Quick Show Overview
Son of Greek immigrants, Chris was an entrepreneur since the age of 13. He eventually would get into trouble for selling candy in school. Afterwards, his mother told him, “just don’t get caught” and continued to buy him bubble gum to sell.
Now, Chris runs Tampa Bay Business Owners in Tampa Bay, Florida with a number of other businesses, while his wife runs the bizwomenrock.com podcast. After listening to today’s interview, you’ll learn:
- The importance of knowing if you’re made to be an entrepreneur or an employee.
- The importance of validating your business ideas before you start creating the product or service you’re selling.
- Marketing your business in a much more creative fashion.
Chris says he has always been an entrepreneur. “I used to put ads in the paper, and sell stuff out of the paper, out of my house, my parents thought I was crazy.”
He explains that at one point in his life, he was a general contractor, without any knowledge of construction. “I got taken in by a gentleman that was in the trades for 30 years. He trained me on everything he knew for sales. How to run crews.” The company did vinyl siding, windows and roofing in New York.
“The cool thing about that is that he allowed me to sit at, at least a thousand different kitchen tables across a husband and wife team, doing a sales job for vinyl siding. It was probably one of the best educations, and his rule for me was don’t talk just listen.”
Chris would sit there, while the other owner would sell to the couple and then narrate what was going on in real-time, in Greek. “The people there thought, ‘Oh, he’s teaching the kid! That’s pretty awesome!’ But, what he was telling me exactly is, ‘okay, watch how the wife looks at the husband. They’re about to make the deal.'”
The duo were 50/50 partners, and in the first 13 months, they hit a million dollars in sales.
Shortly after, Chris moved to Florida, where he got into real estate in 2004. In 2006, he sold his properties and developed a TV concept after learning how to produce a show from the Tampa Bay Area Local Public Access.
MILLIONAIRE MINDSET (3:00)
“I created a show called Millionaire Mindset, and I would interview all the top people that made a lot of money in business, here locally. And, I interviewed a lot of speakers that I would fly in from the middle states who were pretty successful in different real estate.”
Chris also produced another show – a political debate show called “The Bleeping Truth.”
“Between those two concepts, I learned a lot about production, about how to put shows on. It was live, so anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”
Chris says he wanted to monetize the shows, so he sent out an email to the people on the millionaire mindset show (about 300), saying he was starting a group for business owners. “At the time, we called it the Wellfill Fanatics. Now, it’s known as the Tampa Bay Business Owners. Of the 300 emails, about 100 showed up for the first event, and 20 off them actually joined the group.
“I shared a vision of personas coming together. Now we’re over 320 members that pay yearly to be part of this amazing group. We’ve invented platforms, workshops, main events, where we’ll interview key notes. I basically took what I did on the television show, but now I do it in front of a live audience.”
Over the nearly seven years since the Tampa Bay Business Owners started, Chris has been able to sit down with 5,000 people, one to one. “That’s what I do all week. I meet at least 20 new people a week, and i get to sit down the whole hour with them and hear their story.”
MILLIONAIRE FIRST SWEET STEPS
Chris says he’s been a business owner since his teens. “I used to sell candy in school at the age of 13. I got in trouble for that, because they figured it was a pre-sign to selling drugs. But, I don’t think it was.” Chris explains.
He says he got suspended, “but they called my parents, and it wasn’t a pretty sight. My mom would buy my candy and she helped me start my entrepreneur roots.”
RICH UNCLES, POOR DAD, ENTREPRENEUR (7:00)
Teenage Entrepreneur Podcast host, Jordan Agolli asks Chris to dive deeper into Chris’ story as a teenage entrepreneur. “I’ve been trying to understand the psychology of younger entrepreneurs. What do you think caused you to want to start theses businesses at such a younger age?”
Chris says that even at the early age of six and seven, he knew he was going to be an entrepreneur. “I had rich uncles, poor dad, and my dad is a great guy, very well educated, but my uncles weren’t very well educated at all. I saw that entrepreneurial pursuits could really pay off if done correctly.”
“And, I used to daydream in class of, if I own this business, it would create this kind of income, I kind of knew that there was a trap, I don’t know why I knew this, maybe I was figuring things out, piecing the pieces together, but I realized that they were training us to be really great worker bees, and I didn’t want to have any part of that,” Chris says.
CHRIS KRIMITSOS ON EDUCATION (8:20)
“Education is really great, but it doesn’t mean you’ll be successful in business. There’s a whole kind of different education for business.”
Chris received an education in school and on the job. “My Uncle Gus was the patriarch of the family. He jumped ship to come to the U.S. with ten dollars in his pocket. He took a cab, made a phone call to the one number he had, which was a restaurant. His buddy, Jimmy picked up the phone.
Had Jimmy not picked up the phone, he wouldn’t know where to go. Jimmy told him to write down an address “and he said ‘give it to the cab driver and tell him to drive you right here to this place and I’ll take care of you.”
After having left all of his money on the ship except for the $20 he put in his pockets before jumping off the ship, Uncle Gus took the cab to the restaurant, “got out, and started working 20 hours a day as a bus boy.”
