Being an Entrepreneur in Central Florida

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Two years and three months ago I moved to Florida from the Charlotte, North Carolina area.

This was a move that my wife and I wanted to do mostly because we wanted to be closer to her mom who is now in her 90’s. It was a quick decision to move because we wanted Sandy to have more time with her mom. Family and close friends are very important to both of us so we did not give it much thought. I had a couple of clients and a couple of businesses that only require that I have access to the Internet, so we did it…  quickly.

But this past weekend I spent time with a couple of friends that lived in Massachusetts and New York (just like I did). I’ve known them for many years and they have very similar circumstances to myself, so we got into a pretty deep conversation about Florida.  They came down for similar reasons initially, but have stayed for quite some time now. We talked about a lot of personal things, which I won’t go into here.  Rather, below are my thoughts about the challenges of being an entrepreneur here. After all, Sandy and I have recently decided to not just live here, but to stay here.  In fact, we’re about to build a home here.

Not just Florida, Central Florida.

There is a huge difference. Only since I moved here have my eyes been opened to how extremely different the various parts of Florida are.  Quite honestly, it feels like an entire country to me, because I grew up in the small state of Massachusetts and right next door to Rhode Island, while regularly visiting family in Delaware most my life. In contrast, Florida is not just bigger. It is more like entirely different worlds. The northeast (Jacksonville and St Augustine) area is where we lived our first year here.  It was great! The weather had a nice breeze (even in the summer) which made it feel a lot cooler, especially in the evening.  Jacksonville is a very large city with a lot of variety and a thriving startup community. We lived in nearby Palm Coast.

Many other parts seem to have their own personality, such as Miami / Ft Lauderdale area, Tampa / St Petersburg area, Fort Myers area, the keys, and the panhandle.  Those are large sections of Florida and I’m sure have sub-sections to them. I’ve visited all of the, but admittedly only briefly.  But overall, there’s a different feel to each of them.  Then, there is Orlando and central Florida.  It is a completely different place. The history, the weather, the people, the demographics, and even the strange city of Orlando which is so driven by tourism makes for a challenging place, especially for a tech Entrepreneur like me.

The central Florida and greater Orlando area does not have the entrepreneurial buzz of a typical city.

The bigger business here is travel & tourism, and when you speak to the local tech and entrepreneur community, you find that they (esp Disney) tend to hire their tech people and consultants from outside the area.  They hire a lot from other countries, at least for that kind of work.  The local web developers, internet marketers, and online sellers don’t connect with them.  In fact, many complain about this.  As an example, Jacksonville, Miami, and even Tampa have more meetups for online sellers and Internet marketers, which is my industry.  I’m working with a couple of guys to get something going in the Orlando area, but it has been far slower and has far less potential.

As for me, I’m not right in Orlando.  I live over half an hour from Orlando, which means I’m even more isolated.  I’m in a sleepy little town called Mount Dora, which I love.  But the demographics here, the economic situation, the businesses here, and even the mindset are all very different from what I’m used to.  If this sounds like I’m complaining, I’m not.

I love it here.

First and foremost, I’ve made some great friends.  Both Sandy and I have the rare pleasure of having lived in a lot of places.  We also have a unique view of friendship.  Even though we’ve met a tre

mendous amount of people, we very highly value the select closest friends we have. We view them as family.  We have these close friends all over the country.  But we’ve made remarkably fast friendships here that are extremely close to us.  We view them as family. If you are reading this, you know who you are.

But I also like the area.  The lakes are beautiful. The homes are raising in price, but still affordable when you compare them to the northeast, in particular. Also, Sandy is from this area, so she feels at home here. We also are equally distant to both coasts of Florida, which are each beautiful in their own way.  One of our favorite things to do is take a few days and spend it at one of the beaches.  You can’t beat the winters here.  I don’t miss the snow.

What about Entrepreneurship?

This has been the tricky part for me.  I love the fun of meeting other businesses and learning from startups.  I love talking to investors about new online projects. I love meeting others in the tech community and trading marketing ideas and secrets. I love meeting other online sellers. All of this is not easily doable here, even in Orlando.  I’m sure they are here somewhere.  But there does not seem to be many as compared to other US cities.

This makes being a consultant particularly challenging.  The type of consulting I have done for years is mostly obtained via word of mouth. My friends back in Charlotte have already still referred national business to me, but the local stuff has not come and may not.

But it also means that I have greater focus. This is something I have especially valued lately.  I’ve been learning from a couple of mentors, namely a success coach and a shrink for entrepreneurs.  In doing so, I now see the value of the right balance between FOCUS and CREATIVITY.  I believe I can get the creativity via traveling and even interacting online.  But the focus is something I’ve needed to work on for a while. Here, in my little office in downtown Mount Dora, Florida is a great place to do so.  In fact, I am more focused now on my own businesses than ever before.

I need to be.  Here’s how I do it.  Every week I create three high level projects for the week ahead.  I then spend the week trying to move more and more of my time away from daily processing and communicating and toward focused project work without distractions.

Networking is important.

I have no doubt about that. But honestly, I have not found the good networking for what I do here.  I’m sure I will, eventually.  I’m working on it and love the little meetup I’m active in and hope to build and grow it. But I can travel and attend industry events, and follow up online with key select people I want to network with.

But more important is the focus.  Living here, building a house here, and even making friends here has allowed me to have the time I need isolated, distraction free, and focused on the most important work I have to do for my various businesses and with my various partners.  This goes for my consulting, my spice blends business, my Amazon business, and most importantly my new athletic equipment business, which is just now getting off the ground.

If you are an entrepreneur in the central Florida area and want to talk about entrepreneurship, marketing, or selling online, let me know.  If not, I’ll be busy working.

 

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