Big ideas: Six successful small Florida businesses
Tim Shoop and Brian Wilkey
Digital Boardwalk, Pensacola
Digital Boardwalk sells managed IT services, also known as remote monitoring and management of servers, desktops and mobile devices. CEO Tim Shoop credits his company’s growing list of clients to its focus on customer service, its HR recruiting and retention methods and internal automation that provides assurance of consistent service. A main differentiator, he says, is the company’s “client engagement roadmaps,” which provide visual status updates and an emphasis on resolving problems quickly.
Shoop says he has invested in automating back-office processes to ensure smooth operations and reduce the need for more employees.
Digital Boardwalk has 20 employees, who provide IT services along with cyber-security defenses, cloud computing solutions, backup and recovery, and website development. Shoop considers Digital Boardwalk “human resources focused,” with mentorship programs, customer service training and real-time performance recognition. Clients range from health care companies to law firms to small businesses.
Shoop launched Digital Boardwalk in 2009 but says the company got a major boost when it merged with a copier company in 2016. In the merger, Digital inherited salespeople, seven locations and copier/document management solutions.
“They had 25 salespeople, and we had two. We went from closing a deal a month to a deal every other day. It’s been a great marriage,” Shoop says. At the same time, the service provider has tinkered with its pricing, re-examined its tiered service model and dropped the price of its mid-level plan.
Shoop projected revenue of $3 million for 2018 and says his goal is to double that within three years. This year, Shoop plans to expand its location in Central Florida. The company already has satellite offices in Lakeland, where co-founder Brian Wilkey is based, and one in Phoenix.
The business has been listed among Inc.’s 5000 fastest-growing companies in America. With revenue of $2.2 million in 2017, Digital Boardwalk’s 81% three-year revenue growth put it at No. 4,205.
True to Form
Need a will, a prenuptial agreement or a power of attorney contract? Carol Thompson-Finn has those legal forms and thousands more on her website, MyLegalEdge.com. Thompson-Finn, who has a law degree from the University of Illinois, decided to start her company while completing a clerkship at the Mississippi Supreme Court in 2005. She later worked at legal publisher Commerce Clearing House and Lexis-Nexis, a national research platform. With experience in the legal forms industry, she felt she could improve the processes and provide downloadable forms for consumers.
MyLegalEdge offers 3,000 different forms for 50 states in areas such as landlord/ tenant, wills and estates, bankruptcy and power of attorney. She updates the documents regularly as state statutes change. In addition to the form offerings, MyLegalEdge also provides completion services for documents. “When a customer contacts us, we respond within 24 hours,” Thompson-Finn says. While the website does not give legal advice, customers can browse the blog to obtain insight on legal topics and find the right forms.
Thompson-Finn launched the company as a hobby and only recently turned it into a full-time business. “It takes time and commitment to grow,” she says.
As a business that participates in the Naples Accelerator, MyLegalEdge operates from co-working space where Thompson-Finn has access to mentoring and coaching. She currently is trying to get funding from angel investors that she’ll use to beef up her marketing and website.
To compete against larger companies in the online legal forms space, MyLegalEdge has zeroed in on niche audiences such as veterans. In November, the company offered free estate planning forms to veterans.
Jace Kenter, director of Business and Economic Development for Collier County, says he has guided MyLegalEdge as part of the Naples Accelerator and helped the CEO chart a course to be competitive. “Her forms are easy to use and affordable,” he says. “Now it is a matter of getting the word out with some creative marketing.”
As a University of South Florida student who rode his skateboard to classes, Alexei Novitzky came up with an idea for a skateboard with a built-in storage compartment. After several redesigns, Novitzky developed a board with storage space that he calls the Skatecase.
Novitzky, who has exclusive patent rights to the board, got help with a logo and marketing plan through a collaborative program with the school. He’s sold about 200 handmade boards at $100 apiece. In late 2018, he placed an order with a manufacturer for 100 more boards that he plans to market through his website and at trade shows to distributors and retailers.
Novitzky’s Looshes Labs, the parent company, is housed in the USF business incubator known as USF Connects and consults with inventors on engineering and design for new products (including Cubic Yachts of Tampa, known for its $12 million stainless steel yacht).
Read more in our February issue.
Select from the following options:
* offer valid for new subscribers only