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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Feb. 14, 201806:40 AM EST

Keep hiring, keep growing

Mike Zaffaroni, owner of Liberty Landcape Supply, is the JAX Chamber 2018 Small Business Leader of the Year.

JAX Chamber 2018 Small Business Leader or the Year Mike Zaffaroni, owner of Liberty Landscape Supply in North Jacksonville, shared advice Tuesday with the award’s contenders and the event attendees.

“Keep hiring and keep growing,” Zaffaroni, 38, said after he was named the overall winner.

He was among 11 Northeast Florida business leaders selected as small business leaders of the year among the chamber’s councils and the Beaches and Entrepreneurial Growth divisions.

Zaffaroni, representing the North Council, operates two locations — in Fernandina Beach and at 13385 N. Main St. 

Liberty Landscape Supply sells landscape materials to homeowners and contractors at the two locations and online. He bought the business, formerly Fernandina Mulch & Stone, in 2007.

His business card promotes plants, mulch, stone, sand, rock, pine straw, trees and more.

A chamber news release said the business has expanded from offering 20 items to carrying more than 1,800 items in its inventory.

“It’s a lot of hard work,” Zaffaroni told more than 200 event attendees at the Schultz Center for Teaching and Leadership near St. Nicholas.

“I would do it no differently.”

Zaffaroni started with two employees and said he hired his 31st employee Monday. He told small business owners “to be proud of the opportunities” they provide for their employees.

The chamber release said Zaffaroni entered the first “Small Business Breakthrough Powered by” in 2015. That competition was created by the Jacksonville Jaguars and Jacksonville-based, which provides online and web development services to small businesses.

The breakthrough program was designed to find ways for small businesses to boost their marketing exposure and gain access to business leaders, the chamber said. Zaffaroni placed second.

As runner-up, he received marketing, website development and marketing advice, including a suggestion to change the company’s name, which he did.

Zaffaroni declined to divulge his annual sales. The chamber said Liberty Landscape Supply’s combined sales for 2018 are on track for an increase of 800 percent from the year he bought the company.

Former JAX Chamber Chair Ed Burr, chairman and CEO of GreenPointe Holdings LLC, served as the keynote speaker at the breakfast event. GreenPointe develops communities.

 Burr, answering questions from JAX Chamber President Daniel Davis, said there was no business without challenges and advised owners to seek the support and advice of mentors, friends, family and staff.

He asked the audience how many of them worked for themselves. Many hands were raised.

He reminded them that once they leased space, borrowed money or hired an employee, they no longer worked for themselves, but for the business and the employees for which they are responsible.

“Who’s the last person to get paid?” he asked as audience members nodded that the owners typically are.

“Your responsibility is just tremendous,” he said. “Embrace it.”

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