From NFL Player to Small Business Owner

Mitch Marrow, former NFL player and hedge funder, opened a pet care facility called The Spot Experience in January of 2011. The boarding, training and grooming “experience” for dogs operates in New York City, with six locations.

As of September, New York’s unemployment rate is at 8.9%, compared to the national rate of 7.9%, according to the Labor Department. According to the Census Bureau, the state’s population is 19,465,197.

The top industry holding the most jobs in the state is Education and Health Services, while the industry with the highest Gross Domestic Product is Finance and Insurance, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Small business owners make up 99% of all employers in the state of New York, as reported by the Small Business Administration’s state profile in 2009.

Interview with Mitch Marrow

FOXBUSINESS.COM: What are some immediate goals that you hope to see satisfied by the president in the next term?

MARROW: We definitely need to see some clarity in terms of some of these fiscal cliffs that are out there. And I’m talking from the perspective of a small business that is expanding rapidly and is becoming a larger business, and the clarity on what taxes are going to look like going forward, and clarity in terms of the healthcare reform and how that is going to affect me and my ability to hire and expand as a small business. Right now, I think it’s very hard to make positive aggressive moves with so much uncertainty in terms of the differing of opinions on how to handle the economy right now and how to deal with healthcare, where taxes are going to fall…I’m talking about the small business person who is really able to have an effect on employment and growth and has to understand our margins in order to do so. So, clarity on those two issues is paramount right now.

I need them to be able to work with the Senate and Congress and not be a polarizing figure – to be able to actually come to terms and get things done to provide what I was talking about with the clarity on these issues. If they’re continuing to be at odds, and there continues to be a different party in different branches of our government and they can’t work together, nothing is going to change, and with uncertainty is going to come higher deficit, more unemployment, more of the same issues that we’ve had over the last four years, and it would just make it very hard to plan and to be strategic.

FOXBUSINESS.COM: On an individual employee level -- do you encourage your employees to vote in the election?

MARROW: Like any business owner, it’s not my place to give them my opinion on where I stand in terms of the issues, but in a very generic way, my feedback to anybody is: if you’re unhappy with the way things are right now and you want to effectuate change, or even voice your opinion, you have to be somebody who takes advantage of the right we have to vote. FOXBUSINESS.COM: How many years have you been operating? How many employees did you start out with? And today?

MARROW: We’ve been operating since January of 2011. We started out with around 30 total employees and we have upwards of 130 today, probably just over 140 right now. So that’s about 110 employees that we’ve added since we’ve started, and we have a need for more in the immediate future because we’re opening up new locations.

FOXBUSINESS.COM: What kind of health benefits plan do you provide, and has this changed in recent years?

MARROW: Right now we do offer healthcare to our employees. We do a lot of hiring from a really diverse group and we have mostly hourly employees that we do invest a lot of money into their training, and we offer any full time employee the opportunity to participate in healthcare, but there is a split in terms of the portion that we pick up and the employee is responsible for, just to make it possible for us to continue to expand and give these people the hours that they want, and so forth. There definitely are a portion of our employees that choose not to participate in the healthcare that we offer, they choose not to take on the expense, and I think that if you force both the employee and the employer to take on that additional expense, no matter what the position is of that company, it’s going to drastically affect unemployment. Without a doubt, it’s going to force a lot of small businesses to close down, and a lot of people to cut back and lay off people that need work. It’s a nightmarish scenario the way we’re looking at it.

FOXBUSINESS.COM: What is your biggest complaint when it comes to your company's annual tax bill?

MARROW: We’re unique in that it’s a fairly new business, so I think that 2012 will be telling in terms of exactly what the changes are and the effect of the tax rate….We’ve done a lot of hiring of the lower income brackets in terms of personnel in New York and the boroughs, and our understanding was that there would be benefits to encourage the amount of hiring and the type of hiring that we’re doing but we just haven’t found that to be true. There seems to be a tremendous amount of red tape and just difficulty in applying and interpreting where the real benefits are to a business … that’s basically the ideal of what you hear both candidates talk about in terms of getting our economy back on track. We’re executing upon that model and we’re not really getting any help from anybody…We haven’t gotten any help from the banks. There’s no lending going on…So, I think that it seems to be as challenging an environment as it could be without a helping hand coming from any direction.

FOXBUSINESS.COM: Throughout the years that you have been in business, do you remember any particularly high points or low points in your business profitability, and what the cause of this has been?

MARROW: The high point has been most recently, probably two or three months ago when we started to partner with the large residential building owners and management companies in New York to provide our services, and that’s given us a big boost in revenues and growth overall as a company. So, that strategic partnership has been by far a high point, a game changer for us. The toughest period was initially in the first three months of business. I invested all personal capital and I ended up having to continuously invest more of my personal savings than I was expecting because of the lack of liquidity out there and the lack of willingness of any of the banks to loan or the SBA to help get our footing. So that was definitely the low point that we’ve had to beat. I had to really take tremendous personal risk to get the business where it was in a position to make these strategic partnerships.

I come from a diverse background. I played in the NFL for the first part of my life, and then worked in finance and the hedge fund world for the years leading up to the entrepreneurial move in starting this business, and I consider myself pretty well versed in what’s going on in the world and policy and so on. I think it’s really scary the lack of understanding and the confusion around major issues like this healthcare reform and how policy is going to affect people who own businesses. I think it could be blindsiding to our economy because it’s so confusing and even somebody who is well versed and can understand and look at it from the standpoint of the investment community and coming from that world, I still find it vexing. The average small business person is not prepared for what’s coming down the pike, and unless it’s really addressed head-on, it could have really damning effects on everyone.

In this series, we are interviewing small business owners across the nation about the political policies that affect their businesses in anticipation of the 2012 presidential election. Each profile subject has been selected randomly and does not represent the views of their respective state.