By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
They are Florida natives who did not meet until they became co-workers in Knoxville. As single individuals, they became close friends, drawn together by personal challenges each was overcoming. Today, they are partners in life and in business, bonded together by a common vision, their deeply-held religious beliefs, and a passion for helping others.
The two are Alexa and Paul Sponcia. The latter is a serial entrepreneur who moved to Knoxville nearly 25 years ago and is best known as the Chief Executive Officer of The IT Company and Digital Crossing Networks. We profiled Paul in a September 2012 teknovation.biz article.
Alexa is a more recent addition to the community, arriving in 2009 and eventually joining the team at The IT Company a couple of years later. As their friendship began to blossom into something much more significant, she left to start her own events management business.
“Once we started dating, we focused on how she could not work for me,” the always smiling Paul said. The decision resulted in Alexa starting a company named, appropriately enough, Events with Alexa.
We sat down with the couple recently to catch-up on Paul’s companies and to better understand their other activities including youth entrepreneurship. We left inspired by their passion for their work and the ways in which their faith is the driver for their many causes.
Their mantra is three words: “Live. Love. Hope.” We’ll come back to that in a later article in the series.
When we posted our 2012 article on Paul, he said it was a time when The IT Company and Digital Crossing Networks (DCN) were determining what they were going to be. For example, Paul thought DCN would be an Infrastructure as a Service offering. He subsequently determined that it was really a “carrier hotel.”
“We figured it out and hit our stride,” Paul said. The two companies will generate between $6.5 and $7 million in revenue this year, a direct reflection of the answers Paul determined.
“We’re a completely different organization today,” he says. “It’s the people we hire (and) the follow-up we do with our customers. Our mission statement at The IT Company is simple . . . Happy Customers.”
Paul attributes much of the recent success to a “focus on hiring amazing people.” He says it involves a five- to eight-week hiring process followed by four months during which new employees rotate through every part of the business.
The two companies recently moved into renovated space in Emory Place where Paul says he’s “combining vintage with edgy.”
In Alexa’s case, she was in the restaurant business in Florida for a number of years. One of her roles involved opening new restaurants for Woody’s Bar-B-Q, a Jacksonville-based chain that started franchising its stores. One of those was located in Sevierville.
“I always loved the restaurant business,” she says. That experience certainly served her well in her wedding and corporate events business.
Ironically, two of Paul’s brothers closest in age to him also created and ran restaurants.
“I’d never been in the restaurant business, but I had always been around it,” he said.
Their shared ties to restaurants and what Alexa calls “our first real date” foreshadowed another entrepreneurial opportunity.
NEXT: From customers of a restaurant to its owners.