Michael J. Mikuliza | Sand Key Ventures
The Early Years
My story is similar to many others. My first real job in marketing communications was in the Tampa office of an advertising agency, Bozell Worldwide. I worked on the Chrysler, Little Ceasars Pizza, and Florida Lottery accounts. It was a cool place, filled with young professionals who had a passion for marketing. While working there, I learned so much about marketing, psychology, and people. It gave me a solid foundation and network for a career in the industry.
During that time, I earned an MBA from USF, working during the day and going to school at night. It took me four years to complete the program, but I have always loved learning new things and enjoyed the experience. Unfortunately, I had to pay for my MBA myself. I still had some student loan debt from my undergrad degree at the University of Florida. Bozell didn’t pay well so I took my first job in media sales to make more money.
The Bright Years
For the next 30 years, I sold television advertising and rose through the ranks of sales management. I had a great career, met exciting people, regularly traveled to major cities throughout the United States, and generated hundreds of millions of dollars for my stations. I learned effective selling techniques, how to connect with people, and built a big network of colleagues. I never stopped learning new things. I bought a home on the beach and married a beautiful girl (happily, still my wife today). I worked 65 hours a week and my life was good.
The Dark Years
Somewhere around 2015, things changed. The company that owned the television station I worked for merged with another, and new senior management took over. The culture changed and was no longer positive and supportive. Things deteriorated rapidly, our talent drained, and the last 18 months of my television career were miserable. I remember one evening in 2017, after a particularly bad day filled with threats and toxicity I sat in my car, too drained to drive home. In that moment I knew things would never get better and that I had to leave. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do next, but I knew I couldn’t go back. The next day I decided to walk away. I was out within three weeks.
The next several months were more difficult than I thought they would be. I was finally free, but my career had consumed my life. For the first time in three decades, I had no purpose, lost contact with my work friends, and felt lost.
I was always a good writer, and a friend asked me to write articles for a website she owned. That started my reinvention. I enjoyed my work again and started getting published regularly. That lead to my first company, Sand Key Wordsmith. I learned to build a website because I needed one for my business. Soon I was building websites for my friends and family. I took up photography so the images published with my writing would look more professional. Every day I was learning new things, sharpening my skills, and creating content. I transformed my company, renaming it Sand Key Ventures to reflect my expanding services. More importantly, I transformed my life and created a happy place to continue learning and growing.
Today I start every morning watching the sunrise over Clearwater Harbor. I practice gratitude. Then I head to my office and spend the day doing what I love, writing, learning new things, and creating content. I network, connect, help others market their companies, and build their own positive, happy lives. My story is fully written yet, but my life is good again.
Images of Michael J. Mikuliza captured by Allie Serrano.