Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Kevin and Michelle Borders, owners of Naples Network Services, relocated to beautiful Collier County in 2004 for new opportunities, warmer weather and a fresh start. Michelle shared the story behind their entrepreneurial journey and how, after moving to Naples and not knowing a single person besides Kevin's parents, they were able to make a difference in the community and grow an award-winning business.
"Prior to 2004, Kevin was running the worldwide operations for a company headquartered in Detroit," Michelle said. "The economy was getting shaky and many of the executives knew that lay offs were impending. We didn't want to wait around for things to get bad, so we sold the house and moved down to Naples. Kevin's parents were seasonal residents, so we were familiar with the area. Once we moved and got settled in, it was apparent that for someone like Kevin, with his IT skill set, it would be hard to replace his salary. That's pretty much why he decided to start his own business."
After the move, Michelle spent the first five or six years working a variety of jobs. She spent time as a substitute teacher and also worked for a church and eventually a seasonal catering company. In 2010 she came to the realization that she was better off helping Kevin grow the business. She left the catering company and joined her husband full-time on the sales, marketing and operational side of things.
"For those first six years, it was just Kevin," Michelle said. "He joined BNI, attended chamber networking events and slowly but surely started to build his network and clientele base. When I joined the team, I took on those activities and worked hard to get our name out in the community. Today I belong to a number of networking groups, I've done the leadership programs in the area and I was recently appointed to the Naples Chamber Board of Directors. They wanted someone to represent small businesses. I was honored, but none of this would be possible if it wasn't for the dedication and hard work of our team."
That team includes Kevin and Michelle's son, Jack, who, after graduating from college in 2016 with a degree in Neuroscience, decided he wanted to work for the family business. Jack, who worked part-time with his parents while still in high school, along with Kevin, handle the IT side of the business while Michelle continues to handle the accounting, sales, marketing and networking aspects. Their younger son, Nick, joined the team in 2019 after getting his management degree from University of Florida and spending 4 years working as a railcar broker for commodity transportation. He lives in Houston and his primary role is remote sales.
Since opening its doors in 2004, Naples Network Services has maintained some consistencies, such as their commitment to treat clients like family, but has also evolved over time. In 2012, they designed a product, similar to a Nest, capable of monitoring indoor atmospheric conditions and alerting the owner if water is detected. That opportunity didn't have the outcome they desired, but as a family they learned from the experience and continue to learn and adapt in the ever-changing face of technology. Today's focus is centered more around cloud computing, Microsoft Office 365 migration & maintenance and VOIP Phones.
Because of their dedication to customer support and ability to deliver world-class solutions at reasonable prices, Naples Network Services has garnered several notable awards including, an Excellence in Industry award for Innovation through the Collier County Economic Development Council in 2011, Collier County Business of the Month by The Naples Chamber in 2013 and, most recently in 2018, a distinction as one of the best IT businesses in Southwest Florida, only behind two companies each with 35 employees or more.
What advice does Michelle have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "First of all, take advantage of all the free business resources available such as SCORE, SBDC and Chambers of Commerce," she said. "They're there to help you. Also, it's important to keep in mind that, although our area is seasonal, the busy season may not correlate with YOUR busy season. New business owners need to keep that in mind with spending/saving/focus on when they ARE busy - vacation when they are not. Our business is slower towards the end of the season and summer is super busy with companies taking the time for upgrades and/or repairs they had to put off. I would also say to make as many contacts as possible. A good way to do this, which may spill over into new clients down the road, is to volunteer. There are many many opportunities to do this - I have Chaired a walk for ACS, been a mentor for two different organizations, helped plan a huge luncheon and spoken at it for another charity - anything it takes to meet people and get out there! Lastly, go to every free event you can. Make friends with everyone because you never know who will end up being that special contact in the long run."