NORTH FORT MYERS, Fla — It seems like much of Tony Brown's life has led to this moment.
And he feels ready.
“Every night when I would go to sleep when I was a kid," Brown says, "I would come up with some business idea or figure some kind of concept about how to create a business. But I just didn’t know how to get from A to Z.”
Tony's story is the first in a new series called "SWFL Reinvented: Moving Forward". For the next year, we're going to track how a group of small business owners go from concept to creation to running their own business. We'll update you every week in a digital-only series that you can watch on the Fox 4 website or the Fox 4 App on your favorite streaming device.
When Tony was growing up, dreaming of owning his own business, his dad told him not to let any one thing define him.
“My father always told me if you diversify yourself then you can fit pretty much into any category,” he says.
So when Tony was in high school he played sports. And he was in the drama club. And he was on the student council. The drive to always meet new people and try to learn from them, led him to follow a friend from Indiana to Naples after college.
“And you know Naples is one of the richest cities in the country. And I saw a lot of potential, a lot of things I never experienced," Tony says.
He thought he was ready to open his first business. But the Great Recession delayed that. He needed to work and because he wasn't afraid to try something new, he became a Fort Myers Police Officer.
“It was more of a safety net. Because a lot of jobs weren’t hiring at that time. And a lot of government jobs were. And at that particular time," he says, "the police department really needed a lot of assistance, a lot of help.”
And he loved the job. He worked the beat for about a decade. And in that time, he did what he always did; he opened himself up to new people and new experiences.
“I had a few friends that I built up a good relationship with," he says. "You know, being a police officer, going into 7/11s and interact with a lot of the owners and the franchisees.”
Those relationships led him to walk away from his steady job as a police officer and take the risk of opening up his own 7/11.
“Oh, believe me, I was terrified, because you’re pretty much just putting yourself out there.”
What he learned opening that first business, prepared Tony for the risk he's about to take now. In February, he's going to open a gym on Hancock Bridge Parkway in North Fort Myers, called Blitz 45.
"My heart is beating every day. It’s very scary," he says about opening a gym during a pandemic. “You get these negative thoughts in your mind, that will say, ’don’t do that, it’s too much of a risk, stay in your comfort zone.’ But if you’ve done the research, if your heart and soul is in it, you’ll end up becoming successful.”
Tony feels like he's done both. From concept to creation, he feels like he's been down the path from A to Z.