Garth Arevalo, co-founder of Lukos, which is a GrowFL 2017 Florida Companies to Watch honoree, discovered the opportunity to launch his own business while working as an Air Force officer.
"When I was in government, I was a contracting officer negotiating business deals and contracts," he said. "Essentially I was a buyer for the government, where I saw opportunities for small businesses to support the government. I alwas had the entrepreneurial bug and decided to start a business selling to the government. The military has a lot of opportunities, but not as an entrepreneur."
Lukos is a service provider for the U.S. Department of Defense, providing a variety of specialized skills such as training, engineering, tech support and medical support for the Federal Government with a focus on the military.
"We are a group of primarily veterans, and many have backgrounds in the special operations community who have served with or for specials operations both here in Tampa, which is the headquarters for special operations command, and overseas," Arevalo explained. "We have a deep understanding of their mission, and they are our primary customers."
Lukos has long followed the tradition of special operations avoiding media attention. Its recognition by GrowFL as a Company To Watch is a deliberate shift in that approach.
"For many years, we've taken a low profile and avoided the spotlight," Arevalo said. "But as we grow and enter new markets, we're excited about being honored by GrowFL as a Company To Watch. It's the opportunity to recognize the hard work of our employees. We're excited to come out of the shadows and mix with some folks who are not in our industry."
Arevalo's advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to expect seriously hard work and little pay early on.
"Everyone said it was going to be harder than you expect and it's even harder than that," he said. "You have to be prepared to not pay yourself for extended period of time or significantly less than your skills would demand in open market. It was many years before we paid ourselves what we'd be paid in a job. You need patience and the ability to make a lot less for an extended period until you can gain traction and grow the business."