Gus then worked to bring his brothers to America.
“I remember one day, I was working for Uncle Gus and ‘my dad brought me into work, to the diner, and Uncle Gus said you’re going to do the dish washing. I don’t know if anyone has ever done dishwashing in an industrial restaurant, but, it’s hot, when you put those dishes in the tray, it’s blazing hot.”
Chris explains that his uncle started yelling at him to work faster… to put his hand in the machine and pull the dishes out. “I though he was being a real D-bag about it, so I was like ‘why is he riding me like this?'”
Chris says Uncle Gus taught him, at the age or 12 or 13, “if you use your brain, you can have an easier life.”
Jordan acknowledges the importance of learning from immigrants the importance of work and education. “My father’s family immigrated from Albania… with absolutely nothing. They couldn’t even speak English. They didn’t make much money, and that was one of the motivating factors for my father, always wanting to provide for his future family.”
“So,” Jordan asks,” your uncle teaches you that lesson at 12, 13 years old, and that is when you started your first business, correct?”
Chris says he started about then, making around $25 – $30 per day. “My mom would buy four packs of Bubble Yum for a dollar and I would sell to these kids (in a wealthy high school).” He says he would sell a quarter’s worth of gum for 1 dollar.
“I did really well. I remember, my mom worked at a supermarket, so she could buy whatever was on sale, and supply me like crazy. I would make $10 – 15 a day. Five days a week.”
PUNISHED AT SCHOOL FOR BEING AN ENTREPRENEUR (13:30)
Chris says he learned an important lesson after getting in trouble at school for selling candy. “You got to be careful because the government makes their piece first before you do.”
He learned that lesson after almost getting suspended selling candy on campus.His teacher, Mrs. Johnson, had seen him selling candy and exchanging money with female student and turned him in, thinking he’d eventually start selling drugs on campus for money.
When his parents got called into the office, “my dad would always threaten me with military school… my mom just said, ‘hey, don’t get caught, be careful.’ They knew I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I was just selling candy, you know?”
EMPLOYEES AND ENTREPRENEURS (16:30)
“Even though I glorify entrepreneurism, I don’t think it’s for everybody. I think it’s a a bad thing if someone isn’t an entrepreneur. I don’t think it’s a bad thing if someone is not an entrepreneur,” Chris says.
He continues by explaining that he understands others wanting security, or not having to worry about the things business owners think about. “I get that your paycheck isn’t guaranteed if you get fired or that division could close down. But, it’s a lot easier on your life in the respect that, you know you’ll be home at 5.”
EDUCATED ENTREPRENEURS (19:00)
Chris attended three different colleges having never graduated from any of them. He talks about his frustrations with the education system in the US.
Krimitsos attended Nassau Community College his county’s community college. Later, he attended Stoneybrook University to get a business degree. “I asked the lady [about] science classes. I said to her, ‘why do I have to take that class’?”
“I wasn’t challenging her, I was going that a lot of millennials do, I was asking so I can understand why,” Chris explains. “She said, ‘if you can’t accept it, that’s the way it is. That’s how it is, these are the classes./”
“If she ca’t explain to me why I need this for the degree, why do I need to take a class… I’m not taking it.
“BECAUSE I SAY SO” IS NOT ENOUGH (23:30)
Jordan agrees wholeheartedly with Chris on the subjectiveness of the public school systems. “I would always ask why. I remember I got kicked out of class one time because I raised my hand and asked why we had to learn this if we’re never going to use this later in life.”
Jordan explains that if someone shows him why he needs to do something, he’ll do it. “I’ll respect the reason, but if they said, ‘because I said so,’ I would be like, ‘well, that doesn’t work’.”
“I’m disappointed in the education system,” Jordan continues, “I think they’re running it more and more like a business than a learning center.”
Chris counters Jordan’s valuation. “I wish it were run like a business, because it’s run like a business in a wrong way. It’s funded by government loans. They’re charging kids $30 to $40 thousand a year.”
“I want you to think of this. If you set up a school tomorrow and people were paying you $40,000 a year, you could build Disney World for them. But, what they’re doing is building these elaborate castles known as halls,” Chris complains.
“They can defend it all they want,” Chris declares, “but here’s the proof. We could not have a secondary [private, commercial university] education market if the first university system was working.”
ADVICE ON COLLEGE EDUCATION (34:00)
Chris says he’s not totally against a college education. “If you do go to college, just got to the community college and let it make you think or challenge you.”
But, he continues by saying, “get part time jobs in the industries you want to look into, you’ll find out real quick if you like it or not. After six months, if you have two part time jobs, that’s two industries you can learn in six months.”
Chris points to the New York City food service market as an example. In New York diners with seating of about 150, the business turns over about 60,000 a week in revenue – $3 million a year. “What’s left is a 10% profit – $300,000 a year profit. If you have two or three partners, about $100,000 a year profit. That’s not a lot for the work they put in.”
On the other hand, “a hot dog pushcart in Manhattan, working Monday through Friday, holidays off because the corporate workers are out of there, makes $10,000 a week. Net profit is half. They’ll make a quarter million dollars a year.”
