Working on the First Coast; A Guide through the Obstacles Espinosa Helps Small and Minority-Owned Businesses Land Contracts

Article excerpt

Byline: Drew Dixon

Raul Espinosa knows what it's like to be on his own without any help. When he was 14, he fled communism and Fidel Castro and left his native Cuba for the United States in 1960.

Leaving his parents behind, Espinosa said it was his drive and persistence that eventually led to his entrepreneurial spirit and success in America. Since 1995, when Espinosa started the FitNet Purchasing Alliance, he's been able to impart that entrepreneurial character to other minority contractors and help others land contracts.

Espinosa said his St. Augustine business with three employees takes in about $1 million to $2 million in annual revenue. But that revenue comes from serving as a consultant for other minority and small business contractors who may not know how to bid for work.

The alliance consists of about a dozen businesses that rely on Espinosa to help land contracts as he's the chief executive officer of the organization. The 67-year-old Espinosa said his business resulted from experiences ranging from being a staff assistant to presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and George H. Bush to being part of entrepreneurial pursuits himself.

Espinosa helped develop athletic training audio cassette tapes that trained sports stars such as U.S. Olympic skiers in early renditions of a Walkman tape player during the 1980s. The cassettes made him financially comfortable.

But Espinosa said he's now committed to making his money from helping other minority and small businesses make money through the FitNet Purchasing Alliance.

What made you go into this line of work?

The whole thing goes back to a combination of the adversity I encountered and breaking through as well as the knowledge I acquired to start several businesses. ... I know the problems [small businesses] encounter.

What kind of satisfaction do you get out of this type of work and why is that important to you?

It's not the money. It's satisfaction that you are making a difference. You are helping and sharing your knowledge with those folks who have ideas and concepts they want to take to market and start their own businesses. …

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