Tony Selvaggio left everything in Venezuela behind in 2011, with an entrepreneurial dream in hand.
Just 27-years-old at the time, he had a vision to use the scrap metal background he has to become a business owner. Already taxed with learning a new culture and adapting to a new country, he decided to add learning how to manage a business to the mix.
“E-waste was one of the fastest growing waste streams in the country,” he said. “I knew that we had the knowledge to be able to handle computers and electronics.” In 2014, Selvaggio launched eSmart Recycling in Tampa. The company focuses on recycling computers and technology from large companies.
“The SBDC was one of the first places that I went to find guidance,” Selvaggio said of his start in business. Selvaggio has utilized the Florida SBDC at University of South Florida in a variety of areas since 2014, but in 2018, he specifically sought assistance for managing the business finances. “There was a specific consulting team that helped us with analyzing our books and figured out what the pain points were,” Selvaggio said. This allowed him to reach out to banks to establish relationships for future access to capital.
“That whole relationship did help us get a better grip on our finances,” he said. “As we kept growing and we kept paying extra attention and we understood what resources were available then it ultimately ended up helping us get some financing for our company and we kept growing.”
The business is currently in the process of finalizing a 7a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loan through local bank partner, Pilot Bank.
Throughout the years, Selvaggio continues to rely on his main business consultant, Yanina Rosario, when he has questions. “Whether a business-related question or a question about navigating a specific issue within the community, within the local or regional infrastructure, that support of a business advisor has always been there whether we were actively working or engaging in a product or not.”
This relationship proved especially fruitful as COVID-19 shut down the state in March 2020. With the doors closed due to state mandates, Rosario reached out to Selvaggio to encourage him to take advantage of various disaster relief programs. This resulted in the business getting a State of Florida Emergency Bridge Loan, a SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan, the Paycheck Protection Program loan, and the R3 Economic Recovery grant. Securing these funds allowed the business to remain open in 2020 while the state recovered.
The business has seen tremendous growth since engaging with the Florida SBDC at USF. Selvaggio started as a single employee operation earning five figure revenues in the beginning. “Moving on to where we are now, we are a team of eight people, going on to hire three more full-time employees within the next couple of months. We are pretty much a seven-figure company that has changed warehouses three times now,” he said.
But the growth of the company isn’t even what gives Selvaggio the most joy in his business. After arriving in the country in 2011, he became keenly aware of a lack of access to technology in certain areas of Florida. He became passionate about solving that problem, and weaved community service into his business model. “I remember one of the first companies that we served; they were getting rid of like 20 computers, and we refurbished about 10 of those computers and we gave them to a nonprofit,” he said. “Well one thing led to another and it became this company model that started focusing on a win-win-win relationship with our clients and with the people that we help with the community!”
While the company has seen great success in the span of just seven years, Selvaggio has no intention of slowing down. He has a vision of becoming the preferred information technology recycling services for some of the best companies in the world and expanding outside of Florida, but he also sees a bigger purpose.
“I think we are in an amazing place right now to use our business and our influence as a force to do good. [We want to] make sure our brand and mission become a synonym for mentorship with tangible social impact…and a catalyst for positive social change within the community.”
Selvaggio intends to continue relying on the Florida SBDC at USF for assistance. “I would say we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t because of support from the SBDC at USF and all the amazing team of consultants that are there to answer all of our questions.”