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Think Like an Entrepreneur The Entrepreneurs Balcony

An odd duck…… yea, probably

Jim quit school and ran away from home as a young teen and got a job at Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo. A few weeks working as a dock-boy fueling and cleaning rental boats, Jim got a pay raise. His boss explained that he was practically doing the work of two people, so the company was willing to pay more. His first boss, Howard Curtis, offered mentorship, which Jim still gets mileage from today.   

Through Howard’s guidance, Jim started figuring out that if you do more, you get more. Life really can be that simple.   

In his teen Key Largo days Jim was also a custom fishing rod builder. At about age 13 he knocked on neighborhood doors asking if  anyone had fishing rods with broken guides. He charged $2 each to fix them, and eventually learned to build complete custom rods from scratch. A couple years later he worked on charter sport-fishing boats at the Ocean Reef Club in North Key Largo where he occasionally got to make Bahama fishing runs. It was quite an exciting life for a youngster.

Around age 17 cable TV came to Key Largo and Jim saw a Bon Jovi video. The flashing lights and big-hair burned a vision of being a rock star into his head. Within a month Jim sold everything, packed a duffel bag, and headed to California. The duffel bag had a change of cloths, and a dream.  

This was his first and only experience with an addiction. Not drinking, not sex, and not drugs….. his was attention, something he didn’t get as a kid. The attention a musician got in the 80’s was hard to give up, especially since it was the reason he went to California in the first place… Jim understood the “Band-aid philosophy” and knew the quickest way out would be the best, so he shaved his head. There. No hair, no rock band. Problem solved.

“We’re all addicted to something. For some, it can be as simple as social media or TV. Find them, beat them, and watch what happens”.

Lost, broke, and having absolutely no idea of who he was or what he was going to do, Jim worked as a dishwasher in a Country Club in Sacramento because it offered free food. Through a mail order book, he got a job fishing in Alaska for a few months to "Find Himself". In Florida his sister was dying of breast cancer and he had been away long enough, his place was back “home” in southwest Florida with her. Jim sat on what was called a “beach” in Dutch Harbor, wrote down everything he thought was holding him back from starting a new life, burned it, and got on a plane headed back to southwest Florida.

His sister got cancer at 28 and died at 38. It was Jim’s first loss associated to death. Since then, Jim lost his mom to suicide, and his dad spent most of his life in trouble with the law. Jim was not in touch with outside family members so he was pretty much alone, though he always somehow attracted very unique friends and great mentors.  

“I’m no preacher and I don’t push religion on people, but I can comfortably tell you that if you don’t build a relationship with who you feel your God is, you’ll never be able to develop the one thing that you really don’t want to die without, which is feeling that you lived a significant life”.

From the ashes of a minimum wage job at a car wash in Cape Coral (Florida) in the 90’s, Jim built a company called the “Waxman”, a mobile boat detailing business, which is where the idea for a local marine resource publication came from, “The Nautical Mile”. His coastal clients often asked about local marine information or where they could buy something for their boat. He thought, “How could there be no directory for boaters in a county that has over 500 miles of canals and thousands of registered boats?”

In 2003 Jim saw that a local coastal publication was in high demand, and it would take much less of a toll on his body than waxing boats, so off he went. After all…. people didn’t come here to go hiking. Jim had never used e-mail, computers, spreadsheets, and definitely didn’t have any office skills. It was a whole new world!

"Don’t get hung up on technical things that you can learn. Focus on putting passion into what you do".

That company quickly turned into what is known as Nautical Mile Publications, which is looked at as the most successful item of its kind in the state. www.NauticalMileMagazine.com  

Jim had had quite a natural talent for his newly found publishing career. He created several other successful ventures from the base of that “fishing rag” from coastal events to a unique treasure hunt. He’s been accused of having a magic wand, as if everything he touches turns to gold. He claims that the talent is more about knowing what to touch, and what not to….

“If you’re going to get hung up on something, make it character. Creating a success of something is often a byproduct of your character”.

The BP Oil Spill offered a great opportunity for a creative project involving video production, something Jim always wanted to learn about. The local marine business community had been damaged by false reporting as if SW Florida had people dying on the beaches. Jim decided to write, produce and direct a 45 minute introduction to promote boating in southwest Florida. 10,000 CD’s were distributed for free to people looking for information about the local marine community to help stimulate local marine business. It was a big hit! While media was looking to profit from the accident, Jim was being creative and looking for solutions.

Suffering from so many personal losses, Jim kept people at a distance and had few relationships. Along came Bo, a yellow lab that was lost in Hurricane Charley. Bo taught him to love and take care of someone other than himself. Jim was convinced that if not for the relationship that developed with Bo, his wife would have never gone a second date, (or may not have even stuck around on the first one…).

“I often tease my wife about that. She truly helped me overcome fears and showed me a world that I most likely would have never been exposed to if not for her patience and understanding. I’ve yet to find anything that can top a partner that believes in you.”   

Jim soon discovered another talent, he can talk to groups. He started talking to small groups around town about pleasure boating in the area. He realized that he was able to take his own challenges and struggles and turn them into stories that end up being lessons. People were inspired and interested in more, so he created a program designed for a classroom environment with a focus on finding your own obstacles and beating them.

Jim believes in our education system but they’re not magicians, and it’s just not quite offering kids what it takes to win. More than 80% nationwide are graduating High School, but they are far from prepared for what comes next. They’re getting great at taking tests and sleep depravation, which may come in handy, but when they go out into the world, most do not have the tools to dig themselves out of the 7-day routine that most end up in. For so many, 30 years goes by, and people wonder where life went. Jim feels that people are simply not taught to win in our system. The theme of Jim’s program is about separating yourself from the herd and learning how to “Think like an entrepreneur”.

“Start at the end and work backwards-   Fear turns to stress, and stress turns to bad decisions. You get stressed because you’re afraid of what may happen. Think of the word “stress” as a word used to describe what fear does to you, then quit thinking about stress and focus on beating your fears. Beat your fears, and you beat your stress”.     

Jim was also a big hit as a radio show host when a friend was sick and needed a substitute. The list of projects goes on. People love working with him because they never know what will be next. Jim maintains the publisher’s position for the monthly Nautical Mile, though he’s looking for someone to pass it on to. Like the Presidency, he feels it needs to be passed on in order to grow.

“Look around, look into the eyes of people in our society, most of the miserable ones are the ones that are not growing”.

Jim’s adventures have been successful and he credits that to the many that have supported his crazy ideas. He reside in Bokeelia, Florida, with his wife and Ti, a Doberman Pinscher, plus their parrot, Kozmo. Their down-time is spent breathing the fresh air and enjoying the mountain views of northern Georgia.

Special Thanks-

Robin Griffiths, Jim’s wife, for her inspirations and patience.

Sheriff Mike Scott, Lee County, Fl.  Jim sees his as a great role model for putting others first and doing the right thing.  

Chuck Caukins, Ft. Myers Marine, for being the first one to believe in Jim’s crazy ideas.

Quarry Reppert, Jim’s poster-boy for “It’s just not worth getting worked up over”, something we all could benefit from.

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