A thought occurred to aspiring entrepreneur Jonathan Bucci five years ago as he pressure washed a customer's driveway in Naples. He could hire a buddy to do this while he grew his new business, selling its services door to door.
The Barron Collier High Class of 2012 grad and former varsity football captain went into execution mode on his plan, with one caveat: He didn't drive directly to the potential customer's house. “I was driving a really crummy truck and parking it down the road,” Bucci says, so no one saw him get out of it.
Now 23, Bucci put in lots of hours on generating pressure-washing accounts, though most of whatever income he had came not from the business, but from waiting tables at night. He persevered, and within two years, the Naples native added house painting, minor maintenance and home repairs to his services.
Money Bucci made went to stocking the work truck with equipment. Says Bucci: “We'd do a job, spend it on another tool, do a job and get another tool.”
Today, that company, Estero-based Apex Property Restoration, is way beyond door to door. A recent winner of Gov. Rick Scott's Governor's Young Entrepreneur Award, Bucci says he's nearing annual revenue of $500,000. The next goal? Hit $1 million in sales.
His crew of six full-time workers and seven part-timers does minor maintenance work at a handful of commercial buildings and offers residential fix-up services throughout Southwest Florida. “There's a lot of work out there to be done,” Bucci says. “Our customers say it's hard to find good help in Florida — someone who shows up on time and stands behind the work.”
Bucci has made reversing that lament the Apex mission statement. In getting there, he says, he leans on learning from some early stumbles.
By early 2015, for one, Apex was putting foreclosed homes back into shape and starting to steamroll ahead. “We made more money in the first months of 2015 than in the past three years,” Bucci says.
Then came a common issue for fast-growing startups: “We grew so quickly we lost the client,” Bucci says. “We couldn't handle the work volume.”
At 20, Bucci was doing his first rebuilding of a business. That began with a few residential fix-up jobs and some work for Marriott installing appliances, painting and helping with general maintenance at its extended-stay properties. Now he has a roster full of commercial clients. “Things are starting to take off,” he says.
Next up is the more complex work of luxury home kitchen and bath remodels. Bucci must first obtain a contractor license, something he hopes to do by spring.
Help getting the contract for the foreclosed-home restorations, meanwhile, came from Elvis Collier, a business adviser at Florida Gulf Coast University's Small Business Development Center. “He kind of believed in me,” Bucci says. “He helped me get some possibilities down and gave me some insights.”
Collier says once he discovered Bucci was somewhat of a handy guy, “I encouraged him to package his talent and sell it.”
Collier mapped out some policy and procedures for Bucci. “He followed them and away he went,” Collier says. “I shared with him that it's not the product or service, it's creating a system. Without a system, it's just a great idea.”
Bucci's special strength, Collier adds, is he's hardworking and hungry. That, and knowing, says Bucci, “that I didn't want to have to work for anybody else,” keeps him driving forward.
Bucci's task as Apex Property Restoration grows is to maintain its value while avoiding past missteps. That makes fixing job inconsistencies a must, he says. A sports devotee who earned six letters at Barron Collier, Bucci says he will do that by continuing to building on his strong team.
“We have a great bunch of guys,” he says, and notes they showed especially strong character in working to the last minute to help Naples customers fortify their homes ahead of Hurricane Irma. “They hung shutters until the last day,” Bucci says, and left town only 10 minutes before authorities shut down Interstate 75.