I was born in New York, but grew up in a small town on the east coast of Florida. My father was an entrepreneur who owned and operated many businesses over the years. One of the first businesses he started was a saw mill, which sourced cypress wood from the local forests for regional distribution companies. I still remember growing up in that saw mill and playing on the mountains of sawdust piles – the ultimate child’s playground.
My father was someone who liked to keep himself busy, so while running the saw mill, he also started the local volunteer fire department with a few of his friends. This fire department was eventually acquired by the county. I spent a great deal of time there as well, and was able to watch, ride and even participate in fighting fires. It also taught me what true incident response was like, and inculcated in me a strong need to serve and help others.
As high school came to an end, the decision was simple: fire services or the military. Since my father was a Navy veteran, I decided to enlist and see the world. Given my passion for engineering, I chose to enlist as an electronics technician, where I learned how to troubleshoot, repair and engineer complex audio, radio, radar and computer systems found on most military bases.
During my time in the Navy, I also took up cryptology and successfully passed a Top Secret Clearance. I was constantly exposed to computers, networking, security and advanced technology, which furthered my curiosity in technology. Having grown up on a farm and learning the value of hard work and service to others, I couldn’t have been more proud to serve my country. Throughout that journey, I was able to experience amazing and commanding leadership that forged me into who I am today.
While my enlistment continued and I advanced through the ranks, I never felt challenged enough with my current position, so I set my sights on becoming a Naval Officer. I applied for the Boost program and, due to my decorated military record, I was accepted into Naval Officer Candidate School out of Newport, Rhode Island. After finishing Officer Candidate School (OCS) training, I was next accepted into the University of Florida where I started my first company: “The Car Stereo Connection.”
Car Stereo Connection’s First Office
Car Stereo Connection (CSC) was inspired by a childhood passion for car audio and electronics. In the year 2000, there weren’t many options for buying car electronics online, and I calculated that CSC could fill that void. I learned a lot about business from this startup, from running daily operations, to serving and growing our customer base, and even managing company finances. To make the company successful, I also had to master the art of selling online, marketing, distribution and creating strong business relationships. The company quickly became profitable, and I used this money to pay my way through college, without having to take out a single student loan.
I continued to build CSC for two years until I successfully sold the company to a larger competitor called Audio Warehouse Express (AWE), out of Warren, NJ. AWE was significantly larger than my startup – more of an enterprise online retainer – and it was the perfect buyer for CSC. Although CSC was my first taste of the entrepreneurial experience of building and selling, it certainly wouldn’t be my last.