From the Editor: In difficult times, entrepreneurs inspire everyone

Our inaugural Top Entrepreneurs special issue offers insight into how challenges can be overcome on the path to success.

JAX Chamber Vice President of Entrepreneurial Growth Carlton Robinson.
JAX Chamber Vice President of Entrepreneurial Growth Carlton Robinson.
  • News
  • Top Entrepreneurs
  • Share

On June 8, news broke that, indeed, an economic recession began in February.

That concluded almost 11 years of expansion – the longest on record – since the Great Recession ended in June 2009.

Northeast Florida small business owners at this point are bracing for a constant series of unknowns.

The 10 Northeast Florida business owners featured in our inaugural Top Entrepreneurs issue have navigated through many economic storms.

They’re ready to keep doing what it takes to overcome the next challenge, just as they are fighting through the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down much of the economy – and some of them – for weeks starting mid-March.

In fact, the Jacksonville Daily Record and Jacksonville Record & Observer postponed this issue because of the mandates. 

We intended to publish April 9, but decided to wait until restrictions were lifted, allowing our finalists to manage through the height of the pandemic.

JAX Chamber Vice President of Entrepreneurial Growth Carlton Robinson agrees with the decision to publish as the economy reopens.

“It’s really needed right now in the overall business community and especially the small business community,” Robinson said.

“Any time that we have an opportunity to celebrate the success of business owners that is inspiring to others during times like these, it’s a great thing.”

JAX Chamber, which isn’t associated with this project, works with thousands of area businesses, large and small. It announced 13 annual Small Business Leaders of the Year in January and the overall winner in February.

The Daily Record and Record & Observer are owned by a small business, Sarasota-based Observer Media Group Inc. 

We are replicating, as much as we can, the annual Top Entrepreneurs issue published by our sister paper, the Business Observer, also based in Sarasota.

We started by asking for nominations. We continued by calling, emailing and speaking in person with leaders of industry and civic groups that focus on business membership.

There are at least 40,000 employer-owned firms in Northeast Florida with fewer than 100 employees. There are another estimated 125,000 self-employed people.

The nominees were strong candidates. 

We divided them into revenue categories of up to $2 million; $2 million up to $15 million; and $15 million and more.

As you see on the cover, we also chose our first lifetime achiever: Beaver Street Fisheries Inc. Chairman Harry Frisch, who turns 97 in about three weeks.

He didn’t start his company – his mother did – but he and his late brother turned it into a $500 million global seafood and food distributor.

Each category features a winner and two finalists. 

They represent several industries and separate challenges.

Among those: personal tragedy, near bankruptcy, a difficult childhood, job firings (on both sides of the pink slip), and taking a winding road to find the best path. 

More than one mentioned 80-hour workweeks.

Other than Frisch, their ages range from 32 to 71, and coincidentally, the 71-year-old started her business when she was 32.

In another coincidence, about the time she was born, Frisch joined the fish company.

No doubt, their stories will be lessons for business owners seeking inspiration.

These entrepreneurs worked hard, made tough decisions, took risks, changed focus, pursued passions, developed staff talent, appreciated help, sought training, embraced employees and family, and persevered.

Asked his advice, Robinson referred to some of Frisch’s often-shared wisdom, now especially, that each business needs at least two people on every major task.

Many don’t, “so what happens is when you have a pandemic or someone falls ill or they leave the business, all of a sudden that business is paralyzed, you lost that institutional knowledge,” Robinson said. “We have to do a better job for them to have contingency plans.”

He called that a prevailing theme during the past three months as he listened intently to the experiences of  business owners.

Other points: Adopt sustainable business models, diversify, and celebrate achievements.

“Sharing their successes and how they’ve overcome challenges is a really big thing here in Jacksonville,” he said.

The business community needs those “trusted sources” for entrepreneurs.

Our regular features will return next week. For today, we are following Robinson’s advice.

“We need to highlight and showcase there are different ways to be successful,” Robinson said.

We hope we have done that today.




Special Offer: $5 for 2 Months!

Your free article limit has been reached this month.
Subscribe now for unlimited digital access to our award-winning business news.