Marc Devisse personifies the axiom that in business, the only constant is change.
“You have to be flexible and adaptable,” Devisse says. “You can’t be stuck in your ways when bad stuff happens.”
The Fort Myers entrepreneur is most widely known around Southwest Florida for Tri-Town Construction, a luxury homebuilder and kitchen, bathroom and home renovation business he founded in 2006, when he was 23. But in the 17 years since then, Devisse has consistently sought avenues to do things differently. That includes opening a restaurant to diversify his revenue streams, and, more recently, launching a roofing business, Florida Roofing and Gutter, to meet a surge in post-Hurricane Ian demand.
It also includes making a significant investment in time and money on changing his business and personal mindset by working with, among others, self-improvement guru Tony Robbins. “If you’re in with Tony Robbins,” Devisse says, "there's no question you are becoming a better person.”
In addition, Devisse has been part of an Apex entrepreneur group, traveling once a month to Dallas for sessions on mindset, relationships and more. “The last few years have been extremely big on self-improvement,” says Devisse, 40. “I’ve been working on myself and getting out of being in the business so I can work on the business.”
The desire to start and run a business goes back to when Devisse was growing up, first in Chicago and then when he was a teenager in Southwest Florida. His mom was in real estate and his dad owned a small business. He almost started a pet-sitting company when he was 12 or 13. And when he was 14 he took a job washing dishes at a Punta Gorda fish market.
That kind of hustle foreshadowed Devisse’s career. He launched Tri-Town, for starters, at the dawn of what became the 2008-09 housing bust and recession. Then a recent graduate of Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, Devisse worked for local developer Rich Galvano. But that company’s work, in houses and multifamily projects, soon dried up. “Rich said to me ‘I love you, but I can’t pay you,’” Devise says his boss and mentor told him. “‘I can’t pay you to hang out.’”
That’s when Devisse embraced the opportunity to change directions, to working for someone to working for himself. He started with smaller jobs, some as low as $1,000 or $2,000, working on soffits and gutters and painting a bedroom. One night, Devisse started talking to someone sitting next to him at a bar, and the conversation resulted in a $10,000 job renovating a lanai, he recalled in a 2017 interview with the Business Observer, when he was a 40 under 40 winner.
Other Tri-Town projects included building three Jimmy John’s sandwich shops in Southwest Florida and a condo renovation in Pelican Bay, a high-end community in Collier County. The latter project turned into a long-term win for Devisse: the condo owner hosted a wine and cheese party for him after the project, and other owners in the complex, impressed with Devisse’s work, called Tri-Town for jobs. “I’m still getting calls off that party 15 years later,” Devisse says.
Devisse led Tri-Town to become a $8 million business. Then, in 2019, looking to change things up and create new income sources, Devisse decided to open a restaurant. Over eight months he obtained an SBA loan and, combined with savings, invested $1 million to open the eatery, Seaside Bar & Grill in Bonita Springs. Opening night, though, turned out to be the worst possible day: March 17, 2020, when restaurants and bars across Florida were shuttered due to COVID-19.
Devisse again embraced the change around him. He turned to takeout orders to make some money and build a brand. They ordered produce in bulk from Sysco and then sold groceries to customers. “Everyday was something different,” he says.
Devisse was soon working 6 a.m. to 3 p.m at Tri-Town followed by 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Seaside. After stabilizing the restaurant and building community support, Devisse, going back to personal change, found an exit strategy. He sold the restaurant, in May, to an entity under the name North Bonita Country Club.
Devisse has a ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ outlook on Seaside, now that it’s in the rearview mirror. “I learned a lot about how to be resilient,” he says. “If you’re able to get through that, it shows you have a lot of tenacity and a lot of creativity. I think if you could get through starting a restaurant in Covid, you can get through anything."