“My advice for someone not wanting to go to college is go find the industry you’re interested in and go work in them. It might turn out that’s not what you want. If you have an idea, go on Facebook and spend $100 on Facebook ads, test the idea and see if it works.”
VALUE AND CHALLENGES OF THE INTERNET (37:15)
Chris explains that is the process he and his wife went through as they launched her podcast Biz Women Rocks. And explains the value of the internet today. “For testing, it’s easer, but there’s also more competition. You always want to make sure because word spreads a lot quicker, we’re all looking for something that is extraordinary.”
TAMPA BAY BUSINESS OWNERS MASTERMIND GROUP (39:30)
Chris started Tampa Bay Business Owners in June, 2008. “First off, there are a lot of groups that cater to business owners. Chambers of Commerce is the kind where the whole community shows up, a lot of time’s it’s salespeople. My vision was to create education that was entrepreneurial to bring together business owners. Connect them, and grow and create them as a leader.”
The group started with about 20 members in 2008 and has grown to around 300 members in recent years. Each member pays between $500 and $745 a year plus an activation fee of between $250 and $400 for membership.
The group has an interview process to filter out negative business owners from the group. “If someone is negative, they aren’t allowed to join… they have to be interviewed by someone on my team in order to be able to join the group. We created a culture and our members started referring their friends because it supports their endeavors and aspirations as business people,” Krimitsos explains.
COMMUNITY THROUGH PODCASTING (42:00)
One of the things Chris has taught his group is how to use podcasting to grow their businesses. He and his wife joined Podcaster’s Paradise, and then showed the educational material to their members telling them how they learned about podcasting.
He refers to two of his members who have been able to totally change their lives for the good through podcasting. “One of our members is a video editor. He started a podcast about post production… he’ll be in Orlando this week, never really publicly spoken before, running an entire platform for editors with four people speaking and he’ll be interviewing them,” Chris proudly exclaims.
BIZ WOMEN ROCK PODCAST (44:30)
Chris talks about the launch of his wife’s podcast, Biz Women Rock. “We’re big on strategy. We’ve learned you’ve got to lay out your strategy before you go to war, so to speak,” he says.
Explaining that he had already laid out the strategy for Biz Women Rocks, “we already knew what we were going to be doing.”
He says he didn’t join Podcaster’s Paradise as an early adopter for the training in podcasting, but for the network and technical help. “We knew we needed help. Technical help, like my wife Katie might need some answers on how ot upload something to LibSyn or something.”
“We also bought it,” he says, “so we could get a couple people to review our podcasts, which we knew would be helpful.” He says he ended up getting about 200 reviews so far on the podcast, which helps increase the rank of any podcast on iTunes’ charts.
He was able to teach his Business Owners’ group about podcasting, and then asked each of them to post a review about his wife’s podcast. “I ended up collecting hundreds of names before we went to launch, because I was giving value,” he explains.
MOTIVATION AND DRIVE FOR AN ENTREPRENEUR (46:00)
Jordan asks Chris for the sources of his motivation and drive to keep doing what he’s doing. “I love new things,” Chris responds, “I love helping people. So, iff I can marry those two things,” his motivation and drive is increased.
“That’s what drives me,” Chris repeats, “I love featuring other people and helping them see that they can be leaders in their own right. That I love more than anything.”
ADVICE TO YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS (49:30)
When asked for advice to a younger version of himself, Chris responded, “I wish I had listened to mentors, or had more. I did everything the hard way for a lot of years, and I didn’t have really great mentors or consultants.”
He says he would advise a young entrepreneur to “seek out mentors in business to help.” But, he cautions, “The challenge is finding the right mentors, because a lot of mentors aren’t that great.”
Speaking directly to Jordan, Chris says, “if I was in your space, I would look for a really, and these mentors would have to resonate with my soul… many people who are OK. They lived it, they did it, they can give me some really good advice so I don’t make the same mistakes they did. That way you learn from their mistakes so you don’t have to repeat it.”
FEARS OF AN ENTREPRENEUR (51:15)
When asked about any fears he has as an entrepreneur, Chris says, “I fear stagnation. I fear the challenge with entrepreneurs… is trying different things. I’m just fearful of getting stuck doing the same thing over and over. I don’t mind repeating the same things, I’m just afraid of monotony. That just scares the crap out of me,” he says.
LEGACY – HELPING OTHERS SUCCEED (55:00)
Chris says he wants to be remembered as “a person who helped others to succeed… I just want a legacy, I was a great cheerleader to people. To my friends I was a great friend and a great cheerleader.”
He then tells the story of a man he met while traveling in Greece with his family named Takos. When Takos died, he asked his uncle about the man.
“Takos was the one that brought us all together, We all fight over dumb little things. Takos was the only one we respected, and because of him we all hung out. Takos is my best friend.” His uncle said.
“I gather all those other guys would say the same thing. Takos was their best friend.” Chris concludes. “He ws the one to put on the village festivals, bring everybody together, and there was a void… I want to be like Takos. That’s my life. To be someone to bring people together and let them forget their differences. That’s my purpose.”