Southwest Florida entrepreneur Vinny Antonio quickly shifted his focus.
Few in the entertainment and event planning industry have been able to avoid the pandemic’s potent, and drastic, destruction.
Count Southwest Florida entrepreneur Vinny Antonio at the top of that list. His company, Fort Myers-based Victory Marketing, in handling event and experiential staffing for major companies like AT&T, LinkedIn and Xfinity, was a leader in its niche. In early 2020, it won a bid to do work for Cirque du Soleil, which Antonio says would have added $3 million in top-line revenue. “We were really dominating in January and February,” Antonio tells Coffee Talk.
COVID-19 caused the business to go dark — losing $1 million in revenue the first week of the shutdown. But rather than give up, or even exit the industry, Antonio took a different route. His business mission now is to work with all the places and venues that are — and will be in the future — holding events and anything else that’s in-person. To do that, in March Antonio purchased the license to become to the U.S. distributor for Disinfect Group, a Belgian company. The company manufactures, assembles and sells mobile disinfection units and sanitizing tunnels.
Resembling X-ray machines at airports, the tunnels emit a safe disinfecting mist, using EPA- and FDA-approved ingredients, on individuals and their belongings prior to entering a building, according to a statement. Places a Disinfect Group tunnel can be installed run the gamut, from entrances to schools, sports venues and mass transit stations to theme parks, conference centers, casinos, office buildings and more.
Antonio discovered Disinfect Group though an event-planning contact overseas, in a WhatsApp thread. He moved on the opportunity quickly, spending, he says, into the six figures on licensing and startup costs. The company has a warehouse in Georgia for manufacturing and assembly, and installers nationwide. “We’re proud to be an essential part of the economic reopening of our country,” Antonio says.
Antonio exhibited a sanitizing tunnel at the event industry’s Together Again Expo July 24 in Orlando and at the Florida Festival & Events Association’s Resilient Together conference Aug. 19 in Bonita Springs. He plans to target regions with about 20 territories, and expand geographically.
The core challenge now? Customer education. The dry fog in the tunnels utilize electrolyzed water technology to create a nearly invisible dry mist that’s all-natural, non-toxic, gentle on the skin and eyes and does not damage clothing or belongings. Clinical lab results demonstrate it is scientifically proven to kill 99.99% of germs, viruses and bacteria.
Based on that, combined with the tenuous state of the economy, there’s an ‘it really works’ sense of urgency to Antonio’s selling proposition. “People,” Antonio says, “aren’t aware of how simple this is.”