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Software entrepreneur finds his footing after personal medical scare

Chris Abbott turned a dreadful few weeks into a new opportunity to get back to what he calls his “entrepreneurial roots.”

  • By Mark Gordon
  • | 5:00 a.m. June 19, 2023
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
Chris Abbott has been writing software for franchise-based business for years.
Chris Abbott has been writing software for franchise-based business for years.
Photo by Mark Wemple
  • Entrepreneurs
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Sarasota software entrepreneur and real estate executive Chris Abbott got smacked with some big life challenges, and tragedies, in 2022.

First his younger sister, Brenna Marzucco, married with three kids, died at 35 years old after dealing with an illness for eight months. A few weeks later, on Easter Sunday, Abbott had his own medical issues: his colon ruptured. “I manage my stress physically,” Abbott says, “and this really pushed me over. I had 104 fever. I had sepsis.”

“I thought I was about to die,” he adds. 

Abbott was in a hospital for 23 days. He had reverse colostomy surgery, a relatively straightforward medical procedure that requires a more grueling emotional and physical recovery period.

While not necessarily an epiphany, Abbott, in the hospital and while in recovery, had a life-affirming thought. “I decided that after this, I was going to focus on my health and focus on being an entrepreneur again,” he says. 

The result of that is Brantunity — a play on the words branding and opportunity. 

Abbot, 45, comes to the venture — he’s invested at least $40,000 in it so far, in addition to hundreds of hours — after two decades of diverse business and life experience. First the Naples native served in the U.S. Army, where he was a platoon leader for a tank unit, among other posts. He then worked for KB Homes, planning subdivisions and later in acquisitions, prior to a stint at Naples-based Stock Development, overseeing entitlement and other aspects of projects. 

That experience led Abbott to launch his own business, a rental property management firm in Sarasota he dubbed The Ryntal Group. He sold that business and then got into writing software, which he did for several area companies. That led to a role at Sarasota-based real estate tech firm PropLogix, where he was chief technology officer for three years. 

A short while later came his sister’s illness, and then his own health struggles. “I wanted to get more control and go back to my entrepreneurial roots,” he says, “which served me really well.”

Those roots start with his software business, Utilasoft. The idea is to write code and programs that help businesses be more efficient with personnel, sales, processes and more. The company, with five employees and three clients, focuses on building franchise-based software “with an emphasis on speed to market,” Abbott says. 

The search for franchise clients for his software led Abbott to another near-epiphany. “How do you get franchises to believe in what you’re doing?” Abbott says he asked himself. The answer? “I decided I need to start a franchise.”

That’s where Brantunity comes into play. The idea, he says, is to have 20 or so home-services based franchises in one entity. All the options will have a low barrier to entry. The franchise fee, Abbott says, will be $5,000, for example. “This isn’t the kind of franchise where you’re paying $50 for every lead,” he says. 

Abbott says the goal is threefold: provide a revenue stream with franchise sales; create real-life ways to use and prove his software programs; and, on the franchisee side, open opportunities for other entrepreneurs to get into a second or complementary business. (See partial list of concepts in box.) 

“I want this to be easy for franchisees to get into, easy for hard-working people to get into,” he says. “This can be a significant side hustle, and what I call an add-on franchise. You’re not going to take a vacation every month in St. Lucia (with the profits) but maybe you’ll be able to use this to put your kids through college.”

The first franchise to go live under the plan is called It’s an emergency air conditioning concept that says it can deliver one to six portable AC units with same-day delivery, depending on how early the order is placed in the morning. The primary customer, Abbott says, are full-service AC companies, so those businesses have another option for customers in a pinch. Stay Cool will also sell directly to consumers. Abbott is running the Sarasota unit of the company himself so far, and has partnered with Veteran Air on a beta test.

On the franchise side, he’s in negotiations with a prospective franchisee in Lakewood Ranch, and hopes to add Bradenton and Naples next year. While he’s optimistic about the opportunity, he’s also cognizant of not growing too fast. “I’m trying to validate it this summer,” he says. “I don’t want to grow and get out of control.” 



Mark Gordon

Mark Gordon is the managing editor of the Business Observer. He has worked for the Business Observer since 2005. He previously worked for newspapers and magazines in upstate New York, suburban Philadelphia and Jacksonville.

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