A corporate job can provide a stable paycheck, health benefits and paid days off, but it doesn’t always make for a satisfying career. For some, the perks of being their own boss and being immersed in something they love far outweigh the benefits that come with a corporate gig.
Such is the case for Sherri Asadi. While working as an analyst for a major company she became frustrated that they didn’t put the needs of the client first. So she struck out on her own to become the owner of a successful business called Eton Bridge Insurance and Financial Solutions in Dr. Phillips. Now she can conduct business the way she feels is most beneficial. “I fit the company to the client rather than the client to the company,” says Asadi.
While Diego Farah of Southwest Orlando still has his toes dipped in the corporate pool – working as a server at Vines Grille & Wine Bar and as a personal trainer to pay the bills – he has also taken the initial steps to create his own business based on his passion for sports. In the next several years, he sees his company, called STC Game Day, providing reliable transportation and a lot of fun for fans within a variety of sporting venues.
Establishing a Successful Business
Asadi has a personal connection to the insurance business too. Her husband survived a car accident after being hit by a drunk driver, but he contracted hepatitis C from a lifesaving blood transfusion. The couple, along with their sons, came to Florida in search of help since there are two liver transplant hospitals in the area. He needed an expensive injection three times each day, which drained their funds. The loss of her husband in this way inspired her to help others. “It’s beyond just a job for me. This is my way of making right something that happened that was so wrong. So every client of mine is monumentally important,” she says. “I know what it’s like to lose everything in just a few moments.”
The concept behind Eton Bridge brings is unique to the insurance industry. “I put a think tank together of CPAs, investment people and lawyers. I have private client services. It doesn’t cost any extra money but it is a comprehensive approach,” says Asadi. This allows her team to see the full picture of her clients’ lives, understanding each individual person, their goals and their vulnerabilities, to save their lifestyle.
When it came time to leave the corporate world behind and start her own business, Asadi had options. She could create an office supported by a major company or she could start from scratch. She decided to take the hard road – forming business plans, learning the business inside and out, and dreaming up an idea where she could do it her own way. Asadi started lean and has grown to include ten associates, a team of affiliates, and a long list of clients covering personal and commercial investments both locally and globally. “I want to know I’ve made an impact on the people who have crossed my path. If I can save one family from what my family went through, I can say at the end of my journey that it paid off,” Sherri says.
The idea for STC Game Day came to Farah six years ago while he was with a group of friends at a Miami Dolphins home game against the Buffalo Bills. He knew that with football came tailgating and with tailgating came indulging, whether in food or alcohol, and it was always important to be safe when traveling. Other Florida cities have transportation options for fans wanting to travel to games, but Orlando doesn’t. “What sparked the idea was the Miami Dolphins Express, but it only goes as far as Melbourne,” he says.
So he set up a similar model in the Orlando market that caters to sports fans young and old who are looking for safe and reliable transportation to a game. Packages also include breakfast at Miller’s Field House in Dr. Phillips (this is also the pick-up and drop-off location), a BBQ lunch, and tickets for lower bowl seats at the game. Where an individual would normally buy their game ticket and figure everything else out on there own, Farah covers all the bases, offering worry-free, stress-free fun when it comes to game time.
With three NFL teams in the state – the Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars – along with some of the top college football teams in the nation, Florida is a melting pot for sport fans. Even if an individual is a fan of a team in another state, that team will eventually travel to play at a Florida stadium. That’s why Farah saw the potential for this business model in an underserved area, and the potential for expansion to include more cities and eventually other sports that these cities are home to. “All three cities have potential,” says Farah. “What will drive the concept is fans building camaraderie with other fans.”
As the football season comes to a close, Farah will begin to focus on next season where he hopes to add more games to his schedule and more seats on a second bus. The best part so far is that he’s immersed in something he loves and involving others with similar passions in his experience. “It’s a lot of fun but it requires long hours; you have to enjoy doing it,” he says.
From start up to success, Asadi and Farah have learned lessons that have helped them grow their businesses, and sometimes they learned them the hard way.
Asadi is a firm believer that failures can be the best tools to grow your business if you choose to view them as such. “The triumphs are good, but it’s the hardships that train you,” she says. “You have to welcome the pleasure and the pain. It all plays a role in developing you as a business person.”
Farah says that while roadblocks are bound to come up along the way, getting over them can teach you how to succeed. “Obstacles came up that I wasn’t expecting and they made the journey difficult, but the outcome of the day was always positive from a guest perspective,” he says.
Ultimately, creating relationships within the community you serve, challenging yourself every step of the way, and dreaming big can turn one small idea into a successful business.