My entrepreneurial career started sometime around 1969, while I was in college at UMass. I bought a steam bath apparatus that I could set up in a bathtub or shower and I turned our fraternity bathroom into a sauna. I rented it out to my fraternity brothers for 25 or 50 cents, and they used it to relax after playing ball or drinking beer.
I’ve always had a variety of jobs and a solid work ethic. From the time I was 10 years old I was cutting grass, washing windows and picking tomatoes at a farm for pocket money. I continued to have that work ethic throughout my life. I learned the importance of being self-sufficient.
In college, at that same frat house, I worked with the chef as a steward. I helped to order all of our food each week and make sure we had everything in the kitchen. I was also the weekend short-order cook, which meant that typically on Saturday nights I had cheeseburgers and French fries ready to go. The menu didn’t vary much from that. Since so many of my high school and college jobs were in the restaurant and entertainment industry, I thought I would go into those fields. But right out of college, I was recruited onto Procter & Gamble’s sales and marketing team. I was one of the first sales people for Pampers disposable diapers, which were brand new at the time. This was during the height of the Vietnam War, and eventually I got drafted. They were a fabulous company who offered me a lot of job security and held my job until after I returned, but I decided over that period of time that I really wanted to be an entrepreneur. I wanted to work for myself. I tried to retire after selling a few of my companies and writing a book, but I really struggled. I have unretired two or three times now because I didn’t have enough to keep me challenged. I missed that need to compete and think and solve problems. Now, in addition to being an angel investor with Tamiami Angel Fund and Adrenaline Fund, I coach young entrepreneurs at the university and judge business plans.
—As told to Hillary Richard