Flying Solo

How three men decided to risk it all and go it alone

It’s easy to work hard when you love what you do. To understand passion, look into the eyes of an entrepreneur.
Local serial entrepreneur Marc S. Compeau echoes the age-old and seemingly elementary concept about business success: “Don’t spend more money than you take in or are committed to receiving.”
According to Mr. Compeau, former director of Clarkson University’s Reh Center for Entrepreneurship and a Clarkson business professor, an important key to success in business is to not grow yourself out of it.
“New revenue is exciting,” he said. “But watch your pace of growth, because growth also costs money. Understand true costs.”
Mr. Compeau asserts the importance of understanding value-added propositions.
“Don’t ignore the initial cost of investment,” he said.
Whether it be education, training or equipment, consider value-added costs to determine price points and do so before making decisions on capital investment.
“Make sure demand is there before you consider growth,” he said. “Raise your price first.”
So how do three Watertown entrepreneurs measure up to this sage advice?

A birdseye view
Watching huge flocks of snow geese swirl down from the sky, amid a cacophony of honking, is a little like standing inside a snow globe. Hunting snow geese requires hard work and specialized strategies, but those who learn the tricks find it immensely rewarding. Arguably, few outdoor experiences can compare with being at the center of a swirling-vortex of several thousand squawking snow geese settling into a decoy spread.
Matthew J. Eggleston, President and CEO of Field King Decoys has designed a new breed of decoys to maximize the exhilarating rush of bird hunting.
As a young boy, Mr. Eggleston wandered out to the lake behind his grandparent’s house in Sackets Harbor to watch and listen to the squawking, caw-cawing, flapping and gliding.
“I’d spend hours watching the birds,” he said.
The hunting bug had bitten. Mr. Eggleston began with pigeons.
“I started researching decoys, but the only ones I could find came from England and were frail and expensive,” he said.
Mr. Eggleston endeavored to make his first pigeon decoy in 2007 from a plastic soda bottle. The design began as a flat profile view of the bird, but he quickly realized that with an interlocking feature, he could dramatically increase the realistic look of the bird and replicate its body shape from an overhead view — the bird’s view.

He enrolled in an ornithology class at Jefferson Community College in 2009 to learn more about the science of birds. He was constantly seeking to perfect his decoy designs, and studying the anatomically correct structure and contour of the different birds was vital in perfecting his patterns.
“I kept designing and re-designing untill I had it right,” he said.
He devised a free-floating decoy stake system with a one-third weight ratio, so that as wind direction changed, so would the direction of the decoys.
“That’s what keeps them so realistic,” Mr. Eggleston said.
He also came up with a stenciling process to mimic the feather patterns of the birds.
“We build contour through layering the design,” he said.
Likewise, he developed a new process of flocking which gives a feather-like luster to the decoy.
As a hunting guide, Mr. Eggleston had the added benefit of testing his decoys with every slight design change.
“They’ve been more thoroughly field-tested than you could probably imagine,” he laughed.
He has permission to hunt on more than 50 farm properties throughout the region. When setting up a snow goose decoy spread, Mr. Eggleston erects about 2,500 decoys.
“That’s the magic number,” he said. “Snow geese travel in such high numbers that you need to replicate that.”
He has designed these lightweight, collapsible decoys using sections of corrugated, interlocking pieces of plastic that create lifelike 3D replicas of the most frequently hunted bird species. His designs include decoys for mallard ducks, snow geese, Canadian geese, crows, turkeys, pigeons, doves and owls for crow hunting. His designs are arguably the most realistic on the market.
“When the predators started hitting them, I knew we had it right,” Mr. Eggleston said.

