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  • Writer's picturecocoy montenegro

Reflections on 25 Years As An Entrepreneur

When I was 10 years old, a family friend asked what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Without hesitation, I answered “self-employed.”

He laughed. “What kind of business will you own?”

“I don’t know that yet, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out.”

In November of 1995 I moved to Palmetto, Florida, and began selling promotional products through another company. Palmetto was in Manatee County, and at the time, people only did business with people they knew or people they heard about. Since no one knew me, I had to be someone they heard about.

One day, I sewed 200 keychains to an old jacket, and headed over to a chamber of commerce trade show. It had to have weighed 20 lbs. Everyone went crazy over it. One lady asked who I was, and I told her “Traci Kanaan.” She misunderstood me.

“Did you say Traci Keychain?” she inquired.

In my best “I’m Batman” tone of voice I replied, “Yes, I’m Traci Keychain.”

I was 28 years old. I had a pager, a crazy work ethic, and a dream.

A few days later, I decided to quit the company I was working for to become “self-employed.” I contacted an attorney and signed the paperwork on November 25th, 1997.

On December 1st, 1997,“Traci Keychain Advertising Specialties, Inc.” was registered with The Division of Corporations in Florida. I opened up my business checking account, and deposited $200.

I’ll spare you the long, morphy history of my company, but over the years “Traci Keychain” spanned promotional products, stand up comedy, and real estate holdings. In 2016, the company was renamed “Stand Up Eight, Inc.” While “Stand Up Eight” seems like an obvious nod to my career in stand up comedy, the company is actually named for the Japanese proverb “Fall Seven Times, Stand Up Eight.” I kept this proverb on my refrigerator when I was going through my divorce while taking care of my mother with dementia. It reminded me to keep getting up no matter how many times people try to knock you down, much in the same way my other company, Wings Hypnosis LLC, reminds me to “rise above.”

Currently, Stand Up Eight is primarily a real estate holdings company dba Naked Pineapple Getaways, specializing in high end, fun-themed short term rentals at Paradise Lakes.

Today, I am 53 years old. I have an iPhone 11, a crazy work ethic, and a company that is 25 years old. I don’t know that I’ve figured out this self-employment stuff yet, but I’m a lot closer now than I was when I was 10!

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