Much like fellow Tampa entrepreneur and 40 Under 40 winner Dan Bavaro, college dropout Andrew Watson hasn’t gone by the book in carving out — literally — a career that suits his unique vision and abilities.
The founder and CEO of Built, a custom furniture manufacturing company in Tampa, Watson says it’s “a daily struggle to delineate between being an artist who builds furniture as a conceptual, artistic endeavor, and someone who’s operating a business.”
But Watson also has a keen feel for the pulse of the market. Built, for one, got a big break when prominent Tampa restaurateur Richard Gonzmart selected the company to furnish Ulele, his popular new waterfront eatery.
Now, the company is on the verge of launching its first line of branded production furniture, and Watson — who paradoxically describes himself as both creative and pragmatic — faces a challenge common to many startups.
“A business is a collection of systems and being a business owner means you’re managing those systems,” he says. “Whereas being self-employed means you're working inside of your business. I’ve been working as an account manager, a sales manager, a production designer … sometimes the concept designer. But as we get to the most pure edition of what the company is, I will just be managing the systems, not working inside the company, and we’re at a point now where we have all the pieces in place so that I can work on the business, not in the business.”
OK, so Watson has read some books.