The cost is also fractional compared to any other similar decoy. Typical full-body decoys cost about $120 for a set of four and are cumbersome to transport and time consuming to setup. Field King Decoys can offer a dozen of their lightweight, interlocking, realistic decoys for the same price.
Mr. Eggleston’s designs allow for assembly and disassembly in seconds, coupled with extreme portability. More than 100 decoys can fit in a single saddle bag.
His decoys are the only ones of their kind and are fully patented and copyrighted.
Mr. Eggleston began decoy manufacturing full-time in April at his new 1,500-square-foot shop, located in Watertown’s Empsall Plaza.
“There are so many facets to making everything complete,” he said.
But with an efficient assembly line process, he’s producing more than 1,000 decoys per week.
Finding time to sleep can be a challenge. “I just work in a triangle,” he joked.
Mr. Eggleston works in the decoy shop during the week, is a bouncer at the Nautical Turtle in the evenings and is a Black River Whitewater Raft Guide with Adirondack River Outfitters on the weekends.
“It’s a rigorous schedule,” he said. “But it’s definitely in my fiber to work hard.”
Mr. Eggleston has six principal investors involved in the company. Most notably is Greg Zipadelli, a NASCAR crew chief and co-host of Drop Zone on the Outdoors Channel.
“They’ll be handling the marketing side of the business,” Mr. Eggleston said.
Field King Decoys is preparing to present its five main species to Bass Pro Shop and expects to be in full production by September. To fill the order, Mr. Eggleston is on-schedule to manufacture 6,000 snow geese decoys, 1,200 Canadian geese decoys, 1,200 crow decoys, 1,800 mallard duck decoys and 1,200 turkey packs.
“It’s a lot of work and it’s all me,” he said.
After years of watching, listening, designing and perfecting, Field King Decoys could be on the brink of its own Duck Dynasty phenomenon.
“No beard for me, though” Mr. Eggleston joked.
“It’s proof that even from a small town like this, something big can happen,” he said.

Taking the work out of networks
CompuTech is a two-year computer repair start-up based in Watertown. Uniquely positioned to support commercial and residential information-technology needs, CompuTech has seen quantum growth in demand for services since owner Jordan R. Durant ventured into business with only $600 to his name.
From hardware and software issues to server and networking needs, CompuTech provides every aspect of IT support from the ground up.
It provides comprehensive software-related support to more than 50 local businesses, guaranteeing within-the-hour service and around-the-clock remote support, daily.
“Every employee at a business I service has my number taped to their desk,” Mr. Durant said.
CompuTech has about 60 business clients and approximately 700 PCs directly under Mr. Durant’s control.
“I’m a huge believer in remote support,” he said.
Mr. Durant uses support tools to connect to a remote computer or server from his smart phone via the Internet, and works directly on the remote system to diagnosis and fix software-related problems almost instantly. This in turn reduces help desk center costs as well as transport-related expenses.
“We offer the lowest prices next to our best competitor,” Mr. Durant said. “We’ve built up a tremendous amount of trust with our customers and I believe have grown incredibly fast because of it.”
Mr. Durant doesn’t work on contracts with his customers. He genuinely works for each job.
“There’s an urgency to get work done quickly and well,” he said.
Computers have always been an extreme hobby for Mr. Durant.
“I like to solve problems,” he said. “This was my perfect outlet.”
But his hobby remained only an outlet until he got a job with Superior Computer Services, Carthage, in 2010.
“They turned me into an IT business owner and they didn’t even know it,” Mr. Durant said.
In his varied career, Mr. Durant has sold real estate and cars, managed a furniture store, worked for a nonprofit, been a financial advisor and even worked as a plumber.
“Plumbing taught me so much about networking because data moves like water,” he said. “I didn’t see the parallel until I started networking.”
His work centers on building virtual tunnels through the Internet.
“It’s all spatial,” he said. “It’s why I love it.”
And Mr. Durant knows what it is to love what you do, because while working at a central issue facility at Fort Lee, Va., he sorted pants. Eight and a half hours a day, five days a week, for two years, he sorted mountains of military-issue pants into groups of five. Misery was an understatement for Mr. Durant at that time.
“I went home and looked for problems to fix on my computer,” he said. “It was my way to decompress.”
After working with Superior Computer services for two years, Mr. Durant went out on his own in 2012 with less than $1,000 in his bank account.
“Benefit Services Group was my first client and thankfully everything snowballed from there,” he said.

