Being The Boss: A Growing Choice In Tampa Bay

When his employer downsized him in 2008, Enver Hysni felt "elated," he recalls.

"The job was very stressful," says Hysni, who spent 10 years as an account manager at Nestor Sales, a boat-building distributorship in Pinellas Park. "It was like 20 pounds had been lifted off my shoulders. I thought, Wow -- now I can relax a little bit and fish."

That love of fishing led Hysni (pronounced "HIS-knee") to leap into what some might call another stressful endeavor: operating his own business. On Oct. 1, he and his wife, Sandra, opened Tampa Bay On The Fly, a 2,300-square-feet shop in South Tampa devoted to fly-fishing equipment and instruction.

In this rocky economy, more people like Hysni, 39, are becoming entrepreneurs, pursuing a dream to become one's own boss. Owning a small business is a driving force of the economy, according to the Small Business Administration.

Small businesses created 65 percent of the 15 million net new jobs between 1993 and 2009, the agency says. It estimates that these businesses employ half of all private-sector employees; seven out of 10 new firms survive at least two years.

To support small businesses, American Express OPEN is partnering with public, private, and advocacy organizations nationwide to kick off the first-ever Small Business Saturday on Nov. 27. The movement encourages people to patronize small businesses in their communities and to spread the word about their favorite shops, services and restaurants on Facebook. Merchants who sign up at that site also can download promotional materials and social-media tools.

Starting a business takes passion, says Hysni and other local entrepreneurs. It also requires securing enough money, focusing on customers, recognizing one's strengths, and developing a business plan.

"You wouldn't jump in your car without knowing where you were going. That's kind of like starting a business. A business plan is like a GPS," Hysni says.

Expansion On The Menu

Philip Orsino agrees. In his early 50s, Orsino is a majority owner of Ceviche Tapas Bar & Restaurant. Since about 2006, Orsino and his partners have grown the business from the flagship location at 2109 Bayshore Blvd. to four additional restaurants in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Orlando, and Sarasota.

"You have to have a vision of where you want to be. If you don't have that vision, how do you get there?" Orsino says. "Planning is everything – and then you need to execute."

Orsino, whose son Joe, 27, has been involved in the expansion, began his career as a partner in an accounting firm. He later grew Masonite into a leading global manufacturer of interior and exterior doors. The U.S. headquarters is in Tampa.

After the company went private in 2005, Orsino became intrigued by Ceviche, where he dined regularly. His entrepreneurial spirit kicked in, and he bought out the original owner. Now he talks excitedly about the 100-plus authentic Spanish tapas offered, the live music at each location, and the Spanish wine list with four types of sangria: red, white, sparkling, and "skinny, with half the sugar and half the calories."

"It's not a job. It's your life. It's what you do," he says. "People often underestimate how committed you need to be. If you don't pay attention to the numbers, you're not going to be successful. If you don't have those abilities yourself, it's important to surround yourself with people who do."

Dollars And Sense

That's one lesson that Jim Webb, 56, has learned. Webb retired as a photojournalist from WFLA-TV News Channel 8 in 2008, then turned his freelance multimedia-production company, The Webb Works, into a full-time business.

Webb had started the company about six years ago for "fun money" to support his hobbies. "It got serious really fast," he says. "That's the one thing I wish I was prepared for: the business side of the business."

He now is working with someone to develop a solid business plan. The small-business mentoring association SCORE and the Small Business Administration have helped put him on the right track, he says.

His projects include corporate videos and documentaries, such as a package following University of South Florida research vessels into the Gulf of Mexico to study the oil slick last spring.

His favorites are "Legacy Videos," footage of loved ones speaking to friends and families. "I think it's a crime if you don't get the twinkle in their eye and the sound of their voice before it's too late," he says. "I've seen the looks on families' faces when I present them with video they didn't know existed."

One colleague for whom he created such a video at low cost paid him five times what he had charged on his invoice.

"That was a lesson to me to stop undercharging for my services," Webb says. "You can't give it away, not if that's what feeds you and pays the mortgage."

By starting the business while still employed, Webb estimates he saved about $20,000 in initial costs, although he did need to convert his Tampa home's garage into a studio. His wife, Charisse, has provided invaluable support.

"I thought in a cavalier way, I could do it all – but if it's not your genius, it's not your job," says Webb, who looks to colleagues for technical skills he doesn't possess.

He adds, "If it don't make dollars, it don't make sense. That's how I say it, and how I mean it."

Catching An Idea

Hysni says that his business background before opening Tampa Bay On The Fly helps him understand the attitudes and demands that go into a successful business.

"I like that you can catch fish on something you've created yourself," he says.

His shop at 4203 W. El Prado Blvd. features several rooms, one with clothing, another rods and reels, and another with fly-tying supplies such as buck tail, ostrich plumes, raccoon hair, rabbit hair, fishing hooks, and weighted eyes.

He offers fly-tying classes every Tuesday from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., and is open noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

His advice? "Go out there and do something you're passionate about. Don't settle for something you think might work or might make you a lot of money. If you have the support of your significant other and your friends, you can make anything work."

Valerie Kalfrin is a writer in Lutz who also is exploring other ventures since being laid off in 2009. She and Jim Webb previously worked for Media General, the Richmond-based parent company of The Tampa Tribune and WFLA. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.
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