking home a paycheck will wear on you,” said Denzik, whose business is located in Lutz.
If she were starting over, Denzik also thinks she would budget her resources differently.
“In hindsight, I would have spent money on a better website, better SEO (search engine optimization),” Denzik said.
Savage, vice president of Digital Brainz, said if his family-run company were starting from scratch, he would recommend consulting with a professional to help identify the business’ target market.
Initially, Digital Brainz focused on providing repair services in the information technology (IT) industry, Savage said. In essence, they waited for people who had problems to call them.
They realized that wasn’t a productive use of their time, so they adapted. They became a company that helps businesses keep things flowing by anticipating their IT needs and making changes before problems develop, Savage said.
The new approach has resulted in giving Digital Brainz, which recently moved to Lutz, a broader market, Savage said.
He has this advice to startups: “Take advantage of professional help that’s available.”
Chad Carter, owner of Tampa Bay Urodynamics, said his company is in such a niche market that he tries to learn from a wide variety of businesses instead of trying to learn from similar firms.
Carter said he is always on the lookout for effective business practices he can incorporate into his own business.
Both Paulsen and Denzik emphasized the importance of networking and building relationships.
Paulsen said she started the Hispanic chamber because there are many, like her, who have ideas for businesses but don’t know how to turn their ideas into reality.
“We have this dream and we don’t know where to start it,” Paulsen said. She added, “Networking groups work.”
However, Paulsen added, entrepreneurs must be judicious in how much they network and must do it as a means of creating business opportunities.
“You can network all day and never work,” Paulsen said.
In this age of social media, it’s important to have an Internet presence, Savage said. It’s a good idea to have a website that offers useful information about your company, he advised.
But, a website is just one tool, Savage added. Most of his business comes through referrals.
John Hagen, president and CEO of the PEDC, is optimistic about the business climate in Pasco.
“I think the economy is going to be turning around,” Hagen said.
The PEDC wants to help small companies succeed and grow, Hagen said. He used this baseball analogy: It’s better to get 50 singles than one homerun.
It makes practical sense to try and work with diverse companies to give the county’s economy various paths toward growth, Hagen said.
Hagen also noted that his organization offers loans of up to $35,000, if a company qualifies.
The goal is to provide loans that may not be available through a bank, but will help the company succeed and become better candidates for future loans.
Speaker John Morrow told the audience about a plan he co-authored called the Tampa Bay 6/20 plan.
The plan aims to make Tampa Bay more attractive to startup companies by finding talent and investors to encourage new businesses, Morrow said.
The idea is to create an economic ecosystem that creates so much opportunity that both investors and talented people want to become part of it, he said.
Morrow spent 30 years launching and growing technology companies, and now he’s hoping to help transform Tampa Bay into a place that’s known for its innovation and opportunity.
By encouraging more companies to start here and by providing the environment for success, there will be more business for everyone in the area and more higher-paying jobs, Morrow said.
Tampa Bay has had some highly successful startup companies that have left the area, Morrow said. When that occurs, more talent is lost, more jobs are lost and Tampa Bay’s branding opportunities suffer.
Kyle Mastronardo, another conference speaker, told the audience about the massive exposure his family business received from being featured on the reality television show Shark Tank and also on Good Morning America.
Mastronardo lives in St. Pete Beach. He and his three brothers own and operate Nardo’s Natural, a skin-care product that won the backing of Barbara Corcoron on Shark Tank.
They also landed a product endorsement from David Price, a pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays.
The exposure from being on national television helped enormously, Mastronardo told the crowd, but the keys to his family’s success were finding the finances to launch the business, putting together a winning team, successful marketing and the quality of the product they sell.
“It’s very important to me what’s in our products and what we leave out of our products,” Mastronardo said.
It’s also important to be willing to work hard and to learn from mistakes, Mastronardo added.
Tammie Nemecek, director of partner development with the Florida Economic Gardening Institute at the University of Central Florida, also spoke at the conference. She explained a program that provides loans for businesses that qualify.
“We’re trying to bring new wealth into the local economy,” Nemecek said.
Companies that desire to grow and are facing specific challenges may be good candidates for the program, she said. The loan program has specific criteria, but companies that can demonstrate growth in revenue and employment may be able to qualify for loans and market research assistance, Nemecek said. Those interested in learning more should check out the organization’s website, www.growfl.com.
To learn more:
—About the Tampa Bay 6/20 plan, visit www.tampabay620.com
—About the Pasco Economic Development Council, visit: www.pascoedc.com
—About free counseling, seminars and tools for small businesses, visit www.score.org/resources/pascohernando-useful-local-links