A Carthage native, Mr. Durant knew he had the network to start a business in the north country. He is a member of Business Networking International, a proactive business-to-business referral network. In 2013, the 155,000 members of BNI worldwide passed more than 5.4 million referrals, which resulted in more than $6.5 billion in business, according to BNI. In the Upstate New York chapter alone, more than $1 million in local referrals were generated last year.
“Each business is vocation specific,” Mr. Durant said. “And I’m their computer guy now.”
CompuTech clients include Massey’s Furniture Barn, Freeman Bus Corp., NTL Appliances, Gateway Liquor, DOCO Quick Print, Lori Gervera Real Estate, Midas Muffler and Benefit Services Group.
Mr. Durant started the business with a commercial focus, but hopes to grow its residential side.
“We can guarantee a much faster turnaround,” he said.
Computers with software-related problems dropped off to the 611 Coffeen St. location before noon can be picked up the same day. Average costs for non-commercial computer repairs are $85.
“We’re anticipating huge growth in the residential area of the business,” Mr. Durant said.
He also hopes to cater more heavily to the Jefferson Community College campus.
“We keep our overhead low,” Mr. Durant said. After one month in a new location, CompuTech is operating in the black. “Everything’s been paid for,” he said.
And while profits aren’t off the chart, Mr. Durant explained, it’s not about being rich.
“This is my little zygote of a business,” he said. “I’m doing my best to protect and grow it.”
For Mr. Durant, it’s an amazing thing to be doing what he loves. “Even on the lowest day, working for myself is better than working for someone else.”

Making the jump
For young entrepreneur Alexander
L. Mix, a law degree, not a personal training certificate, was in his future.
But fate had other plans.
“I’m doing pretty well,” he smiled.
Mr. Mix, owner of MixFit Personal Training, trains about 30 clients on a regular schedule who tange in age from 13 to 61.
“I have about as big a range as you can get,” he said.

He graduated from SUNY Buffalo in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in legal studies and philosophy, with the intention to one day attend law school. But while living in New York City during the economic downturn that began that same year, Mr. Mix was smacked with the reality of out-of-work lawyers and weighty education debt. A Carthage native, Mr. Mix abandoned plans for law school and moved back to Watertown in 2009, securing a job with HSBC in branch operations, which he held for the next three years.
He began boxing at the Black River Boxing Academy under head coach and trainer Charles V. Berkman and quickly became addicted to fitness and working out hard.
“I loved the feeling I got when I pushed myself to my limits, knowing I was getting stronger every day,” he said.
His self-made workouts drew a following from friends.
“I found I enjoyed teaching what I knew,” Mr. Mix said. “And they seemed
to want what I knew.”
He began to think that maybe he was on to something.
“I set up track workouts for 5:30 a.m., and a half-dozen people would show up. To run sprints,” he laughed.
That was the encouragement he needed.
When HSBC moved out of the north country in 2012, Mr. Mix left the industry.
“It was nerve-racking,” he said. I had no money, but I was gung ho about doing this.”
He secured a personal training certificate and became a functional fitness instructor for the YMCA from January 2012 to May 2013.
“It was like a self-imposed internship,” Mr. Mix said.
He set up a small training area in his Paddock Arcade apartment with his first three clients in November 2012. He had four more by December and has grown to capacity simply through word of mouth, never spending a dime on advertising.
“It grew from three to as many as I can handle,” he said. “Owning my own business was always something I wanted. I just didn’t think it would happen this soon.”
He works six days a week, often for 10 and 11 hours a day.
“It wears me out sometimes, but I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he said.
Mr. Mix wasn’t always an athlete.
At 28, his passion for training only goes back three years. Perhaps more than other trainers, his uniqueness comes from the fact that he hasn’t always been
a pristine athlete.
“I also wonder if I was a little stilted,” he said. Mr. Mix had leukemia at the fragile age of 3.
“I can relate to clients. They know I’ll push myself just as hard as I’m asking them to do in a workout,” he said. “If you relate to people, you’ll get remarkable results.”
And he’s seen them. “It’s been so rewarding to see the results of weight loss and strength increase in my clients,” Mr. Mix said. “You can really change someone’s life.”

Mr. Mix is creative in his workout designs and within the past three years has conceived hundreds of unique, individualized workouts for friends and clients.
“I like seeing people start to enjoy working out when they might’ve hated it before,” he said.
His go-to exercises are compound exercises: squats, push-ups and plyometrics, also known as jump training, a technique designed to increase muscular power and explosiveness.
“I’m more into strength training myself,” he said.
His favorite lifts are the Olympic, snatch and clean and jerk. Both are extremely technical and dynamic, requiring enormous amounts of explosive strength.
His studio gym is above the Black River Adventurers Shop, 129 Mill St., Watertown. Personal training sessions are 50 minutes, $25/single person and $40/two people.
“You don’t need much to get in shape,” Mr. Mix said. “Just a little instruction and willpower.”

By Grace E. Johnston, NNY Business